Writing at New Economic Perspectives, Bill Black goes into inevitable territory during an election cycle, in which we are being asked to choose between two brands of “austerity”: The Democratic Version or The Republican one. He’s lays out the problem on very realistic ground and let’s us know who the greater enemy to our economy really is: The Democrats.
After this election is finally over, the Democrats are going to go full bore on Social Security and every other social program they can get their grubby hands on. Nancy Pelosi, openly (and ironically) supported by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have already signaled their intent over the last few weeks. It’s just a shame we can’t have a debate on this before the election, when it might do more good.
So this piece is well-timed and very worthy of your attention. In my not-so-humble opinion:
To many people, it seems paradoxical that conservatives target not the worst social programs, but the best. There is no paradox. Bad government programs are desirable from the right’s perspective – they discredit government intervention. Good government programs pose an existential challenge to conservative memes, so they are the prime target for attack.
The attacks from the right, however, do not provide any guarantee of success. The right’s immense success has come from convincing large numbers of moderates and liberals to join the assault on successful government programs. The major financial deregulation bills that have shaped the criminogenic environments that produced the epidemics of accounting control fraud that have driven our recurrent, intensifying financial crises have enjoyed strong, even overwhelming, governmental support. The Garn-St Germain Act of 1982, the state S&L deregulation laws in Texas and California that “won” the regulatory “race to the bottom”, the “reinventing government” assault on financial regulation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, all enjoyed broad bi-partisan support. Laws making it extremely difficult for victims of securities fraud to obtain civil remedies passed with such strong bipartisan support that supporters were able to override President Clinton’s veto.
Just as only a conservative Republican like Nixon could begin to normalize diplomatic relationships with China without bearing a crippling political price, only “liberal” Democrats can safely begin the process of attacking Social Security. The rationale for the liberal assault on Social Security is “there is no alternative” (TINA). TINA is a particularly nonsensical argument in this context, however, because we are trying to recover from a Great Recession. There are vastly superior alternatives to cutting Social Security benefits, which could force the economy back into recession. There is also no need to cut Social Security benefits. The funding required to meet fulfill our promises is modest (relative to the U.S. economy) and poses no threat to our economy.
The progressive austerians are all the more remarkable because the economists and economic theories they rely on were wholly discredited even before Europe’s suicidal experiment with austerity. The neoclassical and Austrian economists that push austerity were the same economists who (1) propounded the anti-regulatory policies that caused the global crisis, (2) the opponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies who predicted that pro-cyclical U.S. fiscal policies would speed the U.S. recovery while counter-cyclical policies would fail to spur growth and would cause inflation, and (3) the deficit hawks who claimed that counter-cyclical U.S. monetary and fiscal policies would cause hyper-inflation. The predictions of the proponents of austerity have proven consistently wrong and the proponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies have proven consistently correct. The predictions of the proponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies proved correct as to both the direction and the magnitude of the economic recovery. We argued from the beginning that the stimulus package was far too small and that there would be a financial disaster among many states and localities absent a program of federal revenue sharing.
Please do read the whole thing. It’s worth every minute of your time.
From Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — Facing political pressurefrom Republicans and farming groups, the White House has decided to scrap rules proposed last year that would have prevented minors from performing certain agricultural work deemed too dangerous for children.
The Labor Department announced the decision late Thursday, saying it was withdrawing the rules due to concern from the public over how they could affect family farms. “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations,” the department said in a statement.
Just a few paragraphs below this remarkable quote, this very same story points out that actual family farms were exempt from these rules. It follows that parents passing along traditions have a rational self-interest in not seeing their kids’ legs cut off under a combine. Corporations, unfortunately, have no such interest… which is why these rules were sought in the first place.
I’m guessing this piece was hastily put together, since a little further down, Sarah Palin is quoted thusly: “If I Want America To Fail, I’d Ban Kids From Farm Work.”
It would seem then, that the Obama Administration and Sarah Palin see roughly eye-to-eye on the matter of exploiting child labor on factory farms. How can one call this “pressure” from the GOP when the two parties clearly agree on something?
Now perhaps I’m wrong about this, but the thought occurs that most parents (or even people who simply appreciate their own non-exploitive childhoods), would be aghast at what’s happening on factory farms. This could be a good issue to attack a party that wants to roll back all of our child labor laws and state so every chance they get.
This is just the latest example of why this election cycle is full of petty, personal attacks that amount to nothing… while real issues of import are almost completely ignored.
