I spent Mother’s Day napping on dad’s sofa mostly. I am such an exciting person!! I have no idea why I am so cold and so worn out but it is what it is.
Meanwhile, all hell broke loose in New Orleans. The gun violence that hit a Mother’s Day parade there was pretty much the kind of urban violence we see all too often with such easy access to guns. I wish I could say that gun violence was rare in the 7th ward. But it is not. Here’s a word from my congressman Cedric Richmond:
According to FBI data, 1,464 people were killed by firearms in New Orleans between 2008-2011. That’s 1,464 families who will never see their loved ones again. If we were to have passed the entirety of President Obama’s proposed reforms, sadly, many of those victims would probably have still been killed because violence is a pervasive and complex problem with a diverse set of causes. Economic insecurity, poor mental health treatment options, inferior education options and the scarcity of positive opportunities are all contributors, which one regulation alone cannot eliminate. That being said, if we only acted on just a few of the president’s proposals, we could decrease the supply of guns used in the homicides by reducing the supply of illegally purchased guns via universal background checks. This would decrease the use of guns in violent crime and keep a few more families from having to bury a loved one.
While I was serving as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, I introduced an assault weapons ban bill on numerous occasions. I took on the National Rifle Association in these battles not because I have a grudge against gun owners, but because I could find no reasonable defense of having these weapons of mass destruction on our streets. As a resident of Sportsman’s Paradise, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. However, I do not ascribe to the belief that Congress has no role in responding to the gun violence epidemic plaguing communities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.
A Mother’s Day second-line shooting on Frenchmen Street in the 7th Ward, on Sunday about 1:45 p.m., left 19 people injured, according to the latest NOPD numbers. Earlier Sunday afternoon, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that about 12 people had been injured, but the toll later grew to 19, with the NOPD explaining that some victims initially hadn’t reported being injured and more people continue to come forward.
Police said 10 adult men, seven adult women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were struck by bullets. Both of the 10-year-old victims had graze wounds to the body and were in good condition. A man and a woman were reported to be in surgery Sunday evening.
The shooting occurred in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street at the intersection of North Villere Street. Immediately after the shooting police reported seeing three suspects running from the scene. One suspect was seen running on Frenchman toward North Claiborne, police said.
NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said many of the victims were grazed, some by bullets that ricocheted. “At this point, there are no fatalities, and most of the wounds are not life-threatening,” she said in an email.
“But all medical conditions are not known at this time as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals,” Braden continued. “Detectives are conducting interviews, retrieving any surveillance video in the area and, of course, collecting all evidence. This is an extremely unusual occurrence, and we’re confident that we will make swift arrests.”
Kevin Allman, editor of Gambit Weekly, said one of the publication’s writers, Deborah Cotton, also known as the blogger Big Red Cotton, was shot and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
Shannon Roberts, 32, was in the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon and early evening alongside reams of other crying and fear-ridden – and at times, angry - family members whose loved ones were injured in the shooting. Roberts said she was waiting on a 21-year-old nephew who was shot in the arm and stomach, a 37-year-old niece shot in the arm, and a 39-year-old cousin shot in the back.
“All innocent bystanders got hit,” Roberts said. “When I got the call saying they were shot, I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just shivering and crying… just hoping they be all right.
Hatred evidently has a basis in geography in this country. This is an interesting twist on studying information from Twitters, locations, and displays of racism, homophobia, and basic hate speech.
Twitter, even more than many other social media tools, can feel disconnected from the real world. But a group of students and professors at research site Floating Sheep have built a comprehensive map of some of Twitter’s most distasteful content: the racist, homophobic, or ableist slurs that can proliferate online. Called Geography of Hate, the interactive map charts ten relatively common slurs across the continental US, either by general category or individually. Looking at the whole country, you’ll often see a mass of red or what the map’s creators call a “blue smog of hate.” Zooming in, however, patches appear over individual regions or cities; some may be predictable, while others are not.
The map builds on an earlier Floating Sheep project that showed where President Obama was referenced with racial slurs, but it’s far more comprehensive and well-constructed. Unlike many other studies, for example, the tweets weren’t collected and analyzed algorithmically — a method that could accidentally collect non-derogatory uses of these terms. Instead, the team first searched through a year’s worth of geotagged tweets for words, then had a group of students at Humboldt State University look at each one. Only tweets they found explicitly negative went on the map: a derogatory use of the word “dyke” would be added, for example, but one reclaiming the term for a gay pride parade would not. In total, the map charts about 150,000 negative, slur-filled tweets.
Here is some “Terrible News About Carbon and Climate Change”.
This past Thursday, the daily average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, as measured by the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, passed four hundred parts per million. In some way it was a meaningless milestone. We know that CO2 is increasing; we knew this moment would come; we know that four hundred is no more different from three hundred and ninety-nine than it is from four hundred and one.
Still, the number should shake us, if not shock us. We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. Three-fifty was the old target; four-fifty is the new one. But what indication is there that we’ll stop at five hundred, six hundred, or even more?
We’ve failed collectively. As Ryan Lizza explained in miserable detail in 2010, the United States government couldn’t pass a tepid, eviscerated law. Activists have failed. We’ve all failed morally: a problem created by the world’s rich will now crush the world’s poor. In a grand sense it’s also a failure of the creators, and deniers, of climate change: the Exxon-Mobils, say, or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. A victory isn’t worth much if your children and grandchildren will one day think of you with anger and shame.
