Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Congressional Proposal Could Create 'Bubble' in Tax Code


The coming Congressional debate over fiscal policy is sure to feature a wide array of proposals, some of which would hit certain taxpayers harder than others.

But one idea being floated by Congressional negotiators, as described in an article by The New York Times’s Jonathan Weisman on Thursday, is hard to defend from the standpoint of rational public policy making.

Its arithmetic could require that the 300,000th dollar of income was taxed at a rate of about 50 percent – even while the three millionth dollar of income, or the three billionth, was taxed at a lower 35 percent rate instead.

Billmon: The GOP tax Plan: Leave no billionaire behind

Amid the endless (and endlessly confusing) Beltway chatter about the deal that supposedly will keep the U.S. economy from gunning it over the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Day, one thing has already become crystal clear: The Republican strategy for protecting its plutocratic donor base from the party’s inevitable surrender on taxes.

Basically, it consists in offering up the 20% as human shields to protect the 0.0001% from the rapacious revenue demands of the 47%.

Who says Republicans don’t do math?

Party of Entitled Rich Threatens Economy

By Leo Gerard, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed

Republicans, the party of the nation’s entitled rich, are holding a knife to the throat of America’s frail recovery.

The GOP sore losers have America up against a wall. Republicans don’t care that the majority of the country voted for a candidate who promised to raise taxes on the rich. Republicans don’t care that an even larger majority – 60 percent – told election day pollsters they wanted those taxes raised. Republicans don’t care about majority-rule democracy at all. They’re demanding ransom – extension of tax cuts for the rich. If Americans don’t submit, Republicans will slash the nation’s economy.

Anger as Hungary far-right leader demands lists of Jews

BUDAPEST | Tue Nov 27, 2012

(Reuters) - A Hungarian far-right politician urged the government to draw up lists of Jews who pose a "national security risk", stirring outrage among Jewish leaders who saw echoes of fascist policies that led to the Holocaust.

Marton Gyongyosi, a leader of Hungary's third-strongest political party Jobbik, said the list was necessary because of heightened tensions following the brief conflict in Gaza and should include members of parliament.

Opponents have condemned frequent anti-Semitic slurs and tough rhetoric against the Roma minority by Gyongyosi's party as populist point scoring ahead of elections in 2014.

Paul Krugman: Beyond Fiscal Cliff, an Austerity Bomb

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo seems to have been the first to use the phrase "austerity bomb" to describe what's scheduled to happen in the United States at the end of the year. It's a much better term than "fiscal cliff."

The cliff stuff makes people imagine that it's a problem of excessive deficits when it's actually about the risk that the deficit will be too small; also and relatedly, the fiscal cliff stuff enables a bait-and-switch in which people say "So, this means that we need to enact Bowles-Simpson and raise the retirement age!" — both of which have nothing at all to do with it.

ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States

An effort to stomp out state renewable energy mandates across the country has roots in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As reported by The Washington Post, the Heartland Institute wrote the bill, had it passed through ALEC, and is now targeting the 29 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed renewable energy requirements in some form.

Renewable energy not only produces cleaner energy, it grows the local job base and allows state's to diversify their supply and not be held hostage to the fossil fuel industry. Green energy jobs are a robust sector of the economy employing some 175,000 Americans. But some of ALEC's most powerful members are deeply rooted in the "drill, frack, burn" method of energy supply. ALEC is a corporate bill mill that puts corporate lobbyists and state legislators together behind closed doors to vote on cookie-cutter legislation that is then introduced in statehouses across the nation. ALEC's membership includes fossil fuel companies, utility companies, and energy trade groups in the United States including Chevron, BP, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and only a handful of green energy firms. 

Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Coup

By Andrew Gavin Marshall, | News Analysis 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most secretive and “least transparent” trade negotiations in history.

Luckily for the populations and societies that will be affected by the agreement, there are public research organizations and alternative media outlets campaigning against it – and they’ve even released several leaks of draft agreement chapters. From these leaks, which are not covered by mainstream corporate-controlled news outlets, we are able to get a better understanding of what the Trans-Pacific Partnership actually encompasses.

For example, public interest groups have been warning that the TPP could result in millions of lost jobs. As a letter from Congress to United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated, the TPP “will create binding policies on future Congresses in numerous areas,” including “those related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.”

Paul Krugman: Fighting Fiscal Phantoms

These are difficult times for the deficit scolds who have dominated policy discussion for almost three years. One could almost feel sorry for them, if it weren’t for their role in diverting attention from the ongoing problem of inadequate recovery, and thereby helping to perpetuate catastrophically high unemployment.

What has changed? For one thing, the crisis they predicted keeps not happening. Far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have continued to pile in, driving interest rates to historical lows. Beyond that, suddenly the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much. For that’s what the “fiscal cliff” — better described as the austerity bomb — is all about: the tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in at the end of this year are precisely not what we want to see happen in a still-depressed economy. 

4 Ways to Improve America's Labor Market

A 30-year backlog of policies has created staggering income inequality. Here's how we can address them 

What we’re talking about is a broad, multi-year agenda to give America’s workers a living wage and voice on the job and to take on the continuing exclusion of workers of color, immigrants, and women from good jobs. The media may have discovered inequality last year with the surprise emergence of Occupy Wall Street, but in truth, there is a 30-year backlog of policies to fix the extreme maldistribution of wages and opportunity in the labor market.

The Working Poor Pay High Taxes, Too

As Washington works out a deal (or doesn't) to resolve the fiscal cliff, negotiations will center on federal marginal income tax rates. President Barack Obama wants rates to go up on high earners, with the top rate returning to nearly 40 percent. Congressional Republicans would prefer to trim back tax deductions to avoid rate increases.

But marginal tax rates are not as large a problem for the wealthy as they are for the poor and working classes. According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, the Americans paying the highest effective marginal tax rates are, for the most part, low- to middle-income individuals. It's these Americans -- not House Speaker John Boehner's "job creators" -- who are materially discouraged by their effective marginal tax rates.

Will the FCC Give Rupert Murdoch the Powerful Gift of Media Consolidation?

