Thursday Reads: The American Dream

The American Dream - post-war abundance

The American Dream – post-war abundance

Good Morning!!

What is the American Dream? Is it prosperity for everyone? Is it access to nature and a clean environment? Is it a good job, a house, a family? Is it a good education and the chance to be upwardly mobile? Is it a better future for your children and grandchildren? Is whatever it once was dead? Is it even worth talking about?

This morning there’s a Washington Post op-ed in which Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio describe their vision of “How to revive the American Dream.”

In this land of big dreams, there was never a dream bigger or more important than the one so deeply rooted in our values that it became known as the American Dream. Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life. America wasn’t perfect, but we invested in our kids and put in place policies to build a strong middle class.

We don’t do that anymore, and the result is clear: The rich get richer, while everyone else falls behind. The game is rigged, and the people who rigged it want it to stay that way. They claim that if we act to improve the economic well-being of hard-working Americans — whether by increasing the minimum wage, reining in lawbreakers on Wall Street or doing practically anything else — we will threaten economic growth.

They are wrong.

That thinking is backward. A growing body of research — including work done by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute — shows clearly that an increasing disparity between rich and poor, cronyism and an economic system that works only for those at the top are bad for the middle class and bad for our economy.

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Warren and de Blasio are correct that the dream went terribly wrong after Ronald Reagan became president.

When the economy works for everyone, consumers have money to spend at businesses, and when businesses have more customers, they build more factories, hire more workers and sell more products — and the economy grows. For decades, our economy was built around this core understanding. We made big investments in the things that would create opportunities for everyone: public schools and universities; roads and bridges and power grids; research that spurred new industries, technologies — and jobs — here in the United States. We supported strong unions that pushed for better wages and working conditions, seeing those unions improve lives both for their members and for workers everywhere.

And it worked. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as gross domestic product went up, wages increased more or less across the board. As the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. That was how the United States built a great middle class.

Then in the early 1980s, a new theory swept the country. Its disciples claimed that if government policies took care of the rich and powerful, wealth would trickle down for everyone else. Trickle-down believers cut taxes sharply for those at the top and pushed for “deregulation” that hobbled the cops on Wall Street and let the most powerful corporations far too often do as they pleased.

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All very true. But how do we return to fairness and prosperity for everyone, not just the wealthy few? Warren and de Blasio offer a familiar list of government policies that could turn things around–read them at the link–but they don’t explain how to accomplish these goals in the age of Citizens United, a Republican-controlled congress, and a Supreme Court that favors the rights of corporations over those of individuals. How do we get past the hopelessness and inertia and get Americans to get out and vote for candidates who will stand up for the bottom 99%? How do we even find those candidates?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m basically an optimist and I always have hope for change. But how do we get there from here?

I do think there are some positives signs.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to convince some folks that she’s really a separate person from her husband–a more liberal candidate than he was in the 1990s. In fact Bill Clinton might be more liberal now too. Despite what the Villagers preach, people can change and grow and develop new ideas an opinions. Imagine that Chris Cillizza!

American dream Tbird

One journalist who seems to be catching on is Charles Pierce. Here’s what he had to say yesterday: One Of These Is Not Like The Others: Two Clintons, No Waiting.

For all the noise about e-mails and honoraria, and all the passive-aggressive nostalgia for the Great Penis Chase of the 1990’s, something very interesting has been going on with Rodham Clinton’s campaign since she announced its official launch….

All during her husband’s administration, HRC was considered to be the more progressive of the two. She supported the accommodations he made to get re-elected, some of which were pretty damned ghastly. She also was one of the most vocal in defense of that administration against the organized ratfking that sought to destroy it. (The only mistake she made, as Calvin Trillin pointed out at the time was that she referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” rather than a creepy little cabal.) I once had a long conversation with a former Clinton lawyer. He told me that, if there were 1000 people in a room, and 999 thought Bill Clinton was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and one of them thought he was the spawn of Satan, Clinton would seek out that one person and spend the rest of the night and all the following day trying to change that person’s mind. That is not something anyone ever has said about Ms. Rodham Clinton. The edges of her triangulations are all sharp ones.

