Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. I was thrilled to get the award from an organization that I had long admired. But after the ADL publicly called for moving the mosque, I have returned both the handsome plaque and the $10,000 honorarium that came with it. More ›
Sunday, July 08, 2012
The GOP has been on an economic wrecking mission ever since the election of Barack Obama - indeed we now know that leading Republican strategists and legislators met and planned a course of economic sabotage and complete obstruction on Obama's very first day in office.
This obstruction has had a huge price - a deliberate price that the GOP is betting the American people will blame on President Obama. GOP obstruction did not prevent the passage of ARRA - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - popularly know as "The Stimulus" bill of 2009 during the height of the economic disaster as the economy was falling off a cliff - the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that ARRA has saved up to 3 million jobs. But nearly every economic measure since then has been blocked by GOP obstruction, filibusters and brinksmanship.
What has been the result of GOP obstruction? It is hard to quantify what constant obstruction has cost - you could tally up estimates of every measure that came along, but not all would have passed - nor even been introduced if previous measures had been adopted that obviated their need. But we can look at just two big examples and get a minimal measure of the human cost to American citizens of a deliberate policy to destroy the economy in order to bring down the president; 1) austerity, and 2) obstruction of the 2011 American Jobs Act.
Austerity is madness - many in the GOP actually believe that austerity during an economic downturn is the right thing to do - even 'socialist' Europe was convinced of this - although most realize it is not true, and has no history of success - even Mitt Romney unwittingly admitted as much in an unguarded moment. But that hasn't stopped savage austerity on the state and local level - which has cost over 600,000 public sector jobs so far.
Normally in a recession and recovery government at all levels increase public employment - this has happened in every GOP administration - and much of that increase is funded by federal government grants to the state and local governments. But since the Stimulus, the GOP has blocked any substantial help for the states, and in GOP led states severe austerity cuts have been the rule - even including GOP governors rejecting projects fully funded by the federal government. The economic cost of this is far more than just those 600 thousand jobs - the spillover effect on private business and local economies has been devastating - when you factor in all these effects the total job cost of austerity has been estimated at 2.3 million jobs.
President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act in his 2011 State of the Union address, and spent the next year promoting it at every opportunity. Although expensive - in contained a combination of tax cuts and increases, along with direct spending, designed to increase consumer spending and lower the cost to business of hiring new workers. The CBO said the bill would not only have paid for itself within 10 years, but would have reduced the deficit by at least 6 billion dollars. According to an analysis by Moody's it would have created about 1.9 million jobs.
The result of GOP obstruction with those two things cost us 2.3 million jobs and 1.9 million jobs respectively. US employment as of May 2011 is about 155 million jobs, which means those 4.2 million jobs that the GOP has prevented account for 2.7% of the unemployment rate. But let's be fair, there is a small amount of overlap in those jobs - a small portion (about 8%) of the American Jobs Act would have gone to State and Local governments to pay for teachers, first responders and the like - although for the most part it would have just prevented further layoffs rather than resulted in new hires. Also it is very likely that without the economic wrecking of GOP obstructionism the labor participation rate would be higher - so instead of a reduction of unemployment to 5.5% it would be slightly higher, but still well under 6%.
Now just for fun, consider if we had done during this recovery what every GOP administration has done, and substantially increased public sector employment.
That is the human cost of GOP economic obstruction.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
If you haven't been paying attention to the Fast & Furious scandal, you haven't been watching FOX News. The latest episode is Darrell Issa's House committee voting to hold Attorney General Holder in Contempt of Congress for not violating the law by providing documents he can't legally provide - such as classified documents identifying informants, and grand jury transcripts. Now they are talking impeachment because president Obama has taken the unprecedented step of invoking executive privilege to stop Congress from demanding documents it is illegal to provide. By 'unprecedented' I mean that this is the first time Obama has invoked executive privilege - his predecessors did so repeatedly without any objections from these very same congressmen.
