Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The difference between corporations and people___Grover Cleveland, 1888

The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor.

As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Koch Brothers shutting down the government.

Thom's blog
Are the Koch Bros and their Tea Party followers shutting down the Government now?
Negotiations in Congress to prevent a government shut down have reportedly fallen through. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid placed the blame on Tea Party Republicans who are refusing to compromise in budget negotiations saying, "The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table."

One of the main obstacles in the budget negotiations are demands by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood and "Obamacare". In other words - Republicans are arguing that if disadvantaged women and more than 52 million people nationwide are allowed to have access to critical healthcare services - then they'll shut down the government!

You can't make this stuff up. Are Koch Bros and their followers shutting down the Government now?

So goes Wisconsin, so goes America? It is troublesome.

It the GOP was as good at governing as they were at getting elected the country would be much better shape; and make no mistake, the GOP is responsible for the shape it is in. What they are best at is making people vote against their own vital best interests.

From the Revolutionary war on through history, with the exception of 1929 to 1980, the party that has always represented the aristocracy has controlled the economic and social stratification of America. Their mantra has been throughout history the admonishment that the USA is a republic, not a democracy. They claim that democracy is bad because it is a situation where the mindless, soulless majority oppresses the individual and the spirit of God; their natural antithesis of that is a Republic which exists to protect the individual against this oppression. This is more of their sleight of hand used to obfuscate facts. Their view of government is that it’s function should be to ensure the ability of the of the ruling class to exploit the working class and consumers. Since the working class and consumers represents the bulk of the populace they have had to:

  • ·         suppress their suffrage
  • ·         convince them that voting against their own best interests is in fact voting for their own best interest, or
  • ·         obfuscate the social issues to the point where the public ignores their best interests
  • ·         They have been successful in doing all three. Minorities are still being denied the right to vote in some states. Another way is to gerrymander voting districts as they did in Texas and other states. The third way has been the most successful, although all three have worked and still work. They have done this by:

  • ·         creating straw man issues,
  • ·         introducing the fear factor and blaming the majority party; communism, socialism, terrorism, etc.,
  • ·         introducing emotional wedge issues such as gun rights, abortion, gay rights, etc.
  • ·         exploiting the fact that many Americans think they will “win the lottery,” ignoring the fact that nearly everyone ends up in the same social class to which they were born. The chance of someone born in the lower class ending up in the upper class is less than the chance of winning the lottery. In fact, their only chance of ending up in there is by winning the lottery. It’s lower than the chance of a little league baseball player ending up in the majors. Contrary to the belief by many, George Bush and the Donald Trumps of the world are not on 3rd base because the hit a triple, they were born on 3rd base.

Their purpose in getting the people who they are exploiting to vote for them is simply so they can continue to exploit them. They want to retain and even increase their slice of the pie. Never mind that their bottom line can, and has done so, increase with a smaller slice of a larger pie, they want their slice to be bigger even if it means a smaller pie. It would seem irrational if you didn’t consider the social aspects. They want to be elite. They despise the people who they exploit.

Income inequality to the extent that we see it now is not sustainable. Forget about fairness or Christian benevolence, it hasn’t worked in the past and it will not work today; income concentration at the top decreases total consumption and increases speculative investment. The lesson of 1929 and the recent housing bubble have been forgotten or are being ignored in the interest of getting a larger piece of a shrinking pie.

What we’re seeing in Wisconsin is only the beginning. The Koch Brothers, atmosphere and social polluters nonpareil, have managed to create the Teaparty combining all four of the above factors with a healthy infusion of racial hatred. Make no mistake, the Koch Brothers’, and other corporations’, target is the middle class and the unions that created the middle class. The middle class resulted from the New Deal legislation which gave the unions the right to bargain and from the regulation which prohibited investment banking. The New Deal created the longest period of sustained growth in history; and even though the upper income levels slice of the pie continued to grow in absolutes, it was not growing as a percentage. Ronald Reagan and his successful attack on regulations and the union through his amnesty legislation brought about the Great Recession of 08, and may yet, if the GOP is successful in its job-killing faux austerity plan. The Koch Brothers and multi-national corporations aim to continue Reagan’s supply side economics and Friedman’s disaster capitalism and were aided and abetted in their power grab by the Citizens United decision and the no longer controlled infusion of campaign funds.