All of this is to point out that not only is the whole “two for the price of one” trope beloved of people whose politics came of age in the 1990’s outdated and inadequate, but so is the political strategy of the first Clinton Administration. Clinton herself seems to be acknowledging this political reality. She started talking on economics like Elizabeth Warren. Her speech on criminal justice reform was aimed at excesses many of which have roots in her husband’s law-and-order compromises in the mid-1990’s. (So, it should be noted, do many of the Patriot Act’s more controversial provisions.) For the moment, I choose to believe this is not merely a bow to political expedience, but something genuine and, if progressives are smart, infinitely exploitable.

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Most of them will never get it, but maybe, just maybe Hillary can get her message out to the people who count–voters–and get them fired up enough to go to the polls in November 2016.

I also think it’s a good sign that Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president. No, he has no chance in hell of getting the nomination, but he might be able to get the media to publicize some of his ideas. He could also be a foil for Hillary, giving her an opportunity to draw attention to her more innovative and liberal ideas. Some of the latest news about Bernie’s efforts:

Reuters: Why socialist Bernie Sanders may just shake up the 2016 presidential race, by Robert Borosage.

Sanders is a funhouse mirror image of Clinton. She has universal name recognition (by her first name), unlimited funds, national campaign experience and a powerhouse political operation. He has scant name recognition, paltry funds, no national campaign experience and hasn’t begun to build a campaign staff. With a net-worth ranking among the lowest in the Senate, Sanders can be an authentic populist — the real deal. As one supporter said, he is the candidate of the “12-hour filibuster and the $12 haircut.”

Sanders’s announcement was treated with respect by a press corps eager for any kind of race on the Democratic side. Pundits dismiss his chances in part because Clinton is expected to raise a billion dollars or more for her campaign. Sanders hopes to raise $50 million.

But Sanders is likely to do far more than exceed low expectations. His candidacy could have a dramatic effect in building an already growing populist movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.

As Sanders made clear in his announcement, his focus will be on the central challenges facing this country: an economy that does not work for the vast majority of its citizens and a politics corrupted by big money and entrenched interests.

Sanders refuses to take part in politicians’ usual, incessant pursuit of large donations. So he is a political rarity: Someone free to speak forcefully to the often insidious connection between the two.

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Will people pay attention? I think it’s possible. So does David Horsey of the LA Times: Bernie Sanders’ ‘socialism’ may have mainstream appeal.

Finally, conservatives have a real socialist to go crazy about. Instead of concocting dark fairytales about how Barack Obama, a very conventional liberal Democrat, is a secret Marxist who wants to destroy the American way of life, they can shriek about Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who has never shied away from the socialist label.

Sanders is now the first person to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton, though, is not his real adversary, Sanders says. He refuses to make disparaging comments about Clinton and insists he has never run an attack ad in any campaign and will not do so against her. Sanders wants to take on the billionaires, not Hillary.

Nobody gives the 73-year-old Sanders a chance of stopping the Clinton political juggernaut, but some think he could make it veer to the left. If the Vermonter gets traction in debates and primaries with his unabashedly progressive positions, Clinton might be forced to match at least some of his rhetoric. Would that be a bad thing for Democrats? Not if enough beleaguered middle class voters get a chance to consider what Sanders’ version of “socialism” entails and like what they see.

Go to the LA Times link to read Horsey’s list of Sanders’ ideas that could interest voters.

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Sam Stein at Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Raises $3 Million In Four Days.

With the help of a crew of former aides to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign has raised $3 million in four days for his presidential campaign — a dramatic indication that he won’t be confined simply to a long-shot role in the Democratic primary.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that he has retained the services of the firm Revolution Messaging to run digital ads and online fundraising. The staffers with the firm who will be working on Sanders’ campaign include Revolution Messaging’s founder, Scott Goodstein, who ran the 2008 Obama campaign’s social media and mobile programs; Arun Chaudhary, who was the first official White House videographer; Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director on Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Walker Hamilton, who was a lead programmer for that campaign.

“Like a lot of Obama supporters, we were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing — even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests. A candidate who could inspire a movement,” said Goodstein. “Bernie Sanders is that candidate.”

