Friday, February 22, 2013

Planes, trains, and automobiles, Congressional version.

Well, our country is about to have another train work...if the GOteaPary has it's way.  It would be funny if not so dangerous.  The republican leaders (I know, an oxymoron) unable to establish any kind of discipline or concern for the nation in their own party are attempting sleight of hand to make this dilemma bi-partisan by pointing out that Democrats also signed the budget Control of 2011 (forced on them by the GOteaParty's refusal to raise the debt ceiling). Failure to raise the debt limit would have forced the US into forfeiture on it's debt, and  destroyed the world economy.  Then, as now, the teabaggers valued political power and wealthy contributors over the welfare of Americans.

Apparently, they think American voters are as dumb as they are. Trying to make this dilemma bi-partisan is like a kidnapper who is threatening to shoot a hostage if the family of the hostage does not pay a ransom. Then, when the family can't raise the money, the kidnappers agree to give them more time if they promise to raise the money. When the money is raised, the kidnappers shoot the hostage anyway because they didn't like the way the money was raised. This isn't politics, it's treason.

CBO estimates  that, if no legislation originating from the deficit reduction committee was enacted, the automatic enforcement process specified in the Budget Control Act would produce the following results between 2013 and 2021: 
Reductions ranging from 10.0 percent (in 2013) to 8.5 percent (in 2021) in the caps on new discretionary appropriations for defense programs, yielding total outlay savings of $454 billion.

Reductions ranging from 7.8 percent (in 2013) to 5.5 percent (in 2021) in the caps on new discretionary appropriations for non defense programs, resulting in outlay savings of $294 billion.

Reductions ranging from 10.0 percent (in 2013) to 8.5 percent (in 2021) in mandatory budgetary resources for nonexempt defense programs, generating savings of about $0.1 billion.

Reductions of 2.0 percent each year in most Medicare spending because of the application of a special rule that applies to that program, producing savings of $123 billion, and reductions ranging from 7.8 percent (in 2013) to 5.5 percent (in 2021) in mandatory budgetary resources for other nonexempt non defense programs and activities, yielding savings of $47 billion. Thus, savings in non defense mandatory spending would total $170 billion.

About $31 billion in outlays stemming from the reductions in premiums for Part B of Medicare and other changes in spending that would result from the sequestration actions.
An estimated reduction of $169 billion in debt-service costs.
In all, those automatic cuts would produce net budgetary savings of about $1.1 trillion over the 2013–2021 period, CBO estimates.

Ironically, most of the attention is focused on the impact on national defense. Actually, that is the one area where sequestration would not hurt the mission of our military. We would remain unchallenged as the biggest bully on the block. The impact that defense cuts have on the economy is another thing. That is where the real danger lies. The HouseTeaparty Caucus of 51 - give or take a few, aided by a few from the Senate like Mitch McConnell have managed to move the debate from job creation and a weak economy to an irrational preoccupation with the deficit and austerity. Austerity irrational?  Ask the Europeans! The teabaggers are threatening to destroy the US economy - and the world's - if we raise taxes on millionaires and cut them for the middle class along with starting the erosion of social security and medicare. Who are the Mad Hatters of the DC Teaparty:  This is the most recent list I could find. It has shrunk to 51. Hopefully, it will shrink more but the damage has been done. If your representative is on the list call him! Freshman representatives (as of the 2010 election) are in bold.

