The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

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Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Welcome to the 21st century

Welcome to the 21st century, Republican-style.

Colorado Springs cuts into services considered basic by many

They are literally turning out the lights and removing the trash cans from parks in this city that has long been dominated by right-wing ideologues. The most delicious quote has to be this:

Broadmoor luxury resort chief executive Steve Bartolin wrote an open letter asking why the city spends $89,000 per employee, when his enterprise has a similar number of workers and spends only $24,000 on each.

Businessman Fowler, saying he is now speaking for the task force Bartolin supports, said the city should study the Broadmoor's use of seasonal employees and realistic manager pay.

Hey, $24,000 per year should attract plenty of high-quality police officers, firefighters, tourism marketing experts and city-planners. Wait a second: who needs city planners -- or for that matter, police officers, firefighters or city planners?

Those futuristic urban hell-hole movies are starting to look pretty realistic.

UPDATE: I made the cardinal mistake of not paying attention to the date of the article (which was linked from another one). That story is from early 2010. Recently, the anti-tax crowd up for re-election has been thrown out of office, at least on the city council. The mayoral race will be decided in May in a run-off. Let's hope this is part of the tide turning.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picking and choosing what is news

Paul Ryan conducts two town halls in Wisconsin. At one event he is loudly booed by many constituents for his position on reducing taxes on the rich and paying for it by eliminating Medicare and Medicaid. At the other, one (that's one, as in "only one") constituent asks, "We need a viable Republican candidate for president. Will you run against him?"

Question: Which of the two is more newsworthy?

Answer: If you are the New York Times, the second is the one you report on, making it sound as though there is a groundswell of grass roots support for a Ryan for President campaign. Reading the Times, you'd think Ryan was the new Superman of the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not something to joke about

It's no wonder the Republicans think POTUS is a patsy.

President Barack Obama joked Tuesday that he wanted to reconsider his position on letting taxes rise on the richest Americans after filing his return. He and the First Lady paid 26 percent on their $1.7 million income in 2010.

“There’s a moment there when you look at the figure you’re paying and say, wow, let me think about my position on taxing the wealthy here,” he quipped at a town hall in Northern Virginia.

It plays right into the Republican playbook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

S&P tells Obama to vote for Republican budget bill

It might be worth remembering that S&P (along with others) assigned triple-A credit ratings to the mortgage backed securities and associated derivatives that tanked, causing the crash in 2008. So, why does anyone believe them now?

Of course, the very serious, inside the beltway pundits will undoubtedly swoon over this news.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How the Oligarchs Took America: Part 4 of 4

Part 4: Citizen United's Brave New World

Hacker and Pierson ably guide us through 30 years of "winner-take-all" policymaking, politicking, and—from the point of view of the wealthy—judicious inaction. They offer an eye-opening journey across the landscape that helped foster the New Oligarchs, but one crucial vista appeared too late for the authors to include.

No understanding of the rise of our New Oligarchs could be complete without exploring the effects of the Supreme Court's January Citizens United decision, which set their power in cement more effectively than any tax cut ever could. Before Citizens United, the rich used their wealth to subtly shape policy, woo politicians, and influence elections. Now, with so much money flowing into their hands and the contribution faucets wide open, they can simply buy American politics so long as the price is right.

There's no mistaking how, in less than a year, Citizens United has radically tilted the political playing field. Along with several other [23] major court rulings [24], it ushered in American Crossroads, American Action Network, and many similar groups that now can reel in unlimited donations with pathetically few requirements to disclose their funders.

What the present Supreme Court, itself the fruit of successive tax-cutting and deregulating administrations, has ensured is this: that in an American "democracy," only the public will remain in the dark. Even for dedicated reporters, tracking down these groups is like chasing shadows: official addresses lead to P.O. boxes; phone calls go unreturned; doors are shut in your face.

