McCain's Nuts, Feingold and Ryan Following

Sen. John McCain is like a man on the Titanic complaining to the bartender that there's not enough vodka in his drink as outside the iceberg approaches.

Reads a fundraising e-mail from McCain complaining about "pork" in a big spending bill (now blocked by Republicans threatening a filibuster in the U.S. Senate) as McCain seeks reelection in 2010:

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Weekly Audit: We Welcome Our New Plutocratic Overlords

Meet the new global elite. They’re pretty much the same as the old global elite, only richer and more smug.

Laura Flanders of GritTV interviews business reporter Chrystia Freeland about her cover story in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly on the new ruling class. She says that today’s ultra-rich are more likely to have earned their fortunes in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street than previous generations of plutocrats, who were more likely to have inherited money or established companies.

As a result, she argues, today’s global aristocracy believes itself to be the product of a meritocracy. The old sense of noblesse oblige among the ultra-rich is giving way to the attitude that if the ultra-rich could do it, everyone else should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ironically, Freeland points out that many of the new elite got rich from government bailouts of their failed banks. It’s unclear why this counts as earning one’s fortune, or what kind of meritocracy reserves its most lavish rewards for its most spectacular failures.

Class warfare on public sector pensions

In The Nation, Eric Alterman assails the Republican-controlled Congress’s decision to scrap the popular and effective Build America Bonds program as an act of little-noticed class warfare:

These bonds, which make up roughly 20 percent of all new debt sold by states and local governments because of a federal subsidy equivalent to some 35 percent of interest costs, ended on December 31, as Republicans proved unwilling even to consider renewing them. The death of the program could prove devastating to states’ future borrowing.

Alterman notes that the states could face up to $130 billion shortfall next year. States can’t deficit spend like the federal government, which made the Build America Bonds program a lifeline to the states.

According to Alterman, Republicans want the states to run out of money so that they will be unable to pay the pensions of public sector workers. He notes that Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) are also co-sponsoring a bill to force state and local governments to “recalculate” their pension obligations to public sector workers.

Divide and conquer

Kari Lydersen of Working In These Times explains how conservatives use misleading statistics to pit private sector workers against their brothers and sisters in the public sector. If the public believes that teachers, firefighters, meter readers and snowplow drivers are parasites, they’ll feel more comfortable yanking their pensions out from under them.

Hence the misleading statistic that public sector workers earn $11.90 more per hour than “comparable” private sector workers. However, when you take education and work experience into account, employees of state and local governments typically earn 11% to 12% less than private sector workers with comparable qualifications.

Public sector workers have better benefits plans, but only for as long as governments can afford to keep their contractual obligations.

Who’s screwing whom?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is calling for a sense of perspective on public sector wages and benefits. In AlterNet he argues that the people who are really making a killing in this economy are the ultra-rich, not school teachers and garbage collectors:

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

Signs of hope?

The economic future looks pretty bleak these days. Yes, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% in December, but the economy added only 103,000, a far cry from the 300,000 jobs economists say the economy really needs to add to pull the country out its economic doldrums.

Andy Kroll points out in Mother Jones that it will take 20 years to replace the jobs lost in this recession, if current trends continue.

Worse yet, what looks like job growth could actually be chronic unemployment in disguise. The unemployment rate is calculated based on the number of people who are actively looking for work. Kroll worries that the apparent drop in the unemployment rate could simply reflect more people giving up their job searches.

For an counterweight to the doom and gloom, check out Tim Fernholtz’s new piece in The American Prospect. He argues that the new unemployment numbers are among several hopeful signs for economic recovery in 2011. However, he stresses that his self-proclaimed rosy forecast is contingent upon avoiding several huge pitfalls, including drastic cuts in public spending.

With the GOP in Congress seemingly determined to starve the states for cash, the future might not be so rosy after all.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Audit: We Welcome Our New Plutocratic Overlords

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Meet the new global elite. They’re pretty much the same as the old global elite, only richer and more smug.

