SS On The Table, But BS Not?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The President has a commission looking at ways to reduce the budget deficits which were caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases. Social Security – which has no legal authority to borrow money, so it can’t contribute to deficits – is on the table for cuts, at least as far as We, the People are allowed to know. (The commission meets in secret.) That’s BS.
Another reason we know SS is on the table is that almost all of the members of the commission have spoken in the past of their inclination to cut or privatize the program. That’s BS.
Republican members of the commission have said in advance that taxes will not be on the table. That’s BS.
In fact, conservatives of both parties are arguing to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich! That’s BS.
The country spends up to $1.2 trillion a year on wasteful, bloated military and related programs, more than all the rest of the countries on earth combined, but the commission isn’t talking about cutting that down to, say, only three times our nearest possible competitor? That’s BS.
Social Security being involved with this commission at all is BS. If they want to cut something they should cut the BS.
If you want to fix the deficits, fix the problems that caused the deficits, not things that can’t. Speaker Pelosi said in July that talking about SS and the deficits are like apples and oranges. With this in mind Rep. Raul Grijalva says Congress should preempt this, and demand that Social Security be left alone.
Ask the candidates in your district and state to sign the Hands Off Social Security pledge, and check the list to see who else is on board.
Also, please visit Strengthen Social Security where you can sign up for information, and to follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

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America Is Strong When Our Unions Are Strong

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.
America was formed as a government of, by and for We, the People. It says so right in the first words of our Constitution. To get that Constitution we rebelled against the King and England’s aristocracy and their corporations, with their concentrated wealth and power. And we continued that fight and over time we extended our system of one-person-one-vote, adding women and minorities to that equation.
The fight has gone back and forth. When our democratic government works, it pushes for increasing the protections and benefits of a strong economy for We, the People. This has included, for example, the mandated 40-hour workweek and minimum wages to fight exploitation, both pushed by labor. But at other times our government was “captured” by the power of concentrated wealth and working people are not well-represented. Even then we’re still not necessarily each on our own. During those times we have depended on labor unions to push back against that power of concentrated wealth. Working people can organize into labor unions to bargain for higher wages and better treatment than workers could obtain individually.
What difference can unions make? In 1945 labor unions represented about 1/3 of all workers. When American unions were strong working people got the minimum wage, the 40-hour week, weekends off, paid vacations, health insurance, pensions, dignity and respect. This was when America built the middle class that everyone has been taking for granted since. Even the wealthy benefited greatly over the long run as more consumers with more money to spend lifted the whole economy.
But what has happened to us since the Reagan Revolution, when concentrated power of the big corporations weakened America’s unions? Since the days of FDR membership in unions has fallen, but in 1980 unions still represented 24% of American workers. The Reagan administration famously launched an all-out assault on organized labor, resulting in membership falling to 16.4% by 1989. And the trend continued: by 1998 union membership fell to 13.9 percent. By 2009 that had decreased to 12.3%, but only 7.6% in the private sector. And here are the results:


This is a chart of working people’s share of the benefits from our economy. Note the brief return to normal under Clinton, erased by Bush II. But the assault on working people has recently been bipartisan. Clinton pushed to pass the Bush I-negotiated NAFTA treaty which hammered the bargaining position of workers, while Bush II consolidated the practice of “outsourcing” labor competition from non-democratic countries where workers didn’t have rights or protections.
As we all know, since the Reagan Revolution weakened the negotiating power of working people, wealth and income have concentrated at the top, our country’s debt has massively increased, household debt as well, the country is crumbling and everyone except the wealthy few and big corporations is generally worse off.
Unions still make a difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2009, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $908, while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $710.” Union members also often have paid vacation, paid sick leave, health insurance and other benefits that non-union workers do not. The difference is dramatic. In March 2009, 78 percent of union workers were covered by health insurance through their jobs, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Seventy-seven percent of union workers participate in defined-benefit pension plans, compared with 20 percent of nonunion workers.
When you hear someone complain about unions and complain that people in unions are paid better than the rest of us, let them know that they are reaching the wrongest conclusion. They shouldn’t resent union members and complain about their pay, they should join a union and support unions, so they they and everyone else can come out ahead.
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Here’s What You Do