… If the inspections go through in addition to the talks, we’re seeing at least some intent to let diplomacy work. We’ll have to see how the IAEA reacts to this characterization of the agreement.
However, I do fear that, while President Obama had the clear goal of stopping Israel’s rush toward unilateral action, he may have chosen a middle course that will constrain him down the road, as Michael Tomasky explains:
We are going to war with Iran. Maybe not by November, maybe not even under this president. But just because I added that last phrase, don’t dismiss this lightly. The central fact of this past week, which seems to have escaped everyone’s attention (which itself boggles my mind), is that Barack Obama, in his speech to AIPAC Sunday, as in his interview with Jeff Goldberg before it, all but made war someday inevitable. How? By saying that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an option. Americans need to be clear on the full implications of this statement [...]
The important part of the speech, the sentences that historians might be ruing and Americans regretting 15 years from now, was this: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
Here’s why this is important. Ironclad vows like this tend to lock a nation into a position from which it cannot later retreat. If you were already thinking “Truman Doctrine,” give yourself a point.
Tomasky goes on to explain how the Truman Doctrine committed the US to action in Vietnam, and how a stated policy against containment lays the groundwork for war. Paul Pillar, in a provocative piece for the Washington Monthly, looks at what a containment strategy would look like in practice, arguing specifically that “we can live with a nuclear Iran.” But we may have already gone past that point. Israel, the US, and the discussion around this topic has raised the stakes to the point that even a minor incident would lead to war, and it’s all based on a faulty premise, that Iran with nuclear weapons would somehow be an apocalyptic scenario. Pillar begs to differ, but sadly, perception is reality in this case.
Certainly, the Republican candidates for President wouldn’t back down from a “no containment strategy.” They’re actually aping the Administration’s strategy when it comes to Iran, while pestering him for being “weak” on the issue, which just feeds more belligerence. There couldn’t be a worse possible time for the world for all this war talk. And while by deed, Obama wants to put out the near-term fire of unilateral Israeli action, by words, he may have committed the US to an inevitable conflict.
That’s scary. Another war that will kill, maim, and disrupt the lives of millions of innocent people and will accomplish nothing good may be on the horizon.
PS. Tonight’s episode of ‘Moyers & Company’ is an encore episode.
Fresh off one of the dumbest, emptiest State Of The Union addresses in recent memory––and that’s saying something, given the circumstances of the last couple decades––I couldn’t get the visage of Ronald “Jelly Beans” Reagan off of my mind. Maybe it was the sappy militarism. Maybe it was Obama aping the Reaganite Lincolnism about government doing as little as possible for human beings… but no more. In any case, this song from the Minutemen, also from the Age of Bonzo, came to mind:
I warn you, this song has made me choke up for twenty some years now. Still does. In any case, this is the Argentine icon Mercedes Sosa and Leon Gieco (who wrote the song) doing a song which all humans should memorize. I’m sorry the sound quality isn’t better, but if you buy one of the albums, you won’t regret it!
Piggybacking on Tim’s post, some more international reaction to the USG’s apparent disdain for basic human rights. This time from New York, actually, by the UN Special Rapporteur for Free Expression. It would seem this gentleman from Guatemala, who obviously has no experience with human rights issues is determined to piss off the Obama Administration almost as much as UNESCO has managed to do. As such, I lift a glass in honor señor La Rue:
WASHINGTON — The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded — sometimes violently — by local authorities.
Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. “special rapporteur” for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.
“I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order,” he said Thursday. “But on the other hand I also believe that the state — in this case the federal state — has an obligation to protect and promote human rights.”
“If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights,” he continued.
La Rue, a longtime Guatemalan human rights activist who has held his U.N. post for three years, said it’s clear to him that the protesters have a right to occupy public spaces “as long as that doesn’t severely affect the rights of others.”
In moments of crisis, governments often default to a forceful response instead of a dialogue, he said — but that’s a mistake.
“Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there’s no need to use public force to silence that dissension,” he said.
I’m gonna have to look into this “human rights” thing. They may be onto something here…..
By any reasonable standard, Islam Karimov is one of the world’s most infamous torturers. His particular brand of infamy is so horrid that even the Bush Administration had to cut off military aid to the Uzbeki dictator in 2005. For example, one of his favorite methods of punishing his victims is to slowly immerse them in boiling oil. That horrid.
But it seems a good “friendship” is a difficult thing for the Clinton’s–both Bill and Hillary–to let go of. As Fred Kaplan pointed out way back in 2005, before US aid was cut off:
President Bill Clinton struck up a relationship with Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov to stave off the common threat from Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. After Sept. 11, President Bush tightened the alliance. Karimov supplied the CIA and the Pentagon with an air base, which served as the staging area for the invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. During that war, he also allowed the United States to set up listening posts and to launch Predator drones from Uzbek territory.
