Blaming Social Security For Deficits Is Like Blaming Iraq For 9/11 (And Unions In WI)

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Isn’t it funny how the corporate conservatives always offer the same solutions to every problem? Even when the solution doesn’t really have much to do with the problem? Iraq didn’t attack us, and Social Security doesn’t have anything to do with deficits. But the “solution” to 9/11 was to attack Iraq, and the proposed “solution” to deficits is to “fix” Social Security. And the “solution” to state budget crises is to get rid of public employee unions. Why?
Got a crisis? A tax cut will fix it. Getting rid of unions will fix it. Privatizing Social Security will fix it. And gutting government solves everything. Doesn’t even matter what the problem is!
“Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes” - Tom DeLay, 2003
Iraq And 9/11
Remember when everyone was in panic about Iraq? IA bunch of Saudis working with an organization based in Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11. The solution immediately offered by the corporate right was to invade Iraq, increase military spending and … cut taxes!
We were told that Saddam was getting ready to attack us with anthrax, smallpox, more terrorists and even nukes. Etc. On and on. How many different stories did we hear in the “runup” to the war of “shock and awe” that has cost so many lives and more than a trillion dollars? Let’s teach “those people” a lesson. It will be “a cakewalk” and will “pay for itself.”
The thing is, invading Iraq was a pre-packaged solution waiting for an excuse. When the excuse came, they ran with it. It’s what they do. We should learn from this.
They have a number of pre-packaged solutions” on the shelf and when a crisis pops up — or when they can create one — the “solutions” pop out of the box, ready to go.
Always A Crisis
Isn’t it funny how these “crises” keep coming up? People whipped into a panic, over and over (and over and over.)
Right now people are whipped into a panic about the deficit crisis. The “solution?” Gut the things government does for regular people, including Social Security (which by law cannot borrow, so can’t cause deficits._ They are even going to force a government shutdown — another crisis. Meanwhile the huge military budget is “off the table.” All this right after they just passed more tax cuts for the rich.
Social Security is in “crisis?” People are in a panic. Everyone “knows” we have to “fix” it. We are told this over and over and over and over. (The “crisis” is that in 2037 it will have a shortfall, and might have to cut benefits. The solution to the crisis of a cut in benefits is to cut benefits.)
State budgets are in crisis? People are in a panic. Solution? Blame unions and worker pensions (and cut taxes.) That’s what’s happening in Wisconsin. And Ohio. And Indiana. And Missouri. And New Hampshire. And Michigan. And Minnesota. And other states, many not even limiting the attack to public-employee unions.
Corporate/Conservative Pre-Packaged “Solutions”
How often do you see the same solutions offered up for any given problem? Tax cuts for the rich, gut government, get rid of unions, privatize Social Security, etc. (And more tax cuts for the rich.) When something shocking happens the right always has ready-to-go, pre-packaged solution waiting in the wings that they offer to fix the problem.
Take Wisconsin for example. They ginned up the appearance of a budget crisis, got everyone worked up, and wham-o, introduce a bill to kill public-employee unions, gutting worker pay and pensions and their ability to do anything about it.
But in fact, like so many of their “solutions” this was something they already wanted to do, and were just waiting for the opportunity to push it through, or creating the crisis to bring about the opportunity to push it through.
These pre-packaged “free-market” “solutions” are not what the public wants, but are always forced through before anyone can react. They don’t solve problems, just make the rich richer at the expense of the rest of us.
The Solutions Never Work — For US
When the public is worried, stirred up, hopefully to the point of panic you put in your pre-arranged “solution” and start getting them stirred up about the next problem you will “solve.” And those conservative solutions never seem to work out.
The deficits get worse, wages don’t go up, retirement gets harder… This is because the real purpose of these “solutions” — cut taxes, cut what government does for regular people, get rid of unions, privatize social security and for good measure cut taxes more — are not to solve the problem they were offered up to fix. They have another purpose: make deficits worse, make wages stagnate, make retirement harder…
It always, always, always comes down to a simple formula: more (and more) to the rich at the expense of everyone else.
PEOPLE WANT JOBS
People want jobs.
Cutting Social Security doesn’t create jobs.
Getting rid of unions doesn’t create jobs.
Gutting the things government does for We, the People won’t create jobs.
Cutting taxes certainly doesn’t create jobs.
Where are the corporate/conservative job-creation solutions? There aren’t any.
March 10 Summit on Jobs and America’s Future
On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.
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WI Dems Show Right Way To Filibuster

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In Wisconsin the Governor and Republican majority are trying to strip state employees of the right to collective bargaining. The are literally trying to “ram through” in a very short time, out of nowhere, a bill that removes employee rights.
The Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate had one recourse: just leave. There are not enough members of the Wisconsin Senate to hold a vote if none of the Democrats are there, so in a dramatic move they left the state. And it is making news.
This short post by Thers at Atrios’ Eschaton blog sums it up:

Hey, remember how for the past couple of years the Republicans routinely and shamelessly and without precedent used a parliamentary gimmick to enforce a non-Constitutional supermajority in the United States Senate?
Keep in mind those shenanigans whenever you’re told that the Wisconsin State Senate Democrats are opposed to “democracy.”