The Fast & Furious conspiracy, as laid out by Congressman Issa is that a time traveling Obama and Holder, went back in time (presumably using the same time machine Obama used to plant his fake birth documents and newspaper announcements in 1961 Hawaii) to the Bush administration and started a gun tracking program that allowed guns to be sold to gun runners going to Mexican drug cartels, in order to have those guns shock America with a wave of Mexican gun crime in order to gin up support for US gun control laws to take away our guns! The logic of this conspiracy was succinctly summed up by Stephen Colbert:
Yes, very clearly, Obama started this gun tracking program in 2006, when he hypnotized George Bush. Then he secretly ordered Attorney General Holder to order the Justice Department, to order the ATF to order gun shops to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels, and then lose track of them, thereby panicking Americans to gin up support for the draconian gun control measures that Obama has never introduced."
Colbert missed that Holder would have had to have ordered then Attorney General Gonzales to start the program in 2006 - or AG Mukasey who oversaw the direction and development of much of it. Oddly Issa's committee has never sought testimony from Mukasey or Gonzales, or anyone else involved in the creation of the program, instead they have concentrated exclusively on the man who ended it - Holder, to expose his reasons for starting it.
Rachel Maddow's more professorial presentation on the Fast & Furious Foofaraw's intersection with the GOP, NRA and FOX News:
We can expect the House to approve Contempt charges against AG Holder in the next few days on a strict party-line vote.
Clearly the Fast & Furious 'scandal' is a flimsy fantasy ridden incoherent conspiracy theory that can't hold up to even cursory scrutiny - yet the GOP leadership is going full-monty in pinning the blame for it on AG Holder - the man who ended it - not started it. Why? Democratic leader Pelosi thinks they are trying to destroy Holder so that he can't block their voter suppression efforts.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
This may be the most purely political Supreme Court of the United States in memory. And that may bode well for the Obamacare case before the court.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Markos "kos" Moulitsas wrote in Ohio wishes it could have do-over in governor's race that Ohio is having major buyer's remorse over the election of John "Lehman Brothers" Kasich as governor. Due to citizen disgust at Kasich's reverse Robin Hood budget and the anti-union and anti-public employee SB5, Kasich would lose a new election by 15 points.
Alas Ohio lacks any recall mechanism for state officials - but that doesn't mean we can't throw the bums out - we do have a citizen's initiative process for placing issues and constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Use the Citizen's Initiative Process to Amend the Governor's Term of Office.
An issue could be put on ballot to amend the Ohio constitution to change the dates of the terms for governor and other elected state officials - including members of the Ohio Senate and House, by ending their terms soon after passage, with the new terms being filled by candidates chosen in a special election. We can put a "recall and reset" issue on the ballot just like the gambling companies put casinos on the ballot.
The Amendment could be written to end only the term of the Governor and Lt. Governor, or it could completely clean the slate and put every office up for reset, or something in between.
In the process we can fix one of the tactics the GOP uses to stay in control of a Blue State. They have the Governor and major state offices elected in mid-term elections when voter turnout is lower, thus favoring Republicans. The initiative could reset those terms to coincide with Presidential terms - when voter participation is highest and most representative of the state's population.
And importantly the initiative could add a recall mechanism to remove elected state officials in the future without requiring a constitutional amendment.
Passage of the Amendment would end the current terms of Governor and some other elected officials and provide for a quick special election to elect new office holders. It would be a very short campaign - a rarity in American politics. The new gubernatorial and state office terms would only last until the end of the quadrennial year, and would thenceforth follow the national quadrennial calendar for presidential elections.
Monday, November 29, 2010
It is time to inextricably link the words Irresponsible and Republican. It is no longer enough to call them the Party of NO, it is time to make their name synonymous with irresponsibility until they change.
The GOP are masters of using language to distort the perception of reality - that is how the Estate Tax - which only effects a small number of the wealthiest families - turned into a unfair tax on dying in the minds of people who will never have to face it after it was rebranded the Death Tax. They achieve this rebranding by having the discipline to put the new terminology into widespread use by all of their politicians and media echo chamber.