Later, in 2009, Clinton attended an AIDS fundraiser in Cannes and had his picture taken with the elegant Gulnara Of The Oil Vats:
Ken Silverstein made a point of inquiring with the Clinton Foundation whether or not Karimova made contributions to the foundation. He didn’t receive any reply, which normally translates into English as, “We can’t actually deny it, so we’re not going to say anything at all.”
In any case, it’s a fair question to ask since (1), Clinton is always raising money, and (2), he doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being terribly picky about his funding sources. In this case however, it matters, since Gulnara Karimova–Harvard grad–has a rather terrible reputation as was laid out in Wikileaks releases as noted in this Guardian story from last December:
The post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan is a nightmarish world of “rampant corruption”, organised crime, forced labour in the cotton fields, and torture, according to the leaked cables.
But the secret dispatches released by WikiLeaks reveal that the US tries to keep President Islam Karimov sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN).
Many dispatches focus on the behaviour of Karimov’s glamorous and highly controversial daughter Gulnara, who is bluntly described by them as “the single most hated person in the country”.
She allegedly bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business in the central Asian state and is viewed, they say, as a “robber baron”. Granted diplomatic status by her father, Gulnara allegedly lives much of the time in Geneva, where her holding company, Zeromax, was registered at the time, or in Spain.
Gulnara acquired interests in the crude oil contracts of Zeromax in “a deal with [a] local mafia boss“, the embassy said. She also got hold of shares in the Coca-Cola bottling franchise after it was subjected to a tax investigation, they claimed.
“Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way … She remains the single most hated person in the country.”
The relationship between the US and the Karimovs hasn’t been without its complications though, since Hillary bestowed an award to one of Uzbekistan’s human rights activist:
But the US secret cables go some way towards explaining western ambivalence. They detail how the dictatorial president recently flew into a rage because the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, presented a Women of Courage award in Washington to a newly released Uzbek human rights campaigner, Mutabar Tadjibayeva.
Karimov’s displeasure was conveyed in “icy tones”, which alarmed the embassy: “We have a number of important issues on the table right now, including the Afghanistan transit (NDN) framework.”
I’m not entirely sure what this says about either myself or the president, but I was shocked to hear that his proposal for paying for the American Jobs Act out of existing spending will come entirely from cuts in “tax giveaways.” That is to say, he wants to raise taxes on the plutocrats and their various pseudo-monopolies.
White House budget director Jack Lew outlined Obama’s proposals for paying for the plan, targeting the rich and corporations as the president has in the past to no avail.
The biggest item would raise $400 billion by limiting deductions and exemptions on individuals who earn more than $200,000 per year and families who earn more than $250,000.
He also proposed raising $18 billion by treating the earnings of investment fund managers as ordinary income rather than taxing it at lower capital gains rates.
He would eliminate many oil and gas industry tax breaks to raise $40 billion and change corporate jet depreciation rules to bring in another $3 billion.
According to Lew, The Hill notes:
[T]he total measures proposed by the administration would bring in $467 billion, $20 billion more than the cost of the bill.
Previously the leftist consensus seemed to be (and I would say I agreed) that he would look to cut spending from areas that were a sure thing with Republicans, like the American welfare state. This would have offset any good that his plan did by an equal amount of evil distributed elsewhere. Instead, it turns out he’s targeting tax loopholes, an unjust tax code, and corporate welfare. Whatever the reason for this shift, I’m pleasantly surprised. The Anarcho-Militarist Party, the president’s primary opposition, will not be.
As has been reported virtually everywhere, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s August jobs report is out. It sucks:
Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in most major industries changed little over the month. Health care continued to add jobs, and a decline in information employment reflected a strike. Government employment continued to trend down, despite the return of workers from a partial government shutdown in Minnesota.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was about unchanged at 6.0 million in August and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.
Even more fun:
In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $23.09. This decline followed an 11-cent gain in July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.9 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees decreased by 2 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $19.47.
This in a time when, via the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “the the U.S. economy is currently short about 10 million jobs (14 million using a less conservative estimate).”
The relevant post on the White House blog by Katharine Abraham led with, “Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 17,000 and overall payroll employment was flat in August.”
See that? They picked the figure that increased, put it first, and rendered it numerically. For the real number, they described it in terms of an abstract metaphor.
