Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday's election will not be pretty

This statement by Mike Lux gets at the heart of what has gone wrong with the Obama Presidency.
The biggest problem with the Third Way argument, though, connects to the fascinating back and forth between Obama and progressive interviewers in recent weeks: the palpable frustration expressed by, say, Jon Stewart in his interview is far less about having to make compromises to get things done, and far more with the insider-y ways deals were cut and decisions were made re what to compromise on. This is what Third Way and other pundits who argue for moderation never seem to understand: their version of centrism and the rest of the country's are very different.>
Exactly right. The Washington Insiders have consistently gotten things badly wrong, even when there have been people who told them they were not getting the nature of the problems right and not solving them. That has been especially true with economics, where Krugman was right that the stimulus was too small to work adequately but Obama was neither willing to fight for a larger one nor was he willing to explain to the voters what he was actually doing and enlist their help to get Congress to act!

This is Obama's leadership failure. He has been a backroom deal maker and a manager, but he has utterly failed to lead the country. He makes his deals, then he submits his view to the tender mercies of the Congress and he accepts the results they chew up and spit out. But he has never submitted his judgment directly to the public to convince the public what direction America should take.

The result is that America is getting the inadequate and lobbyist-mangled beltway wisdom out of Washington along with being chastised for not supporting the "superior" wisdom of the Washington insiders.

Obama may have had to go the backroom inside the beltway route to get health care passed. I personally think he did. But even there had he engaged better with the public, the result would have been better. That is what happened with the financial overhaul bill.

Now, a week before the election, Obama is on the hustings trying to get out the base vote so that he can get a Congress back that he can still work with. But the Conservatives and the multimillionaire oligarchs and the foreign-owned fascist FOX TV has gotten to the public before Obama did. Obama is playing defensive politics from a deep hole, and whether much can be done this late date is really questionable. Had Obama offered leadership to America for the last two years it still wouldn't be very good, but since he has not done that it will be worse.

Now America has thrown the structure of Congress in Washington to the tender mercies of a badly misinformed public. It is a dangerous experiment to see whether democracy can be abused and misinformed and still show wisdom on election day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea Partiers - descendants of the John Birchers

It's difficult to watch the antics of the right-wing idiots who call themselves "The Tea Party" and not worry about the future of America. The thing is, though, that they are not all that new in America.

They essentially spout the same set of idiocies that the John Birch Society made famous in the late 50's and the 1960's. The historian Sean Wilentz offers an excellent essay on the intellectual roots of the Tea Party. Go read it.

But what Wilentz does not do is describe the conditions which have allowed these right-wing idiots to become so prominent, or at least not in depth. He does allude to the fear that the election of the African-American Obama as President has instilled in the American right wing, but that's only part of the story. The threat to America from the economic collapse we today call "The Great Recession" has also added to their fear, and it is built on fear of the many social changes which have included the disruption of the traditional American status where the White Race could be expected to dominate the government and the nation. It's not just the result of the civil rights battles, it includes the fact that within not too many years the so-called White Race will become a minority in America.

The automatic status that White conservatives have felt they had simply by being born White is inevitably disappearing. So they are reacting to both the social and the economic changes that are occurring to America. These factors have been key, in fact, to the political rise of the conservative movement over the last three decades.

The shock of the election of the backwoods President from Arkansas in 1992 was an earlier threat to derail the conservative effort to lock down their domination of American society. But after conservatives failed to impeach Clinton, they were able to recapture the White House with George Bush. Unfortunately, they do not have a governing coalition, only a coalition that can often elect their politicians. Once in office they are not allowed by their base to make the practical decisions required of a modern government. That left the conservatives with nothing else to do except start wars and to corruptly take as much money and as many contracts from government as they could.

Essentially the conservatives sold off the control of the American financial system to the Wall Street Banks, who promptly went about destroying what they had bought as Greenspan and his fellow libertarians watched and sat on their hands. By 2007 it was clear that a financial disaster was coming. (See my previous articles from 2007 and 2008 labeled Finance and economics.) The collapse of Wall Street in Fall of 2008 did more than threaten to destroy the world economy. Great Depression II was barely avoided by the panicky Bush Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, whose belated actions were in fact carried out by the incoming Barack Obama and the bipartisan leadership of Congress. It also totally destroyed the credibility of the Republican party leadership.

It was this vacuum of Republican leadership that this year's Tea Partiers have stepped into. But the libertarian anarchists of the Tea Party could not have become as powerful as they have without the financing of the Libertarian ultra wealthy groups and individuals like the Koch brothers who have been actively financing the groups that funnel money to the tea Partiers to ensure that their rallies are organized and to bus the participants of those rallies to the party.

