Monday, October 31, 2011

Republican Presidential Candidates Offer America More Voodoo Economics and No Solutions

Republican Presidential Candidates Offer America More Voodoo Economics and No Solutions

Key proposals from the Republican presidential candidates might make for good campaign fodder. But independent analyses raise serious questions about those plans and their ability to cure the nation's ills in two vital areas, the economy and housing.

Consider proposed cuts in taxes and regulation, which nearly every GOP candidate is pushing in the name of creating jobs. The initiatives seem to ignore surveys in which employers cite far bigger impediments to increased hiring, chiefly slack consumer demand.

"Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no stimulative effect during the George W. Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today," writes Bruce Bartlett. He's an economist who worked for Republican congressmen and in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

As for the idea that cutting regulations will lead to significant job growth, Bartlett said in an interview, "It's just nonsense. It's just made up."

Government and industry studies support his view.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies' reasons for large layoffs, found that 1,119 layoffs were attributed to government regulations in the first half of this year, while 144,746 were attributed to poor "business demand."
Mainstream economic theory says governments can spur demand, at least somewhat, through stimulus spending. The Republican candidates, however, have labeled President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus efforts a failure. Instead, most are calling for tax cuts that would primarily benefit high-income people, who are seen as the likeliest job creators.

"I don't care about that," Texas Gov. Rick Perry told The New York Times and CNBC, referring to tax breaks for the rich. "What I care about is them having the dollars to invest in their companies."

Many existing businesses, however, have plenty of unspent cash. The 500 companies that comprise the S&P index have about $800 billion in cash and cash equivalents, the most ever, according to the research firm Birinyi Associates.

The rating firm Moody's says the roughly 1,600 companies it monitors had $1.2 trillion in cash at the end of 2010. That's 11 percent more than a year earlier.

Small businesses rate "poor sales" as their biggest problem, with government regulations ranking second, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Of the small businesses saying this is not a good time to expand, half cited the poor economy as the chief reason. Thirteen percent named the "political climate."

More small businesses complained about regulation during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, according to an analysis of the federation's data by the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

Such findings notwithstanding, further cuts in taxes and regulations remain popular with GOP voters. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that most Democrats and about half of independents think "reducing environmental and other regulations on business" would do little or nothing to create jobs. But only one-third of Republicans felt that way.

The GOP's presidential hopefuls are shaping their economic agendas along those lines.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says his 59-point plan "seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation and government programs."

Businessman Herman Cain would significantly cut taxes for the wealthy with his 9 percent flat tax plan. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said in a recent debate, "It's the regulatory burden that costs us $1.8 trillion every year. ... It's jobs that are lost."

The candidates have said little about another national problem: depressed home prices, as well as the high numbers of foreclosures and borrowers who owe more than their houses are worth.

After the Oct. 18 GOP debate in Las Vegas, a center of foreclosure activity, editors of the AOL Real Estate site wrote, "We didn't hear any meaningful solutions to the housing crisis. That's no surprise, considering that housing has so far been a ghost issue in the campaign."

To the degree the candidates addressed housing, they mainly took a hands-off approach. "We need to get government out of the way," Cain said. "It starts with making sure that we can boost this economy and then reform Dodd-Frank," which is a law that regulates Wall Street transactions.

Bachmann, in an answer that mentioned "moms" six times, said foreclosures fall most heavily on women who are "losing their nest for their children and for their family." She said Obama "has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures. I will not fail you on this issue." Bachmann offered no specific remedies.

Romney told editors of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the Texas governor's "immediate remedy for housing is to get America working again. ... Creating jobs will address the housing concerns that are impacting communities throughout America."

Bartlett, whose books on tax policy include "The Benefit and the Burden," recently wrote in the New York Times: "People are increasingly concerned about unemployment, but Republicans have nothing to offer them."

The candidates and their supporters dispute this, of course. A series of scheduled debates may give them chances to explain why their proposals would hit the right targets.

A recent study published by Bloomberg shows that the elitist conservative presidential candidates are either out of touch with reality or are lying to the American people about business regulation. Obama Wrote 5% Fewer Rules Than Bush

President Barack Obama’s “tsunami” of new government regulations looks more like a summer swell.

Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News.

The average annual cost to businesses under Obama is higher than under his predecessors, the Bloomberg review shows. The increase is estimated to total as little as $100 million or as much as $4.1 billion, or at most three one-hundredths of a percent of the total economy.

The scope of government regulation has emerged as a major issue in the 2012 presidential race and on Capitol Hill. Republican presidential candidates have accused Obama of stifling job creation by imposing rules on businesses, and House Republicans have vowed to rein in proposed regulations on everything from the environment to health care to banking.

“This is getting picked up and talked about, but not for any good reason,” Michael Livermore, executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, said in an interview. “There’s nothing new about this attack: It comes and goes in good times and in bad.”

How Obama Compares

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.

The number of significant federal rules, defined as those costing more than $100 million, has gone up under Obama, with 129 approved so far, compared with 90 for Bush, 115 for President Bill Clinton and 127 for the first President Bush over the same period in their first terms. In part that’s because $100 million in past years was worth more than it is now due to inflation, Livermore said.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Liberal Media - ABC News Fisker "Exclusive" Is Actually A Recycled Fox News Story From 2009

What Liberal Media - ABC News  Fisker "Exclusive" Is Actually A Recycled Fox News Story From 2009

A story touted as "an ABC News exclusive" actually rehashes a flawed narrative pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.

In collaboration with iWatch News, Brian Ross and ABC's "investigative unit" reported late last week that Fisker Automotive, a hybrid car maker that received a federal loan, "is assembling its first line of cars in Finland." The loan itself, however, can only be used to support operations based in the U.S.

ABC published the story, titled "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland," on Thursday night and Ross reported the "ABC News exclusive" on Friday's edition of Good Morning America. Ross said that World News and Nightline would also feature the story on Friday, but ABC did not run those segments.

Instead, Ross appeared on the Fox Business Network Friday night, where he told host David Asman that those in the administration criticizing his reporting "just don't like the takeaway, which is that they got the loan and they're building the car in Finland."

But this news isn't new. In fact, it was explained by the Department of Energy (DOE) in a September 2009 press release announcing the conditional loan. According to the release, "final assembly" of the high-end Fisker Karma "will be done overseas." Indeed, Fisker had a contract to assemble the Karma in Finland before the company ever received funds from DOE. ABC failed to note this fact and the misunderstanding was compounded by other news outlets covering ABC's report.

The loan supports design work carried out in Michigan and California for the Karma, as well as the assembly of Fisker's lower-cost hybrid, Project Nina, which will take place at a former GM factory in Wilmington, Deleware. Fisker began hiring for the Delaware plant in June.

Following the DOE announcement in September 2009, Fox ran a series of segments and an online article exclaiming that the government "gave a half a billion dollars" to "a car company that is creating jobs in Finland," in the words of America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum. Fox characteristically botched some important details, spurring a response from Henrik Fisker, who criticized news reports that "ignored or marginalized the truth, or sensationalized irrelevant aspects of the loan and our company." "It is unfortunate how false information can be disseminated and it is our intention to correct as much of it as possible," Fisker said in a press release at the time.

Fox is now using the ABC report to launch another round of outrage. Fox News and Fox Business have already devoted at least 18 segments to the story since Friday.

