Important Bipartisan Currency Bill Introduced In House

A new bill was introduced in the House today to fight currency manipulation, including China’s. The bipartisan Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act was introduced by Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). This bill would treat undervalued currency as a subsidy under U.S. trade law, meaning we could apply tariffs to goods from countries that do this.

A nearly identical bill passed the House overwhelmingly in the 111th Congress and had 234 bipartisan cosponsors in the recent 112th Congress after passing overwhelmingly in the Senate. But Speaker Boehner refused to allow a vote, and the bill did not become law.

Currency Manipulation

Some countries go to great lengths to keep their currencies “weak” relative to where currency markets say they should be set. This means goods from these countries cost less than goods from countries with “stronger” currencies. This gives companies making things in these countries a competitive advantage in world markets, and the jobs and factories flow to those countries. It costs these countries money to accomplish this, but they get it back by gaining all those jobs and sales of goods and services.

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Is This Why Romney Won’t Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?

On the campaign trail Romney says we shouldn’t ship jobs to China and should “crack down” on China trade problems. But he refuses to help or even meet with the Sensata workers whose jobs are being shipped to China right now.
Why the refusal to line up his actions with his promises? A must-read, must-read, must-read news report explains how part of Romney’s $400,000/week income comes from … get this … shipping jobs to China!
First, the background…

Sensata – Happening Today

Mitt Romney started the “private equity” firm Bain Capital. Bain purchases companies using “leveraged buyouts” that borrow huge sums using the purchased company’s own assets as collateral, uses the borrowed money to immediately pay itself, then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages. (See So DID Mitt Romney Really “Create Jobs” At Staples?) After reorganizing the purchased companies Bain then “harvests” them for profit.
One company Bain Capital purchased is Sensata, a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain. Sensata then announced it is closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China. (China is engaged in efforts to dominate American auto supplies. See China Cheating Costs 400K Auto Parts Jobs and Why The Latest Trade Complaint Against China Matters.)
Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.
The Sensata employees heard Romney on the campaign trail, and somehow got the idea that he opposes sending our jobs to China. So they asked him to come to Freeport/Bainport and help them. Read on to learn about Romney’s response to the Sensata workers, and how Romney is actually making big money right now from shipping their jobs to China.

“The week before they came they took the American flag down outside the plant. The week after they left they put it back up.”

The China Problem – The Public Gets It

During the George W. Bush administration we lost more than 50,000 factories and at least 6 million manufacturing jobs directly to China. (Never mind the effect on the supply chains, the grocery and clothing stores where those people shopped, etc… The foreclosures, the bankruptcies, the misery…) Thanks, George!
This chart from Think Progress shows what happened to our manufacturing base immediately after Bush took office. Seriously, look at this chart and see if you can just guess why we have such a terrible economy today:

The public gets it – the problem is China. Polls show that the public overwhelmingly – by percentages in the 80s and 90s for Democrats and Republicans alike – understands that a huge part of our economic troubles come from the was we have been shipping jobs, factories and industries to China.
ABC News, from July: ‘Made In America’ Policies Hugely Popular, Survey Shows

Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans and Independents and 91 percent of Democrats said they support “Buy America” preferences, according to the survey, which was conducted by the Democratic-leaning Mellman Group.

Another poll,

When it comes to trade with China, the poll found that voters emphatically support tough action on Beijing’s cheating on currency and other trade obligations.

Another, from a key state: New Zogby Poll: Ohio Voters Favor Boycott of China Over Unfair Trade.

Romney Can Read Polls

One thing the Romney campaign can do is read polls. So Mitt Romney sees the polls and says he wants to do something about China.
The Hill: Romney, campaigning in Ohio, vows to stop China’s ‘cheating’ trade practices
Bloomberg: Romney Ad Says He Will `Stand Up to China': Video
The Hill: New Romney ad says Obama won’t ‘stand up to China’ on trade, jobs
So, on the campaign trail Romney says he will stand up to China’s cheating, and opposes companies that send jobs and factories to China.

Romney Refuses To Help – Even Talk With – Sensata Workers

Romney wants to be President, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly wants something done about the problem of jobs and factories moving to China, and the resulting was pressure that puts on the rest of us and on our economy. So Romney says he will do something about it.
But Romney’s current actions are opposite his current words. He complains about China currency manipulation, but refuses to ask the Republican House leadership to bring the China currency bill up for a vote, and refuses to ask more than 60 Republican co-sponsors of that bill to sign a “discharge petition” that would force a vote.
And Romney refuses to even meet with Sensata workers. When asked if Romney would help these workers the Romney campaign says Romney will not do it:

“Governor Romney has not worked at Bain Capital for over a decade, but for four years President Obama has been presiding over an economy that is creating too few jobs and sending more jobs overseas. Despite the President being invested in Sensata through his personal pension fund, and the government owning a major Sensata customer in GM, President Obama has not used his powers to help this situation in any way.”— Curt Cashour, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

Why is Romney saying he wants to do something about the trade problem with China, but refusing to actually do anything about the trade problem with China? Here is one possible reason why.

Romney Making Big Money From Bain Sending Sensata Jobs To China

A must-read news report today by Sharon LaFraniere and Mike McIntire in The New York Times explains. As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties (emphasis added, for emphasis),

Mr. Romney also has millions invested in a series of Bain funds that have a controlling stake in Sensata Technologies, a manufacturer of sensors and controls for vehicles, aircraft and electric motors that employs 4,000 workers in China. Since Bain took over the operation in 2006, its investment has quadrupled in value. Bain continues to own $2.6 billion worth of Sensata’s shares.
Two years ago, Sensata bought an operation that made automobile sensors in Freeport, Ill. At the first meeting with the plant’s 170 workers, Sensata managers announced that by the end of 2012 all the equipment and jobs would be relocated, mostly to Jiangsu Province. Workers have staged demonstrations, pleading for Mr. Romney to intervene on their behalf.
Chinese engineers, flown to Freeport for training on the equipment, described their salaries as a pittance compared with Freeport wages. Tom Gaulrapp, who has operated machines at the factory for 33 years, said he fears he will go bankrupt after he loses his job on Nov. 5.
“This goes to show the unbelievable hypocrisy of this man,” he said of Mr. Romney. “He talks about how we need to get tough on China and stop China from taking our jobs, and then he is making money off shipping our jobs there.”