The limited glimpse we have of the people bankrolling these shadowy outfits is a who's-who [25] of the New Oligarchy: the billionaire Koch Brothers [26] ($21.5 billion [27]); financier George Soros ($11 billion [28]); hedge-fund CEO Paul Singer (his fund, Elliott Management, is worth $17 billion [29]); investor Harold Simmons (net worth: $4.5 billion); New York venture capitalist Kenneth Langone [30] ($1.1 billion [31]); and real estate tycoon Bob Perry [32] ($600 million).

Then there's the roster of corporations who have used their largesse to influence American politics. Health insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, gave [33] a whopping $86.2 million to the US Chamber to kill the public option, funneling the money through the industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. And corporate titans like Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, and Dow Chemical have given millions [34] more to the Chamber to lobby against new financial and chemical regulations.

As a result, the central story of the 2010 midterm elections isn't Republican victory or Democratic defeat or Tea Party anger; it's this blitzkrieg of outside spending, most of which came from right-leaning groups like Rove's American Crossroads [35] and the US Chamber of Commerce. It's a grim illustration of what happens when so much money ends up in the hands of so few. And with campaign finance reforms soundly defeated for years to come, the spending wars will only get worse.

Indeed, pundits predict that spending in the 2012 elections will smash all records. Think of it this way: in 2008, total election spending reached $5.3 billion [36], while the $1.8 billion spent on the presidential race alone more than doubled 2004's total. How high could we go in 2012? $7 billion? $10 billion? It looks like the sky's the limit.

We don't need to wait for 2012 to arrive, however, to know that the sheer amount of money being pumped into American politics makes a mockery out of our democracy (or what's left of it). Worse yet, few solutions exist to staunch the cash flow: the DISCLOSE Act [37], intended to counter the effects of Citizens United, twice failed in the Senate this year; and the best option, public financing of elections, can't even get a hearing in Washington.

Until lawmakers cap the amount of money in politics, while forcing donors to reveal their identities and not hide in the shadows, the New Oligarchy will only grow in stature and influence. Left unchecked, this ultimate elite will continue to root out the few members of Congress not beholden to them and their "contributions" (see: Wisconsin's Russ Feingold [38]) and will replace them with lawmakers eager to do their bidding, a Congress full of obedient placeholders ready to give their donors what they want.

Never before has the United States looked so much like a country of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Middle Class Working Poor

OK middleclass, get ready for ready for another bipartisan sweetheart deal as Obama uses his so called independent commission report as a blueprint for reducing the deficit.

According to Wikipedia, here’s what the Simpson-Bowles “ independent commission” proposes: “ $100 billion in increased tax revenues through various tax reform proposals, such as introducing a 15 cent per gallon gasoline tax and eliminating or restricting a variety of tax deductions such as the home mortgage interest deduction and the deduction for employer-provided healthcare benefits. It also targets civilian and military federal pensions and student loan subsidies. The proposal has been dismissed as "unserious" by Paul Krugman for its large unfunded cuts in income taxes. Union leaders such as Richard Trumka and several Democrats such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Raul Grijalva rejected the plan saying it cut spending, especially on Social Security, too much.

Rand Paul (R-KY), a Tea Party supporter, stated that the proposed changes to entitlement spending should take effect sooner instead of in future.The commission has been criticized as deliberating in secret and as being "stacked with people who want to target entitlement spending rather than any balanced proposal."

So even though Social Security is in surplus with $2.5 trillion in government bonds paid for by middle class contributions, the Social Security lockbox as Al Gore called it has to be broken into to pay for tax reductions for the wealthy.

Because it would lead to cuts in benefits for Social Security and Medicare, many Democrats are calling this a 'cat food' commission, on the grounds that it will allegedly eliminate key portions of the social safety net, forcing some people (particularly the elderly) into such extreme poverty that they will only be able to afford to eat cat food.”

Is this Change we can believe in?

