Monday, February 28, 2011

Saving the middle-class will require a radically different conception of trade

America's Trade Policy of the Absurd - The American Prospect

Repeat after me: Obama. Was. Right.

"There is now broad agreement that the bailouts worked, stabilizing the financial system and preventing an even deeper crisis."

Bailouts Are Shaping Up to be Cheaper Than Expected - LA Times

Germinal, American edition?

"Last weekend's demonstrations do not necessarily reflect a new sense of class consciousness, but they do suggest the potential for it. The idea of a class system where only a handful can ever be truly wealthy intrudes awkwardly on a culture rooted in notions of self-advancement, personal reinvention and rugged individualism, even if it is closer to reality. Old habits die hard."

Wisconsin Is Making the Battle Lines Clear in America's Hidden Class War - The Guardian


"Lose the future"

"[P]oliticians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children.... In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear."

Leaving Children Behind - The New York Times

The sound of a dozen libertarian billionaires moaning in ecstasy

Why Can't All of America Be More Like Mississippi? - The American Prospect
"Why is this model of economic growth so appealing to the Tea Party? For one, it tends to jibe very well with the Ayn Randian belief in producerism: the idea that 'job creators'—business owners—are the only source of economic growth in society, and that everyone else—the workers, government employees, and the poor—are just 'useless eaters' shackling those who exercise individual initiative....

"The problem with this theory is that it won’t work: Economic development experts usually deride 'Moonlight and Magnolias' approaches to job creation, noting that they track the outmoded first and second 'waves' of basic economic development theory—which emphasized crude economic races to the bottom—as opposed to third and fourth 'waves' that focus on worker skills, quality of life, public-private partnerships, innovation, and sustainability. If Wisconsin and other states—not to mention the country as a whole—end up adopting these atavistic economic ideals, they will simply begin to resemble the dysfunctional Old South societies that spawned them in the first place."

Dixie Madison - The New Republic

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The payoff is priceless

"That’s not to say there is no fiscal mission in the right’s agenda, both nationally and locally — only that the mission has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The real goal is to reward the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations, and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks. The bankrupt moral equation codified in the Bush era — that tax cuts tilted to the highest bracket were a higher priority even than paying for two wars — is now a given. The once-bedrock American values of shared sacrifice and equal economic opportunity have been overrun."

Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down? - The New York Times

The real motivation

Trashing the Lessons of Watergate - The New York Times

Spreading the ignorance around

"One of the biggest problems we have in dealing with the budget is the gross level of budgetary ignorance on the part of the public that I detailed last week. But an even bigger problem is that Republicans in Congress appear to be just as ignorant about the actual impact of the grandiose spending cuts they repeatedly claim they are going to enact immediately. In coming weeks, everyone is going to get a very fast and very rough education on the real effects of slashing government spending."

GOP Cuts Budget with an Axe Instead of a Scalpel - The Fiscal Times

"‎"[Studies have shown that] giving people correct information not only had little effect on changing their misperceptions, in some cases it actually increased them.... I would like to believe that most people will make the right decisions given the correct information. If that is not the case, then we have a far more serious problem than just the budget deficit. It calls into question the fundamental basis of democracy itself."

Voter Ignorance Threatens Deficit Reduction - The Fiscal Times

The Budget Fight Continues - The New York Times

The Misinformed Tea Party Movement - Forbes

Friday, February 25, 2011

The GOP: Advancing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A. - The New York Times

Don't believe the high-tax hype

The Breakdown: Why Aren't Corporations Paying Their Taxes? - The Nation

The only legitimate demonstrators are the ones they agree with

For such noisy "supporters" of democracy and the Constitution, the Fox crowd seems strangely unfamiliar with the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition government for a redress of grievances, i.e., to protest. And naturally you heard none of this reality-impaired echolalia when the Teabaggers were putting their multitudinous forms of illiteracy, civic or otherwise, on public display (
Fox Slams WI Protests But Cheered Tea Party Protests - MediaMatters

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do they really need AM and FM?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Less Perfect Union
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It'll cost us

Working for the Shutdown - Slate

The battlefield is bigger than Wisconsin

Wisconsin Is Only Part of the GOP War Against Unions - Washington Post

An innovative definition of “shared sacrifice”

Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations - ThinkProgress

Very comfortable reasoning for the very comfortable class

The Overselling of Education - The American Prospect

They only call it class warfare when we fight back

'Pampered' unionists? Really? -

Eight charts that explain everything that's wrong with America

It's the Inequality, Stupid - Mother Jones

Things would have been different

"Thirty years of free-market evangelism have convinced nearly everyone—even middle-class voters who keep getting the short end of the economic stick—that the policy preferences of the business community are good for everyone. But in practice, the benefits have gone almost entirely to the very wealthy."

