Scalia should resign

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Fairness Radio

Yesterday’s testimony at the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act was historical for many reasons.  The 1965 VRA is the law that Congress passed in response to the 15th amendment, which was ratified 97 years earlier.  In other words it took Congress 97 years to develop the courage, information and creativity to craft a bill to protect the foundational right of our democracy.

It was also historic in than it comes at a time of increased attempts to suppress votes of minorities – not just blacks, but Hispanics, Asians and anyone else who is not white and Republican.  The motivation for this suppression is as much partisan as it is racist, but the outcome is the same…fewer voters of color and fewer faces in the Congress and state legislatures and city councils that look like America today.

But it was also historic for the words of Justice Scalia.  Scalia  told Donald Verrilli, the Administration lawyer defending the VRA, that Congress could not be trusted to amend the VRA because it  is a “racial entitlement” and Congress cannot get out of obsolete racial entitlements through the normal process, so it is up to the courts to eliminate them.

There was a gasp in the courtroom and in the lawyers lounge where attorneys were listening to the proceedings.  A Supreme Court Justice had called the 1965 VRA the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”

Justice Scalia, with all due respect, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement; it is the Constitutionally demanded shield protecting an American Constitutional right.  It is the Act of Congress called for in Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee for all Americans the foundational right – not an entitlement, but a right – that underpins this and every other democracy around the world modeled on our Constitution.

Fifty people were beaten to near death on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965,  marching for their right to vote.  Twenty-five thousand people – including Dr. Martin Luther King – took up their fallen banners and completed the march with Federal troops guarding them.  Four people were bombed and died later on defending their right to vote after the march.  Others were shot or hanged or run over trying to register black people to vote.

President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in memory of the blood shed by the people who were beaten and died on the Edmund Pettis bridge that day and afterwards defending the right to vote.  Voting is not an entitlement  to be given or withdrawn at the whim of whatever party is in power in Congress or a state legislature. It is the foundation of everything America stands for: equality, democracy, popular election of the government and its accountability to the people.  People died for it, for us, so that we can live in a democracy.

That includes you, Justice Scalia.  You took the same oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 15th Amendment, that President Johnson did.  Bloody Sunday is part of your national history.  Jimmie Lee, whose death at the hands of an Alabama state trooper led to Bloody Sunday,  died so that you could live in a true democracy and rise to its highest court.  The little children blown to bits in a southern church by people who didn’t think Negros should vote died for the democracy you live in today, for the Court that has room for your black and female and Hispanic colleagues.

The fact that you don’t know that;  the fact that you see voting as an entitlement, not a right – the most important right in the Constitution – disqualifies you from the bench. Your 1950’s conservative ideology has blinded you to the history and the basic premise of American democracy.  And your partisanship has led you to an insult to the memory of those who were beaten and fire-hosed and whipped and shot and killed to enshrine this right in the Constitution that you are supposed to know and understand and protect.

You should apologize to every American and especially to those whose deaths gave us the Voting Rights Act.  And then you should resign.

 

Bob The Businessman: An American Success Story

This is the story of Bob The businessman.

Suppose a local businessman, let’s call him Bob, went around town raising money from the townspeople to open a car dealership. Dozens and dozens of people in town invested, putting in $1,000, $5,000, and a few putting in as much as $50,000 and $100,000. Bob raised a lot of money for his business.

After a while the investors found out Bob the Businessman was using some of their money to help his brother run for Mayor and several cousins to run for city council, and some of it to make his wife head of the Arts Council for a good salary. Then they learned that he was using some of it to fund a local organization that did nothing but push for tax breaks for . . . businesses just like Bob’s. (And to push for “deregulation” letting Bob use his company’s money to do things like … fund the organization.)

In the election his brother was elected Mayor and his cousins took over the council. Once in charge of the city, they pushed through a big contract for Bob to supply cars to the city (many of which the city didn’t even need.) The city also exempted Bob’s business from taxes, even giving it subsidies.

