Snow Covered Bridge wallpaper

winter landscape

Snow Covered Bridge wallpaper

Steve Kornacki – who has been accused of being a Obama apologist for defending President Obama’s tax-cut/stimulus package versus  Andrew Leonard – We settle the “Is Obama a sellout?” debate – A conversation between two Salon writers with very different views of the president’s deal on the Bush tax cuts

SK: ( I’m excerpting parts. So I recommend reading the whole article.) I know the idea of taxing the wealthy, in the abstract, polls well. But in a climate like this, with unemployment stalled near 10 percent, swing voters are looking for reasons to blame the president. So they’d side with the GOP’s version, and Obama would then be forced to extend the tax cuts anyway — without the extra goodies he was able to extract now.

This is a good point. Who can really define what happened in the mid-term elections in rational terms. The public returned to office or kept in office mostly the same people whose economic philosophy were largely responsible for the Great Recession. Goodness knows moderate bloggers put up enough economic data and charts of the economy under conservative rule and it was like bouncing BB’s off an old Buck-Stove. Voters blamed the party in charge – abet for barely two years – for problems steaming from conservatives who created them. It was like rewarding a convicted arsonist with a torch and a free can of gasoline.

AL: But there are some big problems with your argument. First, tax cuts for the rich make for terrible stimulus — the rich tend to save their money instead of spend it. Second, the “small business” scare tactic is basically bogus. Only a fraction of the small business owners in the U.S. would be affected by rising taxes, and it is not at all clear that small business owners make their hiring decisions based on tax policy — they hire people to meet rising demand. Swing voters may be looking to blame someone for high unemployment, but how hard is it to make the case that: hey, we are going to raise taxes on the rich back to where they were during the Clinton years, when the economy boomed, and use that cash to pay for unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut that puts cash directly in the hands of people who need it and will spend it. That is a compelling argument that the polling consistently supports. We should have heard more of it. And sure, I understand the idea that the swing vote makes or breaks elections. But you also need to give your a base a reason to come out and vote.

Andrew’s is the regional reality based view – look at the numbers, the consequences and what would actually be better if a better deal could have been made . One which many moderate to liberal voters agree. It is connected to the now frequently heard argument that Obama and Democrats waited too long – after the mid-terms – to start making their case. I was in a few different states during the election, plus watched political ads on YouTube from Republicans. A big part of their platform in ad after ad was if you do not elect them Obama, Pelosi and Reid are going to rise your taxes. Even though those very same “liberals” gave the middle-class a tax cut, the election showed the right-wing message won, or lies and dirty politics won. I’m on Leonard’s side, but the best that can be done at this point is  – and this is a big maybe – is some slight alteration of the payroll tax holiday.

SK: Don’t get me wrong — I’m not actually saying the GOP line about small business is valid. And I willingly concede that, as best I can tell, there’s absolutely no stimulative value in maintaining the Bush era rates for the wealthy. My only point is that those arguments will, nonetheless, carry the day in this climate. Remember when the Clinton rates were put in place back in ’93? The wealthiest 1.8 percent of Americans saw their income taxes rise — but that’s not how swing voters saw it. Overwhelmingly, they believed their taxes had been raised. Why? Because the climate made them receptive to GOP rhetoric. The way I see it, Obama made two promises on the Bush tax cuts in his ’08 campaign: (1) To end them for the wealthiest Americans; and (2) to keep them going for the middle class. Once things got to this point, he was going to have to break at least one of those pledges, no matter what. So he chose the option that kept them going for the middle class and that gave him a chance to improve the economy enough to the point where he could actually win a message war with the GOP — over taxes or anything else.

More crystal balls, but he is probably right. never the less it doesn’t hurt for Democrats who disagree to make a lot of noise. Obama does seem cut off from his base or he is listening to the Republican-lite branch of his administration. If he thinks he can win reelection with a coalition of conservative Democrats, conservative independents and 5% of the Republican vote he’s mistaken. Though let’s not forget that Republicans have made a huge tactical error. The tax cut/stimulus deal is a glaring confession they were never serious about reducing the deficit. The $700 billion lost in revenue, plus the interest ( totally close to a trillion dollars) just so the richest one percent could avoid the same tax rates they paid during the Clinton administration will haunt conservatives in 2012. They can try running as the party whose rhetoric means something, but only the hard kool-aid drinkers on the Right possess the kind of cognitive dissonance it takes to pretend like that’s true. Who held the unemployed hostage to make billionaires wealthier. Republicans. Who is willing to let gay men and women die for their country and not recognize their humanity? Republicans. In a long Republican tradition of arms reduction, who held START hostage for petty political vindictiveness? Republicans. Who passed some kind of financial reform to protect consumers and investors against corporate maleficence? Not Republicans. Who passed some long overdue consumer protection against health care insurance shenanigans? Not Republicans. Who were the inane hypocrites who slammed the Recovery Act while taking credit for the projects it funded? Republicans. Who has stared America down the road of energy independence and green energy? Not Republicans. Who is recovering the TARP funds Republicans voted for and like to pretend they never heard of ? Democrats. Did Republicans just work out a compromise with a guy they swore shouldn’t be president because he has no birth certificate, is a secret Muslim, a secret socialist? Yes they did. Have the singers of right-wing triumphism just handed Democrats a huge loaded gun for the message wars of 2011-2012. It looks like they have.

