Monthly Archives: July 2011

LUV Newsletter

The Congressional Black Caucus has sent a letter to the president, arguing that he has “both the authority and a moral obligation” to invoke the Constitution’s 14th Amendment “to avoid an economic catastrophe of historic proportions.”

Steve Kornacki also has a piece showing that a number of prominent politicians are getting on board the 14th Amendment solution, which ignores the Teabaggers and libertarian billionaires who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, transferring the money to more handouts for the rich, such as corporate welfare and the profits from privatization.

It’s obvious to anyone who’s reading beyond our controlled mass media, that the simple solution to balancing the budget is to quit giving tax cuts to the rich, end the wars, cut defense spending, stop corporate welfare and quit bailing out the powerful, such as the banksters when their gambling schemes go awry.

Sarah Jaffe has an interesting piece this morning about the conscience of the wealthy, who know they are behind the massive poverty being created from their accumulation of wealth, and are preparing for when the poor and working class strike back, out of necessity  –Jack

$230,000 For a Guard Dog: Why the Wealthy Are Afraid Of Violence From Below

As inequality in the US grows, the ultra-rich are pouring their spare cash not just into private jets, but into private security. Think there’s a connection?

by Sarah Jaffe

“Violence in the streets, aimed at the wealthy. That’s what I worry about.”

That was what an unidentified billionaire told Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal a while back. Rich people are scared of global unrest, Frank reported, citing a survey by Insite Security and IBOPE Zogby International of people with liquid assets of $1 million or more (translation: folks who have or can get their hands on $1 million in cash fairly easily) that says 94 percent of the wealthy are concerned about “global unrest” around the world.

He noted:

Of course, Insite has an interest in getting the paranoid rich to beef up their security. Still, the numbers are backed up by other trends seen throughout the world of wealth today: the rich keeping a lower profile, hiring $230,000 guard dogs, and arming their yachts, planes and cars with military-style security features.

John Johnson, the owner of the $230,000 dog featured in the New York Times, is a former debt collector. (You can’t make this stuff up.) He sold his debt collection company three years ago, but still has not just one, but six highly—and expensively—trained “executive protection dogs.” Harrison K-9 services, the trainers behind Johnson’s pricey protection dogs, used to train dogs for elite military units like the Navy Seal team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound. The article doesn’t say exactly how many dogs Harrison K-9 has provided for the world’s rich and famous, but it does feature a quote from their head trainer saying she’s trained “a thousand” dogs.

In addition to security systems, dogs and armed yachts, the security-conscious oligarch can hire a private spy company—Jellyfish, a spinoff of the notorious private security company Blackwater. Or what about their own personal drone? “Smaller, private versions of the infamous Predator” may be coming to well-heeled private citizens near you, according to the UK’s Daily Mail. So far the private drones appear to only be for spying, but former Navy fighter pilot Missy Cummings told the Daily Mail, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist from MIT to tell you if we can do it for a soldier in the field, we can do it for anybody.”

So why are the rich getting paranoid? After all, here in the U.S. it looks like they don’t even have to worry about their taxes returning to Clinton-era levels, let alone cope with a truly significant change to their lifestyles. Still, as the rich get richer, it seems, they get more and more worried about the rest of us coming for their wealth—and they’re out to protect it by any means necessary.

David Sirota has noted that “we’re fast becoming a ‘let them eat cake’ economy,” where ostentatious displays of wealth and arrogance seem to be an everyday occurrence as the rest of the country suffers. A private jet traffic jam was big news in the New York Times last week, because the children of the uber-rich have to get to a Maine summer camp, and driving just won’t do. Maine’s Tea Party governor, Paul LePage, took some time off from limiting access to the vote and picking fights with organized labor to gloat over the jet traffic:

“Love it, love it, love it,” Mr. LePage said of the private-plane traffic generated by summer camps. “I wish they’d stay a week while they’re here. This is a big business.”

While the private jet crowd is “big business,” the rest of Maine—and the country—is still suffering. And maybe that’s where the fear comes in.

