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Posts Tagged ‘Economic Stimulus Package’

If you happen to be a swing voter who’s considering the Republican slate next month, you’re being tricked. That’s not to say you’re an idiot, but the Republicans are doing an excellent job masking over what they really stand for, and millions of Americans seem to be falling for it.

The Republican strategy for this midterm election is simple: Treat voters like easily manipulated hoopleheads. The GOP and its various apparatchiks are spending untold millions of dollars, much of it from anonymous donors and, perhaps, even some illegal foreign donors, in order to play out this nationwide swindle. They’re investing heavily on the wager that Americans are so kerfuffled by the slow-growth (but growth nevertheless) economy that they’re willing to buy any line of nonsense as an alternative solution.

Regarding that nonsense, just about every GOP solution and every GOP idea reveals either a hilariously obvious contradiction or an utterly transparent hypocrisy. Say nothing of unchecked awfulness like Southern Strategy race-baiting or bald-faced lies. But it doesn’t seem to matter much because they’ve buried most of it under heaping piles of inchoate outrage and fear. Just like always. It’s not unlike the 2000s all over again. They’re engaging in the same bumper sticker sloganeering and myopic agitprop, but with updated content for 2010.

If you’ve seen any of the Republican TV spots this cycle, you’re probably familiar with the focus-group-tested duet of fear: “Obamacare and Stimulus.” For example, that infamous John Raese commercial featuring two not-West-Virginian West Virginians in full “hicky” regalia discussing why they’re voting Republican. Among the reasons: “Obamacare and Stimulus.” No specific reasons why those items are evil, they’re just two scary things the hicky guys are pissed about.

And why aren’t there any specific gripes cited along with those two items? Because the actual gripes are ridiculous.

Let’s start with “Obamacare,” then hit “Stimulus” presently.

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Tuesday morning on CNBC, the spazzy white guys in lower Manhattan were debating how the administration and Congress can best repair the economy, and mainly the jobless numbers. At one point, Rick Santelli, the hyperkinetic shoutcaster and instigator of the tea party movement, began to flail around, waving his arms above his head while yelling, “Stop spending! Stop spending! Stop spending!”

And contrary to accusations from one of the other spazzy white panelists, Santelli insisted he wasn’t calling for more tax cuts. Just a freeze in government spending. Somehow.

Fine. Show us another time in American history when a spending freeze — and a spending freeze alone — jump-started an economic recovery following a deep recession and high unemployment. Show us. Where in the world is Santelli getting this?

It doesn’t really matter from which hole Santelli’s latest television meltdown was extricated. Suffice to say, there is no historical precedent for any such thing. In fact, the often-referenced spending cuts of 1937 caused the opposite effect: a backslide in the economic recovery during the Great Depression. Oh, sorry. There we go again — referencing actual “history” instead of just screeching incongruous, contradictory and unsubstantiated nonsense, which seems to be the accepted style of discourse these days.

Santelli’s rant is just another performance in a broader strategy by the Republicans and tea party movement to deliberately sabotage the economic recovery. Not unlike Santelli’s “stop spending” idea, this is a strategy which also, to the best of my knowledge, has no historical precedent. For the first time ever — and this is worth repeating — one of the two major political parties in America is sabotaging a delicate economic recovery for the sake of humiliating the president and his party, and subsequently recapturing a political majority.

More than a year ago, Rush Limbaugh both predicted this and set the table for it to occur. They want the president to fail, and now it’s clear that they’re willing to take the economic recovery down in order to make it so. Is there any doubt who leads the Republican Party?

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The words “government takeover” were originally injected into the discourse by Frank Luntz in the early stages of the health care reform process and have been repeated in the pejorative sense by Republicans across the board.

Despite the fact that thousands of Americans die every month from a lack of affordable health insurance, the Republicans have argued that the government isn’t allowed to “takeover” the industry. It goes without saying that the president wasn’t proposing any such thing and, in fact, publicly denounced single-payer health insurance, but okay. The Republicans truly believe the health care reform bill is socialism and a total takeover of the industry. It’s not.

Likewise, the Republicans and tea party people have been screeching about the bailouts. They insist that the banks and financial institutions (and GM) should have been allowed to fail, rather than receiving emergency loans from the government in order to, at the time, prevent the American economy from being dragged down along with these institutions had they not been hoisted with an infusion of cash.