How do we get out of this mess? The political system seems hopeless. Yes, government regulation has done much to relieve us of acid rain and smog. But global warming combines two intractable problems. Reducing emissions mainly benefits people who aren’t born and don’t vote. And it requires international coördination, which is hopeless, and international law, which is toothless. We should do things like build more public transportation, which helps people here and now. We should design our cities for a future with terrible weather. But solving the problem of climate change through the U.N. is like a small man with olive oil on his hands trying to pull a whale from the water.
I’ve become somewhat fascinated with charter schools given their presence in New Orleans and their supposed success. Who makes money from these things and why is that important? It has a lot to do with Real Estate Developers and Hedge Fund Managers. This is worth reading.
Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. So one must wonder, what exactly is motivating these school “reformers”? And why have they pushed for more and more closure — and new charter schools — at such an unprecedented rate in recent years?
Pro-charter supporters will tell you that it’s time for public institutions like our schools to start competing more like for-profit institutions. Test scores and high enrollment, then, define success. Unsuccessful schools, they say, should close just as unsuccessful businesses do. For neoliberal school reformers from today’s Arne Duncan-led Department of Education to scandal-ridden movement leader Michelle Rhee to billionaire Bill Gates, it is taken on faith that market principles are desirable in education.
But since it’s not clear that market principles are benefiting students on a large scale, it seems likely that something else is at stake. And reformers may be more than a little disingenuous in publicly ignoring that other, less high-minded thing: Profit. Critics of charter schools and school closings point out that proponents may not really be motivated by idealism, but by self-gain.
But who precisely is profiting? And how? Untangling answers to these questions is a more daunting task. Compared to public schools, charters schools are an extremely unregulated business. They contract with private companies to provide all kinds of services, from curriculum development to landscaping. Most of the regulations that bind charter schools are implemented at the state level. And unlike public institutions, the finances of charter schools are managed on a school-by-school basis. Because they are not consistently held accountable to the public for how they distribute funds, charter schools are often able to keep their business practices under wraps, and thus avoid too much scrutiny.
Here’s economist Joseph Stiglitz warning us about the crushing student debt in the U.S.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default rates exceeded 13 percent.
America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities. Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.
Compare this more-than-doubling in tuition with the stagnation in median family income, which is now about $50,000, compared to $46,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation).
Like much else, the problem of student debt worsened during the Great Recession: tuition costs at public universities increased by 27 percent in the past five years — partly because of cutbacks — while median income shrank. In California, inflation-adjusted tuition more than doubled in public two-year community colleges (which for poorer Americans are often the key to upward mobility), and by more than 70 percent in four-year public schools, from 2007-8 to 2012-13.
With costs soaring, incomes stagnating and little help from government, it was not surprising that total student debt, around $1 trillion, surpassed total credit-card debt last year. Responsible Americans have learned how to curb their credit-card debt — many have forsaken them for debit cards, or educated themselves about usurious interest rates, fees and penalties charged by card issuers — but the challenge of controlling student debt is even more unsettling.
Curbing student debt is tantamount to curbing social and economic opportunity. College graduates earn $12,000 more per year than those without college degrees; the gap has almost tripled just since 1980. Our economy is increasingly reliant on knowledge-related industries. No matter what happens with currency wars and trade balances, the United States is not going to return to making textiles. Unemployment rates among college graduates are much lower than among those with only a high school diploma.
Who is the one person in the beltway looking for answers? Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is looking at handing the loans over the Fed. The problem is that no one seems to be taking the bill seriously.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has just introduced a new bill, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, to offer student loans at the same rates that the Federal Reserve charges big banks through its discount window lending program. At the moment, that rate is about 0.75%. The rates on federally guaranteed student loans, meanwhile, is set to double to 6.8% this summer.
“Some may say we can’t afford this proposal,” said Senator Warren as she introduced the bill. “I would remind them that the Federal Government currently makes 36 cents in profit for every dollar it lends to students . . . meanwhile, the banks pay interest that is one-ninth of the amount that students will be asked to pay. That’s just wrong. It doesn’t reflect our values.”
“Now some explain that the banks get exceptionally low interest rates because the economy is still shaky and banks need access to cheap credit to continue the recovery.” She sighed loudly. “But our students are just as important to the economic recovery as our banks, and the debt they carry poses a serious risk to that recovery.”
It’s probably true that some say banks need low interest rates to keep the economy growing. But no one except possibly a lunatic has told Elizabeth Warren that banks are getting 0.75% at the discount window as a thank you for all the hard work they’re doing helping the economy. Discount window loans are cheap for three reasons: the borrowers have assets and income that are easy to seize, the loans are quite short term, and the banks are required to put up collateral.
As you’ll have discovered with your own mortgage or car loan, the shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate. You will also have discovered that loans secured by collateral, like your car loan or mortgage, carry lower interest rates than loans such as credit card expenditures, which are secured by nothing more than your heartfelt promises to pay. You may even have noticed that the more durable the collateral, the more attractive a rate your banker will extend on it.
So it is with loans to other people, and businesses. Banks get a very low rate because they’re borrowing for very short periods of time–often overnight, always less than a year. The Fed correctly figures that the bank is unlikely to go out of business by next month–and anyway, they’re putting up collateral, which is unlikely to lose all its value in such a short period of time.
Students, on the other hand, are borrowing for a decade, and the only thing they’re putting up as a guarantee is their character. How good a collateral is their character? In 2011, 9.1% of borrowers had defaulted on their student loan within the first two years of the payment period.
