Change.org Turns Right

Here is a pretty big story: Change.org Changing: Site To Work With Corporate, Anti-Abortion, GOP Campaigns, Say Internal Documents. Yep, another “progressive” org is selling out to the corporates for money.
And please sign SignOn.org petition: Change.org: Reinstate the person you fired for letting your users know that you’re going to work with corporations and the far-right

What Is The Calculation Behind Romney’s Campaign Of Lies?

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

The Growing List Of Lies

This week’s lie is the “Obama gutted welfare reform” nonsense. See Bill Scher’s must-read response, Romney’s Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.
The next-most recent lie was the “Obama is trying to keep military families from voting” lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-military” narrative.
Before that was the “You didn’t build that” lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn’t say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-business” narrative.
This one on welfare reinforces the “Democrats take your money and give it to black people” narrative. “We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work,” said Romney, promising to make them work good and hard.
Rachel Maddow’s blog has been keeping track of the Romney lies, and it is a loooooong list.

How It Is Done

Here is how it works. Each lie is developed in the right’s machine, using something currently in the news to reinforce an ongoing narrative about “liberals.” The lie percolates up through a well-worn process where the germ of the story is planted in smaller outlets, and variations of it are tried out until one seems to resonate. Next, larger right-wing media operations pick up the developed “story” and drive it further. It gets amplified on the radio, FOX News and the right’s newspapers. Finally the corporate media takes it out to more and more people, covering themselves with the claim they are just “reporting” on a “story” that is “already out there.”
One way or another the lie is repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated) in various forms through various channels that reach various target groups, until it becomes a “truth.” Once it has become a “truth” the Romney campaign uses this “truth” to claim Democrats and President Obama are harming the country.
The Solyndra story is a good example. The right developed a lie about “cronyism,” claiming that a Democratic donor is “tied to” solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra because a foundation with his name on it was an investor in the company. Because a foundation was the investor there was no possibility for the donor to benefit. But that doesn’t matter, they used this “tie” to spread a lie the Obama administration was steering money into someone’s pocket, and they repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.
After months of repetition of this lie, the Romney campaign understood that the lie has become a “truth,” and is using that “truth” themselves in campaign ads and Romney’s stump speech! Romney talks about “cronyism” in the Obama administration, understanding that much of the public now believes this is established fact.

The Calculation

The Romney campaign is limiting media access to the candidate and offering little in the way of substantive policy proposals. They are instead using press releases, advertisements, message-trained surrogates, cooperative media like FOX, Drudge, talk radio, allied newspapers and the right’s blogosphere, while coordinating with massively-funded outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and others.
This is a key thing to get, the Romney campaign believes that they can win this election using lies and propaganda as “truths” to drive their campaign story. They are making the calculation that the right’s media machine has become sufficiently powerful for their version of reality to reach enough of the public, and that it is sticking in their minds as “truths!”
They are also making the calculation — so far validated by the media response — that there will be little if any pushback from “mainstream” media. They trust that the media will look the other way, report lies as “one side says X, the other says Y,” tell the public “both sides do it,” and say this is just par for the course.
But if there is media resistance, they are calculating that the right’s own media power can override any pushback that might come. They might also believe they can turn media resistance to their advantage. Decades have been spent convincing their followers to see potentially objective information sources as “the liberal media,” enemy of conservatism, and any pushback for lying could just increase support for their campaign.
So the Romney campaign, like the recent Bush administration, are conscious that they do not need to work with facts. Instead they believe they can “create truth” through the manipulation of perception. This is hardly new in Repubican circles. The phrase “reality-based community” came out of the previous Republican administration’s calculations of what the public will and won’t learn about. This famous quote from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, explains,

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

What Does The Public “Know?”