Americans continue to fuel the weapon of their own destruction. If Wisconsin fails, so could America.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paying workers enough to buy the products they make means a healthy economy.

Although a strong case could be made for the morality of sharing the wealth by reading the scriptures, this is an economic issue. Henry Ford, anything but liberal, knew that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and be good for the economy. Ford explained the policy as profit-sharing rather than wages. It may have been Couzzens who convinced Ford to adopt the $5 day.[

EPI News
March 28, 2011

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The wages and wealth of working America

A new EPI paper finds that the distribution of wealth in the United States is even more unequal than the distribution of wages or income. The paper, which comes on the heels of another EPI report showing that wage growth in the United States has fallen far behind productivity growth, offers another indication of how the typical worker lacks economic security.
Top 5% holds 63.5% of the country’s wealth
Wealth, or net worth, refers to an individual’s or a family’s total assets, such as bank account balances, savings, and real estate, minus total liabilities, such as mortgages, debt, and outstanding medical bills. Along with wages and income, wealth is another key measure of economic security and well-being since it strengthens a family’s ability to withstand job loss or other economic distress. In the report The State of Working America’s Wealth, EPI Research Associate and U.C. Berkeley Labor Economist Sylvia Allegretto shows that wealth distribution is highly unequal, with the top 5% of U.S. households holding 63.5% of the country’s total wealth in 2009.
Allegretto notes that foreclosures and falling housing values have devastated the net worth – or wealth – of millions of American households. The vastly unequal wealth distribution seen today, she notes, explains why the economic recovery feels different to different people: “Typical workers and families continue to struggle against high rates of unemployment, stagnating wages, and foreclosure, while the wealthy have enjoyed significant gains in the stock market, and benefited from corporate profits.”
Another recent EPI paper, The Sad but True Story of Wages in America by EPI PresidentLawrence Mishel and Economist Heidi Shierholzrecasts the recent debate over public sector compensation by showing that wages in both the public and the private sector have fallen far behind gains in U.S. productivity in recent decades. Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. productivity grew by 62.5%, but wages grew by a much lower 12% for both private sector and state/local government workers. The failure of pay to keep up with productivity growth has affected both high school and college graduates, and has persisted through periods of strong economic growth in recent decades.
U.S. farmworkers not benefiting from agricultural exports
One quarter of all the fresh fruit produced in the United States, along with almost one-tenth of the vegetables, is exported. On March 21, EPI published Farm Exports and Farm Labor, which finds that although agricultural exports are “a significant and growing force” in the U.S. economy, most farmworkers are not benefiting. Between 1989 and 2009, the value of U.S. agricultural exports has far more than doubled, but over the same 20-year time period, average inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for U.S. farmworkers rose only $1.52, to $10.07 (in 2009 dollars). The paper explores how higher wages could lift many farmworkers out of poverty and increase U.S. household spending.
Featured EPI board member

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Try Bradley Manning or release him. Let the world know what he did and why.

Bradley Manning has been in a military prison for over a year for blowing the whistle on a mass murder by our United States military personnel. A lot of noise is being made regarding the inhumanity of how he is being treated in prison which is disgraceful but the more troublesome aspect is that he is being punished while the people who committed the murders have not been punished or even identified.

Watching the video, it is disturbing that the military personnel are so efficiently passive about what they are doing, which is taking human lives!  In 1945, a group of Germans, some Nazis, some not, were tried and punished  for crimes which, in some cases, were not as bad as these. The reason for the Nuremberg Trials was not just retribution but to tell the world that murder in the name of Country would not be tolerated.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The ongoing saga of never ending war!

Milo Minderbinder, Dick Cheney and ever lasting war.

"The American people, it seems, are bored with war. Like a reality show that's gone on too long, it ceases to shock, shame or even interest. In September, when pollsters asked what the most important problems facing the country are, just 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan. Even when combined with Iraq it has not reached double digits for several months. In a CBS poll in early October it did not register at all. A Pew poll the same month found that just 23 percent said they were following the situation closely. And they do not like what they see. Polls show that 60 percent of Americans believe Afghanistan is a lost cause, and roughly half compare it to Vietnam and favor a timetable for withdrawal."

