5 Right-Wing Myths About Raising the Minimum Wage, Debunked

I wrote this for AlterNet: 5 Right-Wing Myths About Raising the Minimum Wage, Debunked.

They edited out one that I had in it so I’ll share it with you:

6. Myth: The minimum wage fight is “the latest distraction from Obamacare.”
According to many conservatives like those at website Redstate, “Democrats are turning to their age old panic button – demagoguery over the minimum wage.” OK, busted. This is, of course, the real truth. The conservatives have exposed that the real reason that so many people currently forced to live in poverty are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage is to distract the public from Obamacare.

The Job Of The NSA

The NSA tracks the things we buy, the shows we like, things like that. When they have enough information to know what we like they discontinue those products, cancel the programs, change the ingredients of the foods, even close restaurants…

Remember Firefly? How about Southland? Caprica?

Land Line Slammed With Telemarketers

I keep a land line because I do radio shows, and because so manylegacy accounts have that as the reference number. But lately that line is just SLAMMED with telemarketing calls! “Do you need your carpet cleaned”

And the ones where you pick it up and there’s no one there, and just as you are hanging up you hear them coming on so you hang up faster… Do those robodialing systems actually trap anyone into waiting until someone comes on?

I thought this stuff was finally illegal.

Republicans Have Done Real Damage to the Economy

Republicans believe that a bad economy works for them at election time. The thinking is that the public will turn on Democrats for not making things better. So they do what they can to make the economy bad. But maybe they went too far this time. This hostage-taking episode has done real, serious, lasting damage to the economy on top of the ongoing damage Republicans have been doing. Will the public still blame Democrats, or will they finally see what is going on here?

The Damage Last Time

Look what happened the last time (2011) Republicans threatened to force the country to default on its debts.

The 2011 hostage-taking hit jobs. In Debt-Ceiling Deja Vu Could Sink Economy Bloomberg reported that, “Growth in nonfarm payrolls decelerated to an average 88,000 a month during the three months of the debt-ceiling impasse, compared with an average of 176,000 in the first five months of 2011.” Consumer confidence plunged to a 31-year low. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell from 59.2 to 44.5.

In November, 2012, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a “Debt Limit Analysis” estimating the costs of the 2011 hostage-taking:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing additional costs to taxpayers as a result of the 2011 debt limit increase

  • A substantial cost to taxpayers stemmed from elevated interest rates on U.S. securities issued in 2011 prior to when the debt limit was increased in August
  • GAO conducted an economic analysis to estimate the resulting change in interest rates
  • For Fiscal Year 2011, GAO estimated additional interest costs to taxpayers of $1.3 billion

The cost of the event to the federal government, however, continues to accrue because many of the bonds issued during that period remain outstanding

  • BPC extended GAO’s methodology to analyze the long-term cost to taxpayers stemming from the elevated interest rates
  • Estimate of the ten-year cost to taxpayers of the 2011 debt limit standoff = $18.9 billion
  • To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the “Doc Fix” to prevent the scheduled 27% cut to Medicare physician payments for 2012 cost $18 billion over ten years

That is serious damage. And, of course, the 2011 fight resulted in a downgrading of the US credit rating.

(See also: Think Progress, CHARTS: How The Debt Ceiling Debacle Hurt The Economy)

The Damage This Time

In this hostage fight the immediate damage is much worse than 2011. Consumer confidence, for example, has plunged even more dramatically than during the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking. But these measurements were taken only a week into the fight.

Standard & Poor’s ratings agency has done some early calculations of the damage and says, “the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6% off of annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24 billion out of the economy.” Note the words “at least.” This is an early estimate and does not count direct costs to government and costs to government contractors.

The NY Times today, in Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running, reports,

Containers of goods idling at ports. Reduced sales at sandwich shops in downtown Washington. Canceled vacations to national parks and to destinations abroad. Reduced corporate earnings forecasts. Higher interest payments on short-term debt.

Even with the shutdown of the United States government and the threat of a default coming to an end, the cost of Congress’s gridlock has already run well into the billions, economists estimate. And the total will continue to grow even after the shutdown ends, partly because of uncertainty about whether lawmakers might reach another deadlock early next year.

The Damage From Cutting Instead Of Investing

Republicans have forced the country into an austerity mode, instead of an invest and job-creation mode. Everything is being cut, so that the billionaires and their giant corporations can have lower taxes. Aside from the sequester cuts there have been trillions in other cuts.

