Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why Freddie Mac Resisted Refis

Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, made it harder for millions of Americans to refinance their high-interest-rate mortgages for fear it would cut into company profits, present and former Freddie Mac officials disclosed in recent interviews.

In closed door meetings, two Republican-leaning board members and at least one executive resisted a mass refi policy for an additional reason, according to the interviews: They regarded it as a backdoor economic stimulus.

Lies of Plutocracy: Exploding Five Myths that Dehumanize the Poor

Friday, 26 October 2012 00:00  
By Jeff Nall, Truthout | News Analysis 

If you believe that poverty is the domain of the comfortably poor, black, unemployed, unmotivated and uneducated among us, you have been sadly misled. Prepare to be astonished by numbers that tell a very different story.

You're in the grocery store checkout aisle. Time to cash out. You pull out your food-stamp EBT card. You're overcome with a sense shame one feels for being broke in a world that measures self-worth according to net-worth.

You hide the card behind your bank debit card - the one that has nearly nothing in it - and try to act natural as you slide it through the machine. "Cash or Food," it asks. You hit food. No one in the aisle with you is the wiser. But the cashier knows. You wonder if he's now scrutinizing your food purchases. If he's so poor how can he afford organic tomatoes? (After all, pesticides only harm the wealthy!) But at least the people behind you aren't in on it.

The Man Who Quit Goldman Sachs and Wrote a Tell-All Book Gets Trashed by Corporate Media

By Yves Smith

October 24, 2012  |  Greg Smith’s book on his time at Goldman has generated a hailstorm of criticism, aptly summed up by Jesse (on Naked Capitalism) [3]:
But the absolute trashing and personal attacks on Greg Smith in the past week that were orchestrated by Goldman and supported, heavily, by the US financial networks got my attention. Generally ad hominem attacks are used by those who consider the facts of the case to be dangerous ground, and wish to do anything that they can to avoid discussing them. So instead they seek to discuss the person bringing them to light…
The rationales in favor of Goldman quickly take on the character of the schoolyard. Everyone does it on Wall Street, and singling out Goldman isn’t fair. And what was Greg Smith expecting? Everyone knows Wall Street is predatory and will do whatever it takes, even abuse their customers and make millions out of it. And if the customers are dumb enough to fall for it, they deserve it. Don’t be a fool like him, be a sophisticate and move along.
What people do not realize is that the fraud cuts so deep and wide that it hard to escape it, even if one has no dealings personally with any of these firms. These Wall Street financiers have their hands in everyone’s pocket through the manipulation of the financial system, the price discovery mechanisms, and the money supply. And if you do not understand this by now, you understand nothing.
Smith’s sin seems to be that he’s an insider from an uber prestigious, connected firm who dared say something bad about his former employer. The “don’t rock the boat” attitude is so deeply ingrained in America that it’s considered reckless to be candid about why you are quitting a job in an exit interview. And it’s not a stretch to call the reaction totalitarian when it’s Wall Street that is on the receiving end of criticism. Look how, despite running again and again to Wall Street’s aid, Obama is an official enemy for a mere “fat cats” remark. Similarly, the industry depicts Elizabeth Warren as a power-mad Commie bank serial killer, when her fault-finding is based on clear eyed analysis of how deceptive and predatory practices hurt consumers.

Tax Policy Center in Spotlight for Its Romney Study


WASHINGTON — A small nonpartisan research center operated by professed “geeks” has found itself at the center of a rancorous $5 trillion debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
No white paper or policy manifesto put out during the presidential campaign has proved more controversial than an August study by the Washington-based Tax Policy Center, a respected nonprofit that issues studiously detailed tax analyses. 

That study found, in short, that Mr. Romney could not keep all of the promises he had made on individual tax reform: including cutting marginal tax rates by 20 percent, keeping protections for investment income, not widening the deficit and not increasing the tax burden on the poor or middle class. It concluded that Mr. Romney’s plan, on its face, would cut taxes for rich families and raise them for everyone else.

“The Revisionaries”: Texas Schoolbook Battle — Crazier Than You Thought!

by Andrew O'Hehir

October 25, 2012  |   Don McLeroy is a dentist in suburban Texas with the geeky, earnest manner of an American guy who has educated himself, however imperfectly, on a wide variety of topics. With his balding pate and high-waisted, pleated slacks, he makes Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” look like Mick Jagger, circa 1969. I found myself utterly unable to resist McLeroy, who is likable and 100 percent sincere. He’d be a great neighbor, in large ways and small; the kind of guy who’d pull over on a busy highway to help a stranded motorist, while everybody else zoomed past. But as we see in the documentary “The Revisionaries,” [3] it’d be a mistake to consider him harmless just because he’s a nice fellow.

As a Tea Party zealot, fundamentalist Christian, young-Earth Creationist and, for a while, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, McLeroy became nationally notorious for his efforts to undermine scientific education and sneak covert religion into textbooks. One of the great things about Scott Thurman’s film — a low-budget but thoroughly watchable documentary, largely funded on Kickstarter – is that it helped me see the world from McLeroy’s point of view, which I might previously have considered impossible. He feels almost painfully oppressed by arrogant experts with fancy university degrees who insist on a difference between scientific evidence and faith-based personal opinion, and he genuinely believes that the half-baked, cherry-picked “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory expose the ideological underpinnings of modern science.

Dean Baker: Why Even President Obama won't champion Social Security

Although millions of middle-class Americans strongly support social security, big bucks campaign donors hate it. That's why,
It is remarkable that social security hasn't been a more prominent issue in the presidential race. After all, Governor Romney has proposed a plan that would imply cuts of more than 40% for middle-class workers just entering the labor force. Since social security is hugely popular across the political spectrum, it would seem that President Obama could gain an enormous advantage by clearly proclaiming his support for the program.