If you are reading this you are likely very well-informed. You pay attention to the mainstream news, as well as read various progressive sources. But much of the public is not very well-informed, and faces the problem of not knowing what sources to trust. Subjected to a constant battering of corporate/conservative propaganda and disinformation, they are busy, and not ready or able to do the extensive research needed to make informed decisions.
Progressives and “liberals” try to solve this problem by trying to help people get informed. Conservatives, however, try to use it to their advantage, spreading self-serving misinformation.
The well-funded propagandists study and understand the shorthand methods people use to determine what to believe. This is the reason for the ongoing attacks on the credibility of what would normally be seen as trustworthy sources, like PBS, NPR and what the rest of what has been disparaged for decades as “the liberal media.” This is also the reason for the establishment of so many corporate-funded conservative “institutes” and other academic and authoritative-sounding organizations that issue “studies” and “reports” that always echo the corporate-conservative positions.
The “mainstream” corporate media has also undergone a change over recent decades. Many outlets now see themselves as businesses with a product that has to appeal to “the market” to make money. They no longer see their mission to be informing the public so citizens have the information that is needed to function in a democracy, but instead as “maximizing shareholder return,” by “driving traffic” and whatever else it takes to sell advertising. And many people working as “journalists” understand that advancing their own careers means not making waves by being perceived as “leftist” or “anti-business.”

The Test

Steve Benen calls this a “test for the political world,” writing,

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.
The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.
The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

This is a test for the political world, as well as a challenge to the viability of our democratic system. We can expect this to continue and accelerate until election day, driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires and their huge corporations. The question is, will enough of our misinformed public be tricked by the lies? If this succeeds, what kind of country will we become? What will be left?
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

Another New York Times Columnist Attack On Social Security And Medicare

The New York Times contains another elite-columnist attack on our Social Security and Medicare systems today. This time it’s in the form of an op-ed by Bill Keller. Recently and regularly, New York Times columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman have also gone after the things We, the People do for each other.

First, The Basics Of The Borrowing

Any discussion of our deficit/debt “crisis” must start with a few quick points about the history of the “crisis”:
1) January 26, 2000, Clinton to Propose Early Debt Payoff,

President Clinton said Tuesday that the budget he will send Congress on Feb. 7 will propose paying off the entire $3.6-trillion national debt by 2013–two years earlier than had been expected even a few months ago.

2) 2001 Alan Greenspan said we needed to pass the Bush tax cuts because we were paying off the debt too quickly.
3) Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” when the budget turned from surplus to deficit because budget deficits meant there would be pressure to cut entitlements. Bush wanted to continue the “strategic deficits” plan to “starve the beast” that was launched in the Reagan years.
Republicans are following a decades-old shock-doctrine plan:

  • Use tax cuts and military spending increases to create terrible deficits that add up to massive debt,
  • Then use the resulting “debt crisis” to scare people (esp elites like Keller, Brooks and Friedman) into cutting democratic government and our ability to control the billionaires and their corporations.

But cutting government doesn’t mean the costs go away, it means that we each have to bear those costs ourselves, on our own, without the help of the rest of us. This is really about cutting democracy so the very rich can be even very-richer.

The Attack

With that out of the way, let us now turn to the latest elite attack on entitlements — those things We, the People are entitled to: the fruits of the prosperity that democracy brings us.
In a NY Times op-ed, The Entitled Generation, Bill Keller writes about the “bloat” of projected entitlement spending, blaming “baby boomers” for future budget shortfalls, because they will need to retire without living in absolute poverty, and get health care.
He writes that because budget cuts have us spending less than we should on infrastructure investment, therefore we should also spend less on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “In 1962 … [a]bout 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on entitlements. In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investment and 46 cents on entitlements. ”
Keller writes, “So the question is not whether entitlements have to be brought under control, but how. ” (These greedy seniors don’t understand that the situation has changed — we have cut taxes for the very wealthy and increased our military spending to prevent the Soviet Union from invading. Who do they think they are?)
Finally, ignoring the People’s Budget, the Budget For All, the Schakowsky Deficit Reduction Plan and all the other sensible budget plans that have been proposed by progressives, Keller writes, “At least the Republicans have a plan. The Democrats generally recoil from the subject of entitlements.”
Keller praises “bipartisan authors of the Simpson-Bowles report” — even though there was no “Simpson-Bowles report.” The commission couldn’t come to agreement and issued no report. As for the “bipartisan” Simpson and Bowles, he is referring to former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, and member of the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley Erskine Bowles. (Please click the link.) (“Bipartisan” as used by elites like Keller apparently refers to even and odd numbered addresses on Wall Street — the crowd that gets the money if our Social Security system is dismantled.)