Laura Flanders of GritTV interviews business reporter Chrystia Freeland about her cover story in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly on the new ruling class. She says that today’s ultra-rich are more likely to have earned their fortunes in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street than previous generations of plutocrats, who were more likely to have inherited money or established companies.

As a result, she argues, today’s global aristocracy believes itself to be the product of a meritocracy. The old sense of noblesse oblige among the ultra-rich is giving way to the attitude that if the ultra-rich could do it, everyone else should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ironically, Freeland points out that many of the new elite got rich from government bailouts of their failed banks. It’s unclear why this counts as earning one’s fortune, or what kind of meritocracy reserves its most lavish rewards for its most spectacular failures.

Class warfare on public sector pensions

In The Nation, Eric Alterman assails the Republican-controlled Congress’s decision to scrap the popular and effective Build America Bonds program as an act of little-noticed class warfare:

These bonds, which make up roughly 20 percent of all new debt sold by states and local governments because of a federal subsidy equivalent to some 35 percent of interest costs, ended on December 31, as Republicans proved unwilling even to consider renewing them. The death of the program could prove devastating to states’ future borrowing.

Alterman notes that the states could face up to $130 billion shortfall next year. States can’t deficit spend like the federal government, which made the Build America Bonds program a lifeline to the states.

According to Alterman, Republicans want the states to run out of money so that they will be unable to pay the pensions of public sector workers. He notes that Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) are also co-sponsoring a bill to force state and local governments to “recalculate” their pension obligations to public sector workers.

Divide and conquer

Kari Lydersen of Working In These Times explains how conservatives use misleading statistics to pit private sector workers against their brothers and sisters in the public sector. If the public believes that teachers, firefighters, meter readers and snowplow drivers are parasites, they’ll feel more comfortable yanking their pensions out from under them.

Hence the misleading statistic that public sector workers earn $11.90 more per hour than “comparable” private sector workers. However, when you take education and work experience into account, employees of state and local governments typically earn 11% to 12% less than private sector workers with comparable qualifications.

Public sector workers have better benefits plans, but only for as long as governments can afford to keep their contractual obligations.

Who’s screwing whom?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is calling for a sense of perspective on public sector wages and benefits. In AlterNet he argues that the people who are really making a killing in this economy are the ultra-rich, not school teachers and garbage collectors:

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

Signs of hope?

The economic future looks pretty bleak these days. Yes, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% in December, but the economy added only 103,000, a far cry from the 300,000 jobs economists say the economy really needs to add to pull the country out its economic doldrums.

Andy Kroll points out in Mother Jones that it will take 20 years to replace the jobs lost in this recession, if current trends continue.

Worse yet, what looks like job growth could actually be chronic unemployment in disguise. The unemployment rate is calculated based on the number of people who are actively looking for work. Kroll worries that the apparent drop in the unemployment rate could simply reflect more people giving up their job searches.

For an counterweight to the doom and gloom, check out Tim Fernholtz’s new piece in The American Prospect. He argues that the new unemployment numbers are among several hopeful signs for economic recovery in 2011. However, he stresses that his self-proclaimed rosy forecast is contingent upon avoiding several huge pitfalls, including drastic cuts in public spending.

With the GOP in Congress seemingly determined to starve the states for cash, the future might not be so rosy after all.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Assessing Republican Seriousness on the National Debt

Recently Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin made the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Mr. Ryan’s speech focused heavily on the national debt, which he declared as a one of his “greatest concerns as a parent.” The representative used the example of his three children to emphasize the grave importance of the issue, which was the main theme of his speech.

Mr. Ryan’s call to reduce the national debt, while necessary and useful, was also somewhat lacking in specifics – because many of the specific actions required to reduce the debt either are unpopular, or go against the priorities of the Republican Party.

Take, for instance, the extension of the Bush tax cuts. A true deficit hawk would be horrified at extending these tax cuts; doing so adds an estimated 4 trillion dollars to the debt over the next decade. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s former budget director stated that, “If we actually ended the Bush-era tax cuts, that would pretty much do it [balance the budget],”

Despite Mr. Ryan’s purported concern over the national debt, he and almost the entire Republican Party supported extending these tax cuts.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this; most Americans, the president himself, and this blogger were with Mr. Ryan on extending the Bush tax cuts. There are legitimate reasons to do so. One may believe in the value of tax cuts, or in the value of stimulating the economy.

