Fix Budget Problems With Medicare-For-All

(Post title changed…)

Nate Silver has a much-discussed post today in the NY Times, What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending?. Silver goes over the numbers and writes,

To clarify: all of the major categories of government spending have been increasing relative to inflation. But essentially all of the increase in spending relative to economic growth, and the potential tax base, has come from entitlement programs, and about half of that has come from health care entitlements specifically.

The growth in health care expenditures, for better or worse, is not just a government problem: private spending on health care is increasing at broadly the same rates and is eating up a larger and larger share of economic activity. It’s an immensely complicated problem, but the arithmetic is simple: if we can’t slow the rate of growth in health care expenditures, we’ll either have to raise taxes, cut other government spending or continue to run huge deficits. Or we could hope to grow our way out of the problem, but health care expenditures may be impeding private-sector growth as well.

Continue reading

Job Fear From Trade Deficit Is What Happened To Jobs And The Middle Class

The middle class is disappearing. Our economy is “hollowing out” because the money goes to the top and the people fall to the bottom. This is because we allow American companies to close factories here and open them there, shipping the same goods back here to sell in the same stores, costing jobs, companies, industries and our economy. This makes us afraid for our own jobs and afraid to make waves. By helping a few at the top get fabulously rich, China has essentially recruited our own businesses leaders to fight against our own government – and us.

Yesterday’s Jobs Emergency Hollowing Out The Middle Class examined the reasons that our economy has shifted in ways that enrich a few at the top while the rest of us fall further and further behind. This is called “hollowing out” because the middle class is disappearing while the money goes to the top and the people fall to the bottom. In it I quoted Dean Baker on the real cause of the hollowing out. I want to repeat this part of the post for emphasis. Baker writes that last decade’s manufacturing job loss is because of the trade deficit. From the post:

Dean Baker responds, in Income Is Definitely Being Redistributed Upward, but Why Do We Think It’s Technology? at the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Beat the Press, (emphasis added to emphasize):

…the piece refers to the millions of manufacturing jobs that the United States lost over the last decade. The biggest factor behind the job loss was not technology; productivity growth in manufacturing was not markedly faster in the 2000s than in prior decades. The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit.

The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. However, the availability of low-cost imports raises the living standards of those who are protected from international competition.

The latter group would include highly paid professionals, like doctors and lawyers. Note that it is not technology that protects these professionals from seeing their wages depressed by competition from their low-paid counterparts in the developing world, it is deliberate policy. While it has been the explicit goal of trade policy to put manufacturing workers in direct competition with workers in the developing world, the barriers that make it difficult for qualified doctors, dentists, and lawyers in the developing world to work in the United States have been left in place or strengthened.

Once again, for even more emphasis: “The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit. The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. … it is deliberate policy.”

And for more emphasis: “The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit. The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. … it is deliberate policy.”

Continue reading

Why We Have A Deficit

Deficit theater is coming to DC tomorrow, with a well-funded “fiscal summit.” The plot summary is that we have Deficit Trouble – Right Here In River City! so to fix it we need to cut Social Security and Medicare and the things democracy does for We, the People — while cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations to make us more “business-friendly.” (This musical is sometimes billed as “Simpson-Bowles” but it’s the same old song.)
All of this deficit hysteria today – when just over ten years ago we had such a large a budget surplus that we were projected to pay off our entire debt in … ten years! That’s right, Ten Years Ago We Were Paying Off The Nation’s Debt. But Then We Elected Obama.,

Just ten years ago this country was running huge surpluses and paying off its debt. But then we elected Obama and all hell broke loose. Oh, wait…
Between the time ten years ago when we had big surpluses and were paying off the debt and now when we are told the “Obama spending and deficit” mean we have to cut back on the things We, the People do for each other, something happened. Something changed. The things that happened, the things that changed, are being ignored in the current DC discussion about what we need to do to fix things.

Something happened. We had a surplus, and it was replaced by massive deficits. The last Bush budget year had a deficit of $1.4 trillion!