This all of course made the car dealership very profitable, and the investors started asking when they are going to get a dividend. But they found out that Bob’s business has opened a subsidiary based at a post office box in the Cayman Islands. This Cayman Islands subsidiary had been buying cars from the manufacturer at wholesale and turning around and selling them to Bob’s parent company for just under what the dealership sells them to the public for. As a result all the profits went to the Cayman Islands subsidiary, and Bob wasn’t bringing any of it back to distribute to the shareholders!

Next the investors learned that Bob had been living really high on the hog, paying himself many millions of dollars.

When the local investors got fed up, they gathered to protest in front on Bob’s business. “You shouldn’t be using our money to get your brother elected mayor,” said one. Another said, “You shouldn’t be using our money to give to the arts council!”

By then Bob owned all the newspapers and TV and radio stations in town, and they were all telling the rest of the town that the protesters were all communists. His brother the mayor sent the police to arrest them.

Next Bob got the city to relax the regulations that specified how well the cars he sold should work, and started selling cars with defects to the townspeople. The city also limited lawsuits. The customers cheated by Bob couldn’t do anything about it!

Over time Bob’s actions forced all of the honest, responsible car dealers to either operate the way Bob did, or go out of business. The character of the whole town changed.

Eventually, though, Bob’s business practices became so bad that most of the townspeople went to the city and demanded that they do something about it. The city conducted an “investigation” and reached a settlement with Bob’s car dealership. The dealership agreed to pay a modest fine, which meant the investors were on the hook to pay it out of any dividends they might receive. (The city’s lawyer who negotiated with Bob later left and got a very high-paying job working for … Bob.) Bob got to keep the enormous amounts he had been paying to himself.

Bob lived happily ever after.

This fable in no way is meant to make you think about the way that modern American corporations and the current American political system operate.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Deficit Is Falling Dramatically, But Only 6% Know That

There is no deficit problem. The deficit is down about 50 percent as a share of gross domestic product just since President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 deficit and is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. Yet the Washington debate is about how and where to cut us back into recession. Why?

Congress should just repeal the sequester – we don’t need it. We have 10 years to fix the long-term deficit situation. We should not be stampeded by deficit-scare propaganda and instead take the time to carefully consider the right approach. That way we won’t make the mistakes that Europe is making.

Deficit Falling

Here is a chart of the deficit as a percent of GDP: (Data sources below)

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Is Ths Where The (Middle-Class) Money Went?

Tuesday’s post, 40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage, was updated with this chart:

The chart shows that wages used to go up as productivity went up, but in the 1970s they decoupled. Productivity kept going up but wages stagnated.

Now, here’s another chart. This chart shows that financial-sector and non-financial-sector compensation used to rise together, but in the late 70’s / early 80’s they decoupled. Financial-sector compensation took off, while non-financial-sector compensation did not.

Correlation isn’t causation, but just sayin’…

In the post, 40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage, I wrote this about that:

This means the gains went … somewhere else. See if you can guess who got them? (Hint: it’s the 1%; this is one driver of the terrible income and wealth inequality.) This breakoff of wages from productivity growth is partly (largely?) the result of trade agreements that pit Americans against exploited workers in non-democracies. This weakened the bargaining power of unions, moved factories and industries out of the country, devastated entire regions of our country — and gave the giant multinational corporations, Wall Street and the billionaires the leverage they needed…

(*Click charts for sources.)

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Who Could Oppose A Bill Fighting Chinese Hacking?

How come few if any of of the major-media articles reporting on Chinese hacking of computers in American businesses, news organizations and key infrastructure facilities mention that last year Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to do something about it?

Here is a NY Times report on that filibuster: Cybersecurity Bill Is Blocked in Senate by G.O.P. Filibuster,

A cybersecurity bill that had been one of the Obama administration’s top national security priorities was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, severely limiting its prospects this year.