The interest paid by the folks who don’t default is the only thing keeping this program from hemorrhaging money. Elizabeth Warren proposes to cut that interest rate to less than the rate of inflation.
So, those are my suggestions this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’ve felt discombobulated all week. I’m hoping this phase passes since it is spring and things are supposed to spring alive right now. Right now, however, does not seem to apply to me. It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve felt like the stereotype of the absent-minded professor fits me like a snug glove. I get distracted easily and hours pass before I realize I’ve done nothing for the day. It fits so do not acquit. Maybe I’ll just lie around in bed this weekend a little bit more and think these kinds of thoughts.
For some time, I’ve been writing how worried I am about the systemic risk involved with all these huge banks that have a near monopoly on credit card and house loans. They also hold the deposits of some our of largest industrial and service corporations that actually provide things people use and need in their daily lives. It’s the same situation in Europe and the UK where the needs of banks–based on their own faulty lending and investing strategies–have passed on tremendous costs to countries, their treasuries and their peoples. I was glad to read that Ben Bernanke made a clear atement yesterday that he was in agreement with Senator Elizabeth Warren on the entire problem of banks considered “too big to fail”. I’d also like to add that it’s refreshing to see a senator on a committee that actually knows what they’re doing for a change.
During that conversation, Bernanke seemed to imply that the problem had been solved, suggesting that the Dodd-Frank financial-reform act had given policy makers the tools to wind down a giant bank without hurting the economy — although his conviction faded as the argument went on. On Wednesday, he wanted it to be known that fully sided with Warren.
“I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem,” he said.
He also sided with Warren against those banks and others who suggest that having gigantic banks is not really a problem at all.
“Too Big To Fail was a major source of the crisis,” he added a little later, “and we will not have successfully responded to the crisis if we do not address that successfully.”
He talked about some of the tools policy makers could use to address the problem, including Dodd-Frank rules forcing the biggest banks to hold more capital or pay regulators a little more than smaller banks.
“If we don’t achieve the goal” of solving too big to fail with these measures, Bernanke said, “we will have to take additional steps. It is important.”
You only need to look at the entire senate hearing on JPM’s “Whale” situation to understand how these big bank purport themselves. This analysis is from NYT’s Simon Johnson.
At its heart, the Levin-McCain report reveals executives with a profound misunderstanding of risk in the world’s largest bank (I use the calculations of comparative bank size offered by Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). Even worse, the report shows us in some detail that banks – even after Dodd-Frank – can and do readily manipulate complicated measures of risk in order to make their positions look safer than they really are.
As Jeremy Stein, a Fed governor, pointed out recently, there are strong incentives to do this repeatedly in banking organizations (read the opening few paragraphs of his speech carefully).
The banking regulators – in this case, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – are clearly unable to keep up with this form of “financial innovation” (which is really just clever ways to misreport risk).
Did JPMorgan Chase’s top management do this intentionally? Did they mislead investors, particularly in the fateful conference call on April 13, 2012? This is a fascinating question on which the courts will no doubt rule. (You should also review this report by Josh Rosner of Graham Fisher, with the link kindly provided by Better Markets.)
Jamie Dimon will survive because JPMorgan Chase remains profitable. But it is profitable precisely because it receives implicit subsidies from being too big to fail. JPMorgan Chase disputes the precise scale of these subsidies – as I discussed here last week. Let’s just call them humongous.
This is not about individuals, this is about policy. And Richard Fisher has exactly the right approach:
At the Dallas Fed, we believe that whatever the precise subsidy number is, it exists, it is significant, and it allows the biggest banking organizations, along with their many nonbank subsidiaries (investment firms, securities lenders, finance companies), to grow larger and riskier.
This is patently unfair. It makes for an uneven playing field, tilted to the advantage of Wall Street against Main Street, placing the financial system and the economy in constant jeopardy.
It also undermines citizens’ faith in the rule of law and representative democracy.
You can see that regulators at all levels realize they have a problem. I should probably mention here that Fed Branches and the Board of Governors of the Fed are very independent of one another and each have distinct characters. We have two layers of Fed bureaucracy championing reform. Unfortunately, they can’t do much with out laws passed by Congress and signed by the President who are captured at every turn by the FIRE lobby.
Bernanke also compared himself to Volcker, when talking about the US banking system, which the Fed regulates. Volcker once said, famously, that the only great financial innovation of recent decades was the invention of the automated teller machine. Bernanke smiled as he quoted Volcker’s bellicose quip and said he wouldn’t go that far – but he was surprisingly frank in talking about the failures of the financial system and regulation.
“['Too big to fail'] is not solved and gone. It’s still here,” he said, emphasizing the point. He also threw in his lot with Elizabeth Warren, who often opposed Tim Geithner and others in her insistence that banks are of a dangerous size:
“I agree with [Warren] 100% that ['too big to fail'] is a real problem … We will not have successfully responded to the crisis if we do not address ['too big to fail'] successfully.”
That view is consistent with what Bernanke said as far back as 2009. But the subject of “too big the fail” has been a nonstarter for at least a year, since Occupy Wall Street protests receded.
Bernanke also took an activist view of sorts by plumping for a return to regulatory reform and advocating that banks need to pay higher surcharges to help the country bail them out if things go wrong. Then Bernanke criticized banks again, implicitly, by saying that they had restricted lending too much, making it hard for ordinary Americans to get a mortgage.