Why We Have A Deficit

What happened under Bush? We cut taxes on the rich and doubled military spending. (And started wars.) And don’t forget collapsing the economy, forcing people onto unemployment and food stamps. That is why we have a deficit. We have a deficit because of tax cuts for the rich, huge military budget increases and the consequences of deregulating corporations.
Here are some questions for tomorrow’s deficit theater:

  • How large was the country’s yearly budget deficit and total debt in the “Eisenhower/Truman” decades when the top tax rate was 90%?
  • Today we have an “infrastructure deficit” – the amount needed to repair our country’s roads, bridges, sewers, etc. – of somewhere upwards of $1.6 trillion. Was our infrastructure kept in good repair before the top tax rates were cut?
  • Concentration of wealth is long recognized as a threat to democracy, and now we are seeing a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy with the greatest ever concentration of wealth going to a few at the top. Was the problem of wealth concentration increasing or decreasing before the top tax rates were cut?
  • When top rates were high people couldn’t take home vast fortunes in a single year. When it took several years to make a fortune did corporations depend on long-term or short-term thinking? Did the executives of corporations care if the infrastructure and communities their companies depended on were in good shape? Did large corporations fleece customers and exploit employees for quarterly returns as they do now?

How We Fix The Deficit

How do we fix this? Doesn’t it make sense to look at what caused the deficits and fix that? There actually are budget plans that get rid of the deficit without cutting back on the things democracy does for We, the People. Here is a post about one of those budget plans: The People’s Budget Balances The Budget — Why Isn’t It Part Of These “Deficit” Talks? Here is a post about another budget plan that fixes the deficit without cutting the thing democracy does for us Every Progressive Should Know About The “Budget For All”
So we know why we have a deficit, and we have realistic budget plans that undo the damage, maintain the things that democracy does for We, the People and invest in growing our economy. So why aren’t these plans part of the big DC deficit discussion? Maybe progressive plans that cut the deficit are not part of the DC deficit discussion because cutting the deficit isn’t really the point. This Deficit Story Can’t Be Repeated Often Enough!,

So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don’t take my word for it, click the links.)
The Reagan people said it too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, “starve the beast,” and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was “cutting the government’s allowance.” The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink, to get out of the way of the 1%.

A Golden Oldie

From Dear Deficit Commission, It’s Not Hard: (Click through to see bigger charts)

Dear Deficit Commission,
It’s not hard to figure out why we have a huge deficit. It’s so easy I don’t have to use words. Here are some pictures:
Clinton_Bush_Deficit
Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich. Bush cut them.
Now, about that huge national debt…
TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart
The second chart kind of explains itself. The third chart can help you find a place to get some money:
Defense-Budget
(Note: There is no more Soviet Union.)
In case that isn’t clear enough, try this:
Defense Spending and Debt chart
Let me know if you still have any questions.

We had a budget surplus. We were paying off the debt. Then something changed. If you want to fix the deficits, change it back.
Don’t fall for it. Deficits were the plan. Run up the borrowing, then come back with a scare campaign that stampedes people into accepting cuts in the things democracy does for We, the People. It was the plan.
If You Happen To Be In DC Tomorrow: May 15: Stand Against Austerity:
May 15, 2012 at 1 p.m. (Program starts 1:30 p.m.)
In Front Of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit
1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Here’s one of those charts again, larger:

TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

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

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.

European Austerity – What’s Actually Happening?

Are we “going the way of Greece?” Should we cut spending to head off a “debt crisis” here?
Conservatives in Europe and America say cutting back on what democracies do for their citizens is the solution to our economic troubles because it will bring economic growth that helps everyone. But this is not what’s happening where it is tried. These are not stupid people. Maybe economic growth wasn’t the goal of austerity.

What They Said Would Happen

Greece and others have been confronted by lenders demanding very high rates before they will make loans. This increases their debt payments to even more dangerous levels, so lenders demand even higher rates. Financial elites are forcing “austerity,” with Greece cutting government employees, pensions, etc. and privatizing public assets, saying this will free up more money for debt payments. Meanwhile European leaders say that austerity is needed everywhere, that cutting government spending will restore “confidence” which will get businesses investing and hiring again, which will boost economic growth.
Economists and anyone with a brain warned that the austerity approach would only make things worse. Now that many European countries have implemented austerity measures the actual results these efforts can be measured.

What Actually Happened

What the financial elites predicted is not what is happening, the cuts are making the economic situation much worse. Taking money out of the economy didn’t grow the economy! Instead of increased “business confidence” bringing about a round of investment and hiring, these countries are instead experiencing further economic slowdown. As public employees are laid off and citizens’ benefits reduced the resulting reduction in demand slows economic growth further. This reduces tax revenues. Unemployment is soaring. And the threat is that deflation will only further inflate the debt burden.
In The cruel stupidity that is economic austerity at Daily Kos this weekend, Lawrence Lewis outlined just how bad things are as a result of austerity policies,

How bad is it?

