Category Archives: economy

The downgrade

So Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA+ (with a negative outlook). Ouch. Yeah, it’s a bit of a joke. After all, these are the jokers who declared Lehman Brothers AAA a month before they went bankrupt. They rated junk mortgage securities AAA, leading directly to the financial mess we’re in now. And we can argue till the cows come home about whether S&P oughta be in the business of downgrading our credit rating because our political system is so dysfunctional.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they did. They looked at the recently completed debt ceiling debate and determined that although we haven’t defaulted, and probably won’t in the near future, our idiocy is so complete that creditors should think twice or more about extending further credit.

Now, that would probably suit the TeaPublicans just fine. They seem to relish the idea of the United States becoming a backwater country where the majority of its citizens have little to no access to decent health care or education. And why wouldn’t they? Stupid, sick citizens are much easier to bully into submission. And the handful of others who know better? Just throw ‘em in jail, shoot ‘em if you have to. That’s what they do in places like Zimbabwe, Syria, Yemen and Iran. Never let a little inconvenient truth bother you.

And all of this could have been avoided. We’ve had so many chances. After Reagan put us on this wretched road to ruin, Americans wised up after a term of George Bush Sr. and elected Bill Clinton, at the time branded The Most Liberal Man On The Planet although he was a Blue Dog at best. Never mind, though, he was certainly far better than another four years of GHWB, or, god forbid, one of the other whackos who could have been on the Republican ticket. You know, people like Pat Buchanan and David Duke.

The GOP Noise Machine went into high gear of course, lying and stretching the truth at every possible moment to paint Clinton as Evil Incarnate. It worked to some extent, but it didn’t wholly work because Bill possesses one of those thing the Republicans like in their candidates: He’s Affable. You wanna have a beer with him. So what if he had sex with that woman? I mean — and here’s where the Right Wing Crap Machine worked wonders — look at that bitch he’s married to.

But after two terms and a deficit surplus, the Noise Machine had also done a job on the man who should have been Clinton’s successor, the truly more liberal Al Gore. And Gore was hampered by a tendency to appear rather wooden, plus, it appears that an awful lot of Democrats/liberals/progressives at that time had not caught on to the Republican Bullshit Machine strategy: Lie at every opportunity, and make the other guy out to be in league with the worst things you can think of. And if all else fails, ridicule from the lowest common denominator.

Thus, George W. Bush. Of course, the conservatives needed a little boost from the Supreme Court, but honest to god, it never should have been close enough to go there. The Noise Machine works very, very well, indeed. See Kerry, John – Swiftboating.

After eight years of up is down, black is white and Alice doesn’t live here anymore, it’s a wonder any of us could even walk. But walk we could and unbelievably enough of us had seen through the LSD haze to actually not give the presidency to another Republican. But the Noise Machine had a hand in who did select too. See Clinton, Hillary – Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Again, we selected a very moderate, albeit black, Democrat who was again portrayed as The Most Liberal Man On The Planet despite no evidence to support that contention. But we, suckers that we are, thought we had a chance. My god, a black Democrat in the White House, majorities in the House and Senate — we’re saved!

Except we weren’t. The right started its anti-anything but them campaign with its most ugly component yet: Racism. Well, they actually tried that with Bill Clinton. Who do you think came up with “the nation’s first black president?” Problem of course, was that Clinton clearly isn’t black.

Barack Obama is, and racism is a ready-made weapon so easy to deny. “Tar baby!” “Oh, I’m sorry if anyone was offended. I didn’t mean that as a racist statement.” And, with our well trained stenography pool ready to bring every utterance to the national media, nobody but us crazies ever challenged the clear bullshit. So while the our so-called journalists bring on birthers to talk about whether or not Obama was born in the United States (doesn’t matter, idiots, his MOTHER was), nobody challenges the racism fueling charges that Obama is from Africa, that he’s Muslim, that he’s anything but a good ol’ boy. Seriously, do you honestly think that conversation would be going on if Obama’s father were named Olsen and he was born in Norway?

But the Machine had done well making sure a natural compromiser was elected president. That’s what community organizers do, yknow. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but when one side deviously plots to suppress the other side and uses good intentions to doom the process from the start, well, that’s another matter.