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report 

Just in time for the holidays, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering changes to media cross-ownership rules that watchdogs say could good give Rupert Murdoch's massive conglomerate News Corporation the go-ahead to acquire more big media outlets.

The proposal could also keep women and minorities out of the media market, according to civil rights groups.

Stop Using “Obama for America” Against the People!

Yves here. Team Obama is fast out of the box with its plan to redeploy its campaign ops to sell Americans on why they should lie back and think of England why they should embrace a future with more income disparity and more catfood for old people. The media got wind of the plan the evening before the messaging barrage started. Joe Firestone does a able job of taking it apart. He treats Obama as “caving” as opposed to being fully and enthusiastically in favor of deficit cutting and Social Security and Medicare “reform” but I trust NC readers will forgive him for being unduly charitable.

The best way to stop this garbage might indeed, to forward the Obama messages with the headlines altered (many people don’t get past the headline!) and a short debunking at the top. Mutilating (or cleverly editing) Obama PR and then circulating it as requested might be the best way to undermine this campaign. Maybe we can have an NC reader competition for the best “improvements” of these missives (as in achieving maximum intended course change with the fewest word changes).

Pentagon Wants to Keep Running Its Afghan Drug War From Blackwater's HQ

By Spencer Ackerman

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is supposed to be winding down. Its contractor-led drug war? Not so much.

Inside a compound in Kabul called Camp Integrity, the Pentagon stations a small group of officers to oversee the U.S. military’s various operations to curb the spread of Afghanistan’s cash crops of heroin and marijuana, which help line the Taliban’s pockets. Only Camp Integrity isn’t a U.S. military base at all. It’s the 10-acre Afghanistan headquarters of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

Those officers work for an obscure Pentagon agency called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO. Quietly, it’s grown into one of the biggest dispensers of cash for private security contractors in the entire U.S. government: One pile of contracts last year from CNTPO was worth more than $3 billion. And it sees a future for itself in Afghanistan over the long haul.

Who's Really to Blame for the Wal-Mart Strikes? The American Consumer

Jordan Weissmann

The Wal-Mart workers threatening to walk off the job on Black Friday aren't just fighting their employer. They're fighting a whole system.

Forget the stampeding shoppers, the half-priced waffle irons, or the pepper spray wielding wackos: barring a federal intervention, the main event this Black Friday could turn out to be a showdown between organized labor and its arch corporate nemesis, Wal-Mart.

After organizing the first retail workers' strikes in the company's 50-year history last month, a union-backed group has promised to lead work stoppages and demonstrations at Wal-Mart stores around the country this holiday weekend in protest of its famously aggressive labor practices. Nobody truly knows how big the turnout will be, or if even more than a handful of Wal-Mart's 1.4 million U.S. employees will actually walk off the job. We might witness something historic, or we might witness a sideshow that shoppers ignore while brawling for bargains. Either way, the threat has made Wal-Mart nervous enough to ask the National Labor Relations Board for an injunction stopping the protests. Should they go on, they will be a test of whether, after years of failing to organize the country's largest employer, labor groups still have the wherewithal to take it on. 

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Lessons for Obama’s New Cabinet

John McCain has been on the war path, vowing to block U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as secretary of State (should Obama nominate her) and then saying he would block any State nominee until he was satisfied his questions were answered about the Benghazi attacks. Is this a principled stand? Or a fit of personal pique? For the good of the country, it’s time to fetch a butterfly net for McCain. At a moment when the Middle East is on fire, you have a United States Senator threatening to hold our State Department hostage for no coherent reasons other than to exercise his temper and to satisfy his insatiable desire for television coverage.

It’s a measure of the fallen state of the GOP that this bitter, ever-more-incoherent hothead is now the party’s only elected official with a voice on foreign affairs — unless you count his boot-licking Sancho Panza, Lindsey Graham. (The saner Republican foreign policy hand in the Senate, Richard Lugar, was defrocked earlier this year when the crackpot Richard Mourdock, the now-vanquished tea-party favorite, ousted him in Indiana’s Republican primary.) McCain is so out of it that he even suggested that Bill Clinton be sent to the Middle East to broker negotiations — apparently forgetting that there actually is another Clinton in place in the cabinet to do that job.

Dean Baker: Why the Country's Top Economists Keep Making Wildly Stupid Claims

November 23, 2012  |  Anyone wanting to learn about the economy who talked to the nation's top economists in 2006 would have been wasting their time. Almost none of them had any clue that the collapse of the $8 trillion housing bubble was going to wreck the economy. This presumably reflects a rigid dogmatism and conformity on the part of these economists, since it should have been both very easy to recognize an unprecedented run-up in house prices as a bubble and also to understand that the collapse of the bubble, which was quite evidently driving growth, would lead to a severe downturn.

Remarkably, it seems from a Washington Post article [3] that attributes the continuing weakness of the economy to the indebtedness of underwater homeowners, that many of the country's top economists have no better understanding of the economy today than in 2006.The claim is the dropoff in consumption due to the debt burden of these homeowners explains the weakness of the recovery.

Inequality is Killing Capitalism

Robert Skidelsky

LONDON – It is generally agreed that the crisis of 2008-2009 was caused by excessive bank lending, and that the failure to recover adequately from it stems from banks’ refusal to lend, owing to their “broken” balance sheets.

A typical story, much favored by followers of Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian School of economics, goes like this: In the run up to the crisis, banks lent more money to borrowers than savers would have been prepared to lend otherwise, thanks to excessively cheap money provided by central banks, particularly the United States Federal Reserve. Commercial banks, flush with central banks’ money, advanced credit for many unsound investment projects, with the explosion of financial innovation (particularly of derivative instruments) fueling the lending frenzy.

Exclusive: Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

Paul Krugman: Grand Old Planet

Earlier this week, GQ magazine published an interview with Senator Marco Rubio, whom many consider a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in which Mr. Rubio was asked how old the earth is. After declaring “I’m not a scientist, man,” the senator went into desperate evasive action, ending with the declaration that “it’s one of the great mysteries.”