The economies of Europe are imploding, as conservative governments continue to pursue exactly the wrong policies at exactly the wrong time. …

But this is not really a surprise. It is exactly what was predicted. And now that it is clear that austerity is making things worse they are demanding more austerity as a cure.

Financial Elites Are Not Stupid

So here is the thing. Everyone can see that this is the result—the expected result—of austerity policies. And Europe’s financial elites are not stupid people—not by a long shot! Perhaps they can see the obvious, because it’s obvious, and therefore we might conclude that their campaign pushing austerity isn’t about growing the economy – it’s about something else — they have a different agenda.
When smart people are forcing something to happen we need to look at what is happening, and realize perhaps this is what they wanted to happen. Maybe economic growth wasn’t austerity’s goal at all. Maybe the results we see— the results we all knew would come from austerity—are the results they wanted.

What Else Happened?

The above-listed effect of austerity are not the only results. Forced privatization is also occurring. Here are a few examples from recent news:
European railway companies eye Greek network sale,

Three European railway companies are interested in buying all or part of Greece’s railway business, as the debt-laden country sells assets to satisfy its lenders, people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

Greece: 14 firms formally express interest in privatization of DEPA state gas company,

Greece says 14 companies, including a subsidiary of Russian gas company Gazprom, have formally expressed initial interest in buying Greek state gas firm DEPA under the debt-crippled country’s mammoth privatization program.

Greece seeks Israeli buyers for ports, companies, roads,

As part of austerity measures, Greek government looking to sell stakes in major companies, development projects; head of privatization agency says Israeli investors already expressed interest…

In Greek Debt Crisis, Government Puts its Policemen Up For Rent,

With the economic crisis plaguing the country, drastic means have been taken to replenish the public coffers. It is in this context that the Greek government has adopted a measure allowing the use, for a fee, of the National Police and its equipment for private needs.
While the Ministry of Citizen Protection (in charge of the country’s security services) said the move will help to “pay for the cost of using police material and infrastructure, and allow modernizing them,” the average citizen’s security is being seriously compromised and it raises the question of how far Greece is ready to go to cut state funding.

Greece Opens Bidding For Rhodes Property,

ATHENS — Greece invited bids for property in the popular tourist destination of Afantou in Rhodes Tuesday, as part of a long-awaited privatization program to raise EUR19 billion by 2015 in aid of its huge debt crisis.
This is the fourth international real estate tender launched by the Greek government-established Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).

Strong Investor Interest In Planned Sale Of Former Athens Airport Area

The country’s privatization agency said Tuesday there was strong investor interest in the planned sale of the former Athens airport area, marking the latest step in the country’s efforts to raise some EUR19 billion from the sale of state assets by 2015.

Privatization is happening. Greece is being forced to sell off public assets as a condition of getting help with its debt.
Question: If these assets are contributing to Greece’s debt problem, why would investors want to buy them? If these assets are bringing revenue that could help cover the debt, why would the financial elites want Greece to sell them? Unless forcing Greece to sell them was the point.

Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine makes the case that financial elites have been following a strategy where they take advantage of crises and the resulting panic (and sometimes they make the crisis happen and whip up panic.) Crisis and panic set up chaotic environments in which it is easy to swoop in with pre-packaged “solutions” and take all the stuff. We see this shock-doctrine cycle over and over again: crisis, panic, panic accelerates, financial elites swoop in and take all the stuff. (America had its own experience recently of a crisis that generated terrible panic, with financial elites then swooping in and taking all the stuff. )
Debt often leads to such a a crisis. The book Confessions of Economic Hit Man exposed the strategy of convincing the leadership of underdeveloped countries to take on high debt. Then when it becomes difficult to carry the debt, financial elites swoop in and take all the stuff.