But President Obama has consistently refused to rise to the defense of social security. In fact, in the first debate, he explicitly took the issue off the table, telling the American people that there is not much difference between his position on social security and Romney's.

Bipartisan Trouble Ahead

In Washington today, “bipartisan” is a loaded term. The traditional usage of bipartisan is an agreement across the usual political divide – sometimes a good idea and in many cases the only way to get things done. But a darker meaning applies all too frequently – a group in which the members, irrespective of party affiliation, are very close to special interests and work to advance an agenda that helps a few powerful people while hurting the rest of us.

Financial deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s was pushed by both Democrats and Republicans. It reached its apogee when Alan Greenspan, a Republican, was chairman of the Federal Reserve and Robert Rubin, a Democrat, was Treasury secretary. Bill Clinton was president; Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.

Katha Pollitt: Ladies, Don't Fall for Moderate Mitt!

Dear Undecided Women Voters of America: It’s been fun watching you force the candidates to pay attention to the stuff men really don’t like to think about—equal pay and abortion and “legitimate rape” and all that. I love you, women! as Ann Romney likes to say. But we’re getting down to the wire now, and it’s time for you to make up your minds. Because face it, expecting to figure it out in the voting booth is not very considerate toward all the people who will have been waiting in line for hours to cast their ballot. Fortunately, despite Mitt Romney’s multiple, changing and contradictory statements, there are major differences between him and President Obama on all these issues.

Now, if you believe that the only issue that matters is the economy, and you believe that giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people and firing public sector workers is the way to fix it, you can stop reading right now. Ditto if you think all or almost all abortion should be a crime, Planned Parenthood should get no federal dollars, employers should decide whether employees get health insurance coverage for contraception (or anything else), and women should have a hard time suing for pay discrimination. But actually, if you believe those things, you are probably not all that undecided, are you? Fess up: you’re voting for Romney and just enjoy faking out reporters with your Mona Lisa smile.

We must stop protecting the rich from market forces

The 'American' global economy punishes the poor while giving handouts to failing banks. It's time for some balance

The Guardian,

Gore Vidal, the recently demised American writer, once famously quipped that the US economic system is "free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich".

Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, not only has the US lived up to Vidal's caricature but the whole of the rich capitalist world has become more "American". The poor are increasingly exposed to market forces, with tougher conditions on the diminishing state protection they get, while the rich have unprecedented levels of protection from the state, with virtually no strings attached.

The poor are told that their states are bankrupt because their previous governments splashed out on welfare payments for them.

Paul Krugman: Pointing Toward Prosperity?

Mitt Romney has been barnstorming the country, telling voters that he has a five-point plan to restore prosperity. And some voters, alas, seem to believe what he’s saying. So President Obama has now responded with his own plan, a little blue booklet containing 27 policy proposals. How do these two plans stack up?

Well, as I’ve said before, Mr. Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts. 


Krugman and Stiglitz: Crazy Austerity Policies Inflict Untold Damage on Economy

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

October 24, 2012  |  Though there wasn't too much talk of specific politicians last night, the election certainly hung in air as the two most cited economists in the world met on stage in New York City to discuss where the economy is headed.

The event was hosted by the Institute for New Economic Thinking [3] (INET), Shakespeare & Company Booksellers, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, which, as president Joyce F. Brown reminded the audience, is a premier public institution that has suffered from budget cuts in a shaky economy. She stressed that she worries each day about the economic conditions students will face when they graduate.

Robert Johnson, Executive Director of INET, served as moderator, and kicked off the evening praising Krguman and Stiglitz as his nominees should the prize of Most Courageous Economist ever be offerred. Johnson himself is an economist who has not shied away from tough criticism of the field and policies that hurt the 99 percent. (Stiglitz and Johnson were both contributers to the AlterNet book I co-edited, The 99%: How the Occupy Movement is Changing America [4]).

How Companies Have Assembled Political Profiles for Millions of Internet Users

by Lois Beckett
ProPublica, Oct. 22, 2012, 2:07 p.m.

If you're a registered voter and surf the web, one of the sites you visit has almost certainly placed a tiny piece of data on your computer flagging your political preferences. That piece of data, called a cookie, marks you as a Democrat or Republican, when you last voted, and what contributions you've made. It also can include factors like your estimated income, what you do for a living, and what you've bought at the local mall.

Across the country, companies are using cookies to tailor the political ads you see online. One of the firms is CampaignGrid, which boasted in a recent slideshow, "Internet Users are No Longer Anonymous." The slideshow includes an image of the famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Next to it, CampaignGrid lists what it can now know about an Internet user: "Lives in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, 19002 zip code, Registered primary voting Republican, High net worth household, Age 50-54, Teenagers in the home, Technology professional, Interested in politics, Shopping for a car, Planning a vacation in Puerto Rico."

The Entitlement Crisis That Isn’t

Posted on Oct 23, 2012

An article by author and economist Jeff Madrick in the November 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine offers an antidote to the view that social spending—not anemic tax revenues—is the cause of America’s deficit problem.

“Contrary to warnings by politicians of both parties and by almost all of the mainstream press,” Madrick writes, “America’s biggest fiscal problem is not spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; it is our almost complete unwillingness to tax ourselves sufficiently to maintain a modern state.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Opiate of Exceptionalism

Published: October 19, 2012


IMAGINE a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers. 

What might this mythical candidate talk about on the stump? He might vow to turn around the dismal statistics on child poverty, declaring it an outrage that of the 35 most economically advanced countries, the United States ranks 34th, edging out only Romania. He might take on educational achievement, noting that this country comes in only 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and at the other end of the scale, 14th in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a higher education. He might hammer on infant mortality, where the United States ranks worse than 48 other countries and territories, or point out that, contrary to fervent popular belief, the United States trails most of Europe, Australia and Canada in social mobility.