Social Security

Our Social Security system is critical to human beings and our economy, just like hospitals, highways, schools and power plants. It is a core institution, used by everyone, and is absolutely vital in most people’s lives. It is the foundation of our retirement security. It is our most basic protection for our families if we become disabled or die.
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains just how crucial our Social Security system is to the lives of so many of us, in Bill Keller Wants to Take Away Your Social Security and Is Either Too Ignorant or Dishonest to Acknowledge that He Is Not a Typical Baby Boomer,

Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

In other words, half of near-retirees have less than that so they depend on Social Security even more than that.
We built and paid for our Social Security system. Each generation has done its part to maintain the system’s foundations for over 75 years, and it has only become stronger. If the middle class can’t count on Social Security in their retirement years, what can it count on?
Social Security is a far safer bet than any other retirement savings available. It is vastly safer than a 401K, which is available only to a few anyway, and can disappear overnight. Corporate raiders can take your pension plan. You can’t even count on a pension plan if you are a public employee. House prices can go up or down. But Social Security is always there for us. Even the most sophisticated investors can lose everything, but you can’t lose your Social Security. Social Security is the one retirement system that really works.
Social Security is the most successful government program, and that is why so many elites hate it!

Medicare And Medicaid

A government budget cut is really like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does — or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost of things, they just shift those costs onto each of us on our own.
For example, if you cut the the government’s Medicare or Medicaid budget our health problems don’t disappear, but each of us has to find ways to pay the cost of medical care or a nursing home on our own, with no help, often at a time when we are stressed by illness.
In Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains what happens to the cost of health care if Medicare is eliminated. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. This is because Medicare covers millions, and that economy-of-scale means the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own. From the CEPR explanation:

[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.
… In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republican plan] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected …

Our health problems won’t disappear just because government cuts out Medicare and Medicaid. But the costs of treating – or not treating – those health problems will now fall on us, individually, on our own, instead of aggregated through the mechanism of democracy. And that is money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy.

The Money

So where do we get the money to pay our bills, if not from the things We, the People do for each other? Get the money from where the money went.
Start by ending the Bush tax cuts! The Bush tax cuts not only cut marginal tax rates for the wealthy, they cut taxes on capital gains and dividends — money you get just for having money. And it dramatically cut the tax on income inherited from wealthy parents — more money that one gets just because one already has money! But ending the Bush tax cuts is just a start.
Reagan dramatically increased the military budget: In 1980, before Reagan, the Defense Department budget was $134 billion, by 1989 it was $303 billion. But that was nothing. In 2000, before ‘W’ Bush, it was $294 billion. By 2008 it was $616 billion. But that doesn’t count military-related items outside of the Defense Department. Depending on how interest debt is applied, total military spending is between $1 and $1.4 trillion. (And, by the way, wars are expensive.) (“Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.” –Tom DeLay)
Fix health care. Today Mitt Romney praised the way that Israel’s socialized health care system keeps costs low. WaPo: Romney praises health care in Israel, where ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs,

He praised Israel for spending just 8 percent of its GDP on health care and still remaining a “pretty healthy nation.”
“Our gap with Israel [on health spending] is 10 points of GDP,” Romney said. “We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”
… Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers—including people with pre-existing conditions—and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits.

Get the economy moving again. Jeeze, instead of saying because we stopped investing in infrastructure therefore we need to cut other things, how about investing in infrastructure? We have millions of jobs that need to ing and millions of people looking for jobs. And we can finance it for free. The payoff will be enormous, all those people no longer needing unemployment and food stamps, all those people and construction companies paying taxes again, and the resulting economic growth cutting the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Don’t Be Fooled By Elites Hating On Entitlements

Don’t be fooled: this is really about shifting from democracy to a system where we are on our own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where we can all be prosperous to a system where a few have all the wealth and power.
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

Have You Actually Watched Carter’s “Malaise” Speech?

Here it is, well worth watching! STILL profound, important, prescient. And startling in the context of what we know today about the corporate right’s assault on democracy.

The first part is about the mistrust of government and each other that had started taking hold, the rest is about energy, conservation, and the effect on our economy.