And then there was the Tea Party, rabidly taken up by my colleagues in the stenography as some kind of populist movement despite the clear evidence that it was and is funded by billionaires and political insiders. Follow the money, my friends. Follow the money.

And the politicians, never ones to take any kind of principled stand (with rare exceptions. See Sanders, Bernie – Socialist, Vermont), bent and twisted any which way the wind blew to make sure they stayed in office.  Then came 2010, and the intentionally ill-informed won big in those places where once more moderate conservatives might have flourished. And now, the stage was set.

A barely Democratic president, a Senate with a narrow Democratic majority, a House full of full-on crazies with little to no understanding of anything beyond Well, sheeit, I’m a US Congressman now! and a House constituency of the ignorant masses who don’t realize Medicare is a “socialist” program nor that their champions have every intention of destroying it.

Oh, and the completely out in the open No. 1 goal of the Republican party: Get rid of the black guy in the Oval Office in 2012 if not sooner.

So despite Standard & Poor’s culpability in the our economic morass, somebody there had the sense to realize that the United States was indeed on a slippery slope and it isn’t one to socialism. It’s sliding into what’s much closer to the corporate-run colonies of the British, Portugeuese, Dutch, Spanish and French empires. Seriously — they were all about profits and coopting some local group to give their corporate rulers some legitimacy. And the corporate rulers, of course, answered to the crown back home.

In America, though, we’re dispensing with the crown. The corporate rulers answer to no one.

And that’s very, very dangerous, something even Standard & Poor’s can’t ignore. The debt ceiling fight, then, was our last chance before someone outside started taking action. Obama must have known. That’s where the Grand Bargain came from. It was the only adult proposal made, one that in all likelihood would have satisfied S&P that we were seriously about fixing the economy. Of course, just lifting the fucking debt ceiling and focussing on a jobs plan probably would have worked too, but the TeaPublicans would have none of that and instead pushed for this showdown, a playground battle royale.

So Obama offered the Grand Bargain and the TeaPublicans, so enamored of their rich overlords that they cannot conceive of taxing them one penny more than they already are, poor over-taxed bastards, said no fucking way. And the pitiful “debate” that followed showed S&P, and every other sane person on the planet, that the lunatics indeed have taken over the U.S. government, and no one is safe.

The reasoning, which people who aren’t TeaPublicans actually note contains criticisms of both Republicans and Democrats, is far more damning to the GOP. Here’s the full report, go read it. You can be sure the TeaPublicans won’t. They were satisfied with the press release. But here’s the key passage. S&P says the recently completely debt ceiling deal is a step in the right direction, but is not sufficient to correct the slide. Previously assessments have given the United States the benefit of the doubt, S&P says, assuming that reason will overcome the pitchfork-bearing masses. No more:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

And there you have it. If those tax cuts don’t expire, S&P says, the credit rating will likely slip to AA. Killing those tax cuts off might — might — “stabilize” the rating at AA+.

So what’s it all mean? Basically, we’re screwed. And the Republicans and Democrats are to blame. The Republicans for all their lying and bullshit and the Democrats for showing their bellies every time the GOP or Fox News yells “Boo!” And that dysfunction, which is what S&P is talking about, isn’t likely to change, because our politicians are too addicted to being in Washington to see what’s really going on in the world around them.

Instead, they’ll take what S&P says and make further cuts into “entitlement” programs, along with things like education, public safety, environmental regulation, banking regulation — basically anything that a civilized society needs to thrive — keeping only enough to maintain the military dictatorship the Teahadists so desperately yearn for.  Austerity times 1000. This is how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, and we really do have weapons of mass destruction.

I don’t pretend to know why the rich want it this way (even less why the lied-to masses work so hard to make it happen), but I do know this is how they want it. Follow the money. At the end you’ll find people like the Koch Brothers whose only goal, for some unfathomable reason, is to get richer.

I also know it will get better. But not, apparently, before it gets a whole lot worse.

Still fighting the Civil War

Here’s something completely unexpected: A new poll says that a majority of Tea Parties and Republicans (aka TeaPublicans) admire the leaders of the Confederacy more that the leaders of the Union, and a majority of the same group does not believe that slavery prompted those same leader to secede in 1861.