A recent post on Paul Krugman’s blog – Hive-minds and Kleptocrats

It’s not often that I get a chance to accuse Charlie Stross of being stuck in the past, so I should take it — especially because it’s a way to avoid (a) commenting more on the tax debacle and (b) finishing the redraft of the monetary policy chapter in Krugman/Wells 3rd edition (how the heck do we get quantitative easing in without totally muddying everything else?)

So: for those who don’t know, Stross is a spectacularly good contemporary science-fiction author, brimming with ideas, who also has a stimulating blog, where his latest entry asks why things are so messed up. His proposed answer is that we’ve been invaded by alien organisms — namely, corporations:

Corporations do not share our priorities. They are hive organisms constructed out of teeming workers who join or leave the collective: those who participate within it subordinate their goals to that of the collective, which pursues the three corporate objectives of growth, profitability, and pain avoidance. (The sources of pain a corporate organism seeks to avoid are lawsuits, prosecution, and a drop in shareholder value.)

Corporations have a mean life expectancy of around 30 years, but are potentially immortal; they live only in the present, having little regard for past or (thanks to short term accounting regulations) the deep future: and they generally exhibit a sociopathic lack of empathy.

I like it; it’s fun (although William Gibson said much the same thing, I think); but it’s so 1960s, if you know what I mean.

No, really. There was a time, back when John Kenneth Galbraith was writing The New Industrial State and all that, when the notion of the soulless corporation transcending individual will was big stuff. But much of what JKG wrote then if anything evokes nostalgia now. There’s a fairly extensive section of The New Industrial State explaining why abuse of corporate position for personal gain was no longer an issue, with “the rise of the technocracy with its new professional attitudes and its widely diffused power acting as a safeguard against individual avarice or larceny.” That was then.

These days, we’re living in the world of the imperial, very self-interested individual; the man in the gray flannel suit has been replaced by the man in the very expensive Armani suit. Look at the protagonists in the global financial meltdown, and you won’t see faceless corporations subverting individual will; you’ll see avaricious individuals exploiting corporate forms to enrich themselves, often bringing the corporations down in the process. Lehman, AIG, Anglo-Irish, etc. were not cases of immortal hive-minds at work; they were cases of kleptocrats run wild.

One of the Right’s intellectual bloggers – a Professor Bainbridge – read that and his head exploded. Not able to deal with what Krugman and Stross actually said proceeds to lecture the world on the holy inerrantness of THE CORPORATION – In Praise of the Corporation

Piffle. In the first place, Stross is engaged in reification to an absurd degree.

The lack of modern corporate culture’s morality is a “piffle”. PB’s sycophantic servitude to the corporation is somehow not reification, but Stross and Krugman questioning both the economic benefits and curliness of some corporations is. Clever for a conservative, if obviously flawed. His readers will repeat it, link to it, without questioning the substance. This syncs with the Right’s penchant for strict authoritarian hierarchies. Corporations as the modern totalitarian monarchy is a conservative wet dream. One that is better left in one’s fetid imagination rather than foisted on the public as a valid public policy argument.He goes on,

Properly understood, the corporation is a set of relationships among people who have various stakes in the enterprise. Employees provide labor. Creditors provide debt capital. Shareholders initially provide equity capital and subsequently bear the risk of losses and monitor the performance of management. Management coordinates the activities of all the firm’s stakeholders. The corporation thus is not a thing, but rather a nexus or web of explicit and implicit contracts establishing rights and obligations among the various people making up the firm. It is a fundamentally human endeavor. Indeed, the business corporation is really a community of human beings, acting together to provide goods and services to other human beings.

I have no issue with that statement what so ever. Neither does Krugman or any other prominent left of center economists as far as I know. No where does Krugman or Stross advocate doing away with corporations. This is apparently difficult for PB to understand and I’ll word it as simply as possible – it would be best for the country, the economy, consumers and investors if corporations behaved within moral boundaries. The only way righties like PB can even get foothold on the argument is if they create flaming straw men to argue with. The rest of PB’s post is just one boring assault on his straw man in which, not surprisingly, he comes out the while knight besieged by the anti-capitalist windmills of his imagination.

“I hope we shall… crush in its birth the aristocracy of our
moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our
government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of
our country.” –Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.

Jefferson was not saying corporations should be crushed – the kind of cheap and dishonest analysis which PB would  probably ascribe to Jefferson as he did to Krugman – he was saying corporations should not operate outside the laws and moral obligations of a free society. Corporations should not act like privileged aristocracy. How that came to be considered anti-American or anti-capitalism says a lot about how far Right and out of touch with American virtues,  modern conservatism has become.

Vintage Santa Claus wallpaper

retro holiday

Vintage Santa Claus wallpaper

The Kenyan Communist Muslim Democrats who are out to destroy capitalism turned a $12-billion profit on Citigroup bailout

Taxpayers earned a $12-billion profit on the U.S. Treasury’s $45-billion bailout of Citigroup Inc., the government reported as it sold the last of its stock in the banking giant.

The Treasury said late Monday that it sold 2.4 billion Citigroup shares to private investors at $4.35 apiece, raising $10.5 billion.

That brought to $57 billion the government’s total proceeds from the bank, including previous sales of Citigroup stock as well as dividend and interest income that the bank paid the government..