Then there is the other element - Rupert Murdoch and FOX. Murdoch is another of the uberwealthy who want to destroy American worker political power and recreate America as a nation ruled by the wealthy - a plutocracy. The government in his view should tax the masses and funnel that money to the wealthy who will dominate the society. The tea Partiers are the populist arm of this vision held by people such as the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family, Erik Prince (who created Blackwater/Xe with his inherited wealth and who has used it to milk the government of overpriced security contracts) and so on. The political center of their power nationwide is the club of 100 millionaires called the U.S. Senate. Keep in mind that Glenn Beck is Rupert Murdoch's spokesman spreading the gospel. In the UK Glenn Beck has lost all of his sponsors, yet Murdoch's FOX has kept him on the air for nearly a year without sponsors. That is NOT a money-making action by Rupert Murdoch. It is purely political and quite expensive. (See the Countdown with Olberman that was broadcast Friday October 15th where he shows Murdoch explaining his political motivations.)

The public face of all this is the tea party with its rehashed John Birch Society ideology, but the core is the financial power of the uberwealthy American families and big business executives who were enabled to throw their money into American politics with the Supreme Court five gave them the Citizen's United decision that allowed the money to flow without any public record or reporting into political channels.

So go read Sean Wilentz's excellent article that explains where the Tea Party ideology comes from. But the real political threat to America is not the tea party idiots. It is the on-going effort by the ultra-wealthy to take political control of America and turn America into an out and out plutocracy where we are either members of the plutocracy or we are taxed by them to pay for their support.

The election is in slightly over two more weeks. Go vote. Defeat the corporations and the wealthy families trying to take America over.

[Just to point out how far back the economic crisis was recognized, go read my article Administration has admitted Recession in 2008 which I posted in November 2007. This was the Bush administration admitting that the Recession was coming.]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Morality is for the little people - ask the MBA

This is an excellent video on the utter hypocrisy being practiced by the wealthy. Avoiding strategic default on mortgages is not really about the morality of paying your bills. It's about the need for the wealthy to be sure the streams of income they depend on to maintain their dominant social position are maintained.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mortgage Bankers Association Strategic Default
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Think these are any of the same guys who are hiring crooks to fabricate documents that support the bank's efforts to foreclose on property they can't prove they own. Once the documents are fabricated then the companies are declaring to the Courts that the documents really were filed legally, but they weren't.

Any Questions?

This is the American Republican Party at work

America is under attack by an internal enemy as great as the slave-supporting antebellum South. The enemy is the conservative-run Republican Party. How bad are they?

Six decades ago America fought and defeated a great external enemy, the German Nazi empire. The Nazi Party had fielded it's own Party army, the Waffen SS. This is an organization that committed major war crimes intended to destroy those the party declared its enemies. This year in America the Republican Congressional leadership has been running a man for Congress from the Ohio 9th Congressional District, Rich Iott, who celebrates the exploits of the Nazi Waffen SS.

It should be recalled that after WW II the German SS was declared a criminal organization. That means that anyone who was a member of that organization was declared a criminal. The evidence of their crime was membership in the SS. That precedent should be applied to the conservative Republican Party. Anyone who is a member should automatically be declared a criminal and a threat to America. They are directly involved in a conspiracy to destroy or take over America.

Does the evidence from one Republican Congressional candidate apply to the entire Republican party? He was actively recruited and strongly supported by the Republican Congressional leadership. On a broader front, though, consider how the party itself is attacking America directly. This is from Steven Benen at Washington Monthly:
Every measure that's come up over the last 21 months that could help create jobs has been fought, watered down, and sometimes killed by Republicans ... who in turn believe the weak job landscape, which they created in the first place, is Democrats' fault. And Americans, feeling pain and anxiety, actually seem inclined to believe them.
The Republican Party and its financiers on Wall Street created the current Great Recession which, had Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson not panicked and instituted a recovery plan at the last minute, nearly threw the world into the Second Great Depression. The threatened Great Depression would have been at least as bad as that of the 1930's. As it is the Great Recession we did get is the worst since the 1930's.

And what has the Republican Party done to help America recover from the economic depredations of the Bush administration? They have actively fought every effort to reduce the damage of the economic conditions and have tried to intensify them. The purpose of their destructive efforts is to induce the voters to vote them back into office where they can continue to steal from government the way Jack Abramoff and his buddies did.

The modern Republican Party has become a criminal enterprise which dwarfs the Mafia in both scope and the damage it has caused. When do Americans deal properly with the criminal threat which is the modern Republican Party?