Never mind that the secession documents of those state say plainly that their obsession with holding fellow human beings in perpetual slavery, controlling every part of their lives they could possibly control — and their fear that the federal government would outlaw the reason for their wealth — was the reason.

That, my friend, is what “states’ rights” is all about — the seeds of the dog whistle, code for the one of most despicable economic strategies in the history of mankind.

And doesn’t it just look like the TeaPublicans of today want to get right back as close as they can to that day? It’s behind their attacks on unions — “Wages are too high!” they say, voting against any attempt to raise the minimum wage.

And what of that minimum wage? It may be good for the high school student trying to make some extra bucks, but do TeaPublicans really think anyone can live on that wage? Say you get a job, and you’re paid $8.25 an hour — that a buck higher than the minimum. Know what that comes to per week? $330. Before taxes. Not including any health insurance, any savings, retirement.

No, my friends, the TeaPublicans would love to get back to paying slave wages — they’ll give you a ramshackle shed for you and all your extended family, whatever scraps of food they don’t eat themselves and beat the living shit out of you if you complain. Or take your wife and children and ship them off to some other overlord. Or both.

What better plan to enrich themselves. There’s hardly any labor cost at all.

But here’s the really bad news about that poll, released this morning by CNN. Barely a majority of all Americans believe that slavery was at the heart of the secession. I imagine that’s caused by a deteriorating education system (again, thanks to those TeaPublicans) and the loud mouths of the lying Right.

Another scary prospect: Independents are evenly split on that question. But here’s something funny: While a majority of TeaPublicans don’t understand that “states’ rights” = slavery, a plurality of Southerners do.

The good news: A majority of every group except Southerners (a plurality leads there) are Union-sympathizers. At least we have that going for us.

The Civil War is very real for me, both the one that started 150 years ago today and the one we’re fighting now. I grew up in a Southern state that was a divided as the rest of the union — in fact, my state initially voted not to secede, but after a little blackmail from slaveholders who blocked the way to the major trade route, its legislators reversed the vote. Legislators in the part of the state I’m from didn’t change their votes.

In the fields behind my childhood home is a line of bunkers built by soldiers trying to hold the line. Archaeologists have dug up bullets and buttons in those fields. An electrician wiring a 1785 house in the 1960s found full uniforms hidden in the walls. After the town librarian died and family friends bought his antebellum home, they found an unexploded  Civil War mortal shell in the attic. There’s an old, old rumor that two deserters were shot and buried in the fields my father owns. Another rumor says there was a tunnel escape route from the 1785 house into those fields.

Interestingly, today is the anniversary of another Civil War event — a group of Union African American soldiers surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, and the Confederates killed them all.

Today I fight the good fight with the rest of you, trying to undo the damage done by centuries of slavery and prevent a slide back toward those dark days. I find it ironic that the party positions were once reversed, the Republican Party the party of Lincoln and the Democrats the party of a Reconstruction that made things worse than they should have been.

Republican leaders like to claim Lincoln, but he’d be disgusted by their antics. Democrats made a shift too, to being champions of labor and the people, but now even they seem to have forgotten what made them strong.

Our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system makes a laughingstock of us, our health care system is a disgrace, the economy is in shambles, jobs are nonexistent, and the Right’s media saturation constantly bombards the country with lies. Meanwhile, in Congress, no one will do the right thing, or even consider what that might be, in the struggle to keep the lobbyists’ money flowing.

I’d love to be proud of my country, but I’m not. I’m embarrassed by it. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Congressional subterfuge

The Republicans let the 9/11 responders bill pass the Senate, meaning Obama only went down on two major items during this not so lame duck session of Congress.

One of those — the DREAM Act — was never gonna pass, and is never gonna pass until more people let go of their prehistoric fear of the other and learn a little something about compassion. That act was about immigrants, particularly the brown ones from across the Southern border, and brown immigrants are the new Gay.

But the other one is much more ominous — and could bring about the final unraveling of what’s left of our fragile democracy.

