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Posts Tagged ‘Economy’

Obama on the Backs of the Poor

OpEdNews 8/3/11

By Ray McGovern

What are we to make of the Obama-brokered deal on debt and spending? It was certainly what the Germans call eine schwere Geburt (a difficult birth); it was one of the few times I would have favored abortion.

I am reminded of a sermon that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave during the turbulent 1950s, in which he peered into the future and issued a prescient warning:

“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.”

In promoting and then signing the so-called “deficit reduction” legislation, President Barack Obama has definitively confirmed that he stands in the ranks of those spiritual-death-dealing, “soft-minded” men about whom Dr. King warned so ominously.

In my view, even dyed-in-the-wool Obama supporters will now have to let the scales fall from their eyes. The new one-sided “compromise” so clearly promotes the interests of the wealthy over those of the poor that, in Biblical terms, it can readily be seen as a Goddamned deal.

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The Corporate State Wins Again

Posted on Apr 25, 2011

truthdig

By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?
The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolin points out in “Democracy Incorporated” that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.” 
Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.
The Cold War also bequeathed to us the species of the neoliberal. The neoliberal enthusiastically embraces “national security” as the highest good.  The neoliberal—composed of the gullible and cynical careerists—parrots back the mantra of endless war and corporate capitalism as an inevitable form of human progress. Globalization, the neoliberal assures us, is the route to a worldwide utopia. Empire and war are vehicles for lofty human values. Greg Mortenson, the disgraced author of “Three Cups of Tea,” tapped into this formula. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan are ignored or dismissed as the cost of progress. We are bringing democracy to Iraq, liberating the women of Afghanistan, defying the evil clerics in Iran, ridding the world of terrorists and protecting Israel. Those who oppose us do not have legitimate grievances. They need to be educated. It is a fantasy. But to name our own evil is to be banished. 
We continue to talk about personalities—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—although the heads of state or elected officials in Congress have become largely irrelevant. Lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book “Winner-Take-All Politics,” point out that the share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

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Politicking in the Mos Eisley Cantina

Monday 25 April 2011
by: Davidson Loehr, Truthout

Our economic and political mess became more clear once I realized that most of the important political deals take place in the Mos Eisley Cantina. You know the scene from the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977: a dark, smoky bar located somewhere in a twilight zone: a liminal and lawless hideout where the ethically reprehensible is the norm.

We know our elected officials don’t do their political work up in the daylight of our world, because none of the big ticket laws they pass have anything to do with what the majority of our citizens want. There are differences between the two political parties, but they’re differences of degree, not kind. How can it be that the people we elected to serve us routinely sell us out to the highest bidders?

The majority of US citizens are against our illegal invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our bombing of Libya to remove Qaddafi, the brutal dictator we have coddled for decades. And a majority of our citizens would also be against our other four military operations – in Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and Columbia – if they knew about them. Most of us were not fooled when President Obama said he unilaterally authorized bombing Libya because his heart bled for the half million citizens Qaddafi will probably kill – though for the past week, it seems we’ve stopped caring. If our hearts really bled that easily for the slaughter of innocents, why didn’t we invade countries that had no oil? And if we think the death of a half million innocents is repugnant enough to demand preventative action, what about President Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq, which caused the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? When asked on US television if she [Madeline Albright, US secretary of state] thought that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children from sanctions in Iraq was a price worth paying, Albright replied: “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” (See here.)

The majority of our citizens want our soldiers brought home now. As John Kerry said to our House Foreign Relations Committee in 1970 about the ongoing Vietnam War: “How do you ask someone to be the last person to die for a mistake?” Today’s answer seems to be that members of Congress do it without much genuine emotion, because wars – whether right or wrong – are immensely profitable for some of the corporations whose lobbyists woo our representatives in dark places. And few if any of their children are going to be in those wars.