It's worth noting that Ford Motors, which received by far the largest of DOE's loans, has numerous overseas manufacturing plants. Oil and gas companies that benefit from taxpayer subsidies also conduct business all over the world. So the notion that federal incentives should not be available to companies with multinational operations has implications far beyond Fisker.

The recent media storm surrounding ABC's report has some at Fox scratching their heads. "I've been talking about it for literally two years," Eric Bolling said Friday night on his Fox Business show. "What happened yesterday that all of a sudden this story is on every single show that I watch?"

ABC's framing might provide a clue. The network's October 20 article referred to "intense scrutiny" of DOE's clean energy investments "in the wake of the administration's failed $535 million investment in solar panel maker Solyndra" and asked if "another Solyndra is in the offing."

On Thursday night, the Drudge Report hyped the ABC report as a "SOLYDRA-like story" before it was even published, citing unnamed "sources":

Drudge Headline

And on Good Morning America, Ross mentioned "questions about whether [Fisker] could end up as another taxpayer boondoggle." ABC followed up Monday with an article titled, "Obama Admin. Defends Fisker Cars From Solyndra Comparison."

CNN also adopted the Solyndra association, despite the lack of any indication at this point that Fisker -- which included in the Wall Street Journal's 2010 list of "Top 10 Cleantech Companies" -- will default on the federal loan. Introducing the story, CNN's Wolf Blitzer said on Friday: "It might, repeat, might just be another Solyndra in the making. That's what some of the critics are charging."

ABC News was among the media outlets that most persistently pursued the Solyndra story. As we showed last month, ABC dedicated more airtime to Solyndra than did CBS and NBC during the month after the solar panel maker announced its bankruptcy filing. In the same month, ABC virtually ignored a report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting which concluded that $31-60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud through contracts related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, costing taxpayers 56 times more than Solyndra's failure.

ABC's Solyndra reporting was at times misleading and littered with unsupported insinuations that political favoritism played a role in the company's loan guarantee. ABC also reported excerpts from emails leaked by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which were later shown to be taken out of context.

After the Obama administration pointed out that the Bush administration intended to give Solyndra the loan guarantee, a claim backed up by internal documents, ABC posted the headline: "Blame It On Bush, Say Obama Officials." 

As in Fisker's case, Fox News embraced ABC's Solyndra reporting and Bill O'Reilly hosted Brian Ross on September 14. During his appearance, Ross said "there are serious questions about whether influence was involved" in the loan guarantee. Asked by O'Reilly if Solyndra "is Enron 2," Ross replied: "It has that aspect. And you know, there are lots of big names that could be drawn in. I think we will be hearing about this all the way through next November."

Like the loan guarantee program that provided financing to Solyndra and other solar companies, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program was designed to fund innovative projects that inherently carry some risk.

The program was signed into law by President Bush in 2007 and Congress allocated $7.5 billion to cover the costs of any defaults. The $529 million Fisker loan is 7 percent of that amount. The Department of Energy told ABC that Fisker has not missed a loan payment or asked to restructure the agreement.

UPDATE (10/26/11):

ABC posted another report last night titled, "Republicans Call for Probe of Obama's Green Car Program." Brian Ross also appeared on Nightline and World News with Diane Sawyer to discuss the loans to Fisker and Tesla Motors. ABC is promoting the World News segment with the title, "Another Green Company Going Bankrupt?"

On Nightline, Ross said Fisker promised to create jobs in Delaware, "but so far the only cars being made have come off the line at this plant in Finland." Of course Ross didn't explain that when Fisker got the loan in 2009, the company said it would produce the cars in Delaware starting in late 2012.

The major take-away from the story. Bush signed off on the Fisker loan. it was understood even than that Fisker would be assembling the car in Europe. None of the loan money was used for the overseas part of the Fisker company operations. The loan did create American jobs. Ross and ABC have slanted the story along Obama hating right-wing talking points. ABC and Brian Ross have been caught previously acting as a fax machine for right-wing conservative talking points about the "war on terrorism". Finally, Fisker is making the repayments on its loan on schedule. All the negative publicity coming from anti-America conservatives may do more to hurt the company's chances of success than anything else. Why are conservatives always cheering for the failure of American technology and science.

Friday, October 28, 2011

America Hater Karl Rove and His Astroturf Group American Crossroads takes aim at union workers to stop Obama jobs bill

America Hater Karl Rove and His Astroturf Group American Crossroads takes aim at union workers to stop Obama jobs bill

Jonathan Chait looks at the polling memo produced for Karl Rove's American Crossroads on how to kill President Obama's jobs bill. Jed Lewison previously highlighted the memo's origin in fear; Chait points to two key strategies it promotes:

    The key fact to understand about the bill, delicately left unmentioned by the American Crossroads memo, is that Americans want to do all the things Obama proposes. By a twenty-point margin, they favor funding new road construction and a payroll tax cut. By a 30-point margin, they agree with higher taxes on the rich to cut the long-term deficit. They support helping stave off layoffs of police officers, firefighters, and teachers by a 50-point margin. How do you fight that?

    You redefine the issue as a generalization. People don’t like firing police officers and teachers? Fine, just call them “union workers[.]”

The memo (warning: Karl Rove PDF) found that if you describe Obama's proposal to "give billions to states to stop layoffs of teachers and firefighters," 70 percent of them favored it. But let's say you describe it as "giv[ing] billions to states to keep government union workers on the payroll." Support drops dramatically.

That's exactly why it's so important to always remind people that we're talking about police officers and teachers and nurses and firefighters and librarians and custodians and construction workers, no matter how much the repetition can make you feel like you're talking about the Village People.

Chait also highlights how the memo supports the Republican strategy of opposition to every damn thing that Obama wants or that could improve the economy:

    When one party is unanimously opposed to something, and the other party is disagreeing about it, many people figure it’s a bad idea. This was an insight Mitch McConnell grasped from the outset of Obama’s presidency, announcing that unified Republican opposition would help make the president’s policies unpopular. Accordingly, American Crossroads finds that the mere fact of Republican unanimity, and Democratic lack thereof, ranks among its most persuasive arguments against the bill[.]

They're pushing an agenda the American people do not want to see imposed. But they've got a lot of money to push it with, they're good at pushing it, and demonizing workers and obstructing progress are among their most powerful weapons.

It is no surprise that the America hating right-wing conservative movement would destroy millions of American's lives all for the sake of advancing the extremist agenda of the fake patriots who call themselves conservatives. They've been selling America their twisted brand of patriotism for years and just like those products that swear you can get rock hard abs while eating cookies and watching TV, there have always been Americans stupid enough to but into it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mitt Romney Used To Have a Heart Now He is Running as a Far Right Conservative - Romney Supported President Bush’s Government Program To Refinance Mortgages

Mitt Romney Used To Have a Heart Now He is Running Far Right Conservative - Romney Supported President Bush’s Government Program To Refinance Mortgages

This week, in an attempt to boost the economy without having to deal with Congress, the Obama administration announced an overhaul of its mortgage refinancing program known as HARP. The changes will allow more people to take advantage of low interest rates, freeing up more money for them to spend elsewhere.

As we noted yesterday, this idea is supported by 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s top economic adviser, Columbia University’s Glenn Hubbard. Hubbard called Obama’s refinancing plan “a big deal.” “It looks like a good plan; I’m glad they’re doing it,” he said. And as it turns out, Romney himself supported a refinancing plan when President Bush announced one in 2007.
In late August 2007, as the subprime mortgage crisis built up, Bush introduced an initiative overseen by the Federal Housing Authority to “help struggling homeowners find a way to refinance” and stem foreclosures. According to Bush, while it was “not the government’s job to bail out speculators,” there were a lot of homeowners “who could get through this difficult time with a little flexibility from their lenders or a little help from their government.”