The war profiteers have done it. With the help of two administration, they have converted an act of mass murder into an endless war attracting very little public concern.  The rich folks' kids are not involved, there is no draft, the voters were distracted with an extension of a deficit bulging tax cut and we are borrowing from a communist nation to pay for it. What's not to like, at least until some future group of voters are forced to pay for it....somehow. And the profits just keep rolling in. As Milo Minderbinder, the war profiteer extraordinaire of Heller's Catch 22,  said, 

"In a democracy, the government is the people, Milo explained. "We're the people, aren't we? So we might as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'k like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry."

Halliburton Chevron, ExxonMobilBlackwater and many others, with the swinging door between the Bush White House and the corporate world, has made this a virtual fait accompli! America has become, or maybe I should say has been for some time, the most war-like country in history, only now the corporations are in charge. How has this happened? 

After serving reluctantly during the Korean War, I, personally, was through with war, or hope and thought I was. I believe most Americans felt the same way.

Then along came Viet Nam, a totally political and needless war. I think that, for the most part, our government was honorable in it's first. It became more and more political, more and more deadly and more and more needless. It ended tragically and we lost. We were no longer undefeated. 

Again, many of us were through with war and hoped that the USA was too. Wrong again. There are just too many people of power who benefit or think they would benefit by war. I won't go into those people and their reason now but they learned a LOT from Viet Nam; to the extent possible, isolate the public from the war. The Neocons made sure the military was all volunteer...avoid the war awareness that democratic participation produces! Avoid public awareness of the true cost in human life and fiscal cost by privatization. Who cares that a private contractor, a mercenary, is killed? Avoid contemporary awareness of the fiscal cost by borrowing. Who cares about the war if we are not taxed and are not required to make ANY sacrifice.

9/11 provided a fortuitous opportunity for making war. Of course, we made war with the wrong country and with tragic consequences but a profitable war all the same; and that's the important thing to Milo Minderbinder and the Dick Cheneys of the world. 

Now, in addition to fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we've gotten embroiled in still another never ending war.  This while we are occupying North Korea, Iraq, and in a sense, Germany and Japan. We will stay in these countries indefinitely relieving their governments of the expense of a military, and who knows how long we will stay in a shooting war in Afghanistan or how involved we will subsequently be in Libya, particularly now that nobody really cares and of which fewer and fewer will be aware. 

The attack on the middle class is more insidious than the attack on the Twin Towers. The plight of the Libyans is truly sad. The plight of 15 million out-of-work Americans and their families is sadder and it is at home, where our military should be. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What happens when amateur ideologues are elected?

The last shut down of the government in 1995 which lasted six days, cost about $800 million in back pay to furloughed federal employees and lost revenue in the four days that the IRS was shut down. Not a good thing when we already have a deficit. Additionally, there were costs and  inconvenience to other citizens and important if not vital government programs. And this was only six days.

The fiscally responsible but conservative Moody's Analytics reports that Republican proposed cuts would harm the economy and and extended shut down could derail the recovery. It could also effect military pay.

In trying to research projected effects of a government shut down, it is impossible to find anyone willing to discuss an extended, like a few months, shutdown. The assumption seems to be that legislators are responsible enough to not let that happen. With Boehner as Speaker of the House and intransigent Teaparty members like Scott Walker in congress, these assumptions could well turn out to be unwarranted.

Wisconsin Public Workers overpaid? More right wing lies!

