The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History November 10, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Trade Agreements.
Tags: carbon emissions, chris hedges, craig roberts, environment, food safety, Free Trade, Goldman Sachs, labor, monsanto, NAFTA, national sovereignty, public services, roger hollander, social security, tisa, tpp, trade agreements, trans pacific, ttip, wto
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Roger’s note: Here are two articles that lay out what is at stake with respect to the three so-called trade agreements (TTP, TTIP, TISA). This is pretty frightening stuff. Keep in mind that a central definition of fascism is when corporations and governments are indistinguishable.
By Chris Hedges
November 09, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Truthdig“ – The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.
“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”
The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.
These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.
The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.
The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”
If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.
Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.
The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.
There will be a mass mobilization Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.
“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”
The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.
“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.”
The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.
“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”
“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”
Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, a new study by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.
“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”
The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a report by Public Citizen. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.
“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progress made in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”
The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.
“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the United Nations Climate Change Conference that might come out of Paris.”
There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.
Chris Hedges, previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
© 2015 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Re-enserfment of Western Peoples
By Paul Craig Roberts
November 09, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – The re-enserfment of Western peoples is taking place on several levels. One about which I have been writing for more than a decade comes from the offshoring of jobs. Americans, for example, have a shrinking participation in the production of the goods and services that are marketed to them.
On another level we are experiencing the financialization of the Western economy about which Michael Hudson is the leading expert (Killing The Host). Financialization is the process of removing any public presence in the economy and converting the economic surplus into interest payments to the financial sector.
These two developments deprive people of economic prospects. A third development deprives them of political rights. The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships eliminate political sovereignty and turn governance over to global corporations.
These so called “trade partnerships” have nothing to do with trade. These agreements negotiated in secrecy grant immunity to corporations from the laws of the countries in which they do business. This is achieved by declaring any interference by existing and prospective laws and regulations on corporate profits as restraints on trade for which corporations can sue and fine “sovereign” governments. For example, the ban in France and other counries on GMO products would be negated by the Trans-Atlantic Partnership. Democracy is simply replaced by corporate rule.
I have been meaning to write about this at length. However, others, such as Chris Hedges, are doing a good job of explaining the power grab that eliminates representative government.
The corporations are buying power cheaply. They bought the entire US House of Representatives for just under $200 million. This is what the the corporations paid Congress to go along with “Fast Track,” which permits the corporations’ agent, the US Trade Representative, to negotiate in secret without congressional input or oversight.
In other words, a US corporate agent deals with corporate agents in the countries that will comprise the “partnership,” and this handful of well-bribed people draw up an agreement that supplants law with the interests of corporations. No one negotiating the partnership represents the peoples’ or public’s interests. The governments of the partnership countries get to vote the deal up or down, and they will be well paid to vote for the agreement.
Once these partnerships are in effect, government itself is privatized. There is no longer any point in legislatures, presidents, prime ministers, judges. Corporate tribunals decide law and court rulings.
It is likely that these “partnerships” will have unintended consequences. For example, Russia and China are not part of the arrangements, and neither are Iran, Brazil, India, and South Africa, although seperately the Indian government appears to have been purchased by American agribusiness and is in the process of destroying its self-sufficient food production system. These countries will be the repositories for national sovereignty and public control while freedom and democracy are extinguished in the West and the West’s Asian vassals.
Violent revolution throughout the West and the complete elimination of the One Percent is another possible outcome. Once, for example, the French people discover that they have lost all control over their diet to Monsanto and American agribusiness, the members of the French government that delivered France into dietary bondage to toxic foods are likely to be killed in the streets.
Events of this sort are possible throughout the West as peoples discover that they have lost all control over every aspect of their lives and that their only choice is revolution or death.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Neoconservative Threat To International Order: Washington’s Perilous War For Hegemony, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.
Economics 101: Republican Style August 15, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Republicans, Right Wing.
Tags: economics, federal borrowing, federal budget, national debt, political humor, political satire, republicans, roger hollander, social security
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Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil March 26, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: bailout, black america, due process, foreclosures, glen ford, Medicaid, obama bailout, obama's wars, roger hollander, social security, Wall Street
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Glen Ford at the Left Forum
No matter how much evil Barack Obama actually accomplishes during his presidency, people that call themselves leftists insist on dubbing him the Lesser Evil. Not only is Obama not given proper credit for out-evil-ing George Bush, domestically and internationally, but the First Black President is awarded positive grades for his intentions versus the presumed intentions of Republicans. As the author says, this “is psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.”
BAR executive editor Glen Ford made the following presentation at the Left Forum, Pace University, New York City, March 17. On the panel were Gloria Mattera, Margaret Kimberley (BAR), Suren Moodliar, John Nichols, and Victor Wallis. The discussion was titled, The 2012 Elections: Lesser Evil or Left Alternative?
“He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.”
Power to the people!
Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil.
He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.
That was always Wall Street’s expectation of Obama, and his promise to them. That’s why they gave him far more money in 2008 than they gave John McCain. They were buying Obama futures on the electoral political market – and they made out like bandits.
They invested in Obama to protect them from harm, as a hedge against the risk of systemic disaster caused by their own predations. And, it was a good bet, a good deal. It paid out in the tens of trillions of dollars.
If you believe that what Wall Street does is Evil, then Obama’s service to Wall Street is Evil, and there is nothing lesser about it.
They had vetted Obama, thoroughly, before he even set foot in the U.S. Senate in 2004.
He protected their interests, there, helping shield corporations from class action suits, and voting against caps on credit card Interest. He was their guy back then – and some of us were saying so, back then.
He was the bankers’ guy in the Democratic presidential primary race. Among the last three standing in 2008, it was Obama who opposed any moratorium on home foreclosures. John Edwards supported a mandatory moratorium and Hillary Clinton said she wanted a voluntary halt to foreclosures. But Barack Obama opposed any moratorium. Let it run its course, said candidate Obama. And, true to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course.