So there you have it. Mitt Romney says he opposes sending jobs to China, and says he will “crack down” on China. But he refuses to do things that he could do right now that would make an actual difference right now. And it turns out that right now he is making big money from Sensata and other companies that are sending people’s jobs to China right now.
Laying off American workers – usually shipping the jobs to China – and pocketing their wages for themselves is the story of the rise of the wealth of the 1%, and the decline of the American middle class. It is the Romney/Bain/Sensata business model. And the remaining workers have to do the jobs of the laid-off workers, often for lower pay, and are threatened with losing their jobs, too, if they don’t like it.
Please read the entire New York Times report, As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties. There is much more there about Romney, China, Bain and the huge gap between what Romney says on the campaign trail, and how Romney made his current $400,000/week income and how Bain Capital still makes its money.
Visit the Bainport blog for pictures and details about the Sensata workers who are trying to stop the Bain trucks from shipping the equipment from the factory to China.
More on Sensata:
You Should Know About Sensata – It’s What The Election Is About
Election Or Not, What Happens To Sensata-Style Workers?
Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport – This Is An IMPORTANT Story
Breaking – Arrests At Sensata “Bainport” Camp
Also, see:
Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story,
Romney, Jobs And China – Let’s Connect Dots
Rights Report Describes Romney-Owned “Brutal Chinese Sweatshop”
Romney, Republicans Again Side With China Over US Companies
Ohio And China – One Side Promises While The Other Delivers
Update: Here is a Democracy Now! report:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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So DO Tax Cuts Create Jobs?

In Wednesday’s debate Mitt Romney repeated his claim that cutting individual and corporate income taxes creates jobs. But when you look at what actually happened, the periods when we had the highest tax rates were the periods we had the greatest job and economic growth. And the periods with lower taxes had lower job and economic growth. (And we all know what happened in the Bush years…)
Here is Romney at Wednesday’s debate,

“54 percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate, but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people. For me, this is about jobs. This is about getting jobs for the American people.”

and,

“The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time.”

So DO tax cuts for rich people and already-profitable businesses create jobs? DO businesses hire people when they have extra money? When few customers are coming through the door will tax cuts cause businesses to hire people to sit around reading newspapers or checking Twitter?
I think that people with jobs have money to spend and then the businesses that get their business will hire people, and will make money and be happy they have profits to pay taxes on. And I think that the numbers — and charts that help us visualize those numbers — back me up. Here are some of those numbers.
Michael Linden at Center for American Progress took a look at tax rates and job creation, in Rich People’s Taxes Have Little to Do with Job Creation, Conservative Arguments that Higher Income Taxes for the Wealthy Hurt Employment Don’t Hold Up to Scrutiny,

… in years when the top marginal rate was more than 90 percent, the average annual growth in total payroll employment was 2 percent. In years when the top marginal rate was 35 percent or less—which it is now—employment grew by an average of just 0.4 percent.
And there’s no cherry-picking here. Pick any threshold. When the marginal tax rate was 50 percent or above, annual employment growth averaged 2.3 percent, and when the rate was under 50, growth was half that.

In fact, if you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher. The top 10 years would share marginal tax rates at 50 percent or higher. The two worst years, on the other hand, were 2008 and 2009, when the top marginal tax rate was 35 percent. In the 13 years that the top marginal tax rate has been at its current level or lower, only one year even cracks the top 20 in overall job creation.

OK, got that? The periods of highest job growth correspond to the periods of highest tax rates on the wealthy. 70% top tax rates. 90% top tax rates. Maybe this is because that money gets used to build roads and bridges and buildings and ports and dams and the things that make our economy more efficient and competitive. And maybe because the years of low tax rates are the years of government cutbacks because there isn’t enough revenue coming in — infrastructure not maintained, education budgets cut, etc.
What do tax rates do to economic growth? Romney says raising taxes hurts the economy. Is that what happens?
Michael Linden looked at what happens with taxes and GDP growth, in The Myth of the Lower Marginal Tax Rates, Conservatives’ Go-To Growth Solution Doesn’t Hold Up (I’ll spare you the blow-up photo of Speaker Boehner’s face),

The top marginal income tax rate has ranged all the way from 92 percent down to 28 percent over the last 60 years. With such a large range, it should be easy to see the enormous impact of lower rates on overall economic growth, as conservatives routinely claim. Years with lower marginal rates should boast higher growth, right?
That’s definitely not what happened. In fact, growth was actually fastest in years with relatively high top marginal tax rates. Back in the 1950s, when the top marginal tax rate was more than 90 percent, real annual growth averaged more than 4 percent. During the last eight years, when the top marginal rate was just 35 percent, real growth was less than half that.

Altogether, in years when the top marginal rate was lower than 39.6 percent—the top rate during the 1990s—annual real growth averaged 2.1 percent. In years when the rate was 39.6 percent or higher, real growth averaged 3.8 percent. The pattern is the same regardless of threshold. Take 50 percent, for example. Growth in years when the tax rate was less than 50 percent averaged 2.7 percent. In years with tax rates at or more than 50 percent, growth was 3.7 percent.
These numbers do not mean that higher rates necessarily lead to higher growth. But the central tenet of modern conservative economics is that a lower top marginal tax rate will result in more growth, and these numbers do show conclusively that history has not been kind to that theory.

