Are you better off now……?

October 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Four years ago, this country was on the precipice of a second Great Depression. That’s an economic state where more than a quarter of the population is unemployed, half of all businesses close their doors, banks stop lending, and the government has to go into massive debt to keep the population from starving. It is a time when the majority of the country has to do without basic necessities. The only thing that got us out of the Great Depression was government spending on World War II.

Fortunately, the second Great Depression didn’t happen. In fact, less than three years after the recession bottomed out in 2009, the country has had a net gain in jobs relative to the jobs that had been lost. We have had 32 straight months of job growth in the private sector. The DOW has more than doubled, which has been good news to anyone with a 401K. We did NOT have to turn our auto industry over to foreign manufacturers two years ago, which saved more than a million jobs. Our exports are near record levels and we are less dependent on foreign oil than in the last 20 years. Home prices are finally headed up again. In Los Angeles, home values posted their highest gains in more than 6 years. Taxes have actually gone down since Obama took office, and more than 30 million people now have medical insurance who couldn’t get it before.

By any measure, the economy is trending upward.

Has it been fast enough? Of course not. You don’t recover from the loss of more than 50,000 factories (between 2000 and 2009) in just 3 years. New industries have to be generated. More people need new training for those jobs. It requires a national investment. The problem is, we now have the lowest rated, least productive, most obstructive Congress since the Civil War, whose primary objective has been to ensure that nothing President Obama proposes or supports passes or is adequately funded. It is politics of self-destruction.

Obama’s and Biden’s economic plan has been simple enough to grasp for anybody who has bothered to pay attention. The American Jobs Act was a great bill that would have been paid for while creating 3 million jobs. Guess who blocked it.

Undecided voters have no excuse. And no option.

Obama 2012 –– Because the alternative is UNTHINKABLE.

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What Romney and Ryan are really planning to do…

October 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Both Romney and his running-mate have repeatedly stated that their intent is to cut taxes 20% for everybody who pays federal income tax. The cost of such a cut over a ten-year period is approximately $5 trillion, yet Romney now denies having ever said anything about this tax cut.

Both Romney and Ryan say that these cuts would be deficit neutral because, at the same time, their plan would eliminate certain unspecified loopholes and write-offs currently in the tax code. The problem is, even if they eliminated every single write-off, including charitable donations and home mortgage interest, it still wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of the $5 trillion tax cut.

HOWEVER, they also say that they would increase revenue by “broadening the tax base”. The only way to interpret this is that they intend to tax low and middle income families who, until now, have no earned enough to qualify for paying federal income tax. Therefore, their stated intent is to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and raise taxes on the middle class. You can’t get around that.

By the way, cutting taxes does NOT stimulate economic growth. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Low taxes encourage profit-taking. Periods of higher tax rates show more re-investment. Business owners take less profit out of their companies if they know they’re going to pay higher taxes on that income. In any case, the last eleven years has provided ample proof that tax cuts boost nothing but the wealth of the top 1% of the population. 93% of all gains in the economy over the last two years have accrued to that small group of highly fortunate people.

Romney has also stated numerous times that he wants to increase defense spending by a $1 trillion over the next ten years and $2 trillion over the next 20 years. He would also add more than 100,000 more personnel to the armed forces. He has vowed to do this despite the fact that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t need the additional people or extra money. Romney just wants to be seen as a pro-military leader by his right-wing base. It is a completely disingenuous position.

All that said, I also have doubts about President Obama’s debating skills (although I don’t know what that has to do with being President of the United States). I wish he had been more energetic and assertive in the debate. I also wish that he called Romney on all of his lies and half-truths. That was a major mistake.

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Paul Ryan : A radical ideologue or just plain stupid?

May 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In a recent CNN interview, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) accused opponents of his alleged “Path to Prosperity” of being “willing to lie and demagogue Medicare and scare seniors”. This is the same man who has been screaming the sky is falling for the last two years and that we have to radically reduce the deficit RIGHT NOW, or the country will suddenly fall into an economic abyss. He doesn’t see the content of his plan as being the cause for resistance. He claims that it’s a “marketing problem”. To clarify things, he says, “Our budget’s so clear. It doesn’t change benefits for people over the age of 55 and it saves Medicare for the next generation”. Clearly, his plan does not “save” Medicare for anybody. It is a classic example of privatization.

Let’s first examine what Ryan claims to be his primary motivation: the deficit crisis. We should not allow Ryan’s alarmist rhetoric to panic us. We have some economic problems, but we’re not Greece. Deficits should decline markedly over the next few years, and Social Security and Medicare will not devour us. Over the last 3 years, the federal deficit has been about 9% to 10% of GDP. By historical standards, that’s very large, but it wasn’t the result of profligate spending. It was caused by the worst recession in +70 years. While it is happening slowly, the economy has been steadily recovering since June 2009. Barring some catastrophe, the effects of recession should fade and the economy should start showing more robust growth. (Certainly, we’ve already seen this in the American auto industy). This means greatly increased revenues and less spending on things like unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid rises and financial bailouts. Plus, we have the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to look forward to, as long as Republicans don’t try to extort another extension.

