I have a piece up over on Alan Colmes’ Liberaland championing WikiLeaks for threatening to leak secret documents obtained from Bank of America. Can’t wait…
Here’s an excerpt of my post:
“It’s a shame that Congress and the White House are so deeply stuffed in the pockets of Wall Street they rarely generate serious and toothy investigations themselves. Fortunately, WikiLeaks is shaping up to be a modern-day Robin Hood of information freedom. For the millions of homeowners who are stuck in underwater, predatory loans while Bank of America took public bailouts and is now handing out (once again) record bonuses, justice WikiLeaks-style can’t come too soon.”
You can read the entire, short piece here.
You know that saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”? It’s particularly convenient if your enemy’s enemy has been your friend all along.
The enemy of Barack Obama and the Democrats this fall is our anemic economy. And so, since the Republicans want Democrats to fail at the ballot box this November, their best friend is the weak economy. The worse the economy gets, the better the GOP’s prospects for taking over Congress. But the sick and twisted yet incontrovertible fact is that Republicans are not only praying for our economy to get worse — they’ve been doing their best all along to hasten its demise.
Earlier this summer, Senator Debbie Stabenow — whose home state of Michigan has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation — claimed that Republicans were not just blocking the extension of unemployment benefits but intentionally stalling and gumming up the legislative works on basic economic recovery legislation because, “In cynical political terms, it doesn’t serve them if things turn around (in the economy).” Sen. Stabenow said, “They want our country to fail to win an election, and they’re willing to take the people of this country with them.” That Stabenow is right is only more apparent now that Democrats and Obama are going to (increasingly obscene) lengths to pass economic policies that align with conservative doctrine while Republicans still block and attack any positive change.
You would think this is stupid. After all, if the Republican ploy works — if the economy crumbles and they gain control of the House and possibly the Senate, too — then the they will have an even-worse economic crisis on their hands that Republicans will be responsible for fixing. Ah, but that would be a problem only if they intended to fix it…
You see, the Republicans will eventually put more people to work, but only by eviscerating labor unions, minimum wage laws and worker protections so that employment levels technically go up but real income and quality of life for workers drastically declines. Meanwhile, conservative economic policies will concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of the richest of the rich. So in absolute terms GDP will rise, but the prosperity of average Americans will stagnate or drop. The GOP will not regret the continued rise of income inequality and the inability for regular folks to reach the American Dream. To the contrary: This was their elitist economic agenda all along.
Conservatives have designed and pursued an imbalanced, unjust, failed economy for the last 40 years. In fact, the good ol’ days of a “strong economy” to which Republicans want us to return is an economy where most Americans were working harder and harder for less and less while big business wrote the rules and the elite hoarded all the wealth. As the structural problems in our economy have compounded, the now “worse” economy is even better than elite Republicans could have dreamed — worsening levels of economic inequality with all spoils going to the already-spoiled AND political opportunism. To borrow President Obama’s metaphor, the Republicans didn’t just drive us into the ditch — they wanted us there all along.
Take the absurd Republican response to tax breaks for small businesses that Obama proposed this week. Republicans — while promoting themselves as the defenders of small business — have said that giving tax breaks to small business is bad policy and, instead, we should extend tax breaks for the richest of the rich. See, e.g., John McCain:
“Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” suggested that the new proposals from the White House to spur small businesses wouldn’t do the job. “It isn’t going to resolve this incredible uncertainty out there that large and small businesses have about their financial future,” he said. “’The American people want us to stop spending, so let’s just give them some certainty. Let’s extend the existing tax cuts, and then let’s give some more tax breaks to small businesses and large, and then maybe the American people will have some confidence.””
But the fact is, tax cuts are a variation of spending. If the government has less money, it has to borrow money from somewhere else to cover existing commitments. So Republicans aren’t really talking about spending versus not spending, they’re arguing about who money should be spent on. Obama and the Democrats want government to help working people and small businesses. Republicans want government to help the richest of the rich.
An economy that only works for the richest of the rich is by definition a failure. Except if you’re the Republican Party. For the Republicans, our failing and unfair economy — like your enemy’s enemy — is the friend they’ve been seeking for a long, long time.
The Institute for Policy Studies just released it’s 17th annual study of CEO compensation revealing that the CEOs of the 50 corporations that cut the most jobs over the last two years received average bonuses higher than those paid to CEOs of the largest 500 businesses in America. You follow that? The CEOs who cut jobs got the largest rewards.
What’s worse, the Institute for Policy Studies found that 36 of those 50 CEOs cut jobs at a time when their corporations were reporting record profits. They cut jobs, helped sink the economy and put even more money in their own pockets. And now Republicans (and, unfortunately, some conservative Democrats) want to reward these richest of the rich by giving them giant tax cuts?!?
