Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Call

Matt Osborne has an excellent article on how the corporatists has claimed post-war America and how their latest iteration is the Tea Party.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, America experienced an economic boom that created the largest middle class on Earth. The problem, of course, was this prosperity did not extend to everyone. An immense underclass existed, especially for minority populations; the 1960s became a revolutionary era of expanding economic and political freedom — one with its own excesses and unintended consequences. In its wake, the American investor class exploited the resentment and malaise of whites to pursue its own oligarchic agenda. Today, the fear- and bigotry-based politics of Lee Atwater take full and hideous flower in the form of a tea party.

It had long been realized that the only secure basis for oligarchy was corporatism. Wealth and privilege are most easily-defended when they are possessed jointly. The so-called “deregulation of private industry” which took place in the later years of the 20th century meant, in effect, the concentration of wealth in far fewer hands than before; but with this difference, that the new owners were organized.

In the years following the Reagan Revolution the investor class was able to step into this commanding position almost unopposed, because the whole process was framed as an expansion of freedom. The doctrine of Laffer curves said that if capital were set free of taxation, prosperity would inevitably follow; and unquestionably capital investment was encouraged this way, but not so for prosperity. Factories, mines, oil wells, mortgages, finance — everything has been deregulated, and since these things are no longer responsible to the public it follows that public properties must be privatized, too.

The tea party, which is essentially a new brand-name for the conservative movement and has inherited its phraseology, has in fact carried out the main item in the deconstructionists’ program, with the result, foreseen and intended beforehand, that joblessness and economic inequality made enormous by conservative economic theology threaten to become permanent.

If the previous three paragraphs seem familiar, it is because I have adapted them from George Orwell’s 1984. Big Brother has long been a favorite bludgeon for conservatives, who relate it to “Big Government” very closely in a bid to strike fear into listeners’ hearts. Having read and reread the novel several times, I am convinced most of those who respond to this line have never actually read the book, and so do not recognize that they are responding to the very style of propaganda Orwell deconstructed.

Do read the whole thing. Matt is brilliant, as usual. The last 60 years we have fought for and claimed only the right to be equally miserable. Every step of the way government has been blamed. But in the end, it's the top of the American heap that has raked in the spoils.

We are the most productive country on Earth, in the history of Earth. And yet the benefit has gone only to the top, while we're told a rising tide lift all boats while we drown in the ocean.

And now the job is almost done.

Shutdown Countdown, Part 3

The Very Serious Village Centrists tell me that the Republicans gained control of the House in order to form bipartisan compromise to fix the most important issue:  the economy.  Behold then Rep. Eric Cantor as he demonstrates the idea of "compromise".

In an interview with Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the #2 Republican in the House, threatened to take the nation’s economy hostage if President Obama does not comply with House GOPers’ as yet undefined demands. When asked if he would take a government shutdown on forcing the United States to default on its debt off the table, Cantor responded that it would somehow be President Obama’s fault if House Republicans press this agenda:
QUESTION: Are you willing to say right now we’re not going to let the country go into default, and we won’t allow a government shutdown?
CANTOR:  Chris, look at this now.  The chief executive, the president, is as responsible as any in terms of running this government. The president has a responsibility, as much or more so than Congress, to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want.

"Don't make us shut the government down," Cantor is saying.  "We get what we want or we will rip this economy apart overnight.  It would be a shame if the President forced us to pull the trigger."

Quite an impressive show of compromise extortion there.  Republicans get the social spending cuts they want, or they throw the government and the economy into complete chaos.

Here's the problem with this particular game of chicken:  The people that stand to lose the most here, especially from the threat of a sovereign debt default, are the investor class.  They are the ones who spent billions to get the GOP into power, and the threat of default will annihilate the bond market.  The big players, especially the hedge fund giants, stand to lose hundreds of billions from a treasury meltdown as interest rates on long bonds skyrocket and yields drop like lead elephants on gravity steroids.

They will not allow the Republicans to toss satchel charges into their cathedral of cash.

Obama can win this battle if he holds his ground.  Eric Cantor is bluffing and he knows it.  I figured it would take far longer for the Tea Party to march out onto the rope bridge and begin cutting, but they're talking about doing it within a week of winning the House.

The Republicans will get reined in on this one damn quick. Count on it.  This is not a card Cantor and the Tea Party crazies will ever, ever be allowed to use.  All Obama has to do is ask Wall Street's big boys to remind Cantor who is in charge here, and while it's not Obama, and it sure as hell isn't Eric Cantor either.

As far as the shutdown, well, remember when seniors stopped getting their Social Security and Medicare when the Republicans tried this last time?  This card won't get played either.  Not the same seniors who voted the Republicans into power in the House.  They will revolt.