2011 first quarter Nomination for Top Blog by Waldon

My nomination for Waldon's best blog of the quarter. Readers: what's your choice for best Waldon and Kissweb blogs? I don't want to self nominate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Playing to win

Gaius Publius at Americablog writes:
I asked, "What if we played to win?" Now I'd like to ask, What would playing to win look like? The meta answer is, it would look like it looks on a championship college football team (college teams, like political movements, are staffed with volunteers). Or, as new coach Brian Kelly of the up-and-seriously-coming Fighting Irish calls it, "the physical and mental toughness" to play the whole game hard. What would that mean for Progressives? For starters, it would mean not apologizing when someone says we're not "nice". That's like apologizing for winning. But let's get specific. What would it mean to play the whole game hard? (1) How about not whining about the Republican Supreme Court's implementation of Citizens United — and instead starting to use it until they start whining? How about rounding up a couple of committed left-wing billionaires (they must exist), and lobbing some of our big-money grenades over the electoral wall, until they start crying about the rules? (2) And while we're waiting, how about recalling every Wisconsin Republican state legislator we can get our retributional hands on — there's already a move afoot to do that — and then not stoppinguntil they all drop to the floor. Not stopping matters. Last I heard, the Wisconsin unions were asking for a seat at the table. Wrong. We will get a "seat at the table" when the recall move starts making them scared. That's exactly when you "not stop." When they're gone from the legislature — that's when you've won. You stop when you've won. And that's what playing to win looks like. You stop when you've won. In my very humble opinion, of course.
In my humble opinion, I agree.

The People’s Budget

U.S. House of Representatives

Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Fiscal Year 2012

Budgets are more than collections of numbers; they are a statement of our values. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget is a reflection of the values and priorities of workingf amilies in this country. The “People’s Budget” charts a path that keeps America exceptional in the 21st century, while addressing the most pressing problems facing the nation today. Our Budget eliminates the deficit and stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness.

The CPC Budget addresses these problems by listening to the American people. In poll after poll, they are telling us, their representatives in the American government, that they want to preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to make higher education more affordable, to expand job training programs, to cut taxes burdening the middle class, to subsidize affordable housing, and to provide financial assistance for those struggling to prevent foreclosures.

The majority of America thinks cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, K-12 education, heating assistance to low-income families, student loans, unemployment insurance, and scientific and medical research are completely unacceptable. In contrast, Americans find a progressive tax policy very acceptable. The overwhelming majority of America supports additional taxes on millionaires and billionaires, eliminating unnecessary weapons systems, eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries, phasing out Bush tax cuts, and eliminating subsidies for new nuclear power plants. Poll after poll give voice to what Americans are asking of us.

Our Budget, in response, listens to what the American people are telling us. It does all of the above in a fiscally responsible way that dramatically reduces our borrowing from banks and foreign governments and ensures our long-term economic competitiveness. It does all of the above recognizing that in order to compete, we need every American to be productive, and in order to be productive, we need to raise the skill level of every American and meet the basic needs of every working family. It does all of the above while remaining rooted in fairness, recognizing that America works only when everyone has an opportunity to make it in America.

Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit by 2021

The CPC budget eliminates the deficit in a way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved, specifically, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Instead of eroding America’s hard earned retirement plan and social safety net, our budget targets the true drivers of deficits in the next decade: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession. By implementing a fair tax code, by building a resilient American economy, and by bringing our troops home, we achieve a budget surplus of over $30 billion by 2021 and we end up with a debt that is less than 65% of our GDP. This is what sustainability looks like.

Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America’s Competitiveness

The CPC budget rebuilds America and makes it competitive again. We put America back to work. We rebuild our roads and bridges, ensuring that those who use it help pay for it. We rebuild our dams and waterways with seed money for shipping systems that can compete with the rest of the world. We rebuild our education system by training more and better teachers, restoring schools, helping each student graduate, and supporting community colleges. This is what competitiveness looks like.