Zaid Jilani at CAP’s Think Progress also takes a look, in Top Reagan Economic Advisor: Return To Clinton-Era Tax Rates Would Not Hurt Economic Growth,

Historically, the United States has actually had some of its strongest periods of economic growth while taxes were high. As this graph from Slate shows, some of our strongest periods of growth in gross domestic product actually occured while taxes were very high:

In the 1950s, which had one of the sharpest periods of economic growth in all of American economic history, the top marginal tax rates for the richest Americans stretched above 90 percent. Likewise, economic growth in the relatively higher-taxed 1990s was much stronger than in the 2000s. This isn’t to say that higher taxes necessarily cause greater economic growth, but it does seem to show that higher taxes do not appear necessarily to be impeding job growth, nor are lower taxes especially helpful.

OK, did you see those charts? Not only do high taxes on the rich not impede growth, but growth looks to be higher when taxes are higher. Maybe this is because higher taxes on the rich means that the government — We, the People — has more to spend on the things that make our economy more efficient and competitive like schools, roads, bridges, transit systems, courthouses, judges, etc…
And, again, the periods of low taxes are the periods of government cutbacks …
David Leonhardt at the NY Times looks at recent numbers, in Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?

President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.
The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.

(Click that graphic for larger)
Whoa, did you see what happened after Bush cut taxes for the rich? Do you remember what happened after Bill Clinton got taxes increased on the rich?
My own 2010 post, Did The Rich Cause The Deficit? included this chart, (The red line is the tax rates, the blue is growth and the red arrow shows the trend.

Top Tax Rate vs GDP

But, from that post, one thing that cutting taxes on the rich obviously does cause is deficits:
TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

And deficits cause government to cut back, cut infrastructure projects, cut the things government — We, the People – does for We, the People. And the economy slows…
The real job creators are working people with money in their wallets.
Tax the rich, use the money to modernize our infrastructure and help regular working people. Build roads, schools, bridges, ports, airports, dams, courthouses, wind farms, water systems, high-speed rail, municipal transit systems, all the things that make our economy efficient and competitive…
(PS I also came across a chart showing that lowering capital gains rates correlates with lower, not higher, economic growth. But somehow we knew that would be the case…)
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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So DID Mitt Romney Really “Create Jobs” At Staples?

Did Mitt Romney really “create 100,000 jobs” with Staples? Simple answer: only if no one else was selling office supplies, stationery, etc. before Staples came along. What Staples did was force many competing stationery, office supply and computer stores out of business, probably shifting their employees into lower-wage jobs. Staples was just one more part of the Wal-Martization of our economy in the last few decades. In our system the wealthy few have the power to lay people off or force pay cuts and then pocket the difference for themselves. We have to come to grips with that, and fix the system.

Job Creator?

Mitt Romney says he should be President because he and his company Bain Capital created 100,000 jobs at Staples and “created jobs” at other companies that Bain took over. So … did Mitt Romney really “create jobs” at Staples? Or did he and Bain really just follow the Wal-Mart model, using the advantages that come with having large, national chains, putting a number of local, smaller businesses out of business, while shifting a lot of people into lower-paying jobs? Understanding the difference is important because Romney says he will help the country “create jobs” the way he helped “create jobs” at Staples.
He says his experience is just what is needed to solve our national jobs emergency. He wants to apply the methods that “created 100,000 jobs at Staples” to the entire country. He says he will cut regulations and cut government and make the country more “business-friendly.” This means we should take a good look at Staples and the rest of the companies Mitt Romney and Bain Capital and others like them operated, and decide if this is really the way We, the People want to go.

Staples

Staples grew into a major chain because they consolidated what different kinds of stores sold, offering a one-stop-shop for stationery products, office supplies, office-furniture, computers, etc. They also were able to be competitive because of the advantages of scale as they grew into a national chain, centralizing functions like accounting, purchasing, legal, marketing, etc. And never underestimate the power of having a ton of cash at your disposal. This is all just smart business, well executed.
As Staples grew it overtook competing chains like Businessland and others. In other words, Staples took business from other, existing stores — often local retailers. Staples did not “create” jobs, it shifted office-supply jobs from local stores, etc., probably to lower-paying jobs. (The former owners of local businesses certainly were worse off from this.) They likely even lowered overall office-supply, stationery, etc. employment in the larger economy.

Low Wages?

How do these”Romney job creator” jobs stack up against other jobs? Average Staples salaries for job postings nationwide are 51% lower than average salaries for all job postings. The pay at Staples appears to be around $8-10 an hour. That’s $16-20,000 a year, certainly not enough to support a family, or even pay rent in many areas, never mind buying food. (The 2012 poverty guideline for family of four is $23,050.)

Wal-Martization

Big, national chain stores like Wal-Mart have tremendous advantages over local businesses because they are able to take advantage of scale. They buy from manufacturers and distributors in mass quantities, which means they can demand lower prices from them, and offer lower prices to customers. They can centralize accounting, HR and other management functions and employ these people in-house instead of contracting with local accounting firms, etc., also enabling them to offer lower prices.
And when they are big enough they can squeeze, and squeeze and squeeze their workers for lower wages and fewer benefits, their suppliers for discounts and other concessions, and even their customers by reducing support and staff, again enabling them to offer lower prices.
This is just the kind of “job creation” that makes a few people really wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, “hollowing out” the middle class.
(Here’s an industry secret –those multi-page advertising supplements that come in the Sunday paper are profit centers for the chains, not an advertising expense. The market power of these big chains enables them to demand “market development” payments from product manufacturers and distributors before they can gain shelf space, effectively making the newspaper and other advertising into profit centers instead of advertising costs.)

The Effect On America

I wrote about the impact of this “squeeze them all” business model on the American landscape in Lorain, OH Keep It Made In America Town Hall Meeting:

As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.
You used to hear about how Wal-Mart was predatory, how it would show up in an area and after a while the downtowns would dry up, local business-owners would go broke, local business employees would be laid off, and the local people would have to work for low wages at Wal-Mart, while the region’s spending money would go off to the wealthy few who run these things.
Well a juicy story of devastation like that one gets around, and there are those who hear it and say, “Hey, that’s a great idea, I wanna get me some of that.” So the Wal-Mart business model has taken off and now there are any number of these vultures, ringing the cities and towns around the country, so often private-equity owned. They are draining away the lifeblood of the downtowns, fighting off the unions to keep wages down, even demanding tax breaks to move in and “create jobs.” You see all the same stores circling every town now, running all of the local and regional businesses unto the ground.