Speaking of which, the Republicans also loudly opposed the recovery bill, which included, as a total dollar amount, the biggest middle class tax cut in American history as well as a considerable amount of funding for the states. Yet the Republicans, once again, screeched about state’s rights and tried to block the funding.

In his response to the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana famously mocked such obviously hilarious things as volcano monitoring in the recovery bill. Volcanoes? Why should we monitor those?

The dominant centerpiece to all of this outrage has been the Republican idea that the states and the free market should be left alone to deal with problems and crises on its own without “socialist” — or even “communist” depending on which AM radio station you listen to — interference from big government and our America-hating president. No government takeovers. Freedom! Liberty! And no stupid volcano thingees also.

Americans dying from a lack of health insurance? Too bad. No government takeover. The economy about to sink into a second Great Depression? Too bad. No government takeover. The Earth growing warmer due to the burning of fossil fuels? Too bad. No government takeover.

That is until last month.

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For more than a year now, we’ve been hearing from Republicans, tea party people and Glenn Beck’s chalkboard about how big government is destroying American liberty and freedom. Much of the shrieking is literally accompanied by the yellow Revolutionary War “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Every tea party lawn concert and misspelled sign regatta features people dressed in colonial drag with tea bags dangling from their tri-corner hats, waving banners in support of tax cuts, liberty and freedom and against the allegedly tyrannical Obama government. They’re really scared and they want their country back from the (somehow) black liberal Nazi.

We’ve heard about how the “czars” are unconstitutional, even though the name “czars” was invented by the press as clever pseudonym for “advisers.”

We’ve heard about how the Recovery Act, which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, is unconstitutional and an attack on states’ rights and individual liberty. We’ve heard about how it’s “generational theft” for the government to spend money to solve an economic crisis. We’ve heard about how the tax cuts in the Recovery Act are just a scam and should be returned to the government in protest.

We’ve heard about the crazy conspiracy theories involving the IRS invading our neighborhoods with armed goon squads — rounding up anyone who purchased one of Glenn Beck’s dozens of McBooks. Of course this meme turned out to be entirely untrue as there is no enforcement mechanism in the health care reform law should you simply choose not to pay the tax penalty for not buying insurance.

Republican attorneys general across the nation are challenging the health care law in court because, they say, it’s unconstitutional. House minority leader John Boehner once called the bill “Armageddon” because of the tax penalty for Americans who choose not to buy insurance. Armageddon!

Throughout all of the misinformed and contradictory right-wing antics of the past year, I’ve been wondering how post-Bush Republicans and conservatives can possibly square all of their newly found affinity for freedom, liberty and the Constitution considering their eight year support for Bush era policies. Policies like illegal wiretaps of American citizens, the USA Patriot Act, suspension of habeas corpus (it’s in the Constitution) and all the rest of it.

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It seems like just yesterday that Republicans, wingnuts and teabaggers suffered a collective schizoid embolism over the passage and signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

One year ago today, the president signed the bill amidst protestations from Fox News, talk radio and Rick Santelli about how the “porkulus” spending bill wouldn’t work — how it wouldn’t stimulate economic growth or create jobs. It was called generational theft, socialism, communism, Nazism and any other -ism that could be quickly plucked from the glossary of Glenn Beck’s fifth grade social studies textbook.

Nearly all Republican members of Congress voted against it — the first shot in their “trash and cash” strategy whereby they screech about the evil stimulus and how it’s an unmitigated catastrophe, while also gleefully celebrating the incoming cash in their districts, scores of Republican lawmakers outright begging various cabinet-level agencies for stimulus grant money. In all, 111 members of Congress have engaged in this hypocrisy. One of many reasons why they’re consistent only in their unapologetic self-contradictions.

And, at the end of the day, they can get away with it because of annoyingly common misconceptions about the bill. Chief among these misconceptions is the mixing up of the stimulus and the bailout. A recent CNN poll shows that only 25 percent of Americans think the stimulus helped the middle class, while a majority think it helped bankers. Of course the stimulus had nothing to do with bankers.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland: “It’s possible that the belief that the stimulus bill helped bankers and CEOs is due to the public confusing the stimulus bill with the various bailout bills that were passed at roughly the same time last year.”

So let’s clear this up.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is “the stimulus.” Those signs you see along the highway just before driving onto super-smooth new asphalt? That’s the stimulus. The recovery act. When you hear “stimulus,” it references this $787 billion spending bill, and it contains the following key provisions.