It’s funny stuff, and conservatives would like us to forget about it as soon as possible. Hey, they say, he was just pandering to likely voters in the 2016 Republican primaries — a claim that for some reason is supposed to comfort us.

6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam

by James K. Galbraith

November 22, 2012  |  Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military.  It was policy-making by hostage-taking, timed for the lame duck session, a contrived crisis, the plain idea now unfolding was to force a stampede.

In the nature of stampedes arguments become confused; panic flows from fear, when multiple forces – economic and political in this instance – all appear to push the same way.  It is therefore useful to sort through those forces, breaking them down into separate questions, and to ask whether any of them justify the voices of doom.

First, is there a looming crisis of debt or deficits, such that sacrifices in general are necessary?  No, there is not.  Not in the short run – as almost everyone agrees.  But also: not in the long run.  What we have are computer projections, based on arbitrary – and in fact capricious – assumptions.  But even the computer projections no longer show much of a crisis. CBO has adjusted its interest rate forecast, and even under its “alternative fiscal scenario” the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years.

Women's Longevity Declining in Parts of the US

By Rochelle Sharpe, Connecticut Health I-Team/New America Media | Report 

Hartford, Connecticut - One of the most disturbing trends in American public health is that women's life expectancy is shrinking in many parts of the U.S.

Women's longevity took an unprecedented nosedive during the past decade, researchers recently discovered, with their life expectancy tumbling or stagnating in one of every five counties in the country.

In Connecticut, for example, New London County saw a drop in longevity, while Fairfield and Hartford counties saw significant jumps.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Head of Goldman Sachs Wants to Raise Your Retirement Age

Lloyd Blankfein, the 57-year-old CEO of Goldman Sachs, who was paid more than $16 million dollars last year, appeared on CBS last night to talk about the Fiscal Cliff and lay some truth on the American people: You all need to work longer.
You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn't devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. ... So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.
As Ezra Klein and others before me have noted, it is very easy for people like Blankfein who are paid outrageous sums of money to sit in offices, think, and talk to tell Americans they should delay retirement.

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

By Declan McCullagh | – Tue, Nov 20, 2012

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.) 

Wall Street Group Behind Poll Supporting Social Security Cuts


The anti-Social Security propagandists should’ve thought this one through a little more carefully: On the same day that Goldman Sach’s CEO issued his “balanced” demand for Social Security and Medicare cuts, the Wall Street-funded group called “Third Way” published the results of a poll which precisely reflected the wishes of Goldman Sach’s CEO.

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

Why Cell Phones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy, survivors needed, in addition to safety and power, the ability to communicate. Yet in parts of New York City, mobile communications services were knocked out for days.

The problem? The companies that provide them had successfully resisted Federal Communications Commission calls to make emergency preparations, leaving New Yorkers to rely on the carriers’ voluntary efforts.

We have so far heard few details about why the companies made the particular business choices they did on backup power and what the consequences of those choices were, because the FCC has been blocked from asking -- even though about a third of people rely on mobile service as their only voice-communications connection.

An Inconvenient Truth About Lincoln (That You Won't Hear from Hollywood)

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

November 20, 2012  |  Over this Thanksgiving week, you may find yourself in a movie theater watching Steven Spielberg’s treatment of Abraham Lincoln and the battle to pass the 13th Amerndment, which abolished slavery once and for all. There’s much to be said for Lincoln [3]: marvelous acting, less mythologizing than usual, and a fascinating window into raucous realpolitik. Spielberg’s film stands several cuts above any movie depiction of the Lincoln presidency you’re likely to see.

Lincoln himself stands several cuts above the vast majority of U.S. presidents. After some equivocating, he freed the slaves, a monumental undertaking that was a service to the country and to humanity in general. He was also friendlier to workers than most presidents, an affinity noted by Karl Marx, who exchanged letters with Lincoln leading up to and during the Civil War. (You won’t see the GOP acknowledging that!)

But there’s a side of Lincoln that no Hollywood film shows clearly: He was extremely close to the railway barons, the most powerful corporate titans of the era.

A Grim Status Report

The World Bank has released a new report (.pdf) on climate change that is ostensibly focused on the dire consequences of a rise in average global temperatures by 4 degrees Celsius. That in itself is significant insofar as the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 agreed that it was crucial to cap the worldwide temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius.

To be clear, no one then — and certainly no one in the three years since — thought we would be able to avoid blowing through the Copenhagen ceiling (although the World Bank report still holds out such hope). That has become seen as inevitable since no substantial or meaningful agreement has been reached on reducing carbon emissions. If you’re interested, Bill McKibben wrote about these numbers in Rolling Stone over the summer.

The Giant Lie Trotted Out by Fiscal Conservatives Trying to Shred Social Security

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

November 19, 2012  |  Trying to convince the public to cut America’s best-loved and most successful program requires a lot of creativity and persistence. Social Security is fiscally fit, prudently managed and does not add to the deficit because by law it must be completely detached from the federal operating budget. Obviously, it is needed more than ever in a time of increasing job insecurity and disappearing pensions. It helps our economy thrive and boosts the productivity of working Americans. And yet the sharks are in a frenzy to shred it in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” discussions.

The most popular red herring Social Security hustlers have unleashed into the waters of public discourse has grown into such a massive whale of a lie that liberals frequently subscribe to it. The idea goes like this: We need to somehow “fix” Social Security because people are living longer – “fix” in this context being code for “cut.” Two groups stand to benefit in the short-term from such a scheme: the greedy rich, who do not want to pay their share in taxes, and financiers, who want to move towards privatizing retirement accounts so they can collect fees. As for the masses of hard-working people who have rightfully earned their retirement, the only “fix” is the fix they will be in if already modest benefits are further reduced.

Who Will Obama Be Bargaining With In The 113 House?

An underrated issue looking at the legislative agenda in the new year is the question of who's actually decisive in the House of Representatives.

This is perhaps best explained by analogy with the United States Senate. Over there it's clear that what you need is a coalition of 60 Senators to pass bills under the normal process. That means the 55 Democrats plus 5 moderate Republicans, or else the 45 Republicans plus 15 moderate Democrats. Sometimes big leader-to-leader agreements happen, but legislation often occurs on the basis of minimum winning coalitions. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, for example, was overwhelmingly opposed by the GOP but Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe made a separate peace with the Democrats and it passed.

