Fighting For Health Care

THIS is how to do it! This is Rep. Grayson who spoke out about Republican opposition to health care reform, and here he is fighting for it on CNN! Imagine, a Democrat fighting!
Absolutely watch this! And watch the shock of the rest of the “villagers” on CNN who just cannot understand a Democrat with a spine!

P.S. Reward good behavior, throw a few dollars, or a thousand, his way! He has a tough fight coming up to keep his seat.

My contribution: $

A New Economy from Old Roots?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
How do we build a new economy out of the collapse of the old economy? How do we start fresh to begin creating jobs again, while building in economic and environmental sustainability, as well as workplaces that respect human needs and rights? How do we change things so that we all get to share the benefits of the economy rather than just contributing to the increasing wealth of a few vastly wealthy people?
While we look for a vision for a new economy, we should examine what has worked in the past. America had periods in which regular people enjoyed sustained increases in their standard of living. For a long time it was a conventional wisdom that each American generation would do better than the previous generation, more people would receive good educations, medical care would get better, the middle class would grow, leisure time would increase, poverty rates would decrease, retirement would be easier, etc.
But this pattern stopped. Beginning in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s incomes began to stagnate, wealth increasingly concentrated at the top, working hours and workplace pressures steadily increased, availability of good health care started to decrease, etc. The standard of living of most Americans began to and continues to decline. At the same time corporations became more predatory as consumer protections vanished. Meanwhile outsourcing, deunionization and other anti-worker policies led to increasingly unpleasant, stressful and unrewarding worklives for more and more people.
Many of today’s problems are traceable directly to the policy results of anti-government propaganda that was blasted out from well-funded conservative think tanks starting in the 1970s. The anti-government campaign led to defunding of many national, state and local government programs that improved education, helped the poor or enriched people’s lives. We suffered deregulation in many areas where the government had protected consumers, workers, investors and the environment. Huge reductions in taxes for the wealthy were either offset by tax increases for the rest of us or government borrowing. And that borrowing has led to increasing problems of paying the interest and threats to funding even basic programs like Social Security and education.
So what worked, before the conservatives trashed the place?
One thing we know for sure now, learned the hardest way thanks to the financial crisis: regulation worked. Regulation was necessary, it worked, it kept firms from taking risks that could bring down the economy. And we can also see now how regulations protected consumers from predatory corporate activities, workers from wage theft or unsafe working conditions, and the environment from exploitation and destruction.
Before Reagan the tax rates at the top were very high. After you reached – and took home – a certain very high income you paid a high percentage of the rest in taxes. This had many beneficial results – even for the people who paid higher taxes. Government could afford to keep the physical, education and legal infrastructure in good condition without borrowing. Government could afford to invest in programs that improved our standard of living, health, knowledge and technology, which helped businesses grow. Businesses thrived in such well-watered soil.
The high tax rates also kept the bad side of human nature in check. When it took years to build up a fortune businesspeople had to rely on the health of the greater community to nurture their own wealth-building enterprises and keep them thriving over a long period. They had to think and act long-term. The roads needed to be kept in repair, the schools needed to provide excellent education to potential employees, the courts needed to be functional to enforce contracts, and they wanted the communities they were going to have to stay in to be pleasant places to live.
But once taxes were lowered vast windfalls could be realized from a single event and it made more sense to try to fleece the community with quick-buck schemes than to rely on it. We began to see corporate raiders break up solid, ongoing companies, steal pension funds, etc., while encouraging communities to cut spending on schools, roads, etc. It became more profitable sell off or outsource our manufacturing capacity. And then, as things fell apart, the few who benefited could just fly away in their private jets or sail away in their huge yachts. The greater community was no longer any use to them except as crops to be harvested. Vulnerable consumers are the only crop that is coming up in this economy.
Big Government
Government is We, the People making the decisions. “Big government” is simply another way of saying that more of the important decisions are made by the people. Shrinking government means handing the decisions over to big corporations. In the real world this is the choice. And in the real world big corporations make decisions that benefit them, and only them. Before you badmouth government think carefully about what the alternative is.
Old-Fashioned Government Planning
As I said in a post a few months ago,