Bailing out the super rich won’t help grow the economy. It will only further grow the monstrous gap between unemployed and struggling average American workers and the elite ranks of greedy CEOs — which is part of the problem in the first place.
In the Wall Street Journal, Michael Boskin (the former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush) writes: “Businesses are flush with cash and profits have been solid.” In fact, businesses have been flush with cash for over a decade but as a matter of corporate policy and culture, big business has spent its money raising CEO salaries and paying higher short-term dividends instead of hiring more workers, creating better products and services and investing in our economy’s — and our nation’s — future.
Structurally, Wall Street has encouraged this extreme greed and inequality under the rationale of “trickle down” economics. But while even the Wall Street Journal acknowledges that big business is faring just fine in this economic crisis, the estimated 75% of Americans who’ve been touched by unemployment and recession aren’t feeling a drop of that trickle.
Meanwhile, the New York Times echoed a report in the Financial Times that the business lobby is bucking against new disclosure requirements in financial reform legislation that will require corporations to compute the discrepancy between salary and benefits paid to CEOs compared with those paid to regular workers in companies. The business lobby insists the complaint over the regulation is about “logistical” challenges — but, in truth, they don’t want the failure of “trickle-down economics” to be so blatantly and indisputably proven.
The New York Times writes: “It is clear that C.E.O. pay has skyrocketed while workers’ pay has stagnated; it is also clear that skewed pay and rising income inequality correlate to bubbles and crashes.” While in 1960 the average American CEO made 61 times what the average worker in his or her company was paid, now CEOs make an average of 411 times what their workers are paid. Some CEOs make 900 times more than their lowest paid employees. Are those CEOs really working 900 times harder? Or have we rigged our economic system to help CEOs and hurt the rest of us? Income and wealth for the top 1% of America has been growing while, adjusted for inflation, the rest of us are actually working harder and harder for less and less reward.
Given all that, conservatives want to give the richest of the rich EVEN MORE money from our public pockets?
In the Constitution, our Founding Fathers gave the federal government the ability to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.” That “general Welfare” includes distributing resources more fairly and creating equal opportunity for all. These are core American values. We recognize that the children of Donald Trump inherently start off their lives several steps ahead of your kids or mine — let alone the child of a single, young mother who doesn’t have a job or a place to live. What makes America a great nation is not that the rich get richer but that we create conditions so those who start below have a chance at catching up and even getting rich themselves. Our national pride comes from what everyday Americans are able to achieve here, not from multiplying the largess of already-successful billionaires.
But conservatives have corrupted the idea of fair distribution not just to oppose providing vital supports for poor and working class families but to endorse policies that actually re-distribute money from average Americans to the very, very rich. Make no mistake about it, when Republicans call for extending Bush-era tax breaks on the richest of the rich, that means re-distributing OUR government funds away from unemployment benefits, veterans services, food stamp programs and public schools.
The independent Council of Economic Advisors has said government spending to stimulate the economy created between 2.5 and 3.6 million jobs in the second quarter of 2010. According to the Wall Street Journal 70% of economists say that government stimulus spending helped the economy. So let’s make this simple — a dollar in the hands of government does more to help the economy and jobs (including YOUR job and YOUR family’s bottom line) than that same dollar in the hands of the richest of the rich.
Our economic crisis was caused by deep, structural problems — free trade agreements sending manufacturing jobs oversees, to decimating worker protections to letting finance capital run wild. But scholars have also found a striking correlation between inequality and economic crises — as the gap between the rich and the rest of us gets bigger, recessions erupt. Conservatives are right in accusing some of us “liberals” of seeing an opportunity within this financial crisis. We see an opportunity to finally make the American economy work for working people instead of the just the super rich.
As the saying goes, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Sometimes, cliché though it sounds, a cliché is just what’s needed to express a sentiment. And so it goes in the beleaguered relationship between the Democratic Party and grassroots progressive organizations.
Last week, the particularly beleaguered Harry Reid tacked an amendment onto a jobs and education bill that would expand funding for teachers and increase federal matching funds for state Medicaid expenses but would pay for the spending by cutting food stamps. The bill, with the amendment in tact, achieved cloture this morning — meaning that enough Senators voted to stop debating the bill and move forward to actually vote yeah or nay on the legislation.
But for once, the most interesting aspect of this legislation is not the horse trading to win a single Republican vote in a barely Democratic Senate. What’s most interesting is the contours of the corner into which Democrats backed progressive advocates.