America’s Debt

In the United States our own financial elite are demanding “spending cuts” and other austerity measures as well — even though we can see in front of our faces what resulted from European austerity policies. Conservatives try to whip up panic, claiming our national debt will force the country into bankruptcy (and tried to prove it by nearly forcing the country into bankruptcy last year.) After forcing tax cuts for the rich, again and again, they now say we have to “cut spending” (but not spending on oil company subsidies or military — estimated upwards of $1 trillion this year.) They demand austerity — cuts in spending on things democracy does for its citizens.
But remember, at the end of the Clinton presidency the United States was paying off its debt. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan greenlighted the Bush tax cuts, saying that Clinton was paying down the country’s debt too fast! When the surplus vanished President George ‘W’ Bush said that a return to deficits was “incredibly positive news” because it would lead to a debt crisis that would force cutbacks in government.
The cycle repeats, supposed crisis, panic is whipped up, elites offer their “solution”, then swoop in and take all the stuff. Will we fall for it again?
See Also
In The Zombie Rises: The Return of Simpson Bowles CAF’s Bob Borosage writes,

After experiencing the horrors of this misguided policy, European leaders will eventually turn back to trying to get their economies moving again. What we need this fall is a different grand bargain—a global agreement, like that that was forged in early 2009, for coordinated action by governments to reflate the economy —to borrow and spend to put people back to work.
For this to occur, the bipartisan elite fixation about inflicting austerity now must be challenged. If we are to avoid a lost decade or worse, we need action to support still weak and staggering economies. Global coordination would be the best way to achieve that. That requires putting a stake in Simpson-Bowles, the Boehner-Obama grand bargain and other zombies.

In America will not go the way of Europe at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein says Greece’s problem is that lenders believe the government might actually default, which the US can’t do.
In Ezra Klein: Barking Up The Wrong Tree Borosage responds that Greece’s austerity is the problem—such cuts make economies worse. Jobs are the answer to deficits.
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.

Simpson-Bowles Zombie Returns

President Obama and many Democrats spent much of 2011 talking about deficits instead of doing something about jobs. Now, a too-close election is on the horizon (too-close because of spending 2011 talking about deficits instead of doing something about jobs) and we’re being forced back to talking about deficits instead of jobs — by a Democrat!
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad says he is going to introduce the “Simpson-Bowles” deficit plan as his fiscal year 2013 budget resolution. This is a plan put forward by Alan Simpson, a retired Republican Senator who hates Social Security, and Erskine Bowles, a member of the Board of Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley. So here we are once again with the same old same old plan from the same old same old elites. Namely: cuts in Social Security and other things We, the People do for each other, combined with even more tax cuts for the rich. This austeridiocy plan to grow the economy by taking money out of the economy is a billionaire-backed zombie that never dies.
CNN: Bowles-Simpson back on table,

A key senator said Tuesday he would try to revive the so-called Bowles-Simpson plan as a starting point in negotiations over a long-term debt-reduction plan.
Democrat Kent Conrad, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, announced he would present the plan as his opening bid at the committee’s budget mark-up on Wednesday.

Murdoc’s (FOX) WSJ: Conrad’s Budget Surprise: Simpson-Bowles,

A key senator said Tuesday he would try to revive the so-called Bowles-Simpson plan as a starting point in negotiations over a long-term debt-reduction plan.
… The original Bowles-Simpson plan would reduce deficits by at least $4 trillion over 10 years by cutting defense and discretionary spending, curbing federal entitlement costs and reforming the tax code.

“Reforming” the tax code as used here means lowering tax rates for the rich and corporations, getting rid of a number of deductions to make it look like it isn’t such a big tax cut and then later putting back lots of new deductions and breaks for the rich and corporations.

Now Mr. Conrad could try to force the first Senate vote on the measure, though it would likely first come from the members on his committee. Mr. Conrad was on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted for the plan in 2010. He’s also on the so-called Gang of Six lawmakers looking for a legislative path to put the proposal into law. The plan was originally designed by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Push It Through After Election?
Citizens don’t get to vote on austerity plans.
This time they’s going to try to get this austerity plan through when few are paying attention: after the election but before the newly elected Congress comes in. This way democracy won’t get in the way, and the public doesn’t get a chance to react and hold legislators accountable. This might sound rather like the Greek austerity plan to cut working people’s wages, cut the things the Greek government does for its people, lay off public employees, and especially yo sell off the things the public owns and operates so a wealthy few can profit.
When the Greek Prime Minister proposed letting the public vote on this austerity plan he was removed, and bankers took control of the country, this is how it went:
Nov. 1, 2011: Greek PM puts bailout deal to public vote
Nov. 2: Greece sticks to bailout vote, as U.S., Europe weigh options
Nov 3: Greek prime minister abandons referendum on Greek debt plan
Nov. 9: Greek prime minister set to resign
Nov. 10: Ex-banker Papademos is new Greek prime minister
Ezra Klein talked with Conrad about his budget plan, and reports on the conversation in the Washington Post, Can Simpson-Bowles really pass the Senate?,

I’ve heard from some of my Republican colleagues who … said you’re doing exactly what needs to be done but we’re not going to be able to do something like this until after the election. And I think that’s true for many Democrats as well. … Simpson-Bowles put the vote of the commission after the 2010 election to try and insulate it from politics as much as possible. That’s what we’re trying to do here … I don’t expect a vote after the election.
… We should be swift to say to people, however, that compared to current law, it’s a $1.8 trillion tax cut.