Using reasonable discussion and lengthy explanations of the facts does little to counter the reality distortion effect of GOP language or to provoke interest in the attention deficit media. But there is something we can do - add a branding to the counter productive actions of the GOP by using the word Irresponsible every time we say Republican.
Irresponsible Republicans have caused a crisis in our Federal Courts by refusing to allow votes on over half of all judicial nominees - even the ones that have been unanimously approved in committee.
Irresponsible Republicans have blocked passage of an essential Defense Appropriation bill, while our troops are still fighting two wars.
Irresponsible Republicans are blocking the extension of unemployment insurance, saying the jobless are too lazy to work even though there are 5 unemployed Americans for every available job.
Irresponsible Republicans insist on making the slow economy worse by prematurely cutting federal spending and killing the recovery.
Irresponsible Republicans insist that all spending must be paid for - except for the 700 billion in unneeded tax cuts they want to give to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Or when an Irresponsible Republican is in the White House.
Irresponsible Republicans insist on the discredited supply side trickle down theory that cutting taxes will cut the deficit - even after trying that strategy during the Reagan administration and failing. And trying it during the GHW Bush administration and failing, And trying it during the GW Bush administration and failing.
Irresponsible Republicans have announced they look forward to closing down the government in April by refusing to raise the debt limit - even though they never failed to raise the debt limit during the Reagan and two Bush administrations.
Irresponsible Republicans still support using torture - a crime under the Geneva Convention - even though it never provided any useful information and made America less safe.
Irresponsible Republicans are blocking the renewal of Ronald Reagan's START treaty - even though every single living past and present US Secretary of State say it is essential to pass it.
Irresponsible Republicans want to cut Social Security in order to reduce the deficit - even though Social Security is running a surplus, is self funded with its own taxes, and by law cannot spend general revenue.
Irresponsible Republicans risk turning America into an international pariah state by cynically denying man made global warming (even though they know it is really happening) in order to cater to their big energy company donors.
Reasonable explanations won't penetrate the consciousness of the ADD media and low information patriots, but by repeating Irresponsible Republicans each time we deal with their irresponsible behavior we will be showing just who the grownups really are.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Social Security is doing just fine.
Despite the Catfood Commission, Social Security will never increase the national debt. In fact Social Security is just about the ONLY government program that is well funded for as far as we can forecast. It has a huge surplus of well over 2.5 trillion dollars that will continue to grow to well over 4 trillion dollars before it begins to decline. Sometime between 20 and 30 years from now that trust fund will run out, and SS will have to run on its current revenues - just like it did for its first half century of existence. That is not "broken", that is what it was always intended to do. Once the trust fund is gone, we can continue to fund benefits at 80% of current levels basically forever. Not bad, do absolutely nothing at all and SS doesn't have to cut a penny, increase the retirement age or reduce any benefits for at least 20 years, and after that can go forever with just a 20% cut. So why do they want to make those benefit reductions now?
Here's a better idea. Let's enhance Social Security so that it lowers unemployment, stimulates the economy, and restores confidence.
- Reduce unemployment by lowering the voluntary retirement age to 60 instead of raising it to 69. Life expectancy is mainly increasing because fewer people are dying young - but people reaching the end of their working years are not actually living significantly longer - and a lifetime of work, especially physical labor, is not easier on today's sexagenarians. 69 might be a good retirement age for a banker, but not for skilled iron-workers, or auto workers, or even janitors. Let them retire earlier and open up those jobs.
- Turn FICA into a true flat tax, rather than the regressive tax it is now. Currently FICA taxes are 12.4% of the first $106,800 in earned wages (split between worker and employer), and absolutely nothing is collected for Social Security on any income above that - and FICA taxes are not collected on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains. Let's make it a true flat tax, Collect it on all income - no exceptions. We could then easily pay for lowering the voluntary retirement age, and never have to reduce benefits, and at the same time we could cut the FICA tax rate to about half of its current level.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Do you remember Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's rebuttal of President Obama during this year's State of The Union address?
