Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Health care, the Republican Party and the non-functional Senate

We are seeing groundbreaking Legislation finally drag through the Senate. Because of the nature of the Senate, it's far from an ideal bill, but considering how dysfunctional the Senate is, this is the best we'll get.

Lindsay Graham complained to NPR about how Nebraska was getting the federal government to cover the state portion of Medicaid while South Carolina was not. Somehow that seems unfair to Sen. Graham, but he could have worked his own deal by agreeing to vote for the bill and replace Sen. Nelson. Really, all Graham and the Republicans want to do is complain. The irrational aspects of the Senate bill are the responsibility of the Republicans.

That's because the Republicans have created the dysfunctional Senate using its small state bias (which magnifies the numbers of Republicans elected), its arcane rules, and the tradition of the filibuster.

The Republicans lost control of the Senate because they can't govern. Now they are making the Senate itself unworkable because they believe that short-sighted voters and the conservative media will blame the Democrats for the results of the Republican scorched earth policies and refusal to deal with the deep problems America currently faced. The Republican effort to Filibuster the defense appropriations bill in hopes they can delay passage of health care is unacceptable and irresponsible.

Consider what the Republicans have done to the Senate. They are demanding a 60 vote super majority in order to pass any significant legislation, and they are refusing to even present legislative actions to work with. The Republican Senators have abdicated their duty to the American nation in favor of somehow damaging the Democrats. The result it that the Senate now can only function by unanimous vote of all 60 Democrats. That's the reason for all the political deals to pass health care. With the requirement of a unanimous vote each Democratic Senator can block all Senate legislation unless he or she is effectively bought off.

The Republicans could stop this overnight. They just need a few Republican Senators to vote for the health care bill and replace the Democratic Senators who are holding up the Democratic Party. But the Republicans refuse to do anything for the American nation because they want to political advantage.

If the Democrats do not hang this action around the necks of the Republicans running for election in 2010 then they deserve to be voted out of office. Only the American people do not deserve the return of the Republican Party to Senate power.

In the meantime we get maybe half the health care bill that we could have if the Republicans had the interests of the American public in mind instead of the hope for return to power.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

America as the new land of media-centered scams

Time Magazine has chosen Ben Bernanke to be its "Man of the Year" this year. Frank Rich of the New York Times disagrees.. Rich is on to something, I think. Tiger is more representative of what America has become over the last half century than Ben Bernanke is. We live in a new, media-created America that has gotten out of control.

Here's Rich's argument, followed by what I think the Tiger Woods scandal tells us about America today:
If there’s been a consistent narrative to this year and every other in this decade, it’s that most of us, Bernanke included, have been so easily bamboozled. The men who played us for suckers, whether at Citigroup or Fannie Mae, at the White House or Ted Haggard’s megachurch, are the real movers and shakers of this century’s history so far. That’s why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade’s flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy).
America today is a creation of a mostly centralized and homogeneous media. This has been obvious since about 1960. That year was when TV first was blamed for influencing who was elected President. Since TV has become central to who we as Americans think we are. Regionalism is now a thing of the past. People who have become adults since 1960 will not understand just how central being from the South or from the Midwest or from New York or from Texas used to be. Go back and watch some WW II movies, and take note of how much the characters are dominated by where they came from. New York. Texas. The Midwest. Wyoming. The name of the regions was central to establishing the nature of the character and the regional accent built much of the rest. No more. TV, and especially color TV, changed that perception. Now we are all pretty much the same kinds of Americans. I emphasize TV because TV is the central media which sets the media agenda. All Americans are pretty much in the same media pool now. There is very little regionalism left, even less as the big city newspapers cease to be influential. Instead of regional Americans like we had in WW II, we now have a new media-created America.

This media-created America created room for Public Relations experts and Advertising experts to create what we think we are. Both our cultural and our political life are now dominated by media celebrities. These people - media celebrities - are the images after which we shape much of our lives and personal images. We as individuals are now influenced and manipulated en mass by a mixture of celebrity and sloganeering through this massive media-created American image. Think about the advertisements for Viagra by retired Senator Bob Dole. Before he was paid to go on TV with those advertisements most Americans did not discuss sex the same way. Today we get advertisements for K-Y Jelly on TV. This really is not what America used to be like. And who benefits? Obviously, the people paying to manipulate the attitudes of the new, modern media-created America.