Grand Bargain – Till They Go Back On The Deal
Aside from the whole subvert-democracy thing where they decide this after the election so no one can be held accountable, the record for “deals” is not good. The “debt-ceiling” hostage deal finally ended with Republicans agreeing to “sequestration” that includes military spending cuts. But it hasn’t worked out that way:
TPM: Bait And Switch: GOP Leaders Renege On Debt Limit Deal Defense Cuts
Oh, and if you really do want to do something about the deficit, think about this: Jobs Fix Deficits!
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 Trouble – Right Here In River City!

River City faces a terrible deficit, and if we don’t cut spending on the things We, the People do for each other right now, there will be trouble. We gotta do some austerity! We gotta eat that seed corn. We gotta stop taxing the 1% and stop paying for things the 99% need!
It’s a con as old as the hills. Whip up the people with fear, and then offer them the ready-made “solution.” In his post, Ya Got Trouble — A fresh look at an old con, Tom Sullivan nails it with a scene from The Music Man. For those not familiar with The Music Man, here is the lead-up: “River City ain’t in any trouble.” “Well, we’re going to have to create some.” Then the Republican Congressman Music Man goes out and whips the town into a state. He does it to sell them. (The following is from a local production, which YouTube allowed to be embedded here. To see the clip from the movie click here.)
.
From Sullivan’s post:

Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for pool!

In one, short speech — building intensity as he goes — Professor Harold Hill gathers a crowd of onlookers and rattles off a litany of big city sins “the right kinda parents” worry about corrupting their children and their small town: sloth, drinking, gambling, being “stuck-up,” smoking, loose morals, and indecent pop culture. In a fevered crescendo, Hill warns parents of “shameless music • That’ll grab your son, your daughter • With the arms of a jungle animal instink!”

Sullivan explains the con:

Hill presses every button the people of River City, Iowa have to press, plus appeals to patriotism and God to create a city-wide moral crisis that four minutes earlier the townspeople didn’t know they had. Sound familiar?
Now strike pool. Insert contraception, voter fraud, death panels, or a half dozen other right-wing bogey men and the grifter’s pitch works the same. Today, Harold Hill would be working for Fox News or Americans for Prosperity. He’d be running American Crossroads, and making a lot more money.

This con has been perfected in recent years as The Shock Doctrine, forcing entire countries into debt or other crisis, then stepping in to plunder and privatize their resources, like what is happening to Greece right now.
Whipping Up Deficit Hysteria
This “con game” is what is happening to our own country as well, with the whipped-up terrification over deficits. The Reagan plan was cut taxes and increase military spending to force the country into debt, and then use the debt to force privatization of public resources into the hands of a few. George ‘W’ Bush said after cutting taxes on the rich and raising military spending that the resulting transformation of Clinton’s budget surplus into huge budget deficits was “incredibly positive news” because it would force us into near-bankruptcy. Yes, he said that.
But the solution offered — the current Republican budget that phases out Medicare and guts our government — doesn’t even cut the deficit! The Republican “austerity” budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the 1%! Then it guts most of what We, the People do for each other.
Don’t be fooled, it is just one more conservative con game.
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 Want Jobs – Congress Focused On Taking Money Out Of Economy

This situation of crony government protecting the connected rich while people are in the streets demanding change is more and more reminiscent of Egypt under Mubarak. In the real world tens of thousands are in the streets around the country demanding taxes on the rich and an end to corporate rule, as a new report lists profitable companies that pay no taxes at all. Today’s jobs report is not enough to even keep up. But in the Congress Senate Republicans filibuster another jobs bill and the “super committee” is looking at how much to take out of the economy and out of the things We the People do for each other — in order to keep taxes low for the rich and their giant corporations.
Filibustering Jobs
Yesterday Senate Republicans again filibustered a jobs bill – a plan to hire people to repair our country’s infrastructure. This is work that has to be done, and right now millions of people need work. But Republicans filibustered this bill. The corporate-owned mainstream media, however, largely refused to tell the public what is happening, instead blaming “the Senate.” The Washington Post headlined, Senate blocks $60 billion infrastructure plan, another part of Obama jobs bill. Politico blamed “both parties,” with Both parties block jobs bills. MSNBC: Senate blocks $60B part of Obama jobs plan. CNN: Competing infrastructure spending measures fail in Senate.
So the big-corporate media leads the public to blame “the Senate” and government, providing few clues that tell people where to apply the pressure that makes representative democracy function.
Big Corps Paying No Taxes, Not Just Low Taxes
From Citizens for Tax Justice report: Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010,