Sandy Adams (FL-24) 
Robert Aderholt (AL-04)
Todd Akin (MO-02)
Rodney Alexander (LA-05)
Michele Bachmann (MN-06)
Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06)
Joe Barton (TX-06)
Rob Bishop (UT-01)
Gus Bilirakis (FL-09)
Diane Black (TN-06) 
Paul Broun (GA-10)
Michael Burgess (TX-26)
Dan Burton (IN-05)
John Carter (TX-31)
Bill Cassidy (LA-06) 
Howard Coble (NC-06)
Mike Coffman (CO-06)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-04)
John Culberson (TX-07)
Jeff Duncan (SC-03) 
Blake Farenthold (TX-27) 
Stephen Lee Fincher (TN-08) 
John Fleming (LA-04)
Trent Franks (AZ-02)
Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Louie Gohmert (TX-01)
Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) 
Wally Herger (CA-02)
Tim Huelskamp (KS-01) 
Lynn Jenkins (KS-02)
Steve King (IA-05)
Doug Lamborn (CO-05)
Jeff Landry (LA-03) 
Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-09)
Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Tom McClintock (CA-04)
David McKinley (WV-01) 
Gary Miller (CA-42)
Mick Mulvaney (SC-05) 
Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)
Rich Nugent (FL-05) 
Steven Palazzo (MS-04) 
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Mike Pence (IN-06)
Ted Poe (TX-02)
Tom Price (GA-06)
Denny Rehberg (MT-At large)
David Roe (TN-01)
Dennis Ross (FL-12) 
Edward Royce (CA-40)
Steve Scalise (LA-01)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Adrian Smith (NE-03)
Lamar Smith (TX-21)
Cliff Stearns (FL-06)
Tim Walberg (MI-07) 
Joe Walsh (IL-08) 
Allen West (FL-22) 
Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Joe Wilson (SC-02)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ignoring, changing, forgetting History

Oliver Stone's book, The Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of U.S. history that most Americans have been taught. That popular and somewhat mythic view, carefully filtered through the prism of American altruism, benevolence, magnanimity, Exceptionalism, and devotion to liberty and justice, is introduced in early childhood, reinforced throughout primary and secondary education , and retold so often that it becomes part the air that Americans breathe. It is consoling; it is comforting. But it only tells a small part of the story. It may convince those who don’t probe too deeply, but like the real air Americans breathe, it is ultimately harmful, noxious, polluted. It not only renders Americans incapable of understanding the way much of the rest of the world looks at the United States, it leaves them unable to act effectively to change the world for the better. For Americans, like people everywhere, are in thrall to their visions of the past rarely realizing the extent to which their understanding of history shapes behavior in the here and now. Historical understanding defines people’s very sense of what is thinkable and achievable. As a result, many have lost the ability to imagine a world that is substantially different from and better than what exists today.

There's a lot of that going on today.  George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  In today's political world, the problem isn't that we cannot remember the past; it hasn't been that long since the Great Depression or, even more recent, the Great Recession of 2008.  The Banksters and global corporations, Romney's elite, remember very well.  The problem is they want to repeat history.  They are resisting the reinstatement of the reforms of the New Deal. They don’t have the vision to see beyond the next board meeting and next year’s bottom line. Remember what happened to the American auto industry?  

Make no mistake about it.  The same factors - unregulated banks, wild speculation with other people’s money, wealth concentration at the top, and wages so low that workers can’t buy the products they produce - now exacerbated by globalization, caused the Great Recession of 2008 just as they caused the Great Depression in 1929. 

In 1933, the government got involved in the economy with new regulations and job creation through the TVA, PWA, WPA, CCC, and bank regulation.  In 1936, the economy was on the mend.  Politicians thought that Keynesian Economics had done its job and began focusing on austerity. Guess what, the recession of 1937 proved that we weren't ready for austerity.  Neither are we, today, ready for austerity.  It has proven near fatal in Europe. It may become fatal here.  A handful of corporate sycophants in congress, most notably the Teaparty Caucus in the House have, along with the filibuster in the Senate, managed to bully Obama into moving the dialogue from job creation to deficit reduction.  We thought the voters had sent a message in the last election. Actually, they did send a message but our politicians are ignoring it. Harry Reid’s incredible betrayal in filibuster reform has enabled this unholy group to block any stimulus legislation.  Obama needs to provide the kind of leadership and determination that FDR did his first 100 days or we are headed for a crash that will dwarf 1929.