A week later, during an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Romney professed no concerns about the program:

    Well, the President has taken action that should calm a good portion of the market, which is he said look, these people who borrowed money from the sub-prime world with these reset provisions, where the payments go up in later months, and they were told by their mortgage banker in many cases don’t worry about that, we’ll refinance it when that time comes, well, now the mortgage banker’s gone, they can’t refinance it. And so he’s saying, the President’s saying let’s have the FHA refinance these mortgages. It’s not a bailout, but it is a setting which gives people stability, and will calm the markets to a certain degree.

In an interview last week with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Mitt Romney opined that the Obama administration has no right to provide assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, saying that the foreclosure process ought to “run its course and hit the bottom.

However, he did add, “I think the idea of helping people refinance homes to stay in them is one that’s worth further consideration.” So given his prior support for the idea, is Romney on board with the administration’s effort?

Romney keeps drifting back towards being moderate when far right-wing conservatives who control the Republican Party like a brain dead cult want absolute purity. They don't want to help people stay in their homes, but have no problem with too big to fail banks reaping near pre-recession profits. How is it that Wall Street gets government backing and homeowners - who are not responsible for losing $17 trillion of America's wealth get all the protection conservatives can provide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Is What Evil Looks Like

No Apology From Rush Limbaugh For Defending ‘Christian’ Terrorists

Rush Limbaugh is nothing if not stubborn. He’s now obstinately resisting an international outcry over his incendiary comments about Africa’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

This band of child-abductors, rapists and killers is acknowledged as bad news by pretty much everyone. Everyone, that is, except for Limbaugh, who took to the air shortly after President Obama announced he was dispatching 100 military advisers to help take them on.

    “Now, up until today, most Americans have never heard of the Lord’s Resistance Army. And here we are at war with them. Have you ever heard of Lord’s Resistance Army, Dawn? How about you, Brian? Snerdley, have you? You never heard of Lord’s Resistance Army? Well, proves my contention, most Americans have never heard of it, and here we are at war with them. Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. It means God. I was only kidding. Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.”

Much to Limbaugh’s amusement, this passage is now part of the Congressional Record, as last week Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) quoted it on the Senate floor. Inhofe cited this exchange between Limbaugh and his helpers, and then moved on to tackle Limbaugh for taking the vicious LRA’s religious claims at face value.

“I want to make sure everyone knows that [the LRA’s leader] was officially disavowed by the Catholic Church in Uganda,” Inhofe said.

Limbaugh did not respond to this part of the criticism. Instead he tried to wriggle his way out. He completely ignored the dressing-down about the LRA’s well documented brutality, and instead conceded that he had been “misinformed” about whether the advisers President Obama deployed were intended for active combat.

The radio host then noted that Inhofe’s smack-down had included a mention of Limbaugh’s studio assistants, Dawn, Brian, and Snerdley. He transformed this into one big joke, while also implying that Inhofe’s umbrage had come from the fact the crew had never heard of the LRA, rather than the fact that they had fallen for the group’s propaganda hook, line, and sinker. From Limbaugh’s transcript:

    “I wanted to play the sound bites primarily ‘cause you three are now in the Congressional Record. All three of you. And you’re in the Congressional Record because you didn’t know something. How does it feel?”

At no point did Limbaugh address the fact that he had in effect defended a reviled group first listed as terrorists by President George W. Bush.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this wasn’t enough to stop the story from spreading. On Monday the Times of London ran an article about a young woman, Evelyn Apoko, who it said had been “horribly mutilated while working as a human ‘mule’ for the LRA.”

Limbaugh obviously has a staff of assistants who could have done some research. perhaps it would be expecting too much for the mulch-millionaire pundit who makes a living telling other people what to think and feel because he knows it all, to do some research himself. All Limbaugh knows is that sending military advisers to Africa is president Obama's idea. Anything Obama is for, Limbaugh is against. Limbaugh is not pro good or pro America, he is pro conservatism. If that means being pro evil it doesn't bother Limbaugh or his lunatic followers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Republicans Criticize Obama's Withdrawing From Iraq On The Time-Table Bush and Republicans Agreed To

Republicans Criticize Obama's Withdrawing From Iraq On The Time-Table Bush and Republicans Agreed To

Why it’s safe to ignore Republican criticism of Obama’s policy in Iraq.

This is getting all too predictable. President Obama announced that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, in compliance not only with his election pledge but also with the terms of a U.S.-Iraq treaty. In response, the Republicans moaned and hollered that Obama is playing politics with national security, or that he could have negotiated a better outcome, or that he’s surrendering to Iranian domination.

It’s a safe bet that, had Obama announced he was keeping 10,000 troops in Iraq for the indefinite future, most of the same Republicans would have moaned and hollered that he was breaking a promise to the American people, draining the Treasury, and boosting the chance of a terrorist attack by Muslims angered at our continued occupation.

More than this, their complaints are unfounded, based on either ignorance or deliberate distortion.

First, it is crucial to note that this withdrawal and its timetable were set in a treaty called the Status of Forces Agreement, signed Nov. 17, 2008, not by Obama (who wasn’t president yet) but rather by George W. Bush. SOFAs, as they’re often abbreviated, are treaties—bearing the force of national and international law—that presidents sign with each country that hosts U.S. armed forces. They set the terms and conditions under which those forces can stay.

The SOFA with Iraq states, in Article 24: “All U.S. forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, waters, and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011.” That’s as definitive as these things get.
Article 30 does allow for amendments to the treaty, but only in the event of the “formal written approval of both parties and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in both countries.” For the past few months, U.S. officials (including some former Bush officials called back to join the delegation) have tested the waters to see if Iraqi lawmakers would allow—or, more to the point, wanted—an amendment that would permit some of the current 40,000 American troops to stay on. Their conclusion: The Iraqis had no such desire, and not much need.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and some others have suggested that the sticking point was over a clause giving U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution for alleged crimes. This is a standard feature of such treaties, including of the earlier arrangement with Iraq. It’s true that the Iraqis refused to grant the immunity. But there was no leeway to negotiate an exemption, because the main sticking point was, and is, that the Iraqis simply do not want American troops in their country anymore. One U.S. official in Iraq said in a phone interview, “Even our erstwhile friends [among Iraqi politicians] want us out by the end of the year. None of them lifted a finger to keep us.”

Do Obama’s Republican critics, who have made such a big deal of Iraq’s bourgeoning democracy, really think Obama should (or could) have disregarded the democratically elected parliament of a sovereign nation—a sovereign ally, at that—in order to keep U.S. troops on that nation’s soil, allegedly for its own interest (as defined by us, not by them)? We would then become nothing but an occupying power, sure to trigger an escalation of armed resistance and appear hypocritical in the extreme.

Meanwhile, we have been withdrawing troops steadily for some time. And so far, violence has not been on the rise. In fact, it’s been sharply declining.