Wisconsin public servants already face a compensation penalty
Ethan Pollack 
February 18, 2011

The campaign against state and local workers is often justified with claims that they are privileged relative to their private-sector peers or have somehow been cushioned from the effects of the recent recession and slow recovery. These claims are clearly false.
In Wisconsin, which has become a focal point in this debate, public servants already take a pretty hefty pay cut just for the opportunity to serve their communities (Keefe 2010).  The figure below shows that when comparing the total compensation (which includes non-wage benefits such as health care and pensions) of workers with similar education, public-sector workers consistently make less than their private–sector peers.  Workers with a bachelor’s degree or more—which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin—are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor’s degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine).
It is necessary for making true apples-to-apples comparisons to control for worker characteristics such as education in order to best measure a worker’s potential earnings in a different sector or industry.  Controlling for a larger range of earnings predictors—including not just education but also age, experience, gender, race, etc., Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%.  Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector.
The deficit that Wisconsin faces is caused by the current economic downturn and the recent tax cut package.  It has nothing to do with the compensation of the people that educate our children, keep the streets safe and clean, keep dangerous chemicals out of our water, and keep insurance companies from taking advantage of us.  These public servants are already paid less than those in the private sector, and nationally, this gap has actually been increasing over the past few decades (Bender and Heywood).  Instead of opportunistically using these hard times to target workers who—because of their public service—already take a substantial pay cut, Wisconsin politicians should focus on creating jobs and boosting the incomes of all workers.
Bender, Keith and John Heywood, 2010. “Out of Balance: Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation over 20 Years”, National Institute on Retirement Security, Washington, D.C., April.
Keefe, Jeffrey H. 2011. "Are Wisconsin Public Employees Overcompensated?", Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., February 10.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This is getting personal...why we need to eliminate for-profit health insurance.

My son-in-law has liver cancer.  It was diagnosed nearly two months ago. It's the kind of liver cancer that is treatable but it is fast growing. It didn't start in the liver, it metastasized from another cancer that had been removed. His physician originally recommended chemotherapy and then surgery, or maybe in the other order. Then his insurance company, Pacific Group, got involved and started looking at bottom line. First they nixed the chemotherapy claiming that there is another treatment that may have less side effects (reading between the lines, is less expensive and untested). Next, they are balking on the surgery with referral after referral to other doctors.

My SIL is in severe pain! His bowels have nearly stopped functioning. His stool is about the size and shape of noodles. Can anyone, even the staunchest of the protectors of the status quo in health care insurance, deny that this a stalling game, waiting and hoping that he dies before they have to pay for expensive surgery and additional treatment. If they don't believe insurance companies kill people, just read the story of Nataline Sarkiyan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cold hard facts about the prices at the pump. blame the GOPhonies

1. Drill baby drill is not the answer. 80% of public lands with assigned drilling rights is not being used. Oil produced here is sold globally anyway.
2. Subsidies are not necessary to keep oil companies from moving. They can't move. Oil subsidies buy campaign contributions.

3. Oil companies love shortages. Gasoline demand is inelastic meaning that as price goes up, demand does not go down proportionately, at least not in the short run. Oil companies profits are at an all time high. They love the shortage and aren't about to ease it.

4. The immediate spike in prices is because of the civil war in Libya. Check the prices just before and just after.

5. As long as there is uncertainty in the market, prices will, to a significant extent, be determined by speculation, which many feel is fueled by a concentration of spending money where it's not buying consumer goods. Uncertainty in the market is absolutely and irrefutably because of dependence on OPEC and other countries who don't like us.

6. The only way to eliminate uncertainty is to become energy independent by increased fuel efficiency and switching to alternative sources like wind and solar.

7. Obama's attempt to pass legislation which would make us energy independent were thwarted by opposition by Republicans who are now blaming Obama for gasoline prices.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life without unions

The right wing attack on labor union has peaked my concern for the future of America. You can’t read about life before unions anymore. It’s been effectively, if not deliberately, written out of history. But I remember because I lived it. I was born in 1929 and my memory is vivid, albeit somewhat fragmented, as far back as 1934 when I was five years old.  I remember living in a one room shack with a dirt floor and no plumbing when my father worked in the Deep Creek coal mine near LaPoint, Utah. I don’t know how much he made but it was barely enough to put food on the table. He went to work when it was dark and it was dark when he got home. It took my mother a good half hour to get the coal dust off him in a round metal tub about 30 inches in diameter. Our toilet was a hole in the ground under a low horizontal branch of a tree. We had a wood burning stove that was used for cooking and heat. Of course, there were no unions.