Addendum 12:19pm CDT
Here is further history of the American right wingers and their love of Nazism: GOP house candidate was Nazi re-enactor before the whole "liberal fascism" makeover thing by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left.

Wait for the screaming from the right wingers as they object to being exposed for the fascists they are. 5..4..3..2....

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The ultra-wealthy plutocrats have declared war on America

The Citizen's United Supreme Court Decision has unleashed a storm of money into American politics as the ultra-wealthy plutocrats try to destroy or take control of American government. They cannot accept that there is another political power in this nation that rivals their own. Some of the individuals involved were named in an earlier post here. Frank Rich at the New York Times has provided additional detail to flesh out this story.
...local chapters of Tea Party Patriots routinely received early training and support from FreedomWorks, the moneyed libertarian outfit run by the former Republican House majority leader and corporate lobbyist Dick Armey. FreedomWorks is itself a spinoff from Citizens for a Sound Economy, a pseudo-grassroots group whose links to the billionaire Koch brothers were traced by Jane Mayer in her blockbuster August exposé in The New Yorker. Last week the same Tea Party Patriots leader who bragged to the National Journal about all those small donations announced a $1 million gift from a man she would identify only as an entrepreneur. The donor’s hidden identity speaks even louder than the size of the check. As long as we don’t know who he is, we won’t know what orders he’s giving either.

Such deep-pocketed mystery benefactors — not O’Donnell, whose reported income for this year and last is $5,800 — are the real indicators of what’s going on under the broad Tea Party rubric. Big money rains down on the “bottom up” Tea Party insurgency through phantom front organizations (Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security) that exploit legal loopholes to keep their sugar daddies’ names secret. Reporters at The Times and The Washington Post, among others, have lately made real strides in explaining how the game works. But we still don’t know the identities of most of those anonymous donors.

From what we do know, it’s clear that some Tea Party groups and candidates like Sharron Angle, Paul and O’Donnell are being financed directly or indirectly not just by the Kochs (who share the No. 5 spot on the new Forbes 400) but by a remarkable coterie of fellow billionaires, led by oil barons like Robert Rowling (Forbes No. 69) and Trevor Rees-Jones (No. 110). Even their largess may be dwarfed by Rupert Murdoch (No. 38) and his News Corporation, whose known cash contributions ($2 million to Republican and Republican-tilting campaign groups) are dwarfed by the avalanche of free promotion they provide Tea Party causes and personalities daily at Fox and The Wall Street Journal.

However much these corporate contributors may share the Tea Party minions’ antipathy toward President Obama, their economic interests hardly overlap. The rank and file Tea Partiers say they oppose government spending and deficits. The billionaires have no problem with federal spending as long as the pork is corporate pork. They, like most Republican leaders in 2008, supported the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout. They also don’t mind deficits as long as they get their outsize cut of the red ink — $3.8 trillion worth if all the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

But while these billionaires’ selfish interests are in conflict with the Tea Party’s agenda, they are in complete sync with the G.O.P.’s Washington leadership. The Republicans’ new “Pledge to America” promises the $3.8 trillion addition to the deficit and says nothing about serious budget cuts or governmental reforms that might remotely offset it. Surfing the Beltway talk shows last Sunday, you couldn’t find one without a G.O.P. politician adamantly refusing to specify a single program he might cut at, say, the Department of Education (Pell grants?) or the National Institutes of Health (cancer research?). And that’s just the small change. Everyone knows that tax cuts for the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons must come out of Social Security and Medicare payments for everybody else.

The tea partiers are masquerading as a grass roots movement, but in fact they are an astroturf stalking host for the wealthy conservatives who are still angry that during the Great Depression FDR kept them from grabbing the power which they feel entitled to. The Great Recession is their next chance. They have been buidling for this opportunity since the hapless Jimmy Carter let Ronald Reagan grab the American Presidency in 1980.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The effort by the ultrawealthy to control America

Conservatism is a stalking horse for the political takeover of America by a few ultra-wealthy families. Here's how Paul Krugman describes it:
As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultra wealthy families.

And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America’s Enemies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on.

Now Mr. Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run.
This is not new. Bryan Burrough writes in his excellent book The Big Rich about the "Big Four", the wealthiest oil barons in Texas who funded conservatives such as the John Birch Society as far back as the 1950's and who, before that, directed the Texas Democratic Party to do everything possible to sabotague Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Who were the "Big Four?" Roy Cullen, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson. More recently Texas has included multimillionaire realtor and home builder Bob Perry who is famous for among other political things pushing the Swift Boat Veteran's scam to defeat John Kerry for President. Perry has a lot of control in the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature where he works to water down any legislation that would make home builders financially responsible for building shoddy homes.