Dear Mr. Obama, the “Grand Bargain” is neither Grand…nor a Bargain

By Michael Hoexter

Dear Barack,

Congratulations on your recent electoral victory and the hard work that you and your team put into that effort.  You defeated an opponent, formidable not so much from the point of view of his political skills but more in the masses of “dark money” that were thrown against you and other Democratic candidates. You and your advisors ran a sophisticated tactical campaign that will be emulated by many in the years to come.  Still, from my point of view, these tactical skills will only get the American people so far in our pursuit of happiness.

You very much deserve the title of “President of the United States” after this decisive election but I am addressing you as “Barack” and “Mr. Obama” because I want this communication to reach you, if it ever would, with some immediacy and not filtered through the insulating layers of bureaucracy and advisors with which you are surrounded as President.

Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.

by Paul Buchheit
1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.

According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.

Wall Street Finds a ‘Third Way’ to Plunder Our Wealth


Gotta hand it to ‘em: Those Wall Street guys are smart. They’ve already found two ways to plunder the nation’s wealth for their own enrichment, and now they’re working on a third.

The first way? Identify and finance a wave of Democratic politicians who would join with Republicans in deregulating Wall Street. The second? Employ the same so-called ‘centrist’ Democrats, along with their Republican cohorts, to bail them out after they crashed the economy. That bailout continues, and the assurance of protection from being prosecuted for their criminal misdeeds.

25% of Credit Information Is Flat-Out Wrong? How Consumers Are Getting Screwed

By Odysseas Papadimitriou

November 16, 2012  |  Monopoly.  We all know the game – one of the Parker Brothers’ best – as a quintessential American pastime with the potential to bring generations together (or spark heated arguments among those of us with a bit of a competitive streak).  But when that term is applied not to board games, but instead to board rooms, it has a decidedly negative connotation.  Everyone knows how important competition is to a free market economy, after all.

That’s what makes the ineptitude and pervasive conflicts of interest that mark the credit reporting and scoring industry due to a lack of competition so hard to fathom.  It’s also what underscores the drastic need for reform.

Paul Krugman: The Twinkie Manifesto

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Paul Krugman: The GOP's Privatization Pathology

Let me take a moment to flag an issue others have been writing about in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: The weird Republican obsession with killing the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Kevin Drum, a political blogger at Mother Jones magazine, has the goods: they just keep doing it.

"At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept," Mr. Drum wrote on Oct. 30, "so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does.

Election Over, Time For Progressive Dems to Face the Truth

by Jeff Faux
Terrorized by the prospect of a complete takeover of the U.S. government by right-wing reactionaries—progressive Democrats swallowed their unhappiness with Barack Obama throughout the campaign. They gamely defended his policies on the economy, health care, budget priorities and other issues on which they felt betrayed in his first term.

We’ve now dodged the bullet of a Mitt Romney White House, so let’s get back to reality. Despite his campaign-trail populism, the president will continue the politics of accommodation to conservatives. Two of the three priorities he has set out for his next term are at the top of the GOP agenda: a “grand bargain” to cut government spending over the next 10 years and corporate tax reform that would cut rates—don’t hold your breath—and close loopholes. The third priority, rationalizing immigration law, is one of the few progressive ideas that also has the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Paul Krugman: Life, Death and Deficits

America’s political landscape is infested with many zombie ideas — beliefs about policy that have been repeatedly refuted with evidence and analysis but refuse to die. The most prominent zombie is the insistence that low taxes on rich people are the key to prosperity. But there are others.

And right now the most dangerous zombie is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats — including, according to reports, the president — have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it’s a cruel, foolish idea — cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare — and we shouldn’t let it eat our brains. 

4 Ways College Admissions Committees Stack the Deck in Favor of Already Privileged Applicants

By Kristin Rawls

November 16, 2012  |  Affirmative action has been the subject of much media debate recently, as the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on October 10 involving the controversial Fisher v. University of Texas “reverse racism” case. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, alleges that she was declined admission to the university as a result of affirmative action policies that left her at a disadvantage because she is white.

Contemporary debates about affirmative action policies that take race into account tend to presume that, in our post-Civil Rights era, the U.S. is a pure meritocracy that rewards the best and brightest. But this isn’t quite true. Affirmative action is used to offset other arbitrary identifiers that admissions committees are allowed to consider, many of which further enshrine existing social hierarchies according to race and class. Here are just four criteria admissions committees are allowed to consider that reward already privileged students.

Don’t Let Obama Cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security

By Arun Gupta, The Progressive | Op-Ed 

f you voted this election, whether for Barack Obama, Jill Stein or even Mitt Romney, you did not vote for austerity. But that’s of little consequence to Obama and the Republicans. The two parties are currently drafting measures that will undermine Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as the economy approaches the “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year when more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will kick in absent a new budget deal.

They hope to strike a “grand bargain,” but are bickering over how much to increase taxes and cut spending. The spotlight has been on the Bush tax cuts, which Obama campaigned on repealing for the rich, but this issue is a sleight of hand that distracts the public from the bipartisan plotting against your retirement income and healthcare.

Surely, you say, Obama will thwart the Republicans’ scheme to dismantle social welfare. After all, it’s well known that retirement programs are healthy. Social Security is solvent through 2033 and Medicare is solvent through 2024. Both can be strengthened for decades to come with relative tweaking.

This Was the First Class Warfare Election of Our Gilded Age — and the Middle Class Won Big

By Robert Borosage

November 15, 2012  |  In 2012, class warfare broke out in American politics. And from the president to key Senate races, the middle class won.

When the 2012 campaign began, the lousy economy made President Obama vulnerable. Republicans were favored to take back the Senate, given retirements in conservative states. Republican billionaires — the Koch brothers, Adelson and others — put up big money in the effort to have it all. Instead the president swept to victory, and Democrats gained seats in the Senate and the House.

