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December 20, 2010


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The Clintons are controlled by the same puppet-masters that control Obama (or McCain), so what really would be different? NOTHING.

Thin gsfa llap art

"The mixed economy that evolved in the United States from the 1930s through the 1970s did better than most, and it was based on real compromise and empiricism." - Rogue

It may have expressed some compromise and empiricism, especially in comparison to today's kabuki theatre, but it was based on combustion.

Fatal Plans Right


Relax and enjoy the music of Andrew Bird!


Jon writes:

"The only trouble: The GOP denies any of these things are facts."

Our country is indeed suffering a debilitating dementia. To wit: We aren't even close to agreeing on what are our most serious problems. The two most overarching problems facing the country are:

1) Global warming
2) The middle class and the poor getting poorer.

Nearly every other problem you care to talk about, is subsumed by these two. And here is the thing: The GOP denies that these problems even exist.

If you are paying attention to their current agitprop then you know they are making the argument that our poor are richer than all other poor in history. If it wasn't for our Billionaire Galts our poor would be really poor. (As in: More gruel.) In fact, our lucky duckies don't know how lucky they are. This is their position. They are beginning to flesh it out. And of course, as Jon noted, global warming is a hoax hatched by liberal scientists to hobble America. That's taken nearly straight from Limbaugh's playbook...

You see? The problems don't even exist. Yet there is one thing I think everyone (left, center, and right) can agree on:

A country that does not acknowledge its problems cannot possible imagine their solutions. And we should all also be able to agree that under Obama's first two years we've moved the ball forward a mere few yards on these overarching problems. Even as the goal posts have receded out of sight...

One more point:

The heart of power for this modern GOP party that denies my two enumerated problems is the American South. Out of the immoral fever swamp that sought to extend slavery to California, the Caribbean, and South America (Confederados), a rough new beast is seeing its hour come round again.

And as in 1860 so today. The South will insist on its immoral positions until the bitter end. And if that means dragging the empire down the drain they'll do it with a grin and a rebel yell...

I see no saving grace...
No exit.
No way out.

Agreed, koreyel. But could we stop using so many football metaphors? Using them so 'liberally' is like hooking a third down punt.

"Hillary Clinton would have been more of a street fighter, but she had the liability of Bill." - Rogue

As WikiLeaks has shown us, she would have had the liability of a 'feckless, vain, and ineffective' government defined by ignoble, uncharitable, prattling, tactless and unaccountable sluggards.

I think this is a good take on Kyl's apparently reflexive opposition to New Start. The votes are there so McConnell must have given his caucus freedom to vote their conscience. Still, given the black eye that Kyl is getting for this, his ludicrously hurt feelings about Christmas, and stalling the Zadroga Bill, there's a question whether he's simply flaming out of politics altogether. His 2012 fundraising is anemic and his political action committee is still dormant. It could be that Kyl's achievements, modest as they are, still haven't resulted in his own crowning glory: a lucrative payday as a post-senatorial lobbyist. In that case, it's Senator Jeff Flake.

Elsewhere, McCain's disturbing antics about DADT repeal reek of a Queeg-like breakdown. His leader, Mitch McConnell, looks like an undertaker at the gunfight, someone who provides an archetypal image of cultural Republicanism that is close to disturbing. Obama may be objectively Herbert Hoover but McConnell could be his actual grandson.

By scuttling the Omnibus spending bill, Republicans rolled Obama once again and may yet succeed in gutting ACA. If that happens, Obama's presidency is finished. There's no recovery for someone who is this easily played. But there probably is an endpoint to rightwing nihilism: eventually Republicans will have to govern effectively. Raping and pillaging are not adequate substitutes if the GOP base doesn't get its SS checks and health care. Defunding the zealots is not an option.

The latest Washington slobbering about centrism, the No Labels burlesque, seems to show that long memories and dementia may be related. 20 years of DLC corporatism and this is what we get: a country so starved for hard truths that an Evan Bayh becomes our man on the white horse, prancing to Bethlehem.

Soleri wrote:

"...a country so starved for hard truths that an Evan Bayh becomes our man on the white horse, prancing to Bethlehem."

Hard truths it is then...
The word of the year?


People "get" austerity...
And under the imprimatur of austerity all things become possible in McConnell's DC:

We can't afford Medicaid...
We can't afford Social Security...
And we can't afford to tax our billionaires (lest they stop spending)...
And we can't afford to do a carbon tax...
And we can't afford to stop a Canadian Copper mine in Az from dumping its tailings on thousands of publicly owned acres because we third-worlders need the jobs...


So what can we afford? Will how about a war in Afghanistan protecting the Chinese mining rights to what may be the biggest copper lode on the planet? That's why we are in Afghanistan right? Never mind that the copper lies under an archaeological site. We can't afford to do the archaeology properly anyways, and besides, the Chinese are growing impatient.

If that's not this year's biggest WTF story of a failing empire I don't know what is. Perhaps Jon, or someone else can do better? Here is the link:


koreyel, maybe it's a paradox that our political class extols the spinach of austerity before passing out the high-fructose corn syrup of tax cuts. It helped that the Serious People bought the Teabaggers' argument about deficits before the election, and afterwards decided we needed the rich to keep their booty in order to give us jobs. And their evidence that they would? Oh, ye of little faith to ask such an impertinent question!

I think it's safe to say that what passes for "hard truths" has nothing to do with long-term deficits, fiscal policy, or even entitlements. A hard truth is anything that has empirical rather than ideological merit. Centrism itself is now the ideology of Reaganism: supply-side theory, imperial overreach, anti-environmentalism, and corporatist blather. Because it isn't couched in culture-war rhetoric, it's palatable to pundits like David Broder, Kathleen Parker, David Brooks, and Peggy Noonan. They are Serious People.