MORE HERE

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One of the most often-overheard refrains from the Republican Party and its far-right base is that President Obama is the worst president in American history. Others say he “pals around with terrorists.” They say he’s destroying America. They say that he’s weak, that he dithers and that he’s effete — implying either that he’s gay or effeminate or both. Around half of all Republicans have told pollsters that he’s not even constitutionally eligible to be president, which ought to mandate an immediate removal from office.

But what does all of this say about the men and women who are noticeably hesitant to officially announce their candidacies for the Republican nomination? Not a single one of the well-known frontrunners has declared anything more than “exploratory committees” — quite literally the presidential campaign equivalent of dithering.

At this juncture in the 2008 cycle, most of the major Democratic and Republican candidates were underway with their official campaigns. And yet…

Michele Bachmann, a would-be frontrunner, called the president “even worse” than President Carter. She accused him of being “infantile” and suggested he wouldn’t even run for a second term because the “floor has dropped out” from his support. However, tough-talking Michele Bachmann hasn’t officially declared her candidacy to run against this allegedly unpopular weakling.

Mitt Romney said that his “worst fears” about the president have come true and that the chief executive is pushing an “extreme liberal agenda.” Romney also accused the president of being “tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced” on Libya. However, tough-talking Mitt Romney hasn’t officially declared his candidacy to run against such a timid and indecisive extremist. How would Mitt react when confronted by actual extremists? Hopefully not with the same timidity he’s exercising in his run for president.

Sarah Palin has screeched nearly every imaginable insult at the president (often while she’s utterly botching commonly-known facts about the Constitution). She accused him of “dithering” on Libya. He’s a “spectator-in-chief,” she said. She’s accused him of being a socialist. She told Sean Hannity that she “fears for our democracy” due to the president’s agenda. She’s famously accused him of being a terrorist sympathizer — this alone ought to compel her to run for president if only to rid the executive branch of an obvious terrorist. However, pit bull Sarah Palin appears to be “dithering” when it comes to her campaign to run against this alleged terrorist, socialist ditherer.

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The Republicans shouldn’t be taken seriously anymore.

It seems obvious, but in order to be taken seriously, politicians have to be, you know, serious. Not just in terms of personality or behavior, but primarily in terms of policy and lawmaking. If a politician refuses to propose serious ideas and only pumps out nonsensical bumper-sticker sloganeering, fear-based histrionics or symbolic legislative measures that pander to kneejerk interest groups, then he or she ought to be summarily refused the privilege of our deference, respect and, especially, our vote.

Very few modern Republicans and conservatives qualify. They fail the seriousness test at almost every level — from the Republican leadership on down the line.

Take Eric Cantor, for example. The House Majority Leader. The second most powerful Republican in Washington. Whenever I write about Eric Cantor, I’m generally met with the reaction of crickets chirping. He’s not as well-known or as incendiary as Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck. But he’s exponentially more important, and so we have to pay attention to what he’s doing.

You might recall how Cantor, along with 228 House Republicans, permanently attached their names to proven scam-artist James O’Keefe by voting to de-fund NPR in reaction to O’Keefe’s latest sting video. Like all of O’Keefe’s work, the NPR video was selectively and deceptively edited to make it seem as though an NPR executive was expressing personal views about tea party Republicans. Within days of the release of the video, Eric Cantor publicly embraced O’Keefe and expressed outrage at the dubiously-attained videotape. In his public remarks, Cantor announced the effort to de-fund NPR. Later, the House successfully voted to codify the work of a known fraud.

Should Eric Cantor really be taken seriously? No way. And it gets worse.

Yesterday, Cantor announced a piece of legislation that might as well legalize hobbit marriage and cut the budget for time-traveling DeLoreans. It’s just that fantastical.

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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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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.

*****

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.

MORE HERE

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down to the last trillion in red ink

By Paul Craig Roberts, VDARE.com, July 26, 2010

The White House is screaming like a stuck pig. WikiLeaks’ release of the Afghan War Documents “puts the lives of our soldiers and our coalition partners at risk.”