Solutions Worth Debating

by Ralph Nader
America has some big problems and it needs equally big solutions. In this current media-frenzied presidential race, the American people are looking to the two major party candidates -- Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama -- for solutions. However, they are coming back empty-handed as the candidates continue to push their party agendas, speaking in talking points rather than addressing real problems.

Should the candidates care to consider and debate real solutions, they need not work too hard. The country is full of them -- applied here and there or ready on the shelf. I propose many in my new book, The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Either candidate is welcome to adopt any of these ideas for ways to improve the lives of all Americans. It is ironic that with the billions of dollars in campaign funds raised in this election, neither party has been willing to put forward solutions to the problems that plague us so.

Meet the Man Monsanto and Friends Hired to Lie to You About Your Food

By John Robbins

You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country. And he has enormous financial backing.

October 23, 2012  | You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country.  And he has enormous financial backing.

Mr. Miller is the primary face and voice of the “No on Prop 37” campaign in California.  At this very moment, Monsanto and other pesticide companies are spending more than $1 million a day to convince California voters that it’s not in their best interest to know whether the food they eat is genetically engineered.  And Henry I. Miller is their guy.

The Voter-Fraud Myth

The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls.

by Jane Mayer October 29, 2012

Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house. 

The letter, which cited arcane legal statutes and was printed on government letterhead, was dated September 4th. “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector,” it said. “The Hamilton County Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing regarding your right to vote on Monday, September 10th, 2012, at 8:30 A.M. . . . You have the right to appear and testify, call witnesses and be represented by counsel.”

Let’s Jump off the Fiscal Cliff!

Bank CEOs want you to think reducing the deficit requires avoiding the fiscal cliff. Don’t believe them.

By Matthew Yglesias  |   Posted Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, at 4:48 PM ET

The phrase “fiscal cliff” is on everyone’s lips in Washington these days. Voters have heard so many deficit scare stories over the years that it’s easy to assume that this cliff everyone’s talking about involves the deficit getting scarily big. But it doesn’t.

In fact, the “fiscal cliff” is the exact opposite of that. The cliff is a potential set of macroeconomic problems caused by the budget deficit becoming too small. If you’re confused, that’s no accident. Powerful actors, including the executives of America’s largest banks, are deliberately trying to befuddle Americans about this issue. Their aim isn’t to advance the cause of fiscal responsibility: It’s to lower their own taxes and perhaps obtain substantial cuts in Social Security and Medicare and to try to do it by stealth during the lame duck session of Congress.

Paul Krugman: The Secret of Our Non-Success

The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great — it will still take years to restore full employment — and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?

The answer — backed by overwhelming evidence — is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Frank Rich: The Tea Party Will Win in the End

The American right isn’t burdened by such Hamlet-like indecision about its own ideological rationale. It does, however, have plenty of its own problems—like the female, black, and Hispanic voters it has alienated and without whom the GOP cannot win national elections. But one shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the conservative movement to adapt to new marketplace circumstances even as it holds to its bedrock beliefs. That’s one reason why the right has survived past allegiances with the Ku Klux Klan, the McCarthy witch hunts, the John Birch Society, and all the rest. As ­McGirr suggests in Suburban Warriors, this adaptability has included such strategies as “abandoning older essentialist racial ideas (as well as anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism)” after World War II and even repackaging old-time religion in user-friendly megachurch trappings consistent with the therapeutic ethos and consumer culture of mainstream daytime television.

Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control

By Bill Moyers, Matt Taibbi, Chrystia Freeland

October 19, 2012  |   The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they’re using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why?

Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform. To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else [6].

6 Things We Need To Do To Repair America's Crumbling Democracy

By Steven Rosenfeld 

October 21, 2012  |   As the 2012 election crests with all its chaos—billionaire-driven [3] TV ad wars, legal fights over voter suppression [4] tactics, endless fundraising e-mails and worries about stealing the vote [5]—progressives need to remember what’s been destroying our democracy and what solutions are needed to restore the balance of power in America.

Now is the time to note precisely what’s wrong, what’s gotten worse and what’s completely broken in key corners of the electoral process. That’s because once the dust settles after Election Day, the impetus to fix things will wane among the political victors, media and much of the public—as it does after every big election. The winners will say there is not a problem because they won. The press will start covering the new administration. And weary voters will want to look ahead to solutions, not back to old problems.

That’s how our dysfunctional democracy may limp along until the next major election—2016’s midterms—or a national crisis. But the first year of a presidential term is the most likely time that Congress might do anything on a big enough scale to touch the underlying problems because it’s the ebb tide in the electoral cycle.

Public Briefing: Erskine Bowles Determined to Reduce Private Sector Income, Stifle US Economy

Yves here. This is the second and final post in a series by Michael Hoexter; you can find Part 1 here. I though this one works well as a stand-alone piece and also is accessible to generalist audiences (as in NC readers might find it useful to send it on in part or in whole to colleagues).

Michael Hoexter is a policy analyst and marketing consultant on green issues, climate change, clean and renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives.

Bowles Would Have Us Repeat the Errors of the Euro-Zone

That Bowles is currently lionized in Washington policy circles is particularly striking given the slow-motion economic catastrophe occurring within the Euro-Zone. Bowles’s ignorance or willful disregard of macroeconomic accounting processes and insistence that the US government institute laws that reflect that ignorance, repeats the errors made by the Euro-Zone countries when they signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. With a more than adequate understanding of macroeconomic accounting, Wynne Godley predicted in 1992 that the Euro Zone would not withstand a substantial financial crisis because of the budgetary restrictions required by the Treaty. The 3% limits in budget deficits to GDP mandated by the treaty indicated to Godley already at the formation of the Euro-Zone that its founders were woefully ignorant of the stabilizing, supporting and leadership role of government in the economy, especially during times of crisis.