“By selling all the remaining Citigroup shares today, we had an opportunity to lock in substantial profits for the taxpayer and avoid all future risk,” Tim Massad, acting assistant secretary for financial stability, said in a statement. “With this transaction, we have advanced our goals of recovering TARP funds, protecting the taxpayer and getting the government out of the business of owning stakes in private companies.”

[  ]…The bank said in a statement Monday that it was “very appreciative of the support provided by the U.S. Treasury during the financial crisis.”

As previously reported, the projected cost of the total $700-billion financial-system bailout fund of 2008 — initially feared to be a huge drain on taxpayers — continues to drop, with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimating last week that losses would amount to $25 billion.

Tea smoking conservatives accomplished quite the trick in the midterms, pretending they had nothing to do with the TARP bail-out – Sarah Palin supported it than pretended she never said any such thing. That lame stream media keeps track of what she says thus the unhinged hatred. And of course the whole time they were using TARP as a cudgel during the campaign season tea smoker plastic roots backers FeedomWorks was promising Wall St/TARP recipients they would soon stop those mean Democrats from picking on them.

The culture of corruption is back – New Conservative Republican Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)  Was ‘Porker Of The Month’ In August. The Tea Smokers must be proud – At Least 13 New Republican Members Of Congress Hire Corporate Lobbyists To Manage Their Office

Is the payroll tax holiday a threat to Social Security. It took less then two days for Democrats to have a split in opinion over the possibility – Will The Payroll Tax Cut Threaten Social Security?

The latest argument against the tax deal goes like this: After the payroll tax, which funds Social Security, is temporarily cut to stimulate the economy, Republicans will never let it go back up again, and indeed, that’s what they’re telling Ryan Grim on the Hill. This is all just a secret plan to roll Obama and go after the social safety net. Jon Walker writes at Firedoglake, “The payroll tax holiday was never a progressive idea.”

Wasn’t it? Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s progressive budget plan included a payroll tax cut, and the Campaign for America’s Future called it “A Proposal That Actually Strengthens Social Security.” Josh Bivens of EPI endorsed a payroll tax cut in February, 2010, as a good method to stimulate the economy. Progressive Senator Dick Durbin made the deficit commission include a payroll tax holiday to stimulate the economy. This is an idea that has a fairly prominent progressive pedigree.

Now, the payroll tax cut is not the most efficient path to fiscal stimulus or even the first progressive choice, but it is one of the best tax side measures, and like it or not, that’s the most likely way to get stimulus into the economy right now. The question is whether Democrats will make sure that the cut expires over GOP objections — not exactly a maneuver where they’re earning high marks right now. But Kevin Drum thinks the dynamic around this temporary cut are different from those around the Bush tax cuts, because it’s not linked to anything else, it’s a relatively short change targeted mainly at low- and middle-income folks, and the fight will not come during an election year. I find that pretty convincing.

I don’t know that I’m convinced, only it is true that Democrats as a party do bring out the heavy artillery at any attempt to dismantle Social Security. Dean baker disagrees – The Obama Tax Deal: Giving the Hostage Takers More Hostages. I’m already tired of the crystal ball glazing about a process issue. If Democrats are for it, Republicans will draw a line in the sand a few feet into Democratic territory. Conservatives are committed to being the party that represents the plutocracy and have no moral compunctions what so ever at holding working class Americans hostage to achieve those ends. Worrying about the future is reasonable. Throwing up one’s hands in defeat is not. Why and how did the right-wing get the advantage in talking points and media influence it has today – thick or thin, victory or defeat – over the last fifty years they blindly pursued their goals. Liberals and the staunchly progressive could take a lesson from that. Think long term. Think about making conservatives resort to scorched earth politics and the daily propaganda in order to achieve their ends. Time is on the side of the rational, the common good and the stubborn Democrats. Demographics are shifting our way. The midterms were a baby step backwards.

Black and White Eitai Bridge wallpaper

bridge city skyline

Black and White Eitai Bridge wallpaper

I would rather not do this post. From reading the comments at the news sites and blogs most people have made up their minds one way or another. One observation is despite talk of the base – by which analysts mean progressives – being uniformly against Obama’s compromise or his savvy political jujitsu, the base seems split. Let’s remember that regardless of what one thought was best there is always the reality of votes. In the short time left in the lame duck session there was the real possibility of letting keeping the middle-class tax cuts and letting the upper bracket cuts expire. There was no real chance in the Senate with two or more Democratic defectors. That was the reality all along. Obama could have forced the issue with a veto threat and let all the cuts expire. Would America have gotten a better deal at that point considering all the pieces in play – tax cuts, DADT, the START treaty and unemployment benefits? Put aide feelings, hopes and ideals for a minute and play president for a day. You play the hand you’re dealt not the one you wish you had. After the first of the year, with the tax cuts expired, would there have been a net gain for most Americans considering the scorched earth attitude of conservative leadership, who have sworn to do anything necessary to sabotage Democrats, America  and the Obama presidency. How the White House cut its deal and lost its base

If you look at the numbers alone, the tax cut deal looks to have robbed Republicans blind. The GOP got around $95 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans and $30 billion in estate tax cuts. Democrats got $120 billion in payroll-tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and education tax credits), $56 billion in unemployment insurance, and, depending on how you count it, about $180 billion (two-year cost) or $30 billion (10-year cost) in new tax incentives for businesses to invest.