Due to his long-standing criticism of the influence of big-money interests on government, Sanders has strong online and grassroots appeal, which he hopes to leverage to raise the money needed to fund a presidential campaign. And so far, the strategy looks savvy. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43. According to a campaign adviser, 99.4 percent of the donations have been $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website BernieSanders.com.

Not bad.

What do you think? What does the American Dream represent for you?

As always, this is an open thread. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!


Monday Reads

Josep Balounek CoffeeGood Morning!

Well it’s my turn for a sinus infection I guess!  I’ve been trying to fight it with sleep and the usual but it just got the better of me yesterday.   Let me share a few quick links with you.

This one is a little out there but according to Michael Douglas, the HPV virus gave him his cancer.  He believes oral sex was the root cause.

The cause of Douglas’s cancer had long been assumed to be related to his tobacco habit, coupled with enthusiastic boozing. In 1992, he was hospitalised for an addiction which some at the time claimed to be sex. Douglas himself denied this and said he was in rehab for alcohol abuse. He has also spoken of recreational drug use.

HPV, the sexually transmitted virus best known as a cause of cervical and anal cancer and genital warts, is thought to be responsible for an increasing proportion of oral cancers.

Some suggest that changes in sexual behaviour – a rise in oral sex in particular – are responsible. Such changes might be cultural, but could also be linked to fears about the safety of penetrative sex in the wake of the Aids epidemic.

Mahesh Kumar, a consultant head and neck surgeon in London, confirmed that the last decade has seen a dramatic rise in this form of cancer, particularly among younger sufferers. Recent studies of 1,316 patients with oral cancer found that 57% of them were HPV-16 positive.

“It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the HPV type 16 is the causative agent in oropharyngeal cancer,” said Kumar, who also testified to increased recovery rates among this kind of cancer sufferer. This would help explain why Douglas was given an 80% chance of survival, despite the advanced stage of his illness.

But Kumar expressed scepticism that Douglas’s cancer was caused solely by HPV, and surprise at Douglas’s assertion that cunnilingus could also help cure the condition. “Maybe he thinks that more exposure to the virus will boost his immune system. But medically, that just doesn’t make sense.”

So, anyway, something to read more on if that’s the case.

A new Republican Woman politician has stepped into the role played by Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. It’s called let’s sell out women! Congresswoman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) opposes Pay Equity Laws saying that women ‘Don’t want the decisions made in Washington’. 

Blackburn’s comments came during a round table on Meet the Press. The panel was discussing women’s increasing roles as the primary breadwinners in American families, and women’s general rise in the corporate and political arenas. After she asserted that companies — and her own Republican Party — had to do a better job of incorporating females into the workplace, former White House adviser David Axelrod asked Blackburn whether paycheck fairness laws would bolster women’s chances of achieving success. She responded by saying that Washington should stay out of the matter:

AXELROD: How about pay equity laws to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace?

BLACKBURN: I think that more important than that is making certain that women are recognized by those companies. You know, I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job. And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein — that is what women want. They don’t want the decisions made in Washington. They want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions for themselves.

But as the panel pointed out immediately before the exchange, companies are already “recognizing” and hiring more and more women. Women are now the primary breadwinners for 40 percent of all American families — a four-fold increase from 50 years ago.

The problem is that many of those women aren’t placed on equal footing with their male counterparts once they’re hired. Contrary to Blackburn’s insinuation, paycheck and workplace equity legislation isn’t about affirmative action — it’s about making sure that employers don’t discriminate against their workers on the basis of gender. Women in full-time, year-round jobs only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same level of work.

After all, who wants civil rights and liberty?vintage_cafe_posters_D285

I’ve often thought that basic idea of ‘state’s rights’ and of the right wing’s extreme distrust in the government was hooked historically to maintaining the institution of slavery in the south.  Guess I am not the only one.

