hay rick's Journal
We can signal our dissatisfaction by simply writing in the name of a more progressive Democrat in the primary. Let Obama wonder if the write-ins will turn into more write-ins or non-votes in the general election. If enough people do it he will have to pay attention. Another advantage is that it takes almost no organization- it doesn't require campaigning, funding, encouragement, or even permission from the write-in "candidate."
I'm thinking of voting for Anthony Weiner. Or maybe I'll vote for Paul Wellstone.
I am disappointed on your vote in favor of extending tax cuts for the rich and the payroll tax holiday Trojan horse attack on Social Security.
I actually worked on your behalf in your last election. You are a bitter disappointment. I will vote for your Republican opponent before I vote for you next time. If I'm going to be represented by a Republican I at least want one who is honest enough to admit it.
Oops, I almost forgot. Fuck you, you little turd.
I wrote to my congressman yesterday and to both of my senators today. The e-mail I sent to my senators isn't deathless prose, but I am posting it here because I consider the issue to be of critical importance and I urge others to write to their congressmen and senators ASAP. My letter:
The Obama-McConnell compromise proposal is catastrophically flawed.
The worst element is the payroll "tax holiday" which is obviously intended as an assault on Social Security. A year from now, restoring normal contributions will be attacked as a tax hike. The $120 billion stimulus effect (actually only $60 billion from current levels when you deduct Making Work Pay which it replaces) is simply not worth it. Any "compromise" which includes this element should be opposed on that basis alone.
Obama's response to the "hostage" situation on middle class tax cuts and unemployment benefit extensions is to offer the kidnappers yet another hostage to strengthen their future ransom demands.
Eliminating the payroll tax holiday entirely still leaves a very bad bill which should be opposed. We can not afford to be handing the extremely rich money they don't need and that we can't afford to spend on them. The real class warfare issue here is the increased share of income that the richest 1% have annexed over the last 30 years or so. In 1971, the top 1% received about 8% of all income, and by 2007, that number had increased to 23%. Meanwhile, since 1999, median household income has gone DOWN. Among other reforms, we need a vastly more progressive tax system as the first step in correcting this obscene and poisonous imbalance.
The top estate tax rates need to be increased to prevent the astonishing concentration of ownership of financial assets from turning our country into a hereditary aristocracy. The floor for collecting such taxes is a relatively minor issue as the real money (and potential for abuse) is highly concentrated at the very top.
Finally, the Build America Bonds are needed now more than ever and their inclusion would considerably improve any compromise.
Anyone reading this should feel free to copy it in its entirety or to cut and paste any portion which they like. After posting, I will post the first comment as YOUR LETTER HERE with the hope that other people who have written to their congressmen on this issue will make their letters available for reuse.
Article on Joe's role in the tax "compromise" negotiations here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/us/polit...
The choice is between letting the tax cuts expire and forcing the Republicans to carry out their threats vs. accepting this poisonous deal, which in the long run, will cripple future federal budgets by expanding the deficit and will also pave the way for gutting Social Security by allowing the Republicans and a compliant media to paint the normal employee contributions needed to sustain the program as "tax hikes" only one short year from now.
Obama was conned, either by his inner circle of economic advisers or by his own wishful thinking, into thinking that the original compromise-stimulus plan was big enough to kick start the economy, pull us out of the recession, and sustain a significantly lower unemployment rate. He is now prepared to make the same mistake a second time. The "stimulus" the payroll tax holiday provides may help delay further immediate decline in the economy, but it is not of sufficient magnitude to turn the economy around. The difference between the proposed 2% holiday and the Making Work Pay rebates that it replaces is only on the order of $60 billion. A measure of it's futility is the fact that the Republicans are willing to sign on to it.
Obama will face the same circumstances (a battered economy) in a year when it is time to restore normal funding for OASDI and in 13 months, when it is again time to fund unemployment extensions. One can only imagine what the Republican ransom demands will be in the next go round. They are already eyeing first born children- not Obama's- ours.
Hint: it's already mostly in place.
