Friday ReadsPosted: May 20, 2011
It is definitely the silly season! You can tell that an election count down is nearing in the District. A judge of Chinese descent was successfully blocked by Republican Senators and Ben NelSOB for sounding like a communist. Did we go back to the McCarthy era and I missed it?
Six years ago, Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Goodwin Liu published an op-ed in which he made the utterly banal point that a conservative interest group used the terms “free enterprise,”‘ “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” as “code words for an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections.” In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, however, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) somehow managed to interpret this op-ed as proof that Liu wants to turn America into “Communist-run China”:
GRASSLEY: Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place.
Republicans appear to be pulling out all the bells and dogwhistles for this one. This is the first time a judicial nominee has been blocked since 2005.
Liu also drew Republican ire over his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in testimony when the conservative judge was nominated to the court.
“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said before Thursday’s vote. “His statement showed he has nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him. Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”
Imagine that! Some one with an opinion! Does that mean a person isn’t capable of honest judgement?
Obama gave a speech yesterday at the State Department indicating support for the Arab Spring and suggesting that a dialogue between Israel and Palestine is possible but must meet certain ground rules. One of these is controversial because it breaks with a speech given by President Bush that more or less accepted the reality of some Israel colonies in the occupied territories. That is that the negotiations be based on the 1967 agreement which would reverse Israeli colonization of territories that occurred after the agreement. Israel has already rejected the idea.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama also made it clear that Hamas’ failure to recognize the state of Israel was a huge problem.
Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
The President said that US commitment to Israel is unshakeable but the status quo is unsustainable. The Israeli/Palestinian situation continues to the most vexing problem on the planet. If you’re going to venture an opinion, be aware that the topic creates such tension that its discussion is actually banned on many blogs. I’d prefer not to relive past experience myself but I thought it needed mentioning.
Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute says “We’re not broke nor will we be”. It seems more and more economists are fighting back on the weird suggestion that a country with a huge economy, rich people, and tons of assets can’t invest in its own future because it’s broke. Here’s the link to the briefing paper. This is good explanation of why we are not Greece and will not go down the Greek Road. There are tons of nifty graphs so go check it out!!
Despite the rhetoric, it is clear that “we” as a nation are not broke. While the recession has led to job loss and shrinking incomes in recent years, the economy has produced substantial gains in average incomes and wealth over the last three decades, and economists agree that we can expect comparable growth over the next three decades as well. Between 1980 and 2010, income per capita grew 66.4%, and wealth per capita grew 73.2%. Over the next 30 years, per capita income is projected to grow by a comparable 60.6%. In other words, “we” are much richer as a nation than we used to be and can expect those riches to rise substantially in the future. So who is the we in the “we’re broke” mantra? The recession has certainly been a rough patch of road for many families, but the output produced by corporations in the private sector has already recovered to pre-recession levels, and these firms’ profi ts were 21.7% higher overall, driven largely by the 60% jump in pre-tax profi ts enjoyed by fi rms in the fi nancial sector.
Here’s why we can actually afford to invest in America and Americans!
Despite the fact that average incomes have increased substantially over the past 30 years, the federal government is currently running a projected defi cit of 9.8% of gross domestic product. As noted above, many use the deficit to support the “we’re broke” theme. But how can that be the case? How can the country have much more income, collectively, onwhich to draw, yet all levels of government are “broke” and unable to aff ord anything?
The answer is that revenue has declined substantially due to the recession and due to the Bush-era tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Offi ce projects federal revenues will be just 14.8% of GDP in the fi scal year ending September 30, 2011—by far the lowest revenue intake relative to GDP since 1951. In contrast, federal revenues totaled over 18% of GDP at the end of the last recovery (fi scal year 2007) and were roughly 20% at the end of the 1990s recovery. A largepart of the revenue shortfall can be attributed to legislated changes in taxes under George W. Bush, which lowered the revenue share by 2.1%.
As the economy recovers, the defi cit will fall as unemployment declines, as incomes and associated revenues increase, and as recession-sensitive expenditures automatically decline (expenditures for food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid and other programs rise with the economic distress in a recession and fade as unemployment declines). This expected decrease in the defi cit is refl ected in CBO projections showing the defi cit declining from 9.8% of GDP in 2011 to just 3.0% in fi scal year 2015. Some of this decline can be attributed to the assumed expiration of the Bush tax cuts extended in 2010 and the inheritance tax change in 2010 (plus the R&D, ethanol, and fi rst-year depreciation tax breaks), which would total 2.9 percentage points of GDP that year. Even so, that still leaves the defi cit falling by 4.0 percentage points due to the recovery.
Texas officially joins the war on women by mandating sonograms before terminations. This is just more harassment and costs to women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights to privacy and self-determination. Ridiculous!
Texas Governor Rick Perry Thursday signed into law a measure requiring women seeking an abortion in the state to first get a sonogram.
Texas is one of several U.S. states with strong Republican legislative majorities proposing new restrictions on abortion this year. The Republican governor had designated the bill as an emergency legislative priority, putting it on a fast track.
Under the law, women will have to wait 24 hours after the sonogram before having an abortion, though the waiting time is two hours for those who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider.
So, like I said, it’s the silly season which means there’s plenty of news out there that’s bound to upset people! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?