Only a few months later, when the crunch came and Finance Capital was in meltdown, who rescued Wall Street? Not George Bush. Bush tried, but he was spent, discredited, ineffective. NotJohn McCain. He was in a coma, coming unglued, totally ineffective.
Bush’s bailout failed on a Monday. By Friday, Obama had convinced enough Democrats in opposition to roll over – and the bailout passed, setting the stage for a new dispensation between the American State and Wall Street, in which a permanent pipeline of tens of trillions of dollars would flow directly into Wall Street accounts, via the Federal Reserve.
And Obama had not even been elected yet.
“True to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course.”
Obama put Social Security and Medicaid and all Entitlements on the table, in mid-January. The Republicans had suffered resounding defeat. Nobody was pressuring Obama from the Right.
When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead. There was no Evil Devil forcing him to put Entitlements on the chopping block. It was HIM. He was the Evil One – and it was not a Lesser Evil. It was a very Effective Evil, because the current Age of Austerity began on that day, in January, 2009.
And Obama had not even been sworn in as president, yet.
Who is the Effective Evil? I haven’t even gotten into his actual term as president, much less his expansion of the theaters of war, his unique assaults on International Law, and his massacre of Due Process of Law in the United States. But I want to pause right here, because piling up facts on Obama’s Most Effective Evils doesn’t seem to do any good if the prevailing conversation isn’t really about facts – but about intentions.
The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It’s all supposed to be about intentions. Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street’s most fundamental interests.
But, the whole idea of debating Obama’s intentions is ridiculous. It’s psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.
I have no doubt that Newt Gingrich and Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people – of Black people – than Michelle Obama’s husband does. But, that doesn’t matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama’s economic Apocalypse in Black America. There was been very little resistance. Which is just another way of saying that Obama has successfully blunted any retribution by organized African America against the corporate powers that have devastated and destabilized Black America in ways that have little precedence in modern times.
“When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead.”
Obama has protected these Wall Streeters from what should be the most righteous wrath of Black folks. To take a riff from Shakespeare’s Othello, “Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it.” He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don’t you dare call him the Lesser.
He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks – historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States – and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.
I have not spoken much about the second half of Obama’s first term in office. That is the period when the Left generally becomes disgusted with what they call his excessive “compromises” and “cave-ins” to Republicans. But that is a profoundly wrong reading of reality. Obama was simply continuing down his own Road to Austerity – the one he, himself, had initiated before even taking office. The only person caving in and compromising to the Republicans, was the Obama that many of YOU made up in your heads.
The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare – a nightmare scripted on Wall Street, which provided the core of Obama’s policy team from the very beginning. That’s why Obama’s so-called Financial Reform was so diligent in making sure that Derivatives were virtually untouched.
The real Obama retained Bush’s Secretary of War, because he was determined to re-package the imperial enterprise and expand the scope and theaters of war.
He would dress up the war machine head-to-foot in a Chador of Humanitarianism, and march deep and deeper into Africa.
He would make merciless and totally unprovoked war against Libya – and then tell Congress there had been no war at all, and it was none of their business, anyway.
And he got away with it.
Now, that is the Most Effective Evil war mongering imaginable. Don’t you dare call him a Lesser Evil. Obama is Awesomely Evil.
“The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare.”
Obama has advanced the corporatization of the public schools beyond Bush’s wildest dreams, methodically constructing a national, parallel system of charter schools that, in practice, undermine and subvert the traditional public schools. In some places, they have replaced, or soon will replace, the public schools. The hedge funds and billionaires are ecstatic! The teachers unions then endorse their undertaker, foolishly believing he is the Lesser Evil.
So, what does the Left do in this election? The Left should do what it is supposed to do here in the Belly of the Beast at all times: disarm the Beast. This is their singular duty – not to advise the Beast, but to disarm it. At this time on the world historical clock, that means ripping the farcical “humanitarian” veil from the face of U.S. wars – and that face is Obama’s face.
No genuine anti-war activist can endorse the war-maker, Obama. If you want to resist actual imperial wars, you must fight Obama. Period. Anything else is to endorse or acquiesce in his wars.
You can attend the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut, next weekend, where you can meet with an array of organizations to begin a calendar of activities that will stretch past Election Day. You can join with UNAC in working to stop Obama from doing a repeat of Libya in Syria and Iran. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, then I have no advice for you, because the alternative is acquiescence to Obama’s cynical duplicities.
If the Green Party or any other party firmly opposes Obama’s humanitarian, Orwellian farce, then support them. If they don’t, then don’t lift a finger for them.
If you are going to fight for anything, you’ve got to fight for the right to fight. That means fighting for the rule of law. So, if you don’t plan to go underground or into exile anytime soon, you must fight the president who claims the right to imprison or kill any person, of any nationality, any place on Earth, for reasons known only to him. The man who excelled George Bush by shepherding preventive detention through Congress – Barack Obama, the More Effective Evil.
Fight him this election year. Fight him every year that he’s here.
Power to the People!
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Lockheed Martin’s CEO Wants Your Social Security Check September 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, War.
Tags: deficit committee, jim clyburn, lockheed martin, medicare, military contractors, militry budget, robert greenwald, robert j. stephens, roger hollander, social security, war budget
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Friday 23 September 2011
by: Robert Greenwald, Brave New Foundation | Op-Ed
The law that created the deficit committee also created a zero-sum game: Any expensive program that escapes the budget knife does so at the expense of cuts to other programs. If the military contractors succeed in keeping the war budget intact, they’ll likely do so at the expense of Social Security and Medicare.
That means money that would go to your Social Security or Medicare benefits will instead go into the hands of people like Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stephens, who last year made $21.9 million, almost totally from taxpayer-funded military contracts.
