Paying Off Italy?

Read about how a contract for petentially unsafe Italian helicopters that will be used to fly the President might just be a Bush payoff to Italy for helping get us into the Iraq war, in Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents?,

that they were doing something extraordinarily wrong. The rigged bidding process bypassed, for example, Marine One pilots who repeatedly sought to give input. They had many safety concerns. At the time of the bid, the helicopter chosen was not certified to fly in the U.S. It was an old model made of heavy materials; this flew in the face of why the President supposedly needed a new fleet: i.e., so many extra security devices had been added to Marine One after 9/11, it was struggling to lift off. In its losing bid, the Connecticut-based Sikorsky, which had manufactured virtually all presidential helicopters since Eisenhower first ordered one, proposed a new model made of much lighter, composite materials.

Today’s Economic Crisis Post — What Do We Need More Of?

Calculated Risk: Overcapacity Everywhere quotes Mish Shedlock of MISH’S Global Economic Trend Analysis,

Some analysts say over-capacity is so rampant that it will stymie government efforts to unfreeze credit markets. Banks have little reason to lend not only because they still have bad debt on their books but also because businesses don’t have a pressing need to expand, said Mike Shedlock, an investment analyst with Seattle-based Sitka Pacific who writes the popular blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.
“What is it that we need more of?” Shedlock said. “Do we need more Wal-Marts, more Pizza Huts, more nail salons?” [emphasis added]

Obama To Use Honest Deficit Accounting

You’re going to hear a lot of complaining that Obama is growing the federal budget deficit. One reason is that the deficit is about to rise is that the Bush administration used gimmicks to make it look smaller, and Obama is changing over to honest accounting.
Obama Bans Gimmicks, and Deficit Will Risem,

The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses.
But the biggest adjustment will deal with revenues from the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent the wealthy from using tax shelters to avoid paying any income tax.
. . . “The president prefers to tell the truth,” he said, “rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”

The Crisis Explained

In Chocolate Covered Cotton Billmon explains the extent of the financial crisis. Yikes.

Bottom line: great big chunks of Big Shitpile aren’t “impaired,” or “illiquid,” or “distressed,” they’re worthless, now and forever – unless the peak real estate values of the bubble can miraculously be restored and a whole bunch of deceased LBOs can be raised from the tomb.

So what about the proposed solutions?

One of the things that creeps me out about the political system’s response to the crisis so far –€“ the insolvency of the banking system in particular –€“ are the increasingly desperate attempts to maintain a phony façade of free markets and private enterprise, in an economy now utterly dependent on the federal safety net. I totally expected that from Hank Paulson and the Cheney Administration, but is Obama’s financial team really pressed from exactly the same Wall Street mold?

LOTS to read there. Especially read the end and follow the link.

Everybody Watch This Video On Worker Pay

The mayor of Lansing Michigan takes on Fox propagandist.

The $70 per hour figure is a lie that Fox repeats. Auto workers are paid much less than that. This $70 figure takes all the health care and pensions earned by RETIRED workers and adds them to the “hourly labor cost” to make a new car. The auto companies were supposed to have set that money aside to cover those benefits but instead paid it out as bonuses and dividends, and are now asking current workers to make it up.

The California Budget Agreement

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
California finally passed a budget. It is a bad budget, cutting essential services, borrowing a tremendous amount, selling our lottery revenues and giving a huge tax break to big out-of-state companies. Each of these came from demands by the very, very few Republicans who agreed to vote for the budget at all will, of course, just get us through another year while making it ever more difficult to pass future budgets.
California’s 2/3 requirement means that a few corporate-funded extremists can hold the rest of us hostage. So they had to make a terrible deal to get the three Republican votes required by the 2/3 rule, or else lay of tens of thousands and stop paying California’s bills. We the People of California were all held hostage to that threat.

Continue reading

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs got $10 billion in bailout money from the Bush admin, and paid $6 billion of it straight out in bonuses to top execs.