Exactly right. This is how it should be done. The Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature are engaged in a delaying action to give the public a chance to express their opinions on how this should proceed. This is what a filibuster is supposed to do. It is not supposed to be an easy, silent “parliamentary procedure” that lets a minority just block everything, as Washington Republicans have been doing. It is supposed to be rare, dramatic, a show, something to rouse public interest, giving the public a chance to weigh in.
In the post Filibuster: Make Them Talk

Making them talk would be good for democracy, because the public will be able to see that a dramatic event is taking place. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.
Making them talk all night gives the public an opportunity to rally, one way or the other. It also, frankly, puts on a show, which will engage the public, restoring interest in government. This is good and we should do it.

Unlike so many in Washington, Wisconsin Democrats are showing they have a spine. They are showing that they understand democracy and how public opinion can be moved. They are showing us all how to stand up for ourselves!
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Republicans Cut Jobs, Keep Oil Company Tax Breaks, Don’t Cut Military!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
As you read this, remember what Republicans did just a few weeks ago to force huge tax cuts for the wealthy, adding as much as $900 to budget deficits. Also, keep in mind that we spend more on military than every other country combined.
People Want Job Creation Not Cuts
Finally, keep in mind that polls show the public wants job creation, and does not want cuts in the things government does for We, the People. On the Campaign for America’s Future website front page under “THE PULSE” you can see the results of a poll, showing significant majorities reject cuts in various programs. (Other polls show broad public support for increasing taxes on the wealthy.)
What the public wants, the public doesn’t get. This isn’t about what the public wants. It certainly isn’t about jobs. And, right after increasing the deficits with huge tax cuts for the wealthy, this is not about cutting deficits, either. It certainly isn’t about governing or the public interest. This is about one thing only: gutting the hated government.
They Campaigned Against Cuts
In the midterm elections campaign ad after campaign ad asked voters to reject Democrats because they had cut Medicare! They campaigned against Democrats for “cutting $500 billion from Medicare” and not increasing Social Security cost-of-living. As a result, for the first time the senior vote went to Republicans.
Job-Killing Cuts — “So Be It”
Instead, now in office, Republicans are cutting jobs programs, cutting government jobs, cutting aid to states to keep jobs, and cutting government infrastructure programs that create jobs.
No Cuts In Military?
TPM: Boehner’s Spending Cuts Would Kill 1 Million Jobs,

According to federal budget expert Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress, Boehner’s proposed spending cuts could kill almost 1 million jobs.

WSJ: GOP Presses Biggest-Ever Budget Cut,

In early action on the bill, which would cut domestic programs by $61 billion this year, Republicans showed little appetite for making cuts in the Pentagon. The House rejected four amendments to cut defense programs, including one small cut to get rid of some Pentagon advisory commissions.
. . . The Republican bill would cut spending in domestic non-entitlement programs such as high-speed high-speed rail construction, water projects and job training far more deeply and quickly than President Barack Obama and most Democrats favor. The White House issued a veto threat immediately after the bill came to the House floor.

Shutdown?
NY Times: House G.O.P. Pushes $61 Billion in Cutbacks

The current stopgap measure financing the government expires March 4. If the House and Senate are unable to come to an agreement before then or if the financing is not extended temporarily, federal agencies could be shut down. …
Even as Democrats attacked proposed cuts to programs that help economically struggling Americans and to initiatives involving education, the environment, housing and employment, Republicans lined up to make deeper reductions. The first amendment offered was a proposal to eliminate more than $18 million from the Pentagon budget. …
But the proposal was defeated on a vote of 223 to 207 and other initial efforts to make deeper reductions failed as well.

Running Through A Hospital With A Machete
Instead of considering how to govern, they are just gutting. No consideration is being given to the value of programs, or the long-term cost of cuts, it is just a frenzy of cutting for the sake of cutting.
LA Times: Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.
Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.
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It’s A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy — rule by the super-rich and big corporations — with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.
Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way — that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap

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

Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don’t understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

How Much Is A Billion?

Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $29,000, meaning half of us make less and half make more. If you make $29,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 34,482 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)

What Do People Do With SO Much?

What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.

Cars

This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S — but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don’t get to go look at them.

Luxury Hotels


This is the Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey, Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!
A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.

Yachts

Le Grand Bleu – $90 million.
Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.