As you watch it, keep in mind that the right’s “noise machine” (partly funded by oil companies) had already been operating behind the scenes for several years, already spending tens of millions a year on the effort. Back then nothing like that had been encountered from inside the country (at least since the lead-up to the civil war) – the smear machine, the propaganda, the mass repetition of carefully crafted anti-government and in-it-for-yourself messaging, etc. – so people were just blindsided by it. But it was clear something was happening, and Carter called it a a “fundamental threat to American democracy”.

We Can So Easily Create Jobs, Cut The Deficit And Revitalize Our Economy!

The path to creating millions of jobs is so easy and obvious. Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Millions would be paying income taxes instead of receiving unemployment or food stamps. The companies that supply the materials and steel would also be hiring and paying taxes, and the companies that supply them … and the companies that supply them. And when we are finished, the payoff to the economy from a modern infrastructure and energy efficiency will be enormous. Anyone who tells you we can’t or shouldn’t do this is up to no good.

Millions Of Jobs Need Doing, Millions Unemployed

We have millions of people unemployed at the same time as we have millions of jobs that need to be done. Connect the dots! It is so easy!

Dot: No net job gains since 2000. 8 million jobs lost in the recession. Never mind jobs for the 86,000 new people entering the labor force every month…

Dot: According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),

“congested highways, overflowing sewers, and corroding bridges” were creating a “looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and our quality of life.”

Dot: From a recent NY Times story on our country’s water systems,

Today, a significant water line bursts on average every two minutes somewhere in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.

. . . State and federal studies indicate that thousands of water and sewer systems may be too old to function properly.

[. . .] “There’s a lot of evidence that people are getting sick,” he added. “But because everything is out of sight, no one really understands how bad things have become.”

Connect the dots.

Ten million jobs needed. Ten million jobs that need doing.

Connect the dots. We need a National Rebuild America Project! It would employ millions, it would get people and businesses back in the economy, paying taxes, buying things, and not receiving the badly-needed help of unemployment, food stamps, etc.

Jobs Fix Deficits

Jobs fix deficits. How hard is that to understand? We have a deficit of jobs. People who are not working are not paying income taxes, and are instead likely receiving unemployment, food stamps or other assistance. In any event they are certainly not contributing to the economy by making things or buying things. Jobs fix deficits.

The Payoff

There wold be an enormous economic payoff from investing in a National Rebuild America Project. I mean an economic payoff beyond getting people back to work, paying taxes, buying things and beyond getting people off of government assistance.

Imagine an economy with a fully modernized infrastructure providing the nourishing soil for new and existing businesses. Imagine our economy with energy efficiency freeing up resources to apply to other areas. Imagine our economy with everyone working. Imagine our economy with companies able to compete in world markets with the very latest and most efficient foundation undergirding their efforts.

Deficit Emergency?

They say we can’t invest in modernizing our infrastructure or in energy efficiency because this would be “government spending.” They say we can’t afford to do this kind of work. They say we instead need to cut back and pay off the deficit instead. As if laying off teachers helps the economy!

Where did all of this “deficit emergency” nonsense come from? We had a huge budget surplus when Bush took office. The debt was projected to be paid off entirely in ten years. So Bush gets elected, Greenspan says we’re paying off the debt “too fast” and they gave the rich a huge tax cut, and doubled military spending! It’s not hard to see where the deficit came from. (No, seriously, click through and see the charts, it’s not hard.)

So we shifted to a huge deficit instead and Bush said this was “incredibly positive news” because it will force the country into a debt crisis that they can propagandize to force cuts in things government does for We, the People.

Hey people, figure it out, we do not have a debt emergency, we have a manufactured crisis that is being used to scare people into giving up the benefits of democracy.

Has To Be Done Anyway

This is work that has to be done anyway! Once again, our infrastructure is falling apart, our companies are not competitive, our energy inefficiency is costing us dearly. This work has been put off for a long time. Every day we wait, it just becomes a more expensive problem. Funny how this is the way conservatives describe the debt, when in reality is the problem with delaying investment in modernization.

So why not do it now, when people really need the work? We have been deferring the maintenance of our infrastructure since the big Reagan tax cuts for the rich. The roads, bridges, dams, airports, rail, energy grid and the rest are in bad shape. This is slowing our economy. This is hurting people and costing money and time. This is costing our businesses in their international competitiveness.

Your Homework Assignment

OK, here is your homework: Big Ideas To Get America Working: Rebuild Our Infrastructure.

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.