The plan: make health care so expensive that seniors become their own doctors and "voluntarily" reduce their use of medicine, doctor visits, diagnostic tests, etc. Raise costs some more, rinse and repeat. The predictable result of the continuing cycle of escalating medical costs and a population with declining median real incomes should eventually lead to an actual reduction in life expectancy.
Shorter life spans = reduced beneficiary costs. Problem solved.
Don't thank me for this wonderful idea, thank the Russians who pioneered reduced-life-expectancy budget-balancing in the 1990s when the Soviet Union was collapsing.
From an article by Newark Star Ledger columnist Bob Braun:
Yes, Oprah viewers, although she used the show to slam Newark’s educational record — with the help of Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Cory Booker, and billionaire Californian Mark Zuckerberg — she could have just as easily used it to praise both Canada and this state and its largest city.
This is what the Schott Foundation reported days before Canada — the hero of the anti-public school movie “Waiting for Superman” — had to say about both his efforts and those of our state: “Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone proves that we can create community systems where all students have the supports needed to have a substantive opportunity to learn. New Jersey’s commitment to implement its Abbott plan and ensure equitable resources to all students proves that it can be done at the state level—as New Jersey is the only state with a significant black male population with a greater than 65 percent high school graduation rate.”
The foundation report, entitled “Yes We Can,” then goes on to report that Newark — yes, Newark — had the highest graduation rate for black males of any major city in the country. Far better than that of Washington, D.C., a system headed by Michelle Rhee, whom Winfrey not so subtly suggested should become the next superintendent of Newark’s schools.
While all this Newark and New Jersey bashing went on, Canada remained silent. That was odd, too, considering he wrote the forward to “Yes We Can,” a report that, using federal school data, declared:
“The New Jersey graduation statistics show the progress in closing the achievement gap that can be made if black male students have an equal opportunity to learn. For example, the increased resources from Abbott vs. Burke funding in New Jersey, which became effective in 2003, have allowed the much-maligned Newark school district to nearly close the gap for Black males with national white male graduation rates. Unfortunately, states like New Jersey … are still the exceptions.”
It's a shame to see Oprah allowing her show to host a one-sided forum for public school-bashing before she rides off into the sunset.
Full article here: http://blog.nj.com/njv_bob_braun/2010/09/b...
For those who are not familiar with New Jersey's battles over education funding, Abbott vs. Burke was a 1981 State Supreme Court decision which determined that the state was failing to provide a "thorough and efficient" education, as mandated by the state constitution, in certain poor, mostly urban, districts. This decision led to a series of legislative remedies which greatly increased state aid to 30+ "Abbott" school districts. This funding has been controversial since its inception.
On the same day, the Star Ledger printed an article in the business section that touched on the not unrelated subject of the state's fiscal woes. Link here: http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2010/...
From the article:
Troubled state budgets may be steering the nation into its next financial crisis — and New Jersey is leading the pack, according to a new report by influential financial analyst Meredith Whitney.
Whitney, who famously predicted the credit crisis of 2008 before it hit, released a 600-page report this week evaluating the financial health of the 15 largest states, measured by gross domestic product. The study, entitled the “Tragedy of the Commons,” examined each state’s economy, fiscal health, housing and taxes.
The findings: New Jersey ranked second to last, trailing California, and tying with Illinois and Ohio...
“This state situation reminded me so much of the banks, pre-crisis,” Whitney said Tuesday, during a televised interview with CNBC. “We looked around and there was nothing to tell us about the process of state budgeting, how monies are transferred. We couldn’t find anything that was transparent.”
All told, the states have a $192 billion gap between their spending and tax revenues, which means municipalities may soon start defaulting on their bonds as states withhold money to resolve their own budget woes, she said. It’s a worsening situation that could make local governments the target of the “next near-trillion-dollar bailout,” she said.
The connection between the two stories: states are in deep fiscal trouble and to get out of the mess, one of three things has to happen: 1) the economy has to take off like a rocket ship, supplying the needed revenue without changing tax rates; 2) taxes need to be increased on a population which is currently experiencing declining median incomes; or 3) large cuts need to be made in expenditures. The first is a pipe dream and the second is a political non-starter, which leaves...