280 Most Profitable U.S. Corporations Shelter Half Their Profits from Taxes.
“These 280 corporations received a total of nearly $224 billion in tax subsidies,” said Robert McIntyre, Director at Citizens for Tax Justice and the report’s lead author. “This is wasted money that could have gone to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit.”

  • 30 Companies average less than zero tax bill in the last three Years, 78 had at least one no-tax year.
  • Financial services received the largest share of all federal tax subsidies over the last three years. More than half the tax subsidies for companies in the study went to four industries: financial services, utilities, telecommunications, and oil, gas & pipelines.
  • U.S. corporations with significant foreign profits paid tax rates to foreign countries that were almost a third higher than they paid to the IRS on their domestic profits.
  • Who Are “The Markets?”
    Who are we talking about, when we talk about “corporate taxes?” Just who do we mean when we talk about “the markets?” See for yourself why the #occupy movement talks about the 1% vs the 99%.
    When you hear about corporations and “the markets,” think about how that connects to this chart:

    wealth2

    People In The Streets
    Yesterday, in the post, Oakland Occupied — Will Washington Listen At Last?, I wrote about the large demonstrations that are spreading and growing: spreading to more and more cities, and growing with larger numbers in each city. I warned that this is starting to look like Egypt with the people in the streets protesting Mubarak’s cronyism:

    A Warning Shot At Washington’s Increasing Irrelevance
    As I said, this public protest is spreading and growing. People have had enough and are taking to the streets in increasing numbers. But Washington continues to ignore the public, debating a national motto, as Repubicans block jobs and an elitist “super committee” debates cutting the things government does for the 99%.
    Poll after poll shows the public overwhelmingly supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, bringing corporations under control, and reigning in trade agreements that suck our jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country. People do not want Medicare, Social Security and other essential government programs cut, they want the rich and corporations and Wall Street to start paying their share.
    The public wants something done about these problems. They want jobs, they want something done about the increasing
    If Congress continues to ignore the people of the country it will not be long before the situation is like Mubarak pretending he is still in charge of Egypt, while the people of the country are in the streets planning how they will run the country without him and his cronies.

    Super Committee To Take Money Out Of The Economy
    A representative democracy serves the 99%, a plutocracy serves the 1%. Currently in Washington Congress’ elite “super committee” represents the 1%, looking at ways to take more money out of the economy, discussing cutting Social Security at a time when many people have lost their pensions and savings. They are discussing cutting Medicare and other health services at a time when more and more people are in need. They are discussing cuts and cuts and cuts, when working people are falling behind and behind and behind.
    But the actual causes of the deficits that have Congress so concerned are ignored. Reagan and the Bushes cut taxes on the rich and increased military spending, and the deficits and resulting debt soared. It is right there in front of our faces. But even with such “concern” about deficits the tax cuts for the rich continue and the huge increases in military spending are left alone. Instead Congress discusses austerity – making the 99% pay for the benefits and bailouts for the 1%.
    People are fed up, and rightly so. Poll after poll shows that the public wants taxes on the rich increased to pay for the deficit, infrastructure, education, health care, retirement and the rest of the things We, the People need. But our captured government is only serving the top few when they talk about cutting these things in order to keep taxes low at the top. The 1% would be well-advised to pay attention to what has happened in other countries where government ignores the people and takes care only of the connected rich.
    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.

    A Deficit Pitch Without Social Security–The Only Chance of Winning

    Josh Rosenblum
    This past Friday night in Washington, a New York Mets pitcher threw the type of pitch President Obama must use in his march to stop any new proposals to cut Social Security if he plans to make it through the game of the deficit talks and his reelection. In the recent past the President and his teams have pitched a slew of failed curveballs that would cut our Social Security. The number 43 Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey helped beat the Nationals 7-3 with his slow velocity, highly unpredictable knuckleball. The 44th President and his multitude of committees have taken an approach to cutting the deficit that replicates a tied baseball game, with no end in sight. Could knuckle balls from a President battling to win the game, save the economy, and win reelection save the tied ball game called the deficit debate? Let’s take a look at the tape.