Our personal reality is shaped by those images and by the experts who manipulate those images. Public relations - Advertising - Propaganda - those are all different names for the body of techniques used to manipulate the media-created reality.

It doesn't seem to be recognized how much we are systematically manipulated by the media, though the constant influence is certainly obvious. One of the propaganda memes that is threaded through the media onslaught is that we are each individuals making our own individual decisions and that we are not members of a manipulated group. The selling of this meme makes much of the rest of the manipulation more effective. It's an easy meme to buy because if we can believe that these techniques do not work on each of us then we do not have to feel helpless before the onslaught. It's much easier to believe what we want to believe instead of fighting to find the real truth behind the media propaganda.
Rich points out that Enron was a media-created scam inflicted on America. It was not caught by the media. " That energy company convinced financial titans, the press and countless investors that it was a business deity. It did so even though very few of its worshipers knew what its business was. Enron is the template for the decade of successful ruses that followed, Tiger’s included.
Fortune magazine named Enron as America’s 'most innovative company” 'six years in a row."

Tiger Woods is another media-created scam on America. He has become the first ever billion dollar athlete by creation of an image in that media-created America.

The War in Iraq was a creation of that propaganda effort in politics through the TV-created America. But Bush, Cheney and the Neocons used that new, media-created America to start a war for their own purposes. Tiger Woods has used that same media-crated America to build his fortune out of chasing a tiny white ball with a stick. The celebrity-creation propaganda techniques are different only in the end goals, power or personal wealth.

That's my argument, based on what Frank Rich wrote. M. J. Rosenberg disagrees with Rich. He states that the problem isn't Tiger Woods. Rosenberg writes that although Tiger is another fraud, he isn't to blame for America's current mess. This far I agree with Rosenberg. But I disagree when he goes on to say
"The kid has pretty broad shoulders for a golfer, but they won't carry the weight of America's current mess. Nor should they. Not even as metaphor."
Tiger does work as a metaphor, I think, because the only way to look at the new media-created America with its pantheon of celebrities and its constant behavior-changing slogans is through metaphors like Tiger Woods, Enron, Bernie Maddox, and the many representatives of evangelical religion like Pat Roberts and Mark Sanford.

This is the new form America has taken. It is only about 50 years old and it is a wild and woolly frontier, mostly unexplored and inhabited by heroes and villains. Perhaps World of Warcraft or the movie The Matrix might be more accurate metaphors but they are not constantly inflicted on us all through every form of media the way the image of Tiger Woods has been.

One last point to consider. This takeover of the American image by a single media-created America and the submerging of regional American identities is very likely a source of the distress that has created the modern American conservative movement. That is a problem for a lot of people as their old regional identities are down graded and considered less important. But that's not the big problem. The big problem is that there seems to be little understanding of this new media-created America, and so we are subject to a series of scams and frauds by various tricksters who gain control of parts of it and use it against the rest of us for their own personal gain.

For a man like Tiger Woods to somehow convert chasing a tiny white ball with a stick into a billion dollar media image that is bit of a problem. For men like Bush, Cheney and the Neocons to use that same ability to manipulate the media and drive America into a senseless war in Iraq, then run that war as a form of media manipulation to build their party power while ignoring the real problems in Afghanistan and letting them fester to be solved by someone else is a real problem. But it does come back to the fact that we do not yet understand or have control of this new wild frontier that is America in the media.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Health care reform: Maybe it'll look better in hindsight

I am very dissatisfied with the compromise piece of garbage the Senate has created and tried to call health care reform. I am also highly dissatisfied with the behavior of the White House and President Obama during the last six months. Howard Dean's recent announcement that the bill has gotten so bad that we should just kill it and come back for another try frankly resonates strongly with me.

Only, I recall the effort in 1993, and now 2009 is the next try. Sixteen years delay. That's a lot of insurance company unearned profits and quite a few Americans dead, sicker than they should be for much longer than they should be and many, many unnecessary bankruptcies.

I've got a list of some of the flaws in the Senate HCR bill as it was last night which I won't even bother to post. But the big one that I hear is the problem of the mandates demanding that people pay up to 17% of their annual income to private insurers for health insurance that will still stick them with annual and lifetime caps and shift a lot of the expense from the insurance to the sick people. But of the 47 million estimated uninsured, this bill still insured 31 million more.