… The bill’s most vocal opponents were a group of Republican senators led by John McCain of Arizona, who took the side of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and steadfastly opposed the legislation, arguing that it would be too burdensome for corporations.

Wait — the US Chamber of Commerce was lobbying for a filibuster to block a cybersecurity bill? They were trying to block a bill to fight Chinese hacking of US businesses and strategic infrastructure? What? Why would they do that?

Here’s another way the US Chamber of Commerce sides with China: U.S. Chamber Opposes Romney Vow to Punish China on Currency and the Chamber is one of the groups in the following: Business Groups Letter Opposing China Currency Legislation

But wait, there’s more: ‘US’ Chamber Of Commerce Hosts Seminars With Chinese Gov Officials To Teach American Firms How To Outsource.

Makes you wonder, whose side are they on? It also makes you wonder … just where does the US Chamber of Commerce get its money, that it would keep taking China’s side like this?

Back in 2010 Think Progress looked into this: Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads.

And this: ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Funded By Top Offshoring Companies

Like I said, makes you wonder… doesn’t it? And how come We, the People have no way of knowing just who and what is funding these lobbying and election efforts?

Talking Postal Service And Privatization On Huffington Post Live

I was on Huffington Post Live today, talking about the story behind the recent news that the Postal Service is going to end Saturday deliver in August. I wrote about this recently in my post, The Postal Service Outrage.*

This post outlines what is really going on with the Postal Service, and how it is one more “manufactured crisis” that is part of a larger strategy to privatize government so that it serves a wealthy few instead of We, the People. The Postal Service is a service, not a business, yet it is required to “break even.” (The Pentagon doesn’t have to break even.) It is required to pre-fund 75 years of retiree health benefits — paying now for people who are not even born yet! It is hobbled, kept from adjusting rates and kept from offering different services that “compete” with private companies. And then when it runs short of money we are told there is a “crisis” and the agency is “obsolete” and should just be privatized. Privatization is the process of tking public property out of OUR hands, so that it will be run for the benefit of those with money, with the profits going to a few at the top.

Aside from the points in this post, I made one point that I think is very important: In a democracy government is us, and by definition government spending is We, the People doing things to make our lives better. Plutocracy is government only run for the benefit of a wealthy few. So when you hear people demanding “less government” and cuts in “government spending” you should think about what they are really pushing for.

With no further ado, here is the Huffington Post Live segment Postcards At The Edge:

BIG correction, I said the first largest employer is Amazon and I meant Walmart!!

* Note: This post was titled You Should Be Outraged by What Is Being Done to Our Postal Service at most other outlets.

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40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage

You may have seen the charts showing how working people’s wages stopped going up along with productivity gains:

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Update: I am adding this chart of productivity gain and wages, from EPI’s The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth:

This means the gains went … somewhere else. See if you can guess who got them? (Hint: it’s the 1%; this is one driver of the terrible income and wealth inequality.) This breakoff of wages from productivity growth is partly (largely?) the result of trade agreements that pit Americans against exploited workers in non-democracies. This weakened the bargaining power of unions, moved factories and industries out of the country, devastated entire regions of our country — and gave the giant multinational corporations, Wall Street and the billionaires the leverage they needed…

Economist Dean Baker describes one effect of this in Minimum Wage: Who Decided Workers Should Fall Behind?

“If the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth [since 1968], it would be over $16.50 an hour today. That is higher than the hourly wages earned by 40 percent of men and half of women.”

Baker is referring to this CEPR study: The Minimum Wage and Economic Growth.

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The Benghazi Cover-Up

There has been a ‘massive cover-up’ on Benghazi.

What are they covering up? We don’t know because it has been covered up.

How do we know it has been covered up? Because there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, did anything wrong! Obviously that means there has been a massive cover-up!!!!!

So obviously this is bigger than Watergate. This is bigger than all of the Clinton murders. This is bigger than 9/11.