The Democrats tried to fund the government for another year only to be rebuffed by the Party of No, which sabotaged the bill with earmarks and then refused to vote for it because of — you guessed it — earmarks.

Now, it’s true that the Democrats put a few in there too — like some emergency funding to states to make up for funds the Republicans stripped from other bills. But the Republicans crammed much, much more into the bill — billions, in fact. And then, motherfuckers that they are, they scuttled the bill.

Think about that for a little while. The fuckers loaded the bill with bullshit and then they refused to pass it because of the bullshit. Why do you think that is?

Because they’re going after the biggest prize of all — a complete government takeover.

They’ve convinced the American People that they’ve seen the light and that we must cut government spending. They used the Democrats’ own spending bill to prove that the Dems are all about spending — spending they loaded into the bill. And now they’re promising to strip governmnt bare.

That means defunding health care reform, accepting an austerity plan put out by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — the cat food commission chairmen — and pumping even more billions into “defense” for weapons systems (and wars) nobody wants.

A little word about Simpson and Bowles and their plan, which calls for Social Security cuts and even more tax cuts for the rich and the like. See, here’s the thing. Simpson and Bowles pre-empted the actual commission’s report when they issued their own. They did so because the commission’s report wasn’t going to recommend Social Security cuts and tax cuts for the rich. And they couldn’t have that. So they put out their own report, which Republicans are now calling the commission’s report.

Lying fuckers.

So the big push is going to be to accept this austerity plan — which benefits only the rich and screws everybody else entirely. And the Republicans plan to hold us hostage to get it.

Come March, they plan to threaten a government shutdown if they don’t get their way, kinda how Newt Gingrich did the same thing back in 1995. It put Bill Clinton over the top and guarantees his re-election. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same will happen for Obama.

The GOP learned a valuable lesson back then — Don’t do something stupid until you’ve got the public completely snookered. Looks like they’re doing a great job so far.

Obama may have won a few Republicans over on some social issues. But on the big financial matters, the GOP and its lies, as usual, resonate with the uninformed and the fearful as well as they do with the just plain stupid. That means that in March, the nervous nellies in the Democratic Party will be under heavy pressure to go along with the Repubs, and that pretty much means all the Dems who aren’t already bought and paid for by Wall Street.

But they’ll be walking a mighty fine line. Know who really suffers if the government shuts down? Two guesses and one hint — it won’t be us.

But the only real way to stop that is to get the blinders off the eyes of the believers — the ones who listen to Faux News and the radio gasbags for all their news and wouldn’t know the truth from their own asshole. Good luck with that, especially since the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress seem to have no teeth in that fight.

And, there’s two fights that pretty much cover the same issue — this one, and the one to raise the debt ceiling so we can borrow enough money to keep the government running.

On the other hand, I gotta say that DADT repeal was masterful. Maybe the two most disappointing Democrats in Washington, Barack Obama and Harry Reid, can pull another rabbit or two outta the hat.

Of course, it won’t really matter much since the Republicans now own the House.

I’m guessing we may be going nowhere until 2012.

The clue bus is leaving the station

Republicans get it. They get what we’ve been saying for months now, what Dave Johnson has been preaching every time time he puts his fingers on the keyboard. It’s the jobs. The problem right now in this country is jobs — the lack of them.

Business is down everywhere because people can’t afford to spend money. They can’t afford to spend money because they don’t have jobs. They don’t have jobs because business is down.

Where in that circular firing squad can we make a change? Can we artificially boost business? Not really. Unemployment insurance isn’t there to help keep business afloat — it’s there to help the unemployed and their families, to keep them afloat, until they find jobs. It does put a little money back into the economy, but only a little. Unemployment insurance pays out a fraction of what a real job pays.

The only way to break that circle jerk is to insert more jobs into the mixture. Everybody knows that. So listen to the Republicans. They’re working to put America back to work. Everything they do is designed to create jobs. Everything the Democrats propose — that’s “job-killing.”

Democrats (mostly) want to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich expire on December 31, and pass an extension on the cuts for those making less than $250,000, because, apparently, you’re not rich unless you make that much. The Republicans say no (quelle surprise) because that would be “job killing.”