It's a step. A big one. And while is has a lot of flaws, it moves the correct direction in a large jump and in a reasonable (if slow) period of time. This needs to be done regardless of how bad the bill is. Get this done now, and then fix what doesn't work, because this is still fixing a whole lot of what does not work today. Except for the piece of crap that was Part D of Medicare (the unfinanced drug bill with the doughnut hole to save money) there has been no major positive improvement in the health care system since the Medicare bill in 1965.

So for anyone who thinks that Howard Dean's call to kill the bill and start over, take a look at the history of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as presented by TPM Reader PT.

This health care reform bill is massively significant for the nation. It can be moved towards right now, or it can be killed now, to someday in the far future be again resurrected - at massive cost to the nation. The really big flaws in the current bill and feeding the massive egos of Senators Nelson and Lieberman notwithstanding, it is still time to pass the damned bill they allow us. It will be fixed afterwards. It will have to be. But that will be much easier than this initial restructuring of the system.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dredd discusses dementia, personal and social

Is America suffering through a period of social dementia? Have we all lost contact with reality as a group? That is an implication of Max Blumenthal's discussion of Secular Salvation Narratives. Dredd discusses this. Dredd's discussion goes further than Blumenthal's by suggesting that America as a society has culturally lost contact with reality. If that's true, then it goes to the very core of our culture, and that hinges on the nature of narratives. So first let's briefly look at what Dredd suggests.

Dredd is describing America as a society in which certain elites wanted to take control of the population, but instead of using the brute force techniques of government (which they concluded would not work) they developed a set of propaganda narratives to control how Americans think. Go read Dredd's article. Propaganda that works does so by creating a preferred narrative that shifts the culture. "Preferred?" Well, "Propaganda" naturally means that the narrative desired by the propagandists is the goal.

The psychologists say that the human memory is physically laid down in a narrative framework. That, it seems to me, is the basis for the way culture is passed on from one generation to another and probably the way information used to be transmitted between families and communities before humans developed technologies to transmit information. In other words, we learn what is important about how society is ordered through the stories we are told.

So exactly what is a narrative? Well, it's a story. That is, it is a set of characters who undergo a series of events, and the events are connected through the means of cause-and-effect. Narratives fit into an overall pattern of beginning, middle and end, and each of those categories has different characteristics and different purposes. I speculate that the human capacity to think in narrative may be the origin of the human ability to recognize time. (The discipline of General Semantics calls this Time Binding.)

The difference between history and a fable is that when one is telling history the details of the events are verified by sources other than just trust in the veracity, memory and accuracy of the story-teller. The tales told by minstrels when they passed from one community to another were generally dependent on the memory of the minstrel. Minstrels seem to have developed poetic techniques as memory aids so that they could remember the details well enough so that when they told the same tale several times, they actually did tell roughly the same story. Remember those poetic techniques. They were methods of using quirks of the brain to better remember details.

Those same narrative techniques that transmit culture also transmit propaganda. The two American business disciplines most closely associated with creating propaganda are Public Relations and Advertising. Both say to the public that they don't change anything, and yet they both sell their services to many businesses and individuals who are investing good money in what they do with the intent of making a profit. Is it reasonable to believe that those businesses exist but do nothing effective? Nope.

I wouldn't dismiss Dredd's description of modern America as a culture that has lost contact with reality. His proposal regarding how it might have happened is missing only a good description of who the culprits who did it are. The social mechanics are certainly in place, and the evidence for the sanity of American culture is weak at best.

Max Blumenthal's description of a secular narrative built up by Obama in order to win the election as President and now dashed in the chaos of the health care reform legislation in the Senate looks like a good explanation for the mass depression currently being felt by disappointed liberals and progressives.

Anyway, these are my current thoughts on the subject.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Notes on the current stage of the Health Care Reform bill.

The political effort towards passing health care reform is approaching the climax. This is going to be a time we all look back at and ask "What happened?" Well, here are a few notes to try to catch a bit of the zeitgeist. A lot of stuff has actually been settled and everyone agrees on it. The questions remain about only a rather small number of things that are not settled. For several weeks the largest of those things was the fate of the public option, but it appears that Joe Lieberman's ego (and maybe his retirement plan) have settled that one for us.

From TPM Reader JM It looks like killing the public option in any form is more important to Joe Lieberman than is getting the HCR bill at all.