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Obama: Stimulus package prevented another depression

By Raw Story
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 — 3:13 pm

On the anniversary of his huge stimulus bill, President Barack Obama admitted Wednesday that millions of Americans had yet to feel the economic recovery, but insisted he had staved off a depression.

Obama also lashed out at Republicans he accused of misrepresenting the aims and achievements of the $862-billion mix of tax cuts and government spending, which he said had saved or created two million jobs.

“One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility,” Obama said, at an event marking the anniversary of the day he signed the bill last year in Denver, Colorado.

“We acted because failure to do so would have led to catastrophe.”

Obama’s remarks came the same day as the New York Times‘ David Leonhardt reported that the “best-known economic research firms” agree the stimulus package created somewhere between 1.6 million and 1.8 million jobs, with the final tally expected to be around 2.5 million.

MORE HERE

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It only makes sense that a party currently being wagged by fringe crazy people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann would release its alternative budget on April Fools’ Day.

Not only does the Republican plan freeze discretionary spending for five years in the midst of a recession which, by most accounts and proved by history, will countermand any sort of economic recovery, but it also cuts taxes by 10 percent for the same Wall Street executives whose actions largely got us into this economic mess in the first place. In other words: Congratulations, Republicans, you just released a budget that rewards wealthy corporate executives while blocking any attempt to dig us out of the economic catastrophe they created.

Smart!

The only bit of Republican legislation that’d be more ridiculous would be if Michele Bachmann were to introduce a constitutional amendment thwarting a fake plot to eliminate the dollar as the form of currency in the United States.

Oh wait. She’s already done that. And 33 Republican congressmembers so far have co-sponsored the amendment. 30-plus Republicans have irrevocably tethered their wagons to the Bachmann crazy train. Excellent. Next on the agenda: a bill creating the Office of Robot Insurance, protecting us from robot attackers who use old people’s medicine for fuel. Speaking of which, the Republican plan also phases out Medicare.

The marquee item, however, in the Republican plan is their inexplicably regressive tax cut for the super rich. Wealthy Americans in the top three tax brackets would see their tax burden cut to a flat 25 percent from previous rates of 35, 33 and 28. According to the Center for American Progress, CEOs from any of the top 800 corporations would receive a tax break of around $1.5 million a year. Meanwhile, if you earn $15,000 a year, your tax break will be around $0 a year.

But get this. Under the Republican plan, Americans are given the option of paying the old tax rates instead of the new, expensive and regressive Republican rates. So, for example, if your household income is $100,000, you could pay the same tax rate as someone earning $15,000. Or you could be a swell egg and go back to your old rate. Aside from the utter lack of fairness in the notion of a $100,000 household paying the same rate as a $15,000 household, who in their right mind would voluntarily pay higher taxes?

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Throughout history, there have been more than a few unfortunate and ill-conceived branding and marketing ideas to have been thrust into public view. I’m not just talking about minor infractions like the recent Cocaine energy drink or that children’s candy with the hard plastic “prizes” suitable for choking buried inside. I’m talking about serious failures. Probably the most famous example of an epic fail product was the diet pill known simply as “Ayds,” circa 1982. The slogan: “Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?” I’m not making that up.

In the past several years, this caliber of epic fail has also appeared at various political protests. There’s the infamous mullet-headed pro-war demonstrator holding a sign reading: “GET A BRAIN! MORANS.” And just a couple of weeks ago, there was this display of fail by a protester from the far-right blog Free Republic:

As the sign demonstrates, the funniest and most contradictory aspect of the recent far-right revolution is, hands down, the tea bag thing. But it’s not just about the double entendre aspect of “tea bagging.” A lot of it has to do with the idea that far-right conservatives are emulating the Boston Tea Party.

Let’s recap. It began with the on-air rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange by the Coward Rick Santelli — “coward” because he’s apparently too afraid to go on The Daily Show and, instead, Jim Cramer went on and took a beating for something that Santelli basically started. Nevertheless, according to one of the official tea bag websites, Santelli is credited as the patron saint of the movement.

And unless I’m mistaken, the basic idea of the tea bag revolution is to protest against government bailouts and in favor of tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans. Ultimately, the tea baggers (can I call them that?) appear to be against allowing the Bush’s tax cuts to expire. Strangely, they also appear to be against President Obama signing into law the largest middle class tax cut in history. They’re also against helping middle and working class “losers” keep their homes. (By the way, your neighbor’s mortgage is your problem. Just watch your property values plummet as soon as there’s just one foreclosure on your block.)