Restructuring?

The changes in our economy that are hollowing out the middle class come from the restructuring that Wal-Martization represents. (And bad trade deals, never forget that.) Big, national chains have natural advantages over small, local businesses. And when they are big enough they have the power to squeeze employees, suppliers and even customers. The same kinds of advantages also hold for other industries.
Big, multinational corporations have advantages of scale over smaller companies. Etc., throughout our system. And big companies have tremendous power to squeeze workers, making them accept lower pay and benefits. They have the power to squeeze suppliers and customers as well.
These giant companies even have the power to squeeze communities and even states, demanding tax concessions with the threat of relocation. This has put our tax base in a downward spiral along with our wages.
These giant businesses have the wealth and power to force changes that move the benefits of business and our economy entirely to a few at the very top.

The Playing Field

As I wrote above, this is all just smart business, well executed. Business are just neutral bundles of contracts that operating on a playing field of laws and regulations. They only do what we let them do with the laws and regulations that we set out there for them to operate under, and those that do that the best and smartest win the game.
But why would We, the People allow businesses to do things the way Wal-Mart and the rest do them with the terrible results we see all around us? Don’t we want businesses that benefit all of us? Isn’t that the point of having a We, the People country? Don’t we want businesses that pay good wages, provide good products and services, and pay us back with taxes that enable us to have good infrastructure, internal improvements, and public structures like good schools, universities, courts, police, firefighters, health care, retirement and a fair share of all the other benefits of modern society?
Why is the playing field defined in a way that is so obviously hurting us and funneling all the benefits of our economy to a very few at the top? This restructuring is occurring the way it is because we let these businesses do these things to us. Businesses are not good or bad — they can’t be, they are not sentient and do not have morals. They are just bundles of contracts. Again, businesses are neutral, operating on a playing field defined by us. We can change that.
Our problem today is that a few people are able to change the rules of that playing field, for their own benefit. Once we allow money to influence our government decision-making and our public attitudes and understandings at all, then of course it will influence that decision making to their advantage, and will do so more and more as they gain more wealth and power from it, until there is nothing left. This is the road we are on.
The playing field is tilting and tilting and We, the People are starting to fall off the edge.

What Can We Do?

Cut to the chase. We currently operate under an economic paradigm, or system, in which the Romneys have so much power they can fire masses of people or force people to take pay cuts, and then pocket the difference for themselves. They can squeeze their suppliers for greater and greater concessions and then pocket the difference for themselves. We have to come to grips with that.
Romney/Bain didn’t really create jobs with Staples, they put small office and stationery retailers and other already-existing competitors out of businesses and moved the workers from those outlets into jobs at Staples that pay very little. In other words, they didn’t create 100,000 jobs, they lowered 100,000 people’s wages.
Romney made his money opertating on a playing field of business rules that let him and Bain and Wal-Mart and the rest do what they do. They were all able to tilt that playing field in their favor using the wealth and power they already had, and they tilted it in ways that gain them more wealth and power.
Mitt Romney gained his wealth and power on that playing field, and is campaigning with a promise to further tilt that playing field in favor of the few who already have great wealth and power.
We can change those rules. We can demand better pay, higher taxes at the top, better products, better service, and all the things sensible people would demand if We, the People were really in charge.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Note – while researching this post I came across Jonathan Tasini making a number of these points in the LA Times in January, in Not all jobs are equal,

Even if he’s telling the truth by some measures, the fact is that private equity buyouts often enrich those who arrange them by sharp cost-cutting, including dismantling pay and benefits for most of the workers who remain or new hires who join the more “efficient” enterprise. It’s simple math: To service the huge debt taken on in virtually every buyout, workers take cuts. And the new jobs aren’t necessarily a path to the American dream.
Take Staples, which Romney trumpets as one of his successes. The company certainly pays some of its employees well: Staples Chairman and Chief Executive Ronald L. Sargent received a total pay package of more than $15 million in 2010. But jobs in retail — one of the fastest-growing job sectors in recent decades — tend to pay poorly, and Staples jobs don’t seem to be an exception to that rule.

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.”

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Need More Jobs And Less Sabotage

Another lackluster jobs report with 80K new jobs and an unchanged 8.2% unemployment, Keep in mind that we lost 815,000 jobs in Bush’s last month, but this still is not good enough. Republicans are intentionally sabotaging job-creation efforts thinking it will help them in the coming election. How do we stop this and get things moving?
In the chart below, the red lines on the left are the Bush years. On the right are the Obama years. Those red lines just keep going down, with a job loss above 800,000 as Obama takes office. Then you see the lines shooting up — the effect of the “stimulus.” The leveling off is the effect of the program’s end — the period of Republican job sabotage.

Romney In 2006

Watch Mitt Romney in 2006 explaining why a recovery takes time:

“I came in and the jobs had been just falling right off a cliff, I came in and they kept falling for 11 months. And if you are going to suggest to me that somehow the day I got elected, somehow jobs should have immediately turned around, well that would be silly. It takes awhile to get things turned around. We were in a recession, we were losing jobs every month.”