The White House blog post finishes:
The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
Yeah, those figures do tend to get revised. Downward.
This isn’t a big deal or anything, but I take it as symptomatic of a larger underlying condition. You remember how the Obama campaign used to be the group that spoke the truth? How Obama himself was able to say in public that in times of hardship, when people got bitter, they “cling to guns or religion”?
No more of that. He and his advisors have certainly acclimated to their new environment. “To our most valiant brother,” says Shakespeare’s Claudius, “So much for him.” Insert your own Obama-Hamlet comparison at your leisure.
The employed work multiple jobs to stay afloat (slightly less in 2010 than 2009, but I do not know what the figures are/will be for 2011), and businesses try to only hire the employed or recently unemployed. The result is to create a class of long-term unemployed with few prospects.
The Downward Spiral blog summarizes the current state of the Lesser Depression succinctly:
Now it is finally conformed: the recession that began in 2008 never ended. Trillions of dollars were borrowed and spent by the federal government that merely bought us a couple of years of stabilization before the crash resumed. Don’t give me any guff about how it’s not “officially” a recession unless we experience two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. First of all, as I’ve written before, without the insane levels of federal deficit spending, GDP levels would still be deeply in the red. Secondly, all of that nonsense about a “jobless recovery,” was just that–nonsense. Without jobs, people don’t earn money, hence they cannot go to the mall and spend, hence our consumer based economy cannot grow. It’s as simple as that.
No telling what next month’s figures will be, of course. But given that reports of consumer spending’s health in July were somewhat exaggerated, and worldwide industry is taking a sharp turn for the down, my general belief is that, perhaps, the market cannot continue to go up indefinitely.
Here we go again?
This seems a fitting data point to relate to the discussion about what to do with the Democratic Party. Currently, the Primary Obama question seems to still rage in the pages of liberal blogs. There’s also the question of corporate control of the party and whether or not it’s possible to commandeer the Party for more progressive ends.
Since I’ve commented many times over the last few years about the challenges of changing the Party from within, it seems worth mentioning now that the CDP Progressive Caucus was the only caucus not re-certified at the recent state Party confab in Anaheim (of all places). All of the other caucuses were re-certified, I believe. Then again, none of the other caucuses introduced a resolution to primary a certain Barack Obama.
David Swanson at FDL put up a good (albeit brief) post on this and the full Progressive Caucus resolution is worth reading. The resolution itself is a brief, yet effective take-down of an administration that claims to represent Democrats, not to mention something we could refer to as the National Interest. But the closing grafs are clearly intended to reinforce the notion of what progressive values are like in real terms, even though it includes something of a massive disclaimer designed to disarm certain interests, embedded in the gooey nuggat center (emphasis mine):
WHEREAS, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party recognizes the historical significance of the Eugene McCarthy/Robert F. Kennedy anti-war challenge to President Lyndon Johnson. The challenge followed President Johnson’s decision to escalate U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, betraying his campaign promise to end a war that polarized America. Similarly, we recognize the danger and betrayal that the current “Grand Bargain” represents to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signature gift to all Americans, Social Security and the New Deal, a point of pride for all Democrats.
WHEREAS, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party is committed to the understanding that an interest in a 2012 Democratic presidential primary challenge will not interfere with President Obama’s ability to govern and not limit his ability to do so in ways that include invoking Constitutional options, we recognize that this will, in fact, raise debate on important issues without risking the ability to mobilize and energize the base of the Democratic Party to elect a triumphant leader to counter the far-right agenda.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, to make our views heard, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party will begin the process of contacting other Democratic organizations, Democratic Party members and public organizations that share our views on the issues and which seek to alter the course of history by exploring other steps to effect a necessary change, including a possible primary challenge to President Obama.
And for this the PC was de-certified? In the state that has (by sheer numbers) the largest state Party and the most electoral votes in the US?
I don’t want to tell anyone that changing the Party from within is impossible. I don’t think it is. I don’t think much of anything is really impossible… politically. But corrupt institutions can wield power in dubious ways when they feel the need to and I think they’ve done just that in this instance. How many other state Parties will react similarly to such stated positions?
From PERRspectives blog:
If nothing else, the debt ceiling crisis provided what Barack Obama is so fond of calling a “teachable moment.” Hopefully, that extends to the President himself. After seeing his nominees blocked, his legislation filibustered and popular upper-income tax increases delayed by Republicans who withheld their support from his watered down stimulus and health care programs, President Obama nevertheless continued to seek common ground with those whose only goal remains his political destruction. The result was as painful as it was predictable.
