Remember when everyone was getting laid off, and the government and the Fed gave hundreds of billions to banks, and the banks used the money to give huge bonuses?
This is that time of year when newspapers bother to write about how there are hungry people in America. But this year is special. As the recession drags on for the non-1%, cuts in Food Stamps have completely swamped the capacity of food banks and other non-government assistance. Meanwhile pending cuts in unemployment compensation and even more cuts in Food Stamps and other assistance programs mean things will get much worse for millions of invisible Americans.
Have you heard about the Nov. 1 “Hunger Cliff?” On November 1 the Food Stamp program was cut. Millions of Americans are out of work, unemployment benefits have run out (and been cut), winter is arriving in force, but Congress allowed a temporary, recession-boosted increase in the Food Stamp program to run out! $5 billion in urgently-needed assistance just went away.
Terrance Heath told the story in 47 Million Americans Are Going Over the “Hunger Cliff”, writing “Millions of Americans will plunge over the “Hunger Cliff” tomorrow, when $5 billion in cut to food stamps go into effect tomorrow. While Congress negotiates even more cuts, millions of Americans will face negotiating where their next meal will come from.”
Food Banks Swamped
The “Hunger Cliff” has hit people hard. The cuts mean people just can’t get enough to eat. Hungry people are swamping the food banks.
Senate Democrats, there have been over 400 filibusters. What are you going to do about it? We the People want to know. We thought we had elections. We thought things were decided and the country could finally move forward.
Are We the People the boss here, or are the billionaires and giant corporations behind this obstruction in charge?
Obstruction Of The People’s Will
Everything that We the People want to get done is being obstructed. In the Senate there is what the corporate media call “a requirement to get 60 votes for anything to pass” and in the House there is the “Hastert Rule” that prevents legislation from getting a vote if a majority that would pass it includes Democrats.
The country is being held back by an intentional strategy to block economic recovery and obstruct change that the public wants, so that Republicans can campaign for office saying the economy is bad so vote for us, and then mocking democracy saying, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya?”
Are you going to do something about it? Are you going to deliver for We the People? We elected you to use the power of your office to deliver for us.
They sure are delivering for the billionaires and giant corporations who are paying them to do this.
Senate Democrats: What are you going to do about it? Who is the boss, We the People or the billionaires and giant corporations paying for the obstruction?
Here is Rachel Maddow interviewing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this week:
Please visit Fix the Senate Now.
There is a phrase I hear from DC people a lot: He/she is going to “go make some money.”
Usually this means that someone in government is going to take a job for a corporation, likely on Wall Street, “for a while” and then come back. It is, of course, collecting the payoff for playing along with the corporate agenda.
Of course, in progressive circles it means someone is going to find any old NON-progressive-organization job because that means actually making enough to live on…
Larry Summers for the Fed? Seriously? There are better choices for Federal Reserve chair; in particular, Janet Yellen is more than qualified and would do a great job.
Ezra Klein writes in, “Right now, Larry Summers is the front-runner for Fed chair,” “The word among Federal Reserve watchers right now is that the choice is down to Janet Yellen or Larry Summers as Ben Bernanke’s replacement.”
The White House is not actively shooting this down and this is just an insult to American women.
Trans-Pacific Partnership – the corporate sovereignty treaty – is coming and they’re going to try to push it through Congress with “Fast Track.” It’s really, really important to pay attention to this one.
You have seen what the “free trade” agreements have done to cities like Detroit and Flint, along with entire regions of the country, several key industries, the middle class and ultimately our democracy. Now a super-treaty is coming down the pike and corporate forces are asking Congress to give up their Constitutional authority to act as a check-and-balance with something called “Fast Track.” We have to stop this before it is too late.
Next Up: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
The super-treaty coming down the pike is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a mega-agreement involving several Pacific-rim countries at the same time, with a special “docking” provision that lets new countries join without new negotiations.
Only a small part of this “trade” treaty is about trade at all. Most of it is about elevating corporate rights above the rights of citizens and sovereign countries to reign them in. Much of TPP is about “investor rights.” “Investor” in this case means people with tons of money, and this is about giving them rights so their interests come above what citizens and their meddlesome laws might try to do to mess things up for them. Minimum wages, environmental protections, workplace safety and other “regulations” are all things citizens do to make their lives better but that make trouble for investors.