Our Budget Creates a Fair Tax System

The CPC budget implements a fair tax system based on the American notion that fairness and equality are integral to our society. Our budget restores fairness to a system that unfairly benefited the richest few while hurting the majority of America. Our budget heeds America’s call to end the Bush Tax Cuts and the estate tax and create fair tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires while maintaining credits for the middle class and students. It ensures that the banks that wrecked our economy pay a modest financial responsibility fee and that exotic trading by Wall Street traders who gambled away America’s savings is levied a tax. It guarantees that hedge fund managers (and those who use them) do not get special treatment by taxing capital gains and dividends as ordinary income.

It eliminates charity to oil companies making record profits from prices paid at the pump by the American people, given that it is unfair that the American people must also give these oil companies billions of dollars in handouts. Finally, our budget taxes US corporate income as it is earned, much the same way Americans are taxed. This is what fairness looks like.

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home

The CPC budget responsibly ends our wars that are currently paid for by American taxpayer dollars we do not have. We end these wars not simply to save massive amounts of money or because the majority of America is polling in favor to do so, but because these wars are making America less safe, are reducing America’s standing in the world, and are doing nothing to reduce America’s burgeoning energy security crisis. The CPC budget offers a real solution to these fiscal, diplomatic and energy crises, leaving America more secure, both here and abroad. The CPC budget also ensures that our country’s defense spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our currentfiscal burden – a trend we reverse by ending the wars and realigning conventional and strategic forces, resulting in $2.3 trillion worth of savings. This is what security looks like.

Our Budget’s Bottom Line

Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion

Primary spending cuts of $869 billion

Net interest savings of $856 billion

Total spending cuts of $1.7 trillion

Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion

Public investment of $1.7 trillion

Budget surplus of $30.7 billion in 2021, debt at 64.1% of GDP

This proposals lacks sufficent detail, but sets a promising direction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back from the Dead or only Posturing?

After largely staying on the sidelines during the fight over the deficit, President Obama today jumped headfirst into the fray, laying out a broad framework to reduce the federal budget gap by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. The plan contrasts with one released last week by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican point man on budget issues. Obama derided Ryan's approach as "less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."Here's what Obama called for in his "Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility": One quarter of the deficit reduction to be achieved through tax increases, with the rest to come mostly from spending cuts--a split that the president's liberal base may see as still too heavily tilted toward spending cuts An end to the Bush tax cuts for the 2 percent of Americans making $250,000 or more Tax reform aimed at closing loopholes that favor the rich, allowing for a lowering of overall rates, as recommended by the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission Cuts of $770 billion by 2023 to non-security discretionary spending, another Bowles-Simpson recommendation Cuts of $400 billion to "security spending"--that is, defense--by 2023 A rejection of the Ryan budget's approach to Medicare and Medicaid, which the White House believes would unfairly shift costs to seniors and the vulnerable while undermining both programs in the long term. Instead, Obama proposed reforms to reduce the growth of health care spending (beyond those in the overhaul last year) that would save $480 billion by 2023, and at least an additional trillion in the decade following Cuts to other mandatory programs--the White House listed agricultural subsidies, the federal pension insurance system, and anti-fraud measures--worth $360 billion by 2023 A general effort to "strengthen Social Security for the long haul," without slashing benefits for future generations A "debt failsafe," to kick in by 2014. If long-term deficit projections aren't looking better by that time, the failsafe would trigger an across-the-board spending reduction (with exceptions for Social Security, low-income programs, and Medicare benefits) The creation of a committee chaired by Vice President Joe Biden and including members of both parties and houses of Congress, to begin meeting next month in order to "agree on a legislative framework for comprehensive deficit reduction"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obama needs to lead

