Who Is Our Economy For?

In today’s New York Times there’s a story, Is There Such a Thing as a Jobless Recovery? From the story,

After falling into recession in 2001, the economy did indeed recover in 2002, hard as that is to believe. Despite a sluggish fall, most economists believe the United States expanded at close to 3 percent last year (final statistics are still being compiled).

But because productivity — the amount of goods or services produced for each hour worked — is climbing relatively fast, last year’s relatively tepid expansion created almost no new jobs. Instead, businesses are finding ways to get more production out of each current employee. In fact, the unemployment rate has risen from 3.9 percent in 2000 to 6 percent today.

So the unemployed aren’t finding jobs, more people are becoming unemployed, the people still working have to work harder to do the jobs the unemployed were doing, and many of them are afraid they’re going to lose their jobs.

Productivity means increases in wealth. But whose wealth? When you’re working harder on the job for the same pay, that’s called a productivity increase, and SOMEone is getting richer. But obviously it isn’t YOU. Statistics show the wealth in America is concentrating at the top. WE’re working (if we have jobs) and THEY’re getting rich.

Who is our economy for? Why are we tolerating this?

Bush Has Squandered Our Trust

I posted this as a comment at DailyKos, and decided to post it here and No War Blog as well.

What gets me is that Iraq could very well be the threat that the Bushies say. Iraq could very well be working on biological weapons or hoarding chemical weapons. They very well could be a threat to us, supplying terrorists, planning to hit us with smallpox, etc.

If so, Bush has handled this outrageously! He has lied about Iraq. He lied about connections with Al-Queda. He lied about that report saying Iraq could have nukes in 6 months. He lied about the aluminum tubes. Getting caught lying at a time when they need the world to trust them is very bad. That, and other things he has done, have split us off from the rest of the world.

Then, Bush pumped fear into the country, instead of being a leader that helps the public with their fears. They pumped fear into the population and then used that to get more of their far-right agenda passed. That is a very divisive thing to do and the country will be divided as a result for a long time.

And Bush has politicized Iraq as well as the war on Al-Queda. They blatantly used Iraq to manipulate the election. This was even more divisive, but worse than divisive it undoes their credibility even with their own supporters who now assume everything has a wink and a nod behind it – that they’re “only saying that” to win. Even the supporters don’t trust Bush but go along because they fell Bush is doing what he has to do to beat the liberals and want to be on the winning side.

And there has been this whole secrecy thing! Particularly excluding Democrats from consultation on matters of national security! What happens if this war in Iraq goes badly and they have to come to us for emergency appropriations, or for an emergency draft? They’ve divided the country before the war even starts.

So here we are, unable to trust our own leaders. We may very well be under the kind of threat they say! If so, they have squandered their ability to pull us together by using the divisive tactics, and squandered the world’s trust by lying to us. So here we are, not really knowing for sure if we’re threatened, pumped full of fear by our own leaders… what a mess!

Even More Pension Trouble

I’ve been writing about problems with pension funds for a while. Finally the problem is becoming publicly serious enough that it is gaining the attention of the mainstream press. (The problem isn’t growing – awareness of the problem is growing. The problem is already huge.)

Companies that promise employee pensions are required to set aside enough money to cover their future pension obligations. During the big stock runup, pension funds grew faster than the obligations, and companies TOOK MONEY OUT of the funds, increasing their apparent profit. Now that stocks are in the process of returning to reasonable levels, the companies need to put that money back, plus enough to cover additional shortfalls. This means that the companies must report lower profits, reducing their stock price.

An additional component is that companies must calculate future obligations, which involves forecasting the rate of return the funds will receive on the money they have. Companies have been using very high rates of return for these forecasts. The higher the forecasted rate of return, the lower the amounts they need to have in the fund now, and the money not put into the fund goes to the bottom line, which raises their stock prices, which means executives get huge bonuses. (See where this is heading?) They’re using forecasts of 8.5% returns!