Brits develop synthetic fuel that scrubs carbon from the atmosphere

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, October 19, 2012 12:02 EDT

Engineers in London said this week that they’ve developed a new type of synthetic vehicle fuel that’s created out of water and thin air, literally by pulling carbon molecules out of the atmosphere and recycling them.

Speaking to a conference this week put on by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers, researchers with Air Fuel Synthesis, Ltd. said they’ve successfully married a synthetic fuel production technique that dates back to World War II with modern atmospheric carbon capture and sequestration methods.

How Botched Derivatives Risk Taming Regulations are Again Going to Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bag

An important piece in the Financial Times by Manmohan Singh, a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund, describes persuasively how one of the central vehicles for reducing derivatives risk, that of having a central counterparty (CCP) and requiring dealers to trade with it rather than have a web of bi-lateral exposures, or rely on banks to act as clearers (making them too big to fail) has gone pear shaped. While the immediate reason for this outcome is the unwillingness of national banking regulators to cede powers to an international clearinghouse, Singh fingers an equally important cause: the reluctance to recognize that the underlying problem was and remains undercollateralized derivatives positions.

Paul Krugman: Snow Job on Jobs

Mitt Romney talks a lot about jobs. But does he have a plan to create any?

You can defend President Obama’s jobs record — recovery from a severe financial crisis is always difficult, and especially so when the opposition party does its best to block every policy initiative you propose. And things have definitely improved over the past year. Still, unemployment remains high after all these years, and a candidate with a real plan to make things better could make a strong case for his election.

Privatization Pushback: Civil Society Slams Water Privatization Conditions for EU Bailouts

Letter from groups to EU Commission says plan is "economically, socially and democratically flawed"

- Common Dreams staff

Civil society groups Wednesday are slamming the European Commission's continued insistence that privatization of municipal water systems be a condition for receiving rescue funds, a plan the groups describe as "economically, socially and democratically flawed."

In a letter addressed to Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, 24 groups, including Food & Water Europe, Save Greek Water, Italian Forum of Water Movements and Blue Planet Project, write that the privatization plans are based on supposed virtues of water privatization without any factual substantiation. Because of lack of success of privatizing municipal water, European communities who had privatized their water systems have re-municipalized them, the groups write. Their letter sent today is in response to a letter they received September 26 from Rehn acknowledging the privatization conditions.

How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class

By Michael Meurer

October 17, 2012  |   In the endless swirl of headlines about the current global financial crisis, the dominant narrative, which is also driving the 2012 US presidential election, is that crippling amounts of public debt run up by profligate government spending have brought us to the brink of financial ruin and must be offset by deep cuts in social services and "entitlements."

It is a false narrative that masks the largest ongoing financial swindle in human history, a swindle being carried out at public expense by a small class of elite financial speculators. This speculative class has been unleashed over the past three decades by a Utopian neoliberal political project now embodied in its most virulent form in the Republican presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Let's start with the depth and size of the underlying financial crisis, which is almost in the realm of hyper-reality. In 1997, for example, the total value of annual financial transactions worldwide was an already-staggering 15 times greater than global GDP. Today, it is 70 times greater [2]. (1) [3] In 1995, the six largest US banks controlled assets worth 17 percent of annual GDP. Today, the figure is 64 percent [4]. (2) [5] Again in 1995, the global total of outstanding derivative debt obligations was $17.7 trillion. By 2010 [6], at nearly $470 trillion [7], outstanding derivatives were 741 percent of global GDP [8]. (3) [9]

Too late to stop global warming by cutting emissions

Scientists argue for adaption policies

Governments and institutions should focus on developing adaption policies to address and mitigate against the negative impact of global warming, rather than putting the emphasis on carbon trading and capping greenhouse-gas emissions, argue Johannesburg-based Wits University geoscientist Dr Jasper Knight and Dr Stephan Harrison from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

"At present, governments' attempts to limit greenhouse-gas emissions through carbon cap-and-trade schemes and to promote renewable and sustainable energy sources are prob¬ably too late to arrest the inevitable trend of global warming," the scientists write in a paper published online in the scientific journal, Nature Climate Change, on Monday, 14 October 2012.

Transparency Outsourced as U.S. Hires Vendors for Disclosure Aid

By Danielle Ivory - 2012-10-09T00:00:00Z

The next time you submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. government, it may end up in the hands of a company you’ve never heard of.

At least 25 federal agencies are outsourcing parts of the FOIA process. The contractors, sometimes using workers with security clearances, are building FOIA software, corresponding with requesters, redacting documents and recommending what information should be withheld.

How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Step

By Debra Leigh Scott

October 16, 2012  |  A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report [3] on the defunding of public education by saying,
“In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”

In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.

"Town Hall" Debate: Will Voters Ask the Medicare and Social Security Questions Reporters Haven't?

Paul Krugman: The Problem Is Not Romney - It's the Republican Party

Mitt Romney is catching a lot of flak from his own side lately, which seems premature; this is by no means over. But let me say that even if he does spend election night weeping in his car elevator, his critics from the right are being unfair.

Yes, he's a pretty bad candidate — but the core problem is with his party, not with him.

Dean Baker: The National Debt and Our Children: How Dumb Does Washington Think We Are?