Education is the largest item in the state budget and the Abbott spending is the most unpopular part of that budget. Also, the long-term deficit projections for the state are driven in large part by under-funded teacher pensions and health care costs for current and retired teachers. For those with strong stomachs, a link to the obscene story of New Jersey's underfunded pensions: http://money.cnn.com/2009/05/12/news/econo...
Maybe I'm just a cynic, but to me the driving force behind the spectacular recent upsurge in favorable media attention devoted to charter schools and Race to the Top isn't really about providing a better education for the kids so much as it's about paving the way for spending less money on education.
One of the glories of America's recent past was the emergence of a large, prosperous, and politically powerful middle class. That legacy, which we have taken for granted for decades, is clearly now at risk. The middle class is shrinking, becoming less secure and less wealthy, and is losing the ability to shape society in a way that caters to the needs of the majority of the population.
At least three important features of our economy are accelerating this transformation yet are largely ignored or misrepresented by the mainstream media.
1) The massive transfer of wealth from the majority of Americans to the wealthiest Americans.
Between 1981 and 2007, the share of income reported by the top 1% of "earners" metastasized from 8.3% to 22.83%. See Table 5: http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250... . Meanwhile, median household income, adjusted for inflation, has decreased from its high-water mark of $52,587 in 1999 to $50,303 in 2008. See Table A-1, p. 29 here: http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p60-23... .
The media has responded to this story by ignoring it. Worse,the media provides a ready echo chamber for those who would protect this windfall for the uber-rich with calls for across-the-board tax cuts or "no new taxes." The suggestion that taxes on the wealthiest members of our society should actually be increased, by contrast, is scornfully dismissed as "class warfare." The fact that the top marginal income tax rates exceeded 90% during the 1950's and 1960's- an era of expanding prosperity- is conspicuous by its absence from most current discussions of the subject of tax rates.
2) Out-of-control health care costs.
The most important fact about our health care system- the fact that Americans spend twice as much as virtually everybody else for equivalent or inferior health outcomes- has been buried under an avalanche of suggestions that the real dangers to our well-being are posed by change rather than by the status quo. The real nightmare, we are asked to believe, is not the one we are already living through, but the phantasms of "socialized medicine", government bureaucracies, death panels, waiting lists, rationing, and- worst of all- the specter of not being able to keep the extraordinarily expensive health insurance plans that we already have.
While mostly ignored by the media, the latest OECD statistics paint a grim picture of the reality of American health care. In 2007, our health care expenditures came to $7290 per person. At the same time the per capita cost in Canada was $3895; in France, $3601; and in the cost-conscious United Kingdom, $2992. In return for their significantly lower expenditures, the citizens of each of these countries enjoyed longer life expectancies than their American counterparts. The picture doesn't get any prettier when health care costs are compared as a percentage of GDP: Canada spent 10.1% of GDP on health care in 2007; the U. K., 8.4%; France, 11.0%... and the United States, 16.0%. The most recent report from the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) shows that health care spending in the United States ballooned to 17.3% of GDP in 2009.
In light of the astonishing disparity between our health care costs and those of our peers, it was just shocking when the "liberal" Obama administration was content to accept a health care reform plan with the stated goal of merely reducing the rate of medical inflation. Sadly, bad has been followed by worse as the media, presumably at the behest of powerful corporate interests, has enthusiastically stoked the fires of anger, paranoia and ignorance by amplifying the many attacks on the Democratic congress' and administration's already too modest attempt at reform. The premise of the opponents of reform seems to be that we Americans are incapable of offering affordable health care to our citizenry comparable to that made available in every other advanced democratic society.
3) Excessive military spending.
The United States accounts for approximately 4.5% of the world's population, but almost 50% of the world's military spending.
From Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budg... : "The U. S. Department of Defense budget accounted in fiscal year 2010 for about 19% of the United States federal budgeted expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. Including non-DOD expenditures, defense spending was approximately 25-29% of budgeted expenditures and 38-44% of estimated tax revenues. According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending grew 9% annually on average from fiscal year 2000-2009." Note the use of ranges. Defense spending is notoriously difficult to quantify (See Winslow Wheeler on this subject: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?Do... ), but the current trend is clear and unsustainable.
From an article by David Sirota (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/feature/... /): The 2010 Pentagon budget means "every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on (defense) programs and agencies next year," reports the Cato Institute. "By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China's per capita spending is less than $100."
Summarizing the above: since at least 1999, incomes for the majority of Americans have stagnated or declined as the richest 1% of the population has expropriated a massively greater share of the output of the nation's economy. Meanwhile, the decline in median incomes has been aggravated by the simultaneous increase in non-discretionary expenses as most people are forced to spend ever greater portions of their incomes to cover medical expenses and the taxes that support our "defense" budget. The combined effect of these factors is to leave the average worker and the average family with significantly less money left over for all other kinds of spending.
The stagnation of middle-class incomes was masked in the early years of the Bush administration as high levels of consumer spending were maintained through the devices of modest middle-class tax cuts (financed by government borrowing, unfortunately) and immodest increases in personal debt, courtesy of easy credit and the housing bubble. These dodges have finally run their course, however, and we are now left with the ugly prospect of a declining standard of living for a huge swath of the American people.
The reduced resources of the majority of Americans also makes the current level of taxation seem much more onerous even when tax rates remain unchanged. The media reinforces this impression by featuring a seemingly endless parade of ordinary citizens complaining about their tax bills. The preponderance of these stories all but buries the occasional mention of falling wages, burgeoning medical inflation, and exorbitant military expenditures.
If we want to turn these trends around, we need to start tuning out the useless and frequently counterproductive media cacophony. Our contemporary mass media should be recognized for what they are: captives of the rich and powerful. They may serve the public interest or adhere to higher journalistic standards on occasion, but only if and when the needs of their masters have already been met.
If Democrats think that they need to appear "strong on defense" to get elected; that they must promise that "if you are satisfied with your current health insurance you can keep it"; and if they really believe that tax increases for the rich are an inferior alternative to "no new taxes"- then maybe they can get themselves elected, but they will never be able to solve our most pressing problems or govern effectively.
On Sunday, the headline story in our state's "paper of record", the Newark Star-Ledger, raised the specter of a "massive influx" of Haitian refugees. Story here: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/c...
From the article:
"New Jersey is expecting a "surge" of refugees from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, which would create a humanitarian crisis and put new pressure on a state treasury already in peril, according to confidential documents obtained by The Star-Ledger...The report was prepared by members of the Christie administration in advance of a closed-door meeting tomorrow
The documents show the state is concerned that the number of Haitians could exceed the capacity of community groups and require state government to meet their medical, educational, housing and other needs.
By mid-February, the documents say, more commercial flights carrying Haitians holding U.S. visas are expected to arrive in the United States, and many of the refugees will be seeking to join relatives in New Jersey.
The documents gave no specific estimate of how many Haitians would come to New Jersey. But the potential seems clear. The state has the fourth-largest Haitian population in the country, with nearly 57,000 New Jersey residents born in Haiti or of Haitian ancestry. Most of them live in Essex and Union counties..."
Of course, the Christie administration refused to comment on the confidential-but-leaked documents.
I find it very strange- and sad, that this was considered lead-story-worthy by the NSL. It's little more than speculation about a worst-case scenario for a future event which may not even happen. The unquoted, apparently fatherless document, supplied no estimate of the number of refugees expected. My own back-of-the-envelope estimate of Haitians who 1) have relatives in New Jersey, 2) have visas, and 3) are able to obtain tickets on commercial flights out of Haiti is something between 12 and 10,000,000.
Maybe the Star-Ledger thinks they have to throw out some red meat for the anti-immigrant, anti-black crowd which also happens to be a reliable source of support for the new administration.
From the OECD article: "Wealth is distributed much more unequally than income: the top 1% control some 25-33% of total net worth and the top 10% hold 71%. For comparison, the top 10% have 28% of total income."