My next memory takes me to South Gate, California, where I had been born about five, maybe six, years earlier. My dad was Lather. There was very little work and the Lathers would follow a truck loaded with lath to a job site where the contractor would open bidding by the workers. Low bid, they were paid by the square feet of lath they nailed on to the walls, would get the job. There were always at least ten men for every available job and there were fights. Sometimes, the winning bid would barely buy gas back home. There was absolutely no compassion for the workers or the families they were trying to support. This was capitalism at its ugliest and cruelest. One of my favorite books is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; his depiction of the growers enticing workers from back east to use  the excess labor in getting the fruit picked for near starvation wages reminded me of my father’s plight in South Gate at about the same time.

This all ended when the AF of L organized the construction workers and bargained with the contractors for decent pay. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. There were still not enough jobs and the contractors tried to break the unions with “scabs.” Violence was common place. Things got easier when Roosevelt passed the Wagner Act which gave the unions the legal right to organize workers and prohibited excessive anti-union action by employers.

I got my first full time job in 1948 when I graduated from high school. My father was killed in 1939 and my mother had been on welfare. I waited 6 months to get in the union. I hated the wait but when I got in I got apprentice wages which was more money than I had dared to dream of earning. In less than a year, I was a journeyman earning over $3 an hour! Doesn’t sound like much now but, trust me, in 1949, it was good pay. I was also covered by health insurance including dental. I had never seen a dentist in my young life and had cavities in every tooth in my head. These were good times. The unions were strong. They made the middle class and, although non-union workers refuse to accept it, it is a fact that their good fortune in the work place was a direct result of the standards of pay and treatment instituted by union contracts. Employers, particularly corporate employers, don’t give things away. They never have and never will.

When I was employed later in law enforcement, my pay and benefits were dictated by the union working conditions they had to compete with in attracting police recruits.

Even during the best of times in American industry and American life, the 50’s and 60’s, corporate controlled politicians, both democrat and republican but mostly republican, have been resentful of the unions’ encumbrance on their greed.  They are chafing at the bit for the good old days when workers bid down the cost of their labor..Wisconsin didn’t start with the election of Walker; it began with the election of Reagan. It is just culminating in Wisconsin and will continue until the unions and middle class are extinct unless Americans stand up like they are doing in Madison.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Totalitarianism rears its ugly head in Wisconsin.

The legislative session in which they passed the stripping of bargaining rights from unions was illegal and is a bigger threat to the democratic process than the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 The two most basic requirements of the open meetings law are that a governmental body:
 (1) give advance public notice of each of its meetings, and
 (2) conduct all of its business in open session, unless an exemption to the open session
requirement applies.
Wis. Stat. § 19.83.
 A. Notice Requirements.
 Wisconsin Stat. § 19.84, which sets forth the public notice requirements, specifies when, how, and to
whom notice must be given, as well as what information a notice must contain.
  1. To whom and how notice must be given.
 The chief presiding officer of a governmental body, or the officer’s designee, must give notice of each
meeting of the body to:  (1) the public; (2) any members of the news media who have submitted a written request
for notice; and (3) the official newspaper designated pursuant to state statute or, if none exists, a news medium
likely to give notice in the area.  Wis. Stat. § 19.84(1).

B. Open Session Requirements.
  1. Accessibility.
 In addition to requiring advance public notice of every meeting of a governmental body, the open
meetings law also requires that “all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in
places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times.” Wis. Stat.
§ 19.81(2).  Similarly, an “open session” is defined in Wis. Stat. § 19.82(3) as “a meeting which is held in a place
reasonably accessible to members of the public and open to all citizens at all times.”  Every meeting of a
governmental body must initially  be convened in “open session.”   See Wis. Stat. §§ 19.83 and 19.85(1).  All
business of any kind, formal or informal, must be initiated, discussed, and acted upon in “open session,” unless
one of the exemptions set forth in Wis. Stat. § 19.85(1) applies.  Wis. Stat. § 19.83.
 The requirement that meeting locations be reasonably accessible to the public and open to all citizens at
all times means that governmental bodies must hold their meetings in rooms that are reasonably calculated to be
large enough to accommodate all citizens who wish to attend the meetings.   Badke, 173 Wis. 2d at 580-81.
Absolute access is not, however, required.  Id.    In Badke, for instance, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded
that a village board meeting that was held in a village hall capable of holding  55-75 people was reasonably
accessible, although three members of the public were turned away due to overcrowding.   Id. at 561, 563, 581.
Whether a meeting place is reasonably accessible depends on the facts in each individual case.  Any doubt as to
whether a meeting facility is large enough to satisfy the  requirement should be resolved in favor of holding the
meeting in a larger facility.
- 14 -

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Trades Protest Brown’s Plan to Cut Redevelopment - from The Building Trades News.