As for the rest of us, here are 25 things we learned during the debt crisis.
(1) We learned that Republicans really care about the national debt, but only when a Democrat is in the White House. As Dick Cheney put it, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”
(2) We learned that the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan, forcing him to raise the debt ceiling 17 times. Overwhelmed by the torrents of red ink unleashed by his supply-side tax cuts of 1981, Reagan raised taxes eleven times while in office. (His deficit reduction initiatives of 1982, 1984 and 1987 relied on over 75% in new tax revenue.) It’s no wonder Reagan called the mountain of debt he bequeathed to America his greatest regret.
(3) We learned that George W. Bush nearly doubled the national debt, leaving Barack Obama a $1.2 trillion annual deficit and almost $11 trillion in debt on January 20, 2009.
(4) We learned that the Bush tax cuts were the single biggest factor in erasing the projected surpluses Dubya inherited from Bill Clinton. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 accounted for almost half of the red ink during his tenure, and if made permanent, would contribute more to the debt over the next decade than Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, the stimulus and TARP combined.
(5) We learned that tax cuts don’t “pay for themselves” or “always increase revenues.” Only in 2005 did federal tax revenue reach the pre-Bush tax cut levels of 2000.
(6) We learned that the Republicans’ so-called job creators don’t create jobs when their taxes are low. In fact, the data show that the far more jobs were created and the economy grew much more quickly when the top 1% of income earners paid higher – even much higher – taxes.
(7) We learned that for John Boehner, some “spending binges” are more equal than others. While spending under Barack Obama rose by about 10% from George W. Bush’s last budget in FY 2009, federal outlays almost doubled between 2001 and 2009. As it turns out, the two unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 (the first war-time tax cut in modern U.S. history) and the Medicare prescription drug program drained the U.S. Treasury. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor voted for all of it.
(8) We learned that Republicans have short memories. When Eric Cantor complained recently that “what I don’t think the White House understands is how difficult it is for fiscal conservatives to say they’re going to vote for a debt ceiling increase,” he apparently forgot that Republican majorities voted seven times to raise the debt limit under President Bush. Along with John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, Cantor and the current GOP leadership team voted a combined 19 times to increase George W. Bush’s borrowing authority by $4 trillion. (That vote tally included a “clean” debt ceiling increase in 2004, backed by 98 current House Republicans and 31 sitting GOP Senators.)
And that’s only 8 of 25. These are excellent points to refute common wisdom with your family, friends, co-workers, and online forums like newspapers. Add in that, according to the post below, Biden told House Democrats Obama would invoke the 14th Amendment if Congress failed to pass debt ceiling legislation, thus removing the need for any legislation that put the burden on the poor, the unemployed, working people, the states, and the 99% who are not wealthy, add that in and you realize this is a scam on the American people. Apparently, everyone in DC knows the policies being pursued are abject failures, and even wrecked the economy. Yet they do nothing but push the same failed policies while pretending, as Obama did today, that he’s adamant about re-taxing the rich. Puhleese. Do they think we are that stupid?
Mr. Cardin, Ms. Mikulski, Mr. Cummings, et al,
It is with a heavy heart and, sadly, a lack of surprise that I find myself drafting this missive. To put it quite simply: if Democrats, and especially those who are supposedly my representatives in the U.S. Congress, choose to vote for cuts to the social safety net, I will never support another Democrat so long as I live. In fact, I will do anything within reason to encourage anyone who will listen to abandon the party which has abandoned their values.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should state up front that I am not, in fact, a registered Democrat (nor am I a Republican). That said, I have generally in my life had cause to vote for Democrats, either in the name of preventing the election of dangerous conservatives (see Ehrlich, Robert) or to support the rare and precious progressive who represents the party (such as Mr. Cummings, who is my Congressman). In the past one could probably convince me that while Democrats were not necessarily as benevolent as Socialists or Greens, they were a firewall against the destructive nature of conservative policies. Over the past few years, however, this has ceased to be the case.
The recent “negotiations” surrounding the debt ceiling have exposed, once and for all, the Democratic Party’s complete abandonment of their own platform and the values that they are supposed to stand for. The representatives of my own beloved Maryland, perhaps the bluest state in the union, have failed to take a firm stand against austerity and reason and instead have accepted the President’s cowardly capitulation to anti-government extremists as an acceptable inevitability.