The Most Important Thing The President Said About The Republican Budget

The most important thing the President said about the Republican Budget in his big speech Tuesday was when he described just some of the damage it does, and said, “This is not an exaggeration. Check it out yourself.” Seriously, do that, and see if you can get your friends, relatives and especially your right-wing bother-in-law to do it, too. Seriously.
Republicans Counting On “Low-Information” Voters
The secret of the Republican technique is that they count on lots of people being tuned out, apathetic and largely uninformed. They put up a lot of misinformation and smoke and mirrors and diversion and distraction, often claiming that what they are doing is the opposite of what they are doing, to trick people into accepting what they are doing, or at least not getting involved and working to stop them. And then they go ahead with their hidden agenda, usually involving handing over tax cuts, public money or property, favors, contracts, deregulation, get-out-of-jail cards, etc., to the highest-bidding contributor, or the company/lobbyist/etc. promising the most lucrative “jobs” or “speaking fees” etc., after government service is completed…
Another technique is accusing the other side of doing what they themselves are doing, as “cover.” (It’s called inoculation.) They won the majority in the House by running ads telling seniors that Democrats had cut $500 billion from Medicare, and a majority of seniors voted Republican for the first time. It was enough to swing control of the House. Now in office they are not just cutting Medicare, they are privatizing Medicare, phasing it out for those now under 55.
(Update: See: Romney Accuses Obama Of Taking ‘A Series Of Steps That End Medicare As We Know It’)
They are using another inoculation tactic to mask what they are doing, confusing people by portraying Obama as extreme and divisive for saying the Republican budget is extreme. Really, if you try to explain to regular people what is in this Republican budget, they will think you are an insane extremist for saying such things! (See Who Is The Crazy Person In The Room?)
Don’t Trust Me – Find Out For Yourself
The antidote is to get informed. Do not just trust what I write here, go find out for yourself what the Republicans have voted to do. Go visit several news sources and learn about this Republican budget. I’m not going to tell you where to go (except that FOX is not a news source.) Make an effort. Use the Google. And this is what you will learn:
They really are privatizing Medicare.
They really are claiming to “cut deficits” but extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, costing $4.6 trillion.
They really are cutting taxes on the rich by another $4.6 trillion!
They really are giving millionaires an average $187,000 tax cut.
They really are dramatically cutting corporate taxes.
They really are denying health insurance to up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions.
They really are dramatically cutting Medicaid by as much as 75%, with as many as 27 million people losing coverage.
They really are cutting 1,311 federal agents immediately from the Dept of Justice and another 4,587 agents each year over the next decade.
The cuts really do cost 4.1 million jobs.
They really are cutting 700,000 pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children off the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (WIC) program and another 1.8 million women, infants, and children off each year for the next 10 years.
They really are cutting 60,000 children out of Head Start immediately, and another 200,000 a year out each year for a decade.
And those are just some of the cuts. Food inspectors, work safety inspectors, education, infrastructure, police, courts, environmental protection …
They really are counting on most of the the public to stay distracted, apathetic and largely uninformed. YOU can help do something about that. Learn the facts and spread the word.
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.

For 2012 Let’s Restore Our “Industrial Commons”

David Brancaccio’s Marketplace story Tuesday, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business traced the decline of Kodak and the loss of Rochester, NY’s good, middle-class jobs to Kodak’s failure to tend its “industrial commons.” This is a national problem. For 2012 let’s resolve to restore our industrial commons and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
Kodak on Marketplace
Listen to Tuesday’s Marketplace story, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business.
Click to listen.
Story summary: Kodak didn’t tend its “industrial commons,” the local concentration of expertise in making the things that go into a camera.

You make your money by selling cameras. And you now needed to make components. You needed to make lenses; you needed to make shutters — all kinds of things that the skills for which no longer existed in Rochester.

This is what we have done in our country, too. We have been dismantling our “industrial commons.” By sending manufacturing out of the country we have been taking apart the supply chains and abandoning the expertise and skills and culture that go with it.
Other Warnings
Last year former Intel CEO Andy Grove sounded a warning about this problem. In How to Make an American Job Before It’s Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the “chain of experience” that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. He lays out a plan: “rebuild our industrial commons,”

The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.