Jobs Report

The U.S. economy has added more than 4.3 Million private sector jobs in the last 28 months, while losing
Dean Baker, writing at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Job Growth Remains Weak in June, Unemployment Steady at 8.2 Percent,

Restaurant employment grew at an average rate of 29,000 in the winter months; it has grown by just 13,000 a month over the last four months. Retail employment grew by 22,000 a month in October through January. Since January, employment has fallen by a bit more than 1,000 jobs a month.
Construction employment grew by an average of 48,000 a month from November to February. In the last four months it has fallen at an average rate of 14,000 a month. This drop is difficult to reconcile with Census data that show construction spending up 1.1 percent from February to May.
While the overall picture in the establishment data was weak, there were some positive signs. The local government sector added 4,000 jobs in June indicating that employment may be leveling off. Manufacturing added 11,000 jobs, maintaining its modest rate of growth. The health sector added just 13,000 jobs, about half the normal pace. This is likely an anomaly, but if not, it would imply a slower rate of growth of health costs.

Job Sabotage

Isaiah Poole writes in, Jobs Report: Challenge Congress To Act, Obama To Fight,

As we’ve repeated time and again, the corruption of the Obama agenda by the corporatists and anti-government ideologues in both political parties began when the 2009 Recovery Act emerged as a $787 billion program, more than half of which was tax cuts, instead of the more than $1 trillion in additional spending that was needed to begin adequately repairing the damage of the 2008 financial crash.
Since then, Republicans have assaulted the economy at every opportunity, forcing an austerity agenda of budget-cutting at the very time that the federal government should have been stepping up its spending in key areas, both to bring our infrastructure up to 21st-century needs and to prevent layoffs of teachers, first responders and other essential public workers by cash-strapped state and local governments. From June 2009 to May 2012, 605,000 state and local public sector jobs were cut. If public sector jobs had instead grown at the same pace as the three previous economic recoveries, there would be an extra 1.2 million jobs, and that level of additional employment would have supported the creation of an additional 500,000 jobs…
When the White House and Democrats in Congress tried several times to pass elements of the American Jobs Act, $450 billion worth of job-creation initiatives, Republicans in the House voted as a solid bloc against the efforts, and Senate Republicans filibustered the legislation. The 2 percentage-point reduction in worker payroll taxes was the only major component that survived. Among the opponents is Romney, who has argued that cutting government spending at all levels is necessary to “help the American people” even though, as Tyson said, the teachers, firemen, and police who are being laid off “are American people who help other American people.”
Late last month, Congress pat itself on the back for passing a two-year surface transportation funding bill that is at best a status-quo stop-gap… The obstacle in the way was once again House Republicans, who refused to support the longer-term funding commitment needed by state and local transportation planners without numerous “poison pills,” including provisions that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline without robust environmental review and would have ended federal regulation of hazardous coal waste disposal from power plants.
If it were not for congressional Republicans’ repeated obstruction or dilution of virtually every significant job-creation proposal sent to Congress since 2009, unemployment today would likely be under 7 percent instead of stubbornly persisting at around 8 percent. [emphasis added]

The Scariest Chart

Here is the chart of jobs doring this recession compared to previous recessions:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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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.
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Apple/Foxconn Promises — We’ll See

The “independent” audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing supply chain is out, and it is not good. Workers are being exploited in ways that violate human rights standards and laws, and letting them get away with this is costing us our own jobs. Apple’s suppliers promise to improve conditions, make workplaces safer, stop forcing such long hours and lift wages. Foxconn even says they’ll start obeying Chinese law — but not until next year! If this really does happen can China keep its competitive advantage?
“Free Trade”
By opening up so-called “free trade” we made democracy a competitive disadvantage. We just let in goods made in places where people have no say, and as a result there is no environmental protection, little worker protection, terrible working conditions, very low wages and terrible exploitation of people. So of course that undercuts goods made where people have a say, and therefore demand better. We made We, the People having a say (democracy) into a competitive disadvantage! Because we make this mistake we lost millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories, and entire industries. We devastated out not just towns and cities, but entire regions. (See Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both.)
Free People Won’t Tolerate That
A recent groundbreaking New York Times story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, exposed how workers are treated by Apple’s suppliers. Summary: Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because factories in China have people living in crowded dorm rooms where they can be rousted in the middle of the night and made to work 12-14 hour shifts, 7 days a week, standing the whole time, for very little pay, using toxic chemicals, and all kinds of other violations of human rights. Corporations can’t get “performance” and “efficiency” and “productivity” — profits — like that out of free people who have a say, so they move their operations over there and lay off workers and close factories over here. (Important note: it’s not just Apple, Apple is the biggest so the company name is really shorthand for the real culprits: namely, all of them.)
The FLA Report
This NY Times story had quite an impact. Apple was worried that people’s knowledge of their exploitation of workers in China might affect profits. So Apple responded by hiring the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a “labor monitoring group” that has no actual organized labor organization participation, to conduct an audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese suppliers. The report found numerous violations of labor standards and even Chinese law. For example, the report found “numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row.” In addition, the report “also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.”
TPM: Apple Supplier Foxconn Violated Workers Rights, Audit Finds,

The 60-plus hour work week found at the factories is above both China’s official legal maximum, 49 hours, and the maximum standard allowable by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the organization that Apple paid to conduct what it said would be an independent audit.
… The FLA inspection also revealed that “more than 43 percent of the workers report that they have experienced or witnessed an accident,” and “a considerable number of workers felt generally insecure regarding their health and safety,” especially pertaining to aluminum dust, which caused an explosion at a factory in the city of Chengdu in 2011 that killed four workers and injured 77, as the New York Times reported.

Apple’s Own Published Standards Violated Chinese Law!
Chinese law limits weekly work time to 49 hours but “industry code” and Apple’s standards limits weekly hours to 60. That Apple’s (and other companies) own published standards violate even Chinese law demonstrates they were aware they were ignoring the law and using what they could get out of the workers. It demonstrates that these companies are knowingly engaged in illegal exploitation of workers, for profit. It also demonstrates that the Chinese government has been ignoring its own laws.
HuffPo: Foxconn Apple Factories Violated Chinese Labor Laws, According To Fair Labor Association

The Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours.
That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, the CEO of the FLA, said Hon Hai is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.
Apple’s and FLA’s own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

Promises
In a PR attempt to soften the impact of the FLA report, Apple’s suppliers made promises to improve.
NY Times, Electronic Giant Vowing Reforms in China Plants,

Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. The move could improve working conditions across China.