Of course it's not all Texas billionaires. There is also Richard Mellon Scaife who is the billionaire owner and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was a With $1.2 billion, Scaife, a principal heir to the Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune and currently has at least $1.2 billion. He funded many of the most racdical attacks on Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Of course the super conservative Joseph Coors should not be overlooked in this listing of some of the American oligarchs pushing for political and economic control of this nation. Wikipedia states this about Joe Coors' conservative activities:
Coors was perhaps best known for his conservative politics. A founding member of the Heritage Foundation along with Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner, Coors provided $250,000 to the think tank to cover its first year budget. He was also involved with the founding of the Free Congress Foundation and the Council for National Policy. He was a member of Ronald Reagan's Kitchen Cabinet, helping finance Reagan's political career as governor of California and U.S. president. [1] Coors was also known to have privately donated $65,000 to buy a light cargo plane for the Contras effort in Nicaragua during Reagan's presidency. That donation went through National Security Council adviser Oliver North.
Without these and other wealthy individuals pushing conservatism in America there would be no real conservative movement.

Although he does not seem to have been upfront as a major right-wing political actor as the names above have, an important social conservative Republican is Erik Prince. After inheriting his father's fortune of $1.2 billion he quite the Navy and established the mercenary firm Wikipedia:
Prince's father co-founded the Family Research Council with Gary Bauer.[12] Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos[10], son of Richard DeVos, Sr. (listed by Forbes in 2009 as one of the world's richest men, with a net worth of $4.2 billion).[13]
For a list of the 400 richest people in America, here is the Forbes article. Most either inherited the wealth or married it, so it is not the result of their wealth being a reward for their efforts to add value to society or the economy. For most of them, their main focus in life is to protect their wealth and social position. Why else would their political arm, the conservative Republicans and their astroturf tea partiers, be so adamant about trying to remove all inheritance laws which affect only the largest fortunes?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A fair description of the "disaster" that is Social Security

When you are surrounded by lies and demagoguery, where do you go to find the truth? Try Paul N. Van de Water if the lies involve Social Security.
In a new paper, I’ve tried to correct some of the misinformation that critics of Social Security have been spreading about the program.

Here are the facts. Social Security is a well-run, fiscally responsible program. People earn retirement, survivors, and disability benefits by making payroll tax contributions during their working years. Those taxes and other revenues are deposited in the Social Security trust funds, and all benefits and administrative expenses are paid out of the trust funds. The amount that Social Security can spend is limited by its payroll tax income plus the balance in the trust funds.

The Social Security trustees — the official body charged with evaluating the program’s long-term finances — project that Social Security can pay 100 percent of promised benefits through 2037 and about three-quarters of scheduled benefits after that, even if Congress makes no changes in the program. Relatively modest changes would put the program on a sound financial footing for 75 years and beyond.

Nonetheless, some critics are attempting to undermine confidence in Social Security with wild and blatantly false accusations. They allege that the trust funds have been “raided” or disparage the trust funds as “funny money” or mere “IOUs.” Some even label Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” after the notorious 1920s swindler Charles Ponzi. All of these claims are nonsense.

Every year since 1984, Social Security has collected more in payroll taxes and other income than it pays in benefits and other expenses. (The authors of the 1983 Social Security reform law did this on purpose in order to help pre-fund some of the costs of the baby boomers’ retirement.) These surpluses are invested in U.S. Treasury securities that are every bit as sound as the U.S. government securities held by investors around the globe; investors regard these securities as among the world’s very safest investments.

Investing the trust funds in Treasury securities is perfectly appropriate. The federal government borrows funds from Social Security to help finance its ongoing operations in the same way that consumers and businesses borrow money deposited in a bank to finance their spending. In neither case does this represent a “raid” on the funds. The bank depositor will get his or her money back when needed, and so will the Social Security trust funds.

As far back as 1938, independent advisors to Social Security firmly endorsed the investment of Social Security surpluses in Treasury securities, saying that it does “not involve any misuse of these moneys or endanger the safety of these funds.”

Moreover, Social Security is the “polar opposite of a Ponzi scheme,” says the man who quite literally wrote the book about Ponzi’s famous scam, Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff. The Social Security Administration’s historian has a piece on this topic as well.

Unlike the frauds of Ponzi — and, more recently, Bernard Madoff — Social Security does not promise unrealistically large financial returns and does not require unsustainable increases in the number of participants to remain solvent. Instead, for the past 75 years it has provided a foundation that workers can build on for retirement as well as social insurance protection to families whose breadwinner dies and workers who become disabled.

[H/T to Digby.]