But that’s not how it’s being understood. Republicans are treating it as a victory, and liberals as a defeat. Which raises two separate questions: Why did Republicans give Obama so much? And why aren’t Democrats happier about it?

Some liberals are happy about it or at least accepting of the real possibility Obama got the best of Republicans and the best deal on the table. American Progress has never been ones to shrink from their progressive credentials and they like it,

Progressives need to be clear and honest about what just happened on taxes and the economy. Since the midterm election, it has been clear that the Congressional Republican Leadership was perfectly prepared to see middle and working class tax cuts expire and extended unemployment insurance end unless millionaire tax cuts were extended. All the talk about decoupling and extending middle class tax cuts from the cuts for millionaires was wishful thinking at best and just political talk at worst and no strategy could have produced it during the lame duck.

So President Obama was faced with a choice: he could trade a few more years of unnecessary and wasteful tax breaks for the rich in exchange for assistance to the unemployed, additional targeted tax relief for working families through the refundable earned income tax credit and child credit, and keeping tax rates low for 98 percent of Americans; alternatively he could allow taxes to rise on everyone starting in January. At the end of the day, President Obama decided he couldn’t abandon the millions of Americans who are struggling to keep their families afloat, who are diligently searching for work, and who simply cannot afford higher taxes right now, even though the Congressional Republican Leadership was more than happy to do so if we wouldn’t pay their ransom.

It was a steep price, but this deal will mean about 2 million jobs saved or created over the next two years. On balance, I think the President was right to choose helping working Americans over a December conflagration. But the question hanging over Washington and the country today is how will he avoid repeating the same scenario being played out again and again for the next two years? That’s a question that is keeping me awake at night.

John D. Podesta is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress

This may dark humor for the disappointed – myself included – but think about it this way. In 2012 Republicans are going to be arguing for an extension of the Obama tax cuts and attached at the hip to that argument, conservatives, as they did this time, will be arguing for continued  large deficits. Mental Midget Grover Norquist is already showing conservative’s hand – slash government spending. Whether it is Main St tea nut conservatives or Republican leadership in Congress they have no real plan to make up the tax cuts with spending cuts.

This is the part of the Obama plan which is unacceptable. A back door attack on Social Security – Obama’s “Tax Holiday”: A Poison Pill For Social Security

Extending this 2% cut would gut Social Security’s finances forever. But whatever happens, look at what Social Security’s enemies will have accomplished:

* The “lockbox” principle between Social Security and the overall budget will have been erased forever. A relatively small infusion of cash into the trust fund will be the poison pill that erases the “trust fund” principle.  Once the program has contributed to the deficit, it’s no longer separately funded.
* The enemies of Social Security will have painted a bull’s eye on its only source of funding. People will see it as a “new tax” — in a year when the economy’s not expected to have fully recovered.
* They’ll be in a position to argue, once again, that “America can’t afford” to provide financial security for middle-class seniors.

What’s more, would-be cutters like Maya McGuineas and Alan Simpson have made it clear that they’d love to get their hands on the $2.6 trillion in Social Security’s Trust Fund to use it for other purposes (like covering the debt that was run up by tax cuts for the wealthy and a couple of wars).  This will give them their chance.

As far as getting the most economic bang for the buck on a relatively small stimulus shot, a temporary break in payroll taxes for business would have been more effective as a hiring motivator. It is still on the table and worth fighting for. I regularly check economic stats over at The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They have never been shy about holding Democrat;s feet to the fire over economic issues. Robert Greenstein looks at the positives and negatives, Statement: Robert Greenstein, Executive Director, on the Tax Cut-Unemployment Insurance Deal

The Positives in the Package

The package continues for two years all of the 2009 Recovery Act improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (which helps students from low- and middle-income families afford college), and the refundable component of the Child Tax Credit. These measures are simultaneously effective stimulus policy, desirable social policy, and admirable anti-poverty policy. They encourage work over welfare and help more Americans obtain a college education; they provide sound stimulus by putting money in the hands of hard-pressed working families that will spend it; and they substantially reduce child poverty.

[  ]…The Negatives

The package’s biggest disappointment is a provision that would shrink the estate tax well below its 2009 level for the next two years.

President Obama sought to reinstate the already-generous 2009 estate tax rules, under which the estates of 99.75 percent of people who die would be entirely tax free, according to the Tax Policy Center. Under the 2009 rules, the first $3.5 million of an estate ($7 million for couples) would be exempt from the tax, and the maximum tax rate on the taxable portion of estates would be 45 percent; the average effective tax rate on taxable estates would be below 20 percent.

There is more at the link. Why or how Republicans get worked up on making sure rich kids get as much unearned income as possible and  not have to do an honest day’s work their entire lives is another conservative fetish which defies explanation – Please do not put anything back into the economic infrastructure which made your wealth possible.

Hot Jazz wallpaper

Hot Jazz wallpaper

James Fellows on Democratic messaging and Sen. John Kerry’s recent appearance on Meet the Press. An Effective Presentation of the Dems’ Tax-Cut Case

“You care about unemployment? We’re committed to extending benefits that can help families stay above water, hold onto their houses if possible, and have at least some spending power as they keep looking for work. You need a tax break in a recession? We agree — we want to cut taxes for every household in the country. And that’s why we’re in a fight with the Republican minority that is determined to stop tax relief for you, and deny help to families who’ve lost jobs, unless we give huge extra tax cuts for the people who’ve already enjoyed the greatest tax-cut benefits and are least likely to spend that money to keep the economy strong. We’re saying: tax cuts for everybody on income up to $250,000 — and for money above that, to control the deficit, let’s go back to the rates of the 1990s, when the economy boomed. They’re saying: no tax cuts for anybody, unless there’s a special bonus for people at the very top.