Join War Costs in telling the deficit committee to keep military contractors’ hands off the money that should go to Social Security and Medicare.
These corporations have been and are devoting considerable resources into a coordinated effort to ensure they get as much of that money as possible. A new investigation by AlterNet’s Nick Turse (as part of a joint investigative project among AlterNet, Salon,and Brave New Foundation) uncovered that not only have tens of billions of dollars been sent to war contractors in deficit committee members’ districts in the last several years, but the millions of donations donated to the members’ campaign and PACs have heavily favored Democrats since 2007.
That means that the people we usually rely on to protect Social Security and Medicare may have been compromised by heavy war industry donations.
Democrat Jim Clyburn, for example, recently said, “…Defense may be something that most members on the Democrat side will not mind going after. But I do mind going after that. So I’m going to be very reticent.” Clyburn has taken several hundred thousand dollars in contractor donations since 2007, and he’s not alone. Deficit committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) literally campaigns on sending military contracts to Boeing, which has a heavy presence in Washington State. These members typically (and cynically) defend shoving money at corrupt contractors by saying they are “looking out for their district.”
As we show in our new War Costs video, if they continue this behavior from their perches on the deficit committee, they will most definitely NOT be looking out for their districts. Because the deficit committee is required by law to propose no less than$1.5 trillion in cuts to the federal budget to prevent automatic cuts across federal programs at the end of the year, all big-ticket federal programs are essentially competing against each other for funds. If the war budget wins, popular programs like Social Security and Medicare lose, and that means many, many more of the committee members constituents will be directly hurt by the cuts.
Below we list the number of people in each committee members’ district who rely on Social Security. We then compare the dollars received by Social Security beneficiaries in areas represented by the committee in 2010 with how much federal money was sent to military contractors in the same areas(drawn from Nick Turse’s research). Clearly, if the deficit committee slashes Social Security and Medicare to protect the military budget, many more of their constituents will lose, and their districts will take a much harder economic hit.
Number of Social Security Recipients in Areas Represented by Deficit Committee:
• Sen. Patty Murray (WA): 1,089,887
• U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-05): 125,185
• Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ): 1,067,717
• Sen. Rob Portman (OH): 2,124,650
• Sen. Pat Toomey (PA): 2,557,714
• Sen. Max Baucus (MT): 192,701
• Sen. John Kerry (MA): 1,140,830
• Rep. Dave Camp (MI-04): 155,855
• Rep. Upton (MI-06): 135,716
• Rep. Becerra (CA-31): 51,189
• Rep. Clyburn (SC-06): 142,082
• Rep. Van Hollen (MD-08): 88,726
Military contractors are crying crocodile tears right now about the “fragility” of their industry, and they’re declaring that they’re really just concerned about the committee members’ constituents. But as we showed last week, this industry is flush with cash, and will do or say anything to protect the one thing they care about above all else: profit.
The deficit committee has to choose: will they stand with the 16 million people in their districts who rely on Social Security and Medicare, or will they send that money to Lockheed Martin’s CEO?
This should an easy choice: cut the war budget.
If you agree, join us at War Costs and tell committee members you want military contractors’ hands off the money that should go to Social Security and Medicare.
Tags: black president, bruce dixon, budget cuts, first family, medicare, obama administration, obama policies, Obama presidency, obama re-election, obama's wars, Race, roger hollander, social prograams, social security, voter registration, Wall Street bailout
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By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Two and half years into
the Obama presidency, some of us spend more time mooning over pretty
pictures of the First Family, their beautiful kids and regal
mother-in-law than we spend publicly worrying over the fates of millions
of families, children and elders we personally know. Why are some of us
still trying to “save” the Obama administration. When will it be time
to save ourselves from endless war, climate change, joblessness and the
other ravages of late predatory capitalism?
It’s Too Late To Save The Obama Administration. Can We Still Save Ourselves?
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Back in the summer of
1996 I saw the movie Independence Day in a Chicago theater where two
thirds of the audience was black. The scene that got the audience on its
feet cheering was one in which aliens hovered over the White House, and
blasted it to matchwood. I’ve often thought that if that same flick
were released in 2009 or 2010, that same mostly black audience would
have gasped in horror.
“What about Michelle and
the kids?” I can imagine them saying? “Did the dog make it out OK?” I’m
pretty sure Al Sharpton, Warren Ballantine and the clowns on the Tom
Joyner Morning Show would denounce the movie as racist, and that talk
shows and corporate outlets that manage the “black conversation” on line
like theGrio and theRoot would continue the conversation indefinitely.
To many, it wouldn’t
matter at all that the First Black President has ignored skyrocketing
black unemployment, endemic black mass incarceration, and singled out
disproportionately black and unionized public workers for pay freezes,
benefit cuts and other “shared sacrifices.” It would not matter that the
international good name of African Americans, once symbolized by iconic
fighters for justice at home and peace abroad like Muhammad Ali and
Martin Luther King had been replaced by the likes of Colin Powell,
Condoleeza Rice and Barack Obama, black Americans who have made their
careers waging predatory and merciless wars upon struggling people in
Africa, Asia and Latin America. It would be, critics of the movie would
argue, about respect: respect for the First Black President, they’d say,
is symbolic of respect for all of us.
When we place a value
upon the image and the symbolic meaning of the First Black President, of
his fine black wife and children and mother-in-law living in that big
White House that make these things even nearly as important as Obama’s
policies, we are loving the royal presidential family more than we love our own families, our own children, our own elders. That can’t be good.
The Obama campaign bus
appeared in Iowa this week, at the same time that Republican
presidential candidates are swarming the place. The 2012 presidential
campaign is upon us. It’s time to evaluate the performance of the First
Black President, a subject that Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley, I and
others here at Black Agenda Report have written tens of thousands of
words over the last couple years.