Many factors contributed. Republicans learned once more the shortcomings of a stale, male, pale, Southern-based party in a nation of diversity. The GOP “legitimate rape” caucus helped give away two Senate seats. But too little attention has been paid to the new emerging reality. This was the first class warfare election of the new Gilded Age — and the middle class won big.

Europe's striking warning to US that austerity is no solution to fiscal cliff

As Obama opens the debate on the US's fiscal cliff, Europe is brought to a standstill by protests at cuts to the social safety net

Amy Goodman, Thursday 15 November 2012 12.07 EST
Amaia Engana didn't wait to be evicted from her home. On 9 November, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain's Basque country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action.

Her suicide has added gravity to this week's general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid to across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the "fiscal cliff". The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

Dean Baker: The Crisis of the Deficit Crisis Mongers

he gang for gutting Social Security and Medicare (aka “The Campaign to Fix the Debt”) are running in high gear. During the long election campaign they gathered dollars, corporate CEOs and washed up politicians for a full-fledged push in the final months of the year. They are hoping that the hype around the budget standoff (aka “fiscal cliff”) can be used for a grand bargain that eviscerates the country’s two most important social programs, Social Security and Medicare.

They made a point of keeping this plan out of election year politics because they know it is a huge loser with the electorate. People across the political and ideological spectrums strongly support these programs and are opposed to cuts. Politicians who advocated cuts would have been likely losers on Election Day. But now that the voters are out of the way, the Wall Street gang and the CEOs see their opportunity.

In financial ecosystems, big banks trample economic habitats and spread fiscal disease

by Morgan Kelly, Office of Communications

Like the impact of an elephant herd grazing on grassland, multinational banks shape the financial environment to an extent that far outweighs their small number. And like a contagious person on a transnational flight, when these giant, interconnected banks succumb to financial ills, they are uniquely positioned to infect wide swaths of the financial system.

Researchers from Princeton University, the Bank of England and the University of Oxford applied methods inspired by ecosystem stability and contagion models to banking meltdowns and found that large national and international banks wield an influence and potentially destructive power that far exceeds their actual size.

Did climate change controversy cause UVA's sacking of Teresa Sullivan?

The University of Virginia board that fired, then reinstated UVA's president earlier this year owes us all a full account of its actions

Robert P Geraci, Wednesday 14 November 2012 12.40 EST
"Without an understanding of history, we can't understand the present or predict the future."
Being a historian myself, I couldn't agree more. But the statement jarred with me because the person making it, University of Virginia Board of Visitors (BOV) member Bobbie Kilberg, had implied exactly the opposite just half an hour before, when she urged UVA faculty senate chair George Cohen to stop asking why the board had unseated President Teresa Sullivan in June citing "philosophical differences" about the administration of the university. After uproar on the UVA campus and far beyond, the board was forced to reverse its decision two weeks later, reinstating Sullivan on 26 June.

Cohen, addressing the board at its 13 September meeting (pdf), had listed several reasons for doubting the most frequent justification the board has offered for pursuing Sullivan's removal: her supposed failure to produce a bold strategic plan. And he complained of the board's refusal to explain the lack of proper communication – with Sullivan, with the faculty, and among its own members – in the making and execution of its decision. Until the board provides a more compelling account of the ouster and its rationale, he asserted, the faculty's vote of no confidence from June cannot be reversed. Yet Kilberg insisted: "I just want to move ahead … I think we gain absolutely nothing by rehashing this."

Phony school “reform” agenda takes a beating

The media barely noticed, but voters in three states rejected the profit-driven fraud that is education "reform"

David Sirota

If your only source of news about American education came from docu-propaganda like “Waiting for Superman,” Hollywood politi-schlock like “Won’t Back Down” and elite-focused national news outlets in Washington, D.C., and New York City, you might think that the so-called education “reform” (read: privatization) movement was a spontaneous grass-roots uprising of good-old-fashioned heartlanders generating ever more mass support throughout the country. You would have no reason to believe it was a top-down, corporate-driven coalition of conservative coastal elites trying to both generally undermine organized labor and specifically wring private profit out of public schools, and you would similarly have no reason to believe it was anything but wildly popular in an America clamoring for a better education system.

In other words, you would be utterly misinformed — especially after last week’s explosive election results in three key states.

Paul Krugman: Deficit Hawks and Hypocrites

Back in 2010, self-styled deficit hawks — better described as deficit scolds — took over much of our political discourse. At a time of mass unemployment and record-low borrowing costs, a time when economic theory said we needed more, not less, deficit spending, the scolds convinced most of our political class that deficits rather than jobs should be our top economic priority. And now that the election is over, they’re trying to pick up where they left off.

They should be told to go away. 

The Grand Bargain is a Grand Lie

Why the scheme being negotiated in Washington is one-sided and totally unfair

by Cenk Uygur
First of all, let's establish that no one in Washington actually cares about balancing the budget. If they did, they would love this so-called Fiscal Cliff. It raises taxes and cuts spending, so it would massively reduce the deficit. Isn't that what all of Washington has been pretending to care about all of this time?

Second, understand that this so-called compromise they are talking about in order to avoid this supposed calamity is a trick. In fact, it'll be the greatest robbery in American history. Think about it -- they say they are worried about all those tax increases and spending cuts. But that's not true. The Grand Bargain would dramatically increase spending cuts, not alleviate them. So, in fact, the only thing they care about is paying less taxes, as always.

Five Misconceptions About Our Tattered Safety Net

Paul Buchheit for Buzzflash at Truthout

Mitt Romney said he wasn't concerned about the very poor, because they have a safety net. This is typical of the widespread ignorance about inequality in our country. Struggling Americans want jobs, not handouts, and for the most part they've paid for their "safety net." The real problem is at the other end of the wealth gap.

How many people know that out of 150 countries, we have the 4th-highest wealth disparity? Only Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Switzerland are worse.

It's not just economic inequality that's plaguing our country. It's lack of opportunity. It's a dismissal of poor people as lazy, or as threats to society. More than any other issue over the next four years, we need to address the growing divide in our nation, to tone down our winner-take-all philosophy, to provide job opportunities for people who want to contribute to society.