But to support adding 4 trillion dollars to the debt over the next decade, and then to make a speech calling the national debt the greatest threat to the country’s future, is a tad hypocritical.

There is another way to test Republican seriousness on the national debt.

Many Republicans like to call for cutting spending and reducing the size of government as a way to reduce the national debt.

This is quite reasonable. In fact, let’s talk about the most wasteful part of America’s government. Today the United States lavishes hundreds of billions of dollars on this bloated organization – an organization which is very often ineffective at doing what it is supposed to do, yet constantly screams for more money and is given that money by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

I am talking, of course, about the military.

America spends six times more on the military than any other nation on Earth. Of the top ten military budgets in the world, the U.S. and its allies (France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and Italy) compose 79.8% of the money spent on the military.

There is quite a bit of waste in this spending, too. Take the infamous F-22, a $65 billion program which was finally ended in 2009. The F-22 was originally envisioned to fight high-level Soviet planes two decades ago. Each plane cost approximately $44,000 to fly for one hour. Despite spending $65 billion on the F-22, the plane was never been used once in combat – not a single time.

This is the very definition of wasteful government spending that Republicans like to complain about.

If one is serious about reducing the debt, a great way to start is by cutting military spending. Military spending, for instance, is ten times what the federal government spends on education every year.

Unsurprisingly, however, Republicans have no plans anytime soon to reduce military spending.

If one adds just these two items together – extending the Bush tax cuts, and refusing to cut military spending – one gets ten trillion dollars over ten years, which the Republicans have declared off-limits in their attempt to reduce the debt. That’s a lot of money that can be saved, but which Republicans refuse to due to their ideological priorities.

In Mr. Ryan’s rebuttal to the president, he said the following words:

Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis.

We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.

And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do.

So much for that.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Video Asks GOP: "Ayn Rand or Jesus?"

Ayn Rand has been actively cited in recent months as an inspiration for many leading conservatives with politicians such as Sen. Ron Johnson proudly endorsing Atlas Shrugged as his “foundational book.” Most famously, perhaps, Rep. Paul Ryan, author of the GOP Budget, extolled Rand, proclaiming that she “more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism.” It is surprising, however, that Rand’s vehement opposition to conservative values (e.g. she was ardently pro-choice) and Judeo-Christian morality has not even been addressed by the media or religious leaders across America.

The American Values Network (AVN) recently released a video debunking the innocuousness of Rand’s philosophy (Objectivism). It drives home the point that one cannot be a Christian and be partial to Rand. For one, Rand was not merely advocating specific political actions, but rewiring the human conscience so that pure and unrepentant selfishness that leaves no room for altruism is foundational to human existence. In an interview with Mike Wallace, she went so far as to assert that altruism is “evil.” No helping the poor, the sick, the voiceless. It is all about the holy trinity of me, myself, and moi.

 

Rand’s philosophy goes well beyond simply rejecting faith (which many do) to directly challenging the morality taught by Scripture of loving ones neighbor and promoting the common good. Rand made the choice clear, you can follow her or Jesus, not both. For years Republicans have been cloaking their policies in the mantle of faith and values. But the priorities laid out in the GOP budget – ending Medicare as we know it, attacks on the middle and working class, gutting programs for the most vulnerable – reflect Rand’s philosophy, not Jesus’. This inherent contradiction needs to be forced to a head because it could drive a massive wedge within the ranks of the right. The GOP must be forced to explain to its Christian base whose values it really stands for. They must be forced to choose Ayn Rand or Jesus. Because at its heart this debate is about our values.

AVN’s video begs us to ask ourselves what we envision America to be. Do we want a self-obsessed America who leaves the disadvantaged by the wayside, who passes by the downtrodden on the other side of the road? Or do we want an America who, as John F. Kennedy has declared “… shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty?” Indeed, AVN’s video makes clear that these two visions of America are entirely incompatible with each other.

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