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.
Presumably you’ve seen this at the NY Times:
UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union. Two of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects collective bargaining, are vacant, and on Dec. 31, the term of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whom President Obama named to the board last year through a recess appointment, will expire. Without a quorum, the Supreme Court ruled last year, the board cannot decide cases.
What would this mean?
Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.
If this nightmare comes to pass, it will represent the culmination of three decades of Republican resistance to the board — an unwillingness to recognize the fundamental right of workers to band together, if they wish, to seek better pay and working conditions. But Mr. Obama is also partly to blame; in trying to install partisan stalwarts on the board, as his predecessors did, he is all but guaranteeing that the impasse will continue. On Wednesday, he announced his intention to nominate two pro-union lawyers to the board, though there is no realistic chance that either can gain Senate confirmation anytime soon.
The author was NLRB chair during the Clinton years. While I don’t agree fully with some of his comments, clearly this is one issue that deserves more notice and debate. Either workers have rights or they don’t. If they do have rights, they need a reasonable enforcement capability to support their rights.
Part of what I disagree with is the idea that Obama is at fault if the NLRB falls apart, by nominating worker-friendly members to the board. I agree members of the board should be mostly non-partisan professionals, not ideological hacks. But if the board exists to protect worker rights, then the bias on the board should be towards appointing members who will defend those rights. Presumably businesses that disagree with the board on an issue have their own resources and will protect their interests, as well. And Senators should respect this dynamic. Otherwise, Senators are agreeing with Republicans that workers have no rights.
It also goes without saying that without unions wage suppression becomes even more pronounced and the ability to have a viable middle class disappears in the US (it’s already gone, in many ways).
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.”
From the NY Times today:
Eric T. Schneiderman, the top prosecutor in New York, was removed on Tuesday from a committee of state attorneys general investigating mortgage abuses.
In recent months, Mr. Schneiderman has voiced concerns over a proposed settlement between major banks and a coalition of federal and state officials over claims of foreclosure abuses. He has come under increasing pressure to approve the deal.
The Iowa attorney general’s office is leading the investigation and on Tuesday sent an e-mail to other lawyers involved in the investigation to announce the decision. “Effective immediately, the New York attorney general’s office has been removed from the executive committee of the robosigning multistate,” a lawyer from the Iowa office wrote, using the shorthand for the investigation, which is looking into so-called robo-signing of mortgage documents and other abuses.
Mr. Schneiderman has said that he opposes any deal that gives participating banks a release from other litigation surrounding their mortgage activities. Attorneys general from other states have also questioned aspects of the deal, including Beau Biden of Delaware.
You might think this is no big deal until you come across this article, as I did the other day, also from the NY Times:
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.
Eric T. Schneiderman has objected to elements of the settlement for months.
In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.
Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.
But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general’s participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
Followed by this bit, same article:
Not surprising, the large banks, which are eager to reach a settlement, have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Schneiderman. Bank officials recently discussed asking Mr. Donovan for help in changing the attorney general’s mind, according to a person briefed on those talks.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Donovan defended his discussions with the attorney general, saying they were motivated by a desire to speed up help for troubled homeowners. But he said he had not spoken to bank officials or their representatives about trying to persuade Mr. Schneiderman to get on board with the deal.
“Eric and I agree on a tremendous amount here,” Mr. Donovan said. “The disagreement is around whether we should wait to settle and resolve the issues around the servicing practices for him — and potentially other A.G.’s and other federal agencies — to complete investigations on the securitization side. He might argue that he has more leverage that way, but our view is we have the immediate opportunity to help a huge number of borrowers to stay in their homes, to help their neighborhoods and the housing market.”
Notice the rhetoric: we’re not bailing out banks and letting them escape punishment for their criminal actions, we’re helping homeowners. Meanwhile, homeowners could be helped many other ways besides letting their tormentors avoid jail time. And notice how Mr. Donovan appears reasonable, can’t we all get along, as the crooks escape jail behind him, with his knowledge and approval.
Clearly the fix is in. The Obama Administration is trying to get a settlement deal happen in these cases where banks and other mortgage lenders knowingly engaged in fraud. People like the NY Attorney General who want to actually investigate these cases, and hold banks legally accountable, they’re facing pressure from the Administration and, it appears, are being kicked off a key board in retaliation for not playing along.
While some of this is politics as usual, in any era, it’s disheartening to see the Obama Administration play this game for the benefit of Wall Street. It suggests they’re as much thieves as the people who actually committed these crimes. It also suggests the Administration is not interested to create real programs to help homeowners.