Cliff Notes on the Over-Hyped "Fiscal Cliff" Crisis

By Mattea Kramer, Chris Hellman
November 12, 2012  |  They don’t call it the "cliff” for nothing.  It’s the fiscal spot where a nation’s representatives can gather and cry doom.  It’s the place -- if Washington is to be believed -- where, with a single leap into the Abyss of Sequestration, those representatives can end it all for the rest of us.

In the wake of President Obama’s electoral victory, that cliff (if you’ll excuse a mixed metaphor or two) is about to step front and center. The only problem: the odds are no one will leap, and remarkably little of note will actually happen.  But since the headlines are about to scream “crisis,” what you need to understand American politics in the coming weeks of the lame-duck Congress is a little guide to reality, some Cliff Notes for Washington.

As a start, relax.  Don’t let the headlines get to you.  There’s little reason for anyone to lose sleep over the much-hyped fiscal cliff [5].  In fact, if you were choosing an image based on the coming fiscal dust-up, it probably wouldn’t be a cliff but an obstacle course [6] -- a series of federal spending cuts and tax increases all scheduled to take effect as 2013 begins. And it’s true that, if all those budget cuts and tax increases were to go into effect at the same time, an already weak recovery would probably sink into a double-dip recession.

Once Again—Death of the Liberal Class

By Chris Hedges

The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become. 

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Nomi Prins: Real Danger of “Obamacare”: Insurance Company Takeover of Health Care

Election rhetoric shuns the big picture in favor of the bigger platitude. Now that The Show is over, we are left with the equivalent of a Sunday morning hangover following a binge of promises and lies. We leave the theatre of political spectacle on steroids for the real world of unstable economy, a globally and publicly subsidized financial sector, and increased costs of living on everything from food to education to health-care; outpacing declining median incomes. The average cost for health insurance for a family is $15,745 per year vs. a median income of $50,502, or about half post-tax take-home pay.

“Obamacare” is the name commonly used for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. The very moniker is indicative of how name-and-image-centric our world has become; Medicare was never called “Johnsoncare” when President Johnson signed it into law in 1965 and Johnson was not exactly a man of small-personality. At any rate, Obamacare or the PPACA ranks as one of the most misrepresented issues from the campaign, by both sides of the ever-slimming aisle.

Elizabeth Warren Heads to Washington, an Uncompromising Senator for the Left

Bill Black: Wall Street Urges Obama to Commit the Great Betrayal

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posted from Benzinga

Greetings from the Third Annual Kilkenomics Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland. The Irish bubble (as a percentage of GDP) was twice as large as the U.S. bubble. I’m returning to the U.S. to provide economic commentary for al Jazeera’s election night coverage. (Yes, I voted via absentee ballot.)

The Safety Net is the Glory of America and the Unending Wall Street Nightmare

Wall Street’s leading “false flag” group, the Third Way, has responded to the warnings that Robert Kuttner, AFL-CIO President Trumka, and I have made that if President Obama is re-elected our immediate task will be to prevent the Great Betrayal – the adoption of self-destructive austerity programs and the opening wedge of the effort to unravel the safety net (including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid).

Romney favors the same betrayal, but it would be political suicide for a Republican national leader to lead the attack on the nation’s most popular programs. Huge majorities of Americans oppose cuts in the safety nets. A majority of Republicans oppose such cuts and Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the cuts.

After the Election, a New Mandate – and New “Fiscal Cliff” Math


President Obama was reportedly planning to reach out to House Majority Leader John Boehner today to begin negotiating a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a series of spending cuts and tax hikes that will take effect unless Congress recinds the law that created it. That’s an appropriate and statesmanlike move. The public expects its leaders to work together on important issues.

The question is, what kind of deal? Boehner’s been acting as intransigent as ever, telling Reuters that Congressional Republicans will have “a mandate to not raise taxes.”

Hurricane Sandy: beware of America's disaster capitalists

The aftermath of the storm offers a chance to rebuild a fairer society. How can we seize it?

Naomi Klein
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 November 2012 13.22 EST

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the east coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers' resistance to Big Box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on, he explained that the city's refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: "Mom-and-pop stores simply can't do what big stores can in these circumstances," he wrote. He also warned that if the pace of reconstruction turned out to be sluggish (as it so often is) then "pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act" would be to blame, a reference to the statute that requires workers on public works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region.

The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn't be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to public private partnerships, known as "P3s" in the US. That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits. These deals aren't legal in New York or New Jersey, but Rapoport believes that can change. "There were some bridges that were washed out in New Jersey that need structural replacement, and it's going to be very expensive," he told the Nation. "And so the government may well not have the money to build it the right way. And that's when you turn to a P3."

Paul Krugman: Let's Not Make a Deal

To say the obvious: Democrats won an amazing victory. Not only did they hold the White House despite a still-troubled economy, in a year when their Senate majority was supposed to be doomed, they actually added seats.

Nor was that all: They scored major gains in the states. Most notably, California — long a poster child for the political dysfunction that comes when nothing can get done without a legislative supermajority — not only voted for much-needed tax increases, but elected, you guessed it, a Democratic supermajority. 

The Importance of Elizabeth Warren


One of the most important results on Tuesday was the election of Elizabeth Warren as United States senator from Massachusetts. Her victory matters not only because it helps the Democrats keep control of the Senate but also because Ms. Warren has a track record of speaking truth to authority on financial issues – both to officials in Washington and to powerful people on Wall Street.

During the campaign, Ms. Warren’s opponent and his allies made repeated attempts to portray her as antibusiness. In the most bizarre episode, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ran an ad that contended that she favored bailing out large Wall Street banks. All of this was misdirection and disinformation.

Can the Federal Reserve Help Prevent a Second Recession?

William Greider | November 7, 2012

Despite what you may have read in the newspapers or heard from the president’s cheerful speeches, the economy is not out of the danger zone. Despite some encouraging indicators recently, both the US economy and the world’s remain in perilous condition, still threatened by the larger catastrophe Washington officials thought they had averted. That is, a renewed global recession will compound the losses and can swiftly morph into the big D, for depression.