Cantor has an empty clip and not enough sense to head for cover.  Of course, if Obama and the Dems blink first...

But even they have to see this is a huge bluff, right?

Reality Check, Part 2

NBC's Chuck Todd on tweeted on Friday:
Cannot believe reports about bogus cost of president's trip didn't pass smell test with so many folks. Ridiculous that it got any traction

But Matt Drudge said so, so it must be true. I mean, he'd never lie about a Democratic President, right?

A (Banana) Republic, If You Can Keep It

Nick Kristoff notes that the GOP House will most likely not reverse the wealth imbalance in this country.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

That’s the backdrop for one of the first big postelection fights in Washington — how far to extend the Bush tax cuts to the most affluent 2 percent of Americans. Both parties agree on extending tax cuts on the first $250,000 of incomes, even for billionaires. Republicans would also cut taxes above that.

The richest 0.1 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut of $61,000 from President Obama. They would get $370,000 from Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And that provides only a modest economic stimulus, because the rich are less likely to spend their tax savings.

At a time of 9.6 percent unemployment, wouldn’t it make more sense to finance a jobs program? For example, the money could be used to avoid laying off teachers and undermining American schools.

Likewise, an obvious priority in the worst economic downturn in 70 years should be to extend unemployment insurance benefits, some of which will be curtailed soon unless Congress renews them. Or there’s the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps train and support workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade. It will no longer apply to service workers after Jan. 1, unless Congress intervenes.

So we face a choice. Is our economic priority the jobless, or is it zillionaires? 

Well, since the people controlling our economic priorities in this country are the zillionaires, I'm betting it's the latter.  A $680 billion jobs program or a $680 billion tax cut for the top 2%?

I don't know anybody making $250,000 a year, but I know people who have been out of work for a long time and have families to feed.  And somehow, I see the former helping more than the latter.

Gates At The Barbarians Again, Part 2

Oh, and NOW Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants Congress to repeal DADT in the lame duck session before the GOP can take over.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Congress should act quickly, before new members take their seats, to repeal the military's ban on gays serving openly in the military.
He, however, did not sound optimistic that the current Congress would use a brief postelection session to get rid of the law known as "don't ask, don't tell."
"I would like to see the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are," Gates said Saturday, as he traveled to defense and diplomatic meetings in Australia
Unless the lame-duck Congress acts, the repeal effort is considered dead for now.
The current, Democratic-controlled Congress has not acted to lift the ban, which President Barack Obama promised to eliminate. In his postelection news conference Wednesday, Obama said there would be time to repeal the ban in December or early January, after the military completes a study of the effects of repeal on the front lines and at home.
With Republicans taking control of the House in January, and with larger margins in the Senate, supporters of lifting the ban predict it will be much more difficult.

Difficult?  Try impossible.  But hey, 31% of gay voters chose Republicans this year, and I'm sure they'll get right on expanding gay rights.   Better hope Obama can do something with an executive order, otherwise repealing DADT will never happen.  Because Republicans will not let anything Obama actually wants to sign reach his desk.  That I can guarantee.

Westboro's Epic Fail

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. In impressive numbers, people are starting to come together to make a difference and combat the stupid. Could it be that we've finally had enough?

In Weston, MO people gathered in massive numbers to thwart Westboro Baptist Church, famous for its graveside protests. While free speech is a precious right that should be protected, decency and respect for the grieving and those who served trumps that right only temporarily. Freedom of speech isn't free. Christ taught forgiveness and compassion. These people show themselves for the cowards they are by picking on the dead, and those in too much pain to fight.

For once, let the focus of the story not be on them, but on the people who banded together out of respect for Sgt. First Class C.J. Sadell. Hundreds turned out to guarantee this young man and father of two a respectful burial. He is the true hero and the one who would have been overshadowed by these Bible thumping twits, who left when faced with the crowd.

This is one step of many on the path to the right direction. That's how you take care of bullies. This is how we will redeem ourselves and show our kids by example.

Deep In The Heartless Of Texas, Part 2

Turns out that Social Security isn't the only federal program Texas wants to drop out of.  Seems Medicare and SCHIP is on the block too.

Some Republican lawmakers — still reveling in Tuesday’s statewide election sweep — are proposing an unprecedented solution to the state’s estimated $25 billion budget shortfall: dropping out of the federal Medicaid program.

Far-right conservatives are offering that possibility in impassioned news conferences. Moderate Republicans are studying it behind closed doors. And the party’s advisers on health care policy say it is being discussed more seriously than ever, though they admit it may be as much a huge in-your-face to Washington as anything else.