Admittedly, progressive activists are accustomed to internecine battles, but usually these pit one arguably distinct interest group against another. When asked to sideline the needs of, say, poor black folks or undocumented immigrants and prioritize the needs of working class white folks, unfortunately few groups in Washington bat an eye. As a whole, us liberals tend to practice a “lowest hanging fruit politics” — which often translates to helping the higher placed fruit on the socioeconomic scale and letting the rest of the bunch rot.
For most liberals, then, the choice to support health care reform that would help mostly white, working class folks, while conceding to bars on access to abortions that would hurt mostly poor women of color was a no-brainer. But with the food stamps versus teachers and state aid tradeoff, it’s hard to make a case for the low hanging fruit of funding teachers and health care while denying poor people food — food like fruit.
Behind the scenes, progressive activists weren’t sure what to do. Some usually united coalitions bickered, with parts mobilizing to support the teacher and health care aid while their colleagues waved their arms in dismay that these leaders were, in effect, supporting cuts to food stamps. Accordingly, many progressive groups did nothing at all or officially took the position of having no official position. Meanwhile, the unions had perhaps adopted the clever “don’t worry” stance. According to Firedog Lake, on one strategy call, Chuck Lovelace, the Legislative Director for AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), noted that since the food stamp cuts wouldn’t take effect until 2015, there would be time to restore the funding. “We intend to go back and work to restore that benefit at the appropriate time… From my union’s perspective, we will go back and get that back.” Yes, because presumably we’ll be in a much better position if the Republicans control one or both branches of Congress….
A progressive activist friend called me about this, frustrated feeling pinned in the middle — by our own supposed political allies nonetheless — and said that at least the poor kids who lose their food stamps will be able to go to school and eat paste. Indeed, while some Democrats (not to mention the oligarchic Republicans) seriously debate whether to kill the Bush era tax cuts for the richest of the super rich, we’re forcing children across the nation to get their nutrients from Elmer’s Glue. That is, if the schools have enough money to buy glue.
Of course, we wouldn’t be in this situation if Democrats and President Obama hadn’t given in to the manufactured hysteria around deficit spending. Forty prominent economists recently agreed that while fiscal deficits are certainly a long-term concern, the United States will never balance its budget if it cannot first stimulate the economy through emergency spending. That means ambitious programs to fund public jobs, including teachers but also public works projects and new economic innovation, and establish strong safety nets for those who continue to struggle in our struggling economy. Jumpstarting our economy means putting the pedal to the metal, not easing up on food stamps to give a little gas to education. And if we have to take even more money from the exceedingly wealthy in our country who have already benefited from a strong economy and government policies that helped them grow their business and wealth, it’s only fair. Working class and poor Americans are already sacrificing too much in these tough times. To cut food stamps is an ugly additional blow. Instead of picking sides in a losing battle, progressives need to argue not just for revoking the Bush-era tax cuts but increasing taxes on the super rich. The rest of America needs the money. And don’t worry, the super rich have plenty to eat besides paste.
My latest popular education video dissects the confidential memorandum that Louis Powell (who went on to be Supreme Court Justice Louis Powell) wrote to the US Chamber of Commerce and titans of business in 1971 warning of the potential demise of corporate domination in America.
Watch the video to learn how big business’ secret plan led to the political situation — and financial wreck — we’re in today.
What else could we do with $5.5 billion in bonuses Goldman Sachs is giving its employees for the first three months of 2010? You’d think that after ruining our economy AND being indicted for fraud, Goldman would have the sense to give the American public the money to spend ourselves.
Actually, on second thought, they did such a great job tanking our economy, I’m sure they deserve it.
Watch my latest video blog with ideas for what else we could spend that $5.5 billion on.
And check out the Showdown in America, with events planned across the country of ordinary Americans telling the big banks enough is enough!
Here’s Jon Stewart’s take on fraud charges filed against Goldman Sachs and conservative opposition to clearly much-needed financial regulation. Brilliant (Stewart, that is — not the Wall St. crooks and Republican liars)!
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|These F@#king Guys – Goldman Sachs|
And if you never saw my video exposing how Goldman Sachs was betting on death in its “death bond” derivative scheme, there’s no time like the present:
When it comes to the American economy, there is one fundamental lie and one fundamental truth and it is up to you which you choose to believe. Tax Day is really a chance to ask: “Which side am I on?”
The lie is that if the maximum freedom and, thus, maximum benefits are given to the super-rich elites, ultimately everyone will win because the super-rich will create companies and create jobs and buy things and that will benefit the rest of us. It’s been called various things over various times — Reaganomics, trickle down economics, free market capitalism. But mostly it’s just been called bullshit.