We’re all for compromise — but not with bad, destructive, budget-busting ideas. That’s why we’re drawing the line here.”

I mention this both because I think Kerry’s argument is right on the merits, and because it’s worth recognizing political arguments presented competently.

Kerry has always been a good speaker. Even his advocacy could be trimmed down a bit – Democrats have the best plan for the middle ground. We want to give 95% of Americans a tax cut and generate revenue to bring down the deficit. Republicans want a tax cut for the wealthy which will increase the deficit, plus the interest on that debt. Even with the right message President Obama and Democrats are at a disadvantage. One, rather it is just appearances or the latest media Village meme – Obama does not seem to be leading the way. House Speaker Pelosi – who continues to be the most effective House leader in decades – is not only on message, but actually passed a a good tax bill. It looks as though the Republican hostage crisis has been settled – as I write this anyway – with the White House willing to pay the Republican tax extortion with a promise Republicans will extend unemployment benefits. The message war is thus already over. Democrats, or more precisely Obama held all the cards and for reasons unclear to most of us – has caved. The consensus seems to be that threatening to veto anything less than a tax cut only for those below the $250k threshold would make Democrats look as though they were rising taxes. That is arguable. The message wars never cease and any victory or defeat by Democrats will always be spun as a victory for the far right. Obama has been shown time and again there is no compromise with the nutbars. Republicans are the extortion party. They’re shamelessly willing to hold America hostage for the sake of a few hundred people who make their money via the labor of millions of hard working Americans.

Until Dubya came along Ronald Reagan was up there as one of the worse presidents ever. Even he could see the dangers of a slash and burn tax policy – The Great Taxer

But Ronald Reagan does hold a special place in the annals of tax policy, and not just as the patron saint of tax cuts. To his credit, he was more pragmatic and responsible than that; he followed his huge 1981 tax cut with two large tax increases. In fact, no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people. This is not a criticism: the tale of those increases tells you a lot about what was right with President Reagan’s leadership, and what’s wrong with the leadership of George W. Bush.

The first Reagan tax increase came in 1982. By then it was clear that the budget projections used to justify the 1981 tax cut were wildly optimistic. In response, Mr. Reagan agreed to a sharp rollback of corporate tax cuts, and a smaller rollback of individual income tax cuts. Over all, the 1982 tax increase undid about a third of the 1981 cut; as a share of G.D.P., the increase was substantially larger than Mr. Clinton’s 1993 tax increase.

Krugman also reminds us Reagan did not look at Social Security ( currently Social Security is good for another 38 years) and Medicare short-falls and see nothing but benefit cuts. Reagan increased payroll taxes to keep those programs going. Even with his tax increases Reagan saddled the nation with record breaking debt. Anyone stay p late occasionally and watch those commercials which promise windfalls of wealth if you buy their course. If they worked we’d all be millionaires by now. Republicans have been selling the same shame scheme for decades. They promise the American people they can have all the things they ever dreamed of – great roads, the best schools, great police and fire protection, a world leader in space exploration and medical research…all without paying for it. Yes cutting taxes puts money in one pocket – but they take money out of the other pocket by having roads and bridges in disrepair, falling behind on new technologies that create the jobs of the future, fewer college graduates and fewer good paying jobs for people who don’t attend college, more children in poverty, more American without health care and dental benefits, dirty lakes and rivers ( the degradation of America’s natural heritage) and the income gap between the haves and have littles growing every year as an economy and culture we value wealth and the wealthy over work, initiative and innovation. Republican love to while about Democratic complaints over class warfare that they say doesn’t exists. Democrats should never ever back down from the fact there is a war of the classes in America. Conservatism has the same agenda as monarchs and princes of early Europe. Conservative are the chosen and everyone else should learn to accept their place as a permanent underclass:

Contrary to the cherished beliefs of most Americans, the United States has less social mobility than any other developed country. As Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution have shown, 42 percent of American men with fathers in the bottom fifth of the income distribution remain there as compared to: Denmark, 25 percent; Sweden, 26 percent; Finland, 28 percent; Norway, 28 percent; and Britain, 30 percent. The American Dream is fast becoming a myth…

What do we see on the broadcast media and read in print from conservatives – the problem is the American people are lazy and untrustworthy. Listening to conservative politicians and pundits we’re to believe that America has dissolved into a cushy nanny state.  Any readers feel like they can quite their jobs tomorrow and live an easy life with all those too easy to get gov’mint benefits rolling in? Of course not. Our minuscule safety net barely provides funds and food to survive – and then only for a short time. There is no upside to being lazy in the U.S. Well, you can be lazy and rich. Acknowledging these facts would mean conservatives would have to admit the conservative agenda – which has largely eroded the progressive pro middle-class policies of Teddy Roosevelt and FDR’s New Deal has deep structural fallacies. The daily noise we hear about creeping socialism is simply the sound of the scared and ignorant who are afraid real working Americans will get their fair share of the pie.

