Oil Spill: Why Were Bush’s People Still There?

The Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department was supposed to be regulating and inspecting the oil rig that exploded. They weren’t. They were a “captured” regulator. This was entirely due to the conservative deregulation ideology.
President Obama took office in January 2009. This is May, 2010. Why were those Bush people still there?
Where else in our government are Bush holdovers, and why hasn’t President Obama gotten rid of them? We want a return to Rule of Law not Rule of Big Corporations. We voted for that. Where is the President We, the People voted for?

The American Present

Bob Herbert – More Than Just an Oil Spill

This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.

Week Of Action On Jobs

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.
On the one side there are millions of people needing jobs and millions more “underemployed,” the economy is still mired in a very, very slow recovery that is a recovery only in the technical sense, an increasing wave of foreclosures that has reached into the “prime” loans and 1 out of every 7 mortgages has at least missed a payment and has at worst stopped paying.

Foreclosures continue to rise.

Businesses are not hiring. People need jobs that only government programs can provide. The reason only government can is because of the spending gap created by the economic crisis.
The Spending Gap
This chart from Brad DeLong explains why and by how much government needs to make up the difference:

Deficit Hawks Following The Plan
On the other side are the “deficit hawks,” driven by anti-government ideology, following The Plan of the Reagan Revolution:

  • Step 1: Cut taxes to “cut the allowance” of government so that it can’t function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
  • Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People.. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is “going bankrupt” so they’ll let you sell off the people’s assets and “privatize” the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will “harm the economy.”
  • Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

Now, true to the plan, Bush leaves behind a $1.4 trillion deficit and the corporate/conservative opinion-shapers are saturating us with warnings that the government is going to go bankrupt if we don’t cut back. Typical of the debate, Jobs Bill Funded by Higher Buyout Tax Faces Friction on Deficit

A jobs bill containing a proposal to more than double taxes on managers of buyout firms is running into resistance from House and Senate lawmakers worried that the legislation will widen the U.S. budget deficit.

Facing A Lost Decade
Paul Krugman warns that we face a “Lost Decade” if we listen to the deficit cutters now,

But the truth is that policy makers aren’t doing too much; they’re doing too little. Recent data don’t suggest that America is heading for a Greece-style collapse of investor confidence. Instead, they suggest that we may be heading for a Japan-style lost decade, trapped in a prolonged era of high unemployment and slow growth.

Don’t Fall For It
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
The corporate conservatives know darn well that government job-creating programs will help and that is why they are trying to block them. See what one of the top anti-government, anti-spending conservatives has to say in Gingrich: Obama a One-Term President Because Team Can’t Create Jobs. From the video: “No ability to craft positive programs that work. … You don’t have anything like an appropriate level of focus on job creation in this administration.”

The only way to realistically cut the deficit is to invest in our economic future.
This means maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, increasing educational opportunities for our people, investing in the new Green Manufacturing Revolution and government programs to create jobs now. Common-sense changes in taxes can help pay for jobs programs. For example, what about getting rid of the amazing tax break for hedge fund managers? At the same time it makes sense to bring taxes on the wealthy and corporations back to pre-Reagan/pre-borrowing levels to fight the deficits (that the tax cuts created in the first place) and decrease the concentration of wealth that is killing our democracy.
The Jobs For America NOW coalition is organizing a Week Of Action next week, around the country. Please see Week Of Action Events. Also, see the resources on the Jobs for America now site including the click to call feature at Finish the Job on State Aid, Unemployment insurance and COBRA Health Subsidies NOW
More JOBS resources:
Citizens for Tax Justice has a report on The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010.
The American Federation of Teachers is organizing a “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips” campaign. “Schools throughout America are facing devastating cuts. Our children’s future hangs in the balance.”

Our government didn’t walk away from Wall Street. We should demand no less from them when it comes to saving our children’s future. We must voice our support for federal legislation that will provide $23 billion to help school districts avoid layoffs and cuts in vital services for children. Help us preserve the education lifeline our students deserve.

NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

Financial Reform Passed – Most Republicans Side With Wall Street

But the “Tea Party Senator,” Scott Brown of Massachusetts voted against Wall Street!
Senate Passes Financial Overhaul Bill,

The Senate on Thursday approved a far-reaching financial regulatory bill, putting Congress on the brink of approving a broad expansion of government oversight of the increasingly complex banking system and financial markets.
[. . .] he four Republicans to support the bill were Senators Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown, the freshman from Massachusetts, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who is up for re-election this year

It still has to go to a committee of the House and Senate to work out differences and come up with a single bill that then passes both houses.
Car dealers were exempted from consumer protections because car dealers never try to put one over on car buyers.

Are Police Just More Government Meddling?

