Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m hoping that Wisconsin represents a tipping point in Republican overreach.  Fourteen Democratic Senators from Wisconsin are holing up in a Best Western in Rockford Illinois while the Governor and State Senate President send out the state troopers to find them and bring them back for a vote they will lose. That’s right.  A United States Governor is using police tactics on elected officials.  He’s also ready to call out the national guard to deal with a lawful gathering of students, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, nurses, civil engineers, doctors, and file clerks.  It’s six am.  Do you know where your constitutional rights are?

Will this be the day that Republican attempts to remove collective bargaining rights from government workers ends? TPM has evidence that right wing Republican Governor Scott Walker Ginned up a Budget battle to bust state employee’s unions by passing irresponsible tax cuts the moment he hit the office.

“Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”

“The state of Wisconsin has not reached the point at which austerity measures are needed,” Norman adds.

In a Wednesday op-ed, the Capitol Times of Madison picked up on this theme.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.

Meanwhile, Republicans are escalating the rhetoric on budget doom and gloom–after pushing for draconian tax cuts for billionaires in December–on the Federal level too. Boehner is talking shutting down the Government once again.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday ruled out a short-term government-funding bill that maintains current levels of federal spending, escalating a standoff with Democrats and President Obama that could result in a government shutdown.

“I am not going to move any kind of short-term [funding bill] at current levels,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference.

“When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips, we’re going to cut spending,” Boehner added, invoking George H.W. Bush’s infamous and ultimately broken pledge on taxes during the 1988 presidential campaign.

Democratic Senate leaders refused to budge, saying a short-term bill should keep current funding levels in place. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) likened Boehner’s comment to “throwing down the gauntlet.”

Let’s hope we get the same kind of Senate leadership on the national level as Wisconsin workers are getting from their Democratic Senators.  How do you build an economy when the decision makers do things that remove incomes and jobs from ordinary Americans?

Paul Krugman’s “Willie Sutton Wept” is a must read. He explains three things you need to know about the current budget debate.  I think it’s an important read because I spent some time last night listening to multiple news outlets filled with chattering class idiots insisting that all economists think the deficit is the most pressing problem the country faces.  I personally can’t name ONE economist that does.

There are three things you need to know about the current budget debate. First, it’s essentially fraudulent. Second, most people posing as deficit hawks are faking it. Third, while President Obama hasn’t fully avoided the fraudulence, he’s less bad than his opponents — and he deserves much more credit for fiscal responsibility than he’s getting.

About the fraudulence: Last month, Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center described the president as the “anti-Willie Sutton,” after the holdup artist who reputedly said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Indeed, Mr. Obama has lately been going where the money isn’t, making a big deal out of a freeze on nonsecurity discretionary spending, which accounts for only 12 percent of the budget.

But that’s what everyone does. House Republicans talk big about spending cuts — but focus solely on that same small budget sliver.

And by proposing sharp spending cuts right away, Republicans aren’t just going where the money isn’t, they’re also going when the money isn’t. Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed is a recipe for slower economic growth, which means lower tax receipts — so any deficit reduction from G.O.P. cuts would be at least partly offset by lower revenue.

The whole budget debate, then, is a sham. House Republicans, in particular, are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes — nutritional aid to pregnant women and very young children is one of the items on their cutting block — so they can pose, falsely, as deficit hawks.

We have a staggering rate of unemployment with underlying employment trends that are not good.  Some sectors of the economy, some groups of workers, and many states are in dire straights.  I would never believe that a group of people that have lived so close to the precipice that was The Great Depression can be suggesting what they are suggesting now.  Either they seriously want to take the country down or they are so stupid and corrupt that they know not what they are doing and they don’t care what they are doing.  Our economy is not by any real standard experiencing a good and sustained recovery from a devastating financial crisis.  There is weakness in nearly every sector. The only way to grow the economy and to eventually shrink the deficit is through job and economic growth.  Every decision maker that I hear these days is aiming policy in the opposite direction and taking away every single means available to make it so.

I’d just like to ask you one question.  Was your future destroyed by the burden of paying for the debt and deficits that resulted from World War 2?  We’re still paying that down so we should have had a really really horrible economy for the last 60 years if you follow the line of thought of these people screaming about the deficit.  Would you have rather they didn’t run any deficit and just called off the entire Omaha Beach thing?  Would your life had been better now for that decision?  Do you think your life would be better if they’d have not ever offered student loans, or PBS,  or undertaken the burden of an interstate system?  Do you feel your life is burdened by paying for the Interstate system?

Some times you have to take on long term debt for the big things.  We have a big country with a big GDP.  We can handle the debt.  What we can’t handle is sustained loss of jobs and incomes for the majority of people.   They’re downsizing all of us and upsizing their billionaire friends lives.  Every one of us should be willing to take to the street like the folks in Wisconsin to stop that.  Every Senator and Congressman that believes in the American Middle class should be willing to shut down the workings of congress if it’s necessary to stop this assault on public goods and public servants.