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections," Said President Obama. "Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito silently mouthed "not true" when Obama criticized the Supreme Court's decision.
Obama was talking about the Court's "Citizen's United" ruling, that threw open the floodgates for unlimited spending on campaign ads by corporations.
In particular, Alito is reported to have been objecting to the claim that foreign corporations would be able to finance campaign commercials in the United States - an interpretation that the Fox News Right had solidly supported in its insistence that Alito Was Right.
Now we get to grade the test. So far this election season campaign ads by outside groups are far outnumbering ads from candidates. One group in particular is more active than the rest - the US Chamber of Commerce (a group which unlike your local chamber represents multinational corporations rather than the small businesses on Main Street) - The US Chamber of Commerce has pledge to spend $75 million during this election season. So where does the Chamber's money come from? Big corporations, including:
- State Bank of India (state-run) and ICICI Bank of India
- Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
- Russian state-run VTB Bank
- BP [UK]
- Royal Dutch Shell [Netherlands]
- Siemens [Germany]
- Bahrain Maritime & Mercantile International
- Bahrain Petroleum Company (state-owned)
- And hundreds more
Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads
Friday, August 06, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard July 6th, 2010
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited
Reading William Manchester’s Glory And The Dream over the weekend, I came across this remark from President Herbert Hoover, blurted out famously in the cruelest year of 1932.
“Nobody is actually starving. The hobos, for example, are better fed than they have ever been. Hobos are eating well, in fact one had ten meals in a single day.”
Hoover took deep offence at reports that children were dying of malnutrition. This is not surprising for a man who first made his global reputation organizing food aid for Belgian children at the end of World War One
By then Hoover had lost the plot, a common problem for those over the age of 45 who stop thinking, stop observing, and rely reflexively on whatever set of views worked for them in the past (I am 52).
He never quite lived down these words. After he lost the lost presidency to Roosevelt in 1933, he was taken to see starving families in Colorado. Though Hoover was too self-righteous to admit error. He insisted that economy was well on its way to recovery until President-elect Roosevelt frightened everybody with his “socialistic” adventurism.
Republicans on Capitol Hill who backed the mobilization of $3 trillion of fiscal and monetary support to bail out the financial system are now going to great efforts to prevent the roll-over of temporary benefits to 1.2m jobless facing an imminent cut-off.
I don’t wish to enter deeply into an internal US dispute between Republicans and Democrats, but I do think think that the American political class will have to face up to the new reality of a semi-permanent slump for a decade or more that will blight a great number of lives. The cyclical recovery that normally makes it possible for most Americans to find a job if they want one is not going to happen this time because the overhang of debt, fiscal tightening, and a liquidity trap have combined to jam the mechanism.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wall Street Banksters - short for Banking Gangsters - are about to receive another round of failure bonuses, even though they are still holding back from loaning money to credit worthy businesses and consumers and making money instead on exactly the same type of derivatives gambling that just required a 3 Trillion dollar taxpayer bailout a year ago.
Meanwhile, there are people out there doing jobs that ought to be getting the kinds of bonuses that the banksters aren't earning.
Here's one: The pilot of United Airlines flight 634 who safely and smoothly landed an Airbus 319 jet with a set of wheels missing. No skidding, sliding or tumbling. Whoever he is he deserves a Bankster bonus.
Airline pilot used to be a very good paying job. Not anymore. Sure the top pilots make pretty good pay, but its about a third of what they made 25 years ago (CPI adjusted). Even the hero of the Hudson - Captain Chessly Sullenberger - had his pay cut 40% a few years before he proved he is worth more than any Wall Street bankster.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab waited until the last 20 minutes of his flight from Amsterdam to Detroit before he attempted to blow up his underpants - he was probably waiting for the end of the in flight movie ... I think it was "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaughn. Definitely worth delaying your martyrdom for an hour and a half.
And before anyone asks - HELL YES I'm making light of a terrorist act. I'm treating it with all the mockery it deserves.
