Archive for February, 2011
Deficit hawks often say that a family has to live within its means, and so should the federal government. So let’s imagine a family meeting. Mom, Dad, and Junior are seated at the kitchen table. Dad opens the discussion:
Dad : “Dear, Junior, the fact is… we’re broke. Our spending is a lot greater than our income, and the gap is only getting wider. We’re going to have to take a meat axe to our family budget. Everyone will sacrifice. Is that clear?”
Junior says “Yes, Dad. What will we sacrifice first?”
Dad: “We’re going to start with your soccer. We can’t afford forty dollars to buy you another short-pants uniform. Soccer isn’t a game for American kids anyway.” (Besides, Dad thinks, I never liked that tree-hugging liberal woman who coaches the team. I don’t want Junior hanging around with her.)
Junior: “I like soccer, but… OK. What else?”
Dad: “Your allowance. I don’t like you downloading that crap they call ‘music’ today from the iTunes store. It sounds like jungle drums. I saw that you are spending about five dollars a week there, every week. So no more downloading, and your allowance is cut in half effective immediately. OK?”
Junior: “Uh – OK. Who else is going to be sacrificing, Dad? Not just me, right?”
Dad: “No, not just you. All of us will share the pain. But we have obligations. The credit card interest is killing us, but we can’t default. The mortgage is killing us, but we can’t default. We promised Grandma an income for life, and that promise is sacred. We contribute to a retirement fund for your mother and me also, and that promise is sacred too. But adding to your college fund is going to have to have to wait until we get our deficit under control.”
Mom: “I don’t spend much on myself. What cuts did you have in mind for me?”
Dad: “We’re going to be eating out a lot less from now on. I know that you’re tired when you get home from work, but that shouldn’t keep you from rustling up some grub for us when you get home. My mother always managed to have a hot supper on the table for us when I was a kid.”
Mom: “But your mother didn’t work outside your home. Cooking and cleaning was her full-time job. OK, but…I get home from work after you do. Maybe you could start dinner…”
Dad: “You want to eat MY cooking? I don’t recommend it. I’ll just snack on some beer and peanuts until you have dinner ready. I won’t mind waiting. Junior can get started on his homework before dinner for a change. Oh – and Junior – we’re not buying any more video games either. That’s a waste of time and money. It really pi… makes me mad to see you sitting on your rear playing those stupid games while this family is in such dire financial condition. They didn’t even HAVE video games when I was your age.
Mom: “Honey, remember last month when Ned offered you a part-time job at his business? I’ll bet he would still like you to cover for him on weekends.”
Dad: “Read my lips, Dear. No… New… Employment.” We don’t have an income problem. We have a SPENDING problem.”
Mom: “I know, Honey. But maybe we could cut back on the 24/7 armed guards who surround the house. That’s really expensive.”
Dad: “I won’t hear of it. That’s off the table. As head of this household, my first responsibility is to keep this family safe. I know that we spend as much on our family’s security as the rest of the families in the homeowners’ association combined, but it’s a price we just have to pay if we want the rest of the homeowners to see us as leaders and not followers.”
Mom: “How about cutting back on the security we provide for a lot of the neighbors’ houses?”
Dad: “Don’t be silly. Are we leaders or followers? This family holds an exceptional place in this neighborhood, and it’s our manifest destiny to maintain that exceptionalism. Let’s move on.”
Mom: “OK. But… are you still going to buy that second bass boat? The one you want for backup, just in case soemthing goes wrong with your first one?”
Dad: “I think it’s good for the two bass boats to be in competition. Not to mention that buying it will help my fishing buddies who build boats. They will really appreciate it. Boat builders are having hard times. So I recommend that we buy the boat, but this isn’t about me.
Mom: “How would we pay for the bass boat?”
Dad: “That Chinese guy down at the bank says that it’s no problem to get a new Visa card with enough of a credit limit to pay for the boat and then even buy gas for it. Plus a new rod and reel. But enough chit-chat. All in favor of buying the bass boat, say Aye.”
(The bass boat purchase is defeated by a vote of 2-1.)
Dad: “Well, isn’t that just great! My buddies aren’t going to be happy about this. But I’m all about the democratic process. So be it.”
