Republican Lies

The deficit-cutting craze has a simple origin: Republicans are driving a narrative that Democrats “spend” and that this “spending” jeopardizes the health of the country.
Never mind any facts here, this is about persuading the public.
Facts do not matter at all: Yes, the huge $1.4 deficit was Bush’s last budget. Yes the massive debt is the direct result of Reagan/Bush tax cuts and military spending increases. Yes job creation programs reduce future deficits. Yes, infrastructure investment reduces future deficits.
None of the facts matter at all. Republicans have been able to convince a segment of the public that “Democrats spend” and that “government is bad” and that’s what they’re going to run with. And they will portray themselves as heroes for blocking everything.

Chinese Paper Subsidies: Boring? Jobs: Not Boring!

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.
China is cheating again. Yawn… China is subsidizing its paper industry ($33 billion 2002-09) and has tripled their production, and now is the largest producer of paper and paper products. Yawn.
This has cost jobs and approximately 400,000 remaining American jobs are at risk. And the companies they work for. NOT so yawn!
The Economic Policy Institute has released a briefing paper, titled, No Paper Tiger. This paper documents the different government subsidies behind the surge of Chinese paper imports, and look at its implications for the American paper industry.
Some of the subsidies that government provides,

This Briefing Paper estimates that in China’s paper industry, subsidies for electricity amounted to $778 million • (from 2002 to 2009); subsidies for coal, $3 billion (from 2002 to 2009); subsidies for pulp $25 billion (from 2004 to 2009); subsidies for recycled paper, $1.7 billion (from 2004 to 2008); subsidy income reported by companies, $442 million (from 2002 to 2009); and loan-interest subsidies, $2 billion (from 2002 to 2009). Missing data prevented calculation of pulp or recycled-paper subsidies in 2002, 2003, and 2009.

Implications for our own industry,

Cheap, subsidized Chinese paper exports have affected the U.S. paper industry. Despite comparable cost structures, high efficiencies, and plentiful natural resources, U.S. paper companies have failed to compete globally or nationally on price against much-cheaper Chinese imports. In 2010, the United States remains a net importer of paper and paper products. Imports from China are rising faster than those of any other country for this industry, with the value of U.S. imports from China growing at an annualized rate of 22%.

And the cost in jobs,

“From 2002 through the end of 2009, U.S. employment in the paper and paper products sector dropped 29 percent, from roughly 557,000 workers to 398,000.”

As the paper shows, China has no competitive advantage or cost advantage that would lead to the lower prices that are powering this surge. Labor is only 4% of the cost, and they import much of the pulp for the paper. They don’t have economy of scale. It is only the government subsidies that enable them to take over the industry.
From the Alliance for American Manufacturing, (See press release here.)

China’s massive subsidies to its paper sector are doing severe damage to the U.S. paper industry, its workers and their families,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). “The only way to stop the bleeding is for U.S. policymakers to take action against China’s blatant violations of trade laws, including sweeping subsidies to paper and many other industries.”

The manufacturethis blog lets you look up how many jobs this costs in your state and Congressional district.
We need better trade law enforcement.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

p5rn7vb

The Real Deficit Is Jobs!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The real deficit is jobs. That is one more of those things that everyone can see in front of their faces, but we’re told it isn’t what it is. There aren’t enough jobs, and we’re being told this is our fault because we wanted pensions and good wages and vacations and respect and dignity and please, sir, just a little slice of the pie.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world’s economy is suddenly undergoing a classic “Shock Doctrine”-style, coordinated propaganda attack. The wealthy and powerful, having insisted that countries cut their taxes and run up debt, now insist that the middle class and poor must work harder, have their pensions reduced, sell off (to them) their publicly-held resources, and take other “austerity” steps to pay off the debt that these lazy, parasitic peasants dared to run up.
The excuse is that “the markets” will “lose confidence” in us. Apparently we aren’t working the salt mines hard enough. “The markets” — that’s the crowd who got in trouble and insisted that the world would end unless we immediately handed over to them all the rest of the money in the world — will “lose confidence” in our ability to work the mines hard enough, and will cut us off, unless we cut our pensions, sell off (to them) our resources, and promise never to be lazy and make demands for better wages, pensions, workplace safety, and do it now.
The real deficit is jobs.
History teaches that the way out of an economic slowdown is to invest in infrastructure, education and modernizing manufacturing.
Slactivist said it best the other day,

This calls to mind an old story:

But knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it.”
And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this — FDR’s or Herbert Hoover’s?”
They answered, “Roosevelt’s.”
And he said unto them, “Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn’t work, why are you pretending it’s terribly complicated?”
And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.