Pro-democracy protesters in the small monarchy of Bharain continues to experience the full force of government oppression in their struggle for reform.  American produced tear gas came into play yet again.

Armored cars are now patrolling the streets of the capital, and all further protests have been banned by the authorities. But sporadic clashes have occurred in different parts of the city.

A statement from the Ministry of Interior claimed that the authorities had attempted to negotiate a peaceful end to the demonstration.

“Security forces evacuated the area of Pearl Roundabout from protesters, after trying all opportunities for dialogue with them, in which some positively responded and left quietly,” the statement read.

However, human rights activists were quick to dismiss these reports, and Al Jazeera reported that the protesters were asleep when the police raid began and that medical staff attending the wounded were among those beaten by police.

The violence comes on the fourth consecutive day of protests since demonstrators staged a ‘Day of Rage’ on Feb. 14, with two protesters killed earlier in the week. In the aftermath of these fatalities, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa issued an apology and promised an investigation into excessive police violence.

Bahrain is an interesting Gulf Nation in that it has predominately Shia Muslim but the ruling family is Sunni.  Sunnis enjoy the majority of the wealth and benefits here as was the case in Iraq so there are tensions between the two sects. Most of the Gulf states are predominately Sunni. Sunnis represent the middle class here while Shia are poor.  There appears to be some interesting bedfellows made as a result of the protests.  Bahrain is an important US alley because of its strategic location as home for the US Navy’s fifth fleet.  It has a lot of natural gas but a small and dwindling amount of petroleum, as such, it is not as wealthy as many of its neighbors. The Al Khalifah dynasty appears unwilling to compromise at this point, but time will tell.

The SEC may be getting ready take Freddie Mac officials to court.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has escalated its investigation into mortgage financer Freddie Mac’s disclosures to investors and has notified at least one former official that it intends to file civil charges against him.

Anthony “Buddy” Piszel, who was chief financial officer of Freddie Mac from 2006 until 2008 when the government placed it in conservatorship, received a “Wells notice” from the SEC, according to Corelogic, a California company where he is chief financial officer. A Wells notice is an indication that the SEC staff intends to recommend to its five-member commission that it file civil charges. Corelogic disclosed the Wells notice on February 10 and said Mr Piszel had submitted his resignation, but would stay until June.

The SEC has investigated Freddie before for possible fraudulent accounting practices and problems related to disclosure and corporate governance. Freddie Mac was formed in the 1970s to give money to mortgage lenders to be used for house loans. It’s the largest buyer and packager of house loans in the mortgage market.  It is publicly held and currently bankrupt.

So, the world around us changing.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


26 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. Beata says:

    TPM is doing an excellent job covering the news about the Wisconsin protests. This article reports that the Dem Senators are no longer at the Rockford, IL Best Western. The comments section of the same article says that two GOP Senators are AWOL as well. I am looking for a source to confirm that info.

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wis-dem-legislator-we-are-no-longer-at-hotel-in-rockford-and-focus-should-be-on-the-issues.php?ref=tn

  2. Beata says:

    Meanwhile, in Washington yesterday, sixty House GOP members voted with the entire Dem minority to defeat an anti-union amendment that would have defunded the National Labor Relations Board. Nine GOP members of the Education and Workforce Committee voted with the Dems against the amendment, including the Committee chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-MN). I wonder how many of the sixty are from the Midwest? Will look into that!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/17/nlrb-amendment-beaten-by-gop_n_824783.html

  3. Branjor says:

    There should be Wisconsin-style demonstrations at every legislature that introduces fetal personhood, let women die, or legalize killing of abortion providers bills.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Was your future destroyed by the burden of paying for the debt and deficit that resulted from World War 2? We’re still paying that down so we should have had a really really horrible economy for the last 60 years because of that if you follow the line of thought of these people screaming about the deficit. Would you have rather they didn’t run any deficit and just called off the entire Omaha Beach thing? Would your life had been better now for that decision?

    Excellent points. And would my life have been better if my dad didn’t go to college on the GI bill and buy a house with his GI loan?

    I don’t think so.

    • Branjor says:

      My father was unambitious and didn’t want to go to college with his GI benefits. He also didn’t want to leave the Bronx so didn’t buy a house with a GI loan either. So there we stayed, where we were. Sigh. It was his choice but I think my life might have been better if he *had* done those things.
      He did get his teeth fixed with his benefits, with bridge work that lasted 50 years.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Why FDR would support the Wisconsin protests (no kidding!)

    http://www.salon.com/news/budget_showdown/?story=/tech/htww/2011/02/18/fdr_and_wisconsin

  6. Beata says:

    This is interesting – Wisconsin election law allows for the recall of any elected official:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/18/wisconsin-recall