At least nine of the economies in Western Europe are already contracting. Their euro debt crisis threatens to pull down others. The anemic American recovery remains stalled by its blocked housing sector—there are still too many homeowners drowning in mortgage debt to trigger normal home sales and construction. Private investment is sagging, corporate profits softening too. Even China’s growth is slowing at an alarming rate.

If Congress fails to defuse the threat of the post-election “fiscal cliff,” austerity will be in the saddle for sure. The International Monetary Fund, not usually known for dire forecasts, predicts increased risk of worldwide stagnation, and has warned specifically against the “excessive fiscal consolidation” of austerity measures. Why haven’t the presidential candidates talked about this? Maybe for the same reason they didn’t talk about global warming: they saw no votes in either.

No Conspiracy Theory -- A Small Group of Companies Have Enormous Power Over the World

By Andrew Gavin Marshall
October 31, 2012  |  In October of 2011, New Scientist reported that a scientific study on the global financial system was undertaken by three complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The conclusion of the study revealed what many theorists and observers have noted for years, decades, and indeed, even centuries: “An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.” As one of the researchers stated, “Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market… Our analysis is reality-based.” Using a database which listed 37 million companies and investors worldwide, the researchers studied all 43,060 trans-national corporations (TNCs), including the share ownerships linking them.[1~footnotes at the end of the article]

The mapping of ‘power’ was through the construction of a model showing which companies controlled which other companies through shareholdings. The web of ownership revealed a core of 1,318 companies with ties to two or more other companies. This ‘core’ was found to own roughly 80% of global revenues for the entire set of 43,000 TNCs. And then came what the researchers referred to as the “super-entity” of 147 tightly-knit companies, which all own each other, and collectively own 40% of the total wealth in the entire network. One of the researchers noted, “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network.” This network poses a huge risk to the global economy, as, “If one [company] suffers distress… this propagates.” The study was undertaken with a data set established prior to the economic crisis, thus, as the financial crisis forced some banks to die (Lehman Bros.) and others to merge, the “super-entity” would now be even more connected, concentrated, and problematic for the economy.[2]

Peter Orszag of Bank Welfare Queen Citigroup is Selling Catfood Futures Hard

The Obama victory was less than 24 hours old when the Rubinite faction of the Democratic party was out full bore selling “reforming” Social Security as the adult solution to the coming budget impasse, giving it higher priority than any other measure on the table while simultaneously admitting that this is not even a pressing (let alone real) problem.

And the worse is that this snakeoil salesmanship, which comes from former OMB director, now Citigrgoup vice chairman of corporate and investment banking Peter Orszag, is almost certainly an Obama trial balloon. It’s no secret that Obama has long viewed cutting, whoops, “reforming” Social Security and Medicare, as one of his fondest goals. He made that clear shortly before he was inaugurated, in a dinner with conservatives hosted by George Will. He even volunteered in the debates that he and Romney were on the same page as far as these programs were concerned. So it’s reasonable to view Orszag as fronting for the Administration.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: Obama and progressives: what will liberals do with their big election victory?

With fights over social security, Medicare, ongoing war, and other key progressive priorities looming, what will they do with their new power?

Glenn Greenwald, Wednesday 7 November 2012 10.39 EST

The greatest and most enduring significance of Tuesday night's election results will likely not be the re-election of Barack Obama, but rather what the outcome reflects about the American electorate. It was not merely Democrats, but liberalism, which was triumphant.

To begin with, it is hard to overstate just how crippled America's right-wing is. Although it was masked by their aberrational win in 2010, the GOP has now been not merely defeated, but crushed, in three out of the last four elections: in 2006 (when they lost control of the House and Senate), 2008 (when Obama won easily and Democrats expanded their margins of control), and now 2012. The horrendous political legacy of George Bush and Dick Cheney continues to sink the GOP, and demographic realities – how toxic the American Right is to the very groups that are now becoming America's majority – makes it difficult to envision how this will change any time soon.

Paul Krugman: Sandy Versus Katrina

As Sandy barreled toward New Jersey, there were hopeful mutters on the right to the effect that it might become President Obama’s Katrina, with voters blaming him for the damage, and that this might matter on Tuesday. Sorry, guys: polls show overwhelming approval for Mr. Obama’s handling of the storm, and a significant rise in his overall favorability ratings.

And he deserves the bump. For the response to Sandy, like the success of the auto bailout, is a demonstration that Mr. Obama’s philosophy of government — which holds that the government can and should provide crucial aid in times of crisis — works. And conversely, the contrast between Sandy and Katrina demonstrates that leaders who hold government in contempt cannot provide that aid when it is needed.

IN PRAISE OF TOM PAINE, 1737 – 1809: A Personal Tribute to the First Democrat of the Modern World

In the small Norfolk town of Thetford there is a statue to Thomas Paine, who was born there in 1737.  The town also has a hotel named after him (The Historic Thomas Paine Hotel), which, on its outer wall carries a commemorative plaque. During the Second World War an airfield was built at nearby Knettishall for the USAF Eighth Air Force for use in 1942/43. The plaque carries a dedication to Paine which is worth quoting in full:

THOMAS PAINE 1737 – 1809

“Journalist, Patriot and Champion of the rights of the common man, Thomas Paine, son of a humble Thetford Staymaker was born near this house. From his talented pen came the voice for the democratic aspirations of the American Republic through such splendid writing as Common Sense, Crisis, and The Age of Reason. Buried in New York this simple son of England lives on through the Ideals and Principles of the democratic world for which we fight today. In tribute to his memory and to the everlasting love of freedom embodied in his works, this plaque is gratefully dedicated through the voluntary contributions of soldiers of an American Air Force group.”  October 21st 1943

Fed Budgetary Experts Demolish CBO Health Cost Model, the Lynchpin of Budget Hysteria

A remarkably important and persuasive paper that calls into question the need for “reforming” Medicare has not gotten the attention it warrants. “An Examination of Health-Spending Growth In The United States: Past Trends And Future Prospects” (hat tip nathan) by Glenn Follette and Louise Sheiner looks at the model used by the Congressional Budgetary Office to estimate long term health care cost increases. Bear in mind that this model is THE driver of virtually all forecasts of future budget deficits.