Trades Protest Brown’s Plan to Cut Redevelopment

10 Billion in PLA Projects Could Be in Danger by July 1
By Beige Luciano-Adams
Contributing Writer
Newly elected California Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking to fill part of the state’s $25 billion budget hole by cutting a program that employs thousands of Building Trades members. Brown is proposing to eliminate California’s 425 community redevelopment agencies on July 1. By terminating the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, the move would also end the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building Trades’ historic, $10 billion Project Labor Agreement. It was signed in 2008 with CRA/LA and covers 10 years of projects.
The Building Trades were among the strongest supporters of Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial bid, and the abolition would be a major blow. “We are very concerned that the state budget would even consider the elimination of CRA funding,” said LA/ OC Building Trades Council Executive-Secretary Richard Slawson. “It would send the economy in a different direction, undermining the economic expansion that new development projects bring to new communities.” The governor has said that developers, fattened by tax revenue, don’t need the money as much as needy school districts and counties do. He plans to re-divert an estimated $1.7 billion in CRA revenue, and dissolve the agencies. Projects that are currently under way would be allowed to continue. Opponents are outraged at what they see as a step to kill one of the state’s most powerful tools in the arduous climb toward economic recovery and social justice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

America is not broke____Michael Moore

Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined.
Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'├ętat, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.
And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't mess with the Blue Hairs! From Truthout

Madison a Foretaste of Things to Come: the Next Big Occupation Could be Boomers Taking Over the Capitol Building