The authors also note two other things Republicans cannot seem to get through their partisan addled brains. Iraq has shown no signs of wanting to sign up with any of Iran's agenda. There are about 40,000 troops still in the region on the Kuwait border plus a naval task force in the area should Iraq need protection from invaders. Too bad conservatives seem more obsessed with trying to make Obama look bad than they are with creating jobs. Isn't that what they campaigned on in 2010. How many jobs bills have Republicans passed? Zero. Yet they have opposed Obama's Job Bill because it would make billionaires pay a few more dollars in taxes. How is it again that conservatives are not the self absorbed elitists. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

How OWS Has Exposed the Militarization of US Law Enforcement

How OWS Has Exposed the Militarization of US Law Enforcement

As the number of Occupy Wall Street arrests nears 1,000, instances of police brutality continue to pile up. Felix Rivera-Pitre was punched in the face in New York during a march through the city’s financial district; Ryan Hadar was dragged out of the street by his thumbs at Occupy San Francisco; and at Occupy Boston, members of Veterans for Peace were shoved to the ground and dragged away for chanting and peacefully occupying a local park.

These efforts to intimidate the protesters are symptoms of three decades of policies that have militarized civilian law enforcement. Sgt. Shamar Thomas, a U.S. marine at the Occupy Wall Street protests, was so appalled by the behavior of the NYPD that he loudly confronted a group of 30 officers, shouting at them:

    "This is not a war zone. These are unarmed people. It does not make you tough to hurt these people. If you want to go fight, go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Stop hurting these people, man, why y’all doing this to our people? Why are y’all gearing up like this is war? There are no bullets flying out here."

Police repression in America is hardly new. Low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and political activists have always had to deal with unneccassary shows of force by some police officers. Thanks to a populist uprising threatening a status quo that benefits the top tier of American society to the detriment of the bottom 99 percent, many Americans for the first time are witnessing the U.S. police state in action.

As Occupation Spreads, So Does the Police State

A clear pattern has emerged in the response to occupations throughout the country, from San Francisco to Denver, involving midnight raids by heavily armed paramilitary units of riot police deployed to enforce park curfews.

Protesters at Occupy San Francisco are familiar with the routine. They have endured multiple late-night police raids on their encampment in Justin Herman Plaza, the most brutal of which took place Sunday, Oct. 16. Minutes before midnight and with the approval of Mayor Ed Lee (who is currently running for reelection and claims to be supportive of the movement's overall message), 70 police officers decked out in full riot gear marched into the encampment to enforce a 10pm curfew. They dismantled tents, tarps, the medical station and the kitchen, along with some personal belongings, all of which were loaded onto Department of Public Works trucks.

Some 200 protesters resisted peacefully, locking arms to prevent the police invasion, which was met with a frighteningly violent response. According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, one protester received a lengthy beat-down for duct-taping his body to a pole inside the camp. The police allegedly "ripped him off the pole, threw him to the ground and struck him in the head and ribs. When he left by ambulance a few hours later, he appeared to be convulsing or seizing," reported the Bay Guardian.

Protesters using their bodies to block the DPW trucks from leaving were dragged out of the street, some by their fingers and thumbs. Those who locked arms to form a human chain were pulled apart and thrown onto the sidewalk. 
America's police departments might want to ask themselves - what are you going to do when they come for you. Most police in the US belong to unions. Who is going to defend your rights to organize. Who is going to defend your right to collective bargaining. Who is going to look out for your right to decent health care insurance. The very same people you're treating like garbage. By all means protect life and garb anyone you see do something like throw a brick threw a window, but otherwise ask yourself why you're acting like the goon enforcers of some despotic regime.

B-I-N-G-Oh Hell No: Judge Rules That Alabama Republicans Acted With Racist Intent to Suppress Voter Turnout

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Because The American Middle-class Deserves a Future, We Are All Occupiers Now - The Mainstreaming of OWS

Because The American Middle-class Deserves a Future, We Are All Occupiers Now - The Mainstreaming of OWS

Perhaps the most significant mainstream supporters, though, are the only two most Americans have heard of. “Despite the Times’s finger-wagging that the movement is often muddled and misinformed, none of that is the point. The point is justice,” writes self-help guru Deepak Chopra, who visited Zuccotti Park and led meditations to help protesters turn “anger into awareness.” Suze Orman, who has made millions telling feckless consumers how to pay down debt and live on a budget, sounds like she’s channeling Naomi Klein: “To deride the movement because it has yet to formulate a well-delineated platform says plenty more about the critics than the protestors,” she wrote in the Huffington Post. “Revolutions tend to be messy, especially in the early going. The unholy alliance of much of Congress, K Street and Wall Street that has set the agenda from day one of the financial crisis is simply trying to protect its turf by casting aspersions on the ad hoc nature of the movement to date. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less. After all, there’s no way they could stage a substantive rebuttal based on facts.”
 After the New Deal, essentially starting Reagan America embarked on that great experiment known as trickle down or voodoo economics. That didn't work out so well for a middle-class that had enjoyed annual growth under New Deal policies. Time to correct course, start rewarding work instead of wealth.

Alleged ‘Skills Gap’ Takes Spotlight Off Who’s to Blame for Massive Jobs Shortageby Roger Bybee

Perhaps far too much attention has been devoted to the government role in job creation and retention, when American CEOs need to demand more from their employees and from the U.S. educational system to solve the jobless problem over the long term, this narrative suggests.

But in reality, this whole “Education, Training, and Skills” narrative serves to divert attention from the massive shortage of jobs and Corporate America's misdeeds to “failing” teachers and supposedly under-educated workers. Corporate America has failed to produce virtually any net gain in U.S. jobs since 1999; the period was the only decade when U.S. employment grew by less than 20 percent.

In short, the Education, Training and Skills "frame” on our economic problems plays several useful functions for the CEOs and the rest of the richest 1 percent. It takes the spotlight off CEOs' decisions to wipe out decent-paying job opportunities. As Gordon Lafer writes in The Training Charade,

    Workers are encouraged not to blame corporate profits, the export of jobs aboard, or eroding wage standards—that is, anything that they can fight—but rather to look inward for the source of their misfortune and the seeds of their resurrection.
Everyone, especially conservative loons like Herman Cain, Rick Perry and the conservative bloggers want America to blame anyone except corporate America for unemployment.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shady Right-wing Group is Trying to Paint OWS as anti-Semitic

Shady Right-wing Group is Trying to Paint OWS as anti-Semitic

Right-wing pundits and Republican Party figures are continuing their attempt to smear the Occupy Wall Street movement as anti-Semitic, but we now have more evidence that the charge is profoundly dishonest.

To review: the Emergency Committee for Israel (which, it turns out, is funded by Wall Street) released an ad last week claiming that Occupy Wall Street is shot through with anti-Semitism, and demanding that Democrats condemn the protests. That attack has now been picked up by various pundits and GOP officials. The Republican National Committee started using the line against Democrats Wednesday. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin inevitably piled on. Fox News is all over the story.

Exhibit A in the ad (watch it at link) is a sign-bearing man who yells that “Jews control Wall Street!” Now, as I’ve previously reported, Occupy protesters have taken to surrounding the man, who gave his name to me recently as David Smith, with rebuttal signs, including one that reads, “Asshole —>”. Smith has been hanging around Zuccotti Park nearly every day for a couple of weeks.

But as Josh Nathan-Kazis reports at the Forward, Smith started carrying anti-Semitic signs around the financial district long before Occupy Wall Street existed:

    Occupy Wall Street’s most visible anti-Semite was picketing the Financial District long before Zuccotti Park was occupied. …

    During a trip to Zuccotti Park to observe the early stages of the protest on September 19, two days after activists first set up camp there, the Forward’s Nate Lavey and I watched as Smith entered the plaza with his cardboard sign, was confronted by one vocal passerby, and then was chased out of the occupied plaza by a shouting mob of activists. Police eventually intervened to separate him from the crowd.