To start with, the
president is easily the most powerful figure in government. Short of
impeachment — and if the Bush-Cheney gang couldn’t get impeached,
nobody can — Congress and the courts have little power to counteract
or overrule an aggressive and energetic president. Hence the notion that
Blue Dog Dems and wily Republicans kept Obama from advancing his
legislative agenda during the two years he had a 50 vote margin in the
House and a filibuster proof Senate majority are silly.
Barack Obama’s first
policy acheivement was to work the phones and persuade enough
congressional Democrats to support Bush’s September 2008 bailout bill.
That legislation failed to pass the Democratic dominated Congress the
first time. Thanks to Barack, it succeeded the second time, netting the
banksters $3 trillion, and when Obama became president, he upped the
ante to $16 trillion, bailing out all the derivative and other
speculative bettors in Wall Street’s casino. What Obama didn’t do is
bail out the families in those homes. An unprecedented wave of
foreclosures has doubled the wealth gap between white and black families
in only a few years, and the wave continues.
Obama has retired the
phrase “war on terror” but continued and expanded armed interventions in
too many countries to name here, most notably Pakistan, Libya, Yemen,
Colombia and Somalia. The military budget continues to grow, and with
his participation in the debt ceiling hoax, Democrat Barack Obama has
done what no Republican would have been able to do — he unleashed a
process that will impose radical cuts in social security, Medicare and
Medicaid. Obama reversed his promises on network neutrality after the
election, and has apparently never met a giant corporate merger he
The Obama Justice
Department, with a black Attorney General has refused to confront a wave
of restrictive laws and administrative procedures enacted by states to
make voter registration difficult or impossible for many citizens, ans
which may keep hundreds of thousands of black, brown and poor voters
from taking part in future elections. That same Justice Department has
refused to prosecute corporations for intercepting the emails and phone
calls of millions of people. DOJ won’t weigh in on whether people have
the right to record police interactions with the public, and is letting
states sentence people who record police to prison.
Only the most foolish
among us —- and those whose careers and boat payments depend on it —
are still concerned with “saving” the Obama presidency, or obsessing
about how adorable the First Family looks. Not to worry. Michelle,
Sasha, and whatshername will be just fine. Barack will do OK too, even
if he doesn’t get a second term. And like they say, some grown folks
just don’t want to be saved. Obama should be working on how to save us
from endless war, climate change and joblessness. He isn’t. And he
won’t. It’s time for us to love our own families, our own children and
elders as much or more than we love his, and get busy.
Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta
GA where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He
can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
The administration’s stated budget priorities August 5, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, War.
Tags: budget cuts, debt ceiling, economic crisit, glenn greenwald, joe liegerman, leon panetta, medicare, military budget, pentagon budget, roger hollander, safety net, social security, super congress, war
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www.salon.com, August 5, 2011
The theory of Round II of the debt deal is that both parties will be motivated to reach an agreement in the “Super-Committee” on how to reduce the debt by another $1.5 trillion because, if they fail to agree, there will be automatic cuts that are horrendous to each party: draconian domestic cuts will scare Democrats into compromising, while supposedly substantial reductions in military spending will frighten the GOP. But a serious and quite predictable deviation from that scheme has already emerged: Republicans (at least its Tea Party faction) don’t seem bothered at all by the prospects of military cuts, while Democrats — specifically the Obama administration — are acting as if such cuts, literally, would be nation-threatening.
Yesterday, President Obama’s Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, donned his Dr. Strangelove hat and decried these prospective cuts as a “doomsday mechanism” — doomsday! — warning that these would be “very dangerous cuts” that “would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation.” Then, this morning, we have this from The Washington Post:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Thursday of dire consequences if the Pentagon is forced to make cuts to its budget beyond the $400 billion in savings planned for the next decade.
Senior Pentagon officials have launched an offensive over the past two days to convince lawmakers that further reductions in Pentagon spending would imperil the country’s security. Instead of slashing defense, Panetta said, the bipartisan panel should rely on tax increases and cuts to nondiscretionary spending, such as Medicare and Social Security, to provide the necessary savings.
Just think about that for a minute. We have a Democratic administration installed in power after millions of liberals donated large amounts of their time and money to help elect them. Yet here we have a top official in the President’s cabinet demanding cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to protect the military budget from further reductions. That’s the position of the Democratic administration. While it’s true that Pentagon officials reflexively protect the Pentagon budget, there is zero question that Panetta — the career-long supremely loyal Democratic Party functionary — is speaking here on behalf of and with the authorization of the White House; indeed, he said exactly that in the written message he sent about these cuts to the Pentagon’s staff (“this outcome would be completely unacceptable to me as Secretary of Defense, the President, and to our nation’s leaders”).
For all the boastful claims from Panetta and others about how much the Pentagon budget was just cut by the first round of the debt deal, the reality, as McClatchy detailed yesterday, is much different: “The new deficit-cutting law appears to reduce defense spending by $350 billion up front and perhaps by as much as $850 billion over 10 years, but in fact that’s highly unlikely to happen.” That’s because defense hawks ensured that these initial cuts would be applied not only to “defense” but also “security” spending, which encompasses programs “such as homeland security, border enforcement, foreign aid and even veterans’ benefits as potential targets.” Moreover, as Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin explained on Tuesday night on Rachel Maddow’s program, the magnitude of this first round of cuts as well as the potential series of automatic cuts in the second round is wildly overstated by administration officials given budgetary gimmicks in how these numbers are derived.