You see, there are a bunch of idiot politicians and "opinion leaders" trying to make hay off of this attempted attack. In effect they are using it to attack us all over again. Congressman Peter Hoekstra, an idiot, immediately released a fundraising letter asking us to help him defeat the terrorists - he's running for governor of Michigan. Senator Jim DeMint is blasting the lack of strong leadership at the TSA even though he personally has been blocking the confirmation of the new TSA chief for several months. Pat Buchanan, Tom Ridge, Dick Cheney and others are outraged, OUTRAGED I say - that the underpants bomber has been arrested and indicted and will be prosecuted in an actual courtroom just like non-law abiding Americans. Some are even demanding that we torture this stupid deluded kid, even though he has been completely cooperative, has admitted to his plans, his ties to al Qaeda (well, to al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which is not really the same "al Qaeda" as Bin Ladin's al Qaeda, but birds of a feather), and is answering any questions asked of him, but still, they want him tortured ... not for information (which we are getting), but ... just because ... These are the same idiots who claim it is too dangerous to prosecute international terrorists in US courts, even though we have already convicted over 400 of them and they have been locked away in our federal prisons for years without problem. These idiot cowards have such a low regard for American justice that they would have us become exactly the type of lawless nation that the terrorists accuse us of being.
Here's the deal. These terrorists are not supermen. They aren't bigger than life, they don't have super powers, they aren't able to defeat our justice system, they can't escape from our supermax prisons. They are, to a man, pathetic wimps. They are weaklings. They attack innocent civilians because they know they can't handle a fair fight. They use fear because they are too pathetic and lame to be able to use persuasion.
The idiot coward fools who build them up are helping the terrorists and hurting America rather than protecting it. They are collaborating with the terrorists in making us more fearful and less free. Their approach of ramping up the fear is exactly the wrong thing to do. We need to put the terrorists in their proper place - prison - and treat them as what they are - weaklings, wimps and morons. I love that we are calling this latest guy the "underpants bomber", that disdain is exactly correct. We should be mocking these fools in the media, not building them up as bogeymen.
Sensible security makes sense, but the cost is too high if we trade our freedoms for security. We need to respond to the threat of terror with vigilance and mockery.
Eventually one of these morons is going to get lucky and actually succeed in their attack. We still need to mock them. They send a thousand morons, and one is bound to get through. Give them no respect. Refuse irrational fear. Yes, we'll grieve the loss of innocent life at the hands of moronic cowards who are too afraid to put up a fair fight, but we should never fear or respect them.
Related post: They don't give a damn about our freedom
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
A few congressmen will be offering amendments to make the public option a true option for everyone - introducing actual competition. Others will be offering a bill allowing individual states the right to offer a single payer plan in their state - the proven method for providing the best care at the lowest cost. Use the the chart below to understand how your congressional representative makes their decisions (from the Center for Responsive Politics).
Every member of Congress and the total contributions they have received from the Health Care industry from 1989 through June 2009.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Ted Kennedy's passing leaves Massachusetts without full representation in the US Senate, and the nation without our greatest champion for Universal Health Care right when we need him the most.
With respect to the probability that Massachusetts will change it's law to appoint a temporary Senator until a new Senator can be chosen in a Special Election in February - most of those suggested in the media as replacements are not going to be interested in a temporary position from which they will be barred (as seems likely) from running in the special election
What Massachusetts, and the nation, needs is an strong interim Senator with no interest in a permanent position, but who has the stature, ability and connections to step into Kennedy's very large shoes and push Ted's health care reform through. Even better if that is someone with a long commitment to universal health care, who would find this temporary role as a chance to fulfill one of his own greatest goals.
I can think of one person who perfectly fits those needs:
He'd have to change his address, yet again, but he can afford it. He's been vetted - both as a former president and most recently during Hillary's confirmation.
The Big Dog can carry Kennedy's water for 5 months, working to get Universal Health Care passed, while Massachusetts works out who they want to elect for the permanent position. Then he can retire with his greatest legislative failure as president redeemed, and Ted Kennedy's legacy fulfilled.