Should the Dems start looking for another candidate in 2012? Obama is proving that he is no Bill Clinton. From Lessons from the Clinton Era in Today's Post: 'Clinton drew a clear line in the sand on things he wasn't going to compromise on. He fought a real public battle on those things.' " I believe we have a duty to care for our parents so they can live their lives in dignity. That duty includes securing Medicare.He warned that the GOP's budget violates our values." " I believe, Clinton said, the budget debate is about two different visions of the future for America, about whether we go forward under our motto, E Pluribus Unum, out of many one; or whether we become a divided, winner take all society." Instead we learned today from the Post that ' 'Obama strategists say they think independent voters crucial to Obama’s reelection chances next year want him to function as a centrist consensus-builder. Independents abandoned the party last year as concern grew about government deficits and spending.' Obama is cow towing to the know-nothing independents instead of proving that he can lead. Or maybe Obama is part of the Inside Jobbers. Liberal Dem vows to make Obama “act like a Democrat”: Dem Rep. Peter DeFazio, on Cent Uygur’s show last night, gave voice to a rising sense on the left that the President’s willingness to compromise with Republicans has left him unwilling or unable to stand up for what it fundamentally means to be a Democrat. “There are a number of us in the caucus now who are pushing back very hard on our leadership, DeFazio said. “Maybe we can take enough Ds with us to make them stick with making the president act like a Democrat.”

Saturday, April 09, 2011

My Nomination for Blog of 2011firstquarter

I am starting nominiations for best blog for each quarter by each Scatablog colleague. Kissweb is first up and here is my nominiation for him. Look out Waldon is next.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Greedy workers and unions keep us out of global competition? Or Not!

Someone please explain this to me: With about one-fourth of the population (82 million vs. 310 million), and a labor cost -- according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data as reported by our own Bureau of Labor Statistics -- that is 50% higher than the cost of labor in the U.S., Germany nevertheless manages to export approximately 20% more than the U.S. On a per capita basis, German exports are more than four times greater than U.S. exports. Wait a second: German labor cost is 50% higher than in the U.S.? That must be a typo. But no, that’s what the world comparison data actually says. In dollars the difference rounded is $48 per hour for manufacturing industry employees in Germany compared to $32 in the U.S. But I thought our labor costs are just so high. Nope, in most of northern Europe they are higher than ours. You can look it up. The EU as a whole, with a population of 500 million that is 60% larger than the U.S. population, manages to out-export the U.S. by 5 to 1. How can the Germans do it? How can the EU as a whole do it? In the last 10 years, German employment in manufacturing has dropped a couple of percentage points. Here it has dropped about 30%. Oh, and by the way, that 50% figure is 2008 data. With manufacturing employment continuing to plummet, and with employees thrilled to have a job period, bet it's even a bigger difference in 2010. Hey, I thought the real reason we can’t compete with the rest of the world is because our labor costs are just too high. We’ll put that one in the category of myth -- and another right-wing myth bites the dust. Actually there are two myths built in there: our costs aren’t all that high in the first place, and it apparently is possible to compete in the world economy without squeezing employee’s income. Well, that’s Europe. It must be some Socialism thing -- not something we would consider in our superior country where freedom reigns supreme -- especially freedom for the corporate governance class. P.S. Is there a Big Media organization that is telling you stuff like this?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

How the Oligarchs Took America: Part 3 of 4

Part 3:Tear Down This Law

Where rewriting the tax code proved too politically difficult, demolishing regulations worked almost as well. This has been especially true in the world of finance. There, a legacy of deregulation transformed banking from a relatively staid industry into a casino culture [16], ushering in an era of eye-popping profits, lavish bonuses [17], and the "financialization" [18] of the American economy.

April 6, 1998: it's a useful starting point in the story of financial deregulation. On that day, two well-known Wall Street denizens, Citicorp and Travelers Group, agreed to a historic $140 billion merger. The deal required much lobbying, but eventually the chiefs of these banks won an exemption from the Glass-Steagall Act, the New Deal-era law walling off commercial banks from riskier investment houses. The resulting institution, dubbed Citigroup, would be the largest supermarket bank in history, a marriage of teller windows and trading desks, customer banking and high-stakes investing—all suddenly under one deregulated roof. It would prove an explosive, if not disastrous, mix.