And, get this, they promise to start obeying the law — by July of next year,

Foxconn’s promises include a commitment that by July of next year, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week — the limit set by Chinese law.

WaPo: Pledge by Apple’s iPhone manufacturer in China could set off new round of wage hikes,

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., promised to limit hours while keeping total pay the same, effectively paying more per hour. Foxconn is one of China’s biggest employers, with 1.2 million workers who also assemble products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

From the HuffPo story,

“The report will include new promises by Apple that stand to be just as empty as the ones made over the past 5 years,” said SumOfUS.org, a coalition of trade unions and consumer groups, ahead of the release of the report.

And from the TPM story,

“For months now, SumOfUs.org members have been calling on Apple to clean up the working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce the next iPhone be the first ethical iPhone,” the spokesperson told TPM, “That hasn’t changed at all. Our campaign is going to continue until real workers see real improvements — and so far Apple has been all talk and no action.”

We’ll See
This is one of those “believe it when we see it” situations. Phrases like “lip service” come to mind. We’ll see. Apple’s supplier promises to start obeying the lay — by July of next year! Wow.
But here is a question: where is our government on this? American companies are breaking laws overseas, exploiting workers and violating human rights standards. They are hoarding the resulting cash offshore to avoid paying their taxes, when we have a national deficit. These actions by these companies are wiping out our jobs and communities. Where is our government on this?
Click here to see the Fair Labor Association report.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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There Is Consensus On How To Fix Economy

“There was clearly something wrong with the U.S. economy long before the crash.”
Consensus
Consensus. Again and again, people who examine what went wrong with our economy leading up to the great recession come to the same conclusions! Study after study, book after book, statement after statement, op-ed after op-ed, organization after organization, expert after expert, all weighing in, all coming to the same conclusions. One after another voices speak up (click through for just a sampling), voicing their understanding of what happened to the economy, what caused the crash and what we have to do to fix things. One after another they voice the same conclusions: our economy was damaged by,

  • tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military budget increases (and wars) that led to budget deficits and increased inequality;
  • trade deals that damaged vital industries and led to trade deficits, layoffs and wage cuts;
  • deregulation of rules that protected working people, unions, vital economic sectors and the commons of public wealth;
  • and cuts in crucial areas of investment in our people and our economic future, including education & job training, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation and R&D into new technologies.

All of these betrayals of the social contract were enabled by the influence of big money on our political system, including huge sums spent on an infrastructure of corporate/conservative organizations designed to propagandize the public into accepting these changes – or at least keeping the victims from rebelling.
This Time, The AFL-CIO
This time the AFL-CIO offers their analysis, Fixing What Is Wrong With Our Economy. Here are a few excerpts – but if you have been paying attention you have heard all of this again and again from all directions:
The crash was the end-result of policy changes brought in with the “Reagan Revolution:”

The crash of 2008 and the Great Recession were inevitable consequences of three decades of economic policies designed by and for Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans. At the heart of the problem was the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the growing dysfunction of our financial sector and a rapid increase in economic inequality, all of which crippled the growth engine of the U.S. economy.

Trade deals and policy choices that sent jobs, factories and industries out of the country:

[. . .] The deindustrialization of America and the substitution of speculation for productive investment were not accidents, they were not inevitable, and they were not the outcome of natural forces. They were the predictable results of mistaken policy choices made by politicians of both parties for more than a generation. These policy choices had victims with first and last names: millions of displaced workers, shuttered factories and hollowed-out communities across the country hobbled by shrinking tax bases that no longer could support vital public services.

In The Way
The corporate/conservative propaganda apparatus (and its candidates for office) continue to demand even more tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in the things our government does for We, the People:

[. . .] The Republican candidates pretend that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are the answer to wage stagnation and the economic crisis, but the Bush years taught us that these obscenely wasteful tax cuts only make the problem worse. They are the equivalent of eating our seed corn, because they starve the kind of public investment in education, infrastructure and innovation that is indispensable for long-term economic growth.

The Fix
Again and again experts tell us how to fix the problems we face in our economy and society: restore democracy’s (the 99%’s) controls over corporations (the 1%) and especially re-regulate the financial sector, reverse the taxation policies that led to budget deficits and extreme inequality, fix the trade deals and other policies that led to trade deficits and allow the wealthy to pit working people against each other, and invest heavily in our country and people again. That’s a start, anyway — get the influence of big money and big money’s propaganda machine out of our politics and maybe after a while We, the People can start addressing the rest of our problems again.
The AFL-CIO’s conclusions, from a summary of the analysis:

The statement outlines several significant steps that need to be taken to build an economy that can compete with world economic powers like Germany and China and that works for all, including:

  • Significant investment over the next decade in education and apprenticeship programs for young people, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation, skills training and new technologies;
  • A fair share from Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans, who have benefited most from the economic policies of the past 30 years—pass a financial speculation tax, let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income;
  • Tackling the problems of wage stagnation and economic inequality by reforming labor laws so that all workers who want to form a union and bargain collectively have a fair opportunity to do so, making full employment the highest priority of our economic policy, increasing and indexing the minimum wage, shrinking the trade deficit and eliminating incentives for offshoring;
  • Reviving U.S. manufacturing by bringing the trade deficit under control, enhancing Buy America safeguards, aggressively enforcing trade laws and ending incentives for offshoring;
  • Once again regulating Wall Street, eliminating tax advantages for leveraged buyouts and finding other ways to favor strategic investment over short-term speculation;
  • And working toward a global New Deal that establishes minimum standards for the global economy, prevents a race to the bottom, creates vibrant consumer markets in the global South and creates new markets for advanced U.S. manufacturing.