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About - Mother Jones

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How bad have things become?

"One of the things I noticed reading through the letters was the pervasive sense of loss, not just of employment, but of faith in the soundness and possibilities of America. For centuries, Americans have been nothing if not optimistic. But now there is a terrible sense that so much that was taken for granted during the past six or seven decades is being dismantled or destroyed."

At Grave Risk - The New York Times

Balancing the power

Nice observation by Ezra Klein in todays WaPo:

"Unions are not just about challenging the 'might and greed' of private-sector CEOs, but about recognizing the different incentives faced by managers and workers, and about correcting the tremendous power imbalance between those who can be fired for asking too many questions or demanding a different bargain and those who get to do the firing and would prefer a more submissive workforce and a status quo that they've created and defined."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Maybe the problem is that private sector workers make too little

Do Wisconsin's Workers Make Too Much? - The New Republic

Hate is stronger than logic

"It’s almost surrealistic. But decades of relentless Republican hate-mongering against the government has done its job.

Never mind that it was government that pulled off the greatest feat of social engineering in history. In 1900, only 4% of Americans graduated from high school. By 2000, more than 80% did. It was this mass educated public that made possible the most technically sophisticated economy in the history of the world.

It was government that won both World War I and World War II, leaving the U.S. economy astride the world like a colossus, able to harvest the fruits for decades. It was the government GI Bill program that educated a generation of young people to ultimately defeat the Soviet Union.

It was the government that wired every house in the country for electricity during the Great Depression, setting up the largest household consumer-goods market in the world in the 1950s: home appliances. And it was government guarantees for home loans that set off the greatest building boom in the history of the world: suburbia.

It was government that paved more than 3 million miles of road between 1930 and 1960, making possible the massive economic boom associated with automobiles, mass mobility, and more. It was government research that invented the graphical user interface and the Internet.

None of that matters.

Hate is stronger than logic and more than anything else, Republicans love their hate. It’s the only thing that gives them power."

When a Country Goes Insane - Common Dreams

No, they're not obsolete

"...[T]he decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. No matter what doubts you might have about unions and their role in the economy, never forget that destroying them destroys the only real organized check on the power of the business community in America. If the last 30 year haven't made that clear, I don't know what will."

Why We Need Unions - Mother Jones

Organizing Is a Right, Not a Privilege - The American Prospect

There's just one problem...

Alternatives to Austerity - The Guardian

It's not about the budget. It's about the power

Wisconsin Power Play - The New York Times

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The long road down

An oldie well worth revisiting:
"Dubbed 'median wage stagnation' by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years.... Worse is that the long era of stagnating incomes has been accompanied by something profoundly un-American: declining income mobility."

The Crisis of Middle-Class America - Financial Times

Run for your lives!

You can believe him, because he's an expert.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If they can break the unions in Wisconsin, they can break them anywhere

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A trillion-dollar bonanza

"Wall Street and its servants on Capitol Hill have lusted after Social Security's revenues for many years. And they regard the current uproar over the budget as a fresh opportunity to get their hands on a trillion-dollar bonanza. Given their record in recent years, it is all too easy to imagine how badly that would work out for everybody -- except them, of course."

Why Are Some Pundits and Politicans Hell-Bent on Underminig Social Security, in Spite of Its Success and Strength? - AlterNet

Friday, February 18, 2011

The GOP strategy is out in plain sight

Sledge to America: The Republican Strategy - Common Dreams

Unraveling the Great Paradox

"Our children’s children will look back and see that just a few years after the deregulatory agenda of anti-government ideologues resulted in a horrific recession, American politics somehow became even more dominated by anti-government zealotry than ever before."