Over the last several decades, the Right also built an imposing vertically integrated media machine that meshes the written word in newspapers, magazines and books with the spoken (or shouted) word on TV and talk radio. This giant echo chamber, resonating with sophisticated propaganda including revisionist (or neo-Confederate) history, has convinced millions of poorly informed Americans that the framers of the Constitution hated a strong central government and were all for “states’ rights” – when nearly the opposite was true as Madison, Washington and Hamilton rejected the Articles of Confederation and drafted the Constitution to enhance federal power.

Further, the Right’s hijacking of Revolutionary War symbols, like yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, confuses the Tea Party rank-and-file by equating the founding era’s resistance against an overseas monarchy to today’s hatred of an elected U.S. government.

Amid this muck of muddled history, the biggest secret withheld from the American people is that today’s Right is actually promoting a set of anti-government positions that originally arose to justify and protect the South’s institution of slavery. The calls of “liberty” then covered the cries of suffering from human bondage, just as today’s shouts of outrage reflect resentment over the first African-American president.

Senator Bernie Saunders has written an excellent piece in the UK Guardian saying that we can not except the status quo as the “new normal.” The worsening gap income inequality and wealth should not be acceptable.

The front pages of American newspapers are filled with stories about how the US economy is recovering. There is some truth to that. Since President George W Bush left office in 2009, significant progress has been made in moving our economy out of the abyss of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But in the midst of this slow recovery, we must not accept a “new normal”.

We must not be content with an economic reality in which the middle class of this country continues to disappear, poverty is near an all-time high and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider and wider.

The good news is that instead of losing more than 700,000 jobs a month as we were five years ago, we’ve been gaining almost 200,000 jobs a month since January. The bad news is that, in addition to those job numbers being much too low, nearly 60% of the jobs gained since the “recovery” are low-wage jobs that pay less than $14 an hour, while most of the jobs lost during the recession were decent-paying middle-class jobs.

The good news is that the official unemployment rate has gone down from 10% in October of 2009 to 7.5% in April. The bad news is that 20 million Americans still are looking for work and the real unemployment rate – counting those who have given up looking for work and those working part time when they need full time jobs – is 13.9% The very bad news is that youth and minority unemployment is far higher than that and, with the decline in factory jobs, income for poorly educated men has shrunk by nearly two-thirds over the past four decades.

I know this is a little short, but I hope you’ll understand.  I just don’t to seem to have much energy.  So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: Unpredictable Weather, Rand Paul, and Other Odd News

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Good Morning!!

I got about a foot of snow dumped on me by the latest storm, when the prediction the day before had been for about 3-5 inches. Boy were the predictions wrong for this one! Last night the Boston Globe weather blogger tried to explain “Why was there so much more snow than predicted?”

Now that the big storm is over, I am looking at why this was such a poor forecast. The basic reason was a bit more cold air than expected, more moisture and it lasted longer. No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 AM this morning until mid-afternoon. Storms usually need to be at roughly 40 degrees latitude and 70 degrees west longitude to give us a major snow event. Meteorologists around here call this the benchmark. If a storm passes near the benchmark, and it’s cold enough, we are often in for a good snowstorm. This storm passed hundreds of miles further east than that typical spot for a major snowstorm. One of the reasons I was confident in not seeing this size snowstorm, was the predicted distance of the storm from our area. That prediction by the models turned out to be pretty good. Temperatures were also forecast to be about 4 degrees milder. As it turn out, it’s sort of a good thing it ended up being colder because heavy wet snow of these amounts would have been catastrophic to the power situation.

I see . . . well, not really. Anyway, the stuff is melting already which is a good thing, because I wasn’t able to shovel my driveway out completely yesterday. We’re supposed to get temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the next few days, so I guess that will rescue me.  Now what’s in the news today?

I see that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is really full of himself after his “talking filibuster” the other day.

He’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post bragging, “My filibuster was just the beginning.”

If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.

I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.

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I certainly agree that the president shouldn’t have the power to kill Americans without due process, but I’d be more impressed with Paul if he supported other constitutional rights like equal treatment under the law for minorities, women and LGBT people. I can’t take anyone seriously as a defender of the Constitution if he opposes civil rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.

According to Grace Wyler at Business Insider, Libertarians Believe Their Moment Has Finally Arrived. On the other hand, Chris Cillizza explains why Why the Rand Paul filibuster might not be such good news for the GOP.