The phrase “industrial policy” sounds so Walter Mondale, 1970s, smokestacks and brick factory old-fashioned. I suspect the subject turns people off, eyes glaze over, hands reach under the table for iPhones and Blackberries…

But here we are without an industrial policy. How’s that working out for us? Every other country has one. China seriously has one. We instead have huge trade deficits. We don’t make things here so we have to borrow money to buy things made elsewhere.
To add insult to injury, recently Deutsche Bank released a research note advising investors that the U.S. was not a good investment because of our lack of a government industrial policy. See Deutsche Bank: Absence of US Clean Energy Policy Will Send Global Capital Elsewhere.
While we envision a new direction for our economy, maybe we should also be looking at returning to a few old-fashioned ways of doing things, too.

Budget Deficits

According the Wall Street Journal Bush’s final budget year will have a deficit of more than $1.2 trillion. (Note that the WSJ story was written before President Obama was sworn in.)
When Clinton left office the country had a budget surplus of over $230 billion. Carter submitted a balanced budget to Congress in his last year. LBJ balanced the budget.

Pittsburgh Police Presence – Intimidation of Democracy

I was in Pittsburgh and I have never seen anything like the police atmosphere there. I go back to the 60s protests, including Mayday when they set up machine guns on the White House grounds so I have seen it. But that was more military, not police. There were almost zero “civilians” in the city and a massive militarized police presence beyond anything I have ever experienced.
Here are a few impressions. Everyone had been whipped up with fear leading up to the Summit – both police and townspeople. It seemed as though the police had been through some sort of military training in advance of the Summit. The militarized attitude was not what I have seen from police before. It appeared they had been led to expect massive trouble on the order of tens of thousands. What I suspect happened was that the local media scared the wits out of the population by playing clips of huge WTO protests over and over until people were convinced that they were going to be besieged by a violent Woodstock of some sort. (Like how they have scared people to the point where they won’t let their kids walk to school anymore.) I don’t know that but what I saw there makes me thing it was something like that.
Everyone had brand new equipment. The uniforms were new, freshly pressed. Riot helmets without a single scuffmark. New trucks, rifles, communications equipment, body armor, all new. Millions upon millions of anti-terrorist gear was finally going to be tried out.
The weirdest thing was that buildings clear across town from where the would be any expectation of trouble had anti-tank barricades set up around them. I mean the concrete divider segments that are put between oncoming lanes on highways had been moved into place around builds, entrances, etc all over town! Of course the security around the perimeter for the Summit was crucial, the barricade with the trucks filled with heavy materials at every intersection stops potential attacks from a hijacked bus or truck. The fencing and checkpoints … these are 20 of the world’s leaders in one place. Fine. But why anti-tank barriers on buildings on the other side of town?
There were thousands of police. There was police from all over the East and Midwest. There were police on horseback, bicycle, motorcycle, van, car, truck, dump truck, military-style vehicle, helicopter, speedboat, and on foot. There were police dogs. There were Coast Guard, Secret Service, National Guard, State Police, Park Police and every other agency you can imagine.
The actual People’s March was orderly, almost fun, except for the masses of police. It went on for quite a while, followed by hundreds of Falun Gong, then followed by hundreds of police on foot, followed by mounted police, followed by dozens of police vehicles with doors open, fully-armored police with machine guns ready to jump out.
The really, really needed a police marching band as part of the display. Seriously. This was a missed opportunity.
The effect was intimidation. No way around it, no one could have been anywhere near Pittsburgh for this Summit without receiving a loud and clear message, “We are in charge, we don’t want to hear what you have to say, shut up and behave.” And for the public, the expectation that an unspeakable force of evil was coming – and then when the DFHs show up, this has to translate to the message the people who protest against elites are somehow in the wrong. Massive intimidation. The security was necessary for the Summit, but the rest of it was intimidation of democracy. Police are trained to respect the citizens, but this militarization changed that, turned “the other side” into enemies.
Another problem was the effect of anticipation. The police were intimidated, too, led to expect a massive wave of weirdos attacking them. And so of course after months of preparation and anticipation were naturally ready to go after them and win.
Pictures later.