What nonsense. Obama’s war puts the lives of American soldiers at risk, and the craven puppet state behavior of “our partners” in serving as US mercenaries is what puts their troops at risk.

Keep in mind that it was someone in the US military that leaked the documents to WikiLeaks.  This means that there is a spark of rebellion within the Empire itself.

And rightly so.  The leaked documents show that the US has committed numerous war crimes and that the US government and military have lied through their teeth in order to cover up the failure of their policies. These are the revelations that Washington wants to keep secret.

Continues >>


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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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Crooks & Liars- By Heather Monday Jun 21, 2010 7:00am

Chickenhawk Cheney Mini-Me Liz and her buddy Bloody I’m-never-right-about-anything-Bill Kristol are asked about the jobs and stimulus package that was blocked in the Senate when Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson voted with the Republicans to kill it. Of course Cheney and Kristol use the opportunity to fear monger over the deficit and to repeat the lie that Americans’ primary concern is the size of the debt rather than the economy and jobs.

As Juan Williams correctly tried to point out, that is not what most Americans are concerned about. Digby has more on how these deficit fetishists in our print media and not just Fox are pushing the same meme.

Replaying the game of 2003:

Ben Somberg catches the Washington Post publishing lazy, nonfactual reporting. Again:

If Congress doesn’t provide additional stimulus spending, economists inside and outside the administration warn that the nation risks a prolonged period of high unemployment or, more frightening, a descent back into recession. But a competing threat — the exploding federal budget deficit — seems to be resonating more powerfully in Congress and among voters.

Somberg writes:

[I]s this notion supported by what the polling actually says? No. Not even close.

A Pew Research / National Journal poll from early June asked “Which of the following national economic issues worries you most?” Number one was “job situation” with 41%. “Federal budget deficit” got 23%.

An NBC / Wall Street Journal poll from early May asked “Please tell me which one of these items you think should be the top priority for the federal government.” Sure enough, “job creation and economic growth” won with 35%. “The deficit and government spending” got 20%.

A Fox News poll also in early May got even more dramatic results. “Economy and jobs” topped the priority list with 47%, while “deficit, spending” garnered only 15%.

A CBS / NYT poll in early April found 27% prioritizing “jobs”, 27% the “economy” and 5% prioritizing “budget deficit/national debt.”

The only recent poll that gives the slightest hint of support for the Post’s thesis is the USA Today / Gallup poll from late May (not even their newest). Participants were asked “How serious a threat to the future well-being of the United States do you consider each of the following.” For “federal government debt”, 40% said extremely serious, 39% very serious, and 15% somewhat serious. For “unemployment”, 33% said extremely serious, 50% said very serious, and 15% said somewhat serious. If you use only the “extremely serious” numbers, you get 7% more for the debt. Greg Marx at CJR makes the case that this poll, nevermind its headline, should not be read as some sort of overwhelming evidence of a shifted public view.

And in fact a newer Gallup poll, from a week ago, asking “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?” finds the economy and jobs on top. “Economy in general” gets 28%, “Unemployment/Jobs” gets 21%, and “Federal budget deficit” gets 7%.

I don’t know where this reporter got this information, but it is wrong and it requires a correction. The public is NOT more upset by the deficit than unemployment and to the extent they are upset about the deficit at all, it comes from the Big Lie that the deficit is responsible for the economic problems we face.

I have a fairly clear idea about why the powers that be are pushing this line, but why the press is doing it is another question. Just as they slanted their news and analysis in the run-up to the Iraq war, they are doing the same thing with respect to this deficit fetish. Read on…

There’s little doubt why anyone at Fox would be pushing this. They’re in the same camp with the Alan Simpson’s of the world that would rather destroy Social Security than see taxes raised on the rich. And of course good little war mongers like Cheney and Kristol would rather see our social safety nets destroyed rather than one penny being taken away from the military industrial complex.

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