Anti-government conservatives say that government is “collectivism” and immoral. They say any government interferes with individual and business rights. Sarah Palin has said that government caused the Great Depression. Glenn Beck says that government is socialism.
Now Kentucky Tea Party Senate candidate Rand Paul says civil rights legislation is wrong because it is government interference with the right of individuals to “freely associate.” It is wrong because it is the “collective,” or community imposing their will on the individuals and businesses who choose to discriminate based on race, etc…
These libertarian ideas always make me wonder why they don’t also come out against police departments as “government meddling.” After all, laws are just more examples of the community imposing its idiotic morals on individuals. You might say robbery and murder interfere with the rights of people to live, and therefore must be punished, but isn’t that exactly the same as not letting a person do business or eat or sleep in a hotel based on skin color? They’re against those laws, so why not be consistent and be against other laws? Isn’t a law against robbery the same as regulation of business that is designed to protect consumers from being scammed? They’re against that as “government interference” in the rights of the business to scam consumers. Why aren’t they against laws against fraud?
At least Ayn Rand was consistent. She wrote that a serial killer was an “ideal man,” a superior form of human because he didn’t let society impose their morals on him, He didn’t worry about what others thought and just did as he pleased. “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” Rand wrote. Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.'” This is the foundation of the modern conservative thinking.
So don’t be surprised when a “Tea Party” candidate comes out and says there should be no civil rights laws, no regulation of business. Just be surprised when they don’t come out and say that it is no one’s business who murders who.

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost – America Drowning In Debt

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

“Watch what we do, not what we say.” (Famous Republican advice.)
The Reagan Revolution was first and foremost about cutting the taxes paid by the rich and corporations. Now, almost 30 years later, the United States of America is drowning in debt. And that is exactly what they wanted to happen.

The Plan

There were the reasons for the tax cuts Reagan said, and there was the plan Reagan had. Reagan SAID that there was this thing called the “Laugher Curve” that he said proved cutting taxes would actually increase government revenue. But what they were saying was a smokescreen, something to tell the rubes. Increasing government revenue was the last thing Reagan and his cohorts wanted. They knew (and have since said so) cutting taxes would lead to terrible deficits. They called this a “strategic deficit.” This was the plan.

Bankrupting our government (We, the People) was the plan and today we can see that it was what they did. They didn’t want revenue to increase because the idea was to “starve the beast.” Reagan called itcutting their allowance.”
The plan was that by cutting the funding for government, government would have to cut back on what it does: regulating business, protecting regular people against powerful interests, building infrastructure, educating kids, taking care of the poor and elderly. With government (We, the People) out of the way businesses could be unleashed and really start to make money. And for those who could afford to pay, private companies would take over those other functions. That was called “privatization.”

Infrastructure? We had plenty of infrastructure back then – grab the cash now and worry about that later. (It’s later now.)

So taxes were cut. And immediately the budget went into deficit and the government started borrowing. The debt started to grow. That was the plan. They said so.

Conservatives well understood that the public was not behind their plan. This was why it was explained as a way to increase government revenue. “Watch what we do, not what we say” is about tricking the public – deceive people by telling them you are doing one thing while really doing another. They knew that if the public came to understand their plan they would all be voted out of office. The idea was to force the other party to make the cuts.

Every time someone did try to cut the public outcry was enormous. So they just kept borrowing, intentionally trying to make the debt get so bad that eventually the government would be faced with bankruptcy.

Clinton, for a time, foiled their plans. In 1993 there was a hard-fought battle to raise taxes at the top by just a small amount. Every Republican voted against it. The public was saturated with lie after lie about how this would destroy the economy. Of course, the economy boomed in the 1990s following the Clinton tax increases and by the end of Clinton’s term the government was paying off debt so quickly that Alan Greenspan called for Bush II to again cut taxes on the rich, saying it was dangerous to pay off the government debt – yes, the same Alan Greenspan who now says we have to get rid of Social Security to pay off debt. The plan.

Bush called restoration of deficits “incredibly positive news”

Seven months after taking office, George W. Bush learned that his budgets had already erased the previous administration’s huge surplus — that was paying off our country’s debt at a rapid rate — and had instead forced the country to start borrowing heavily again. Bush said the huge deficit was “Incredibly positive news” because it will create “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” That’s right, massive deficits were “incredibly positive news.” The plan.

Deficit hawks today

Now we’re experiencing part two of The Plan: use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. The deficit cutters insist that the government should cease investment in infrastructure, educating kids, taking care of the poor and elderly and protecting regular people against powerful interests. First and foremost they want to cut Social Security. They blocked a reasonable health care plan in the name of “less spending.” They fight every effort to stimulate the economy and create jobs so that We, the People can get out of this unemployment emergency. (High unemployment puts tremendous wage pressure on the remaining workers.)

Are we going to fall for it? Are we going to walk right into part two of The Plan? Or are we going to restore the tax base, which is the lifeblood of democracy. Taxes on the wealthy and big corporations are what brings the ability of We, the People to control our own destiny instead of yielding always to the powerful interests.