He went on to say that the Fed’s bond-buying program has been successful largely because the Fed has learned how to monitor the markets better – implying, correctly, that those trading on Wall Street need a regulator to keep an eye on them. All of this was surprising on two fronts: first, that Bernanke actually shared his own opinion, instead of a technocratic, non-committal vague fluttering of economic opinions, as is often the case. Second, it’s surprising that he took a somewhat controversial view, not designed to make friends on Wall Street.
And that, in fact, may be the most important development of this first press conference of 2013: we already know Ben Bernanke is a savvy politician who knows how to read a room. If Bernanke has thrown his lot in with those who have said that Wall Street needs to come under tighter control, you can be sure that he thinks it’s a historically smart view to take. Those who are against reform should take notice.
I am consistently reminded in many of these conversations of Lenin who wrote a lot about banking. He said that the downfall of capitalism would come from the power of banks and their eventual destruction of the actual productive parts of the economy. I realize when I quote Lenin that I run a very high risk of being called all kinds of things by Republicans looking to demean academics. However, I read his 1916 Treatise Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism in a comparative economics class in my senior year at the University of Nebraska. Let me tell you that the business school at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln does not harbor any communists to my knowledge and probably is not all that populated with Democrats, either. However, this is an important book to read to understand why the two Roosevelts were able to stop communism from taking root here. A lot of it had to do with the control and regulation of monopolies and huge banks that stalled a lot of what Lenin foresaw. I’ve pointed to this several times over the time I’ve been blogging, but it always bears repeating. Lenin had a point and does now since so much of these kinds of regulations have been removed over the last 30 years.
Lenin provides a careful,5-point definition of imperialism: “(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
Now, I’m not pushing Lenin’s view of what will happen once capitalism collapses, I’m only saying that he makes some really good points about how banks can play a huge role in bringing down market economies. I also think that Lenin never imagined a world in which nationalism may play a lesser role given the international flavor of bank havens today. Both Roosevelts did their share of trustbusting and bank regulation to make me believe that they saw a lot of the same problems with the JPM of their times that we’ve got with the JPM of our our time. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of Roosevelts these days.
Banks are not the only entities that still employ practices that the government must regulate or we fail to have an economy that allocates benefits to all. It’s not only that but in some very sad cases we have companies that deny the rights and liberties of others and behave criminally. We have a very robust, 21st century version of slavery here in the US. I fully believe that both Rand and Ron Paul are neoconfederates with their views of state’s rights and many of the positions they take. Rand Paul has recently suggested that we make more visas available so foreign workers can come here legally. As I’ve seen in my state in oil rig companies and after Katrina during the clean-up, these visas are just as likely to lead to abuse of workers than those who come here under the wire. So, what’s the real purpose? Do we just need to ‘dog-tag’ every one?
Under a system of “legalized slavery,” foreign workers are routinely thrown in massive debt, cheated out of wages, housed in squalid shacks, held captive by brokers and businesses that seize passports, Social Security cards and return tickets, denied healthcare, rented to other employers (including the military), and sexually harassed and threatened with firing and deportation if they complain, according to two detailed reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Guestworker Alliance. The reports are based on sworn testimony gathered for lawsuits.
The H-2B visa program that brought 83,000 foreign guestworkers to the U.S. in 2011 for non-farm work has become a stalking ground for some of the worst abuses in American capitalism, according to recentreports by anti-poverty law groups. These reports describe in excruciating detail how predatory capitalists in many manual labor-based industries (supplying national brands like Walmart) lure and prey upon foreigners whose jobs average less than $10 an hour with little regard for human rights, labor law or legal consequence.
“We called it modern-day slavery,” said Daniel Contreras, who borrowed $3,000 to come from Peru and whose story is told in the Guestworker Alliance report. He was one of 300 foreigners brought to New Orleans by a hotel chain after Hurricane Katrina. “Instead of hiring workers from the displaced and jobless African-American community, he sent recruiters to hire us. At around $6 an hour, we were cheaper. As temporary workers, we were more exploitable. We were hostage to debt in our home countries. We were terrified of deporation. And we were bound to [owner Patrick] Quinn and could not work for anyone else. We were Patrick Quinn’s captive workforce.”
These are all circumstances that create revolutionaries and circumstances that both Roosevelts righted by ensuring that both sides of the market have an equal chance to succeed.
So, I can see that this post turned into a really long treatise on two of the factors of production which probably means I must’ve been working and thinking way too much this week. I did not intend this post to be any kind of seminar on how dissimilar we treat the factors of labor and capital in this country. So, don’t take this as a closed thread so much as me going off on a tangent after having gotten very pissed about how badly we treat people that work in this country vs how well we treat people that collect cash and gamble. Perhaps it’s just the impact of watching all those folks get there savings stolen by EUCB.
Btw, if you want to see a most outrageous example of the government discouraging people that actually earn livings, please take a look at the types of things that my Governor Jindal is proposing to tax and tax hugely. He just proposed $1.4 billion in new taxes on services.
Your paycheck will grow larger, but in exchange the price of your haircut, cable TV and Internet service will go up if lawmakers agree to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rewrite of Louisiana’s tax code.
Jindal wants to do away with state income taxes, but he doesn’t want to shrink the state’s tax revenue overall.
So to help make up the gap, the governor wants to charge $1.4 billion in new sales taxes on items that have not previously been taxed, under the plan outlined to lawmakers this week.
That includes home landscaping, visits to the museum and zoo, a pet’s trip to the veterinarian, time at the tanning salon and more.
