2044 – A Novel About Corporatism

I recently read a novel by Eric Lotke, Research Director at the Campaign for America’s Future. The novel is called 2044. The title is based on the idea of picking up where Orwell’s 1984 left off. 2044 depicts a world and culture that is completely corporatized. The big corporations control everything and don’t play fair. Your life is work – for the corporation.
In the novel a researcher discovers that there is a way to turn salt water into fresh water, which is in short supply and badly needed by people. But this doesn’t suit the interests of the corporations that sell fresh water.
From the novel’s website:

“2044 is an adventure story with a political edge. Set in a world that follows our current social and economic trajectory to the extreme, 2044 is a world of consolidated multi-national corporations, mass produced culture and too much stuff. Private businesses manipulate greed and fear to keep people busy, afraid, and dependent on expensive new products or services just to survive.”

You can buy it here.

Save Social Security – 10 Questions for the Deficit Commission

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
It is possible that there is going to be a “deficit commission” to look for ways to reduce our country’s budget deficits. I have some questions for them to ask to help get things started in the right direction:
1) President Reagan increased Social Security taxes, but used that money to cut the very top tax rates that only the wealthiest pay. Now that the money borrowed from Social Security is coming due, which income group is better positioned to pay it back, wealthy people or the elderly to whom this money is owed?
2) President Clinton left office with a huge budget surplus. Then, President Bush gave tax cuts to the wealthy, and his last budget had a $1.4 trillion deficit. How much of this change was because of those tax cuts for the rich?
Clinton_Bush_Deficit
3) How large was the country’s yearly budget deficit and total debt in the “Eisenhower/Truman” decades when the top tax rate was 90%?
4) Today we have an “infrastructure deficit” – the amount needed to repair our country’s roads, bridges, sewers, etc. – of somewhere upwards of $1.6 trillion. Was our infrastructure kept in good repair before the top tax rates were cut?
5) Concentration of wealth is long recognized as a threat to democracy, and now we are seeing a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy with the greatest ever concentration of wealth going to a few at the top. Was the problem of wealth concentration increasing or decreasing before the top tax rates were cut?
6) When top rates were high people couldn’t take home vast fortunes in a single year. When it took several years to make a fortune did corporations depend on long-term or short-term thinking? Did the executives of corporations care if the infrastructure and communities their companies depended on were in good shape? Did large corporations fleece customers and exploit employees for quarterly returns as they do now?
7) The military budget is the largest item in our country’s budget. Was the military budget larger or smaller when we faced the cold war threat from the Soviet Empire?
Defense-Budget
8) Just how big is our military budget, if you add in veterans programs, nukes, intelligence and the military budget’s share of accumulated debt interest? How large is it in relation to all of the rest of the countries in the world, combined?
9) Speaking of debt interest, how much debt interest do we pay on the debt that has added up since we cut tax rates at the top? Who gets all that interest?
10) Some will say that proposals to bring back the tax rates of the Eisenhower administration are “socialist.” What was the name of the organization that accused President Eisenhower of being a Communist?
11) Does the following chart stimulate any ideas about how we might solve the debt problem?
TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

What Mike Lux Says

Here is a health care solution I can live with, amongst al the bad choices: Open Left:: That Gollum-like Feeling on Health Care,

3. One of the things progressives should absolutely extract before they even consider voting for this is a promise from Obama, Pelosi, and Reid that health care is revisited again, through reconciliation and in general, to keep improving the legislation as long as the Dems are in control. This should absolutely not be one of those deals where leadership says, “okay that was hard, we’ll never go back to that issue again”. Progressives should also demand a firm promise from Obama that the primary person doing the implementation of this bill in HHS should be a strong progressive, because the initial regs on this bill will be hugely important.

Twitter Users

I’m switching the Seeing the Forest twitter from my personal account http://twitter.com/dcjohnson to a Seeing the Forest account http://twitter.com/seeingtheforest
Feeds will continue to go to both but sign up at seeingtheforest specifically for the site feed.

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Clearing Up On Health Care

To be clear, I don’t say that the Congress should not pass the health care bill. I think if they pass this health care bill as it is in the Senate it is political suicide. This is easily remedied: remove the mandates.
What I think is the best solution is simple: Medicare buy-in with subsidies. Let anyone just buy in to Medicare at cost plus 5 or 10 percent for overhead. Add subsidies so people with lower incomes can afford this.

Businesses Need Customers Not Tax Cuts

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
A letter in the San Jose Mercury News the other day expresses the misguided but oft-repeated Republican “spin” that tax cuts and deregulation “create jobs”.  As usual it bears little resemblance to the truth.