Goldman Sachs owns much of Burger King. Full-time workers there are paid about $14,000 a year. If that bonus money had gone to them it would have meant $18,000 each. Instead Burger King workers cost the government an estimated $273 million a year “because workers lack access to affordable employer health coverage, are paid sub-poverty wages, and must rely on publicly-funded healthcare, income support, and food stamp programs.”

The Obama administration has put up a new website,, to help people track how the recovery/stimulus money is spent.
From the site: is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you’ll be able to see where it’s going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we’ll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.

Trade Question

If an American company closes a plant here, opens a plant in China and builds the same thing there as they were building here, and ships all of it to the US to sell, is that “TRADE?”
Isn’t that just moving the jobs offshore? That’s not trade. The US trade deficit gets bigger. The US gets poorer. Someone in China gets paid off, the workers there get very little.
That is not “trade.” It’s what propagandists call “trade” so they can accuse anyone who wants to do something about it “protectionist.”

Media Coverage of Recovery/Stimulus

Media Matters took a look at media coverage of the Recovery/Stimulus package: (It passed, by the way.)

They also released some facts and figures
: (Click through for links)

In January, Media Matters noted several media figures falsely suggesting that a partial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the economic recovery plan was in fact a full analysis of the bill and falsely suggesting that in that analysis, the CBO found that, in the words of The Washington Post, “the majority of the money in the Democratic plan would not get spent within the first year and a half.” According to the CBO’s most recent analysis of the entire bill, 74.2 percent of the total package would be spent within 19 months.

Continue reading

CA’s Budget Problem Is Paragraph 10

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Today’s San Jose Mercury News front page story is about California’s budget problem: that they are still one vote short. But Californians reading the story are not told why one more vote is required, not are they told who it is required from — until the 10th paragraph. The 10th paragraph reads,

The votes were there in the Assembly. But in the Senate, only two Republican senators were prepared to buck party orthodoxy and vote to raise taxes. Three were needed.

Even in this 10th paragraph readers are not informed that every Democrat is voting for the budget.
Before this paragraph, readers are told that “lawmakers” cannot agree and that “the deal still was held hostage by the thinnest of margins.” But there is nothing telling them who or why.
The reason this is such a problem is that the people of California need this information, to help them play their part in the functioning of our state government. The voters need to know who to hold accountable or they will not make their wishes known through calls to their Assemblymember’s or Senator’s office. And they can’t make informed decisions at election time.
This is typical of stories about the budget impasse — across the state the major newspapers, radio and TV stations are not giving the voters the information they need in order to participate in their government. The result is that the state is becoming ungovernable — and going broke.
So let’s be clear about what is happening here. California’s elected Republicans have all signed a “no-new-taxes” pledge with Grover Norquist’s organization. (He’s the guy who says the plan is to make government small enough to “drown in a bathtub.”) So now they see the budget crisis as an opportunity to force mass layoffs of state employees and reductions in support for people who need things like state-supplied oxygen tanks. They call that “reducing government.” And even with all the budget cuts that the Democrats have all voted for, they still will not vote to pass a budget. They want more, and then more, and then they want the state government to go away.
This is ideology. They repeat an ideological mantra that will ruin the state. And they say this is their goal — to get rid of government. They say government is bad. They say government spending is bad. They say taxes are bad. They say corporations are good. Ideology.
California can not continue to fund our schools, universities, roads, public safety, firefighters, health services, services to the poor, blind and elderly, provide funding for local government, etc. without additional revenues. Do the Mat (George Skelton, LA Times):

It’s Republican dogma in the Capitol that to vote for a tax increase is “career-ending.” Even if true — and there’s evidence both ways — so what?
These are folks, after all, who sermonize against making politics a career, publicly pretend to worship term limits and preach the virtues of private enterprise. You’d think they’d be eager to return to the private sector. Yet, they’re afraid to risk losing out on their next political job.

Another item not reported is that the Republicans demanded a huge tax cut for large corporations — the very kind that are killing off California’s smaller independent, job-creating businesses.
And they still won’t vote for the budget. And the public still doesn’t have a chance to learn what is going on here.
Click through to Speak Out California