What Can Obama Really Do? | Ian Welsh

So here’€™s what you do.   As the Federal Reserve you sell $100 billion of the toxic waste on the open market.  Set an actual price for it.  Then you make the banks mark their assets to market value.  They go bankrupt. You nationalize them. (Why not? They are actually bankrupt after all, and they haven’t increased lending like they were supposed to;  in fact, they have decreased it.)  You make the stockholders take their losses and the bondholders too, then you reinflate the banks. (If the Fed can print trillions to keep zombie banks ‘€œalive’€ it can print money to reinflate nationalized banks.)  The banks lend under FDIC and Fed direction, at the interest rates the Fed directs.  The FDIC and Fed eventually break the banks up into a reasonable size.  And while they’€™re at it, they get rid of the entire executive class which caused the financial crisis, and have the DOJ go over all the internal memos and start charging everyone who committed fraud. (Hint: that’€™s virtually every executive at a major bank.)  Again, this is completely up to Obama – €“the DOJ answers to him.
Think Obama can’€™t do this without Bernanke?  Wrong.  Obama can fire any Fed Governor for cause and replace them during a Congressional recess with no oversight.* (‘€Cause’€ is never defined, but Obama can note that the Fed’s mandate includes maximum employment and not stopping the financial crisis in the first place is certainly plausible as cause as well.)

Beck Rally Draws 3-500,000

m4s0n501

Glenn Beck Leads Religious Rally at Lincoln Memorial .
Here’s the thing. Beck promotes both Christianity and Ayn Rand, but his followers don’t know that Rand strongly promoted atheism, teaching things like this:

“the concept of God is degrading to men.”

this:

There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism — the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first concern and highest goal; this means — one’s ego and the integrity of one’s ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one’s soul — (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one’s soul?) — Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one’s soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one’s soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one’s soul to the souls of others.
This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men’s natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war — both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man’s soul).

and this,

Corporate Power

We went into health care reform looking to free ourselves from a predatory industry that was harming us and the country, and get ourselves Medicare-For-All.
We came out the other side with all of us ordered to buy health insurance from the predatory health insurers.
This has been another chapter in democracy v.s. predatory corporatist plutocracy.

GDP Revised Down — Conservative Trade Policies Exporting Our Growth And 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.

When we pack up a factory here — and all of its jobs and supply chain and its support/.maintenance structure — and send it all over there to a country that doesn’t have the wage and safety and environmental protections we have, just to save a bit of money today we are also sending them the ability to make money in the future. And that future is here now.

The country’s second-quarter GDP was revised down sharply to 1.6%. So the "stimulus," by raising GDP somewhere between 1.7% and 4.5%, is the only thing that has kept us from falling completely over the cliff. But we can’t just get by on stimulus forever (especially when we waste one-third of it on tax cuts that leave nothing behind but debt). We have to fix the causes of the problems.

One big reason we are having so much trouble is that we haven’t solved the trade problem and our efforts to get growth going are just being used to help other countries grow.

In The Washington Post today, Flow of imports drags down economic growth:

The government said the trade deficit subtracted almost 3.4 percentage points from second-quarter GDP – the largest hit from trade in 63 years.

Corporate conservatives talked us into sending our manufacturing out of the country. In the short term some executives got huge bonuses as assets and capacity were sold off and payrolls reduced. But in the long term the ability for the country to earn money has been sent "over there."

I recently came across this talk by Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work, given at the Heritage Foundation. I recommend watching, and clicking through to order his book. Ian doesn’t come from the left or right (watch him make this clear in the video) but instead just looks at trade with a scientific, fact-based, analytical approach.

Comparative Advantage?

Here is the most important point he makes, 20 minutes in (use that slider bar), in regards to the problem of moving factories to cheap labor countries. Comparative statics: Free-trade economists argue that cheap labor is a "comparative advantage." Fletcher explains that this means that if they are already making something more efficiently, today, then our best move today is to buy it from them. But it doesn’t make sense to just pack up an industry and reassemble it in a different country with low wages because then you are doing nothing more then sending away your ability to earn a living.

Yes, as I said, some people make a bunch of money in the short term doing that. But "it’s obviously going to cause a decline in our capacity to produce goods and services in the future."

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Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. Plutocracy

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission. This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:

“We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!”

This country that was once run by We, the People with government “of the people, by the people and for the people” has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are “lazy.” The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC — what bloggers call “the village” seems to be if you feed them they will breed.
Look at the weird situation we are in today. The wealthy are wealthier than ever. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever. Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever. At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.
But what are our political leaders up to? On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever. On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.
And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable. In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely. We, the People are just in the way. It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the “job creators.”
Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above? I said “our” people, and “our” government. How quaint. You don’t hear that kind of talk much anymore. Instead you hear about “personal responsibility,” which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.
This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy
These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we “the help,” only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.
In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security’s benefits because people really need it.
In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are “the help,” 310 million loafers (“parasites” is the Randian word) sucking their ” unearned sustenance” (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the “achievers” (and more) are down a bit. Your value to society is only what you “produce.” Your role otherwise is to “consume.” In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn’t be getting Social Security checks at all.
So what is it going to be? Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People? Will we demand those things and fight for them? Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our “betters” and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?
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