Junior: “Is our budget balanced now?”
Dad: “Not yet, but we’re off to a great start. These cuts will reduce our deficit by, let’s see… TWO PERCENT! Plus, we’ve gotten rid of some really wasteful spending programs that I never liked in the first place. But we still have lots of hard work to do in getting our finances under control. I’ll call another one of these meetings sometime next month, not sure when yet, and we can work on cutting our spending some more. Meeting adjourned!”
John Boehner has been Speaker of the House for less than two months, but his current mantra is “we’re broke.” Assuming that this is true (it isn’t – more about that below), then drastic action is required. If Boehner and his Republican colleagues were as bright as, say, the bank robber Willie Sutton, they might have chosen to start reducing the deficit “where the money is.” But like “Dad” in our little one-act drama, their first blows against deficit spending have been against the relative nickels and dimes that they have had grudges against for years anyway: Planned Parenthood, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Head Start, Pell Grants, food safety, the WIC nutrition program, the EPA, vocational education, mental health and substance abuse, and low-income housing assistance, to name a few.
But when it comes to entitlement “reform,” clearly Congressional Republicans don’t want a leadership role. While they rant about “entitlements,” they want someone else to propose cutting them – namely the President. Although Sen. Jim DeMint recently told the Federalist Society that “this whole idea that the president is the leader of our country is a mistake.” And he wasn’t just knocking Obama – he was talking about every president.
(Is America “broke”? The bond market doesn’t think so. There is still no shortage of investors, domestic and foreign, willing to lend Uncle Sam money at rates below 1% for the short term, and at rates less than 5% for thirty years. Not even stupid Wall Street bankers would make loans to a “broke” entity at those rates. The global free market is speaking loudly and clearly on just how “broke” America is.)
Meanwhile, there are still Republican calls to make further tax cuts – especially for the wealthy. In particular, they want to repeal permanently the “death” (estate) tax and make the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (expiring after 2012) permanent. So in Republicanworld, more tax cuts make sense. Really they do. Because our deficit is just a “spending problem.” It’s as if “Dad” in our fable had decided he should cut back on his hours at work – because the family has a “spending problem.”
Meanwhile let’s take a look at some of what the Boehner-led House of Representatives has been doing during their first six weeks in power:
The “Protect Life Act”
Affirming “In God We Trust” as the National Motto. (“E Pluribus Unum” was buried way back in 1956.)
But Speaker Boehner – where are the jobs? Where is the legislative initiative to CREATE jobs? Although he used to say that jobs were the #1 Republican priority, now Boehner is saying that if spending cuts cause workers to lose their jobs, then “So be it.” (Actually, per-capita federal employment is lower now than it has been at any time since the 1960’s.)
I think that if the workers in Boehner’s congressional district lose jobs because Boehner’s earmark for $3 billion for a jet engine that the Defense Department doesn’t want was defeated, then so be it. I also think that Mr. Boehner isn’t a bit serious about dealing with the deficit. The Republican cuts so far have been all about ideological and “culture war” issues, with the deficit being nothing but a pretext for taking a meat-axe to programs Republicans hate for ideological reasons. Defense spending? Off the table. Entitlements? They’re afraid to touch that Third Rail.
If it’s true that the Republican gains in the 2010 elections were about Americans wanting something done about budget deficits, then we didn’t get what we voted for. Is there any sign that Republicans are really serious about the deficit they claim to care so much about? That their culture wars don’t come first? Any sign at all?
Will the electorate notice? If they do, what is the remedy for electoral false advertising?
for the world’s despots, his ideas can be fatal.
Few Americans have heard of Mr. Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “ From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.
…and why not the US.
Is Wisconsin Our Egypt? 15,000 Protest Off-the-Wall Right-Wing Governor’s Policies‘I’ve never seen anything like it… there were Steelworkers, Teamsters, Pipefitters, building trades unions and more — unions I’ve never seen at a rally in 10 years.’
‘Anonymous’ Hacker Group Teaches Shady Cyber-Security Companies a Lesson They’ll Never ForgetAn apparent coalition of hackers is hitting targets with surprising speed and accuracy — and it looks like it’s just the beginning.