Conservatives do have some entertainment value. They can pull ridiculous memes out of their ass faster than Superman can leap a tall building: Thus we need to give the wealthy tax cuts because they are so darn uncertain about the future. Gingrich: Let Rich People Decide How Long Their Tax Cuts Last

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed an odd method for determining how long to extend the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy — ask the very wealthy how long they want them:

What Republicans ought to do is say to people who create jobs, how many years does the tax code need to be extended for you to make an investment decision? I mean, the goal’s not to have an annual extension of the current tax code, and then have every business in the country trapped saying, “I don’t know.  I want to make a 20 year investment in a factory.” … There is a number, but I would have the business leadership of the country describe the number.

Gingrich’s moral compass is made the point of Satan’s tail and his knowledge of the current state of corporate America’s finances from a 25 year old box of fried big skins,

Tax cuts for the rich, on the other hand, are only marginally more useful than simply burning the money.  Indeed, corporate America is presently sitting on a massive $1.6 trillion in cash reserves, but their actions in recent months demonstrate that business leaders would rather let this money grow mold than actually spend it to put Americans back to work. Gingrich offers no explanation for why simply giving the rich even more money to hoard will magically cause them to spend it on hiring people.

Moreover, while Gingrich’s proposed windfall for the Kardashians would no doubt win wide support from the superrich CEOs he wants to set tax policy, his idea is massively out of step with the rest of the country. Only 26 percent of Americans believe that Donald Trump needs another tax cuts. Likewise, Americans reject Gingrich’s plan to let the unemployed eat cake by a massive 3 to 1 margin.

Paradise River Washington State wallpaper – Republicans Hold America Hostage Day 23

river and evergreens

Paradise River Washington State wallpaper

Arizona ‘death panel’? State Medicaid cuts poised to let some poor patients die

Arizona death panel? State Medicaid cuts poised to let some poor patients die. A law in Arizona that cuts Medicaid funding for certain transplant operations is likely to bring about the deaths of poor residents in need of such procedures.

Starting in October, a measure passed by the Republican-led state legislature began denying Medicaid funds for organ transplants such as bone-marrow, lung, heart and liver transplants, which can be very expensive and are often performed in life-threatening cases.

The New York Times reports that Arizona doctors deem it “a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.”

I know from personal experience with friends, family and co-workers that liver and bone marrow transplants are not some sci-fi medical experimentation. They have become standard treatment. Taking these transplant options away is a death sentence. While Arizona legislators and Governor Gov Jan Brewer(R) deserve the verbal lashing they are getting,  this institutionalized death panel business has been around for a while. Sarah Palin simultaneously lied and proved her ignorance of the issue when she claimed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provided for death panels. Death panels have been a fringe benefit of the oh so awesome private health insurance industry for years.

As far as pundits go Charles Blow is among the better ones even with his tendency to bend over backwards to be fair to conservatives and their motivations. In regards to Sarah Palin and the current political climate he doesn’t seem to get the dynamics at work – She Who Must Not Be Named

This is it. This is the last time I’m going to write the name Sarah Palin until she does something truly newsworthy, like declare herself a candidate for the presidency. Until then, I will no longer take part in the left’s obsessive-compulsive fascination with her, which is both unhealthy and counterproductive.

She’s the Zsa Zsa Gabor of American politics. She once did something noteworthy, but she’s now just famous for being famous.

Someone recently called Palin the Paris Hilton of politics – the paparazzi darling famous for simply being famous. I thought the comparison an injustice to M’s Hilton.

What Blow does not understand about the Palin as wing-nut rock star phenomenon is that moderate minded Americans cannot win the message war. If the media, pundits and big blog sites do not cover her they are accused of political bias, gender bias and thinking of themselves as too elite to cover Palin – the latest plastic roots hero of the right. If the same people cover Palin – and simply report what she said – as in the recent gaffe about North Korea being our allies, than the elites are out to get Palin. If Palin’s speeches on any aspect of public policy are scrutinized for truth, accuracy and feasibility, those doing the analysis are out to get her. Palin has not suffered from the rough and tumble of modern politics more than anyone else. Many Americans are too busy trying to keep their jobs or find a job or pay for junior’s dental work to shed tears over  Palin’s latest whine about hurt feelings. Palin, a paid up member of the play the victim card conservative whiners club is stunned that people with real problems do not sympathize with someone who became a millionaire because of the right-wing cult of personality. Blow has simply chosen option one. Now he will be considered by some to be a liberal elite and misogynist against female conservatives. If he had chosen option two there would be consequences of equal severity. The later is a mistake moderate rationally minded Americans made for years – ignore the nutjobs like Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter because no person of reasonable intelligence and temperament will take them seriously. Individually it is debatable they have all the earth-shaking influence they claim to have – taken as a group they create the mindless chatter, the alternate reality, the bizarro world that comprises the right-wing noise machine. That noise machine, as silly, shallow and devoid of integrity as it is manages to convince enough of  that small fraction of fence sitters to squeeze out electoral victories of minuscule margins.

One of the allegedly last moderate Republicans joins her cohorts in holding DADT hostage – Collins And Brown Announce Support For Repeal, Day Two Of Hearings In 9 Minutes

Moments ago, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in announcing that she would vote to proceed to the National Defense Authorization Act — the legislation that contains Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal — under an open amendment process. Collins added that she would vote for the legislation “once the tax issue is resolved.” Brown did not overtly attach any conditions to his vote, stating simply, “I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the Secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

Collins, McCain(R-AZ) and most of the Republican Senate caucus are willing to let gay members of the military die for their country – as long as they keep their sexuality a secret. But not will not rest until multimillionaires are relived of the specter of paying the same taxes they paid under Saint Ronnie.

“Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) raised a few eyebrows yesterday when compared negotiating with Senate Republicans to negotiating with terrorists.”

He accused the Republicans of holding middle class tax cuts “hostage” to tax cuts for the wealthy. That’s a common Democratic line, but Menendez took the analogy a step further.

Asked if Democrats have a responsibility to move forward with a bill that can become law – in other words, a bill Republicans will support and not block– here’s what Menendez said:

“Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.”

John Cole gets the quote of the day in response

Negotiating with Republicans is like negotiating with terrorists, although there is a slight difference. Usually, terrorists are more straight-forward with their demands. Republican demands shift with every day, and to demonstrate, here is Susan Collins.

Let’s all cross our fingers and hope Menendez does not apologize for telling the truth. I don’t have time to find and list all the incidents where conservatives straight up accused Democrats or anyone who disagreed with them of being terrorist sympathizers sans the “almost” qualifier, but here is one – Maddow uses Liz Cheney’s logic: Bush admin hired terrorist sympathizers

The ad, produced by Cheney’s conservative group Keep America Safe, suggests that lawyers who defend detainees accused of terrorism are lacking American values and specifically accuses seven lawyers hired by the Obama administration to serve in the justice department of sympathizing with terrorists.

In her show Friday night, Maddow followed that reasoning to its logical conclusion. Maddow gives three examples of lawyers who advocated for the rights of detainees before being hired by the Bush administration, including Pratik Shah, who argued in the defense of a Guantanamo prison detainee.

“So, did Bush and Cheney hire Pratik Shah to bring a terrorist sympathizer into the department of jihad — I mean justice?” she said.
The other two examples are Varda Hussain, who defended three Guantanamo detainees, and Trisha Anderson, who defended 13 Yemeni prisoners. Both were ultimately hired by the Bush administration. “I would love to ask Liz Cheney these questions in person,” Maddow said, adding that Cheney has refused interviews with the program.

Mitt Romney tries to show off his national security credentials and has a massive fail – Stop START
Nuclear treaty limits America’s options for missile defense. By Mitt Romney.
It is not that Romney is only lying, distorting, telling half-truths and fundamentally failing to understand the new START treaty to argue against Democrats. He is also arguing against the Republican history of arms control, The Republican case for ratifying New START – By Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell. Shultz and Eagleburger in particular, were right-wingers before Sarah Palin figured out Russia was just across the Bering Straight.

As a result, we urge the Senate to ratify the New START treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It is a modest and appropriate continuation of the START I treaty that expired almost a year ago. It reduces the number of nuclear weapons that each side deploys while enabling the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent and preserving the flexibility to deploy those forces as we see fit.

Some days it is like we’re back in the 60s or 70s and the right is hiding under their beds from the Red Menace – Scare Tactics

Treaty critics rely heavily on scare tactics to advance their causes. In times of polarity, conviction politics can override substance – especially when blocking action does not require a majority vote. So naysayers borrow scripts developed for the talking heads on Fox, on the assumption that if arguments unsupported by facts are repeated often enough, enough people – in this instance Senators – will believe them to be true.

Opponents of the New START agreement reprise classic Cold War arguments. As in the 1970s, they argue that the treaty makes America more vulnerable to attack and unable to be properly defended. Since the Soviet Union and the ABM Treaty are both dead, this line of argument takes some explaining, especially since New START permits the United States to maintain the strongest nuclear deterrent on the planet, secures additional billions to modernize the nuclear weapons complex, and allows as much of a build up of missile defenses as the administration, the Pentagon, and the Congress see fit to pursue.

Its Cold Outside Winter Snow wallpaper

mountian cabin snow

Its Cold Outside Winter Snow wallpaper

This report – Senate Republicans Threaten Tax Dispute Blockade – makes this post – Can We Do the Non-Crazy Thing with the Bush Tax Cuts?– seem like so much yelling by a rational person locked up by the raving pitchfork carrying mob. First from the NYT link,

Not even 24 hours after President Obama met with senior Republican Congressional leaders and expressed hopes for a “new dialogue,” renewed partisan fury engulfed the Senate on Wednesday, as Republicans threatened to block any legislation until a deal is reached to extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, potentially derailing the Democrats’ busy end-of-year agenda.

So the conservative destruction of America continues. Tied, gagged and held hostage with the Bush gift to the wealthiest 1% of America, are legislation to repeal DADT,  the New Start arms treaty with Russia, clean energy innovation, jobless benefits for people who cannot afford their rent much less Republican elitism and identity politics, and the food safety bill. Can We Do the Non-Crazy Thing

Let’s remember that the permanent extension of “just” the “middle-class” Bush tax cuts, as President Obama has proposed, would add about $2.2 trillion to the debt over the next ten years–without interest costs and without the associated extension of Alternative Minimum Tax relief.  Such extension would preserve the full value of Bush tax cuts for 97-98 percent of households while continuing to give the largest dollar value of tax cuts to those above the $250,000 threshold.  (That’s because those in the upper tax brackets have income that passes entirely through the lower brackets.)  Extending the upper bracket cuts along with the rest would raise the ten-year cost to close to $3 trillion (again, without interest).  So the Administration and Congress are debating over whether we should commit to over $2 trillion, versus closer to $3 trillion, in deficit-financed Bush tax cuts.