    Smith is a familiar face to those of us who work downtown. The Forward office is a few blocks from Wall Street, and I saw him at least once earlier this summer, picketing silently near the New York Stock Exchange.

That account matches the widespread hostility I’ve observed among occupiers against Smith. Given that Occupy Wall Street is based in a public space, occupiers simply don’t have the power to permanently kick Smith out. Of course anti-Semitism needs to be confronted when it crops up. And that’s exactly what the true occupiers have been doing.

Smith, according to a recent interview, is homeless and going blind from glaucoma. He previously told me that he made a sign reading “Google: Zionists Control Wall St.” because God told him to. And yet, as Nathan-Kazis notes, Smith has been endlessly written about, photographed and filmed. He now represents Occupy’s “anti-Semitism problem.”

Another man featured in the Emergency Committee for Israel ad is Danny Cline, who appears to be an aspiring YouTube star with no involvement in Occupy Wall Street beyond showing up at the park to film his own rants.

The reality is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is filled with Jews. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently noted its distinctly “Jewish flavor.” Fifteen hundred people attended a Yom Kippur service outside Liberty Plaza earlier this month, in what participants described as one of the most powerful and moving events of Occupy to date.

Still, the “Occupy Wall Street is anti-Semitic” meme — a classic example of a tactic known as “nutpicking” — spreads. Don’t expect the fact that all this is largely based on two or three trolls to stop the right from continuing the attacks.

OccupyWallStreet: Yom Kippur Celebration in Support of Occupy Wall Street 10/7/11

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anti-American Zealot Rep. Allen West(R) Exploits Martin Luther King Jr to Justify His Elitist Agenda

Anti-American Zealot Rep. Allen West(R) Exploits Martin Luther King Jr to Justify His Elitist Agenda

At the dedication of the national Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial last Sunday, the Rev. Bernice King said her father Dr. King would support the 99 Percent Movement: “I hear my father saying what we are seeing now all across the streets of America and the world is a freedom explosion.” She reminded the nation that civil rights leader worked not just for racial justice, but for economic justice as well. “We should never adjust to the one percent controlling more than 40 percent of the wealth,” she said.

Florida Rep. Allen West (R), however, was “born and raised” in the same town that Dr. King grew up in. Therefore, he asserted as a fact today in a Newsmax interview that “Martin Luther King, Jr. would not back these types of protesters”:

    WEST: I was born and raised in the same town that Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have backed these type of protesters. First of all, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a focus, he had a message. He was divinely inspired. I don’t know what the inspiration is for these individuals.

Unfortunately for West, geographical proximity clearly did not provide West any insight into the man himself. Like the 99 percent movement, King consistently called for economic justice. He critiqued unregulated free marketism as a system that permits “necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.” He envisioned a “Poor People’s Campaign” in which a multiracial coalition would march through the capital to “demand that President Lyndon Johnson and Congress help the poor get jobs, health care, and decent homes.”

King was assassinated just weeks before the march on May 12, 1968. Rev. Ralph Abernathy carried his legacy to DC, stating, “We come with an appeal to open the doors of America to the almost 50 million Americans who have not been given a fair share of American’s wealth and opportunity, and we will stay until we get it.” This, incidentally, is what the 99 Percent Movement is about.

This, however, is also what West sees as “contradictory to the foundational principles and values that we have in the United States.” If West grew up anywhere near Dr. King and his legacy, he has now turned his back on him.

Many Americans may know West as the man who terrorized a bound unarmed man in Iraq. He was kicked out of the military for his cowardly behavior. Unlike what West would have done, the military took pity on him and gave him his tax payer funded military pension. Now West is in Congress ( once again making a living off the government he says he hates) West is doing his best to stop President Obama from creating jobs, while also fighting for even more tax cuts for millionaires. West doesn't seem to have a genuine patriotic bone in his body, no wonder right-wing conservatives love him.

Private Wall Street Companies Caused The Financial Crisis — Not Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Or The Community Reinvestment Act

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Private Wall Street Companies Caused The Financial Crisis — Not Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Or The Community Reinvestment Act

Private Wall Street Companies Caused The Financial Crisis — Not Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Or The Community Reinvestment Act

In the four years since the housing bubble burst, triggering a collapse in global financial markets whose value had been propped up through the repackaging and trading of home loans via complex financial instruments, there's been plenty of blame to go around. The Occupy Wall Street protests have called new attention to the root causes of the crisis, and led Republicans to reiterate their claim that government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the primary villains. The facts about the subprime mortgage market prove that claim false: Private firms dominated the subprime market boom of 2004-06, and were not even subject to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act some Republicans vilify. Thanks to decades of financial deregulation, capped by President Bush's decision to appoint Wall Street regulators who believed their job was to help banks rather than curb banking abuses, financial giants were able to turn the mortgage market into a high-stakes casino. As investigative reporters and Congress' Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have all shown, it was deregulation mixed with irresponsible and potentially illegal practices by private firms on Wall Street that caused both the bubble and the collapse.

...From 2004 To 2006, Fannie And Freddie's Share Of Subprime Market Fell From Almost Half To Just Under One-Quarter. As reported by McClatchy: "But these loans, and those to low- and moderate-income families represent a small portion of overall lending. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, Republicans and their party's standard bearer, President Bush, didn't criticize any sort of lending, frequently boasting that they were presiding over the highest-ever rates of U.S. homeownership. Between 2004 and 2006, when subprime lending was exploding, Fannie and Freddie went from holding a high of 48 percent of the subprime loans that were sold into the secondary market to holding about 24 percent, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance, a specialty publication." [McClatchy, 10/12/08, emphasis added]

    Fannie And Freddie Faced Tougher Regulatory Standards Than The Private Firms. As reported by McClatchy: "One reason is that Fannie and Freddie were subject to tougher standards than many of the unregulated players in the private sector who weakened lending standards, most of whom have gone bankrupt or are now in deep trouble." [McClatchy, 10/12/08]

2006: Private Firms Issued About Six Out Of Every Seven Subprime Mortgages. As reported by McClatchy:

    Federal Reserve Board data show that:

        More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.
        Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.
        Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that's being lambasted by conservative critics. [McClatchy, 10/12/08, emphasis added]

2008: The 15 Largest Subprime Servicers Were All Private Companies, Despite Large Drops In The Volume Of Their Subprime Business Compared To 2007. McClatchy prepared a graphic based on Inside Mortgage Finance data showing the 15 largest subprime service companies in 2008: 

The conservative narrative that blames Fannie, Freddie and working class Americans is all about not admitting that free markets are not perfect. Free markets only work when properly regulated and that regulation enforced. Blaming anyone and any institution that was not pure free market is away to shift blame from the real constituency of the Anti-American conservative movement - the financial elite.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Liberal Media - Most of President Obama's Accomplishments Go Unreported

What Liberal Media - Most of President Obama's Accomplishments Go Unreported

The teeming crowds of supporters who had cheered candidate Barack Obama’s agenda for “change you can believe in” receded quickly. The 2008 presidential election energized Americans who had never participated in politics before, particularly the young and minorities, and it attracted the interest and hopes of many independents, people who are usually less engaged in the political process. Once elected, the young president held to his word and pursued transformations in American social policy — healthcare reform, new tax breaks, and enhanced aid to college students — that vast majorities of Americans had long told pollsters they favored. Despite the usual travails of the legislative process, exacerbated in 2009 and 2010 by greater political polarization in Congress than at any other point in the post–World War II period, within 15 months Obama had already achieved much of what he set out to do on these issues. Yet Americans generally seemed unimpressed and increasingly disillusioned. The problem was that most of what was accomplished could not be seen: It remained invisible to average citizens.