The merger stirred visions of a future in which the US would dominate the planet financially. All that stood in the way was undue regulatory red tape. At least that's the way free marketeers like then-Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas [19] saw it. Gramm, who as an aide to presidential candidate John McCain infamously called America a "nation of whiners," [20] was, in fact, the driving force behind two of the most influential pieces of deregulation in recent history.

In 1999, President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a bevy of deregulatory measures that obliterated Glass-Steagall. In December of the following year, Gramm quietly snuck [19] the 262-page Commodity Futures Modernization Act into a massive $384-billion spending bill. Gramm's bill blocked regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from cracking down on the shadowy "over-the-counter derivatives" market, home to billions of dollars of opaque financial instruments that would, years later, nearly demolish the American economy.

As presidents, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wrapped their arms around financial deregulation. As a result, in a binge of financial gluttony, Wall Street grew fat in ways never previously seen. Between 1929, the year the Great Depression began, and 1988, Wall Street's profits averaged 1.2% of the nation's gross domestic product; in 2005, that figure peaked at 3.3% as industry bonuses soared [21] ever-higher. In 2009, bad times for most Americans, bonuses hit [22] $20 billion. So much wealth in so few hands. Nothing explains the rise of the new American oligarchy more starkly.

Of course, it's not just what politicians did that helped create today's oligarchy, but what they failed to do. A classic example: in the 1990s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a private American accounting regulator, set its sights on a loophole big enough to drive a financial Mack truck through. Until then, stock options included in executives' skyrocketing pay packages—potentially worth tens of millions of dollars when exercised—were valued at zero when issued. That's right: zero, zilch, nada. When FASB and the SEC tried to close the loophole, however, big business leapt to its defense. An avalanche of money went into the pockets of an army of K Street lobbyists and leviathan business trade associations. In the end, nothing happened. Or rather, everything continued happening. The loophole remained.

Phony Fruegality

This is Rich at his Best


NO one remembers anything in America, especially in Washington, so the history of the Great Government Shutdown of 1995 is being rewritten with impunity by Republicans flirting with a Great Government Shutdown of 2011. The bottom line of the revisionist spin is this: that 2011 is no 1995. Should the unthinkable occur on some coming budget D-Day — or perhaps when the deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling arrives this spring — the G.O.P. is cocksure that it can pin the debacle on the Democrats.

In the right’s echo chamber, voters are seen as so fed up with deficits that they’ll put principle over temporary inconveniences — like, say, a halt in processing new Social Security applicants or veterans’ benefit checks. Who needs coddled government workers to deal with those minutiae anyway? As Mike Huckabee has cheerfully pointed out, many more federal services are automated now than in the olden days of the late 20th century. Phone trees don’t demand pensions.

Remarkably (or not) much of the Beltway press has bought the line that comparisons between then and now are superficial. Sure, Bill Clinton, like Barack Obama, was bruised by his first midterms, with his party losing the House to right-wing revolutionaries hawking the Contract With America, a Tea Party ur-text demanding balanced budgets. But after that, we’re instructed, the narratives diverge. John Boehner is no bomb-throwing diva like Newt Gingrich, whose petulant behavior inspired the famous headline “Cry Baby” in The Daily News. A crier — well, yes — but Boehner’s too conventional a conservative to foment a reckless shutdown. Obama, prone to hanging back from Congressional donnybrooks, bears scant resemblance to the hands-on Clinton, who clamored to get into the ring with Newt.

Those propagating the 2011-is-not-1995 line also assume that somehow Boehner will prevent the new G.O.P. insurgents from bringing down the government they want to bring down. But if Gingrich couldn’t control his hard-line freshman class of 73 members in 1995 — he jokingly referred to them then as “a third party” — it’s hard to imagine how the kinder, gentler Boehner will control his 87 freshmen, many of them lacking government or legislative experience, let alone the gene for compromise. In the new Congress’s short history, the new speaker has already had trouble controlling his caucus. On Friday Gingrich made Boehner’s task harder by writing a Washington Post op-ed plea that the G.O.P. stick to its guns.