President Obama yesterday instructed his supporters on how to advocate for his re-election, and told them that when they go forth to evangelize about his accomplishments — as Steve Benen did yesterday with his celebration of Obama as “the most effective politician since Reagan, and depending on the day, perhaps even the most effective politician since LBJ” — that they should “not to get too bogged down in detail” but instead should emphasize broad themes and values. As one example of how this avoid-the-details advocacy should work, Obama instructed: “If somebody asks about the war, whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan — if it’s Iraq, you have a pretty simple answer, which is all our folks are going to be out of there by the end of the year.” Except that appears to be completely untrue, as his administration appears on the verge of succeeding in its many months of efforts to pressure the Iraqi Government to allow U.S. troops to remain in that country well past the 2011 withdrawal deadline Obama repeatedly vowed to enforce (and that’s beyond the oversight-free private army which the State Department has long planned to keep in Iraq).
As the U.S. continues to spend almost more than the rest of the world combined on its military while it wages and escalates war in multiple Muslim countries around the world — to say nothing of the dozens of nations in which it continuously engages in lower-level covert military action — the very idea that American security would be gravely jeopardized by these cuts is absurd on its face. If anything, American security is far more endangered by continuing on this path of unbridled militarism and aggression. Yet here we have the bizarre spectacle of a Democratic administration demanding cuts to Social Security and Medicare in order to protect the defense industry from cuts that are, in any event, far less meaningful than are being depicted. Given how public they’re being with these statements, does anyone have any remaining doubt about the constituencies to which they’re actually loyal?
* * * * *
There are reports this morning that a NATO airstrike killed (another) one of Gadaffi’s sons in Libya, so we’ll be able to have some collective celebration to keep our minds off little things like the collapsing economy. It is telling indeed how virtually all political good news — all national celebrations — now involve America’s ability to kill the latest Bad Guy. One benefit of Endless War is that it distracts the citizens’ attention away from what is being done to them at home and makes them cheer for the leaders who are doing it to them.
UPDATE: Lsat week, Joe Lieberman said we must cut entitlement programs in order to “have the national defense we need to protect us in a dangerous world while we’re at war with Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11 and will be for a long time to come.” About that, Joan McCarter wrote: “since the Super Congress has been created specifically to pit defense and safety net programs against each other, don’t be surprised if you see this one getting traction” (h/t sysprog) That is exactly the purpose of the “triggers” and the Super Committee; it is not hard to guess who will prevail in the war between entitlement programs and military spending; and Panetta’s statements are little more than a push to ensure the right outcome.
- More: Glenn Greenwald
Bernie Sanders on “Deficit Reduction” August 4, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
Tags: bernie sanders, deficit reduction, Economic Crisis, education, health cae, Medicaid, medicare, military spending, roger hollander, social security, tax rates, taxation
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Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security July 27, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
Tags: credit rating, debt crisis, deregulation, Economic Crisis, john boehner, medicare, Robert Scheer, roger hollander, social security, Wall Street
This phony debt crisis has now passed through the looking glass into the realm where madness reigns. What should have been an uneventful moment in which lawmakers make good on the nation’s contractual obligations has instead been seized upon by Republican hypocrites as a moment to settle ideological scores that have nothing to do with the debt.
Hypocrites, because their radical free market ideology, and the resulting total deregulation of the financial markets, is what caused the debt to spiral out of control this last decade. That and the wars George W. Bush launched but didn’t have the integrity to responsibly finance. The consequence was a banking bubble and crash leading to a 50 percent run-up of the debt that has nothing to do with the “entitlements” that those same Republicans have always wanted to destroy.
Even Barack Obama has put cuts in those programs into play, warning ominously that a failure to lift the debt ceiling could cause the government to stop sending out Social Security checks. Why, when the Social Security trust fund is fully funded for the next quarter-century and is owed money by the U.S. Treasury rather than the other way around? Why would we pay foreign creditors before American seniors? The answer, offered as conventional wisdom by leaders of both parties, is that we cannot endanger our credit by failing to back our bonds, even though the Republicans have aroused the alarm of the main U.S. credit rating agencies by their brinkmanship on the debt.
What a topsy-turvy world when the same credit rating agencies that gave the thumbs up to the bankers’ toxic mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps now threaten the AAA rating of U.S. Treasury bonds. According to them, it will not be enough to merely lift the debt ceiling—what had been assumed by both Republican and Democratic presidents to be a routine act. In addition to that, as the credit agency Standard & Poor’s has insisted, more than $4 trillion has to be cut from programs that mostly benefit the victims of the banking meltdown. Otherwise the agencies will downgrade the U.S. credit rating, leading to higher interest rates that will destroy what remains of the U.S. housing market, dim the prospect for any improvement in employment and further enrich the Chinese government and other holders of U.S. debt.
President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership are clearly poised to cave in to those demands in the spirit of “compromise,” Obama’s favorite word, but the Republicans keep upping the ante. The GOP is shameless: Speaker John Boehner has sanctimoniously responded to Obama’s plea for a bargain that gives up almost everything to the right wing by rebuffing the president on the grounds that the Republican Party is the last line of defense against big government.
Boehner dared blame Obama for “the largest spending binge in American history,” which he attributed to the health care reform, most of which has yet to be enacted, and a stimulus program that was an underfunded effort to save American jobs. Not a word from Boehner or the other Republicans about the banking collapse that resulted from their deregulatory policies, the real cause of the inflated debt.
Boehner’s slogan, “I’ve always believed, the bigger government, the smaller the people,” is downright bizarre coming from someone who supported the Bush tax cuts for the rich, the banking bailout and the highest war spending since World War II, all of which is what caused government to get this big. Was it job stimulus spending that kept GM jobs in this country that made people smaller, or the loss of their homes and jobs as a result of the policies that are at the core of the Republican program?