A federal judge Monday declared that it is unconstitutional to require Americans to buy health insurance from a private company. The easy answer to that is a public option, or better yet, universal health care. But the Republicans rejoice at the beginning of the end of the “job-killing” health care reform bill.

It’s all “job-killing” this and “job-killing” that. And Americans suck it in, absorb it into their DNA. That’s how the GOP, left for dead after 2008, came roaring back to life. They have an uncanny ability to see what it is that Americans want most and then make their same, tired, old message of enriching the rich and screwing everybody else sound exactly like what Americans want.

The Republican National Committee’s website at the moment opens to this lovely page called “The Gift of Christmas Future” with a big ole green button that says “give a gift” and stockings hung by the chimney with care. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Give to help — a family in need? No, my friends. Not the RNC.

This Christmas, preserve that blessing by giving them the same gift your parents and grandparents gave you: the gift of Christmas future. By making a contribution to the Republican National Committee, you’ll be providing the resources that we need to continue to protect the America you know and love. You’ll also be ensuring that your children and grandchildren will be able to give future generations the same Christmas you’ve given them.

Y’hafta hand it to ‘em. Republicans have got to be the party of consistency. They consistently lie. They’re consistently hypocritical. They consistently do whatever they can to further enrich the already unfathomably rich. They consistently do whatever they can to push the already unfathomably unrich further into the morass of debt and poverty. They consistently define anyone who doesn’t toe their party line as “un-American,” a traitor. Anti-American.

And they consistently stay on message. Just listen.

Democrats? Fucking cowards. We got the shit beat out of us in November! Quick, act like Republicans!

But y’know, the immediate political reality is that the deck is stacked against Democrats in general and progressives specifically. We can’t get our message out, first, because we’re lousy at delivering it, and second, because the Republicans have successfully defined us as dirty miscreant hippies, a title, by the way, I wear proudly.

But they treat us like children. Our ideas are not just considered and rejected — they’re not considered at all, because, in their eyes, they come from idealistic idiots. This has been going on for decades, and it doesn’t matter that it always ends up that we’re right, and when it does, they take credit it for. Remember when they tried to take credit for the civil rights act a few months ago? I daresay there are many in America who believe that already.

More of Richard Nixon’s tapes were released last week. They showed what a bigoted bastard he was. But Henry Kissinger said that it doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t detract from his “legacy.” His legacy? What legacy is that? That he brought China into our lives so Walmart could buy all its stuff from there and deprive Americans of needed jobs?

But I digress. The bottom line here is that we’re not going to get anywhere until we learn to speak the language of the American people. Or at least the people who will go out and vote every single time there’s an election. Unlike progressive voters who have a long history of making sure that more Republicans are put in office by consistently voting for unviable third party candidates or not voting at all.

And yeah, that really means we have to deal with the old folks, because the rich and the wannabe rich will never vote our way. We like to pretend the elderly have nothing valuable for us, but that’s the wrong attitude. They made it possible for us to be where we are, and now they’re scared. Republicans take advantage of that while we ignore them. But as long as we can’t count on our own “base,” we have to reach beyond that, to the elderly, to the religious, to all the people we regularly dismiss — like the Republicans dismiss us — because we think they’re wrong.

So? Convince them we’re right. Show the elderly that our ideas will take care of them far better than Republican ones. Show the religious that we don’t want to destroy their belief system — that they are welcome to worship (or not) as they please. Show Americans how much simpler and more comfortable their lives would be without giving away the family jewels to Republicans and their rich overlords who’ll let you keep your taxes just as long as you pay ‘em back out to some corporation that will pay its overseas workers pennies a day and keep the rest in its executives’ pockets.

We need to do this because for all the Republican shouting about how the Democrats are killing jobs and such, it’s really their own policies — started up by Saint Ronnie himself — that have killed the jobs. Tax cuts for rich haven’t created any jobs since Bush started that one up in 2001. Refusing to extend unemployment benefits hasn’t put anybody back to work. Voting against giving children health care didn’t create jobs. Denying funds to modernize our infrastructure hasn’t and never will create any jobs.

Republicans have them convinced otherwise, because they get it — it’s about the jobs — and they’re consistent. We get it too, but we’re anything but consistent.