The 2011 rebels are to the right of their 1995 antecedents in any case. That’s why this battle, ostensibly over the deficit, is so much larger than the sum of its line-item parts. The highest priority of America’s current political radicals is not to balance government budgets but to wage ideological warfare in Washington and state capitals alike. The relatively few dollars that would be saved by the proposed slashing of federal spending on Planned Parenthood and Head Start don’t dent the deficit; the cuts merely savage programs the right abhors. In Wisconsin, where state workers capitulated to Gov. Scott Walker’s demands for financial concessions, the radical Republicans’ only remaining task is to destroy labor’s right to collective bargaining.

That’s not to say there is no fiscal mission in the right’s agenda, both nationally and locally — only that the mission has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The real goal is to reward the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations, and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks. The bankrupt moral equation codified in the Bush era — that tax cuts tilted to the highest bracket were a higher priority even than paying for two wars — is now a given. The once-bedrock American values of shared sacrifice and equal economic opportunity have been overrun.

From NYT, February 26, 2011, Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down?


Just look at this pain sharing: Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

Did you know G.E. didn't pay any taxes? That's right, in 2010, G.E. made $14.2 billion in global profits, $5.1 billion inside the United States, paid zero taxes and got a $3.2 billion dollar refund from Uncle Sam. Where is the Sharing?

Oh by lowering their tax rates. That is what is proposed.

Too Big Too Fail, but Big Enough to Launder Drug Money

4/5/11 Source: The Daily Kos, The Observer On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel. During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo. Too-big-to-fail is a much bigger problem than you thought. We've all read damning accounts of the government saving banks from their risky subprime bets, but it turns out that the Wall Street privilege problem is far more deeply ingrained in the U.S. legal system than the simple bailouts witnessed in 2008. America's largest banks can engage in flagrantly criminal activity on a massive scale and emerge almost completely unscathed. The latest sickening example comes from Wachovia Bank: Accused of laundering $380 billion in Mexican drug cartel money, the financial behemoth is expected to emerge with nothing more than a slap on the wrist thanks to an official government policy which protects megabanks from criminal charges. Bloomberg's Michael Smith has penned a devastating expose detailing Wachovia's drug-money operations and the government's twisted response. The bank was moving money behind literally tons of cocaine from violent drug cartels. It wasn't an accident. Internal whistleblowers at Wachovia warned that the bank was laundering drug money, higher-ups at the bank actively looked the other way in order to score bigger profits, and the U.S. government is about to let everyone involved get off scott free. The bank will not be indicted, because it is official government policy not to prosecute megabanks.

Monday, April 04, 2011

God's will be done

Almost everyday we read about how Republicans are trying to do away with programs to help the poor. Friends of mine believe this is perfectly appropriate because the poor are poor because they've sinned and are being punished by God for their sins. If God wants them to be poor, who are we to deny God's will? And, the rich are rich because they are favored by God.

By the way, this also translates to health care. There should be no health care because illness is a sign of God's anger. Again, who are we to interfere with God's wrath? Of course, God gave rich people enough money to pay doctors to heal them if they should happen to get sick as collateral damage in God's wrathful attack on the poor. As I said before, rich people are rich because God loves them.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Make use of the government shutdown

It seems to me that if the government is shut down because it has no funding from Congress, the wars should all end - then and there. I for one would vote for just enough money to bring the boys and girls home safely. Let the rest of the world nuke it out. I'm sick of us trying to be the world's police force by supporting whites and rich people and fighting colored and poor people. Hell, if we're going to have the massive disaster of a shut down (or still to come, a debt default), we might as well have something good come out of it.

Oh, and by the way, while we're talking about how unbalanced our budget is, it's worth remembering that I paid NO TAXES (that's federal income taxes I'm talking about) on over $100,000 of unearned income and GE paid approximately NEGATIVE $3,000,000,000 taxes on humongous income. Of course, no one knows about that because none of the corporate media are willing to report it - especially NBC and MSNBC.