The dramatic and inspiring occupation of the Wisconsin Statehouse in Madison by angry public workers and their supporters over the past few weeks is an exciting preview of what we can expect to see in the halls of Congress before long, as right-wing forces, funded by corporate lobbies and corporate-funded think-tanks push hard for cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare.
The drive to undermine these two critically important social programs is moving into high gear as the 79-million Baby Boomers this year start to reach eligibility, even as their other assets--their homes and their investment portfolios--are still shriveled by the Wall Street heist known as the “fiscal crisis” and Great Recession.
For years, the right has been gravely warning of the supposedly looming “bankruptcy” of Social Security and the even more imminent “bankruptcy” of Medicare, as though these twin disasters for the elderly were an actuarial imperative. In fact, both programs are political creations, whose problems have political causes and political solutions.
Social Security is starting to draw down the huge reserves it had built up, not because of an increase in retirees (the bulge in retirees hasn't hit yet), but because the share of national income that is subject to the Social Security FICA tax has fallen, from 90% back in the 1980s to just 84% now, as the wealthy have appropriated an increasingly large share of the total national income. If more of the income of the rich were slapped with the FICA tax, to bring the total share of income subject to FICA back to 90%, there would be plenty of money to pay promised benefits into the foreseeable future. The same can be said of Medicare. More taxes on the rich would ensure the funding of that program too.
There is no inherent reason why only the first $106,000 of a person’s income should be subject to the FICA tax. It could be the first $200,000, or the first $500,000, and if it were the latter, we could be talking about improving benefits for retirees, or lowering the retirement age, not just preserving current levels. Benefits could be better still if investment income were no longer exempted from a FICA tax (and the Medicare tax).
But here’s the big point: Corporate America, and its political lackeys in the Republican and Democratic Parties, know that they are about to confront a dramatically more powerful protagonist in their campaign to kill Social Security and Medicare: the Boomer Retirees.
The so-called Senior Lobby is already enormously powerful. That’s why Social Security has so far largely defied concerted efforts by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to undermine it, and it’s why Republicans and conservative Democrats running for national office always hasten to claim they are not going to threaten Social Security or Medicare, or at least that they won’t threaten “current beneficiaries.” It’s why they call Social Security the “third rail” of American politics: touch it and you die (for those of you unfortunate enough to live where there are no subways, the third rail is the “hot” rail that carries the electricity to power the electric trains).
But a Boomer retiree population will be two times the size of the current retiree population. That means that just in terms of the number of potential voters, it will be two times as powerful. But that’s only part of the story. The new generation of retirees are the people who came of political age in the late 1950s during the Civil Rights movement, and the 1960s and ‘70s during the anti-war movement and the feminist movement. We are veterans of both engaged electoral politics (witness that support our generation gave to the insurgent campaigns of Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, as well as a host of more successful Congressional campaigns), and of powerful and of successful militant street politics.
What we showed back then in our youth and our formative young-adult years was that when our interests were on the line, as they were with the draft, or when we saw a gross injustice, as was the case with Jim Crow, we knew how to fight politically. I'm not suggesting that the people born in the decade and a half after World War II are particularly radical, but I am suggesting that when this age cohort gets riled and the right issue or issues sets the spark, we've got the spirit and experience to take that struggle to the streets and the halls of Congress. And both our personal interests and our sense of justice are certainly on the line when it comes to the growing attack on Social Security and Medicare.
Just one example. I spent a year teaching at Alfred University, a little liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere in western New York State. It was the 1990-91 school year--the year the US invaded Iraq and "liberated" Kuwait. Students who opposed the war came to me and asked me what to do. I didn't want to "lead" them, but they just had no idea where to start. "How can we get students here to wake up?" these kids asked me. I said, "What are you thinking of doing? They said they thought they might go down to the main street (the only street!) that runs through the little town of Alfred, and hold signs against the war. "How will that get the students to come out and join you?" I asked. They agreed it wouldn't help. It was winter, and who'd even be down there? So finally I asked, "What if you marched through campus, calling the kids to leave class and join you?" The kids looked shocked. "March through the campus? Outside? or in the buildings?" I said, "You have to decide." Again they looked shocked. But that was what was decided. They began marching the next day, with anti-war signs, crying "Join us!" Their numbers swelled. Eventually there were hundreds of them, and so they marched down to Main Street, but instead of just standing on the sidewalk with their signs, they took over the street and shut it down! My role, small enough, was just to remind them of what was possible. They took it from there.
My prediction: As the number of Boomers nearing or entering retirement soars, and the number anticipating or signing up for Medicare soars over the next few years, we will see massive national campaigns grow around not just saving these programs but expanding and improving them. With traditional pensions vanishing, and with IRAs and 401(k) plans having been exposed as the shams they are, we are going to see an irresistable demand grow for Social Security benefits to be raised, particularly for poorer retirees, so that all Americans can have a secure old age. And we will see another irresistable political drive to have Medicare not just improved but broadened to cover all Americans, as we Boomers recognize that it makes no sense at all to have a program that only covers the oldest and sickest of Americans, and not the younger and healthier population (our own kids and grandkids!). We will realize that it is in our interest to have all Americans invested fully in supporting a well-funded national Medicare program.
And if we don’t get it, we will be ready and willing to do what the public employees of Wisconsin are doing now--or more.
Hold on to your seats (and your walkers)! The new Boomer retirees are coming! 
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why we are heading for another crash.

Economic stability and income disparity. Income disparity, the difference between the upper and lower income groups is higher now than it was in 1928. It should be obvious that if there are no people to buy what is being produced, that the system will collapse. This is what happened in 1929. The people who are hoarding all the money know this; and no, they didn't earn it, at least not by themselves, the people making the products earned it for them. They can't help themselves! Capitalism is a direct appeal to greed. Adam Smith, the patron saint of cut throat capitalists, recognized that concentrated economic power was anathema to a free market economy; and they claim that a  free market is the ability to accumulate wealth by any means. The so called recovery we're seeing today, the lower unemployment rate, is a facade. The real news is that we are seeing good paying jobs being replaced by low paying jobs and the demand for the products is still going to be inadequate. You can't buy a home or even a car with minimum wages.