Businesses that pay outside accountants, architects, environmental consultants, computer programmers and janitors would see new taxes on those services.
In all, three dozen new categories of services would be swept into the state’s current 4 percent state sales tax to drum up $961 million. They also would be included as the sales tax jumps to 5.88 percent under the governor’s plan, to boost the total to $1.4 billion from the newly-taxed services, according to data from the Department of Revenue.
So basically, every hairdresser and barber, every kid that mows the lawn, every musician on the street corner, every plumber, every independent bookkeeper and tree trimer, and a whole lot of other mom and pop ventures must collect, account for, and pay sales taxes to the State of Louisiana under Jindal’s plan while every huge corporation is off the hook for property and income taxes.
Now, look at me honestly and say that court eunuchs and jesters like Jindal aren’t just asking for a revolution. Shoo-be-doo-wah.
What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?
Did you hear about how Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsh Blackburn tried to argue against President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage and then index it to inflation–and then ended up demonstrating why the increase is desperately needed? She claimed that we need to lower the minimum wage to help young kids get into the work force–the way it was back in the late 1960s or early 1970s when she got her first job in Mississippi and the minimum wage was $2.15.
Quoted at Think Progress:
BLACKBURN: What we’re hearing from moms and from school teachers is that there needs to be a lower entry level, so that you can get 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds into the process. Chuck, I remember my first job, when I was working in a retail store, down there, growing up in Laurel, Mississippi. I was making like $2.15 an hour. And I was taught how to responsibly handle those customer interactions. And I appreciated that opportunity.
Too bad Blackburn forgot (or didn’t know) that $2.15 was worth a hell of lot more in 1968 than it is in 2013.
Blackburn was born in 1952, so she likely took that retail job at some point between 1968 and 1970. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the $2.15 an hour Blackburn made then is worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18 an hour in today’s dollars, depending on which year she started.
At that time, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.
These poor math-challenged Republicans just can’t help themselves. They’re stuck on stupid.
Yesterday Dakinikat posted about Elizabeth Warren’s questioning of bank regulators during her first appearance at a Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing. Oh my, the big bankers are freaking out about it. From HuffPo:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) meeting with bank regulators Thursday left bankers reeling, after she questioned why regulators had not prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis.
At one point, Warren asked why the book value of big banks was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.
“One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest,” she said. “Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them.”
That set off angry responses to Politico’s Morning Money. “While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that ‘nobody believes’ that bank books are honest is just plain wrong,” a “top executive” emailed the financial newsletter. “Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.”
So if she wants to be “taken seriously,” she should act like a doormat and let bankers walk all over her?
During the hearing, Warren asked why ordinary people often faced prosecution while banks do not.
“You know, I just want to note on this. There are district attorneys and U.S. attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds. And taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that too big to fail has become too big for trial,” she said. “That just seems wrong to me.”
Like the Aaron Swartz prosecution, for example?
According to an article in the Washington Post this morning, the proposed new assault weapons ban isn’t likely to be particularly effective: Latest try at new assault weapons ban would exempt more than 2,200 specific firearms
Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.
One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.
“What a joke,” said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.
The bill propopsed by CA Sen. Diane Feinstein
…would ban 157 specific firearms designed for military and law enforcement use and exempt others made for hunting purposes. It also would ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Yet there are firearms that would be protected under Feinstein’s proposal that can take large capacity magazines like the ones used in mass shootings that enable a gunman to fire dozens of rounds of ammunition without reloading.
Feinstein said in a written response to questions from The Associated Press that the list of more than 2,200 exempted firearms was designed to “make crystal clear” that the bill would not affect hunting and sporting weapons.
A couple of days ago, Molly Ball of The Atlantic tried to figure out why 22 conservative Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act when do so has the effect of making Republicans “look bad.”
Surely Republicans, whatever you may think of them, are not actually in favor of violence against women. But if they’re going to absorb all this terrible publicity, they must have significant substantive objections to the legislation in question, right?
If you say so, Molly. I think they’re just plain mean and stupid.
The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas — that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a “feminist” attack on family values. “The ideological foundations of the law are flawed and have led to an inability to help victims effectively,” Christina Villegas, a visiting fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum and adjunct professor of political science at Cal State San Bernadino, told me.
VAWA, Villegas said, is premised on the theory that violence against women is a product of sexism and patriarchy — “men’s desire to keep women down” and the sexes’ unequal social status. But research shows that such violence has many sources, from substance abuse to marital conflict, according to Villegas. “VAWA provides so much funding [based on this model] that could be so much more effective if it focused on the proven causes of violence,” she said.
And so on, you can read the rest at the link. But what Ball’s straight-faced reporting of conservative objections to the bill really demonstrates is that their excuses are just cover for the simple truth that a lot of Republicans think that protecting them from rape, murder, and beatings by husbands and boyfriends violates men’s “rights.” As Amanda Marcotte wrote in her response to Ball’s piece, Republicans “have issues.”
Molly Ball of the Atlantic decided to delve into why it is that Republicans have caved into conservative pressure groups who oppose the Violence Against Women Act. The reasons that conservatives gave her were, she had to admit, shallow and idiotic and, if she delved in deeper (the claim that VAWA is making domestic violence worse is simply not true), straight up dishonest, but she didn’t make the obvious leap and realize that perhaps conservatives oppose VAWA because they are misogynist, and that all the excuses they give are attempts to deflect people from seeing the obvious.