My question: Does the U.S. Senate create narcissists or just attract, hold and maintain them?

Why is it that the Republicans under Bush could pass what the wanted through Congress and the Democrats can't? TPM Reader JM also suggests a reason for this. The Republicans wanted only one thing - tax cuts and more tax cuts. As long as they all agreed on what they wanted, they could ram it through Congress. It's quite clear that the Democrats do not suffer from such a lack of thought and imagination.

Evan McMorris-Santoro reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the House will accept a health care reform bill without the government-run insurance. I guess the House Democrats agree with me that what is left if the HCR bill is worth saving. What's left includes ending screening for preexisting conditions and subsidies to allow more Americans to buy coverage.

Brian Beutler reports that Obama is encouraging Senate Democrats to "get this done." Obama was speaking to a gathering of roughly 12 Democratic Senators and, according to Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was giving them the big picture as well as motivational advice. This was rather obviously intended to counter the tendency of individuals in the thick of the battle inside the Senate to fixate on one or two aspects of the bill, like the public option, and forget what the overall goal is.

Josh Marshall writes that the chorus of frustrated Democrats who complain that the Senate HCR bill has been so watered down as to be worse than useless is not matched by the attitudes of the hard core policy wonks who understand and closely follow health care reform. The hard core wonks are disappointed, but they still generally want to keep what is left rather than just throw the whole thing out and start over. Personally I agree that there remains a lot of improvement in the system that should not be abandoned in a fit of pique just because so many very important things (like effective cost containment) have been blocked. I think that if the "It's not enough! Throw everything out and start over!" crowd get their way, the will to get even this far will not be there for a decade or more and that cost is way to high. Throwing out what is left would also be politically disastrous for the Democratic Party, and the Republicans who would replace Democrats are NOT going to even address this set of problems in any realistic manner. Nor would they do anything else except steal from the government and cut taxes on the rich. No. I don't think much of the incompetents, hacks, thieves and religious bigots who make up the current Republican Party.

Steve Benen addresses the question - How is it that the Republicans under Bush could get legislation through Congress without a 60 vote minimum and for some reason the wimp Democrats can't?

AARP has announced that it supports the health care reform bill. They point out that it will
  • Give the uninsured and small businesses access to quality affordable plans
  • Close the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” by 2019
  • Eliminate cost barriers to preventive care
  • Reform Medicare's payment and delivery system to promote care coordination
  • Reduce hospital infections and preventable readmissions
  • Strengthen home and community-based care and assist individuals in saving to meet future long-term care needs
It is my opinion that scrapping the current piece of crap coming out of the Senate in a fit of angry pique and anti-Lieberman emotion will prevent these things from happening for at least a decade. The last time (1993) it was 16 years before the issue could even be brought up.

Kevin Drum thinks that what's left of the Senate Healthcare Bill is worth saving. He points out among other things that we still get community rating You have to be an in-depth insurance policy wonk to realize it, but that is really big and in my opinion is worth passing all by itself! But right now we can get it along with laws preventing insurance companies from refusing to provide insurance because of preexisting conditions and also ending the insurance company practice of cancelling the policies of those who get sick (Recissions.)

Here's the final paragraph of Kevin's article:
"Ten years ago this bill would have seemed a godsend. The fact that it doesn't now is a reflection of higher aspirations from the left, and that's great. It demonstrates a resurgence of liberalism that's long overdue. But this is still a huge achievement that will benefits tens of millions of people in very concrete ways and will do it without expanding our long-term deficit. Either with or without a public option, this is more than Bill Clinton ever did, more than Teddy Kennedy did, more than LBJ did, more than Truman did, and more than FDR did. There won't be many other times in our lives any of us will be able to say that. So pass the bill. The longer we wait, the worse it will get. Pass it now."
I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I very much agree with Kevin on this.

Addendum 11:35 pm
Well, well. Apparently there is a reason for Joe Lieberman to pull the plug on the Medicare buy-in even though he supported it himself three months ago. The Washington Post reports that before the Medicare buy-in was killed the influential hospital and physician lobbyists were furiously contacting Democratic Senators to get the plan killed. The details of the lobbying effort provided in the story are quite interesting and tell us why we are getting the Rube Goldberg legislation that is currently being discussed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bad as it already appears, the Banking system may be even worse than we knew

We know that the Wall Street financial companies let their greed and stupidity very nearly bring the U.S. and the world economy fall into the second Great Depression in the Fall of 2008. But what did they do to save themselves? The Guardian has just published the story from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations' drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.