    R.A. Dickey has been pitching great this season, and has the best earned run average of the starters on the Mets but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record of 7-11, which reflects injuries on the Mets but also the poorest run support from hitters out of all the Mets starting pitchers. It’s unclear to Mets fans why Dickey hasn’t gotten the run support he so deserves, just as it’s unclear to the general public why we haven’t gotten the support Social Security deserves from the administration.
    If the President throws a Social Security curveball that cuts our benefits to the GOP team trying to beat him, he ought to get ready not to receive any run support, not just from Democrats and the left, but also from the independents and moderate Republicans his advisers are so intent on courting again. By attempting a pitch that doesn’t appeal to his base, independent voters, and moderate Republicans, he may lose the game, the season, and ultimately his Presidency.
    But President Obama can still throw an amazing Dickey-like pitch to the GOP’s deficit, defeat the nonsense, not cut Social Security benefits, and win reelection. If Obama fights for Social Security, America’s fans will cheer for him and we’ll give him all the run support he needs to win in 2012.
    Social Security has remained one of America’s most successful programs for 76 years. Before it existed and since it’s existed, Wall Street and right-wing conservatives have been telling us how much it stinks, hoping we might one day believe such lies through repetition. Even popular Republican President Dwight Eisenhower recognized how cutting it would be plain “stupid.” But that’s exactly what each of the deficit groups have attempted to do, each throwing their own curveball that would lead to Social Security cuts.
    The President started his deficit pitching rotation with the grizzled, often irrelevant old-timers Bowles and Simpson, who proposed to cut Social Security with the indifference of players who knew their time had passed. He then hoped the journeymen Gang of 6 could take on the deficit, but the bipartisan group of men never seemed to materialize on the playing field. Obama’s team, “America,” never got far in the batting order without loading the bases against the “GOP Deficit” team, which lead up to another call to the bullpen. An enthusiastic reliever, Vice President Biden came charging on to the field to lead his bipartisan “gang of dudes” with every intention to save the game, and no ability to corral the Republicans who calmly watched every one of his pitches thrown for balls float by and hit every strike for an intentional foul ball, upping the pitch count until Biden’s arm had vanished.

    Then came the President himself, rolling up his sleeves and bringing back the long vanished player-coach, determined to get the save for America, but giving the GOP a few hits and intentional walks in the process so he could get the job done. He’s out on the field and he appears determined to win for America, at any cost to his future as a pitcher and as our President, but the fans are hopeful he’ll win for his future and ours.
    The President even told us about his curveball to the GOP, who seem determined to fight against America, 1 minute in to this video, when he acknowledges that he’d offered the Republican Speaker a deal to cut Social Security, which suggests he may throw the same bad curve again if the Supercommittee wants to take it up.

    In the next couple of weeks President Obama may let loose with another Social Security curveballl, telling us we need a COLA cut for Social Security. But America isn’t certain whether player-coach Obama would put the important program on the chopping block again for the Supercommittee and the GOP Deficit. This pitch to the GOP Deficit leads to one place—a lost game for the President, and a lost future for Democrats. But a well-placed knuckleball that leaves Social Security out of the ball game and out of the deficit talks would help America and Obama win. If the President throws a slow, hanging knuckleball that’s tough for Republicans to hit but that his own team can cheer for, he’ll win the hearts of Americans including Democrats, independents and reasonable Republicans, whether the Washington Republicans try to screw over America again or not with attempted cuts to Social Security.

    So You Want To Talk About Jobs?

    Before leaving on vacation President Obama said he is going to talk about creating jobs in September. The latest word is he will give this speech next week. Campaign for America’s Future has put together some ideas for creating jobs. See our series Big Ideas To Get America Working:

    The task is not simply to give the economy a stimulus, as if we were giving a charge to a dead car battery. We need to rebuild the engine and modernize the wiring, creating a new strategy for America in the global economy. We asked our writers and contributors to lay out the “big ideas” and framing you can use to push a jobs-first agenda to the forefront of the national debate.