   
Create jobs by helping business
The two ways government can affect the job market are by spending on projects through borrowing or by reducing the tax burden on families and businesses. If it borrows, it causes another tax through inflation and interest expenses that will go on forever. If it reduces taxes and regulations, the loss in revenue will be far less than the amount the Democrats are planning to spend, and without any interest.
You create jobs by making it easier for businesses to hire people through reductions in taxes and regulations, such as a tax break for every person they hire and retain. You don’t make it harder for them by raising their expenses. Let’s do what worked in the past.

The writer is correct about the tax through interest expenses that is the result of borrowing, but incorrect about the effect of tax cuts.  In fact, it is tax cuts that have caused so much borrowing without helping the economy.  Here is what is wrong about the idea that tax cuts create jobs: 
  1. Businesses hire the employees they need to hire to meet demand. If demand is low no amount of tax cuts can induce a business to hire people. Why hire and pay people to have them just sit around?
  2. The way to get more customers into the businesses – i.e. to create demand – is to get more money circulating in the pockets of regular people. Cutting taxes for the already well-to-do doesn’t accomplish this.  The way to do this is with government policies that increase wages and reduce working hours, like how raising the minimum wage and mandating 40-hour weeks and weekends off helped create America’s middle class. Helping regular people is good for business. 
  3. The writer says we should do what has worked in the past. The fact is that the economy has always done better when the tax rates on the wealthy and corporations were highest. Just look it up. The reason for this is that our economic system when left to itself always becomes a low-age, everything-to-the-top system, because the wealthiest always game the system to get the most for themselves. The way to fix that is to apply regulations to prevent this, and high taxes at the top so the government can implement policies that raise the wages of the rest of the public. This is how we got out of the depression after the huge concentration of wealth that built up until 1929.
  4. Taxes are not an “expense.”  Businesses pay taxes on the profits (revenue minus expenses) — so the businesses that need help don’t need tax cuts, they need customers.  It doesn’t make sense to try to help businesses that are not doing well by giving even more money to their profitable competitors.  We should be using that money to instead help the businesses that need the help.  Helping the already well-to-do is bad for business.
There are no examples in history of deregulation and tax cuts creating a better economy, but plenty of these steps creating worse economies. And before you say it, Reagan’s tax cuts were followed immediately by huge tax increases, and still led to the tremendous borrowing and interest payments that the writer is worried about. And to make matters worse, Reagan’s deregulation almost led to economic collapse twice – first with the Savings and Loan crisis, and then with the recent financial crisis. 
To fix California’s economy we need to ask the wealthy and corporations to start contributing their share again, and use that money to educate our students, rebuild our infrastructure and bring back the kind of state that created and attracted the semiconductor and electronics and biochem and other industries. This all occurred when taxes were high, not low.
The only economy that is ever helped by tax cuts is the economy of the Cayman Islands, where many of the rich store their hoards of cash. 

Click through to Speak Out California.

Republican Corruption Contributed, Too

People talk about how the conservatives brought us deregulation, which led to the financial crisis. But there was something else the conservatives brought us that I think is just as responsible: corruption, crony capitalism and the predator state. Why isn’t anyone making the connection?
And why isn’t anyone investigating and prosecuting, holding the corrupt accountable? This is the main area where I feel that Obama has let us down, the return to rule of law. It isn’t happening.

White House Groupthink Is Locked In

This explains a lot: David Axelrod: Left ‘insane’ to sink health bill,

“To defeat a bill that will bend the curve on this inexorable rise in health-care costs is insane,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I don’t think that you want this moment to pass. It will not come back.”

This is what I feared. The groupthink has set in. To them this is about “cost control,” not about providing health care to citizens. And they criticize Howard Dean for wanting this health care reform to serve the people, but they haven’t criticized Joe Lieberman for forcing out the popular public option and Medicare buy-in.

Asked his response to progressives who say “kill this bill now,” Axelrod replied: “I think that would be a tragic, tragic outcome. … I guess if you’re hale and hearty and have insurance, it’s fine to say, ‘Kill this bill.’”

Well I have health insurance through COBRA, and I really, really resent that COBRA “allows” me to purchase corporate insurance at a very expensive price. Without it I wouldn’t have health insurance at all because it is illegal for me to buy into Medicare. It is illegal because of the need to preserve corporate profits, at the expense of my health. The current health care bill REQUIRES me to purchase corporate insurance at a very high price.