This will raise questions about crime's influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. "In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor," he said.

Some of the evidence put before his office indicated that gang money was used to save some banks from collapse when lending seized up, he said.
So it's not just the people in third world countries who died when the global economy froze up. It's not just the businesses and governments around the world who lost massive amounts of money. It's not just retirees who suddenly found they don't have the money they planned on for their retirement. It's also the people who have died because of the drug trade.

That is going to include people who have died because drug dealers are financing the Taliban in Afghanistan or the rebels in Colombia. This will almost certainly have exacerbated the Mexican war on drugs.

Hooray for the power of the uncontrolled Wall Street financial people. And they are paying off the Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress to prevent the passage of laws that would reregulate Wall Street.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A murkey view of the coming 12 months in politics

When Obama was elected in November 2008 I was thinking that we had been saved from the Bush/Cheney administration. And we had. Just not as dramatically as I had hoped. But now Obama is facing the perennial political question "What have you done for me lately?" 2010 is not going to be a pretty year politically.

It's a year after the 2008 Presidential election. Even Al Franken has finally been sworn in as Senator. Yet we aren't out of Iraq and Afghanistan (unrealistic dream, but not close to being true yet.) Don't Ask Don't Tell is still law in the military. The military budget has gone up, not down. And health care reform which was promised to be on Obama's desk by August is still bouncing around through the Senate and being cut down to something only the conservatives can love.

Recently the London Review of Books published Obama's Delusion by David Bromwich in which David takes Obama to task for having misled the voters in order to get elected, but now has gone back on everything he promised in the campaign. For a number of critics on the left, Obama is already a failed President and those who defend him are as irrational as the defenders of George Bush as he pushed his incompetence onto the American people. Glenn Greenwald provides a somewhat nuanced description of how critics of Obama from the left should be basing their criticism on his failures to enact left wing policies, not on his defenders who simply assume that his personality is so outstanding that nothing he can do is going to be wrong. Glenn is right that the hard left Obama defenders are no better than the Republicans who attack everything Obama does simply because he isn't their man. But for all his nuance, Glenn does not get down to the core of what liberals and progressives need to do to prepare for the 2010 election.

Josh Marshall this morning addressed the threat that 2010 is going to be another 1994 in which the Republicans take back the House and begin another ascent back to power. It's a good article, well worth reading, but in essence it says that 1994 was a direct result of the slow loss of the Solid South to the Republicans beginning with Nixon's Southern Strategy, and delayed only because the incumbent Democrats in the South were able to play off the 12 years of Republican Presidency after 1980 to hold onto their offices, but with the accession of a Democratic President in 1992 they lost that lever. Mostly the incumbent Southern Democrats retired or were defeated in 1994, but the problem was a structural one. It was not a fact that somehow Clinton lost the House to the Republicans in 1994. Those structural weaknesses do not exist in 2010. But Josh does point out that if his theory is correct "2010 is fundamentally different. The key problem for Dems isn't unpopularity. It's a highly apathetic Democratic electorate facing an extremely energized Tea Party GOP" Also, he says "Two factors -- whether Health Care passes and whether there's significant improvement in the economy by next summer -- will decide things, not any amount of strategery and messaging."

I think that is the core of the problem presented by the 2010 election. The core problem that I see is the Democratic apathy. So Steve Benen, riffing off a discussion by Matt Yglesias of the problems of institutional responsibilities faced by Obama explains why the Democrats are currently so apathetic.
Post-election governing tends to feature a familiar pattern. Presidents take office with high hopes, governing proves difficult, the policymaking process gets bogged down, and supporters get discouraged and start to walk away. It can be pretty disheartening.