“With Obamacare mandates coming down, we have a situation where we cannot reduce benefits or change eligibility” to cut costs, said State Representative Warren Chisum, Republican of Pampa, the veteran conservative lawmaker who recently entered the race for speaker of the House. “This system is bankrupting our state,” he said. “We need to get out of it. And with the budget shortfall we’re anticipating, we may have to act this year.”

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, estimates Texas could save $60 billion from 2013 to 2019 by opting out of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, dropping coverage for acute care but continuing to finance long-term care services. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which has 3.6 million children, people with disabilities and impoverished Texans enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, will release its own study on the effect of ending the state’s participation in the federal match program at some point between now and January.

State Representative John M. Zerwas, Republican of Simonton, an anesthesiologist who wrote the bill authorizing the health commission’s Medicaid study, said early indications were that dropping out of the program would have a tremendous financial ripple effect. Mr. Zerwas said that he was not ready to discount the idea, but that he worried about who would carry the burden of care without Medicaid’s “financial mechanism.” 

Well, there's a pretty clear candidate for who will have to cover that burden of care.  They just won't be able to afford it.  Solution:  less medical care.

And does anyone believe that the state can save $60 billion dollars over seven years without affecting quality of care?  Isn't that the main complaint about "Obamacare", that choices about individual health care were going to be made by bureaucrats interested only in cost-savings and not quality of life?  That you would lose coverage and have to pay more out of pocket?  Who do you think is going to make up that $60 billion difference?

So yes, Texas drops Medicaid and SCHIP and substitutes its own, far less comprehensive plan.  If you want fiscal responsibility, somebody's going to have to pay for it, dammit.  Might as well start with kids and indigents who are a net drain on financial resources anyhow and aren't generating taxes.  Guess death panels and benefit cuts are cool, just as long as it doesn't Joe Six-Pack.  Besides, only "they" need Medicaid and SCHIP, right?  Gotta tighten that belt.

Maybe this is a plan to get everyone in Texas who would lose coverage to move to other states, eh?  Then it's not their problem anymore.  Smart to go first.

Unless it's your family being affected.  Look, I know there are plenty of problems with the health care system, my mom was a nurse for nearly thirty years.  Picking up your ball and going home isn't the answer.  People are still going to get sick and need medical care.  Someone's going to have to pay for it, one way or another.

Insert "Texas, it's like a whole other country" joke here.

Fantastic Voyage To Nowhere

So I get up this morning, I'm all happy because I have an extra hour, I can go down to Panera and get some bagels, and I open my browser just to check the world, and Dana Milbank completely ruins my day with his Fantasy Political Football column where he wonders if Hillary would have gotten beat up like Obama did as President last Tuesday.

Would unemployment have been lower under a President Hillary? Would the Democrats have lost fewer seats on Tuesday? It's impossible to know. But what can be said with confidence is that Clinton's toolkit is a better match for the current set of national woes than they were for 2008, when her support for the Iraq war dominated the campaign.

Back then, Clinton's populist appeal to low-income white voters, union members and workers of the Rust Belt was not enough to overcome Obama's energized youth vote. But Clinton's working-class whites were the very ones who switched to the Republicans on Tuesday.

Back in '08, Clinton's scars from HillaryCare were seen as a liability, proof that she was a product of the old ways of Washington. But now that Obama has himself succumbed to the partisanship, his talk of a "growth process" in office makes Clinton's experience in the trenches look like more of an asset.

Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children's coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions. That would have left millions uninsured, but it also would have left Democrats in a stronger political position and given them more strength to focus on job creation and other matters, such as immigration and energy.

The Clinton campaign advisers acknowledge that she probably would have done the auto bailout and other things that got Obama labeled as a socialist. The difference is that she would have coupled that help for big business with more popular benefits for ordinary Americans. 

Just...really, Dana?  Really?

Unless Hillary could have gotten a significantly larger stimulus, the answer is she'd be in the same boat.  The GOP would have blocked her every move, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman would have jerked her around, and instead of birthers we'd have Clinton truthers refighting every stupid thing from 1997.  Instead of pushing Obama's race to separate white working-class men in the Rust Belt from the Democrats, the GOP would have pushed gender fears instead.  Rush wouldn't be making racist jokes, just misogynist ones.

Sarah Palin would still be throwing around her Mama Grizzly scat everywhere, the distractions of Michelle Obama, woman with Big Arms and Food Police, would be replaced with Hey What's First Dude Bill Doin'?  Hillarycare would still be Hillarycare and not have gotten passed at all, we'd still have firebaggers because of that (Hillary wasn't progressive enough arrrrrgh!), energy and immigration still would have gotten blocked and we'd still be in the same damn mess we are right now.

No difference.  Oh and the youth vote still wouldn't have turned out.

And the most important difference is that Milbank would be writing a fantasy column about what would of happened if Obama had been President instead of Hillary.

Off to get bagels.
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