Monday, 15 October 2012 09:52 

While much of the country is focused on the presidential race, the Wall Street gang is waging a different battle: they are preparing an assault on Social Security and Medicare. This attack is not exactly secret. There have been a number of pieces on this corporate-backed campaign in the media over the last few months, but the drive is nonetheless taking place behind closed doors.

The corporate honchos are not expecting to convince the public that we should support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know this is a hopeless task. Huge majorities of people across the political spectrum strongly support these programs.

University of Tennessee collaborates in study: Dire drought ahead, may lead to massive tree death

Evidence uncovered by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, geography professor suggests recent droughts could be the new normal -- this is especially bad news for our nation's forests 

Evidence uncovered by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, geography professor suggests recent droughts could be the new normal. This is especially bad news for our nation's forests.

For most, to find evidence that recent years' droughts have been record-breaking, they need not look past the withering garden or lawn. For Henri Grissino-Mayer he looks at the rings of trees over the past one thousand years. He can tell you that this drought is one of the worst in the last 600 years in America's Southwest and predicts worst are still to come.

Mitt Romeny's Tax Dodge

A guide to how the multimillionaire twists the law to hide his massive fortune - and avoid paying his fair share in taxes
by: Tim Dickinson

How does a private-equity kingpin worth at least $250 million pay a lower tax rate Рjust 14 percent Рthan many teachers and firemen? By exploiting tax loopholes that favor the rich and hiding his money in the world's most notorious havens for tax cheats. That's what Mitt Romney has done, according to his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, a trove of secret Bain Capital documents unearthed by Gawker, and expos̩s by Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. "The bottom line," says Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice, "is that these are ways to reduce your taxes that are only available to rich people."

Are Romney's tax dodges legal? It's impossible to say for sure, given how little he has disclosed. But tax experts note that there are plenty of red flags, including an investigation by New York prosecutors into tax abuses at Bain Capital that began on Romney's watch. "He aggressively exploits every loophole he can find," says Victor Fleischer, a professor of tax law at the University of Colorado. "He's pushing the limits of tax law beyond what many think is reasonable." Indeed, a look at Romney's finances reveals just how skilled he is at hiding his wealth – and paying a fraction of his fair share in taxes.

Gagging on an Ad Blitz of Empty Anti-Wall Street Rhetoric

Paul Krugman: Death by Ideology

Mitt Romney doesn’t see dead people. But that’s only because he doesn’t want to see them; if he did, he’d have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.

Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney — echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush — in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.

'America the Possible': How We Can Reclaim the American Dream and a Just Society

By James Gustave Speth

October 15, 2012  |  This book began by examining the intolerable levels of social decline now afflicting America. Poverty, financial insecurity, and economic inequality have all reclaimed highs not seen for many decades, plunging America to the bottom among our peer countries and spawning a host of pathological social consequences. Central to building a new political economy is the transformation of American society from this sad state to one that is truly fair and equitable, where all people have the opportunity and the means to realize their potential, where substantial equality is prized and sought with affirmative action, and where caring for one another with compassion and generosity are hallmarks.

When James Truslow Adams coined the phrase “the American dream” in his 1933 book The Epic of America, he used it to refer not to getting rich or even especially to a secure, middle-class lifestyle, though that was part of it, but primarily to something finer: “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” That American Dream is well worth carrying with us into the future.

Neoclassical economists are fuelling neo-Nazism

by Steve Keen
Published 7:16 AM, 15 Oct 2012

Whenever I fear that my well of inspiration for this blog might run dry, my neoclassical mates rush to the rescue with some priceless pearl of wisdom that simply demands a rejoinder. They are the Abbotts to my Costello (and I’m not talking Australian politics here – though the Tony and Julia show reached truly great heights with Gillard’s recent brilliant oratory on misogyny).

Today’s helping hand was a comment from French economist Olivier Blanchard. He qualifies as a serial offender on the comic statements front, since when wearing the hat of founding editor of the American Economic Review: Macroeconomics, he uttered the now immortal line that “the state of macro [economic theory] is good” – one year and six days after the financial crisis began.

Attention All Journalists: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Reporting on the Social Security COLA

Co-authored by Nancy Altman and Eric KingsonPosted: 10/15/2012 9:35 am

On October 16, at 8:30 a.m., the Social Security Administration will post on its website the size of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2013. Experts estimate that the 2013 COLA will increase Social Security benefits in nominal dollars by between 1.5 and 1.7 percent. The adjustment applies to the monthly payments received by the more than 56 million seniors, people with disabilities, spouses, divorced spouses, surviving spouses, children, and others. Because many politicians are proposing cutting the annual COLAs as part of a deficit reduction plan, the announcement has even more importance than ever.

Medicare Premiums Would Rise for 59% With Ryan Plan

Elderly people in Florida would have paid more than $200 extra for traditional Medicare if a system similar to Paul Ryan’s proposed overhaul of the program was in place in 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, wants to transform Medicare into a “premium support” system in which beneficiaries get a fixed payment from the government for their insurance, rather than guaranteed benefits. Such a plan would lead to wide variations in Medicare costs across the country, according to the study today by the nonprofit Kaiser group.

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent

Published: October 13, 2012

IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages. 

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy. 