Senator Lindsey "Butters" Graham, is very disappointed with his Republican colleagues. It looks like enough of them are going to approve New Start despite Jon Kyl's specious objections. No lie:

"I stand here very disappointed in the fact that our lead negotiator on the Republican side ... basically is going to have his work product ignored and the treaty jammed through in the lame duck. How as Republicans we justify that I do not know," Graham said. "To Senator Kyl, I want to apologize to you for the way you've been treated by your colleagues."


It's important to remember that to the extent that the payroll-tax cut is stimulative, it's not because tax cuts per se are stimulative; it's because it's actually a form of income redistribution from the wealthy (specifically from the portion of their income unused for consumption) to the working and middle classes, via deficit-funded borrowing.

That is, once the wealthy have consumed all they want in goods and services they still have excess discretionary income, which they invest both to bid up the price of their paper assets (e.g. stock) and to put their unused wealth in safe instruments (e.g., U.S. Treasury securities).

So, the stimulus from the payroll-tax cut occurs by increasing consumer demand by borrowing money from the wealthy that they aren't using themselves for consumption, and giving it to working and middle class families with unfulfilled consumer needs. (Though in the case of the payroll tax cut some of that money is going right back to the wealthy: I've yet to see a breakdown of the figures by income decile.)

If the government had funded the payroll-tax cut instead by reducing its own spending by a like amount, then there would have been no increase in the deficit and national debt, because the increase in private sector demand would be exactly offset by a decrease in public sector demand, with the net result of no increase in demand in the economy as a whole; but as a result there would, ipso facto, also have been no stimulative effect, since demand would have remained unchanged.

A comparable stimulus (comparable in size over the same period) could have been accomplished, without the need to service new debt, by allowing the Bush tax-cut on households making more than $250,000 a year to expire; the taxes collected could then have been directly redistributed. (This would also maintain the integrity of Social Security instead of creating shortfalls which may allow the camel's nose of privatization into the retirement pension tent.)

For example, if the cost over two years of extending the Bush tax cuts for households making $250,000 or more is $100 billion (I've seen varying estimates but this is in the ballpark) then by collecting those taxes and redistributing them directly to 10 million working class families, each family would receive $10,000.

How stimulative would that be, as these households, hungry to get their part of the consumer society, spend these funds on goods and services sold by local businesses?

This would also eliminate that dreaded "uncertainty" we keep reading about, because it would be permanent rather than temporary and short-lived (two years). This would result in increased hiring as businesses used a portion of their increased profits to hire new workers to keep up with the increased demand; and the predictable income stream would certainly reduce "uncertainty" both for these businesses and for the banks whose loans to small business depend in part on income-stream projections.

Republicans argue that such a tax increase would hurt small business owners, whom it must be admitted provide most new jobs, since 75 percent of small firms report their business profits as personal income. But as USA Today reported (citing the Tax Policy Center) only 10 percent of the income that exceeds $250,000 is reported by sole proprietorships; and many of the others are hedge-funds and private-equity firms that don't do much hiring.

The biggest problem is that such a stimulus is too small, both with respect to the size of the economy and to the conditions (e.g., high unemployment, low demand) which persist.

Climate change cannot be addressed unilaterally or even primarily by developed countries (and specifically the U.S.); China has already eclipsed the United States as the world's leading greenhouse gas producer and the problem will get worse the longer China's manufacturing economy expands; and meanwhile India is waiting in the wings.

The problem isn't just manufacturing by developing nations, though that's part of it -- those "dark, satanic mills" associated with pollution since the time of the Industrial Revolution haven't changed a whole lot: they're still powered by dirty coal-fired power plants because that's cheap and China has an abundance of coal; and since emissions control is expensive that too falls by the wayside in a race to build manufacturing market share and create economic growth.

The problem gets worse because as China and India get manufacturing economies, those workers also become the new consumers, and one of the biggest consumer items (here or in the developing world) is the automobile. China is predicted to see an explosion of private automobile growth to put developing countries in the shadow of eclipse. Will those cars pass EPA standards? Likely not, but even if they did the addition in emissions would add enormously to the problem.

Furthermore, as China develops a consumer society, that will further expand the need for increased manufacturing and energy output in China, since its factories must meet not only export markets but increasing domestic markets as well.

Coincidentally, the development of China and India as manufacturing centers also drives energy demand and therefore may be a major factor behind an increase in energy prices.

So, the development of large population centers like China as both manufacturing centers and as consumer societies, is behind both the lion's share (a share soon to increase) of both climate change and any energy crunch that might occur.

What allows China to develop this way? Did China pull itself up by its own bootstraps?

No, China was able to do this because the trade laws and capital investment laws in developed nations (especially in the U.S.) allow it to, encourage it, actually, by penalizing (for example) U.S. manufacturers, who must pay a minimum wage (higher in fact since the U.S., unlike China, has independent unions). U.S. manufacturers must also comply with laws regulating pollution, emissions, dumping, workplace safety and compensation: China need not.

The answer, of course, isn't to allow U.S. manufacturers to create their own giant cloud of smog choking the nation, but to insist that the cost of Chinese goods to American consumers (for example) take into account these basic inconsistencies, so as to provide a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD for world capitalists.

There is also the matter of currency manipulation, which some analysts have estimated cause Chinese goods to be 40 percent cheaper than they would be if they allowed their currency to float like those of "free-market" economies. China doesn't even have a "real" (i.e., currency yet developed nations allow it to play at the big boys' table, apparently on behalf of international corporations based in their own nations, which have considerable political power.

P.S. Sorry for the typos in the last message but I'm trying to get this done on library computers with 15 minute Internet sessions and (with a possible line of waiting users) this doesn't encourage careful proofreading.

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