Tim Geitherner is getting paid huge “speaking fees” by the big banks he helped while in his government jobs…
… receiving about $400,000 for three speaking engagements.
A speech at a Deutsche Bank conference last month netted him about $200,000…
… He spoke in June alongside Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s ex-president, and Mario Monti, Italy’s former prime minister, at Deutsche Bank’s annual conference in the UK.
… Mr Geithner was also the main attraction at Blackstone’s annual meeting in April, and the following month appeared at Warburg Pincus’s annual meeting. He was paid no more than $100,000 by each of the private equity groups, according to people familiar with the matter.
…Within a week of stepping down as Federal Reserve chairman, for example, Alan Greenspan was paid about $250,000 to speak at a dinner for hedge fund clients of the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.
$400K so far, just three “speaking” engagements… His time as Treasury Sec will prove incredibly lucrative.
Not so good for you and me, though.
You might have heard that “austerity is dead.” You’ll certainly be hearing it, and with good reason: the U.S. deficit is down more than 50 percent from what President Bush left behind, projections of the rise in medical costs that drove future deficits are way down, the “intellectual foundation” that justified the push for cutting government has collapsed (as if it ever existed), and the European experiment has shown that budget cuts really just make things worse – much, much worse – and cause misery and suffering to boot. Meanwhile we have two real problems to worry about: unemployment and crumbling infrastructure. So can we hire people to fix the infrastructure now?
Economists Had Learned How To Revive A Falling Economy
Before the financial collapse economists had nailed down the way to get out of an economic crisis: Government has to spend to pick up the drop in demand caused by businesses and consumers cutting back. This investment into the economy causes businesses to hire again, which helps people to be able to spend again, and after things recover the resulting growth pays off that investment.
The Great Depression in particular had taught us that a downward spiral could develop in which a drop in demand caused businesses to cut back, lay people off and/or cut wages, and of course this caused people to have to cut back, which meant demand dropped even more so businesses laid off more people, so demand dropped more, etc.
The FDR administration tried various things to stop this spiral and found that programs that injected money into the economy, such as unemployment benefits and other assistance, direct hiring, investments in infrastructure, etc., could turn things around. And then after things turned around we had all that new, modern infrastructure driving continuing economic growth!
We also learned the hard way. In 1937 the government cut back too soon, and the economy sank into recession again. Then World War II came along, the government spent massively, and the economy grew so much that the ratio of debt to the size of the economy shrank dramatically. We had it figured out.
Borosage, in Democrats Must Overcome Clinton Nostalgia,
The sad fact is that the old economy is coming back. Austerity continues to starve public investments vital to our future. The banks emerged from the crisis bigger and more concentrated than ever. Despite the domestic natural gas explosion, the trade deficit is still more than $1 billion a day, with the deficit with China setting records.
Extreme inequality is getting worse. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans captured a stunning 121 percent of the income growth in the first two years after the economic collapse. Everyone else, on average, lost ground. The jobs being created offer less pay and fewer benefits than those that were lost. More than 20 million people still need full-time work.
I wrote about this in Just Stop It: This Is NOT A Good Economy. We Can Fix It.
PS Borosage makes a key point: “No matter how repellant Republicans may look to these voters, they are unlikely to turn out in large numbers for a party whose policies have failed them.“
Affluent business flyers inconvenienced by delays = national emergency that Congress immediately fixes. Cancer clinics closing = Congress does squat, goes home. This is just one more story of our corrupt times.
Last week the sequester cuts kicked in at airports and caused affluent business fliers to experience some delays, so Congress acted immediately to fix it. The same sequester has been forcing cancer clinics to send away patients so they can’t receive the chemotherapy that they hope will keep them alive. Is Congress rushing to the rescue like they did for affluent business travelers who faced some flight delays? Not so much. They do have their priorities, after all.
Sequester Causes Cancer Clinic Cuts And Closings
NBC: Sequester cuts hitting cancer patients, (click through for video)
Oncologists claim reduced Medicare funding, which took effect on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Albequerque BusinessFirst: Gov’t cuts might force NM Cancer Center to stop treating some Medicare patients,
The Albuquerque-based New Mexico Cancer Center might have to stop treating up to 300 Medicare patients because of cuts to Medicare brought on by the federal sequestration budget cuts, the Cancer Center’s CEO said Thursday.