But in case you are still struggling to accept that straight-up misogyny might be driving the fight against VAWA, consider this: Talking Points Memo discovered the conservative super-PAC and advocacy group [that] has been behind the push against VAWA. You don’t have to dig very deep to discover that their reasons are blunt force misogyny:
In a blog post, FreedomWorks criticized the cost of the legislation — $660 million — and pointed out that domestic violence is “already illegal in all 50 states.” It added: “Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims – this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back.”
Well what do you know? Freedom Works again. Marcotte continues:
In other words, the solution to domestic violence is to simply refuse to label a woman whose partner is beating her a “victim”. Got it. I’m curious if FreedomWorks is willing to expand this attitude towards other crimes. Mugged? Well, it’s disempowering and bad for you to call you a “victim”—god forbid!—so let’s just say you’re generous to people who wield guns and call it a day. FreedomWorks also claims that simply having laws on the books banning domestic violence is enough—as long as we formally say we’re against it, we don’t need to do anything silly like make sure the laws are enforced by directing resources to them. They also make the facetious claim that feminists are demanding that men be thrown in jail for merely yelling at women. It’s an amazing show of minimizing domestic violence, pretending that it’s just couples fighting, and seeking any way possible to make sure that abusive men aren’t held accountable.
And from the annals of rape culture, Alternet reports on “How police treat rape in America.”
In some of the most disturbing and sickening news of the day, New York state police have decided that a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by three boys was in fact not sexually assaulted because both she and the boys are mentally handicapped.
In May of last year, three boys attacked a 15-year-old mentally challenged student at Martin De Porres Academy, a school for students with special needs in Long Island. According to the police report, one of the boys repeatedly banged her head against the table while the other two forced her to give them oral sex and then tried to have forcible anal sex with her. In interviews with the police, the girl explained how she repeatedly said “no” and “stop” but that the boys continued to assault her. When she came home from school that day, her mother noticed that she had blood on her underwear.
But when the police learned that the alleged rapists were also mentally challenged, they withdrew the charges.
The department’s spokesperson told the New York Daily News , “It was more of a consensual situation with their mental capabilities.”
Of course, head-banging, blood and repeated pleas to “stop” are never consensual situations–regardless of the IQ level of the attackers. But, in this case, the police department is even further off target. As the family’s lawyer explained, the girl has an IQ of about 50 points, which puts her below the cognitive functioning level to consent to sex at all.
Here’s another outrageous child abuse story from the Smoking Gun: FBI: Man Slapped Crying Toddler On Delta Flight
After demanding that the mother of a crying toddler “shut that nigger baby up,” a male passenger allegedly slapped the 19-month-old across the face as a flight prepared to land in Atlanta last Friday evening, The Smoking Gun has learned.
The shocking February 8 incident aboard Delta Airlines Flight 721 resulted in Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, being charged with simple assault, according to a U.S. District Court affidavit. Hundley…is president of an aircraft parts manufacturer headquartered in Hayden, Idaho.
Can you believe that? I guess the FBI got involved because this may be a hate crime.
As detailed by FBI Agent Daron Cheney, Hundley was traveling to Atlanta from Minneapolis in seat 28A on the MD-90 twin-engine jet. He was seated next to Jessica Bennett, who shared seat 28B with her son Jonah.
Bennett, 33, told investigators that the “aircraft was in final descent” to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport when her child “started to cry due to the altitude change.” Bennett added that she “was trying to get [her son] to stop crying, but he continued.”
At this point, Bennett recalled, Hundley used the racial epithet as he told her to shut the child up. He then allegedly “turned around and slapped” the toddler in the face “with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder.” The slap, Bennett said, “caused a scratch below [the child’s] right eye.”
Thanks to Dakinikat for alerting me to this story.
And thanks to JJ for this one from The Guardian UK: Every meteorite fall [that we know about] on earth mapped. Please go check it out. The known incidents go all the way back to 2,300 BC!
Those are my recommendations for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list? I look forward to clicking on your links!
Much is being made of the election results that delivered a sound thumping to Republicans and their agenda to restrict the rights of women and minorities and to provide benefits to the wealthy and powerful. A record number of women will be serving in the US Senate. Five new women will be headed there. Of all the significant races, Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren appears to have garnered the most hope and angst. Simon Johnson considers her election “important”.
Senator Warren is well placed, not just to play a role in strengthening Congressional oversight but also in terms of helping her colleagues think through what we really need to make our financial system more stable.
We need a new approach to regulation more generally – and not just for banking. We should aim to simplify and to make matters more transparent, exactly along Senator Warren’s general lines.
We should confront excessive market power, irrespective of the form that it takes.
We need a new trust-busting moment. And this requires elected officials willing and able to stand up to concentrated and powerful corporate interests. Empower the consumer – and figure out how this can get you elected.
Agree with the people of Massachusetts, and give Elizabeth Warren every opportunity.
Laura Gottesdiener thinks Warren’s election may usher in the end of the Tea Party.
Warren, who beat out the incumbent Republican Scott Brown in a bitter election, ran a campaign centered on connecting the dots between economic policies and personal values. A Harvard bankruptcy-law professor, Warren trumpeted a platform that called for economic reform, financial regulation and the protection of Social Security, Medicare and other safety-net programs.
“We said this election is about whose side you’re on,” Warren told The Huffington Post . “I think of this as an election where we stuck to our values: Make sure Social Security and Medicare benefits are protected, and millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. To me, that’s the heart of it. That’s really where the basic social contract is reaffirmed.”