The Submerged State - In These Times

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One big, happy family

"Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys of the world, is not adversarial combat.... Instead, it's a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats."

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? - Rolling Stone

Is there a solution? Tiabbi identifies one almost sure-fire (and highly appealing) possibility:
"[O]ne has to consider the powerful deterrent to further wrongdoing that the state is missing by not introducing this particular class of people to the experience of incarceration. 'You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street,' says a former congressional aide. 'That's all it would take. Just once.'""

Our moral evolution is toward liberalism

Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative - AlterNet

Dirty tricks are big business

How Big Business Subverts Democracy - The Guardian

How much are you worth?

As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret - The New York Times

At the first sign of trouble, sacrifice the poor

The GOP's Medicaid Ambush - Mother Jones

Screwing the Poor - Mother Jones

Funny--'moderate' deficit hawks only seem to screech at progressives

Deficit Hawks and the Games They Play - Washington Post

It's a growing field

Agnotology (n): the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt.
Shibboleths - Crooked Timber

If we can't raise taxes, maybe we can tax the bumper stickers about taxes

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
You're Welcome - Balancing the Budget
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Also keep in mind: cutting the budget is easy if you completely ignore the consequences: The Right's Painfully Stupid Approach To Budget-Cutting - AlterNet

A pretty good guess

The Secret Weapon of the Rich: Money - Mother Jones

Of course, you also have to consider the element they associate with: Government By The Rich - ThinkProgress

We need to start in-sourcing CEOs

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

As unions fall, so falls the middle class

"Instead of other citizens clamoring for what unionized workers have, organized labor is being asked to give up its hard-won pension and health benefits--of the sort that citizens of other advanced capitalist countries enjoy as a right."

Champions of the Middle Class - The American Prospect

Monday, February 14, 2011

First, the facts

What's Civility Worth? - The American Prospect


Um, you know that whole "Republicans would repeal the child-labor laws if they could" thing we say? That was really meant as humorous exaggeration, not as a dare. Missouri state Sen. Jane Cunningham, Charles Dickens salutes you.
SB222 - Modifies the child labor laws

The GOP's mandate? Repeal the laws of arithmetic

"[The] Pew [poll] also asked people how they would like to see states close their budget deficits. Do they favor cuts in either education or health care, the main expenses states face? No. Do they favor tax increases? No. The only deficit-reduction measure with significant support was cuts in public-employee pensions — and even there the public was evenly divided.

"The moral is clear. Republicans don’t have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.

"How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures.

"And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?"

Eat the Future - The New York Times

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yep, it's true

"[A] former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch’s cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking."

"We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider - AlterNet

Excellent work, Republicans!

"It promises to be one of the most irresponsible budget documents ever issued by a House majority."

Beyond Reason on the Budget - The New York Times

The Headsmack Report, part deux

Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information - World Public Opinion

Sadly accurate

Came across this as I was reading a pretty amusing takedown of lunatic would-be philosopher and eugenicist Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's worth a read:
After Constantine decided he needed support from the semi-literate multitudes, Christianity saw a rapid transition from the religion of hicks to a mainstream institution. And why not? Its followers were encouraged to shun worldly possessions, exhorted to deprive themselves of comfort and enjoyment. They considered poverty a virtue, strife a condition of salvation. They condemned themselves to hardship, and embraced a disenfranchised loserdom — which the powerful were more than happy to oblige.

Not only were the pious driven toward their paradise through a gauntlet of misery, but they were smug in the assurance that it was a reward of which their masters would be deprived. I’m sure the wealthy cried themselves to sleep, on their featherbeds, next to their mistresses.

It suits our modern ownership class that the average, the mediocre, should aspire to an opulence as distant and unlikely as a magical afterlife, while undercutting themselves and the rest of us in the interim. Affluence is the new Heaven, and for most it’s as much a fiction as the old.

And this:
For centuries, the superiority of the “Anglo-Saxon race” (honkies, crackers, WASPs; those neither brown nor Catholic) was a “scientific fact.” It wasn’t just “obvious” at the time that human evolution was a progression toward some ideal end (whiteness), but coincidentally, the researchers who’d determined this found that they belonged to the very ethnic group they’d concluded to be the apex of all life on earth. Bully for them! Likewise Rand pictures herself among the capitalist chosen ones. All the manufacturing and transportation executives are gonna need a terrible novelist to play minstrel, and serenade them with affirmations. The elite’s — and presumably Rand’s — big gripe about the masses is that they refuse to know their place.