The public had no trouble noticing the jockeying of special interests that sought favored treatment in legislation — that was plain to see — but the majority of Americans remained unaware of the contents of the president’s signature achievements, and they lacked a basic understanding of how they and their families might be affected by them. The first major piece of legislation that Obama had signed into law, the stimulus bill of February 2009, included a vast array of tax cuts: They totaled $288 billion, 37 percent of the cost of the entire bill. Among them, the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, one of his campaign promises, reduced income taxes for 95 percent of all working Americans. Yet one year after the law went into effect, when pollsters queried the public about whether the Obama administration had raised or lowered taxes for most Americans, only 12 percent answered correctly that taxes had decreased; 53 percent mistakenly thought taxes had stayed the same; and 24 percent even believed they had increased!

Healthcare reform represented Obama’s chief policy goal, and he expended a vast amount of political capital in pursuing it over his first 15 months in office. But in April 2010, just weeks after he signed the healthcare bill that extended coverage to the vast majority of working-age Americans and prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to people who are ill, 55 percent of the public reported that they would describe their feelings about it as “confused.”

That same legislative package also contained sweeping changes in student aid policy that aimed to help more people attend college and complete degrees. Yet when Americans were asked how much they had heard about these changes, only 26 percent reported “a lot,” while 40 percent said “a little,” and fully 34 percent said “nothing at all.”

All told, the public seemed largely oblivious to the president’s major policy accomplishments.

While many who had voted for Obama grew complacent, grassroots mobilization emerged from another quarter, the insurgent Tea Party movement. Wielding placards at protests on tax day, town hall meetings and other public events, its supporters decried what they termed “government takeovers” of healthcare and student loans. At a gathering in Simpsonville, S.C., in August 2009, one man told Republican Rep. Robert Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Inglis said later, “I had to politely explain that ‘Actually, sir, your healthcare is being provided by the government,’ but he wasn’t having any of it.”

While as of March 2010 only 13 percent of Americans reported that they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement,” nonetheless the frustration that it embodied resonated with growing numbers of Americans: 28 percent considered themselves supporters.

With the content of Obama’s legislative accomplishments appearing so opaque and incomprehensible even as the calls of opponents resonated loud and clear, most Americans registered reactions that were tepid at best, and many grew increasingly hostile. By the fall of 2010, 61 percent of likely voters told pollsters they favored a repeal of healthcare reform.

It was a sharp contrast to the warm reception given to sweeping social welfare laws achieved by earlier presidents. After Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act of 1935, 68 percent of the public voiced support for its “contributory old age insurance plan … which requires employers and workers to make equal contributions to workers’ pensions” — even though its benefits were not scheduled to begin for six years.

When Congress passed Lyndon Baines Johnson’s plan for Medicare in 1965, strong majorities repeatedly said they approved of it, as high as 82 percent in a December survey that year.

Until Obama’s presidency, perhaps never before had major laws that aimed to improve the lives of vast numbers of ordinary Americans gone so unrecognized and unappreciated by so many.

What explains the public’s reticence, frustration and confusion? Certainly its reactions owe partly to the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, with more than two years of near 10 percent unemployment. Some of the lackluster response was inevitable, furthermore, given the sheer scope and complexity of the policy tasks Obama took on. And a share of the blame belongs to his administration’s own public relations efforts, which many observers considered underwhelming. Yet while each of these commonly cited factors undeniably played a role, they do not, by themselves, explain Americans’ blasé response to major social policy accomplishments that reflected broadly shared values. Historical comparisons make this evident. The public voiced its high approval for the Social Security Act of 1935, for example, when the nation was still mired in the Great Depression and when twice the proportion of Americans, 20 percent, remained jobless. That legislation was also multifaceted and complex, and it was even more novel for the United States than the 2010 healthcare package, marking the first major involvement of the U.S. federal government in social provision for people besides veterans and their relatives.

The main difference confronted by Obama emanated from the types of policies that he sought to reform, ones that generate particularly formidable obstacles. Any leader who seeks to transform “politics as usual” is bound to confront resistance — challenges emanating from the policies, practices and institutions already in place.

But the nature and difficulty of the task vary depending on the particular goals that reformers select and the historical context in which they pursue them. Roosevelt confronted a political landscape that presented its own challenges — not least, a Supreme Court that served as a major roadblock to his policy ambitions. His administration had to attempt to fashion policies that would circumvent the court’s reach and to build as much as possible on what already existed, such as social policies adopted by some states. But Obama’s policy agenda, in the current political context, requires him to engage in a struggle more akin to that undertaken by Progressive Era reformers, who had to destroy or reconstitute deeply entrenched relationships if they were to achieve change.

He could not follow the path of Roosevelt, finding a way around political obstacles or merely building on top of what existed; rather, he had to find ways to work through them, by either obliterating them or restructuring them.

This is because Obama, given his policy agenda, had steered directly into the looming precipice of the submerged state: existing policies that lay beneath the surface of U.S. market institutions and within the federal tax system. Contrary to opponents’ charges that his agenda involved the encroachment of the federal government into private matters, Obama was actually attempting to restructure a dense thicket of long-established public policies, but ones that are largely invisible to most Americans — and that are extremely resistant to change. Efforts to transform these policies, which have become entrenched fixtures of modern governance, generate a deeply conflictual politics that routinely alienates the public, hindering the chances of success or the sustainability of the reforms.

The “submerged state” includes a conglomeration of federal policies that function by providing incentives, subsidies or payments to private organizations or households to encourage or reimburse them for conducting activities deemed to serve a public purpose. Over the past 30 years, American political discourse has been dominated by a conservative public philosophy, one that espouses the virtues of small government. Its values have been pursued in part through efforts to scale back traditional forms of social provision, meaning visible benefits administered fairly directly by government. In the case of some programs geared to the young or to working-age people, the value of average benefits has withered and coverage has grown more restrictive.

Ironically, however, the more dramatic change over this period has been the flourishing of the policies of the submerged state, which operate through indirect means such as tax breaks to households or payments to private actors who provide services. Since 1980 these policies have proliferated in number, and the average size of their benefits has expanded dramatically.

Most of these ascendant policies function in a way that directly contradicts Americans’ expectations of social welfare policies: They shower their largest benefits on the most affluent Americans. Take the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (HMID), for example, which is currently the nation’s most expensive social tax break aside from the tax-free status of employer-provided health coverage. Let us assume that a family buys a median-value home and to finance it borrows $230,000 at an interest rate of 6.25 percent for 30 years. The richer the household, the larger the benefit: In the first year, the average family, with an income between $16,751 and $68,000, would owe around $3,619 less in taxes; those in the next income group, with earnings up to $137,300, would reap an extra $5,146; and so forth, on up to the wealthiest 2 percent of families, with incomes over $373,650, who would enjoy a savings of $6,673. Of course, in reality, these differences are likely to be much greater. Low- to moderate-income Americans usually do not have enough deductions to itemize, so they would forgo this benefit and receive instead only the standard deduction. Meanwhile, the most affluent are likely to purchase far more expensive homes; if a family in the top income category opts for a more upscale home and borrows $500,000 for a mortgage, it will reap a benefit of $14,506 from the HMID; if this family purchases a truly exclusive property and borrows $1 million for a mortgage, it will qualify to keep a whopping $29,012!