Everyone seems to be calling Paul’s filibuster “historic,” and no one is even mentioning the (IMO) much more dramatic and impressive filibuster by Bernie Sanders just a couple of years ago.

Sequestration cuts, anyone?

While the Village media types focus on either fawning over or condemning Rand Paul’s performance, local journalists around the country are reporting on the damage being done by sequestration cuts.

The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?

It’s been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”

Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.

Check out the many examples of real pain for localities at the link. And besides, according to Buzzfeed, Nobody Liked The White House Tours That Much Anyway. They’re only rated 3.5 on Yelp. Read the negative reviews at the link.

Interesting book review at The Daily Beast

The Girls of the Manhattan Project.

They were the employees of the gigantic uranium-enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.—those who lived and toiled in this purpose-built secret city in the Appalachian Mountains, many of them young women, had only been told that their efforts would help bring home American soldiers. Then, when atomic power was deployed against an enemy nation for the first (and so far, last) time, Oak Ridge residents realized what they had been working toward, and why their every move had been monitored, their every utterance policed, and their every question stonewalled.

In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan recreates, with cinematic vividness and clarity, the surreal Orwell-meets-Margaret Atwood environment of Oak Ridge as experienced by the women who were there. They were secretaries, technicians, a nurse, a statistician, a leak pipe inspector, a chemist, and a janitor. “Site X” began construction in late 1942, and was also known as the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) and the Reservation. Staff members were recruited from all over the U.S., but particularly from nearby Southern states, and were offered higher than average wages, on-site housing and cafeterias, and free buses.

More importantly, they were offered the chance to join the 400,000 or so American women performing non-combatant roles in the armed services, as well as those keeping vital industries afloat and helping the men on the front lines. But whereas a female Air Force pilot or munitions factory worker understood precisely her contributions to the war effort, the women at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their workplace, a mystery heightened by the apparent lack of anything ever leaving the site. Provided with “just enough detail to do their job well, and not an infinitesimal scrap more,” workers at all levels were forbidden from taking the slightest interest in anyone else’s duties. “Stick to your knitting,” in the words of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, head of the Project.

That sounds like a fascinating book!

ABC News reports on a scary new virus–the coronaviris.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Health officials are warning of a new virus that has sickened at least 14 people worldwide, killing eight of them.

There are no known American cases of the coronavirus, known as hCoV-EMC, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is urging doctors with patients who have an unexplained respiratory illness after traveling to the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries to report the cases to the CDC.

Doctors should also report patients with known diseases who don’t respond to appropriate treatment, the agency said its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Close contacts of a symptomatic patient should also be evaluated.

The novel virus, which is associated with severe respiratory illness with renal failure, was first recognized last September and caused alarm because it is genetically and clinically similar to the SARS virus, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

Read more at the CDC website.

A new archaeological theory about Stonehenge

The Guardian: Stonehenge may have been burial site for Stone Age elite, say archaeologists.

Stonehenge with a new moon seen through standing stones

Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.

More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.

The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.

It had been thought that almost all the Stonehenge burials, many originally excavated almost a century ago, but discarded as unimportant, were of adult men. However, new techniques have revealed for the first time that they include almost equal numbers of men and women, and children including a newborn baby.

I’ll end with this “chart of the day” from Business Insider:

“The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever”

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I hope that’s enough to get you started on the day. Please share your recommended reads in the comments. I look forward to clicking on your links!

Have a great weekend!!


Jay Carney: “Technical” Social Security Cuts Still On The Table

Obama social security cuts

Jay Carney was sent out today to mouth Obama’s slimy weasel words at the daily press briefing:

Q [Johnathan Karl, ABC] What about reducing the annual cost of living increases for Social Security recipients?

MR. CARNEY: Again, as part of a big deal, part of a comprehensive package that reduces our deficit and achieves that $4-trillion goal that was set out by so many people in and outside of government a number of years ago, he would consider that the hard choice that includes the so-called chain CPI, in fact, he put that on the table in his proposal, but not in a cherry-picked or piecemeal way. That’s got to be part of a comprehensive package that asks that the burden be shared; that we don’t, as some in Congress want, ask seniors to bear the burden of further deficit reduction alone, or middle-class families who are struggling to send their kids to college, or parents of children who are disabled who rely on programs to help them get through….