Sadly, this understates both the inequality of wealth and incomes.
On wealth- from a 2003 interview with Edward Wolf, Professor of Economics at NYU http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/mm2003...
"Things are even more concentrated if you exclude owner-occupied housing. It is nice to own a house and it provides all kinds of benefits, but it is not very liquid. You can’t really dispose of it, because you need some place to live.
The top 1 percent of families hold half of all non-home wealth.
The middle class’s major assets are their home, liquid assets like checking and savings accounts, CDs and money market funds, and pension accounts. For the average family, these assets make up 84 percent of their total wealth.
The richest 10 percent of families own about 85 percent of all outstanding stocks. They own about 85 percent of all financial securities, 90 percent of all business assets. These financial assets and business equity are even more concentrated than total wealth."
The "net worth" comparison dilutes the greater inequality found in the ownership of financial assets. Meanwhile, for many middle class families, "home equity" is little more than a comforting fiction.
The OECD article is unclear on the source of "the top 10% have 28% of total income" statistic, but it looks understated to me. From Wikipedia, citing 2007 data (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_inc... ):
"Over one quarter, 28.5%, of all income was earned by the top 8%, those households earning more than $150,000 a year."
Comparing adjusted gross income from individual income tax returns (2007- see Table 5, http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250... ) shows an even greater disparity with the top 1% receiving 22.06% of all income and the top 10% receiving 47.32%.
You start with what you consider to be a rhetorical question: does nobody receive decent care or is the real problem that many people don't have health insurance? I suggest a much better question: Why is health insurance in this country SO COSTLY that we can not afford to provide coverage for a sixth of our population?
The chart at the bottom of the story makes it obvious that this is a clear statement of the problem:
Health spending as a share of GDP
Health spending per head
Another figure from the article speaks to your musings about the relative virtues of corporate bureaucracies versus government bureaucracies in providing low cost health care:
Public spending on healthcare (% of total spending on healthcare)
Finally, the rest of the chart deals with broad comparisons of the quality of that health care:
Practising physicians (per 1,000 people)
Nurses (per 1,000 people)
Acute care hospital beds (per 1,000 people)
Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births)
Today the media turned off the flames on the Gates affair inferno. I checked CNN, MSN, Fox, Yahoo, the New York Times, and local newspapers. Michael Jackson has returned to his rightful place on page one. The remnants of mainstream media commentary on the Gates incident has moved on to the beer bash and the "I'm with Stupidly" t-shirts.
Today also happens to be the day after a lawyer for Lucia Whalen, the woman who called the police and who also witnessed the arrest, contradicted written statements made by Sergeant Crowley in his police report. The media may love stories featuring impassioned claims of racism and the scorn and strident denials that inevitably greet such claims from the other side, but stories of erroneous and dissembling police reports? Not so much.
From my point of view, the trajectory of the Gates incident coverage was entirely predictable. It was predictable because it was tailored to conform to what might be described as the "Right Wing Bigot Theory of the Universe." My Wikipedia entry on RWBTotU:
"Racial discrimination against blacks is entirely offset by reverse discrimination against whites. Blacks have the same opportunities as whites and whites face the same barriers as blacks. Therefore, claims of racial discrimination by blacks are just irritating attempts to get special treatment. EEO, Affirmative Action, and Welfare are like the trials of Job for white people, who are the real victims here."
The mainstream (my friends call me Liberal) media is committed to propping up this world view and it is reflected in the balance of its reporting on race relations. This orientation explains why a few years back the Duke lacrosse story was all page one and headlines while the Tulia, Texas story was slipped in with the obituaries if it got any mention at all.
It's been interesting seeing Mr. Gates in the spotlight; it's just a shame the facts had to get off message...
Sarah Palin's first speech as the ex-governor of Alaska, to be given at the Reagan Presidential Library, is an invitation-only event for which no press or other media passes are being issued. The event is being hosted by the Simi Valley Republican Women's Club. Article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov05e...