The American people aren’t stupid. Majorities are also coming to the same conclusions. The American Majority in poll after poll show agreement with these conclusions.
We have to reverse the corporate/conservative, anti-government, pro-1% policies that started about 35 years ago. All the charts show the changes, when the changes happened, and how those changes have worn away at our economy and our people — click through and see for yourself the story that the numbers tell: tax cuts, deregulation and outsourcing our jobs, factories and industries has not helped our economy or our people. Since then all the gains from the efforts of all of us have gone to fewer and fewer of us. Since then our infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Since then our trade deficit has gotten worse and worse. Since then regular people — the 99% — have been falling further and further behind, democracy has eroded to the breaking point, with plutocracy — rule of, by and for the 1% — taking its place.
Our wealth is being extracted for the benefit of a few. We, the People must reassert control, or face further decline.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Cuts and Consequences – How Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

Is smaller government really better for the economy? Conservatives chant that taxes and government “take money out of the economy” and we need to “cut and grow,” meaning if government spending is cut way back the economy will grow as a result. Europe’s conservatives are also forcing cuts in the things their governments do for regular people, claiming “austerity” will bring “confidence” that grows their economies. How is this experiment working out? What are we learning about the effect on the larger economy when government is cut?
What Does Government Do?
Almost everything the government does is because it needs to be done. We need roads, bridges, schools & colleges, dams, courts, police & fire departments, water management, etc. (We can discuss the need for military spending another time.)
These are all needed and contribute to the functioning of the economy. So if government is cut back and doesn’t do something that is needed, then how does it get done? Or does it just not get done? Either way, the real question we should be asking is what is the effect on the larger economy when our government cuts back on or stops doing needed things? If you save the “government” a bit of money but cost the economy a lot of money, are you saving money? Or are cuts in government really just shifting and even increasing the costs in the larger economy of doing these things?
Who Is Our Government For?
In the United States, our Constitution says that government is supposed to be of, by and for We, the People. The country was established after the colonists rebelled against the aristocracy of England — a few people who had all of the wealth and power and would not let the colonists have a say in how things were run and who would benefit. So they fought the Revolutionary War and established a country where “We, the People” all have an equal say, and to “promote the general welfare.” In other words, a country that aspires to be of, by and for the good of all of us.
So cutting back on government means cutting back on We, the People doing things for the good of all of us. It means cutting back on the things we have a say over. It means relinquishing the wealth and power that we hold in common to … well, just where does our common wealth and power go if our government is cut back?
Medicare, For Example
Republicans say we need to cut back on what the government spends on Medicare. But if you cut Medicare the health problems of elderly people and the larger problem of fast-rising health care costs in the larger economy don’t disappear. In fact, both problems just get worse.
The “Ryan Budget” that Congressional Republicans voted to approve actually converts Medicare into a program that gives seniors a voucher that pays for part of a private medical insurance policy that seniors have to shop for. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan, took a look at that plan and explains what happens to the cost of health care. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying as much as seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. 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 …

Repeat, the Republican plan to cut Medicare would cost the larger economy seven times as much as it cuts government spending.
Social Security, For Example
Conservatives have been trying to cut or gut Social Security for decades. While this might mean government has to pay out less of what is owed to seniors, such cuts would have a negative effect on the larger economy.
Social Security allows working people to retire with at least a minimal income. If this is cut many could not retire for many more years (if ever), which would increase the unemployment rate because their jobs would not open up. The same is true as the retirement age is increased – fewer job openings. If it is cut, the spending (on cat food) at local grocery stores and other necessities is reduced by the same amount. And the effect on children of retirees is increased, if they contribute to make up the difference.
This is why cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age only shifts costs onto the larger economy, dragging it down (and cruelly hurting our elderly).
Cutting Disease Control, For Example
One of the clearest examples of the way government helps us all, rich and poor, is the government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the jobs of the CDC is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an epidemic is spreading and killing people it doesn’t matter if those people are rich or poor. And if a serious outbreak spreads this can damage the economy as people are too sick to, or decide not to show up for work. So of course cutting back the budget of the CDC could cause damage to the economy in any given year and is certain to cause damage eventually. (The CDC budget was cut back 11% last year.)
Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy
The above are only a few examples.
A government budget cut is 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 or the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy. But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.

  • As government health care is cut (or not provided in the first place) each of us must take on those costs on our own, and as demonstrated, pay up to seven times what the same care would/could have cost.
  • As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy becomes less competitive, unemployment increases and our wages and spending power fall.
  • As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids increase. College costs soar. And the overall education level of our people will decrease, making our country less competitive in the world.
  • As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups increase and our quality-of-life will decrease.
  • As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections fall.
  • As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to the larger economy, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.

As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy.
Austerity In Europe
Several countries in Europe are severely cutting budgets. The result is that the economies in those countries are slowing. Reuters: Euro zone’s slump in late 2011 points to recession.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone’s economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.
… The European Commission forecasts a recession of the same magnitude this year. That would be the euro zone’s second contraction in just three years as the bloc’s debt crisis drags on a region that generates around 16 percent of the world’s economic output.
[. . .] The battle between austerity and growth was already evident in the fourth quarter. Euro zone government expenditure fell 0.2 percent, while industry contracted 2 percent and imports were down 1.2 percent, making for some of the worst readings since the world was dragged into the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