I’m not an economist, but we’ve got five applicants for every single job opening. If you tell me that the best response to that situation is to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, I will not accept that this means that you’re smarter and more expert than I am. I will instead conclude — regardless of your prestige or position or years of study — that you’re a moral imbecile.

According to the Labor Department,

By the end of 2009, the jobless rate stood at 10.0 percent and the number of unemployed persons at 15.3 million. Among the unemployed, 4 in 10 (6.1 million) had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, by far the highest proportion of long-term unemployment on record, with data back to 1948.

That’s right, it was the policies of austerity that created a depression, and the policies of job-creation, infrastructure investment and taxing the wealthy to pay for it that got us out. But that was back when We, the People were still in charge.
In other news:
Number Of Millionaires Grew Amid Recession.

The rich grew richer last year, even as the world endured the worst recession in decades.

Top 1 Percent of Americans Reaped Two-Thirds of Income Gains in Last Economic Expansion, Income Concentration in 2007 Was at Highest Level Since 1928, New Analysis Shows,

Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.
During those years, the Piketty-Saez data also show, the inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households.

Top 1% Increased Their Share of Wealth in Financial Crisis,

According to his analysis, the top 1% held 34.6% of all national wealth in 2007. By Dec. 31, 2009, they held 35.6%.
Meanwhile, share of national wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 25% from 27%.

Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans

In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data.
. . . For every group below the top 1 percent, shares of corporate wealth have declined since 1991.
. . . Long-term capital gains were taxed at 28 percent until 1997, and at 20 percent until 2003, when rates were cut to 15 percent. The top rate on dividends was cut to 15 percent from 35 percent that year.

See if you can make the connection. They want us to cut back our pensions, cut our wages, sell off our resources and work harder, to pay back the money that was borrowed and handed to them.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Today’s Must-Read!

You must read slacktivist: Rendering unto Krugman

This calls to mind an old story:
B

ut knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it.”
And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this — FDR’s or Herbert Hoover’s?”
They answered, “Roosevelt’s.”
And he said unto them, “Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn’t work, why are you pretending it’s terribly complicated?”

And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.

Reaching The Wrongest Conclusion About Unions!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
A letter-writer in my local paper today reaches the wrongest possible conclusion:

Public, private workers live in different worlds
The current issue of Time magazine includes a cover story on the increasing numbers of nearly bankrupt states and municipalities across the country. An important point made in the story is that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job change, relentless layoffs, flat wages and rising health care premiums, and they fund their retirement with 401(k) contributions. If they’re lucky, their employers will match a portion. Many do not. Contrast that reality to public-sector employees, who enjoy relative job security, defined benefit pensions with guaranteed cost-of-living increases, and competitive wages that rise every year. Public employee unions have had a stranglehold on state and local elected officials for decades. This has to end, as the taxpayers are fed up and tapped out. Nancy Pyle needs to get a clue, as do others on the San Jose City Council.
A.S.
San Jose

Summary: Workers in the private sector have it harder and harder. They are increasingly losing benefits, pensions and jobs. Forced to work ever-harder in increasingly degrading work environments their wages stay flat and are starting to fall.
Meanwhile public sector workers have stong unions so they have good jobs with good working conditions, job security, pensions and raises.
Therefore … we should get rid of public-employee unions? Wow! Talk about coming to a grossly wrong conclusion, and working against your own interests! Just wow!
It is a psychological truth that people would rather see others brought down than see themselves brought up, but come on! How hard is it to see that this person should be for strong private-sector unions instead of against public-sector unions.
And the letter-writer demonstrates the core of the conservative ideological argument: All the benefits of our economy to the top few at the expense of the rest of us.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Deficit Deception Risks Depression