What is at stake is a radical Republican agenda to totally reverse the progress in economic justice that began with the great reforms of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal. Consider the direct consequence of the economic crisis that unfettered Wall Street greed has wrought, particularly in reversing the gains made by the most underprivileged sectors of the population. As The Wall Street Journal reported, based on a Pew Research Center study from 2005 to 2009, “The wealth gap between whites and each of the nation’s two largest minorities—Hispanics and blacks—has widened to unprecedented levels amid the housing crisis and the recession. … The disparities are the greatest since the government began tracking such data a quarter-century ago. …”
But there is plenty of suffering to go around as a result of the deep recession. The wealth of whites in that period declined by 16 percent, not to mention the ever-greater chasm between the top 2 percent and everyone else. That’s the same 2 percent whose tax cuts the Republicans are determined to preserve.
So This Is Despair July 26, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Right Wing.
Tags: debt ceiling, debt limit, federal deficit, harry reid, john boehner, Medicaid, medicare, president obama, republicans, right wing, roger hollander, social security, tea party, william rivers pitt
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At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.
– Flannery O’Connor
It is difficult to describe this emotion. I’m used to disappointment, fairly comfortable with heartbreak, and am well acquainted with rage. Over the course of my lifetime, my presidents have been Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now Obama…and each, in his own way, has been worse than the last.
How can I say that? Easy. The problems of Nixon are still with us, and have grown worse by orders of magnitude through each successive administration. Certain presidents have exacerbated the situation beyond their expected purview, but generally speaking, each one has adopted the worst ideas of his predecessor, and in nearly every instance, has made those problems worse.
But this…this is too much.
The timeline as I understand it: the far-right GOP caucus in the House decided to use the debt limit as a hostage to fortune in their decades-long quest to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. The current Democratic president saw this, and in a pure anti-Lakoffian flail that explains everything you need to know about the man, accepted the deranged premise put before him and went to work on the annihilation of the social safety net…but with the proviso that we find some new tax revenues by closing some loopholes…maybe…please?
Not good enough. House Speaker Boehner walked away from the debt-limit talks, not once but twice, because he can’t control his caucus and because he had this Democratic president right where he wanted him. The president blew up – in as much as “No Drama” Obama ever blows up – and wondered what is needed for the GOP to say “Yes” to anything. Read between the lines of that presser, and you get this: “I tried to give them Social Security. I tried to give them Medicare and Medicaid. I gave those things willingly, despite cries of outrage from my ungrateful, foolish, obnoxious left flank, and asked only for a pittance in tax revenues in exchange. Shame on the GOP for not rampaging these social programs when I offered them the chance to do so.”
Web forums all across the Democratic Party spectrum celebrated the president’s resolve. He showed them, didn’t he?
Well…wait. I saw a president in a state of high piss-off because he tried to give away Social Security and Medicare, but couldn’t convince the far right to take the proffered opportunity. They’ve been trying to do this very thing for three generations, and here is Obama practically sweating bullets in his desire to give them the victory they have pined for since Goldwater was in short pants. Sure, it’s proof that Boehner is at the mercy of the Tea Party freshmen in his caucus, but in which universe is this called victory? This Democratic president was angry because he was being denied the opportunity to preside over an historic roll-back of the New Deal?
Oh, but we weren’t done yet. The “Grand Bargain” was still in the offing, now splintered into two or three or twelve different iterations, but all ultimately coming down to the same thing: trillions in cuts for the most vulnerable Americans, no new tax revenues from the rich or anyone else, and the bonus prize sought most passionately by the Democrats was the chance to kick this whole fight down the road to 2013, so none of these failures would be forced to address the question before their next all-important election cycle.
Sell out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for a chance at an easier ride at the ballot? Where do I sign?
The Bush-era tax cuts for rich people appear nowhere in the discussion, despite the fact that eliminating them would go most of the way towards resolving this “crisis.” We are still fighting three wars, and the “defense” budget remains largely untouchable. I have not heard an American politician talk about jobs in over a year, even though a robust jobs program would add revenue to the budget hand over fist.
At the time of this writing, matters stand thusly:
We don’t yet know what the final deal to raise the debt ceiling will be. But now that Harry Reid is developing a proposal with $2.7 trillion in cuts and nothing in revenues, it’s a safe bet that it won’t include any tax increases. Which means that whether Republicans realize it or not, they’ve won. The question now is whether they can stop.
John Boehner is proposing a deal with about $1 trillion in spending cuts and a short-term increase in the debt ceiling and a bipartisan congressional committee charged with developing a large deficit reduction package that would be immune to amendments and filibusters and would be the price of the next increase in the debt ceiling. Harry Reid is developing a package of spending cuts that Democrats could accept and would reach Boehner’s $2.4 trillion mark.
If you take the Republicans’ goals as avoiding a deal in which they have to vote for tax increases and denying Obama a political victory, it looks like they have succeeded. That success has come with costs – they’ve done themselves political damage, are risking a crisis that could do the economy tremendous harm, and have left the Bush tax cuts unresolved, which means they might end up watching taxes rise much higher than if they’d taken Obama’s offer – but it’s still been a success.
A great many people who should know better continue to look at this situation as if Mr. Obama has some fantastic rabbit he…is…just…waiting to pull out of a hat, thus foiling the GOP and securing our future forever. For a brief moment a couple of weeks ago, I shared that optimism, but the last several days have slapped me soundly out of that fugue state.
I see a president on his knees, hands outstretched, offering the best ideas and policies liberal governance has ever devised up to the voracious carnivore of GOP opportunism. I see the end of the New Deal, and a far crueler America emerging from the aftermath. I see a Democratic president voiding his bladder on all that he is supposed to uphold.
Mr. Obama got on those knees again Monday night, on national television no less, and once again begged the GOP to devour Social Security and Medicare. He gobbled up the flawed, flayed premise of the far-right’s deranged argument, again, and pleaded for the chance to give away the core of what he was elected to defend.
I thought I was done being ashamed of my president.
I was wrong.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.
TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT
Obama Is No Victim of the Right Wing — He’s Pandered to Corporate Interests
of corporate interests — not serving their interests only because the GOP
forced him to.
White House, liberal groups are now mobilizing against the White House and
reported deals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
They accuse President Obama of being weak and willing to “cave” to corporate and
conservative forces bent on cutting the social safety net while protecting the
wealthy. Those accusations are wrong.
The accusations imply that Obama is on our side. Or was on our side. And that
the right wing is pushing him around.
But the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate
interests — not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their
interests only because Republicans forced him to.
Since coming to Washington, Obama has allied himself with Wall Street
Democrats who put corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most
In 2006, a relatively new Senator Obama was the only senator to
speak at the inaugural gathering of the Alexander Hamilton
Project launched by Wall Street Democrats like Robert Rubin and Roger
Altman, Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and deputy secretary. Obama praised
them as “innovative, thoughtful policymakers.” (It was Rubin’s crusade to
deregulate Wall Street in the late ‘90s that led
directly to the economic meltdown of 2008 and our current crisis.)
In early 2007, way before he was a presidential frontrunner, candidate Obama
was raising more money from Wall
Street interests than all other candidates, including New York presidential
candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.
In June 2008, as soon as Hillary ended her campaign, Obama went on CNBC,
shunned the “populist” label and announced: “Look: I am a pro-growth,
free-market guy. I love the market.” He packed his economic team with Wall
Street friends — choosing one of Bill Clinton’s Wall Street deregulators,
Larry Summers, as his top economic advisor.
A year into his presidency, in a bizarre but revealing
interview with Business Week, Obama was asked about huge bonuses just
received by two CEOs of Wall Street firms bailed out by taxpayers. He responded
that he didn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus to J.P. Mogan’s CEO or the $9
million to Goldman Sachs’ CEO: “I know both those guys, they are very savvy
businessmen,” said Obama. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge
people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
After any review of Obama’s corporatist ties and positions, the kneejerk
response is: “Yes, but Obama was a community organizer!”
He WAS a community organizer. . .decades before he became president. Back
when Nelson Mandela was in prison and the U.S. government declared him the
leader of a “terrorist organization” while our government funded and armed Bin
Laden and his allies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. That’s a long time
It’s worth remembering that decades before Reagan became president, the great
communicator was a leftwing Democrat and advocate for the working class and big
federal social programs.
The sad truth, as shown by
Glenn Greenwald, is that Obama had arrived at the White House looking to
make cuts in benefits to the elderly. Two weeks before his inauguration, Obama
echoed conservative scares about Social Security and Medicare by talking of “red
ink as far as the eye can see.” He opened his doors to Social Security/Medicare
cutters — first trying to get Republican Senator Judd Gregg (“a leading voice
for reining in entitlement spending,” wrote Politico) into his cabinet, and
later appointing entitlement-foe Alan Simpson to co-chair his “Deficit
Commission.” Obama’s top economic advisor, Larry Summers, came to the White
House publicly telling Time magazine of needed Social Security cuts.
At this late date, informed activists and voters who care about economic
justice realize that President Obama is NOT “on our side.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — widely seen as “America’s
Senator” — is so disgusted by recent White House actions that he called Friday
for a challenge to Obama in Democratic primaries: “I think it would be a good
idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
Although Sanders has
said clearly that he’s running for reelection to the senate in 2012 — not for
president — his comment led instantly to a Draft Sanders for President
Imagine if a credible candidate immediately threatened a primary challenge
unless Obama rejects any deal cutting the safety net while maintaining tax
breaks for the rich. Team Obama knows that a serious primary challenger would
cost the Obama campaign millions of dollars. And it may well be a powerful
movement-building opportunity for activists tired of feeling hopeless with
It’s time for progressives to talk seriously about a challenge
to Obama’s corporatism. Polls show most Americans support economic justice
issues, and that goes double for Democratic primary voters.
If not Bernie, who? If not now, when?
Dirty Deals on Social Security Likely to Succeed June 28, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: aarp, disability benefits, federal budget, funding crisis, house republicans, jack rasmus, john boehner, medicare benefits, mwdicare, paul ryan, roger hollander, shortfall, social security
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The assault on the disability fund is already well underway. Disability benefits administrative law judges, who decide on granting long-term disability benefits under Social Security, have recently come under intense attack for being “too generous” in granting permanent benefits to the disabled. The new offensive was initiated in the wake of a May 19 Wall Street Journal editorial attacking disability administrative judge, David Daugherty. In the wake of the Journal opening salvo, Republicans and Democrats in the House quickly joined forces calling for an investigation of disability benefits judges in general. In response to the House investigation, the offensive quickly turned even more aggressive. It has now taken on the character of a criminal probe. All this, no doubt, will have a “chilling effect” on decisions to grant benefits by judges. The cost cutting has already begun.
The disability benefits trust fund is a prime and easy target from which to attack Social Security across the board. The disability fund pays out $124 billion in benefits to 10.2 million in 2010. That’s a juicy cost-cutting plum.
Rumors abounded that Obama’s “golf summit” with House Majority Republican Leader John Boehner would discuss Social Security cuts as part of a larger “understanding” of broad federal budget cutting in the 2012 budget, starting next October. Obama is clearly willing to use Social Security as a bargaining chip now, instead of waiting for a second term.
Obama’s new “soft” position on Social Security in general was evident in his last December 2010 decision to reduce the payroll tax by 2 percent for workers. That resulted in more than $100 billion shortfall in revenue for Social Security this year alone, when the chronic jobless problem – 24 million still out of work – for three years now has already meant a major falloff in Social Security revenues for its various funds for the first time in decades. The 2 percent cut in the payroll tax was supposed to boost consumption, but it hasn’t. Estimates are that 60 percent of the 2 percent payroll tax cut last December has already been absorbed by oil companies to pay for $4 a gallon gasoline.