Did President Obama Order Fox Not To Air Anti-Olympics Segment?

Sounds REALLY bad. The Obama administration ordering Fox not to put things on the air!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But when you click through you find out that the News Director of a Fox affiliate ordered the staff not to air for a second time an anti-Olympics segment — after they aired it once. That’s it. That’s the whole story! A News Director ordered the staff not to run it again.
P.S. The segment is about a website that pushes for the Olympics to be held in Rio, with no information about who put up the website. D’ya think it might have been paid for by the committee trying to get the Olympics in Rio? Duh???

Is Obama Admin Enforcing Laws and Regs?

The hallmark of the Bush administration was lawlessness. Laws and regulations were ignored, enforcement was scoffed at. The powerful were always, always given a pass. Political opponents were prosecuted, or in the case of things like wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, were just harassed, removed, etc.
Question: Is the Obama administration now enforcing laws and regulations? I don’t mean in the cases of torture, bribery, contracts inappropriately given to political supporters, launching illegal wars, political manipulation of the government, etc. all of which occurred under Bush — we already know they are not investigating and enforcing existing laws in those cases.
No, I mean, except for the obvious. I mean the day-to-day enforcement of regulations and laws.
I ask because I have not heard of any new enforcement of employment regulations here in Silicon Valley. For example, in the rare cases where any hiring is occurring, is the government checking to make sure that the rampant age discrimination has stopped? Are they making sure that women are paid the same for the same jobs? Are they going after companies that pollute? etc?

What If?

Since there are no Republicans supporting health care reform anyway, what if Democrats just give everyone Medicare, and pay for it by taxing the super-rich and big corporations?
Would this bring more or fewer votes for Democrats from now on?
I am asking a political question about votes only. Would the general public feel that the Democrats had delivered something they want – Medicare for everyone? Or would they feel it was wrong to tax the super-rich?
Benefits of this would include taking a huge burden off of American companies. Any company now providing health insurance would have its costs dramatically reduced. Ans this would probably increase profits enough that those paying increased taxes would be taking more more than they were before.

Wild, Wild Conservative Claims – Here We Go Again

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
A “study” called Cost of State Regulations on California Small Business Study makes some wild, wild claims!  From the summary,

The study finds that the total cost of [business]regulation to the State of California is $492.994 billion which is almost five times the State’s general fund budget, and almost a third of the State’s gross product. The cost of regulation results in an employment loss of 3.8 million jobs which is a tenth of the State’s population.

Scary. Wild. Mostly, though, just unbelievable. I wonder who paid for the study?
KQED’s Capital Notes blog tracked down some of the sources of the wild, wild claims.
The authors previously released a study wildly, wildly claiming that California’s AB32 climate change legislation will cost California’s small businesses $182 billion a year and cost 1.1 million jobs. I wonder who paid for that study?
For this “regulations” report they relied data from on a Forbes Magazine report listing California as a bad state in which to do business. The Forbes report relies on data from the Pacific Research Institute.
This reminded me that the Pacific Research Institute released a 2007 “study” making the wild, wild claim that allowing people to sue companies that harm them costs $865 billion per year. I wonder who paid for this study?
David Dayen writes about this at Calitics,

Basically, regulations take your wives, enslave your children, throw your ice cream on the ground, and write “loser” on your chest in sun tan lotion when you fall asleep at the beach. It’s amazing how in line this study is with standard conservative tropes about onerous regulations and big government. I wonder why that is?

I think I’ll do a “study” that makes a claim that conservative “studies” cost us more than $12 trillion a year. The trouble is, who would pay me to write it?
Click through to Speak Out California

G20 – Getting Down To Business

I am posting from Pittsburgh on the G20 Summit, over at Campaign for America’s Future’s
Blog for OutFuture| Here is my first post today — go over there for the rest.

Today the world leaders attending the G20 Summit get down to business. The main issues are economic restructuring to prevent another collapse, addressing trade imbalances, and discussions of climate change solutions. But the overriding issue for all of us boils down to jobs.