The bottom line is that, if we do NOTHING, the deficit as a percentage of GDP should go from 10% to about 3% by 2014. Using Medicare as an instrument of fear to justify radical change, which is what Ryan has been doing, is more than a little dishonest. In 2010, Medicare spending (less premiums paid by beneficiaries) was 3.1% of GDP. In 2021, the CBO projects it will be 3.6%, an increase of only 0.5 percent. In other words, this budgetary “monster” which Ryan claims is going to ruin the American way of life will increase its share of the national economy by about 1%. This amounts to less than half the cost of the Bush tax cuts.

This is not a long-term fiscal emergency; it’s what you’d expect after the deepest recession since the Great Depression. So Rep. Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare is not only extreme, it is wholly unnecessary. Ryan’s Medicare plan would force those who become beneficiaries starting in 2021 to more than double their out-of-pocket spending. Some estimates for this out-of-pocket increase are as high as $7,500/year. But that’s not the worst thing about his plan.

What congressional conservatives have wanted to do for decades is wipe out the entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They don’t view these programs as vital safety nets for seniors which have helped lift them out of poverty over the last 70 years. They see them as evil ideology; socialism.; an obstacle to states’ rights, which they have been fighting for since the mid-19th century. They know that the quickest way to kill these programs is to privatize them. Put for-profit companies in charge and let the so-called free market do the rest. They realize that Medicare, as a government program, operates on about 6% overhead, while private insurance companies have overhead costs which are six times that. On top of that, private insurers have to show their investors a profit every year. So, what we’re looking at here is a plan that will drastically reduce coverage, while allowing premiums and deductibles to continue to escalate at warp speed. Medicare, as a vital service to seniors, will become a shell of its former self. All the money people have paid into Medicare during their working years will now be handed over to private insurance companies, with more than 1/3 going to pay for corporate overhead. Then, insurance companies will fight tooth & nail to hold onto the other 2/3s by denying claims and greatly reducing coverages. That’s how for-profit companies work.

So, the question remains: Is Paul Ryan consciously trying to destroy Medicare in order to satisfy his ideologically-driven hatred of the federal government, or is he just an ignoramus who actually believes the growth predictions that his plan borrowed from The Heritage Foundation? Does he actually believe that he’s saving Medicare for the next generation? From what I can tell, Paul Ryan is not a stupid man. But his common sense and humanity are definitely being held hostage by his extreme right-wing ideology. I don’t think he really cares about the deficit at all. If he did, he wouldn’t be so dead set against letting the Bush tax cut for the wealthy expire, and he certainly wouldn’t have opposed ending subsidies for Big Oil. Ryan has also opposed allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, which could save seniors billions of dollars, and such a proposal is nowhere to be seen in his plan. I believe Ryan and the GOP are trying to manufacture hysteria over the deficit, then use that fear to gain support for dismantling vital federal programs and, more importantly, to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.

I think the funniest thing I ever heard was Mitch McConnell on a recent Sunday morning news program, defending Ryan’s plan for Medicare. McConnell said it would “empower Grandma, by giving her the power to shop for the best policy for her”. He went on to say this “shopping would create competition and drive down costs.” He conveniently leaves out that Ryan’s plan would be giving her a fixed “premium assistance” check which would end up covering less than half what her new private insurer would charge for adequate coverage. This also begs the question as to whether or not insurance companies are going to be lining up to insure people in their 70’s and 80’s. Doesn’t sound very realistic to me.

At the end of the day, Ryan’s plan destroys Medicare by privatizing it, and leaves a new program in place which would be more aptly named Mini-Care.

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It’s time to outlaw lobbyists in Washington.

October 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As long as lobbying members of Congress is allowed, no member should be permitted to vote on a piece of legislation which has any connection to those that are lobbying him or her. This would obviously stem the flow of cash, free private jets, sexual favors and other perks which are currently provided to senators and representatives by various corporate and political interests in Washington in order to secure votes and vocal support. Unless we have this form of recusal, the concept of a representative government in Washington will be a fairy tale.

What we’ve witnessed over the last several months of debate over health care reform is ample evidence of how much this kind of change is needed. From Mitch McConnell to Max Baucus, we’ve witnessed the corporate takeover of the democratic process in the United States. Baucus, who has received more than $3.5 million from the insurance industry, is probably the most hypocritical of the lot, pretending to be for serious reform and calling himself a democrat, he voted against the public option in the Finance Committee. His reason, as stated following the vote, was that it was his responsibility to get a bill out of the committee which could pass in the Senate and he “just didn’t see the votes there for a public option”. In other words, the quality of the bill’s contents was less important to Baucus than its chances of winning approval. More importantly, he failed to mention that a majority of his own constituency favors the public option. Whom does Max Baucus represent?