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The deficit problem can be summed up very simply: the public thinks Obama’s policies created a huge deficit. Never mind that it was Bush’s deficit — the public doesn’t know that. This misunderstanding is leading Washington to take steps that will throw the economy into depression.
According to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner | NPR Congressional Battleground Poll,

By 57 to 37 percent, voters in these 60 Democratic seats believe that President Obama’s economic policies have produced record deficits while failing to slow job losses — and not averted a crisis or laid a foundation for future growth.

The public believes the record deficits were caused by Obama’s policies because:
1) Conservatives have pursued a strategic propaganda campaign to make the public believe this. They have used charts that show Bush’s 2009 budget as Obama’s, headlines that say this, repeatedly said it over the radio and conservative TV networks, etc.
2) The administration and supporters haven’t responded to this campaign in any way, didn’t seem to understand there even was a campaign to blame Obama for Bush’s deficits, and now appear to believe it themselves.
Isn’t this the story of the last few decades? Conservatives wage a strategic propaganda campaign to convince the public of XXX. Democrats don’t respond, don’t even understand there is a propaganda campaign being waged, and in time begin to support the conservative narrative.
But this time it is absolutely dead serious. The correct understanding of the cause of this deficit is absolutely crucial because doing the wrong thing now will throw the economy into depression.
The economy is on a precipice. Unemployment remains close to 10% with no help in sight and help for the unemployed running out. Economists are trying to tell Washington that more stimulus is needed, that it is crucial to directly create jobs, that the unemployed must receive checks and health care, and that cutting back now is exactly the wrong thing to do. Paul Krugman and others are becoming more and more alarmed about this. But with the public believing that the government is about to go broke, the political will can not form for doing the right thing.
But there are perceptions and then there are facts. It is just a fact that the huge $1.4 trillion deficit was Bush’s 2009 budget, and that “Obama spending” contributed very little to that deficit. It is just a fact that the cause of current economic trouble is that the “stimulus bill” was inadequate, and its focus on tax cuts was a wasted effort. It is just a fact that letting unemployment benefits expire and refusing to pass job-creation programs will force the economy to turn back down. This is a mistake in policy caused by an intentional engineering of false perceptions.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Will Jobs Filibuster Be Reported As Emergency It Is?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
If a filibuster happens in the forest and no one is told about it, did it really happen?
The GOP is said to be ready to filibuster the bill extending jobless benefits today. Will this be reported as the national emergency that it is? Will this be reported as a filibuster? Will this even be reported?
HuffPo: Jobless Benefits Filibuster By GOP Senators Looking Increasingly Likely

A Republican filibuster appears increasingly likely to kill long-sought legislation extending jobless benefits and a host of other spending and tax measures, despite a new round of cuts to the measure Wednesday that reduced its deficit impact even further.

Then, of course, rather than bring in the cots, require everyone to talk all night, hold press conference after press conference and bring it up again and again until the public understands, … nothing. These tactics worked last time, in April, when the Republicans immediately caved over filibustering Wall Street Reform after the Democrats threatened to make a big deal out of it. Doing the same thing against build momentum toward victory. So why not do it again?
According to the report,

Democrats would then abandon the measure.

But none of this matters to anyone, right? You won’t see headlines across the country. You won’t see coverage break into regular programming.
Also from the report,

Failure to pass the bill would mean about 200,000 jobless people a week would lose benefits that average more than $300 a week because they would be unable to reapply for additional tiers of benefits enacted since 2008. Governors denied help with their budget woes are likely to lay off tens of thousands of state workers.

