Friday, October 23, 2020
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Is Dave Brat a Hypocrite on the Public Debt? (Short Answer:...

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Dave Brat is a hawk on the annual deficit and the total national debt. At least he is in words. He attacks Democrats and...

Gang of Five Still Alive?

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Senator Coburn's time-out threatens cooperation from the other Republican members. The hardliner's membership provides cover. 24/7 scrutiny of political orthodoxy leaves little tolerance for compromise. Senator Warner says he believes the Gang of Six "will work." It won't if the impractical ideology of the no-tax nuts drives the debate.

While the debt and deficit headline the public debate, the operational debate is not about the debt. Last Sunday Senator Warner strayed from the power points distinguishing budget expenditures from tax expenditures while he addressed Democrats gathered in Virginia Beach. Calling out Paul Ryan's budget proposals, Warner talked about the efforts to dismantle "programs that have been contracts between the American government and its people." All of the discussion, Warner pointed out, has centered around 12% of the Federal budget. That 12% includes Head Start, Pell Grants, investments in education, roads, rail, and mass transit, energy programs that would end the dependency on foreign sources of energy (an indirect subsidy of those attacking us), law enforcement and all of the things that a responsible government does to keep the nation competitive and secure.

"Mr. Ryan's budget would take that 12 cents and make it 4 cents over the next 25 or 30 years."

The Invisible Millions vs Deficit Terrorism

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Not so long ago I distinctly recall hearing that President Obama's most trusted advisors, left behind at the White House while he made an overseas tour, reached the conclusion that the Democrats received a shellacking (not my word) in the mid-terms because they had wasted time and political capital on passing health care reform when what the country really wanted was an economic fix to create jobs. Therefore, the administration announced that jobs and the economy would be the focus in 2011.  Also, was not Virginia's Governor, a Republican, elected with the slogan "Bob for Jobs!"?  In fact, jobs was the theme pushed in most states in 2010, too, regardless of party.... wasn't it?

I confess, I must have dis-remembered (not my word, either). It seems that as soon as the polls closed, the cry of "jobs!" disappeared as if it had never been uttered; not even an echo remained. Within a nanosecond, deficit hysteria became The Immensely Serious Crisis which demanded immediate action in almost every statehouse, and most especially in Washington, D. C.  Even the Oval Office suddenly had amnesia, and began agreeing with the Republican victors flooding into Congress. When the new Republicans in Congress clamored for immediate budget cuts, even under Continuing Resolutions (CRs normally simply extend federal spending as-is until the new budget kicks in), the White House response was not "no, let's talk job creation," but "cuts? yes, yes, how much?"  

It turns out that the one-sixth of America's workers, those who either cannot find any kind of a job or who have had to accept part-time employment when they really want to work full-time, are in the same predicament as the severely wounded warrior with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome): they are ignored.  Used as an election slogan, or ostentatiously lionized for their patriotism, but then discarded once they had served the political purposes of the political class, the veterans and the permanently unemployed (sometimes actually one and the same) have become invisible. As Paul Krugman says in today's New York Times: "Washington has lost interest." Boy, was that quick---- but one has to ask Why? Why now?

Austerity Experiment Gets an “F”

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All those eager-beaver budget slashers on the loose on Capitol Hill might want to examine a recent live experiment in austerity as a solution to economic woes and fiscal hard times. According to Colin Barr, writing about Ireland and its austerity binge in Fortune.cnn.com, "fasting is no cure for a giant debt hangover." Ireland did exactly what the big bankers and bond holders demanded, imposing two years of stark, painful austerity on the Irish people.  Measures included bringing its foreign trade account into balance and ceasing to "spend beyond its means," by which they mean savage budget cutting. The result?  "Wages have been falling and unemployment has tripled to 13 percent," young people are "leaving the country in droves," and the economy has undergone a double digit contraction. All this pain was enforced in order to please bondholders, and secure a bailout for Ireland---- but the self-flagellation has basically gone unrewarded.  The bond investors are still demanding a "back-breaking 8 percent," which is stifling real recovery. Austerity, in other words, is not a silver bullet, whatever one may think of the need to rein in government spending.  

Bernie Sanders’ Flame-Throwing Class Warfare Speech

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Senator Bernie Sander (I-VT) recently delivered a firey speech on the Senate floor in which, in his usual blunt New England Yankee fashion, he laid it on the line: "We are in the midst of a war in this country," and he made it abundantly clear that he meant a "class war" which the obscenely rich upper one percent of Americans are waging against all the rest of us. He does not spare his fellow Senators, but his most sarcastic comments skewered his Republican "friends" and their priorities: more tax breaks for billionaires overcomes their professed concern about the national debt. It is a delight to watch Bernie's dramatic delivery--- he is so clear in his graphic picture of the greed of the wealthy and the fawning of their Republican lackeys in Congress that even the most brainwashed Fox Viewer has to get the message. Maybe we should elect Bernie Sanders President.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?f...

Is The War Making You Poor?

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Alan Grayson, the quirky progressive Democratic Congressman from Florida, has introduced a piece of legislation in the House of Representatives with that title: The War Is Making Your Poor Act. It eliminates separate funding for our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so citizens can actually see how much those wars cost. Of course, for the past nine years the wars have been funded through special, "emergency" supplementals, rather than laid out in, and included in, the normal budgeting process. In case you are curious, the Independent Media Institute in San Francisco has figured next year's cost of the two wars at $195,000,000,000.

The War Is Making You Poor Act not only ends the dodgy emergency supplemental funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also eliminates federal income taxes on the first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples) and pays down the national debt. What could be wrong with that?  Well, it could be the industrial-defense complex might prefer taxpayers did not know what our military interventions cost us, so Congressman Grayson needs the help of concerned citizens everywhere to support his dandy little The War Is Making You Poor Act, so Don Hazen (Executive Editor at AlterNet.org) sent around an e-mail with a petition from Change.org you can sign, supporting the Act
here

Do Deficit Hawks Have a Point? 2010 Campaign, Part I

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As always, the Republicans, rather than the Democrats, are establishing the issues for the 2010 campaigns, and so far two are emerging. Expect another huge, tiresome and perhaps violent uproar over health care, which may, however, burn itself out over the summer as a result of over-use during hearings on the new nominee to the Supreme Court, whoever that might be. Or, a black swan may trigger another flash point (immigration? volcano? Iran?)  

The other firestorm will probably be the national debt and all that can go with it: both budget and trade deficits, the debt itself, inflation, entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, decline of the dollar, and so on. This is, in many ways, a far more serious challenge than health care because it is part of a broad philosophical attack on "big government" and has a compelling narrative to tell, one which is alarming, based on historical data and a well-established economic theory.  Moreover, Republican data and graphs have a "truthiness"convincing to many, including some economists. How so?