Corporations dismiss the growing inability of Americans to buy the products as insignificant in a globalized economy but common sense should tell them that it is just delaying the point at which lack of demand dooms the stability of the economy. The pie is bigger, more people and money are involved and when the inevitable happens, it will be worse than the last time; I should say the most recent time because, thanks to Reaganomics and deregulation of Wall Street and banking, i,e, repeal of the Glass/Steagall Act, it's going to happen again...and soon.

The primary objective of the current GOP/Teaparty is the elimination of the middle class. They won't say that but that is what Koch Industry and it's puppets in Wisconsin and Ohio are after by eliminating bargaining rights of workers.  Unions are what created the middle class and without them there will cease to be one just like before 1928. Our middle class, as we recognize it today, was created by the GI Bill and unions after the end of the war.

The right wing has been effective, especially recently, of convincing voters to vote against the own best interests by obfuscating the issues and bifurcating them with emotional, but really unimportant as it relates to their well being, issues like gay rights, gun control and abortion. They also pull out the greed that we all have to some extent by convincing them that the government, with taxes and regulation, is the only thing standing between them and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Their icon and guru, the lovable Ronald Reagan convinced them that "government is not the solution to their problems, it is the problem" and then proved it by becoming the government that is, in fact, the problem.Obama is a good man but by becoming obsessed with "go along and get along," he has become part of the problem.

Wisconsin is the current battle ground. Emboldened by their success in the recent election, the new GOP have become impatient and may be awakening a sleeping giant. I was at the rally in Los Angeles in support of the Wisconsin resistance and those folks were crazy pissed off mad.  Make no mistake about it, Walker will win the battle in Wisconsin. He has the number. Ironically, the majority of the people resisting now probably voted for him and won't again. They have finally realized what is happening. There is a joke going around which epitomizes the situation, not just in Wisconsin but in the entire country:  Three people, a union worker, a Teapartyer and Koch, sitting a table with a dozen cookies; Koch grabs eleven of them and tells the Teapartyer to watch the union guy, he is trying to get part of your cookie.

Our only hope is that the excesses we are seeing in government today will, in fact, wake up a sleeping giant before it is too late. With the Citizens United Decision it may already be too late.

Austerity knocks out British recovery...

Just like it will ours! Government is doing the same thing that deepened the depression in 1929, tightening the budget. Most of these people weren't around during the crash, but surely they can read. The GOPhonies, of course, want it to happen so they can be elected. The difference in Obama and the Republican/Teaparty is the latter want it to happen and Obama is letting it happen. They both know better.

Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist, Capital Economics

Although heavily affected by the weather, the UK's shockingly bad Q4 GDP figures revealing a 0.5% quarterly drop will nonetheless raise serious concerns over whether the economy is in a strong enough position to withstand the coming fiscal tightening. The ONS estimates that weather effects knocked about 0.5% off GDP in Q4 so, even without the impact, the underlying growth picture is significantly weaker than expected. As we know, industry expanded strongly but this was offset by a sharp slowdown in the services sector, which the ONS reckons shrank by 0.1% excluding weather effects. Presumably GDP growth will now rebound pretty strongly in Q1, as it did after weather effects in Q4 2009. But other adverse forces, not least the impact of the latest VAT hike, could limit the size of the bounce. Meanwhile, the pressures on consumers from high inflation and weak wages growth, as well as weakness in some of the UK's major export markets, suggest that growth will remain pretty sluggish in 2011 overall – we continue to expect GDP to expand by just 1.5% or so.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buy american! The job you save will be an American's!

Diane Sawyer tell you how to  buy in America

Made in America
As part of our new series "Made in America," "World News with Diane Sawyer" took on the challenge of trying to fill three rooms in a home entirely with 100 percent American-made products. Economists say that if every one of us spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made goods every year, it would create nearly 10,000 new jobs in this country. So we emptied out the living room, kitchen and bedroom of this Dallas home, and then filled it back up with American-made products. Take a virtual tour of the results and click on the red diamonds to see items up close and learn more about the products and companies that could be creating jobs right in your backyard. The prices of American-made goods vary widely. This is just one example of how you could furnish a home with American-goods.Click here to learn about companies that fit any budget and are manufacturing some, if not all, of their products in America.