Diamond Jamie: Latest News On the JPMorgan Chase Crime Watch

A Plot Against the Suburbs? Dismantling the Right's New Conspiracy Theory

By Angie Schmitt 

October 12, 2012  |   It’s presidential election time in Ohio, and boy does Stanley Kurtz at the National Review have a scoop for the good, unsuspecting citizens of the Buckeye State. Northeast Ohio political leaders and President Obama are working on a sinister plot to redistribute wealth from suburbs and give it to cities!! (Socialism!)
Kurtz has found a bogeyman in the concept of “regionalism,” which has for decades been promoted (and by that I mean talked about more than acted upon) by suburban and urban leaders alike in Northeast Ohio — the most populous region in the state — as a way to improve the region’s economy by reducing government waste. Sounds pretty sinister, right? Well, Kurtz is sounding the alarm for Ohio suburbanites (coincidentally, the mightiest base of political power in the all-important swing state).
“The president and his fellow Democrats are coming for your tax money,” writes Kurtz, a “fellow” with the Koch brothers-backed [3] “think tank” the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Redistribution is the goal, and suburban Ohio is target No. 1.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ever Wonder Where the Extreme Right's Conspiracy Theories and Paranoid Rumors Get Started? Meet WorldNetDaily

By Leah Nelson 

October 10, 2012  |  WorldNetDaily (WND) describes itself as “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism, seeking truth and justice and revitalizing the role of the free press as a guardian of liberty.” The online newspaper, which this year celebrated its 15th year in operation, is one of the “very few sources” martial artist and action film hero Chuck Norris (who happens to be a columnist) trusts for news and an operation that megachurch pastor Greg Laurie (also a columnist) says does “a service to God and Country.”

WND is the brainchild of Joseph Farah, a self-described “radical” and longtime antigovernment propagandist and apologist for the Confederacy who believes “cultural Marxists” are plotting “to transform our political system, to change the way we think, to attack our values, to demean our faith in God, to reduce that shining city on the hill to the status of a drab public-housing project.”

Together with a coterie of antigovernment “Patriots,” anti-gay activists, white nationalists, Muslim-bashers, conspiracy theorists, end-times prophets and ultraconservative hardliners, Farah — who did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article — has built WND into a modest media empire including a book imprint, an online subscription-only “intelligence resource,” and a glossy, full-color monthly magazine. At press time, Alexa, which ranks websites, said WND was the 1,832nd most popular website in the world and the 423rd in the U.S. — just above the site for Nickelodeon and a few notches below Victoria’s Secret.

It’s Up to All of Us to Protect Social Security

by Rose Ann DeMoro
“One thing I know. Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.” —Frances Perkins, on the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Social Security Act (from the book, The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience)
Good thing Frances Perkins is not hearing the disinformation from Washington and many in the media today claiming Social Security is going broke and that there is a “consensus” that cuts are needed in Social Security to reduce the federal deficit.

Or the disgraceful assertion that people who receive Social Security, or other public assistance, are “takers” who, as Mitt Romney said in the now infamous tape of a private meeting with donors last May, do not “take personal responsibility or care for their lives.”

Social Security may be the most enduring, successful, and popular reform in U.S. history. But, in the 77 years since its inception, it has never faced as grave a threat as it does today.

A real class war may be on its way.

By Harold Meyerson
Suppose the growth of the U.S. economy slows to a trickle. I don’t mean in the next quarter or next year or even over the next decade. I mean from this time forth.

That’s the prediction of Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon in a new paper that’s become the subject of widespread commentary.

Gordon writes that three industrial revolutions have taken place over the past 250 years: the first centered on the steam engine and railroads; the second based on electric power, the internal combustion engine and indoor plumbing; and the third rooted in computers and the Internet. By substituting mechanical power for human power in the production process and by greatly speeding up transportation and communication, Gordon asserts, the second revolution raised productivity and wealth far more than did the other two.

Fisheries benefit from 400-year-old tradition

NEW YORK (October 11, 2012)— A new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and James Cook University says that coral reefs in Aceh, Indonesia are benefiting from a decidedly low-tech, traditional management system that dates back to the 17th century.

Known as "Panglima Laot" – the customary system focuses on social harmony and reducing conflict among communities over marine resources. According to the study, reefs benefitting from Panglima Laot contain as much eight time more fish and hard-coral cover due to mutually agreed upon gear restrictions especially prohibiting the use of nets.

The study, which appears in the October issue of the journal Oryx, is by Stuart Campbell, Rizya Ardiwijaya, Shinta Pardede, Tasrif Kartawijaya, Ahmad Mukmunin, Yudi Herdiana of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Josh Cinner, Andrew Hoey, Morgan Pratchett, and Andrew Baird of James Cook University.

Romney Floats One-Time Amnesty For Preexisting Conditions

Sahil Kapur
October 11, 2012, 1:56 PM

Mitt Romney is still trying to convince voters that his health care plan, which includes repealing the Affordable Care Act, will protect people with preexisting medical conditions. But experts still say his claims don’t match reality.

His latest pitch? An open-enrollment period during which insurance companies would be require to sell coverage to uninsured consumers.

Paul Krugman: Triumph of the Wrong?

In these closing weeks of the campaign, each side wants you to believe that it has the right ideas to fix a still-ailing economy. So here’s what you need to know: If you look at the track record, the Obama administration has been wrong about some things, mainly because it was too optimistic about the prospects for a quick recovery. But Republicans have been wrong about everything.

About that misplaced optimism: In a now-notorious January 2009 forecast, economists working for the incoming administration predicted that by now most of the effects of the 2008 financial crisis would be behind us, and the unemployment rate would be below 6 percent. Obviously, that didn’t happen. 

There Is No Nobel Prize in Economics

By Yasha Levine

October 12, 2012  |  It’s Nobel Prize season again. News reports are coming out each day sharing the name of the illustrious winner of the various categories — Science, Literature, etc. But there’s one of the prizes that’s a little different. Well, that’s putting it lightly… you see, the Nobel Prize in Economics is not a real Nobel. It wasn’t created by Alfred Nobel. It’s not even called a “Nobel Prize,” no matter what the press reports say.