UPDATE: Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has all the gory details of what is going on and what is at stake, Obama Goes All Out For Dirty Banker Deal:
The banks are going to claim that all they’re guilty of is bad paperwork. But while the banks are indeed being investigated for “paperwork” offenses like mass tax evasion (by failing to pay fees associated with mortgage registrations and deed transfers) and mass perjury (a la the “robo-signing” practices), their real crime, the one Schneiderman is interested in, is even more serious.
The issue goes beyond fraudulent paperwork to an intentional, far-reaching theft scheme designed to take junk subprime loans and disguise them as AAA-rated investments. The banks lent money to corrupt companies like Countrywide, who made masses of bad loans and immediately sold them back to the banks.
The banks in turn hid the crappiness of these loans via certain poorly-understood nuances in the securitization process – this is almost certainly where Scheniderman’s investigators are doing their digging – before hawking the resultant securities as AAA-rated gold to fools in places like the Florida state pension fund.
They did this for years, systematically, working hand in hand in a wink-nudge arrangement with clearly criminal enterprises like Countrywide and New Century. The victims were millions of investors worldwide (like the pensioners who saw their funds drop in value) and hundreds of thousands of individual homeowners, who were often sold trick loans and hustled into foreclosure when unexpected rate hikes kicked in.
It truly is disgusting Obama and his Administration are so clearly for sale to the highest bidder. Never mind taxpayers fund their salaries. Let’s hope they all go to jail.
Just as Tantawi expelled the protesters from Tahrir Square in Egypt after the fall of Mubarak, refused to punish those who had harmed the protesters (and has in fact begun a crackdown on the protesters themselves), and left the neoliberal policies of the former government mostly intact, so we will soon see Libya settle down after its childish outburst against the status quo. After all, revolution is bad for business.
Those darned Arabs and their revolutions… Gee, they need to grow up, don’t they? They could take a few pointers from our Democrats.
The fighting hasn’t even ceased in Tripoli, but the oil companies are right outside the gates, waiting to be let back into the country to suckle at the teat of largest fossil fuel cash cow (ugly image, I know) in Africa:
As Reuters reported Monday night, the Italian oil company Eni SpA has already sent staff into the country to evaluate the oil facilities. The Dutch company Shell, the French company SA, and Qatar’s national oil company are also eager to get in.
The people haven’t even had the chance to enjoy the illusion that their actual, in-every-sense-of-the-word revolution was worth it, that all the blood and loss and devastation was for something, that now they get to rule themselves, and already there are oil speculators in their country. Wow, markets are efficient, aren’t they?
It’s not just the oil companies, either. The so-called National Transitional Council has not only had no real hand in the push on Tripoli, it was even willing to try to compel the rebels to halt their advance if Gaddafi would accept an offer of safe passage out of Libya. This at the eleventh hour when victory in Tripoli was all but past.
The self-appointed Transitional Council, the Guardian reports, includes “several people who only recently defected from Gaddafi’s government.” Such as, for instance, Mustafa Abd El Jalil, the chair of the NTC, who was also Gaddafi’s former Minister of Justice. He defied Gaddafi and defected, sure, but let’s face it – wouldn’t you?
Just imagine if the LAPD asked the Crips and the Bloods to look into whether or not they were involved in drive by shootings.
A follow up video interviewing Matt Taibbi on his story, Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? (and a follow up note here), that documents how the SEC has for years shredded key evidence that prevents the creation of an institutional history within the SEC.
This story and the video also re-iterates a key point about our current political and economic situation: this is not something that’s been going on 10-12 years. It’s been going on at least since the mid to late 1980s. What’s different, perhaps, is that no political party is organized to oppose the status quo. Both Republicans and Democrats see “business as usual” as absolutely fine and not worthy of change. They do not see any problem with SEC political appointees coming from Wall Street, doing a stint paid by taxpayers to oversee themselves, then go back to Wall Street. That’s Corruption 101 to anyone but both US political parties. The fact the SEC also shreds documents is a feature, not a bug.
From Maureen Tkacik at Reuters:
Even the Tea Partiers who claim to be broke don’t apparently mean that literally; after reporting personal assets worth zero dollars, Tennessee’s Stephen Fincher made headlines for having received $3.34 million in federal agriculture subsidies in recent years; eventually he amended the form to include his cotton farm as an asset, estimating its value at $500,000. (South Dakota’s Kristi Noem has also collected more than $3 million in farm subsidies over the past decade, but her form only lists five assets worth somewhere between $33,000 and $145,000.)