An excerpt from the Club's statement about Palin's upcoming appearance:
Regarding Sarah Palin, "She embodies the values that we hold dear: Faith, Family, Country-first & Service. We are honored to call her our friend and advocate. Palin is noble, and admired by so many of us. She is an amazing human being whose aspirations are simply to bring out the best in people.''
Question: Any idea why she chose your event?
We are celebrating a golden anniversary (our charter)...and it is the 50th anniversary of Alaska's statehood. Sarah Palin loves Alaska and she has a huge following in California. (Her family roots are in southern California.)
Our event is being held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum...most of us view Palin as a "Reaganesque" figure, in her approach to policy.
Lastly, we offer tremendous support for the troops and Palin's mission is that of service. It resonates with all of us.
I can't think of a better way to support the troops than to send them off to distant lands to fight a pointless war in which they can be maimed, traumatized, and killed. And Palin's mission is that of service? She couldn't have said it better herself.
Turns out Ben Stein doesn't quite get the tea party thing: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/business...
"These tea parties strike me as off-base, in some respects, though they evoke a certain principle that rings true, or at least possibly true.
First, I don’t quite get the taxation uproar. As far as I know, no new taxes of any size have been enacted. The only new tax I can spot immediately in front of us is the “cap and trade” levy on carbon emissions, which would be a tax on energy consumers. And even that, based on a questionable idea, doesn’t seem imminent.
When the recession ends, though, we will be facing very large budget deficits, even under the best projections. Unless the Federal Reserve is just going to print money — usually a dangerous road to inflation — how will we pay for government, except through taxes? And who has the money to pay, except the rich? So unless I am missing something, don’t we have to tax the rich, defined in some sensible way?"
Hmmm. Bush tax cuts overboard.
Stein on another subject:
"I’d like to bring up one more little bijou about the economic crisis. I read that Lawrence H. Summers — wonderful guy, fine economist, former Harvard president, high-ranking economic adviser to Mr. Obama — was paid about $5 million last year by a large hedge fund, D. E. Shaw. Some other high-ranking Obama advisers were also fantastically well paid by the finance sector.
Of course, this phenomenon didn’t begin with this administration. The last Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., was the head honcho of Goldman Sachs and was paid hundreds of millions by it. (Yes, that’s one of the banks that we as taxpayers supported with many billions, via the A.I.G. conduit.)
I know people and I know money, at least the basics. If anyone thinks that a man who has had a taste of honey from Wall Street on that scale will ever really crack the whip on Wall Street, he’s dreaming. Wall Street knows how to get its hooks into government. This is how the world works. Money talks."
I disagree with Mr. Stein on numerous issues- oil companies, evolution, and military spending come immediately to mind. But credit where credit is due- he is in touch with the economic realities that we currently face. Sad that the same can't be said for the vast majority of his fellow Republicans.
Greenwald points out that that our incarceration rate is 5 times that of the rest of the world. A little further along he throws out another set of statistics: "African-Americans are about 12% of our population; contrary to a lot of thought and rhetoric, their drug use rate in terms of frequent drug use rate is about the same as all other elements of our society, about 14%. But they end up being 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of those sentenced to prison."
What that means: blacks are 16 times more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges than other members of society.
This is an issue that the media resolutely ignores. They are much, much happier repeating the story of Americans electing a black man as president- as if that was the real measure of our "progress" in defeating racial prejudice and discrimination.
The ten most recent threads posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums.
Fewer people getting married.
By No Elephants
I'm sorry to hear things have been so bad over here, and here's why --
By Leopolds Ghost
Happy Fathers' Day to all the Dads.
By No Elephants
Deleted. Triple post.
By No Elephants
Deleted. Triple post.
By No Elephants
NSA vs Snowden -- Follow the Money
Jeb Bush : 'Immigrants create more businesses than do US citizens' and "are more fertile..."
By Leopolds Ghost
Enthusiast, did you get a pm from me this morning?
By No Elephants
The ten most recommended threads posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums in the last 24 hours.
Use the tools below to keep track of updates to this Journal.