Private Jets

Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

This is a Gulfstream G550. You can pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

Your billion will buy you 25 of these.

Private Islands

If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.


This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.

Mansions


This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn’t even have deficits.

I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.

Luxury Items

Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.

Medieval Castles

Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you’re going to get, peasant.

Let’s Go Shopping

So you say to yourself, “I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please.”

  • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)
  • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.
  • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million.
  • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.
  • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)
  • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
  • Total: $178.5 million.

My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.

How Extreme Is The Concentration?

Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

Income VS Wealth

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation…)

Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. “In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent.” (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

wealth1

Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

wealth2

The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.

Worse Than Egypt

In fact our country’s concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about “sacrifice” and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

Here’s the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt’s.

The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand’s psychopathic theories about “producers” and “parasites” take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery (“personal responsibility”) as they become ever poorer.

Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about “False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes,” warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.

Influence Buying

There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

The secretive Koch Brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

… Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs’ core energy businesses.

We Must Address This

We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.

Resources

The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is “Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.

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China Trade Gap Breaks Record, Destroys Jobs

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


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Did you see the Chrysler Super Bowl ad? Advertisers understand that Americans are hungry to be able to buy American-made goods again. And economists understand that the only way to truly recover from the economic doldrums is to expand our manufacturing base.
Compare that with today’s news: US trade deficit widened by 33% in 2010, and especially: Record 2010 trade deficit with China,

The 2010 annual trade figures for the U.S. were released today. They show a $497 billion trade deficit in goods and services, including a new record $273 billion goods deficit with China.

Instead of getting the message and seeing the warning it’s back to the same old same old as fast as we can.
Scott Paul, of Alliance for American Manufacturing, has this to say about that:

“A record trade deficit with China does not put us on a path to win the future. It will be hard to get our unemployment rate down if our trade deficit keeps going up. And while I am all in favor of doubling exports, it is a meaningless benchmark unless we also bring down our trade deficit. Instead, our global trade deficit is growing at an alarming and unsustainable rate.
“China now accounts for 75% of our overall non-petroleum goods deficit, yet I have seen little attention paid to it from this Administration, and even less from the new majority in the House of Representatives.

Washington talks about this but doesn’t seem to be able to actually do anything about it. Last week: Treasury gives China a pass on currency manipulation.
The AFL-CIO blog says it plainly and clearly: Stopping Currency Manipulation Would Create U.S. Jobs,

Economists from across the spectrum agree that currency manipulation distorts trade and exacerbates our unsustainable trade deficits. Putting an end to currency manipulation is an issue that unites business and labor, farmers and ranchers and Republicans and Democrats. Action by our government to put an end to this destructive illegal activity is long overdue.

Once again, some in the Congress will try to do something about this: US lawmakers try again for China yuan bill,

A bipartisan group of 101 U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives launched a new bid on Thursday to pass legislation aimed at pressuring China to let its yuan currency rise in value.
The same proposals cleared the House last year but died in the Senate. If approved this time, they would clear the way for the Commerce Department to treat currencies deemed to be undervalued as an illegal subsidy under U.S. trade law.
That would allow companies, on a case-by-case basis, to seek higher countervailing duties against imports from China that compete with U.S. production.
U.S. congressional anger at China over what lawmakers see as deliberate undervaluation of the yuan, also called the renminbi, was fanned anew last Friday by a Treasury Department decision not to declare China a currency manipulator.

Here is the Chrysler ad:

“This is the Motor City and this is what we do.” “A know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us.”
OK I am from the Detroit area, and even worked at Ford for a while. My grandfather worked in the first GM offices in Flint. This ad made me tear up. Seriously. And I know that people all over Michigan feel that way. It’s a stupid, manipulative commercial, but it taps into something that is very deep. People are saying, “finally corporate America (the America that counts) is talking about us instead of them.”
Here is Toyota, trying to say the same thing:

People are hungry for a change. Washington needs to hear that.
March 10 Summit on Jobs and America’s Future
On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.
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Same Old, Same Old Destructive Economy

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Will DC wake up and smell the real economy?
In DC and Wall Street the economy is just fine. In fact it couldn’t be better. Corporate profits and the stock market, after all, are way up — the Fed has worked it’s bubble-pumping magic yet again! And if you are in that top few percent that has significant holdings of stocks this, of course, is all you need to know. But for the rest of us, not so much. But who cares about the rest of us?
The financial collapse should have been a warning — a message to change course. Instead we’re back on the same destructive course. Bubbles, scams, corporate predation with huge bonuses incentivising even more scams, environmental destruction, all the income gains going to a top few, politicians purchased, and massive trade deficits (esp with China) all cooked up in a soup with, of course, tax cuts for the rich with budget cuts for the rest and more and more of the rest of us invisibly dropping off the bottom end.
The financial collapse was a warning and it has gone unheeded. Very little has changed and likely has gotten worse because Wall Street knows the government will bail them out. Marketplace, in a story about Fannie and Freddie, summed it up:

If you shift that fully to the private sector, you’ll kind of get the worst of all possible worlds, I imagine. In that you won’t have the support for the housing market, you won’t have as much lending to the lower-income people. In the meantime, though, you’ll still have the excessive gambling on Wall Street with smart investment bankers knowing fully well that if institutions get too big to fail, and the losses come, the taxpayer will be there to bail them out.