Senator Benjamin Cardin, with a 97.40 Progressive Punch score, has endorsed the discredited idea that somehow cutting back government spending during a recession is a reasonable proposition. Is this the best I can expect from one of the most “liberal” members of the Senate from one of the most liberal states in the nation? Instead of meekly accepting the conservative Senator Conrad’s framing of the need to cut spending, perhaps Mr. Cardin could have simply said “Let us have a clean vote on the debt ceiling, period, end of sentence.” In fact, for all intents and purposes, that’s been offered by the alleged minority party. The President and Senate Democrats have failed to seize this victory from the jaws of defeat in the interest of implementing uncalled for and unpopular cuts to spending.
Meanwhile, my other two voices in the legislative branch, Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman Elijah Cummings have been largely silent on the matter. A cursory google search shows that Mr. Cummings hasn’t been bothered to address the topic in weeks. Regardless, one or all of these supposedly liberal politicians should be screaming from the rooftops that they will oppose both the Republican party and the President, who literally wants to make as many destructive cuts as possible in the name of pursuing “bipartisanship”. Thus far I have yet to hear a Maryland Democratic voice willing to tell the President that, in no uncertain terms, they will not support the slashing of the social safety net to rectify a budget gap which can be attributed almost in its entirety to this nation’s upper class.
Let there be no mistake, the budget “crisis” we face today is completely on the heads of the so-called “Masters of the Universe” who run the country’s financial system, with secondary credit going to the conservative political system (both parties) which, to this day, has refused to hold accountable the grifters who have wreaked so much damage. While our weak-willed President allows the debt ceiling to be held crisis and threatens to take a chainsaw to the federal budget, Goldman Sachs posted a $1.07 billion profit for the second quarter of 2011. If the nation is broke, as the President and his bi-partisan allies continue to contend, perhaps we should look to an obvious source of revenues.
It is utter madness, and borderline treason, that none of my representatives in Congress have called for raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Every single proposal put forth by either the President or the Congress has included at least twice as many cuts to spending as increases in revenue- one plan had a ratio of $5 in cuts for every $1 in revenue. This is total lunacy, and it’s ridiculous that “liberal” politicians aren’t vociferously rejecting the idea that somehow austerity is not only acceptable, but desirable.
I won’t pretend to be surprised by this turn of events. Since his inauguration, President Obama has sought not to challenge the critics who painted him as a bleeding-heart socialist, but to reassure them by proving them wrong. A health care reform package negotiated in secret with hospitals and insurers, an expansion of prosecutions of whistle-blowers, and continued maneuvers to delay the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were all simply prelude to the current betrayal of the Democratic Party’s base.
We believe that every American, whatever their background or station in life, should have the chance to get a good education, to work at a good job with good wages, to raise and provide for a family, to live in safe surroundings, and to retire with dignity and security.
Based on this platform, Obama, Mikulski, Cardin and Cummings were all entrusted with the support of not only myself, but literally millions of progressives and liberals. The plans being endorsed by Mr. Obama and leading Democrats all fall short of living up to these ideals. If, as seems likely, these “leaders” are willing to back the balancing of the budget on the backs of the poor and working class, they’ve lost the right to that trust. Especially if this is done not under the auspices of an emergency, but done in the name of completing what was a mere procedural technicality just 3 years ago.
In conclusion, to those who claim to represent me in Congress and all of their cohorts in the Democratic party, I say without hesitation or trepidation: either stand up against the cruelty and pointlessness of austerity, or go to Hell.
(Cross-posted from Firedoglake).
There have been a bunch of news stories in the past week about Roger Clemens being prosecuted for lying under oath to Congress about taking performance enhancing drugs, like this story:
The case of USA vs. WILLIAM R. CLEMENS, as it is formally styled, may last a month and a half and overlap, on Aug. 4, the hero’s 39th birthday. The lead prosecutor, a hook-nosed veteran named Steven Durham who much resembles Ken (Hawk) Harrelson, the old Red Sox first baseman, unfolded a list of potential witnesses that includes numerous ex-trainers of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Jays’ team physician (and former major-league pitcher) Ron Taylor, and such chemically enhanced former big-leaguers as Jose Canseco, Sammy (“no speak English”) Sosa, Mark (“We’re not here to talk about the past”) McGwire and even the big-headed Barry Bonds himself, fresh off his own partial exoneration (and conviction on one count of obstruction of justice) on charges that he was well aware of the muscle-building, testicle-shrinking propensities of what his pusher called “the Cream” and “the Clear.”
On Clemens’ behalf, his lawyer suggested, might be summoned ex-players David Cone, Wade Boggs, Phil Garner and Woody Williams, not to mention Debra herself and a brace of masseur/masseuses.