This pattern of upward redistribution is repeated in numerous other policies of the submerged state: Federal largesse is allocated disproportionately to the nation’s most well-off households. Such policies consume a sizable portion of revenues and leave scarce resources available for programs that genuinely aid low- and middle-income Americans.

Yet despite their growing size, scope and tendency to channel government benefits toward the wealthy, the policies of the submerged state remain largely invisible to ordinary Americans: Indeed, their hallmark is the way they obscure government’s role from the view of the general public, including those who number among their beneficiaries. Even when people stare directly at these policies, many perceive only a freely functioning market system at work. They understand neither what is at stake in reform efforts nor the significance of their success. As a result, the charge leveled by opponents of reforms — that they amount to “government takeovers” — though blatantly inaccurate, makes many Americans at least uncomfortable with policy changes, if not openly hostile toward them.  ***Rest of the article continues at the link.

What with internet access to many government sites and public policy think tanks if the public, especially right-wing conservatives uses the internet at all it is go to sites whose bias is evident in the serial lies that tell about Obama and Democrats. Some minds are simply closed to the truth and new ideas. The example above of the tea nut who wanted government to keep their hands off his Medicare is a good example - Medicare is a government health insurance program, what conservatives derisively call an entitlement program. It is an entitlement because individuals pay for it through their payroll taxes. It is not a government giveaway. It is not giving anyone a free ride.

The Latest Desperate Smear Of Occupy Wall Street Protests: The Nazis Like Them

The American Nazi Party put out a statement on Thursday that was supportive of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Rocky Suhayda, the party's chairman, said, "My heart is right there with these people."

The right-wing blogosphere saw an opportunity to associate the protests with Nazis, and the pile-on began. The Blaze quoted the statement, as did Fox Nation and Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft.

On the Monday edition of Fox News' flagship "straight news" program Special Report, anchor Bret Baier also treated this endorsement as if it were significant:

Interesting fact about Suhayda: During the 2008 presidential campaign, he declared his preference for Barack Obama over John McCain.

In a June 2008 piece, Esquire magazine interviewed Suhayda along with three other white supremacists -- and three of the four preferred Obama. Esquire also interviewed a black nationalist who chose McCain.

Similarly, an Al Qaeda affiliate expressed its hope that George W. Bush would win re-election in 2004, and an Al Qaeda website offered its support for McCain in 2008.

So, does this mean that Obama is just like the Nazis, or that Bush shares Al Qaeda's goals, or that McCain is a black nationalist?

Of course not. These are all ridiculous associations to make. Fringe groups make provocative comments like this all the time, often in the interest of attracting publicity.

The right-wing media's promotion of Suhayda's statement reveals an agenda that is dead-set on delegitimizing the message of the protests, to the extent that they're willing to employ comically flimsy logic in an attempt to do so.

Reminder: If a Nazi says something nice about you, that doesn't make you a Nazi.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Something Devious Going On - Why Is Darrell Issa (R-CA) Ignoring Bush Era Fast and Furious Type Program

Something Devious Going On - Why Is Darrell Issa (R-CA) Ignoring Bush Era Fast and Furious Type Program

As House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) continues to try to pin the flawed "gun walking" tactic employed in Operation Fast and Furious on the Obama administration, it's becoming increasingly clear that problems with ATF's Phoenix division date back at least into the Bush era.

TPM has obtained the documents relating to another Bush-era ATF operation (on top of Operation Wide Receiver) which deployed the "gun walking" tactic. The development was first reported by Pete Yost of the Associated Press.

In fact, ATF officials wrote in 2007 that the gun walking tactic had "full approval" of the U.S. Attorney's Office being run by an interim Bush appointee and that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico was "fully on-board."

Under DOJ policy, illicit arms shipments are supposed to be intercepted whenever possible. But the emails show that just like in Operation Fast and Furious, official planned to allow guns to "walk" across the border and into Mexico in an attempt to identify traffickers higher up in the operation (rather than low ranking "straw purchasers," who are difficult to prosecute thanks to the lack of an anti-trafficking gun law).

On Sept. 27, 2007 -- when the Justice Department was reeling from the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- ATF agents in Phoenix and Mexico were conducting partial surveillance of suspects who purchased numerous weapons at a federally licensed firearms dealership.

After they watched the group purchase 19 weapons on Sept. 21 and 24 and additional weapons on Sept. 27, they watched as the weapons crossed the border into Mexico.

"Phoenix AZ ATF agents observed this vehicle commit to the border and reach the Mexican side until it could no longer be seen," ATF assistant director Carson Carroll wrote in a Sept. 28, 2007 email. "We, the ATF (Mexico) did not get a response from the Mexican side until 20 minutes later, who then informed us that they did not see the vehicle cross."

A few days later, William Newell -- the ATF official in charge of the Phoenix division -- tried to assure colleagues that everything would be okay.

"I know you have reservations but please rest assured that this will go as planned, as allowed per MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) with Mexico, with full approval of the USAO (confirmed again late this afternoon), and will have big payoffs for us and the Department in addresing (sic) Mexico's concerns that we (US) aren't doing enough to address their concerns," Newell wrote in an Oct. 4, 2007 email. "Trust me, I'm with Gov't."

"Wow, I feel so much better," William Hoover, the ATF Assistant Director for Field Operations wrote in an email the next morning.

Hoover's emails lay out all the questions that congressional and Justice Department investigators are examining about Fast and Furious.

"This is a major investigation with huge political implications and great potential if all goes well. We must be very prepared if it doesn't go well," Hoover wrote in a Oct. 5, 2007 email.

"I would like to discuss the following: Have we discussed the strategy with the US Attorney's Office re letting guns walk? Do we have this approval in writing? Have we discussed and thought thru the consequences of same? Are we tracking south of the border?" Hoover wrote in the email.

Current Attorney General and Obama appointee Eric Holder was investigating the Bush era gun walking program. So a fair minded American has to ask themselves who Issa is making it sound as though all this gun walking is some how Eric Holder's fault. Gosh do you think this is yet another political witch-hunt by right-wing conservatives that has about as much substance as Rush Limbaugh's brain. Maybe, just maybe Issa is also trying to distract attention from his own corruption - American Family Voices asks for investigation of Issa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is Herman Cain an Anti-American Snake-oil Salesman

Is Herman Cain a Delusional Anti-American Nutbag

“9-9-9 will pass, and it is not the price of pizza because, it has been well-studied and well-developed… The problem with that analysis [that it will not raise enough revenue] is that it is incorrect. The reason it's incorrect is because they start with assumptions that we don't make. Remember, 9- 9-9 plan throws out the current tax code. ... Now, what 9-9-9 does, it expands the base. When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate, which is 9-9-9.” — Herman Cain, Washington Post-Bloomberg debate, October 11, 2011

 A family of four making $50,000 a year “are still going to have some money left over.”— Cain, on MSNBC, October 12, 2011

It almost sounds like something out of the movie “Dave,” in which the accidental president enlists his accountant friend, Murray Blum, to help him figure out the federal budget.