The G20 countries see GDP growth as the holy grail. But we have seen that GDP growth alone does not by itself improve living standards – or even create jobs. Instead, as we have seen, in fact it can even be destructive to job growth as well as the environment. As the articles I linked to yesterday discussed, the GDP growth measure is not a measure of people’s well-being, or of “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This focus on GDP might make a few already-rich people even richer but it does not lead to the kind of restructuring of income and wealth distribution that benefits the rest of us around the world.

It’s funny that I find myself writing “as we have seen” again and again, because in defiance of the conventional wisdom what we have actually experienced keeps turning out to be different from what the experts tell us will result from the actions of those making the decisions for the world. Bloggers joke “who could have known” because over and over the bloggers are writing about the things that the experts later declare no one could have known about…

Bloggers are really just the voice of democracy — the voice of regular people across the country and world writing about what they are seeing, bypassing the “expert” media gatekeepers. Some things you can just see in front of your face, and the bloggers see these things, while the experts just keep missing them. One of those things is that the regular people out here in the rest of the world are having a harder and harder time, while a few rich people are getting vastly richer, and that just can’t continue.


The streets of Pittsburgh are quiet … too quiet. (Just kidding.) Outside the streets are largely deserted – even more so than yesterday. But late yesterday and into the night there were several hundred anarchists outside of town breaking windows and trying to break through police lines to get into the city.

Today large demonstrations are expected, but they are certainly expected to be peaceful. The problem is that there is no chance that they will be seen by the world leaders gathered for the Summit. The nearest place they can reach is the street below the windows at the Media Center where I am working, and this is nowhere in sight of the convention center. Well, that isn’t exactly accurate, I can get a glimpse of the roof of the convention center, which is two blocks away (see picture).


So this is the limit of where demonstrators can go. On the one hand, there are obvious security concerns. But it also leads to an environment that isolates the leaders from the concerns of the rest of us.

The main concern of the rest of us is jobs.

Enforcing Trade Rules Shocks “The Village”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The New York Times business section has this today, With a Receptive White House, Labor Begins to Line Up Battles. Oddly this “news” story incorrectly casts enforcement of trade agreements as opposing “free trade.” From the story,

While labor’s opposition to free trade is nothing new, having an ear in the White House is. The Obama administration, though it says it supports free trade, has so far seemed more aligned with labor’s trade agenda than has any administration in decades.
What has alarmed America’s trading partners is the steelworkers’ victory when the president imposed a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires under special trade rules that allow punitive measures without a finding of illegal trade practices.
… The president’s move has stirred worries that other unions and industries will rush to seek similar relief.

Here’s the thing. This is not about opposition to free trade. This is about enforcement of existing agreements. This is nothing more than a request to the proper enforcement authorities to investigate if agreements are being violated, and to take the agreed-upon steps to remedy that if they are. But in recent years it because the expectation that the White House made decisions that were not based on rule of law, but rather on … something else. From the article,

In four safeguard cases, President George W. Bush declined to impose penalties even though the United States International Trade Commission, a bipartisan panel, had found that Chinese imports hurt particular industries.

THAT should have been the shocking news, not the current news that agreements are going to have to be lived up to! A President of the United States sided with other countries, against American companies and workers, even after the trade enforcement bodies found clear violations of the agreements!
It seems that after eight years of general lawlessness we’re at a point where it is expected that those with power can do anything they want regardless of agreements or laws. So now “the Village” (blogger term for comfortable “inside-the-beltway” Washington DC insiders) is shocked and offended when the rabble — the rest of us — actually wants the authorities to enforce the rules instead of deferring to power — even when, as in this case, that power is being used against America. For example, when Attorney General Holder was looking into investigating whether laws against torture were broken, “the Village’ was all atwitter and scandalized over the audacity of President Obama letting such a thing happen — as if it was in any way appropriate for a President to make a political decision to keep the Justice Department from an investigation.
Under the previous administration it was expected that such decisions would be decided politically, based on who was donating the most to The Party or its supporting infrastructure of think tanks, etc., on any given day. Now we are seeing a return to rule of law. It’s the same thing with this request to see if trade agreements are being honored.
The Village owes the concept of rule of law an apology.