The five real Nobel Prizes—physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and medicine/physiology—were set up in the will left by the dynamite magnate when he died in 1895. The economics prize is a bit different. It was created by Sweden’s Central Bank in 1969, nearly 75 years later. The award’s real name is the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” It was not established by Nobel, but supposedly in memory of Nobel. It’s a ruse and a PR trick, and I mean that literally. And it was done completely against the wishes of the Nobel family.

Sweden’s Central Bank quietly snuck it in with all the other Nobel Prizes to give free-market economics for the 1% credibility. One of the Federal Reserve banks explained it succinctly [3], “Few realize, especially outside of economists, that the prize in economics is not an “official” Nobel. . . . The award for economics came almost 70 years later—bootstrapped to the Nobel in 1968 as a bit of a marketing ploy to celebrate the Bank of Sweden’s 300th anniversary.” Yes, you read that right: “a marketing ploy.”

That’s “Medicaid,” Not Medicare

By Ed Kilgore

Regular readers know that I’m more than a little cranky about the ancient habit of Democrats of raising heaven and hell to defend the Medicare program while ignoring threats to Medicaid, based on the cynical belief that the former is popular among people who actually vote, while the latter is a “welfare” program of interest only to po’ folks who don’t vote or vote so reliably Democratic that they can be ignored. It’s a particularly offensive habit at the moment, since the GOP’s evil designs on Medicaid are much clearer and more immediate than their convoluted schemes to slowly strangle Medicare benefits.

So I share Jonathan Cohn’s surprise and happiness that the Obama campaign is now actually running a 30-second ad about Medicaid and only Medicaid. To be sure, it’s only about the long-term care function of Medicaid, which affects those prone-to-vote old folks, not to mention their children, who face the possibility of much greater “sandwich generation” woes if states implement a Medicaid block grant with reduced funding by cutting back on the “middle-class entitlement” of long-term care assistance.

IMF Suddenly Decides It Might be OK to Loosen Austerity Tourniquets Now that Gangrene is Setting In

While deathbed conversions might earn you a spot in heaven in some religions, they don’t carry you very far here on Planet Earth.

Christine Lagarde has taken too small a step in the right direction far too late to do much good. At the current IMF annual meeting in Tokyo, she’s made dramatic-sounding pronouncements consistent with the rather embarrassing admission in the Fund’s latest quarterly report that austerity is working less well than voodoo (I’ve never tried it myself, but some correspondents give it high marks).

As we stressed, the IMF has admitted what observers have already reported on, at some length, by looking at economic outcomes in Latvia, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain: its tender ministrations are leaving its patient worse off. Cuts in fiscal deficits (ex in special circumstances, such as being able to trash your currency at a time when your trade partners have good levels of growth) lead to even greater falls in GDP levels, resulting in higher debt to GDP ratios, the exact opposite of what this exercise was intended to accomplish. The bureaucratese is “fiscal multipliers.” When fiscal multipliers are greater than 1 deficit cutting makes matters worse. The IMF’s ‘fessing up to a problem without releasing country by country data suggests it is showing fiscal multiplies greater than 1 in pretty much all of the countries now wearing the austerity hairshirt.

Report: Private Insurers Profit by Ripping Off Medicare

Researchers say private programs like Medicare Advantage just add waste; Call for reformed, expanded Medicare for All 

- Common Dreams staff 
New research by health care experts concludes that privately run insurance plans designed to supplement the Medicare system serve no truly useful purpose and instead of helping seniors receive better care, Medicare Advantage plans actually undermine traditional Medicare’s fiscal health.

By creating conditions where Medicare is overpaying premiums to these private (mostly for-profit) programs, the report—to be published in the forthcoming issue of International Journal of Health Services—found that as much as $282.6 billion dollars has been drained from Medicare since they were first introduced in 1985.

Jason Chaffetz Admits House GOP Cut Funding For Embassy Security: 'You Have To Prioritize Things'

The Huffington Post  | By Sarah Bufkin10/10/2012 1:32 pm EDT
Updated: 10/11/2012 1:55 pm EDT

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged on Wednesday that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010.

On Wednesday morning, CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien asked the Utah Republican if he had "voted to cut the funding for embassy security."

"Absolutely," Chaffetz said. "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.

How the Grand Bargaineers Hurt America

Jon Chait writes that "the liberal critique of Peterson Inc. is that its advocacy of deficit reduction is wrong," but that his critique is different. Rather, his issue is "that these groups are very bad at understanding how to achieve their goal." The problem, according to Chait, is that the professional deficit scold industry fails to adequately account for the fact that it's the modern conservative movement's foundational opposition to tax increases that prevents deficit reduction. Noam Scheiber, reviewing Bob Woodward's book, seems to have a similar critique:
Woodward argues that the White House and Congress failed to reach a major deficit-reduction deal last summer because Obama didn’t provide the necessary leadership, even though this thesis is untethered from Woodward’s own reporting, to say nothing of reality.
Betsey Stevens & Justin Wolfers offer a similar argument in Bloomberg View this week, noting that over the past generation Democrats have consistently been the party of fiscal responsibility and the GOP the party of high debt. That is all, I think, correct. But I'd like to push the idea that the deeper critique is also correct—the focus on long-term fiscal policy is misguided and it's the misguided nature of this focus that helps drive the odd interventions into partisan politics.

Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe

By Stephanie Armour, John Lippert and Michael Smith - Oct 11, 2012 12:00 AM ET

William Beach loved cantaloupe -- so much so that starting in June last year he ate it almost every day. By August, the 87-year-old retired tractor mechanic from Mustang, Oklahoma, was complaining to his family that he was fatigued, with pain everywhere in his body.

On Sept. 1, 2011, Beach got out of bed in the middle of the night, put his clothes on and walked into the living room. His wife, Monette, found him collapsed on the floor in the morning. At the hospital, blood poured from his mouth and nose, splattering sheets, bed rails and physicians. 