Paul Krugman writes about this ongoing damage today in a blog post, What A Drag, estimating that just two of the cuts we have experienced (not counting other cuts and the sequester) have cut “about $200 billion of fiscal contraction at an annual rate, or 1.25 percent of GDP, probably with a significant multiplier effect.”

That’s just those two pieces of Republican damage to our economy. Looking at the overall effect of austerity on our economy,

“Add this to the effects of sharp cuts in discretionary spending and the effects of economic uncertainty, however measured, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that extortion tactics may have shaved as much as 4 percent off GDP and added 2 points to the unemployment rate.”

Damage: 4% off GDP and 2% added to unemployment.

The Sequester Damage

Then there is the ongoing economic damage done by the sequester cuts. Republicans hail the sequester’s cuts as a great victory, an accomplishment in their ongoing fight to destroy government, but in reality the cuts are costing jobs and hitting the economy.

The 2013 job-loss from the sequester cuts is estimated at only 800,000 jobs, but the 2014 job loss is estimated to be 1.6 million.

These job-loss and slow-growth numbers do not include the ripple effect into the larger economy, nor the longer-term cost to our economy from the cuts to scientific research, education, child nutrition and other cuts.

And these cuts don’t even save the government money! One example of the costs of the sequester cuts comes from the effect of cuts in the Meals On Wheels program. Because of the cuts, many elderly end up in hospitals with malnutrition-related problems, and/or are forced into nursing homes because they can no longer live at home. Aside fromt he cruelty and resulting human suffering (not considered a “cost”) this costs money from government services including Medicare and Medicaid.

The Ongoing Damage From Obstruction

Republicans have been obstructing … everything. The ongoing economic damage has been just incredible but because it gradually worsens things the public is not as aware as they should be. There are two obstructions taking place. In the Senate Republicans have been filibustering every bill, every nominee … everything. In the House the “Hastert Rule” prevents the majority of the Congress from being able to vote. By preventing bills from coming up for a vote if they might be passed by a majority that includes Democrats and some “RINO” Republicans, anything that could help the country and economy is blocked.

So along with the series of manufactured crises there is a constant, ongoing drag because people have come to believe government will generally continue to hamper rather than boost economic progress. They see no jobs programs coning down the pike, see the infrastructure crumbling, and see the corporate/billionaire-favoring trade deals killing jobs.

Krugman again, from his blog post, What A Drag,

The now widely-cited Macroeconomic Advisers report estimated the cost of crisis-driven fiscal policy at 1 percentage point off the growth rate for three years, or roughly 3 percent now. More than half of this estimated cost comes from the “fiscal drag” of falling discretionary spending, with the rest coming from a (shaky) estimate of the impacts of fiscal uncertainty on borrowing costs.

The Damage Next Time

So what will the damage be next time, and how can we fight it? Yesterday’s “deal” only puts off the fight for a few months. With more of this on the horizon companies will be hesitant to hire or invest. Consumers will remain wary and distrustful.

Republicans still have one power: the power to destroy. And they will use that power until we take it away from them.

6 Absurd Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps

I have a post up at AlterNet today, 6 Absurd Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps,

In the middle of the worst economy and job situation in decades Republicans in the House voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps. This will kick 3.8 million people out of the program by 2014, 3 million more each year after.

Republicans in Congress have blocked every effort to help the economy. They block bills to create jobs by fixing our crumbling infrastructure because it’s “government spending.” At the same time, right-wing outlets (accurately) complain that the economy is so weak that millions are hurting. And then the same Republicans who blocked efforts to help the economy cut assistance to the people who are hurting, claiming they don’t really need the help. No shame.

In the months leading up to this vote, right-wing outlets such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, RedState and the rest of the far-right propaganda machine invented a number of justifications for cutting the program. Here is a takedown of some of those myths and lies.

Myth #1: Food stamps are “growing exponentially” because of waste and fraud.

Click through to read 6 Absurd Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps.

A New Website Had A Glitch! Shut Down The Whole Government!

Republicans are pointing to “glitches” in the new Obamacare websites as justification for shutting down the government. (PS looks like those “glitches” may have had some help.)

I’m writing this at a coffee shop. I parked on the street and went to the device that you use to purchase parking time, and the little LCD screen had a problem — the wrong words were showing up. SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT!!!

Here’s a TPM video of Fox News playing up the website problems yesterday:

width="620" height="414" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" style="visibility: visible;">

I mean, seriously. Shut down the entire government because you don’t like a law that lets people with pre-existing conditions purchase health insurance? Because of a law that says insurance companies have to stop coming up with reasons not to pay for care when people get sick?

Really?