Shortly after the overreaching CEO of Sacramento’s so-called cybersecurity outfit, HBGary Federal, assembled an online attack plan against pro-Wikileaks supporters like Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald and prematurely bragged about “pwning” the upstart hacker collective Anonymous privately to his employees and publicly to the Financial Times, Anonymous quickly retaliated by raiding his drives, releasing 40,000 HBGary Federal emails, remotely wiping his iPad and engendering a scathing public disconnection from those who have known and employed him. Evidently, if you fuck with the Internet bull, you still get the real-time horns.
Meanwhile the regressive echo chamber is in full throat about those nasty workers demanding that promises of pensions and benefits be kept.
Next targets? The Kochs and all thier companies…
On the one hand the regressives fear losing a despot who has long been the the pocket of the CIA. “He’s OUR Despot”
On the other had they “love democracy” They do????
On the other hand the specter of a AWK Muslim leadership is a great tool for keeping the rabble stirred.
(pls remind me again who that Muslim leader is??? – HINT: – There isn’t one)
The conservative mantra has been: Obama Is Always Wrong. Therefore there must be something wrong with the way he handled Egypt – even if it appears, from what we’ve seen so far, that the result is a historic opening for democracy in the world’s most troubled region.
The other possible explanation for the lukewarm conservative reaction is a lack of faith in our most cherished democratic values – at least where majority-Islam countries are concerned.
I’m not talking about Glenn Beck’s paranoid fantasy of a vast leftist-Islamist conspiracy for world domination; that’s a job for a licensed professional with a prescription pad. I’m talking about people such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who told CPAC that “democracy as we see it” in Egypt would be all right but grumbled that “a democratic election can produce illiberal results.”
In other words, some Egyptians might vote for candidates put forth by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unlikely that the group would win a majority in free and fair elections – or even that a government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, if it came to that, would necessarily be more dangerous or hostile than the Mubarak regime. But Bolton and some others seem to believe that only political parties of which the United States approves should be allowed to participate in Egyptian elections.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, another presidential contender, used his CPAC speech to blast Obama’s handling of Egypt; for weeks, Santorum has been claiming that elections there would lead straight to “sharia law.” Pam Geller, the conservative blogger who led opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque, crashed the CPAC conference and told an interviewer from Mother Jones magazine that Mubarak’s fall was “catastrophic” and would lead to sharia law throughout the Middle East.
These conservatives are arguing that the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be trusted to govern themselves. That’s not what I call loving freedom.
The economic effects of this could be devastating to the human populations within industrialized societies, to say the least.
That’s not just the line from Noam Chomsky, Michael Rupert and Dmitry Orlov: the second largest company in the world, Shell International, a major player in the energy commodities industries, is saying it too.
In a recent “Signals & Signposts” report by Shell, forecasting energy scenarios through 2050, the oil giant predicted a growing volatility in the price of oil and a coming period of “extraordinary opportunity or misery.”
As the demand for oil buts up against actual production and remaining reserves, the climbing price of oil will cause the gross domestic product of all nations to decline, they predict.
In another section, Shell calls these economic effects “Depression 2.0.” Though that scenario is introduced as “unlikely,” the rest of the report does not paint a rosy outlook.
And being forced to the Arctic – or deep in the Gulf – nobody is doing that because there is plenty of oil.
Then what if unrest spreads to Saudi?
“Drill baby drill” is a fools song….and meanwhile the climate cranks keep it up.
The spending plan the House GOP was supposed to roll out on Thursday included a number of cuts meant to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing anything about climate change. But Republicans had to take that plan back to the drawing board Thursday night after tea party members claimed the package of cuts didn’t go deep enough. And if a trio of House members get their way, we won’t ever have to worry about the climate—since we won’t know what’s happening with it, anyway.
This week, Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) called for a budget that would “reprioritize NASA” by axing the funding for climate change research. The original cuts to the budget outlined yesterday would have cut $379 million from NASA’s budget. These members want climate out of NASA’s purview entirely
Bushco tried to do the same kind of things. For example purging EPA baseline environmental databases – so nobody would know if pollution was getting worse.