 During Tuesday’s Washington Post-Bloomberg debate, Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, named Rich Lowrie of Cleveland as “my lead economist” who helped develop Cain’s signature “9-9-9” plan for overhauling the federal tax system. “He is an economist, and he has worked in the business of wealth creation most of his career,” Cain said.

 Actually, according to Lowrie’s Linked-In profile, he has a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Case Western Reserve University, not economics. Lowrie, in an e-mail, said he did not consider himself an economist, just “senior economic advisor” to the Cain campaign. Donor information maintained by shows he has donated $1,500 to Cain in 2010 and 2011, but also contributed $2,300 to Mitt Romney in his first run for the presidency in 2007.

Okay, so Cain may have exaggerated the qualifications of his economic guru. But he has forcefully defended his ‘9-9-9’ plan, both during Tuesday night’s debate and on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” on Wednesday. Many readers have asked us to examine the plan and explain it, so let’s take it for a test drive.

The Facts

 The “9-9-9” label is actually a bit of misnomer. Cain would toss out much of the current federal tax code and replace it, eventually and only temporarily, with three taxes — a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent business transactions tax and a 9 percent federal sales tax. On paper, the first two look like cuts, because payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare (now nearly 15 percent, including corporate contributions) would be repealed. The sales tax would be new, on top of existing state sales taxes. 

 But note that we said the “9-9-9” would happen eventually — and then only temporarily. That’s because it is only the second step of a planned three-step process. The first step would cut individual and corporate tax rates to a top 25 percent rate (down from a current high of 35 percent). Then the final step would replace all of the taxes — even the 9s — with a national sales tax, known by proponents as a “Fair Tax.”

 (As denizens of Washington, we find this three-step process to be highly dubious. It takes years, even decades, to fundamentally overhaul the tax code. Herman Cain is going to do this three times in his presidency? But we digress.)

 Much attention has focused on whether Cain’s plan, in its 9-9-9 stage, would raise as much revenue as the current tax system. Bloomberg News had calculated it would collect about $2 trillion, thus falling short by about $200 billion a year. But Lowrie sent Bloomberg an analysis on Wednesday that asserted “9-9-9” would actually collect slightly more — $2.3 trillion.

 We think the revenue question is beside the point. Anyone can turn the dials in their computer models to generate the assumptions they want.

Michael Linden of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, for instance, estimates the plan would generate just $1.3 trillion. The biggest difference between the two estimates is that Linden thinks the 9 percent business tax would yield $112 billion a year, and Cain says he would get $862 billion — a gap that simply demonstrates how a few different assumptions can generate extremely different results. (Linden on Thursday updated his analysis, saying he had underestimated how much revenue the business tax would raise.)

 Cain’s proposal is so radical that it makes more sense to examine the potential impact on taxpayers. A key part of Cain’s pitch for the plan during the debate was this: “When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate, which is 9-9-9.”

“Expand the base” really means that more taxpayers will pay taxes under his plan.

Right now, nearly half of taxpayers don’t pay income taxes, but they do pay their share of payroll taxes, which amounts to 7.65 percent of wage income (though much of it is capped at $107,000). Cain would also eliminate the earned-income tax credit, which is intended to lift working Americans out of poverty. Many of these workers currently receive tax refunds.

On top of that, Cain would introduce the new sales tax, which would affect lower and moderate-income people who spend most of their income on purchases, not savings and investments. Depending on how you do the math, people now paying zero or negative taxes might be faced with a 27 percent tax on income.

In other words, while on paper Cain is promising a tax cut, in reality tens of millions of lower-income Americans would face tax increases. People in high tax brackets — 28 percent and higher — would likely see big tax cuts. (As part of his plan, Cain would also eliminate estate taxes and capital gains taxes, which, again, mostly affect higher-income people with stock and real estate investments.)

There have been several interesting analyses done on the “9-9-9” plan. Edward D. Kleinbard of the University of Southern California School of Law identifies several unusual quirks, including a “disguised one-time 9 percent tax on existing wealth — no doubt much to the surprise of Mr. Cain and his followers.” Kleinbard, former chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, says that “contrary to casual impressions, the Plan could be expected to raise substantial amounts of revenue, but does so largely by skewing downwards the distribution of tax burdens when compared to current law.”

Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan administration official who now calls himself an independent, also offered a critical examination this week on the New York Times Economix blog. He (as did Kleinbard) noted that the business tax allows for no deduction for wages, which he said  “is likely to raise the cost of employing workers, even with abolition of the employers’ share of the payroll tax.”

In other words the working poor - generally people making under $9 an hour would have a huge increase in their federal tax rate. People making over $100k a year would get a huge tax break on their investment income - thus yet another tax break for the well off. Though those people would also lose individual deductions which may have ultimately made their federal taxes lower. Cain will not and cannot give many details because he has never had the plan submitted to a team of independent tax experts to see the effects. Almost 51% of Americans would pay more in federal taxes - those living just below the median, while the wealthy would get even wealthier. As we have all seen the past twenty years wealthy people do not take their extra wealth and create jobs they just bank the money or get more free money from their capital gains. Cain is just bamboozling America with a slightly newer version of voodoo trickle down economics. The kind of economics that are partly responsible for our current economic problems. Herman Cain is just another crazy conservative nutbar who likes to hear the sound of his own delusional and arrogation voice. His supporters are just rubes who want to get through life not paying their fair share for the cost of infrastructure that makes a healthy economy possible.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Congressional Republicans Are Running Real Death Panels

America’s real death panels

Remember the good ol’ days when Republicans were running around the country screaming that the Democrats’ proposal to fund voluntary end-of-life counseling would somehow create a government-sanctioned death panel? Oooh boy, the heartland was ablaze back then. Racked by anger at a Democrat occupying the White House, an enraged middle America was genuinely scared about the prospect of a secret group of bureaucrats putting together a “kill list” of citizens deemed to be too much of a nuisance.

For example, at the state level, the death panel commonly called the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles recently opted to execute Troy Davis, despite compelling evidence calling his conviction into question. Similar death panels continue to operate inside the criminal justice bureaucracies of other states, even as more questions emerge about the fairness and accuracy of America’s capital punishment system.

Likewise, at the federal level, Washington, D.C., has become a city of death panels.

For instance, the death panel known as the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Committee(chaired by a Republican), despite having seen the latest news of the listeria outbreak, is right now trying to slash funding for food inspections. That effectively continues to sentence 3,000 Americans a year to death via food-borne illness. Additionally, this very same death panel is also considering cuts to food stamps at a time when Louisiana State University researchers report that between 2,000 and 3,000 elderly Americans are already dying of malnutrition every year. Meanwhile, a separate death panel inside the Obama administration last month opted to block a proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation to reduce smog — a move guaranteeing that the pollutant will continue to annually kill thousands of Americans.

Even the assembled ambassadors at the United Nations often act as a grand death panel in crafting international policy. Last month, in fact, these diplomats were asked to pony up more aid to fight the East African famine, and so far, that aid has not been forthcoming, potentially allowing 750,000 starving Somalis to die.

The point here is that politicians never have to make up stories about death panels that don’t exist when we’re living in the age of government-by-death-panel. We just don’t notice many of them. Why? Because for all the manufactured anti-death-panel hysteria surrounding the Obama healthcare bill, we’ve come to accept that our political leaders are now regularly making blood-soaked decisions that cost people their lives.

Over time, that has made the most coldly calculating death panels all but invisible to us — and regardless of whether that acquiescence is subconscious or not, it undoubtedly represents an ugly form of complicity.

    David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado.

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