So there will be a next time. And next time it will be much worse than this time.
Recovery? Really?
They say the economy is recovering — so why are interests rates at zero? Not only that but the Fed is busy with “quantitative easing” which is sort of a way to lower interest rates below zero.
Why is the trade deficit back up to the stratosphere? That means things are even worse, not better.
How many foreclosures and “underwater” mortgages are being ignored in order to pretend the economy is recovering? How many bank balance sheets are playing “pretend and extend?”
How many people are un- and underemployed? How many people are dropping out of the labor force because they just give up, every month? How many people are losing unemployment benefits because they have been unemployed 99 or more weeks?
That is not “recovery” it is denial.
Why Don’t We Learn?
Do we learn anything? Are we past the point of being able to address our problems? Kim Cranston of TransparentDemocracy wonders if we as a species are capable of solving problems on the scale we have created,

H.G. Wells said “History is a race between education and catastrophe.” Current events suggest that education may be losing that race. …
Dee Hock, the Founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa Inc, recognized some time ago that most of the “problems” we think we have “are symptom not disease. At bottom, we have an institutional problem, and until we properly diagnose and deal with it, all societal problems will get progressively worse.”
Continuing to expect our institutions to resolve the “problems” that their “solutions” are in fact compounding may fit Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As Einstein observed: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” It is time for us to consciously evolve our institutions to a higher level from which they can solve the problems they are now creating – the survival of our civilizations, and perhaps our species, depends on it.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America’s Future
On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.
Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Republicans Are CUTTING Jobs Programs!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The country has been waiting for the promised action on jobs and unemployment since the new Congress came in. Nothing yet. We’ve had the show-vote on health care, we’ve had abortion, we’ve had silly conservative fluff bill after sily conservative fluff bill, but nothing at all on the important issue: JOBS!
Instead we get quite the opposite: they are cutting programs that create jobs, and programs that help people who are out of work. 3.9 million people ran out of unemployment benefits last year. (Remember when they refused to keep unemployment benefits going, unless they got tax cuts for the rich? It’s just more Tax Cuts For The Rich, Painful Cuts For The Rest.)
Now they are cutting assistant for workers displaced by the bad trade deals that encourage outsourcing. GOP Reveals Plan for Deep Cuts to EPA, Job Training and More,

Republicans unveiled a budget plan today for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year that would give billions less than President Obama would have liked to programs like the Environmental Protection Agency, federal job training, high speed rail development and more.

High-speed rail projects don’t create jobs? And when complete they don’t boost the economy forever after, creating even more jobs? Huh?
Lost Your Job To Outsourcing? Too Bad!
One particular job area is the bipartisan program for workers who lose their jobs due to outsourcing from trade deals like NAFTA. Not only are they pushing more NAFTA-style trade deals, they are getting rid of the only programs in place to help the workers who lose their jobs. This is bubbling up from the “make-them-work” element of the right, that sees citizens as nothing more than “the help.”
The AFL-CIO blog explains:

The House leadership continues to show its “blatant lack of concern for American workers who have lost their jobs because of unfair trade deals,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today. In the latest bold move against working people, House leaders abruptly refused to schedule a vote yesterday on extending expiring Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs.
TAA programs, which enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, provide aid and training to workers who lose their jobs or see their hours or wages reduced due to unfair trade deals and increased imports.

What You Can Do
The AFL-CIO has launched a campaign telling the Congress that We, the People demand they continue these programs:

On Tuesday, House Republicans—under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner—abruptly refused to schedule a vote to renew help for victims of outsourcing.
The expiring program—called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)—provides financial help and training for workers who lose their jobs or see their hours or wages reduced due to outsourcing, offshoring or increased imports.
Sign our petition to House Speaker John Boehner. Demand that House Republicans help workers who have been displaced by unfair trade deals like NAFTA. (We’ll also copy your representative).

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America’s Future
On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.
Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get “lucrative” pensions and this is “bankrupting” your state, county or city. Public officials are “in bed” with “union bosses” and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don’t do much work but live the good life. “Reports” and “studies” confirm this.
People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and “lavish” or “plush” pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are “bankrupting” the state/county/city. “Unfunded liabilities” are “out of control” and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.
This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.

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