This series of Obama policies, they say, portends tyranny in America. Of course none of the policies of the Bush administration were considered tyrannical by many of the current tea bag leaders. You know the list of Bush trespasses. The illegal searches and seizures, the illegal electronic eavesdropping and torturing. The suspension of habeas corpus, the record deficits, the doubling of the national debt and so on. None of that was tyrannical. But allowing the tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent to expire is absolutely the vanguard of totalitarianism.

So the organizers of the movement have picked up on Santelli’s tea party reference and are rebelling against higher taxes for the rich and corporations by purchasing thousands of tea bags and dumping them into various waterways.

To sum up: higher ’90s-era tax rates for the wealthy and corporations? Tyrannical. Tax cuts for the middle class? Also tyrannical. Therefore, emulate the Boston Tea Party as a means of underscoring these positions.

Here’s the problem.

The Boston Tea Party was ultimately precipitated by a massive corporate tax cut.

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When I watched the video of Sean Hannity’s Tuesday night show, I was half expecting him to leap out of his chair, grab his producer by the lapels and scream something about a goblin on the wing of the airplane — all puffy and bloodshot, hair mussed, tie undone, spittle and sweat flying all around.

There was Sean Hannity on television: breathlessly announcing the red dawn of “socialism you can believe in.” “The New America.” He called the recovery bill, “a liberal hijacking of the American way of life.” Uh-huh. Hijacking. Terrorists rather than goblins on the wing. I get it. And even though we just wrapped up eight years of the largest government expansion in our country’s history, Hannity derided the recovery bill as “the largest government expansion in our country’s history.”

But, unbelievably, that wasn’t the most ludicrous part of the show. The frantic announcement was preceded by a newsreel-style montage featuring video of the various congressional floor debates about the bill, footage of Boehner throwing down the bill and, naturally, President Obama signing the bill. All backed with the frighteningly pulse-pounding choir chants of the apocalyptic anthem “O Fortuna.”

There’s no gray area in what he was suggesting. Socialism is here, said Hannity, and it’s really scary. The choir music said so.

Hannity is once again joined in this crusade by very serious pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Steve Doocy, Alex Castellanos, Joe Scarborough, Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck who, at one point, claimed that President Obama is both a socialist and a fascist — a feat that calls to mind an old George Carlin joke about how it’s physically impossible to “put your seat-back forward.”

The message is clear. The voices on the far-right are unanimous.

Therefore, I’m calling upon Sean Hannity to use his prime time television program as a platform to rally Republican politicians, cable news hacks and citizens alike to refuse delivery of not just recovery bill spending, but all so-called “socialist” government programs. Send it all back. End American socialism now! All of it.

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You’ve probably noticed that the debate swirling around the president’s recovery bill has reached new levels of mortal terror and chaos. Even a casual excursion around the liberal tubes and you’ll find posts that read like the worst parts of the Bible. There’s a palpable vibe in many progressive circles that the president is on the brink of an epic fail.

After all, this is one of those do-or-die moments in American history and the panic level is rightly proportional.

But while urgency is appropriate, we’re losing the initiative.

We all have our own ideas about what the recovery bill is supposed to look like. The Republicans are threatening to filibuster, and we can’t trust Harry Reid to stop them. Rush Limbaugh, the very serious leader of the Republican Party and alleged sex tourist, has ordered his dittoheads to blitz the Democrats with angry phone calls. Concurrently, Democrats, liberals and progressives, for all we’ve learned in the last eight years, are losing the framing battle — “stimulus package” sounds like a weird service offered at a porn store and, in that context, a trillion dollar “stimulus package” sounds, you know, painful. Meanwhile, centrist Democrats like Ben Nelson appear to be ransacking the bill. Other Democrats have bugged out of Washington entirely.

We’re looking at fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Forty years of darkness. The dead rising from the grave! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Come to think of it, some of that Ghostbusters stuff might actually come true if a beefy and expensive recovery bill isn’t passed, and right soon.

So how do we get there?

The first step in getting a handle on all of this mayhem is to understand that this is unprecedented in terms of size, scope and strategy — only rivaled by the New Deal. Then again, for all of the obstacles he faced, FDR didn’t have to negotiate his way through cable news, a hostile press, far-right talk radio, the blogotubes and an army of dittoheads taking their orders from an impotent burnout whose stated goal is the failure of the economy. In other words, while there are very smart economic solutions being pitched by Paul Krugman and others, the price tag, politics, optics, media and discourse are all brand new.

This is massive, this is complicated, this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

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