The Washington post says that 900,000 people will lose their jobless benefits by the end of the money. Millions are losing their health insurance right now as well. Why isn’t this considered a national emergency. It is certainly an emergency for those people, for the stores where they buy groceries, their landlords or mortgage-holders, their children, their relatives and their communities. What is wrong with Washington that they don’t care/ What is wrong with our elite media that they don’t report this?
And the Democrats? What is wrong with them that they are not fighting? I have a question. Democrats started with a strong bill that included extending COBRA subsidies, getting rid of that special tax break for hedge fund managers, stong aid to the states, etc. They took piece after piece out, “to attract a few Republican votes.” And now there is a filibuster, which means no Republican votes. So my question: when they took things out to get Republican votes, and ended up with no Republican votes, why didn’t they get a promise of a vote in writing before they sacrificed such important items? And when the votes didn’t materialize why didn’t they put the items back?
The problem is that millions of people are being put into terrible circumstances by a Congress – Democrats and Republicans – that is failing them, failing the states, and is preserving a huge tax break break for billionaires. They just don’t see this as an urgent problem, with some even calling the unemployed “lazy.” Set aside the Washington games for a minute and look at the humanity. People who cannot find jobs – overwhelmingly older because age discrimination laws are not enforced – lose their heath insurance as the COBRA subsidies — and COBRA itself — expire. They are now losing their unemployment compensation. They of course will lose houses, even apartments.
Is this how a society treats its people? Is this how a Congress serves its constituents? Is this how a news media covers emergencies?
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Drill Baby Drill Judge Pits Mega-Corporations Against The Rest Of Us

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
American deregulated corporatism: Short-term profits for a very few at the expense of the rest of us. The Gulf oil spill is driving home the “expense of the rest of us” part of this equation. And the corporatist/conservative reaction to government’s efforts to reign in an industry that provides so much of their funding highlights for us the battle lines of the equation.
Conservatives say that getting a company to set up a fund to compensate its victims is “Chicago-style thuggery” and a “shakedown” and apologize to the company! Instead we demand they apologize to democracy for this.
But this is not really about “corporatism” it is about raw bigness translating into raw power. This is big industries and companies and a few extremely wealthy people that “have” vs not-as-big industries, companies and the rest of us that “have not.” Big, centralized oil is a “have.” Fishing, tourism, alternative “green” energy – these are industries and corporations too — and democratic decision-making are “have nots.” This is not corporations vs democracy, this is big corporations (really, the wealthy few people who control their resources) against smaller corporations and the rest of us.
Yesterday a Reagan-appointed, oil-stock-owning judge set aside the Obama administration’s moratorium on exploratory offshore oil drilling, citing “potential economic harm to businesses and workers” in the oil industry while ignoring the not-potential threat of harm to the fishing, tourism and other industries now being destroyed by that industry. Big oil’s wishes, a judge appointed by the guy who took Carter’s solar panels down from the White House roof and dismantled mass-transit and alternative energy programs, and an anti-government conservative movement out to dismantle democracy combine to push back against the “thuggery” of a public daring to attempt to assert that safety is assured. The battle is over who is in charge.
The administration placed the moratorium while they develop new safety standards and procedures. This followed the revelations of near-complete regulatory capture of the Minerals Management Service by the oil industry, resulting in the chain of safety-ignoring, cost-saving diversions from standard procedure. They filed a xeroxed spill plan citing dead phone numbers and dead consultants, and the dead regulatory agency never bothered to read it before approving it. The blowout preventer wasn’t working and they knew it but didn’t want to take the time or expense to fix it. Etc, and etc.
Since so much was wrong on this rig the government wants to take a look at the other rigs drilling offshore and make sure they are operating safely, and get procedures that work in place. The industry is infuriated that government is “interfering’ in their profit-making enterprise. Their oil is under our water and they want it now.
The industry threatens to just move oil rigs out of the Gulf to other areas, taking the jobs with them. Democratic oversight of corporate behavior is again held hostage to the threat of moving jobs across a border. The judge lets them get away with it.
This is the fight. The big and wealthy industries, corporations and people against the smaller industries, corporations and the rest of us. This is the same fight as that unleashed by the recent Citizens United case. It is not corporations vs democracy, it is the the wealthy few people who control the resources of the biggest corporations against everyone else.
And it is in no way clear who will come out on top.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.