We Gave It Away
Many American manufacturers made a deal with China to lower their manufacturing costs. Here is how it worked: Americans (used to) have a say in how this country was run, and said they want good wages, benefits, job safety, clean air, etc. These are the fruits of democracy, but to some they are an impediment to quick profits. So executives at the big multinational companies wanted a way around the borders of democracy and its demands, and pushed for “trade” deals that would let them move manufacturing to places where people had no say, in order to force American unions to make concessions. They got their deals and packed up our factories, moved them to places like China and then brought the manufactured goods back here to sell.
We lost 50,000 factories to China just in the ‘W’ Bush years, and our trade deficit soared, and now we as a country are paying the price. Making (and growing) things is how a country earns its living. It is how we bring in the income with which to buy things others make and grow. Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers said it clearly,

“You don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy.”

We just gave it away, and justified the loss by saying that better things will replace it. The result has been ever-increasing trade deficits that brought us a huge debt that makes us poorer. Our debt is not because of government spending, it is because we have given away our ability to make a loving!
An Ideology To Justify
In the process the 1%’ers who did this to us developed an ideology around hating America and democracy. To justify outsourcing our jobs and factories they said Americans had grown lazy and wanted handouts. They said that the huge profits reaped by a few from selling off our manufacturing infrastructure meant they were “producers” and that democracy was “statism” and “collectivism” that enabled the “parasites” to “steal” from them. They declared that “taxes are theft” that “punish” the “successful” and the “job creators.” They stopped funding infrastructure and education and law enforcement, denegrating these as “government spending,” and declared that the wealthy few have a “right to rise” and saying the rest of us are “imbeciles.”
They moved our “industrial commons” out of the country, closing the factories and thereby dismantling the supply chains and the “chain of experience” that enable us to innovate and compete. They let China capture the lead in emerging green manufacturing technologies that will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. They even let China extort proprietary technologies, in exchange for short-term profits.
They rode the tiger and now the tiger is coming back to bite us.
Riding The Tiger
Richard Eskow reminded me of an old Chinese saying, “He who rides the tiger cannot dismount.” American manufacturers rode the Chinese tiger to short-term profits, and now they cannot dismount. They “partnered” with China to get around the borders of democracy and the good wages and benefits democracy demands. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.
Riding the tiger: Forbes: Currency Manipulation is NOT the Biggest Chinese Threat,

China’s hidden threats are a multi-headed info-tech “Hydra,” the parts of which are interrelated:

  • Intellectual property rights violations (or lack of enforcement in China) allowing open theft of proprietary designs, etc.
  • Theft of private-sector technology (which has been going on for years) accelerating Chinese development cycles
  • Growing number of cyber-attacks, accessing highly confidential US government information, costing the US private sector billions of dollars in IT disruption.
  • Growing military/technology stolen secrets (e.g., stealth fighter plane designs, acquisition of downed stealth-helicopter parts from the bin Laden attack, electronic technology & software from US companies in China, etc.)

Riding the tiger: NYT: Chinese Rules Said to Threaten Proprietary Information,

China is expected to issue regulations on Saturday requiring technology companies to disclose proprietary information like data-encryption keys and underlying software code to sell a range of security-related digital technology products to government agencies, American industry officials said on Friday.

Riding the tiger: Fiscal Times: Stealing America: China’s Busy Cyber-Spies,

Economic and industrial spying by China appears to be more pervasive and egregious than ever, costing America billions of dollars each year, according to a new report by a U.S. government agency. And the report raises an important question: If stolen trade and technology secrets help fuel China’s breakneck growth, then is more espionage required to feed the growing beast?

The Chamber of Commerce rides the tiger: WSJ today: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber: Attacks Breached Computer System of Business-Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,

A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America’s top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers.

They rode the tiger. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.
Let’s Resolve To Rebuild American Manufacturing
Let’s resolve to rebuild American manufacturing, starting in 2012. Manufacturing is the backbone of a prosperous economy. Let’s resolve to bring back good jobs that pay good wages and unpin a middle-class lifestyle. Let’s resolve to balance trade with the rest of the world so we can fight our debt problems. Let’s resolve to start fighting to win the lead in the Green manufacturing revolution.
Don’t let the “free traders” exploit workers in countries where they do not have a say to force concessions from Americans in unions. Don’t let the oil and coal companies create false “scandals” like Solyndra to block government from investing in green alternatives. Don’t let the 1% make democracy a competitive disadvantage — democracy is the only economics that works!
Last week President Obama appointed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to co-chair a new White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The new Office of Manufacturing Policy will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. It will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.
This is a positive step if there ever was one. Let’s resolve to develop and execute a national manufacturing strategy. (please click through)
It is time to restore our national “industrial commons.”
Frank Sobatka explains:

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.

Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines’ anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.
Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.
Last Time
Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women’s healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.
They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.
Which Was Which?
The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.
The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world’s economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the “super committee” of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it “pro-growth.”)
FAA And Labor
In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.
But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.
Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could “make a grown man cry.” According to The Hill, “We’re working on the 20th-plus extension” of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. “That’s something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill.”
The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes
Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.
First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it “pro-growth,” make the claim that these cuts will “boost the economy” for the rubes, “bring them jobs,” or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.
Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes — they don’t need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.
Then, to speed things up, boost the government’s spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.
And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.
Then, when the bill comes due, that’s when the hammer comes down. That’s when you spring the trap. That’s when you can have real fun. You’ve got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.
Congress Plays Along
Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming – This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)
Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.
P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.
How The Game Is Played
Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Perks, Too
Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.
A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.
“We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. … The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”
The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%
In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.
What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?
Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.
What You Can Do
Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don’t take part as voting “No”–an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.
The rules are under debate now, Delta’s powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.
Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

Thursday National Day Of Action
Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.
Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.
Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday’s Day Of Action
Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft
Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

We’re starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system’s still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can’t pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we’re making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show “We Are The 99%.

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.

People Distrust Government — Conservative Mission Accomplished

The corporate/conservative plan for decades has been to turn people against government and democracy. Because when people stop accepting the idea of We, the People making decisions, guess who gets to make the decisions instead? Last month a retiring GOP staffer explained how it works, this month a new poll show how well it works.
Distrust
NY Times today: New Poll Finds a Deep Distrust of Government,

Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.
… A remarkable sense of pessimism and skepticism was apparent in question after question in the survey, which found that Congressional approval has reached a new low at 9 percent.

The Gameplan
At the beginning of September a Republican Senate staffer retired, and wrote a widely-read “confession” that laid bare the conservative gameplan: turn people against government and democracy. In Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, retiring Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote,

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.
[. . .] A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

Please read the whole piece. This Republican, writing from the inside, explains that they are doing it on purpose. They are making the government dysfunctional on purpose. They are making people hate government on purpose. They are working to turn people against democracy and put themselves and their corporate sponsors in power in its place.
#occupy Brings Signs Of Hope
There are signs of hope in the poll. Even with a dearth of media coverage (compare to the well-funded, billionaire-backed Tea Party!!!) the #occupywallstreet movement has changed the national conversation. From the NYTimes article,

Almost half of the public thinks the sentiment at the root of the Occupy movement generally reflects the views of most Americans.
With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating further, two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.
[. . .] With the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, income inequality remains a palpable issue for Americans. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and just over one-third of all Republicans say that the distribution of wealth in the country should be more equitable, even as a majority of Republicans said they think it is fair.

There is hope. The public is not stupid, and can at least sense what is going on.
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.

AZ Republicans Raising $$ Raffling Same Gun Used To Shoot Rep. Giffords

Remember when Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, and everyone was talking about the kind of violent rhetoric Republicans had been using, right down to Sarah Palin using crosshair gunsights on a “target list” that included Giffords? Well here they go again. Tuscon Republicans are raising money by raffling off the kind of gun that was used to shoot Giffords — in Tuscon.
Pima County Repubs Raffle Glock As Fundraiser; Same Gun Type Used In Tucson Shooting,

An Arizona Republican fundraiser is offering as a prize the same type of gun used in the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
… Arizona Republicans surely know just how effective this particular brand of gun can be. After all, it was only eight months ago that Jared Lee Loughner used a Glock 19 in Tucson – the seat of Pima County – to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head. Giffords survived, but six other people, including a nine year old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the same shooting.
The raffle gun comes preloaded with adjustable grips, a case, and three 12-round magazines.

Think what the country will be like if this crowd takes over. They already took over the House and we have shutdowns, defaults and generalized corporate-worship.