    Here is where we are: People need jobs and jobs fix deficits. We have to get people back to work and the American people deserve good-paying jobs, not just any new job at half the old wages. Lots and lots of regular people are not working or have settled for jobs that don’t offer enough hours or just don’t pay enough or provide benefits. And here’s a fact: people who are working are paying taxes, are not collecting unemployment and are less likely to be collecting food stamps, so putting people to work lowers deficits.
    Of course people want their President to be reasonable and bipartisan and compromise to get things done, but more than that they want results. Mr.President, if you can’t get results any other way people want you to move the obstructers out of the way. Republicans in the Congress are blocking every effort to boost the economy and create new jobs – especially good-paying jobs. Many think they are doing this to sabotage Democratic chances in the coming elections.
    Go Big
    So, Mr. President, you have to take this to the public. Go big. Draw contrasts. Give the public a clear choice. You don’t have to propose something that Republicans will pass — because no matter what you propose, they won’t. Instead you have to bring forward proposals that will clearly put lots of Americans to work, so the public can decide what they want to do.
    Above all, it is time to be reality-based in the approach. The country is sick of spin and propaganda and putting the best face on things. Reality and good policy are the best politics. Here are some “reality-based” ideas to help get this going.

    • Reality: Millions of Americans are out of work or are working in low-paying jobs and outside of the DC area it is not getting better.
    • Reality: Getting people back to work lowers deficits because they are paying taxes and require fewer government services.
    • Reality: Tariffs on goods made by exploited workers in exploited environments = jobs and good wages here. Our trade agreements have created huge trade deficits that are draining our economy. “Free trade” is a myth that has been used to drive wages down here, not to create trade partners who buy as much from us as they sell to us.
    • Reality: Other countries have national industrial/economic strategies. This means we increasingly send our companies out alone to compete with national systems and they won’t win that fight no matter how big they are.
    • Reality: Other countries use national domestic-content procurement policies, and we need a “Buy American” procurement policy.
    • Reality: For decades all income gains have gone to the top. This is distorting everything in our society and democracy.
    • Reality: Tax cuts for the rich cause deficits. They also incentivize predatory business models by rewarding get-rich-quick schemes over good, long-term, sustainable business strategies.
    • Reality: Climate change is real and it is serious and we have to address it. And addressing climate change means millions of green jobs will be created.

    The same old same-old debt and bubble economy won’t work and got us into this mess. Last week in The Jobs Question, Robert Borosage described the problem:

    Twenty-five million Americans are in need of full time work. One in four teenagers not in college can’t find a job. Wages aren’t keeping up with prices. Our trade deficit is rising, as more and more good jobs get shipped abroad. It’s projected that a staggering 48 percent of homes with mortgages could be underwater – worth less than the mortgage – by the end of the year.
    Moreover, there is no recovery to an old, healthy economy. The old economy didn’t work for most Americans even when it was growing. The cancer was spreading before it metastasized in the financial panic. In the so-called Bush recovery years before the collapse, the few captured all the rewards of growth. The average income of the bottom 90% dropped. That economy was built on debt and bubbles. We were hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs and borrowing $2 billion a day from abroad. And we were in complete denial about global warming and the catastrophic climate changes that have already begun. We can’t recover to that old economy – and we wouldn’t want to.

    Summary: The old way didn’t work and led to disaster. Don’t try to bring that back, thinking it will be better this time. We need a new vision, and new strategies.
    So let’s get down to business. Here are the ideas presented in our Big Ideas To Get America Working series:
    Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Fix The Housing Crisis by Liz Ryan Murray.
    Today’s Big Idea to Get America Working: Hire the Young to Build Their Own Future by Richard (RJ) Eskow.
    Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Revive American Manufacturing by Dave Johnson.
    Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Make Work Pay by Anne Thompson.
    Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Invest In Public Education by Jeff Bryant.
    Big Ideas To Get America Working: Rebuild Our Infrastructure by Dave Johnson.
    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.

    Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

    Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse. Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

    Spending

    Bush-Obama Spending Chart

    Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

    Deficits

    Bush-Obama Deficit Chart

    Notes, this chart includes Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.

    The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” are either misled or are trying to mislead.

    The Stimulus and Jobs

    Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

    In this chart, the RED lines on the left side — the ones that keep doing DOWN — show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines — the ones that just go UP — show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

    It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

    Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

    More False Things

    These are just three of the false things that everyone “knows.” Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is “going broke”, government spending “takes money out of the economy.”

    Why This Matters

    These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama — tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want — when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.

    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.