  7. I am a staunch independent. We need both parties; one to sharpen the other or at the very least, to pull back on the social-ideology of one another. You’re foolish to really think one party is less important than the other. At the end of the day, only half of the American Citizens share your opinion (give or take 5%). The verdict isn’t out yet but I can assure you that more than half of the Wisconsin population does not work for the Teachers Union (referred to as ‘others’). These ‘other’ workers, like the rest of the nation, had their own income downsized due to the economic collapse. In some cases these ‘others’ lost their jobs. Why should the Teachers Union not get brought to the ax of the Governor. Approx 15%-30% of Wisconsin’s citizens lost their jobs then found new ones for less pay or were financially devastated with unemployment. Did these ‘others’ have the opportunity to protest at the Capitol of Wisconsin? These protests are nothing more than good people trying to keep the pay they were getting when their fellow neighbor has already lost everything, is about to lose everything or has started a new way of life, income and survival. The Governor is going to do what he has to do-

    Roman Gabriel http://www.theprodjteam.com

    • dakinikat says:

      Don’t blame teacher’s unions for the excesses of the private sector. Every one has the right to protest. It just doesn’t do much good when you’re a party of one. That’s what makes collective bargaining units effective. There’s safety in numbers. There’s also laws against union busting and illegal firing. Don’t blame people that are brave enough to organize for the lack of progress on the part of those that don’t.

      Plus, the job market for fire fighters and teachers is one where the demand side has a near monopoly. Any market with near monopoly power needs an offset or the market fails in the traditional neoclassical sense. It does not produce an efficient quantity or does not efficiently price the product or service.

      The Governor does not have to break the unions. He’s already got a wage and salary cap in place. All he has to do is ask for benefits concessions during the next rounds of bargaining and he’s likely to get them if it saves jobs.

      You’re a tool of misinformation. Next time don’t challenge an economist with bull shit arguments.

      • Sima says:

        What is it about all these ‘stauch independents’ where they think a race to the bottom is a good thing? Why are they all bitter about the things unions get (and that’s not much in the last 20 years, I’ll say) and ignorant of what unions have done for all of us? Do they not like 40 hour 5 day work weeks, vacation, health benefits, pension plans? Why do they want these taken away for everyone? I assume they don’t want them taken away from themselves, but who knows, maybe they think they don’t deserve it either? Why do they want to go back to the 1890s?

        What’s wrong with these people? And no, Kat, I don’t expect you to have an answer to any of this, I’m just flabbergasted by people’s ignorance of how we got where we are.

  8. dakinikat says:

    Republicans going for a police state–even when Their Constitution forbids it–as expected:

    The top Republican in the Wisconsin state Senate has asked Gov. Scott Walker to send state troopers after Democratic leader Mark Miller as Democrats boycott a vote on a bill that would end collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees.

    Senate Democrats have been missing from the Capitol for a day and a half. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he has asked Gov. Scott Walker to send two state troopers to Miller’s home in Monona. He says he believes the troopers are en route.

    The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits police from arresting legislators while they’re in session. Fitzgerald says he just wants to send a message to Miller — if he’s even home — that he must bring his caucus back to Madison.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/02/18/republicans-challenging-unions-state-capitols/#ixzz1EKu1h531

    • Beata says:

      I just saw Wisconsin Dem State Senator Jon Erpenbach on MSNBC. He says the WI Dems are prepared to stay out of the state for weeks if necessary to stop Gov. Walker’s union-busting bill.

      CNN also reported that two WI GOP State Senators have left the state. No names were mentioned.

  9. Woman Voter says:

    Congresswoman Jackie Speier puts a face to the abortion and lets congress know, that it isn’t something decision made in cavalierly and that women have a right to reproductive care. GOP didn’t know, Jackie has a High Speed Train named after her, and this tells you why…she can tell people the realities of life and and knows the law too boot. GO JACKIE GO!

    Rep. Jackie #Speier (D-CA)In Opposition to the #PenceAmendment “I’m one of those women, he spoke about just now…”-Rep- Jackie Speier

  10. madamab says:

    Paul Krugman is such a mixture of good and bad. I love his economic analysis for the most part, but his addiction to Obamapologia makes me sick.

    Third, while President Obama hasn’t fully avoided the fraudulence, he’s less bad than his opponents — and he deserves much more credit for fiscal responsibility than he’s getting.

    In what possible universe is this true? Did he not form the Deficit (cat food) Commission and populate it with Social Security privatizers and New Deal haters? Did he not KEEP the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy when he promised to revoke them immediately upon becoming President – thus adding to the deficit for another year and a half? Did he not KEEP the Iraq war going AND escalate the war in Afghanistan, both of which are very costly engagements which add to the deficit?

    Haid asploding here!

  11. dakinikat says:

    House votes to defund Planned Parenthood

    The House just approved Rep. Mike Pence’s amendment to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, checking off a hot-button social issue even as it set up a bigger showdown over defunding the health care law.

    The vote was 240-185 with 11 Democrats voting for the amendment, and seven Republicans voting against. One member voted present. A group of Republicans on the floor applauded when the vote hit 218.