Q But I just want to be clear what you said at the beginning of that answer, which is the President….as part of an overall balanced approach, he does not rule out effectively reducing benefits for Social Security recipients?

MR. CARNEY: He has put forward a technical change as part of a big deal — and it’s on the table — that he put forward to the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House, by the way, walked away from that deal even though it met the Republicans halfway on revenues and halfway on spending cuts and included some tough decisions by the President on entitlements. The Speaker walked away from that deal.

But as part of that deal, the technical change in the so-called CPI is possible in his own offer as part of a big deal.

Excuse me? Cutting Social Security benefits by means of the Chained CPI is NOT a “technical change.” Once again, Bernie Sanders explains what is really going on: Chained CPI: An economic, moral disaster.

How many candidates for Congress last year won on the following platform?

1. That Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are too generous. Social Security should be cut over the next two decades by more than $1,000 a year for 85-year-old widows living on $1,200 a month.

2. That benefits earned by disabled veterans as a result of losing their arms, legs or eyesight in Iraq and Afghanistan are too generous. Disabled veterans’ benefits should be cut over the next 15 years by more than $1,400 a year.

3. That working families and the middle class don’t pay enough in taxes. We need to enact an across-the-board tax increase that disproportionately hurts workers making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
Answer: None.

And yet all of these things will happen if Congress changes the way inflation is calculated by switching to a consumer price index (CPI) designed to lower cost-of-living adjustments….Wall Street billionaires and other supporters claim that changing the consumer price index is a “minor tweak.” Tell that to the millions of senior citizens trying to survive on just $14,000 a year whose Social Security benefits would be cut overall by $112 billion during the next decade.

Average 65-year-olds would get $650 a year less in benefits when they turn 75 and see a $1,000 a year cut when they turn 85.

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Earlier, in response to an earlier question by Jonathan Karl, Carney supposedly took raising the eligibility age for Medicare off the table.

But why should we believe him? Sure enough Beltway Bob interprets the weasel words for us. On raising the Medicare age:

the cutoff for Medicare eligibility age has been under consideration repeatedly, giving health-care experts more time to run the numbers and parse their results. Their conclusion, essentially, was that raising the Medicare eligibility age is counterproductive: It cuts the deficit but raises national health spending as it moves seniors to more expensive insurance options. Some in the White House are simply more skeptical of the policy than they were two years ago.

BUT…

The White House wants more revenues, and they want to get them through tax reform. But they’re not going to get $1 trillion in newer revenues. They’re hoping, at best, for another $600 billion or so. But that’s not enough for the administration to take the hit on the Medicare eligibility age. So they’re making their base happy and taking it off the table.

Does that mean it’s really off the table? Well, if Boehner went to the White House tomorrow and offered $1 trillion in new revenues, half of which would come via a carbon tax, in return for Medicare eligibility, I’m pretty certain the White House would hear him out. But the White House is pretty sure Boehner’s not going to offer that deal.

Digby has an update on possible “changes” to Medicare.

Here’s your Village in action. We have Ben White, POLITICO Chief Economic Correspondent, declaring on twitter that the White House offer to cut Social Security just isn’t going to get the job done:

If all WH has in return for another tax increase is superlative CPI I really don’t see any deal materializing.
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) February 11, 2013

Ok fine, he’s just being a typical jaded and “savvy” Politico reporter. Why, of course, anyone who’s anyone knows that simply destroying Social security won’t be enough.

But look at how the White House immediately responds:

@morningmoneyben Remember we have an offer on the table that includes CPI, but also inclues Medicare changes and spending cuts

— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) February 11, 2013
@morningmoneyben R’s have no offer on the table, no plan, and no longer agree with their previous position that tax refom can reduce deficit
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) February 11, 2013

See? We really do want to cut Social Security but that’s not all! We also want to “change” medicare and cut more spending. Really! We just dying to enact more austerity and we’re willing to do it as far as the eye can see! Those Republicans won’t even agree to tax reform, (which everyone knows means that we’re going to lower corporate rates.)