The Village wisdom seems to be it would be bad for Democrats and Republicans to be gridlocked to the point where all the tax cuts expire. On the contrary. If tax cuts are passed now – regardless of cut off point as to what income bracket – they become the Obama tax cuts and Obama’s contribution to the deficit. They become the Republican’s contribution to the deficit. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky) is the one saying the election was a mandate for Republican to firebomb the economy based on the election cycle’s budget peacockery. Republicans, unwilling to compromise, have decided to increase the deficit by $3 trillion dollars. That is simply a fact. It is not that Republicans cannot spin facts – they would not have a political movement without spin – it is those facts are ammunition for the majority of moderate Americans who favor letting tax cuts for the wealthy return to what they were under the Reagan administration. Republicans have been having conniption fits for over a year over the deficit ( they ran up the largest deficit in U.S. history during the Bush years. Ideological consistency and integrity have never been the rabid Rights strong suit). Now those same shrill conservatives have the chance to knock out a big chunk of the deficit and would prefer their poor suffering billionaire fiends catch a break. Democrats and President Obama will fold for no other reason than that seems to be what they do. Obama still has not gotten over his starry eyed ideals about bipartisanship and compromise. Andrew Sullivan – bless his little beltway heart – thinks yelling truisms at Republicans will make them blink – The Dickishness Of The GOP

What we’ve observed these past two years is a political party that knows nothing but scorched earth tactics, cannot begin to see any merits in the other party’s arguments, refuses to compromise one inch on anything, and has sought from the very beginning to do nothing but destroy the Obama presidency. I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president. Worse, figures like Cantor and McCain actively seek to back foreign governments against the duly elected president of their own country, and seek to repeal the signature policy achievement of Obama’s first two years, universal healthcare.

I know it is the opposition’s role to oppose. But the sheer scale and absolutism of the opposition, and its continuation in the lame duck session, even over such small but integral reforms such as the new START and DADT repeal, is remarkable.

Whether Mitch McConnell(R-KY) or Eric Cantor (R-VA) or any other conservative actually believe the fantasy based fountain of nonsense they regurgitate is Kafkaesque. It does not seem to matter what mandate they have, if any. They act as though the polls overwhelmingly support their agenda. They’re in the bubble. We’ve had Louisiana governor and GOP wunderkin Bobby Jindal slam stimulus spending as he poses for a photo opt taking credit for a stimulus funded project. Photo ops like that are one of millions of moments in how Republicans shamelessly deny reality. Rank and file conservatives perform whatever mental gymnastics required to deny the shameless hypocrisy, the scathed earth policies, the never-ending scandals, the gluttonous greed, the contempt for good governance and the common good. This has gone on in a vicious cycle since Nixon. Republicans never learn from their debacles Watergate, Iran-Contra, the housing bubble, deregulation mania, Wall St as backroom poker game, Iraq, the current recession – because they manage to convince people these catastrophic attacks on the core values of democracy are a good thing. Someone once said everything is political. Maybe, but a lot of it seems to be advertising and product contents. Republicans regularly come out with the new conservatism, with new and improved ingredients. The public washes, rinses and repeats. The core ingredients and effects remain the same, they are still a lousy product. In the last sixty years there has not been one economic, legal, national security or cultural remedy from the conservative camp to be successful – excepting making the wealthy wealthier, but Democrats do that too. Considering what we know about the American public this is a truly remarkable phenomenon. In America we send back cold coffee, over-done steaks, tires that wear out too quickly. We get pissed off if we find out a lazy co-worker makes 20 cents more an hour. People get enraged at someone on food stamps buying a soda. If conservatism was a product or service rather than some Marxist based economics twisted with eliminationism, then molded into a  radical ideology it would be in the large featured glass dome in the Museum of Worse Products Ever.

Micheal Boskin was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush. That’s really all you need to know. He, without shame, crawls out from under his rock and pens this clever screed at the Wall St Journal – Why the Spending Stimulus Failed, New economic research shows why lower tax rates do far more to spur growth. He is wrong or lying or delusional – Whiplash: Conservatives Play Politics with Stimulus Spending (Boskin seems to have intentionally misrepresented the multiplier effect)

What the Romer analysis actually does show is that if you factor in the reduced size of the substitute with the lower stimulative impact of tax cuts, the number of new additional jobs created would decline from 3.9 million under the committee bill to about 1.3 million under the substitute. The Camp substitute would actually create fewer jobs than the economy has lost in just the last three months.

Romer is not alone in her pessimistic estimate of the weak impact that tax cuts have on a troubled economy. A number of private economic forecasting services have published estimates that are equally or in some instances even more pessimistic. Mark Zandi at Moody’s economy.com, for instance, published a paper earlier this month which estimates some tax cuts (such as reducing the corporate tax rate) provide a stimulus equal to or less than one-third of the size of the revenue lost through the tax cut, while some spending increases (higher food stamp benefits) provide a stimulus that is 70 percent greater than the size of the spending increase. In other words, spending increases can in some instances have five times the stimulative impact of tax cuts.

More on Boskin’s falsehoods here, Economists agree: Stimulus created nearly 3 million jobs. Here, No Correlation Between Bush Tax Cuts and Job Creation, Report Shows