This is my most recent entry about the pension problem. It references earlier entries

The Fattest Target Since Pearl Harbor

From a great, great piece by Gene Lyons:

It doesn’t appear to have registered that if the White House geniuses really thought Saddam capable of attacking with “weapons of mass destruction,” the well-publicized U.S. troop buildup in Kuwait offers the fattest target since Pearl Harbor.

Not to mention the need for a draft to replace them – if we REALLY believe he has weapons of mass destruction and would use them. But I think the Korea situation shows us the reaction of the Bushies to a country that they actually DO think can harm us – instead of just using that as a rationale for a war they want.

Update – Korea. What I said the other day – “Speak loudly and carry a don’t-do-squat stick!”

Exploring Other Weblogs

Dave Winer writes this about the cost of prescriptions and later points to this scary story at Brian D Busk’s Weblog, about what can happen to you if you do not have health insurance. READ IT and be very afraid.

Nathan Newman on China.

TalkLeft has the Gary Hart speech that we should all read.

Everything at The Hamster is good today, as always.

Toby’s Political Diary talks about the relationship between Bush’s Texas record as executioner, and his drive for war against Iraq.

Thinking it Through writes, ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RIGHT-WING NUTJOB GETS A JOB WITH THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION.

Everything at TBOGG is always great every day.

Slacktivist has a bunch about Bush’s new appointee to the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS.

skimble caught a piece about Helen Thomas calling Bush “the worst president ever” and then read the piece below that.

I Report – You Decide

m4s0n501

Got this e-mail from a reader. In the right-wing Fox Limbaugh Drudge spirit of just passing this kind of thing along, here it is:

The Bush administration is about to start shipping a lot of smallpox vaccine. During the cold war the US spooks always watched for any kind of mass vaccination program against biowarfare agents. We knew that the Soviets vaccinated its military VS several agents, so we supposed that biowarfare was an option in battle situations. But civilian protection would presage something more sinister. Now the US is doing exactly that but under the excuse that we are afraid that somebody else will spread smallpox into our population.

Supposedly, only a couple or three smallpox stocks were left in freezers after the disease was eradicated form the earth. The US, of course, has one of those acknowledged stocks and perhaps some that are more carefully hidden. Add to this the fact that the Anthrax spores used in the mail attacks came from a US Government lab (1) and you realize that was a practice run to gauge the public reaction and response.

If Smallpox is released in this country, it will be by some elements in this current government and blamed on Iraq and/or Bin Laden. The Patriot Act and some other enabling legislation allows a virtual suspension of civil liberties in case of such a public health crisis. Doesn’t this remind you of an analogous turn of events (Reichsteig Fire, etc.) in Germany (2) during the late Twenties and early Thirties.

(1) Graduate training as a medical microbiologist and service on an industry advisory board to the EPA’s anthrax task force convinces me of this fact.

(2) Don’t forget, those events staged by the Nazi party were partly financed by G.W. Bush’s Grandfather.

You decide. Leave me out of it. Remember – if Clinton were President, imagine what the wingers would be posting! They flatly claim he launched that strike on Bin-Laden to divert the press from Monica stuff – saying he “bombed an asprin factory.” Now they’d be saying that his poll numbers are down, so he would do something like this. But leave me out of it. :-)

State of the Union Speech

I expect that President Bush will use the State of the Union speech to do everything he can to scare the crap out of the American people. Rather than use his position of leadership – the “bully pulpit” – to calm a frightened public, Bush will continue to use language intended to whip up fear.

This is their tactic. Our fear has been so useful to them. A terrified public will rally behind their leaders for their own protection. When we’re under attack we must stand together. We will support our leader and will not tolerate breaking ranks.

They terrify us and then they harvest the results.

By terrifying us the right keeps us distracted, and uses the panic to push their agenda through the Congress. The Republicans politicized “the war” and the fight against terrorism. They drummed up the Iraq scare to influence the election – and it worked. A terrified public supports massive increases in military spending. It supports restrictions on the media. It supports restrictions on political criticism.

Terrify us, then harvest the results.

Terrify, then harvest. The new mantra of the Republicans: “Terrify, then harvest. Terrify, then harvest!”