Ok, how about if we agree to slash funding for education and Veteran’s health care? Would you give us credit then? How about if we agree to ritualistically kill Big Bird on national TV? Then will you believe that we’re Grown-ups? CAN’T YOU SEE THAT WE ARE THE GROWN-UPS!!!! Why won’t you give us credit for being grown-ups ? We try so hard….

Read the rest of Digby’s post for her review of yesterday’s Sunday House of Pain with Dancin’ Dave.

Have I mentioned lately how much I fucking hate these fucking mealy-mouthed granny starvers? (h/t Mike Malloy) If we’re really lucky, and John Boehner is as stupid as he looks and sounds, Ben White’s prediction will be correct and there won’t be a “big deal.” Assuming Obama doesn’t get down on he knees and beg the Republicans to cut Social Security anyway, that is.


Saying goodbye to George McGovern…

ImageIt saddens me that the world doesn’t stop when an iconic advocate for the hungry, the poor, the least of these dies. Not the way it stops for a celebrity. There’s no wall-to-wall media coverage of the international/intergalactic outpouring for days on end. Just some obligatory press. So I had to put this post up even though I’m in the middle of a migraine and studying for the last of my midterms…I’m going to let President and Secretary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders do most of the talking. Oh, And Senator McGovern himself (see pic to the right).

Emphasis below in bold is mine. The statements belong to Sanders and the Clintons, respectively.

via Bernie Sanders’ senate website, Statement on the Passing of George McGovern:

October 21, 2012

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 21 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today issued the following statement on the death of former Sen. George McGovern:

“George McGovern was a champion for progressive values in America. As a bomber pilot in WW II, he saw the horrors of war and became a strong advocate for world peace.  As a U.S. senator, he grasped the tragedy of world hunger and fought to develop nutrition and agricultural programs to prevent starvation. At home, he advocated health care for all, defended working families and the poor and was in the vanguard of the movement for civil rights for women and minorities.

“He will be remembered as a man of conviction and clarity and character.”

Via Greta Van Susteren, Statement by President and Secretary Clinton on the Passing of George McGovern:

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend George McGovern.  The world has lost a tireless advocate for human rights and dignity.

We first met George while campaigning for him in 1972.  Our friendship endured for 40 years. As a war hero, distinguished professor, Congressman, Senator and Ambassador, George always worked to advance the common good and help others realize their potential.  Of all his passions, he was most committed to feeding the hungry, at home and around the world.  The programs he created helped feed millions of people, including food stamps in the 1960s and the international school feeding program in the 90’s, both of which he co-sponsored with Senator Bob Dole.

In 2000, Bill had the honor of awarding him the Medal of Freedom.  From his earliest days in Mitchell to his final days in Sioux Falls, he never stopped standing up and speaking out for the causes he believed in.  We must continue to draw inspiration from his example and build the world he fought for.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Everybody at Skydancing knows, I’m more drawn to our foremothers than our forefathers… but McGovern was one of the good ones.

I am reminded of this quote I saw recently from MLK (see pic to the right):

McGovern, like MLK, was one of our modern political forefathers who learned to walk the Earth as a brother amongst sisters and brothers.

RIP, George McGovern.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

The Republicans continue to tear each other apart as the 2012 elections get closer.  Karl Rove considers Herman Cain “not up to the job”.   Bachmann’s former NH staff have released a letter that puts the candidate in a bad light.

“Team members were repeatedly ignored regarding simple requests, sometimes going weeks with little or no contact with the national team,” they wrote.

The former New Hampshire staffers said they maintained a sense of loyalty to Bachmann as a candidate and were willing to continue helping her despite lingering uncertainty about payment of wages.

“Sadly, they were deceived, constantly left out of the loop regarding key decisions, and relegated to second-class citizens within a campaign in which they were the original members,” the group said.

The ex-staffers laid out a timeline very different from the one put forth by the Bachmann campaign, claiming that the New Hampshire campaign manager, Jeff Chidester, resigned in an email 10 days ago. When nobody reached out to the other staffers to address their concerns, they called it quits.