Our “elected officials” in Washington think they’re doing what America wants. But they have no idea what America wants. All they know is what my colleagues in Washington tell them, and my colleagues are just as clueless as they are.

It’s time to hand out a few clues.

Rich bastards

Now that the president has finished giving the farm to rich bastards who already owned the damn thing anyway, he’s set to sit down Wednesday and talk with those same rich bastards about how he can convince them he really does love business.

Like giving them tax breaks they’re only going to use to play the markets isn’t enough.

Part of his meeting is supposed to be about speeding up job creation. Here’s a thought. We don’t give those assholes a tax break for nothing, but we will give them one for every job they create. A small one. The more jobs, the more the break.

That’s not likely to happen. I kinda doubt anything will happen that will actually create jobs. And I say that because there’s nothing — absolutely nothing — under discussion right now, or even in a file folder on the table, that will stimulate job creation.

Didja see that word there? “Stimulate.” That’s how you create jobs — you stimulate. You need stimulus.

We had a half-assed stimulus that created jobs, but then the Republicans and the Blue Dogs got all pissy and refused to continue funding programs that were actually working.

Because, you know, if something this president does actually works, it could mess with their grand plan to get him out of office in 2012. God forbid they think of the people of this country before their own sorry asses.

I’ve ignored the news all weekend. There was something about Bernie Madoff’s son committing suicide, and everybody blaming Bernie. Really? The old man’s in prison. Mark Madoff made his own choices. He got filthy rich working for the old man, but then the world found out what old Bernie was doing.

The junior Madoff was never charged with a crime, but he was under investigation. His wife started using her maiden name instead of Madoff. And poor Mark, who lived in the same building as Jon Bon Jovi, just  couldn’t take it any more. So he hanged himself with his labradoodle’s leash while his 2-year-old son slept in the next room.

Sounds like a selfish bastard to me. One who definitely won’t be meeting with President Obama on Wednesday. And one who sure as hell wasn’t even thinking of his own family, let alone the rest of the country, on Saturday when he offed himself.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont (who is, by the way, a real, live socialist, unlike the fake one in the White House), spent several hours on the Senate floor last week talking about both the selfish bastards and the rest of the country. It wasn’t a true filibuster — there was no vote before the Senate that he was stalling. He was just talking.

He said things like “The top 1% of Americans earned nearly a quarter of all earnings in 2007, and that was more than the lowest 50% of Americans combined.” This, apparently, surprised a number of people who clearly don’t read progressive news sources for their information. They called Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times’ long-standing fact checking project, and asked for the truth. Well, what he said. That’s what was true.

More people should know that. It should be something Obama brings up when he sits down with the rich bastards on Wednesday. It won’t be. And my colleagues won’t be repeating it either, just like they won’t tell you that executive to lowest staff ratios in big corporations have risen, since the “Reagan Revolution,” from 40 or so to 1 to nearly 500 to 1.

To hear the conserverati tell it, they deserve that because they worked for it, which actually means they lined the pockets of all the right politicos and stomped in the heads of anyone who thought differently than they do. Hard work, that, while the rest of us struggle to put food on our tables.

The rich bastards don’t give a shit though. I suspect Obama already knows that, and, further, I suspect he doesn’t care. Like everyone else who’s moved inside the Beltway, he’s lost touch with reality. And now he’s gonna meet with the only people who are even more out of touch with reality than the Beltway Bandits — and that’s the sons of bitches who live in penthouses and travel by private jet.

Like Mark Madoff, who, sadly, won’t be there. To be honest, he wouldn’t have been even if he hadn’t taken the coward’s way out over the weekend. He’s not actually the CEO of a big company who could, if he really wanted to, make a dent in this crummy economy George W. Bush and his cronies left us. He’s just a guy who knew how to game the system, a chip off the old block.

The guys coming to see the president, they’re different. They’re like kings and prime ministers who must be treated with utmost respect lest they become angry and petulant and do something harsh. Like take more jobs out of the country and stash more of their cash in offshore banks.

One thing they’re not interested in is creating more jobs. They just want us all beholden to them. They want to own us.

They already do.