Incidentally, since 800K copies of this stinker are sold each year (barring those folks either coerced by collectivist teachers, tricked by the glassy-eyed zealots in their lives, or overcome with paroxysms of morbid obligation — i.e. me), there’s apparently an enormous chunk of humanity ready to join the select few — the elect, so to speak.

Which raises the question of what constitutes “superiority,” since so many people are burdened with unwarranted confidence in their abilities. Here on Earth, the economy is complicated, and fucking with regulations can create opportunities for an economic minority to game the system; regardless of the bill of goods Randroids are being sold about merit (by billionaires growing fatter on subsidies and tax breaks). Our economy collapsed partly in thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall; a law meant to protect the hard-earned money of the middle and lower classes — while it appreciates at a miserably slow rate in commercial savings accounts — from the risks surrounding the disposable capital wealthy dick-heads stick into investment banks.

The top 25 hedge fund managers make $800K an hour, while the purpose of their jobs remains largely obscure, apart from their — and their clients’ — bottomless avarice. It’s like a video game; it happens because it can, because of bugs, loopholes and mistakes, not because it makes sense. A person can have a billion dollars, but I don’t believe anyone can earn it — unless they squirt fucking cancer vaccine.

And finally:
The justification granted to Rand’s characters is totally predicated on the ideas that: (a) the collateral benefit to society, which is incidental to the heroes’ solipsism (e.g. transportation, affordable and quality goods), outweighs their antipathy to that same society; and (b) that these few could do it all themselves if they wanted to, relying on an interchangeable workforce solely for menial labor (justifying exploitation). I gather that in Ayn’s view, most people scarcely deserved to live, let alone earn a wage that’d grant them opportunities to pursue ambitions beyond mindlessly grinding away their lives for the rich.

But this isn’t Gattacca; career counselors don’t scan fetal DNA to determine job potential. As soon as the playing field is skewed by things like class, race, and geography, the pure ideal of a meritocracy flies out the window. Reality is messy, so she tries to force it into the architectural planes that get her so hot and bothered.

If Rand is wrong about how the world works, her heroes are just assholes, rather than assholes with a supposedly just cause. Unfortunately for us, people take this drivel seriously, and we’re living in her world now.

You won, you morons.

Rand's ideal man: Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman - Michael Prescott

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Should we care when business complains about burdensome regulation? Not a lot

"By definition, a regulation is a government requirement that business uphold responsibilities to the public at large that, left to its own devices, business would rather avoid. If business leaders were naturally inclined to sacrifice their companies' narrow interests whenever these conflicted with those of the general population, regulation would be unnecessary....

"The idea that the business world's needs get ignored in Washington is perpetuated by business so it can fulfill even more of its needs, real or imagined. To take it at face value, as Issa at least pretends to do, is pure fantasy."

Darrell's Delusion - Slate

Ask the guy who did it

Need To Reduce The National Debt? Just Ask Clinton - The New York Observer

Anti-health-care rulings are a blast from a bad past

"...[N]othing in the Constitution even remotely guarantees a right to be a free rider and to shift the costs of one’s health care to others. So rather than directly claim such a right, the law’s opponents resort to states’ rights.

In this respect, Judge Hudson and the Virginia attorney-general are situated squarely within a tradition—but it’s an ugly tradition. Proponents of slavery and segregation, and opponents of progressive labor and consumer laws, similarly invoked states’ rights not because they cared about the rights of states, but as an instrumental legal cover for what they really sought to defend—the rights to own slaves, to subordinate African-Americans, and to exploit workers and consumers."

Is Health Care Reform Unconstitutional? - The New York Review of Books

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another liberal-socialist-Nazi ploy to avert catastrophe

"Repealing the act, which opponents have branded 'Obamastroid,' has been the cornerstone of the GOP agenda since the law's passage last August. Throughout the 2010 elections, Republican candidates claimed that the Democrats' plan to smash the space rock and shield citizens from its fragments was 'a classic example of the federal government
needlessly interfering in the lives of everyday Americans.'"

Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth - The Onion