Not deterred by this fact, the Obama administration, nonetheless, in recent weeks has begun floating the idea of cutting the employers’ 6.2 percent share of the payroll tax, giving yet more income to business that has been sitting on a cash hoard of $2 trillion and not investing in the US and creating jobs. The logic of why corporations need still more cash from a payroll tax cut in order to invest is unconvincing. This second cut will drive the Social Security retirement and disability funds further in the red, making it even more convenient for those who argue for cuts now instead of after 2012.
With the imminent new offensive against Social Security “in the air,” groups like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) last week did an about-face. AARP led the defense against Bush Jr.’s attempts to privatize Social Security last decade. Now, however, they are jumping on the cut Social Security retirement benefits bandwagon. As the Wall St. Journal recently gleefully noted, AARP “is dropping its long standing opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington’s debate over how to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs.” Does anyone believe AARP hasn’t discussed this already with the Obama team, that some kind of new consensus to cut early and deep is being formed?
The most recent report by the Trustees of the Social Security program stated that the retirement benefits trust would run out of revenue to provide full benefits to retirees in 2038, when only 77 percent of benefit levels could be paid. The Medicare trust will run out of funds for full benefits earlier, in 2018.
The Obama-Republican-Corporate Solutions
Republicans, Obama and Corporate interests are proposing to “solve” the Social Security retirement/disability benefits and Medicare benefits problems with the following measures:
- Raise the retirement age to 70, which would cover 28 percent of the projected shortfall.
- Eliminate the annual cost-of-living benefit increases for retirement benefits, which would cover another 23 percent.
- Make new state and local government workers go into the Social Security system instead of receiving negotiated state-local pension plans, saving another 7 percent.
- Reduce benefits for middle-income retirees and significantly for higher income retirees, raising another 39 percent.
Those four measures would amount to 97 percent of the projected shortfall and make the retirement benefits trust fund “solvent” past mid-century.
For Medicare, their proposals are not to maintain benefits, but to reduce them by various measures while raising the costs for the reduced benefits. These include:
- Cap government payments while prices are allowed to rise. Or, as in the Ryan plan, give retirees vouchers to buy insurance that is “capped” as well while insurance rates rise.
- Raise the amount of monthly premiums by double or more. Currently, retirees must pay between $95-$115 for doctors’ costs coverage and an additional amount per month to cover only part of prescription drugs. Combined premiums will, thus, rise to $250-$300 per month. And that’s not counting higher deductibles and copays for doctors and drugs.
The Real Causes of the Social Security-Medicare Funding “Crisis”
The shortfall in the Social Security retirement benefits fund and disability fund are due first and foremost to the chronic lack of job creation and, thus, payroll tax revenue generation, for more than a decade now. Today, fewer are employed in the US than in 2000. The 2001 recession resulted in loss of jobs followed by weak job creation for the following four years. The 2007-11 recessions resulted in 24-27 million lost jobs and continuing weak job creation for more than three years now. These cyclical job losses were combined with chronic structural job losses at the same time: multinational corporations created three million jobs offshore and reduced 2.4 million jobs in the US. In addition, for those with jobs, wage gains have been lagging for a decade as well. That adds up to less payroll tax revenue as well. Then on top if it all, Obama cuts the payroll tax and is about to propose even more cuts in the payroll tax.
As for Medicare’s shortfall in funding, the problem has several dimensions. First, the same payroll tax of 1.45 percent for the employee and for employer is ridiculously low. Where else are 47 million recipients of medical care covered for so small a tax? The typical employer-provided health insurance in contrast costs more than 20-24 percent, the equivalent of a typical worker’s monthly paycheck. That’s ten times more expensive. And the benefit coverage is often far less. The other major problem with the Medicare fund’s shortfall is rising health insurance premiums and other health care costs for the past 15 years. And there’s no solution to rising health costs in Obama’s 2010 health care bill whatsoever.
Alternative Solutions to the Social Security-Medicare Funding “Crisis”
Solving either of the funding shortfalls, for Social Security retirement-disability or for Medicare, is not very difficult.
- Eliminate the current cap of $106,800 on earnings for the 12.4 percent. This would raise revenue to cover 86 percent of the projected shortfall for the next 75 years.
- Raise the payroll tax rate by 1 percent more, both for employee and employer, to 14.4 percent, in stages over the next 20 years. That would cover another 63 percent of the shortfall. That’s just under 150 percent of what is needed.
- Use the excess 50 percent funding to reduce the retirement age to 65 for everyone, instead of the current 67. That would open up more jobs for young workers, who are suffering the worst unemployment as more older workers are forced by economic conditions to continue working past 67 or are forced to re-enter the labor force just to pay their bills.
- The Medicare shortfall can be solved simply by raising the 2.9 percent Medicare payroll tax by 0.25 percent for workers and employers each for the next ten years, then another 0.25 percent each for the second decade. That’s 0.5 percent now and another 0.5 percent ten years from now.
- To sum up, what this amounts to is a simple 1 percent more each, employee and employer, for Social Security retirement, and another immediate 0.5 percent each for Medicare, applied to all “earned” incomes (wages and salary = “earned”). In short, make all earned incomes pay the same – and the so-called “great crisis” in entitlement funding disappears. These estimates, by the way, are from the Social Security administration’s own calculations.
- Better and simpler yet, make everyone pay the 14.4 percent and 3.4 percent, not just those “earning” wages and salaries. Make all forms of capital incomes (capital gains, dividends, interest, rents etc.) pay the 14.4 percent and 3.4 percent – and you not only solve the so-called “entitlement funding crisis” for the remainder of this century, but you have now raised enough revenue to pay for single-payer health care for all as well.
But you won’t hear these ideas and solutions coming off the “golf course summit” between Obama and Boehner this week.