Wednesday’s first order of business was the defence’s rather late and whiny insistence on obtaining an audio recording to supplement the official transcript of Clemens’s Congressional declamation. “Tone of voice” could be crucial to understanding the pitcher’s delivery, his lawyers argued. But District Judge Reggie Walton bade the proceedings continue anyway, arguing that: “This country’s going broke, and we can’t afford to waste money.”
Neither Judge Walton nor the defence ventured to suggest that Defendant Clemens, whose peak salary exceeded $20 million U.S. per season, might help to foot the bill for any delay.
The usual justification for this prosecutorial excess goes like this story:
And, of course, yes, games are not consequential in an intrinsic sense. However, the fact is that in this world today, there are many trivial things taken very seriously by a lot of people — sports primarily included. And thus, because sports in the aggregate is a substantial institution, the government is obliged to pay attention.
Perhaps one of the reasons the government is forced to pay attention is because of the way sports affect children. The goal of sports is victory, but the essence is fairness. What’s the first question a kid asks entering a game? What are the rules?
If we don’t accept playing by the rules in sport, where else do we lay down that marker? That’s what’s serious about sports. And why, although we are weary of all the doping distractions, it is worth the while of governments to go after athletes — especially the celebrities — who might have cheated their games and cheated what a very visual institution in our society teaches us. Yes, it’s time and money, but, yes, it’s only fair.
However, reading a Wired piece by Spencer Ackerman, ‘Some Will Call Me a Torturer’: CIA Man Reveals Secret Jail, I wonder if Mr. Clemens should simply admit to torture and run for political office? US politicians who torture, and the people who do their dirty work, are immune from prosecution, despite their crimes being far more heinous than sticking yourself with a needle and risking your health, all for some deluded idea that you can put off aging and growing old. Torture is not vain.
Indeed, torture is stupid and misguided. It destroys lives:
Distilled, that story, told in Carle’s new memoir The Interrogator, is this: In the months after 9/11, the CIA kidnaps a suspected senior member of al-Qaida and takes him to a Mideast country for interrogation. It assigns Carle — like nearly all his colleagues then, an inexperienced interrogator — to pry information out of him. Uneasy with the CIA’s new, relaxed rules for questioning, which allow him to torture, Carle instead tries to build a rapport with the man he calls CAPTUS.
But CAPTUS doesn’t divulge the al-Qaida plans the CIA suspects him of knowing. So the agency sends him to “Hotel California” — an unacknowledged prison, beyond the reach of the Red Cross or international law.
Carle goes with him. Though heavily censored by the CIA, Carle provides the first detailed description of a so-called “black site.” At an isolated “discretely guarded, unremarkable” facility in an undisclosed foreign country (though one where the Soviets once operated), hidden CIA interrogators work endless hours while heavy metal blasts captives’ eardrums and disrupts their sleep schedules.
Afterward, the operatives drive to a fortified compound to munch Oreos and drink somberly to Grand Funk Railroad at the “Jihadi Bar.” Any visitor to Guantanamo Bay’s Irish pub — O’Kellys, home of the fried pickle — will recognize the surreality.
But Carle — codename: REDEMPTOR — comes to believe CAPTUS is innocent.
“We had destroyed the man’s life based on an error,” he writes. But the black site is a bureaucratic hell: CAPTUS’ reluctance to tell CIA what it wants to hear makes the far-off agency headquarters more determined to torture him. Carle’s resistance, shared by some at Hotel California, makes him suspect. He leaves CAPTUS in the black site after 10 intense days, questioning whether his psychological manipulation of CAPTUS made him, ultimately, a torturer himself.
Eight years later, the CIA unceremoniously released CAPTUS. (The agency declined to comment for this story.) Whether that means CAPTUS was innocent or merely no longer useful as a source of information, we may never know. Carle spoke to Danger Room about what it’s like to interrogate a man in a place too dark for the law to find.
Worse for all of us, the sitting President who had nothing to do with the US torture regime, according to cables released by Wikileaks awhile back, and only months after winning the Nobel Peace prize, worked secretly to quash a legitimate prosecution of US torturers in the Spanish justice system.
Short version: the US has a lot more to worry about than juiced up athletes. Sure, the media should tell us which athletes are the phonies. But the justice system should be reserved for the torturers, the (real) baby killers and murderers, the scam artists who steal money from grandma (and you and me), and other serious crimes against society. Doping is not one of them, in my view. And torturers, politicians, and financial scammers should not enjoy self-administered legal immunity.