This type of populist platform became increasingly risky after Citizens United allowed for the infusion of billions of dollars into state elections. Warren was already well disliked on Wall Street for her role in creating and heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that seeks “to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.”
Warren may be given a seat on the powerful senate banking committee which has to be worrying Wall Street.
Senior Senate Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Massachusetts senator-elect is a logical fit for the committee, even though it is rare for a freshman senator to get such a plum assignment.
If she gets the slot, Warren’s bully pulpit would be replaced with real power.
The bipartisan panel can greatly influence policy decisions through its oversight of financial services, international trade, insurance, housing, securities and economic issues.
Warren, who has called for breaking up the big banks, could move to block legislative tweaks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law that would blunt the full impact of profit-pummeling reforms.
She would also be able to forcefully push for regulators to use all the powers available to them to write strict interpretations of rules.
That could mean stronger curbs on Wall Street trading, higher capital buffers and rules that would compel mega-banks to shrink.
Warren and other Senators will have to watch the President and Speaker of the House as they battle of the so-called fiscal cliff before getting their say in the budget.
While no can say for sure how the negotiations to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” — the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and impending across-the-board spending cuts — will unfold, the betting here is it will get ugly before it gets better.
First, virtually no one believes what happened last time will happen this time: President Obamawon’t cave on extending tax cuts for upper income earners.
So will House Republicans come to the table voluntarily, before the first of the year? Or will it require all hell breaking loose — an expiration of the income and payroll tax cuts, sequestration, the estate tax, and the AMT kicking in, cap gains and dividend rates rising — before they are forced to come kicking and screaming to an agreement?
The president holds a lot of leverage here — not just because he just won, Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, and gained seats in the House. He holds leverage because, structurally, we’re talking about tax cuts that are expiring. His position is clear: The rate for the wealthiest will be allowed to go up. If he is willing to go to the wall and let the the lower rates expire, pressure shifts to House Speaker John Boehner to make a deal before his conference is isolated by the business community, which more than anything wants D.C. to just cut a deal, and Senate Republicans, who cut a deal and sold Boehner out last time. Add to that a tanking market and mounting economic hysteria, and that’s a lot of pressure on the House GOP true believers, Allen West or no Allen West.
The conventional wisdom is that Obama and Republicans will make a short term deal on taxes and sequestration — kicking that can down the road yet again — contingent on agreement on a “framework” for tax reform to be done in the first part of 2013.
There is incentive for Boehner to try and make an early deal, before the first of the year. The question, as always, is will he have the votes to allow tax rates on the wealthy to rise? Seems doubtful. He would have to be a pretty firm and big commitment from Obama on tax and entitlement reform to get them to go along.
Is it a matter of who will blink first? Here’s a conversation between Ramesh Ponnuru and Margaret Carlson. This is Ponnur’s take.
Does Boehner mean that tax reform should raise money by cutting tax breaks more than it cuts tax rates? Or does he mean that it should raise money just by encouraging economic growth?
If it’s the first, Boehner is going to have a problem with conservatives — especially Grover Norquist, the party’s anti- tax enforcer. If it’s the second, he’s not talking about much revenue.
That’s a bargain that sounds grand to me, but liberals who just won an election might disagree, don’t you think? My guess is he’s being ambiguous so he can gauge the reaction.
Another question: What leverage does Boehner have, and what leverage does he think he has? Obama doesn’t have to cut any deal to get a lot of extra revenue. He can let taxes go up as scheduled and challenge the Republicans to cut them only for the middle class. Republicans can either go along or decide not to and then blame him for the resulting middle-class tax hikes. Who likes their odds better in that fight?
Republicans have another bit of leverage, beyond the threat of blaming Democrats for tax increases: We’re getting close to hitting the debt ceiling again, and in the normal order of thingsHouse Republicans would have to agree to lift it.
Carlson has this to say.
In an election that was otherwise a debacle for Republicans, the House held its majority, and Boehner holds the gavel as long as he coddles his most extreme members. So he will.
Meanwhile, the president (unless you see something in him, Ramesh, that I don’t) still believes in this hope-y, change-y stuff Republicans consider a joke. He still sees himself as a historic figure that can bridge the partisan divide.
It is Boehner’s tiny, eensy-weensy bit of openness to dealing with Obama that is enraging conservatives. At the same time, it is playing to Obama’s view of himself. The president’s signature trait is an inability to negotiate from strength. He leads with his best offer. If Obama were buying a car, he’d probably pay full price and leave without radial tires.
In fairness to Obama, it’s foolish to call the bluff of an opposition that’s already shown it will allow the U.S. to default on its debt.
You’re right, Ramesh, that Obama doesn’t have to do anything at all to raise revenue. But he can’t risk raising taxes on the working and middle classes when the economy is still shaky. Republicans, by contrast, are willing to risk anything.
One of the quiet victories of the election is the failure of the NRA whose candidates didn’t do well this election.
The Sunlight Foundation, a campaign watchdog group, found that the NRA’s Political Victory Fund – the political arm of the nation’s largest gun lobbying organization – spent almost $11 million for or against individual candidates in the general elections, but got less than a 1 percent return on its investment.
The NRA, for instance, spent more than $7.4 million in opposition to President Obama and almost $1.9 million in support of Mitt Romney, according to Sunlight. But Obama was the victor on Tuesday, and the NRA had similar bad luck trying to influence Senate and House races.