Obama: Giving Away Social Security

Don't Lower Taxes For Billionaires. Double Them.

Beware the 'Grand Bargain': Post-Election Deficit Deal Threatens Medicare and Social Security

The solution is Improved Medicare for All

by Kay Tillow
After the November election, there will be a major effort in Congress to pass a budget deal that will make cuts in Social Security, raise the Medicare and Social Security eligibility age, and perhaps more–unless we act to stop it with a solution that is close at hand.

There is agreement from the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel to liberal economists Dean Baker and Paul Krugman that the pressure will be on to reach a Simpson/Bowles type of compromise.  Such a bipartisan plan would damage our most cherished programs and excuse the dastardly deed by asserting that the cuts are small and necessary because of the deficit.

'The Raiders of Your Lost Retirement' -- Obama Campaign Website Weasels on Social Security

by divineorder

Today I posted a quickie  which included these words from kos:
You see, Republicans want to destroy Social Security, and Democrats want to ... destroy it a little less? God, I hope not. But that's the Obama people got last week.
Now the campaign website has 'clarified' the President's position, still talking  about how much he and Romney agree FTW !!!!! (Hat Tip to Common Dreams)
The President knows that guaranteed Social Security benefits are not handouts, but a bedrock of the commitment to retirement security America makes to our seniors. He believes that no current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced, and he will not accept any approach that slashes benefits for future generations. President Obama stands firmly opposed to privatizing Social Security—the future security of hard-working Americans should not be dependent on the fluctuations of the stock market.


Why I expect Obama to try to cut Social Security

10/8/2012 9:55am by Gaius Publius

Short answer: Because he’s telling us he wants to. To see why I think that, read on. To see what you can do, especially if you’re just a citizen like me, click here. (Media folks are also invited to click; you can help a lot.)

About two weeks ago I wrote:

for the excellent reason that Sen. Bernie Sanders thought so and I agreed with him. Since then, much has happened, in the sense that nothing has changed — a “nothing” that tells the tale. I’m now convinced that Obama is planning Social Security cuts. Here’s why.

10 Steps to Break Up the Wealth of the Super Rich

By Chuck Collins
October 10, 2012  |  The following is an excerpt from 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It  [3], by Chuck Collins (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

We must change the rules of the economy so that they serve and lift up the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent. Starting in the mid-1970s, the rules were changed to reorient the economy toward the short-term interests of the 1 percent. We can shift and reverse the rules to work for everyone.

Three Types of Rule Changes

There are three categories of policy changes that we need: rules and policies that raise the floor, those that level the playing field, and those that break up overconcentrations of wealth and corporate power. These are not hard-and-fast categories, but a useful framework for grouping different rule changes.

Most of Us Will Not Have a Better Life Unless We Turn the Tables on the Super Rich

By Chuck Collins

October 4, 2012  |  The following is an excerpt from 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It [3], by Chuck Collins (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar? It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007—the two years just preceding the biggest downturns. —Robert Reich (b. 1946)

There are many theories about what triggered the 2008 economic meltdown. These explanations focus on bad actors such as the large banks and financial firms, the unregulated “shadow” financial sector, and unethical subprime mortgage pushers.

But there is a missing lens to the story, one that shows how the economic meltdown was caused by excessive income and wealth inequality. The two triggers were consumption by the 99 percent based on borrowing rather than real wage growth, and reckless financial speculation by the 1 percent.

Mitt Romney’s Most Dishonest Speech

When it comes to lies and half-truths, Romney saves his best stuff for foreign policy.

By Fred Kaplan | Posted Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 5:14 PM ET

Mitt Romney has delivered a lot of dishonest speeches in recent months, but Monday’s address on foreign policy may be the most mendacious yet.

It was expected that he would distort President Obama into a caricature of Jimmy Carter. But it was astonishing to watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world—this from a man who couldn’t drop in on the London Olympics without alienating our closest ally and turning himself into a transcontinental laughingstock.

To the extent that Romney recited valid criticisms of Obama’s policies, he offered no alternatives. To the extent he spelled out specific steps he would take to deal with one problem or another, he merely recited actions that Obama has already taken.

Schumer To Dems: Abandon Simpson-Bowles Tax Model

Senate Democrats’ top political and policy-making strategist is imploring members of his party to abandon a tax reform principle members of both parties increasingly share: that Congress should reform the tax code by closing myriad, costly loopholes, and then use the new revenue to lower tax rates across the board, particularly for the wealthiest.

It’s a break with an increasingly bipartisan orthodoxy, first forged in 1986 when it served as the basis of Ronald Reagan’s tax reform, and more recently with a tax reform model promoted by the chairmen of President Obama’s commission on fiscal responsibility, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.

8 Facts That Prove Our Govt. Is Not Going Broke

By Les Leopold

October 8, 2012  |  Pete Peterson, the billionaire former private equity mogul, is quietly funding a noisy bus tour [3] to whip up debt hysteria across the land. The “Ten Million a Minute Tour” headed by the Peterson Foundation’s former CEO, David M. Walker (and featuring such economic soothsayers as Alan Greenspan and Ross Perot) will end this week in Washington, DC after traveling coast to coast to alert America about the myriad of alleged dangers posed by government debt and deficits.

Really, it should be called the “Million an Hour” cavalcade because that’s about how much Peterson and company made, in part, through obscene tax loopholes designed for private equity firms and hedge funds. If there really is a debt problem, then Peterson and his fellow tax-evading financial moguls have contributed mightily to it.

But America does not face a debt crisis. Nor are we likely to face one in the next 100 years. In fact, we are the last country on Earth that needs to worry about its public debt.