It’s not hard to guess what these people see in Tea Party politics. Here is a movement united around an unfailing support of tax cuts for people like them, at a time in which poll after poll (23 polls, by one count) reveals the American electorate to be united by unprecedentedly broad-based support for doing the opposite. But there also more specific interests at play: the wealthier freshmen generally made their livelihoods in one of three economic sectors—health care/insurance, real estate and energy—whose profit margins not too long ago appeared particularly vulnerable to Obama’s policy goals.
Great opinion piece calling bullshit on the Tea Party as angry poor and middle class white people. They may be the foot soldiers but the Tea Party politicians (and the financial backers) are rich, rich, rich. And they clearly benefit from pushing austerity policies.
Which puts Obama and the Democratic leadership on the spot: they can’t claim supporting Tea Party goals is what most Americans want or benefit from. You’re either for the status quo and the wealthiest or you are for helping the people who are suffering from the status quo.
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?
Today on the train, looking over people’s shoulders to read the headlines from the NY Post, Daily News, Times, and Wall Street Journal, many of them had the same slug for Obama’s speech yesterday (text here) — “We’re a Triple-A Country” — but then noted the market dropped even further after the speech. As if Obama had failed, which indeed he did, in my view, as we’ll see.
The speech yesterday reminded me of another speech, Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech” which also was mocked afterwards as a sign that Carter was clueless. And that Reagan ran all over Carter in the 1980 election in part because Carter was being Carter, too touchy feely and emotional when the country wanted a robust response to the energy crisis of the late 1970s. So I looked up both speeches and found some rather unexpected differences. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps you are like me and, upon hearing last night or this morning that Wall Street had taken a dive, dropping 512 points, losing two trillion in market value globally, perhaps you thought, so what? Where is the surprise?
Of course the US and global economy suck. Of course businesses are raking in piles of cash while working their employees harder and refusing to hire. Of course politicians refuse to do what got us out of the Depression and insist on doing what caused then prolonged the Depression. Of course consumers can’t spend: there’s almost 30 million unemployed and barely employed (part time and looking for a job) workers, not to mention about half of homeowners have mortgages underwater. Who would hire in this climate? Who would spend beyond the necessities?
This is news?
The real story is that there is so much money fleeing traditional markets that Bank of New York Mellon has started to charge large depositors for parking cash with their bank. And Treasury bond yields dropped dramatically, down to 0.08% return. People are giving their money to the near bankrupt, corrupt, and politically clueless US government in exchange for bonds and near zero return.
Digging deeper, perhaps the real story is that the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street are clueless. Nope, wrong word. They are dumb. Apparently they would not know something was in their own best interest if it bit them in the ass.
Indeed, we should play a game, Who is the Most Clueless? On the flip … Read the rest of this entry »
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?
The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s losing $30 million a day in taxes because Congress let the agency’s revenue-raising authority expire.
Airlines can’t collect excise taxes on tickets, fuel and cargo until Congress passes legislation to extend the FAA’s authority, Randy Babbitt, the agency’s administrator, said today on a conference call from Washington. The FAA operated through July 22 under a series of 20 short-term extensions, after its multiyear funding legislation expired in 2007.
Most major airlines have raised base ticket prices by at least 7.5 percent to capture the forgone federal revenue, Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of FareCompare.com, a website that tracks ticket prices, said in an e-mailed report.
“With the added ticket revenue and the reduction in sales tax on jet fuel, this could be a major boon for airline bottom lines if the issue goes unresolved for several weeks,” Seaney wrote in an e-mail.
The deadlock in Congress continued today as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he doesn’t plan to bring a House-approved FAA extension bill to a Senate vote.
Senate Democrats oppose the House measure to continue FAA funding through Sept. 16 because it would end taxpayer support for flights to 13 small-town airports, including one in Reid’s home state.
The National Journal is the only outlet that begins to describe the union angle to Republican objections, along with some predictable boilerplate debate on the merits (love the guy arguing New Guinea should be a model for the US!). What’s even more galling than airlines charging the Federal tax rate as pure profit, and Republicans trying to hurt unions, is that FAA inspectors are working without pay and having to charge travel and hotel to their personal accounts. For at least another month because Congress went on recess without funding the FAA. What are the odds they’ll be paid back before their credit runs out? Or that they’ll be reimbursed once funding happens in September, if it happens?
From the NY Times:
No matter how the immediate issue is resolved, Mr. Obama, in his failed effort for greater deficit reduction, has put on the table far more in reductions for future years’ spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, than he did in new revenue from the wealthy and corporations. He proposed fewer cuts in military spending and more in health care than a bipartisan Senate group that includes one of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans.