The austerity experiment is making the case: cutting government budgets just shifts costs and hurts the larger economy.
Who Benefits From Cuts?
Governments dance with the ones that brung ‘em. Whoever controls government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – and only them. We-the-People democracies do things for We, the People; plutocracies do things for plutocrats. So when, as now, plutocrats are running government, you will get a government that only does things that benefit plutocrats. And when We, the People were running government, we did things that benefit We, the People — all of us.
The plutocrats now demanding government budget cuts obviously understand that this will result in slowing economies, but don’t care — they are already fabulously wealthy. What they want is reduced taxes and increased power. They say that cuts will bring growth, in order to persuade people to accept cuts. Blocking governments from providing things that don’t directly benefit them and only them is a means to that end. And cutting government cuts government’s ability to reign them in.
What We, the People Want
When We, the People are running government we insist that government increases overall prosperity. We demand laws and regulations that bring us good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. We demand good public schools & colleges, parks, safety and opportunities for our smaller businesses to fairly compete. We insist on a clean environment, consumer protections, regulations on business behavior, rules against monopolies and (after learning the hard way) rules that keep banks from taking risks that threaten the economy. And we want controls and limits on the use of wealth and power by the 1%ers.
Plutocrats — the 1%ers — of course see all of these protections of regular people as hindering their power and ability to make as much for themselves as they can grab. Plutocrats just don’t see how public parks benefit them. They just don’t see why they should have to pay for public schools. What good do public schools do them, today? Plutocrats don’t see why it should be anyone else’s problem if old people don’t have health care — health care for seniors certainly isn’t their problem.
They explain that things for anyone other than themselves and their interests just “wastes money.” Things for regular people are not their problem. And when plutocrats run government, it isn’t their problem.
The fact is a public park “costs money.” Schools and infrastructure are just more “government spending.” Things like that just “redistribute income” because taxes on the income of plutocrats is used to build that park or school that anyone can use. The basic message of the plutocrat is, “Why should I pay for anything that benefits you?”
You and I might argue that this kind of austerity, cutting schools, Medicare, infrastructure, etc. slows the larger economy, hurting the plutocrats, too. But that doesn’t hurt the ones who are already rich, which is the definition of plutocrat. It puts more in their pockets, today, by lowering their taxes. They want out of taxes and they don’t want government (We, the People) interfering with their power.
What We, The People Need
Democracies where We, the People make decisions demand things that are good for regular people and their small businesses: pensions, health care, modernized infrastructure, good schools & colleges, child care, regulations on the behavior of giant corporations… This is why strong democracies have proven to be more prosperous for regular people and for longer than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top. This is why so many regular working people in our country were so much more prosperous in the decades before the plutocratic 1%-favoring policies of Reagan steered us toward plutocracy.
Understand what is going on here. Demands for budget cuts and austerity are really about shifting from democracy to a system where regular people — the 99% — are on their own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where regular people can be prosperous together, to a system where a few — the 1% — have all the wealth and power.
We, the People need democracy restored. We need to be in charge again, before the economy can improve.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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We, The People Have To Say, “No You Can’t Do That”

In Will We Choose A Chinese Future, David Sirota asks the core question: “Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?” THIS is the choice that the “job creators” are demanding that we make when they say we need to be more “business friendly.” THIS is what they are asking us to do to ourselves when they say that less government, less regulation, lower taxes, anti-union “right-to-work” laws, and the rest of the corporate-conservative litany is what will restore the economy and “create jobs.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
It’s Not Low Wages, It’s Low Democracy
The reason so many factories have moved to China is not just price, it is because they do things a democracy cannot allow. Steve Jobs famously said, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because over there they make people live in dormatories at the factory and can roust them at midnight and make them work 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, using toxic chemicals. Richard Eslow lays it out in, Hell Is Cheaper: China, Apple, And The Economics Of Horror,

Companies like Apple don’t outsource to China because the workforce is better-educated or more highly motivated. They don’t even outsource just because the labor is cheaper there. They outsource because employers who defraud their workers can make products more cheaply, and those who ignore their safety can produce them more quickly. […] It’s possible that Steve Jobs and other outsourcing executives really think that “those jobs aren’t coming back” because they expect it will always be impossible to underbid the Chinese – because they don’t believe Chinese workers will ever be protected by law.
That’s the inexorable logic of the unrestrained and unregulated market. If things don’t change, there will be no stopping the outflow of employment from the safe and the stable to the cheated, the endangered, and the abused. Bad ethics drives out good ethics.

Jobs is saying that those jobs and companies and factories are not coming back because over there the workers can be forced to do those things, because they don’t have a say. They don’t have We, the People democracy like we do, so they can’t do anything about it. And our trade agreements allow our companies to close our factories here and force our workers to compete with that.
We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People — the 99% — are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” We have to say it to the companies that move jobs to China, where people have no say and are exploited. And we have to say that goods made by people with no say cannot be brought into our country without a strong tariff. We should use the funds brought in by that tariff to subsidize goods made here so they can compete in world markets. Otherwise we are making democracy into a competitive disadvantage. And if countries like China don’t like it, they can give their people a say, pay them decent wages, and protect their environment. That would be a race to the top instead of the current race to the bottom.
The Climate Change Denial Industry
Oil and coal companies are funding a “denial industry” to keep us from doing what needs to be done to rescue the planet’s climate. They make billions upon billions from pumping carbon into the air, and block efforts to cut back their polluting. Modeled after the tobacco denial industry and its “doubt is our product” strategy, they fight efforts to move us to green energy sources. They even direct their propaganda to attack electric cars and high-speed rail.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
The Too-Big Banks
It’s the same story with the biggest banks. They pushed debt on us. They used their power to gut regulations and then took huge risks that crashed the economy. They demanded taxpayer money to rescue them without even cutting back the huge salaries and bonuses. And then they funded propaganda that blamed us, the poor, the government, public employees, unions — anyone but themselves. And they used their vast power and wealth to block investigations and accountability, forcing “settlements” that make their shareholders and their employees and their customers pay.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
Other Examples
There are many, many other examples of wealthy, powerful interests – “the 1%” – using their wealth and power to make us do things that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And as this continues life for “the 99%” gets harder and bleaker and we fall further and further behind.
In all of these example We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
That’s What Government Is
Government is We, the People banding together to watch out for and take care of each other. Government is We, the People saying to the wealthy and powerful, “No, you can’t do that.”
When the1%ers demand “less government” they are using their power and propaganda to force us into a position where we are less able to say to them, “No, you can’t do that.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” Until we do, they will do that, and that, and that.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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