For example, the group put almost $538,000 behind Indiana Senate contender Richard Mourdock (R), who lost, and spent more than $512,000 to oppose Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who won, according to Sunlight.
Planned Parenthood’s political wing trounced other groups with a near perfect return on its election spending, according to a new numbers review.
The Sunlight Foundation found that Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm and super-PAC spent about $5 million and $7 million, respectively, to oppose Republicans and support Democrats in the general election.
In the end, the two groups saw returns on investment of about 98 and 99 percent, according to Sunlight.
The figures come as election-watchers pick apart the most expensive cycle in history. Republicans’ loss in the presidential race and failure to claim the Senate came as a surprise to outside donors, many of whom spent millions to ensure GOP victories.
Planned Parenthood’s political wing played an outsized role in the general election, compared to cycles past. The flood of political activity came as Republicans vowed to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding as a healthcare provider for low-income women. Conservatives argue that while the law technically bans public funds from supporting abortions, taxpayer money need not flow to a group that performs the procedures.
The election covered a wide range of women’s health issues in addition to public funds for Planned Parenthood, giving the group ample chance to advocate in favor of abortion rights and access to free birth control.
The only outside groups that came close to beating Planned Parenthood’s return on investment were Majority PAC, which fought for Democratic Senate candidates, with a success rate of about 88 percent, and the Service Employees International Union PEA-Federal, with about an 85 percent success rate.
The researchers found fragments of a wooden box, containing charred bones and ashes, along with a number of extremely well-preserved golden objects, dated from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century B. C.. They include four spiral gold bracelets, and a number of intricate applications like one which shows the head of a female goddess adorned with beads, applications on horse riding gear and a forehead covering in the shape of a horse head with a base shaped like a lion head. The objects weigh 1.5 kg, but the excavations continue.
The precious find also contains a ring, buttons and beads. Gergova explains that it seemed the treasure was wrapped in a gold-woven cloth because a number of gold threads were discovered nearby.
The Professor says these were, most likely, remnants from a ritual burial, adding the team expects to discover a huge burial ground, probably related to the funeral of the Gath ruler Kotela, one of the father-in-laws of Philip II of Macedon. She notes this is a unique find, never before discovered in Bulgaria.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Here’s a fresh thread while we wait for any bits of exit poll results to be leaked. Let us know if you’ve heard any!
I’ve got a few entertaining links for you in case you’re looking for something to read while obsessively waiting for the polls to close in Florida and Virginia (7PM Eastern).
Can you believe Mitt Romney is charging reporters who want to be inside his campaign headquarters tonight when the returns come in?
BOSTON — The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears to be setting a precedent this election year in charging journalists and news organizations for any access to a presidential campaign headquarters on the night of the election.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is locked in a tight race with Democratic President Barack Obama, will be holding his election night gathering at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, where access costs anywhere from $75 for a chair in the ballroom to $1,020 for permission to use the media filing center. Broadcast news organizations will be paying up to $6,500 for workspace.
Obama’s campaign party will be held at McCormick Place, in Chicago, and although his campaign is charging for premiums, credentialed reporters are granted access, which includes a workstation, electrical power and a wireless Internet connection, at no cost.
Romney is ending his historically awful campaign as gracelessly as he ran it for the past year.
But Romney’s money men will be treated like kings tonight.
BOSTON, MASS. —Mitt Romney isn’t going to forget the folks who picked up the tab for his billion-dollar run for the White House tonight.
Roughly 2,000 mega donors and bundlers are flocking to Beantown on Election Day for one last get together —which includes some special perks — according to a source on the ground familiar with the finance teams efforts.
Some of Romney’s biggest supporters, including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson; Texan mega donors L.E. Simmons and Ray Washburn; Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute; Bobbie Kilberg, head of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; among others are expected to attend. Nevada gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson may also make an appearance, according to the source….
The festivities kick off with a dinner for the Romney Victory Council at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, just a few short steps from the convention center where Romney’s slated to speak later in the evening. The group, dubbed informally as the “Council of 100,”are those that have raised significant amounts of money and includes many of Romney’s state chair network.
Unlike the press, the mega donors will watch the festivities in style.
Following the dinner, the finance team has organized two massive rooms in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for election night watch parties, one for the victory council and another for the national finance committee members. The finance committee room will include the campaign’s high-end donors of the founding members and partners as well as the bundlers that hit their marks in the“Stars” and “Stripes” programs.
May they all end up crying in their champagne.
Even though Romney will lose badly in Massachusetts, voters are flocking to the polls for the Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.
Lines crawled down hallways of schools, outside firehouses and community centers around Cambridge, Somerville and Braintree just outside Boston.
At the end of the most expensive senate race in Massachusetts history, voters cast their choice as one for the decidedly progressive politics of Warren or the sense of moderation they felt that Brown–who shocked the nation when he won Kennedy’s seat in 2009–had brought to the Senate.
A few more links:
Emptywheel has an interesting post about her day working in “voter protection” at an African American district in Michigan: On the Ground Turnout in MI Feels Like It Did in 2008
At another Michigan polling place: Southfield Twp. voter appears to die, then asks ‘Did I vote?’
The Cleveland Leader reports that Sherrod Brown’s opponent, Josh Mandel got a surprise from some family members yesterday: Josh Mandel’s In-Laws Call Him Out on Anti-Gay Stance in Newspaper Ad
In Franklin County, Ohio Tea Party “observers” from “True the Vote” were “barred from Franklin County polling places.”