To win approval of the essential increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing ceiling, Mr. Obama sought more in deficit reduction than Republicans did, and with fewer changes to the entitlement programs, because he was willing to raise additional revenue starting in 2013 and they were not. And despite unemployment lingering at its highest level in decades, Mr. Obama has not fought this year for a big jobs program with billions of dollars for public-works projects, which liberals in his party have clamored for. Instead, he wants to extend a temporary payroll tax cut for everyone, since Republicans will support tax cuts, despite studies showing that spending programs are generally the more effective stimulus.
(my emphasis) Notice the disconnect? Cuts in the payroll tax that fund Social Security are cuts to Social Security. Yet the Times reporter and their editor are so into boilerplate reporting they completely ignore what is in their reporting. They pretend, instead, that you can cut payroll taxes indefinitely and magically Social Security will continue to be funded at “normal” levels (actually, normal is what the Europeans pay, around 80% of pre-retirement income, while the US pays around 40-60%).
Then there’s this telling bit:
In his budget proposal in January, Mr. Obama declined to suggest a plan along the lines proposed by a majority of his bipartisan fiscal commission, which in December recommended $4 trillion in savings over 10 years through cuts in military and domestic programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and a tax code overhaul to lower rates while also raising more revenue.
Even though Mr. Obama was widely criticized, administration officials said at the time that to have embraced that approach then would have put him too far to the right — where he ultimately wanted to end up in any compromise with Republicans, not where he wanted to start.
But by this month, in ultimately unsuccessful talks with Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama tentatively agreed to a plan that was farther to the right than that of the majority of the fiscal commission and a bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six. It also included a slow rise in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, and, after 2015, a change in the formula for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments long sought by economists.
“He’s accommodated himself to the new reality in Washington,” said Tom Davis, a former House Republican leader from Virginia. “That’s what leaders do.”
But Congressional Democrats and liberal groups objected.
First, “long sought by economists”? Which economists? Right wing economists, surely, if it is true these COLA adjustments decrease the payout people receive in retirement. More lazy reporting from the Times to not name names of economists and/or indicate their ideology. And remember, people pay into Social Security. It’s a separate program from the federal budget. Paying out less is a form of theft completely unrelated to the larger issue of the federal debt. Paying out less is a right wing wet dream. It’s not morally fair or economically sensible (you don’t want half dead seniors littering the sidewalk, begging for food).
Bernie Sanders is still correct: the pundits, the lobbyists, the politicians, they have zero clue as to the impact of the programs they propose. The wealthiest who pay their lobbyists and offer jobs to politicians, they know: pressure to increase their taxes will go down if the government spends less. Even if it means hundreds of thousands of more layoffs and more economic misery for all Americans. The Times should call these details out. This is not a horse race: it is life or death for many Americans. And for many others, it is the difference between economic security and insecurity, a job or no job.
As for this article, the journalist has not been paying attention to who has benefitted from Obama’s policies to date. They are traditional Republican constituencies: Wall Street, Big Business, and the wealthy. This is not a rightward tilt, or edging to the right. This is a Republican President calling himself a Democrat because the Democratic party is captive of the same forces that have captured the Republican party, and the media.
This is too short to excerpt and since it’s from the Democratic Leader’s office directly, I don’t see any copyright issue here. So here it is, in all it’s glory:
Pelosi Statement on Proposals to Reduce the Deficit, Avoid DefaultJuly 25, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on proposals announced today to reduce the deficit and avoid default:
“It is clear we must enter an era of austerity; to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice.
“The President has called for a ‘grand bargain,’ which provides long-term deficit reduction based on shared values and sends a message of confidence to the markets.
“The latest proposal from the House Republicans is a short-term plan that burdens the middle class and seniors, and continues this debate about whether we will default in a few months from now.
“Senator Reid has put forward a responsible plan to reduce the deficit that protects the middle class, and Medicare, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. It also includes many proposals already supported by Republicans.
“We must come together for an agreement because our economy and middle class will suffer from a default.”
Emphasis mine. The sacrifice belongs to everyone but people in her class.
I love that last sentence. The middle and lower classes, who did nothing to cause our current “crisis,” have to take the pain of austerity, because even partially defaulting on rich bond holders would be “bad for the economy and the middle class.” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
At this point, perhaps we can stop referring to Pelosi as some kind of progressive. She’s now the Chief Class Warrior of the House Democrats.
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).