This is the choice we are faced with. The “deficit hawks” are offering only The Plan. So far restoring the tax base back to where it was is off the table, not even to be discussed. Are we going to allow that? Or are We, the People going to fight back and demand that democracy be restored?
Previously: Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling and Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

Stimulus Shifts To Reverse — Where Is The Congress?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The stimulus is running out, millions lose health insurance in 12 days as COBRA subsidies start to run out, unemployment benefits also start running out, all while the unemployment rate is rising. Foreclosures are up. At the same time out-of-money states are laying off hundreds of thousands of employees, beginning with teachers. (But hey, who needs teachers?) They are deferring infrastructure maintenance like roadwork and water/sewer systems and other public investments that employ people while creating the conditions that enable to economy to grow.
In fact, the stimulus is not only running out, but these state layoffs and other factors mean that government is now a net drag on the economy. The hope was that the stimulus would be enough to hold off the effects of the downturn and provide enough of a boost to get the “economic engine” running again. But for various reasons much of the stimulus was cut back or wasted on ineffective tax cuts, so as it runs out there are signs that the economy could sink back down.
This chart shows government contribution to GDP growth, now negative due to state and local governments laying off employees and reducing infrastructure investment.
With all of this going on the DC “conventional wisdom” is that the economy has turned the corner, and no more help is needed. Wall Street and big corporations are making money again so it is time to move on and let regular people fend for themselves. The public wants jobs and a government that works for them, the DC insiders want government to stop spending on We, the People and focus on big corporations.
Compare this DC “conventional wisdom” with the current jobs situation. While the economy has finally stopped losing jobs, it is not yet creating enough jobs even to keep up with new workers entering the labor force. Never mind putting unemployed people back to work. Following is a chart of job losses during recessions. This chart shows just how bad this recession is compared to previous recessions, and how we are nowhere near normal.
This “Wall Street and corporations are OK so our jobs here is done” sentiment combines with the right-wing drumbeat that anything government (We, the People) does is bad, (which translates to all decisions should be made by the biggest corporations) and the related drumbeat that any government spending on We, the People is a very bad thing after President Bush left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit.
Congress, what’s the holdup?
There are efforts in the Congress to try to do something to help the situation for regular people. For example, the War Supplemental (this is in a war bill because bills for bailing out Wall Street, and for anything to do with military MUST PASS and do so within 72 hours) contains $23 billion to help keep states from laying off 300,000 teachers. It is meeting opposition as “another bailout.” That’s right, the very people who bailed out Wall Street are now blocking a bill helping teachers, calling it a “bailout!”
Then there is the Local Jobs for America Act. This act puts $75 billion into direct government hiring at the state and local level, creating or saving an estimated one million jobs. According to EPI, the $39 billion comes straight back from taxes and reduced unemployment payments!
Unemployment is about 10%. Millions are unemployed and are about to lose COBRA subsidies and unemployment benefits. States are laying off hundreds of thousands. Investment in maintaining and modernizing infrastructure is nil. DC elites think everything is fine. The disconnect between people inside and outside the DC bubble is growing almost as fast as the concentration of wealth at the top.
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
For Billionaire Mort Zuckerman it’s those damn unions that are the problem. For so many of the rest of us the problem is that we don’t have a union.
Zuckerman has been with us on lots of things, like what he wrote about the stimulus,

“The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?
He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.”

I could have written that. (Except it would probably have bad grammar, occasional CAPITALIZED words and a line in bold here and there.)
But he’s not with us not when it comes to labor. Last week Zuckerman wrote an op-ed, titled The Crippling Price of Public Employee Unions at US News, and Breaking the Public Sector Unions’ Stranglehold on State and Local Governments at Huffington Post, telling us how public employee unions are harming the country. (The Huffington version has about 2000 comments so far – mostly pro-labor. The US News version has about 70 comments, like “Outlaw Unions of any kind.”)
I’m wondering where Mort Zuckerman wrote this piece. Was he at one of his homes in New York, New York, East Hampton, New York and Aspen, Colorado? Or maybe he was writing from his 166 foot Oceanco Yacht, the Lazy Z? We know he wasn’t writing from his Falcon 900 corporate jet, because he recently purchased a Gulfstream G550.
From this high vantage point he seems to have a view that says working people should be paid less, and shouldn’t get good pensions or benefits. He writes, “It is galling for private sector workers to see so many public sector workers thriving because of the power their unions exercise.” He says public employees have “gold-plated perks” and enter into corrupt deals with politicians, a trade-off of supplying votes in exchange for good pay and benefits. He says that since private-sector pay and benefits are dropping, public-employee pay and benefits should, too.
But it’s the other way around. We, the People should set the example for private companies to follow. Good pay and benefits are good for people. It should be public policy to promote this and encourage companies to treat employees better. That way we all benefit, not just a few.
Private sector pay and benefits have been dropping because people have been forced out of unions, so they have no way to fight the power of the billionaires. Because billionaires have been able to play impoverished workers elsewhere against workers here who have fought hard to get what they have. The obvious answer is for more private-sector workers around the world to join unions so they can be lifted up, not to complete the death spiral by forcing down the pay of the rest of us.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.