After automatic budget cuts slashed their funding, cancer clinics have been forced to delay chemotherapy treatment for their patients. Some clinics may actually have to close their doors altogether if the sequester cuts are not reversed. As several cancer doctors told the Hill, they suspect they may not have been at the top at Congress’ list because reduced access to chemotherapy doesn’t personally inconvenience lawmakers in the same way that airport delays do.
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.
Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
It Costs Money, Doesn’t Save Money
The kicker, it doesn’t even save the government money, instead it costs money:
The care will likely be more expensive: One study from actuarial firm Milliman found that chemotherapy delivered in a hospital setting costs the federal government an average of $6,500 more annually than care delivered in a community clinic.
So not only does this sequester kill people, it costs the government much more than it saves.
1) The deficit is already falling dramatically. The deficit is already down by 50% as a share of GDP. From See Deficit Falling Even More Dramatically, Few Know It:
3) Europe’s experiment with austerity has brought nothing but stagnation, recession, unemployment and mass misery and suffering. See ThinkProgress: Austerity Pushes Europe Into Its Second Recession In Four Years, CNBC: Europe Risks ‘Endless Depression’ in Pursuit of Austerity, LA Times: Europe austerity strategy is hurting growth, IMF says, CNN: Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece and hundreds more such reports…
4) The deficit argument is over. Henry Blodget: The Economic Argument Is Over — Paul Krugman Has Won.
It’s Just Corruption
A new study, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans … sought to gauge the political and policy priorities of the wealthy, and how these concerns contrast with the concerns of the rest of us. Amazingly, the priorities of the 1% match up with the priorities of our political class, while the priorities and needs of the vast majorities of us are ignored.
This is about who has the money, and who gives it to politicians. That is the definition of corruption. It is not “ideology” it is corruption, nothing more.
Very wealthy people are profiting from this austerity push. Dean Baker explains, in Deficits Are Bad and the Sun Goes Around the Earth,
…many people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment. The after-tax profit share of GDP is at its highest level more than 60 years. For those who own lots of stock and are at the top of the income ladder, times are good. These people may see efforts to lower unemployment as posing a risk. With lower unemployment workers may be able to get a larger share of productivity growth. This may be good for most of the country and mean increased economic growth, but it would mean less for the one percent.
Yes, “people can profit from slow growth and high unemployment.” And politicians are being paid to maintain the slow growth and high unemployment and other things that are driving all the income and wealth to a top few. It is just corruption, nothing more.
From January: Call It Corruption Not Ideology,
Getting paid by corporations to block government action from helping We, the People but hurting corporate profits isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.
Getting paid by corporations to cut taxes and regulations for corporations isn’t an ideology, it’s corruption.
Getting paid by billionaires to cut taxes for billionaires isn’t an ideology, it is corruption
Call it what it is, don’t launder it by calling it ideology. It is corruption.
This is corruption, it is not ideology, it is not “austerity.” Getting paid by wealthy people to block things that help We the People so those wealthy people can profit is corruption, nothing more. Don’t dignify it, don’t let it serve as a mask. It is just corruption.
Has anyone calculated an average Obama cave time? Of course, this is a number that will keep going lower, as he caves ever-more quickly…
Under pressure, the White House signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy flight delays for airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place.
[. . .] At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that if Congress “wants to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA, we would be open to looking at that.
The pundit world is busy rehabilitating the reputation of George ‘W’ Bush. Somehow in today’s America killing hundreds of thousands of human beings illegally invading a country, torture, corruption and “no-bid contracts” to crony insiders, crashing the economy, intentionally creating massive deficits, using phony terrorist-attack alerts to stampede frightened citizens into voting against their own interest, and so much more of the ‘W’ legacy don’t disqualify such a discussion, nevermind instead demanding prosecution for the crimes committed…
In honor of the attempted rehabilitation of George ‘W’ Bush here is a bit from a 2010 post of mine, originally at Open Left. Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?
When you sell the farm, the farm’s gone.
Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt, ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite — and we’re only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.
… The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government. They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.
… The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.
The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed. …
[. . .]
More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step. Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%. The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared. And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities. Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning. But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.
So where do we go from here. Is democracy over? Is rule of law a thing of the past? Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be? Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?
Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?
What are your thoughts?
Read the whole thing here: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?