Invariably, the new president gets blamed for failing to deliver. Matt Yglesias offers a helpful reminder about the nature of institutional responsibilities.
Matt adds to that Democrats thought that when Bush was replaced by Obama, then the Democratic agenda would be pushed through Congress. But all that happened was that the previous roadblock to getting progressive election - the Bush veto - was removed. It was replaced by the new roadblocks of a unified 40 member Republican Party of the Senate able to use the veto to block legislation. This has made the new roadblocks Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.
...need to correctly identify the obstacles to change. If members of Congress are replaced by less-liberal members in the midterms, then the prospects for changing the status quo will be diminished. By contrast, if members are replaced by more-liberal members (either via primaries or general elections) the prospects for changing the status will be improved. Back before the 2008 election, it would frequently happen that good bills passed Congress and got vetoed by the president. Since Obama got elected, that doesn't happen anymore. Now instead Obama proposes things that get watered down or killed in Congress. That means focus needs to shift.
It seems to me that the apathy that is currently afflicting the Democratic electorate will be somewhat alleviated by passing health care. Something will have to pass. The future of the Democratic Party rides on it, and the two real threats (Nelson and Lieberman) will not want to be blamed for the total failure of the bill. They cannot now escape blame if it fails. But they are both demanding a very high price for whatever they finally permit. I am concerned that the banker-oriented Obama Treasury Department will do too much to fight the deficit before the 2010 election, though, resulting in a second dip in the economy. The resulting job loss is the real electoral threat. If the administration can actually do something about jobs, that will remove that threat from the election. Naturally, that means that the Republicans will fight hard against every possible job bill.

In any case, though, I do not expect the Republicans to take back the House in 2010. This next 12 months will continue to be very politically interesting.

Addendum 7:55 pm
Well, well. Steve Benen Reports that this morning Larry Summers said that the White House is shifting its goals from deficit reduction to job creation and economic growth. No surprise, actually. They are bright people and see the same things I do. The difference is that they see more than I do and that they don't have to tell the media what they are planning. So the surprise that this morning's announcement contains is that they decided to let the media in on their planning.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The U.S. economy is not really improving. Nor will it for a while.

The stock market and retail sales are up primarily because of all the money the fed is flooding the economy with. The continued low interest rates are fueling home sales, but that's just delaying the drop in value of overvalued real estate. Foreclosures are rising again, and commercial loans are being foreclosed also. Those trends will continue and they are depressing the economy.

Consumption to support a market that would make the current real estate values realistic simply does not exist. Real estate values will continue dropping, but slowly as banks refuse to take reductions in what they are owed because that hurts their bottom line and their capital base.

Employment, however, is still dropping. That drop in employment means that consumption spending based on anything outside government supplied funds does not exist. There is not the slightest hint that the economy is really going to turn around.

As for the stock market, that's a monetary reaction. More money to invest and prices will rise. But again, it's government supplied money. Wait until the government starts reducing the deficit and the fed allows the interest rates to rise. Krugman pointed out recently that Japan has had a struggling market much like ours for the last two decade, and their stock market has also seen some rallies. None stuck, though.

This isn't a cyclical recession will bounce back. This is a recession built on the attempt to run our economy on borrowed money while exporting jobs and making education more expensive for the work force. The real economy has been replaced by a false banking economy since 1970. The term is that our economy has been financialized.

I have no real idea when our economy will begin to recover, but I can remember when Paul Volker created the recession in the early 80's to destroy inflationary expectations, and just getting everyone to realize how big the changes were going to be took him four years. It'll probably take that long for people to get over the idea that the economy is going to "bounce-back" on its own like it "normally" does.

After that, it will take at least a decade of intense rebuilding of the economy and especially of the trained and experienced workforce before we begin to see a real recovery. America hasn't done anything like that since the Depression and the post WW II era.

Japan's experience is quite instructive.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The amazing Republican health care lie machine

About the health care reform plan in the Senate Steve Benen points out "Senate Republicans now have a detailed obstructionism plan, but not a detailed health care reform plan." Of course, all the Senators have a Cadillac health care plan from a selection of carefully vetted and government approved plans, provided to them free of charge and paid for by the very taxpayers they would deny similar benefits to. They also have as well as a fully staffed health clinic sitting in the basement of the capital.

And as long as I'm talking about Republican health care plan obstructionism, the Republicans have been mouthing off to the clueless media about the Medicare cuts that are supposed to help fund the HCR. What they will never say is that those Medicare payments are subsidies to private insurers so that they will offer slightly tweaked competing versions of Medicare, but those subsidies mostly go directly to the profit line of the insurance companies. AARP backs the Democrats in taking those unearned benefits away from the health insurers. Medicare recipients are better off in basic Medicare in the first place. "'...the legislation does not reduce any guaranteed Medicare benefits,' A. Barry Rand, the AARP's CEO, said in a letter to senators."