This paper, although written in typically anodyne economese, is devastating in the range and nature of its criticisms. And the reason this assessment should be taken seriously, independent of the importance of the issues it raises, is that the authors are uniquely qualified to make this critique. Follette is chief of the Fed’s fiscal analysis section. Sheiner, a fellow member of that group, has worked for both the Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisers previously. In other words, the sort of analysis they have made here is the core of what they do on a daily basis.

Rick Perlstein: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism

from The Baffler No. 21

Mitt Romney is a liar. Of course, in some sense, all politicians, even all human beings, are liars. Romney’s lying went so over-the-top extravagant by this summer, though, that the New York Times editorial board did something probably unprecedented in their polite gray precincts: they used the L-word itself. “Mr. Romney’s entire campaign rests on a foundation of short, utterly false sound bites,” they editorialized. He repeats them “so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” “It is hard to challenge these lies with a well-reasoned-but- overlong speech,” they concluded; and how. Romney’s lying, in fact, was so richly variegated that it can serve as a sort of grammar of mendacity.

Some Romney lies posit absences where there are obviously presences: his claim, for instance, that “President Obama doesn’t have a plan” to create jobs. Other Romney fabrications assert presences where there are absences. A clever bit of video editing can make it seem like Romney was enthusiastically received before the NAACP, when, in fact, he had been booed. There are lies, damned lies, statistics—like his assertion that his tax cut proposal won’t have any effect on the federal budget, which the Tax Policy Center called “not mathematically possible.” That frank dismissal vaulted the candidate into another category of lie, an attempt to bend time itself: Romney responded by calling that group “biased”; last year, he called them “objective.”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Broken US System Needs Watching: International Election Observers Could Face Arrest

by Dave Lindorff
Tuesday’s national election in the US is shaping up to be a bruising affair, with both parties hiring armies of lawyers to fight over likely contentious battles over voter access to polling stations, dealing with long lines that could prevent people from voting after polls officially close, the counting of votes cast, and now, the right of international inspectors from the respected Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the process.

The OSCE, a 56-member international organization (including the U.S.) which routinely sends observers to monitor and oversee elections in countries around the world, has been monitoring US elections since the highly controversial presidential election of 2000, which ended up having the presidential race decided by a split 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. (The OECD was invited to start monitoring US elections in 2004 by none other than President George W. Bush, who was handed the presidency in 2000 by the Supreme Court.) Until this year, its monitors have had no problems doing their job, but this year hard-right officials in at least two states -- Texas and Iowa -- have threatened to have the international observers arrested and criminally charged if they attempt to monitor any polling places in those two states. Other states may join them.

Arbitraging Catastrophe: We're All in Danger - And It Could Get a Lot Worse

By Richard (RJ) Eskow
November 1, 2012 - 1:14pm ET

It's a sign of our shadowy times that the latest regulatory "reform" bill hasn't been laughed out of Washington. Same goes for the latest bankers' complaint, this time about being asked to cover their own bets. And if you think it's bad now, wait and see what happens if Romney takes over.

Think "global catastrophe."

While bank-friendly politicians offer insipid legislation, the world economy is still at risk. And it could get worse.

Economist Stands By Tax Cut Study After GOP Successfully Demands Its Withdrawal

Sahil Kapur, November 1, 2012, 3:15 PM

The author of a Congressional Research Service study, who found no evidence that tax cuts for high income earners lead to economic growth, is standing by his work, after the legislative branch’s nonpartisan research arm withdrew the report under pressure from Republican leaders. And Democratic principals are demanding to know why CRS caved to GOP pressure.

CRS quietly and quickly pulled the six-week old report, despite the wishes of the research arm’s economic team, the New York Times reported Thursday.

5 Disturbing Signs Romney Would Steer Us to Towards a Capitalist Dictatorship

By Juan Cole

November 3, 2012  |  The mainstream media and even Democrats have been slow to call Mitt Romney's deliberate falsehoods "lies." But after just calling them what they are, it is also important to analyze their meaning. Lies on Romney's scale do not simply show contempt for the intelligence of American voters. They show contempt for democracy, and display some of the features of capitalist dictatorship of a sort that was common in the late twentieth century. Mohammad Reza Pahlevi in Iran, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, Park Hung Chee in South Korea and P.W. Boetha in South Africa are examples of this form of government. Capitalist dictatorship has declined around the world in favor of capitalist parliamentarism, in part because of the rising power of middle and working classes in the global South.

Capitalist dictatorship has many similarities to fascism, but differs from it in lionizing not the workers of the nation but the entrepreneurs of the nation. Fascism seeks a mixed economy, whereas capitalist dictatorship privileges the corporate sector and attacks the non-military public sector. But both try to subsume class conflict under a hyper-nationalism. Both glorify military strength and pick fights with other countries to whip up nationalist fervor. Both disallow unions, collective bargaining and workers' strikes. Both typically privilege one ethnic group within the nation, marking it as superior and setting up a racial hierarchy.

The Life, Death and Rebirth of ACORN

Saturday, 03 November 2012 10:35
By Andrew Stelzer, The National Radio Project | Radio Report

It took 40 years to build ACORN, the national community organization which at its peak had more than half a million members.  But it took just a few months to bring it down.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Has Chinese Currency Manipulation Succeeded in Breaking Japanese Manufacturers?

Tonight’s Financial Times has a eye-popping story, that the survival of Sharp, one of Japan’s top consumer products manufacturers, is in doubt:
Sharp has admitted there is “material doubt” about its ability to stay in business as it warned of a second year of record losses, deepening the gloom surrounding Japan’s once dominant consumer electronics industry…

The warning came a day after Panasonic stunned investors by projecting a second consecutive $10bn loss. Panasonic’s share price dropped a further 19 per cent on Thursday.

Sharp and Panasonic, along with Sony, are the most consumer-focused of Japan’s large technology companies. All three have suffered as prices for flatscreen televisions and other household items plunged globally.