Baucus’ bill contains the “mandate” which requires all citizens to obtain medical coverage, yet it does nothing to create effective price controls on the insurance industry. Those who cannot afford to pay their insurance premiums will receive tax credits to help them pay. In other words, in addition to giving the insurance industry millions of more customers by government mandate, Baucus would have tax-payers paying for those who can’t afford insurance. The best that Baucus’ Finance Committee could come up with after months of haggling is a windfall for the insurance industry that provides zero relief to citizens. What idiot could possibly support this obvious scam?

The leaders of the Republican Party in Congress, such as McConnell, Boehner and Canter, are all on the take from the private insurance industry, and the few members that are not being lobbied are too cowardly to stand up to them. Of course, there are also many democrats, such as Baucus, Childers and Lincoln, who are also enjoying the generosity of the insurance industry, but the majority of democrats are not and it shows in their votes in these committees.

If you’re a Republican who is against the public option or serious health care reform because you sincerely believe what we have is adequate, you need to ask yourself how you arrived at that conclusion. If you’re just having a knee-jerk, partisan reaction to any idea that a democrat comes up with, then you have a problem. Even worse, if you’re basing your opinion on information that has been spread by organizations like Americans for Prosperity you have a bigger problem because that so-called grass-roots group is a tool of the private insurance industry, which has a vested interested in the status quo and discrediting any kind of reform.

The private insurance industry has 6 lobbyists in Washington for every representative and senator and it is now spending nearly $2 MILLION PER DAY to undermine attempts to fix our broken, soon-to-collapse health care system. In the last 6 months, it has spent more than $390 million to convince voters that the government wants to take over health care and euthanize the elderly. This is the most money that has ever been spent on influence-peddling in the history of the United States. If you believe any of those lies, either you hate President Obama to the point of being self-destructive, or you are simply too ignorant to understand what is being proposed. Either way, you have become a willing tool of corporate fascists who are in control of one of the few business sectors that has continued to see profits grow despite a severe global recession.

At the end of the day, the power of lobbyists in Washington is about as unAmerican and anti-democratic as anything Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler tried to do. It has become abundantly clear over the last few months that real change in ANY AREA will never be possible as long as our elected representatives are in the pockets of corrupt, for-profit industries which do not have the interests of the American people at heart.

And don’t expect any tort reform while the Democratic Party is in the back pocket of the Trial Lawyers.

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Is the stimulus package “pork”?

February 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In terms of dollars spent, perhaps 1% of the proposed stimulus package fell into the category of ‘pet projects’ that some House democrats wanted to piggy-back onto the bill. Nancy Pelosi has to accept responsibility for allowing that foolishness–she seems a little drunk with power now days and Obama needs to take her to the woodshed and explain that her arrogance is sabotaging a lot of the good will his election generated for the Democratic Party.* But most of the things that GOP wanted cut from the House and Senate bills were smart, multi-purpose solutions that would have created jobs and, at the same time, kept several states from going bankrupt. The cuts in education are particularly difficult to understand, given that they would have generated jobs and, at the same time, improved the quality of our children’s education. That and many other useful items were cut from the Senate bill because the GOP chose to play a dangerous game of chicken with the Obama administration, holding the bill hostage while demanding a ransom of tax cuts and less spending.

Here is the sad fact about tax cuts: they’re a joke for 95% of us.

Tax cuts routinely add up to a net increase of just a few dollars per paycheck, in the process of depleting an already anemic Treasury. The stimulating effect of tax cuts on the national economy is virtually undetectable. But, what Republicans are looking for here isn’t an actual solution to the economic free-fall we’re in anyway. They just want a campaign slogan for the next election. Their ideology, rather than any expertise in economics, tells them that the marketplace has to go through these “cycles” now and then, and that the government should do nothing. The reason for this is because the “government” is evil and, therefore, anything it does will only make things worse. Again, this is an ideological, rather than economic point of view. The vast majority of people with advanced degrees in economics couldn’t disagree with it more.

A lot of people are very angry about the way the GOP has held the stimulus package hostage, forcing the administration to cut much needed items that would have created jobs and repaired our crumbling infrastructure. States are cutting essential services, and California isn’t even sending out tax refunds for the first time in the state’s history. The argument that tax cuts are going to pull us out of this vertical nose-dive is sheer idiocy. And, leading that debate is a solemn-faced John McCain, having graduated 895th in his Naval Academy class of 899 midshipmen with zero understanding of economics. This intellectual giant has recently announced that President Obama’s stimulus package is just a big spending bill which he cannot support. The man is marching like a lemming toward the edge of a cliff, along with the rest of his party.

In the next election, the GOP is going to be eliminated as viable national political party. We can only hope that their short-sighted, self-serving ideology doesn’t drag the country into a Depression before that happens.

*NOTE: I have recently been accused by some language nazis that my “woodshed” remark here is sexist and that it represents an implied endorsement of violence against women. ‘Taking someone to the woodshed’ is a common metaphor that is gender neutral. Now, if I had said that Obama should take Nancy Pelosi to the Lincoln Bedroom, they might have had a point.

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