The average five-year-old could tell you the truth — that if you want to create the most amount of opportunity and prosperity for the most amount of people, it makes much more sense to spread opportunity and prosperity from the get-go rather than give it all to the top and pray it will spread. Bullshit economists — who are mostly from elite backgrounds, educated in elite institutions, and invested in preserving the elite status quo — have been trying for decades to persuade us to believe their lie rather than the common sense truth. Their lie led our economy right into the toilet, but the bullshit economists and their Wall Street pals are still scrambling to convince us that they’re the solution, not the problem.
The anti-tax agenda perpetuates the lie. In a currently uneven economy where wealth and privilege easily reproduce themselves while it’s harder and harder to climb from the bottom or the middle up the economic ladder, taxes are the primary way we as a society redistribute money to all the hardworking Americans who deserve their fair share and a fair shake. Sure, those Harvard-educated bank CEOs work hard, but do they work 300 times harder than you? Their pay is based not on hard work but on bullshit economics that favor the already-rich. Taxes are our way of saying, “Hey, good for you for making a bazillion dollars, but since you’ll still be rich with a bajillion, we’re going to use some of your money to help other have a shot.”
Picture the classic image of rich titans of industry sitting around a wood-paneled private club, animal heads on the walls, butlers with white gloves — the exclusivity of the rich enjoying their riches together while plotting how to get richer. Government is the clubhouse for the rest of us. Public schools, roads, electricity, Medicaid and Medicare, veteran’s benefits — government helps the rest of us have the things we need in life, the otherwise only the super-rich could afford.
Think about it. If there was no public water system in your town, the rich could import gallons of water from wherever, pay staff to wash their clothes in the river and boil water to drink, and so on. What would you do?
The rich want you to think that government is a bad idea for YOU because it’s really a bad idea for THEM. They would be more than happy to keep their tax money, send their kids to $30,000-a-year private schools, pay thousands out of pocket to get a cavity filled, fly a private plane here and there because highways would be ruined. But since there aren’t enough super-rich folks to rule elections (though they keep trying with corporate donations to candidates) they need our help, too. They need the rest of us to swallow their lie so they can keep getting richer and, as taxes decline by our own doing, the rest of us fall further and further into despair.
This isn’t to say government is perfect. We need a much more accountable, transparent and participatory politics in America. But thinking that if government doesn’t work perfectly then it doesn’t work at all is part of the lie. At a time when free market capitalism in its current form has failed us wildly, we’re not questioning the fundamentals of that system remotely as much as we should. But one minor or major misstep on the part of government, and we’re ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. We’re that brainwashed to believe the lie.
Last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the people of Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, who pay the highest taxes in the world, are also the happiest people in the world. Taxes don’t just benefit poor people. Taxes are what create shared prosperity and keep the middle class prosperous.
This Tax Day, as you’re dropping your return in the mail (or pressing that e-send button), instead of reinforcing the pro-rich, anti-tax lie and sighing grumpily as you do your duty, look around at everything your taxes are paying for, everything that helps you in your daily life — from the subsidized post office to the government-created Internet, to the roads and the water and the parks and the schools and the fire fighters and the stop signs and everything in between. Paying your taxes is your way to get America back on the right track for all of us, to reject the lie that helps the rich get richer and instead create a shared economy that benefits everyone.
Super billionaire Larry Ellison and his BMW Oracle Racing team have just won the America’s Cup. How did Ellison do it? Raw talent? His own bootstraps? Not exactly. Ellison bought the best captain in Cup history and made the race’s most expensive boat, spending at least $500 million but reportedly up to $1 billion on the thing.
Here it is, by the way. When I was searching the internet for a picture, I kept passing this one by thinking it was that new hotel in Dubai. Alas, it’s a boat.
Now neo-liberal economists will try and tell us that wealth and money are not zero sum games, that Larry Ellison spending $500 million on a boat has nothing to do with the perpetuation of global poverty. However, the average 10-year-old will tell you otherwise. Ellison could have spent that money on, say, improving public schools in the farmworker towns not far from Silicon Valley, or ameliorating the blight and medical problems in communities living next to computer waste dumps that companies like Oracle populate.
Or, to put it in perspective, the star-studded Hope for Haiti telethon raised a mere $58 million. And no I don’t care how much Ellison may have, in fact, given to Haiti or Indonesia or Tibet. If he has $500 million left over to spend on a one-time use boat to win a race — a boat so big and impractical that it can’t even fit under the Golden Gate Bridge — something is fundamentally wrong with our world and our economic system. And if we can honestly look at this situation and defend Ellison, defend his “individual right” to spend his money however he wants, without regard for the collective good that got him here, then there is something fundamentally wrong with our values.
And you didn’t think I paid attention to sports…
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