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Archive for September 21st, 2010

How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century

Holland’s new book shows how the corporate Right obscured how they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top.
September 15, 2010 |

Editor’s note: AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland’s new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland’s research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won’t read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It’s one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It’s a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.

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The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

Yet the meltdown was global in nature, and it’s worth noting that citizens of other wealthy countries weren’t so complacent. As the Telegraph, a British tabloid, reported, “A depression triggered in America is being played out in Europe with increasing violence, and other forms of social unrest are spreading. In Iceland, a government has fallen. Workers have marched in Zaragoza, as Spanish unemployment heads toward 20 percent. There have been riots and bloodshed in Greece, protests in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The police have suppressed public discontent in Russia.” Another British paper, the Guardian, reported scenes of “Burned-out cars, masked youths, smashed shop windows and more than a million striking workers” in France. French officials went so far as to delay the release of unemployment data, “apparently for fear of inflaming the protests.”

You might wonder why Americans are so docile compared to others in the face of such a brutal economic onslaught by a small and entitled elite. Any number of theories have been offered to explain the apparent disconnect. Thomas Frank argued eloquently in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? that wedge social issues—“God, guns and gays”—that the American Right nurtures with such care, obscure the fundamental differences between rich and poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised. Class consciousness, common to other liberal democracies, has been trumped by social anxieties, according to Frank.

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10 Terrible Things Republicans Will Try to Do If They Take Over in November

Think things are bad now? Take a look at what could happen if Republicans retake Congress in November.
September 20, 2010 |

Democrats are in trouble come November. If current polling is any indication, Republicans have a good chance of reclaiming a majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate (though the Senate is a less likely prospect). That’s not because people are wildly excited about Republicans. In fact, a recent poll shows that registered voters rate the GOP’s performance as worse than the Democrats’. But the enthusiasm gap between the parties gives the GOP an advantage; a nine-point advantage among likely voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Perhaps Americans should know what’s really at stake if this batch of Republicans takes over Congress in November. Here are 10 terrible things the GOP might do:

1) Shut down government to stop health care bill. “All the Republican Congress needs to say in January is, ‘We won’t fund it,” said former Speaker of the House and likely 2012 presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, speaking about the GOP leadership’s intent to shut down the government to stop health care reform from being enacted. He should know. He did it before, back in 1995 when the Republicans reclaimed Congress during the Clinton administration. The GOP’s government shutdown was disastrous for millions of Americans.

Since Republicans can’t directly repeal the bill — President Obama would veto such an action — they may cut funding in order to hold up its implementation, forcing a stand-off with Democrats that could lead to government shutdown. Gingrich isn’t the only one sounding this threat. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said, “The endgame is a fight over funding.” Rep. Mike Pence called rolling back health reform a “mainstream GOP position.

Meanwhile, in an interview with TPM, Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, discussed the consequences of government shutdown. Services would be stopped: “Social Security checks, Medicare reimbursements…welfare checks to the state, Medicaid checks to the state.” Federal employees would be furloughed. It would “stop all new enrollees into the [Social Security] system,” Shalala said. She continued, “It bounces through: it’s grocery stores, it’s farms […] It bounces through when people don’t have money at that scale.” Shalala also pointed out that the economy is in far worse shape today than it was during the Clinton years, so the impact of government shutdown would likely be worse than in the 1990s.

2) Attempt to privatize Social Security. Back in 2005, former President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security by creating independent spending accounts, similar to 401Ks. He failed. But unlike Republicans today, Bush did not have the advantage of Tea-Party backed ultraconservative Republicans, some of whom honestly believe the only role of the federal government is to fight wars and protect our borders. Among the GOP’s up and comers is Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee. He wants to create personal spending retirement accounts invested in the stock market, which sounds a lot like the current 401K system: You know, the one that lost nearly 40 percent of its value during the financial crisis.

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