Meanwhile, Cain and Gingrich are going rogue by trying to have their own debate in Texas with Tea Party activists.

Presidential rivals Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) will participate in a “Lincoln-Douglas” influenced debate hosted by Tea Party activists in Texas next month, National Review is reporting.

The debate will focus on fiscal issues and the economy, and will be moderated by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

“We initially wanted a forum with all of the candidates,” Bill O’Sullivan, treasurer for the Texas Tea Party Patriots, told National Review. “But when we heard Gingrich say he wanted a more serious debate, like the Lincoln–Douglas debates, we wanted to do that, especially since watching the recent superficial debates has been frustrating.”

Rick Perry has introduced his tax plan which is a flat tax plan of 20%.  As expected, it will give a huge tax break to the wealthy and to corporations.  It also would eliminate inheritance  and capital gains taxes.  Perry seems to think that middle class tax payers will  be able to appreciate those things too!  What a moron!  Here’s some of the plan’s major points.

  • “The plan starts with giving Americans a choice between a new, flat tax rate of 20% or their current income tax rate. The new flat tax preserves mortgage interest, charitable and state and local tax exemptions for families earning less than $500,000 annually, and it increases the standard deduction to $12,500 for individuals and dependents.”
  • Elimination of the estate tax
  • Cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.
  • Temporarily lower corporate tax rate to 5.25 percent to encourage repatriation.
  • Transition to “territorial” tax system that only taxes in-country income.
  • Eliminates the tax on Social Security benefits
  • Eliminates the capital gains tax

I wanted to share the first of this Bloomberg series on bias and blindness by one of the father’s of behavioral finance Daniel Kahneman.  He explains some of the frames folks use that some times leads them to make bad decisions in the face of risk.  Optimism evidently leads to excessive risk taking.

The evidence suggests that an optimistic bias plays a role — sometimes the dominant role — whenever people or institutions voluntarily take on significant risks. More often than not, risk-takers underestimate the odds they face and, because they misread the risks, optimistic entrepreneurs often believe they are prudent, even when they are not. Their confidence sustains a positive mood that helps them obtain resources from others, raise the morale of their employees and enhance their prospects of prevailing. When action is needed, optimism, even of the mildly delusional variety, may be a good thing.

An optimistic temperament encourages persistence in the face of obstacles. But this persistence can be costly. A series of studies by Thomas Astebro shed light on what happens when optimists get bad news. (His data came from Canada’s Inventor’s Assistance Program — which provides inventors with objective assessments of the commercial prospects of their ideas. The forecasts of failure in this program are remarkably accurate.)

In Astebro’s studies, discouraging news led about half of the inventors to quit after receiving a grade that unequivocally predicted failure. However, 47 percent of them continued development efforts even after being told that their project was hopeless, and on average these individuals doubled their initial losses before giving up.

Many House Democrats don’t think the Obama plan to help homeowner’s with underwater mortgages goes far enough.

“It’s far too little, it’s just baby steps,” Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), a longtime critic of the administration’s housing policies, said in a phone interview. “They’re still not getting it.”

Cardoza, who announced last week he’ll retire at the end of 2012, noted that the housing collapse was a leading cause of the recession but among the last to be addressed.

“We need to excise the cancer that caused the illness before the patient can recover,” he said.

Rep. Lois Capps, another California Democrat critical of the administration’s foreclosure-prevention efforts, echoed that concern Monday, saying “much more is needed” to stabilize the struggling housing market.

“Today’s announcement is an encouraging step forward, but it is only one of a number of steps needed to fully address the growing foreclosure crisis,” Capps said in an email.

Here’s some common sense from Bernie Sanders speaking on the Ed Show and a few comments on the President’s program.  Senator Sanders also thinks the plan does not go far enough

So, that should get us started today. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Righteous Rants Open Thread

Dylan Ratigan goes nuts over government corruption

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David Goodfriend (on Dylan Ratigan Show) explains why cutting taxes doesn’t create jobs

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Bernie Sanders schools Obot Al Sharpton on the debt deal, plus Keith Ellison

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Heard any good rants lately?