Your humble correspondent is perplexed at the priorities of his government.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ever stalwart proponent of one of the most bizarre human rights agendas one can imagine, has bravely taken on the mantle of global cheerleader for the right of Saudi women to drive Mercedes Benz’. Being an American feminist, I can only bow before her courageous outpouring in support of those oppressed women. But that’s where the praise fades to black, to the sound of an Israeli navy bullhorn announcing it’s pending attack on an American vessel and it’s occupants.
“We’ve made clear [to the Saudi government] our views that women everywhere, including women in the kingdom, have the right to make decisions about their lives and their futures,” Clinton said. “They have the right to contribute to society and provide for their children and their families, and mobility such as provided by the freedom to drive provides access to economic opportunity, including jobs, which does fuel growth and stability.”
Tis a pity, then, that these same considerations do not apply to Gazan women seeking to care for their own children. Indeed, it doesn’t even apply to Americans who seek nothing more than to extend those rights to their fellow human beings. The trick, it seems, lies in how one parses the Clintonian usage of “human beings” and whether or not certain people fall into that category. Via Mondoweiss and others, we’re finding that the current regime is rather picky about who gets to enjoy that label. Because in the case of the delightfully irony-enhanced name MV Audacity of Hope, we find those hearty travelers don’t quite pass muster with the administration’s usage.
“And we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves,” Clinton said.
Not helpful. Trying to provoke. The Israelis apparently enjoy the right to defend themselves from unarmed peaceniks bearing a cargo of dangerous foods and medicines. This, of course, is the standard issue boilerplate “Blame The Soon-To-Be Victims.” But it gets worse.
The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel… On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.
We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.
(emphasis is Think Progress’)
Putting together these two sets of remarks, it’s pretty clear Hillary Clinton hates Americans. Or something. In any case, she’s perfectly fine with the IDF violating the rights of such “threats” as 87-year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, even if that includes murder. She is a threat, you see. A threat to what, Empress Clinton will not say.
Not to be left out of this orgy of moral bankruptcy, even the White House has to get in on the act.
The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on activists planning to challenge Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, warning that they will face action from Israeli authorities and that American participants may also be violating U.S. law.
The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.
So to sum up:
- Saudi women seeking to enjoy the pleasures of mall traffic (they’re not allowed to work or even speak, for the most part, are they?) = Double-Plus Good.
- Americans risking their lives in opposition to ethnic cleansing = Bad, Bad, Bad.
What the brave souls of the MV Audacity Of Hope fail to realize is this: In order to qualify as a Humanitarian Mission, they have to lob cruise missiles at Tripoli. According to Barack Obama’s own statements, disgorging thousands of tons of ordnance on another country does not qualify as “hostilities” or “war.” Indeed, it’s all very, very Humanitarian!
So if they are not murdered by the IDF, they may also face prison terms in the US. This is how the US Government treats it’s own law-abiding citizens.
I can’t wait to see how the Obamatrons spin this one.
Goldman Sachs, while outrageously predicting a “super spike” that might cause oil to reach as high as $200 a barrel, blamed piggish American consumers and preached conservation as a bulwark against oil supply disruptions. The bank’s “Oracle of Oil,” Arjun Murti, even broadcast the fact that he owned two hybrid cars.
Well, thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that when the Bush administration reached out to the Saudis in the summer of ’08 to ask them to increase oil production to lower prices, the Saudis responded by saying they were having a hard time finding buyers for their oil as it was, and instead asked the Bush administration to rein in Wall Street speculators.
According to the McClatchy report, the Wiki cables show that Saudi ministers repeatedly told Bush administration officials that increasing production might be counterproductive.
It would be amusing if the US government was the only one surprised (or is it shocked, shocked, shocked, to paraphrase Claude Rains in Casablanca?) to learn Wall Street gamblers deliberately jacked commodity prices in 2008 (and today, one presumes), causing the starvation of millions in the Third World, among other pleasant effects. Plus massive windfall profits for oil companies. Feigning ignorance, of course, exempts the US government from actually taxing these windfall profits, never mind stopping them.
And whatever happened to the Assange rape case and all the thundering about WikiLeaks endangering our troops? So far, WikiLeaks has only shown us our overlords are venal, corrupt, and eager to do anything to prevent the truth from coming out. And that includes Obama in March 2009 secretly trying to shut down a Spanish investigation into US torture.
And, finally, it’s also interesting that WikiLeaks is the gift that keeps on giving, confirming our worst suspicions about all sorts of underhanded political and economic behavior of our ruling elites going back decades. Isn’t that a hoot? Who could have predicted that outcome?