We’ve seen revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, attempts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, unrest in Greece and Spain, student protests in England, and here at home the occupation of the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. While nothing yet in the U.S. has approached the level of organized attacks on the wealthy by the have-nots, since the financial crash even the hint that perhaps private jet owners could pay a few more dollars in taxes has been decried as class war. A few protests that actually dare approach the doorsteps of the bankers appear to be all it takes to stoke paranoia among the super-rich.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest man, said in 2006, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Buffett had done the math and realized that he paid far less, as a fraction of his income, than the secretaries in his office.

While the Democrats have compromised again and again on economic issues that might have brought real relief to the unemployed, the Tea Party continued to direct all of its anger, its threats, its waving of guns in the direction of the man in the White House and his allies. The billionaires who poured cash into the Tea Party got their money’s worth by deflecting outrage onto the president.

And we have seen violence, though not violence aimed at the rich. We saw a man fly a plane into a Texas office building in anger at the IRS and a foiled attempt to shoot up the liberal Tides Foundation and the California ACLU.

The Tea Party also helped sweep in politicians who’ve made the situation steadily worse. With no one left to protect the working class, inequality continues to grow. The New York Times noted that many of the “new economy”’s low-wage jobs are not sufficient to provide for a person, let alone a family, and yet those jobs are 73 percent of those added in recent months.

Matthew Stoller pointed out that the austerity measures being championed by the new right-wing governors like Florida’s Rick Scott (but embraced by Democrats as well) are going to make it worse here at home before it gets better:

…these economic theories aren’t about efficiency, they are about a value system. Scott is arguing for a low trust low cost world, with no education, no regulatory standards, and low quality output. This is the dominant strain of thinking among American elites. It’s not just Rhode Island, where the teachers are literally all under threat of being fired (and where in 2010 Obama apparently sought to win the future by applauding this firing of teachers). In New York, Democratic Governor and prospective 2016 presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo is gleefullyslashing huge chunks of education and health care rather than retain a mild tax on the wealthy. This is a great way to increase crime, disease rates, and social disorder resulting from inequality.

The simple fact is that inequality is a recipe for insecurity, especially when coupled with desperation. Somewhere, the rich know this. It’s no accident that the rise in incomes at the top and the drop in income at the bottom has been accompanied by a boom in private security. Not everyone, like Warren Buffett, asks “How can this be right?” but a $230,000 guard dog suggests a deep awareness of the unfair system from which the rich have profited.

And yet as our society transforms from a welfare state into a laissez-faire paradise (and especially as budget cuts come down on fire and police), we are likely to only see more of this kind of thing. Mike Konczal pointed out:

From a series of legal codes favoring creditors, a two-tier justice system that ignore abuses in foreclosures and property law, a system of surveillance dedicated to maximum observation on spending, behavior and ultimate collection of those with debt and beyond, there’s been a wide refocusing of the mechanisms of our society towards the crucial obsession of oligarchs: wealth and income defense.

It’s not enough for the super-rich, apparently, to have a legal system biased in their favor, a justice system that locks up the poor and people of color while letting the wealthy off the hook, and government bailouts for the banks that created the economic crisis. That doesn’t lessen the cries of “Class warfare!” or decrease the demand for private security.

Research shows (PDF) that it’s not just poverty that contributes to violent crime. It’s inequality. Brazil, particularly in urban areas, suffers from a sky-high homicide rate (it’s reached 57 per 100,000 people a year in Rio de Janeiro) and its cities are marked by extremes of wealth—absolute poverty in the favelas, and wealth locked away behind walls and gates. Private security has become the norm for those who can afford it as few trust the police.

And yet Brazil’s left-leaning government has embraced policies to lessen inequality not only for the sake of the people who suffer in poverty, but also to make their country safer for all. Inequality is dropping, and while poverty is still a problem, the government recognizes it as such. Meanwhile, we in the US seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from Brazil. Are we headed for cities where the wealthy segregate themselves behind walls and security guards, on private planes, and the poor are concentrated in miserable conditions?

We are 93rd in the world as far as equality is concerned, and if the debt ceiling deal (or as is looking increasingly more likely, the lack of one) includes a cut to Social Security benefits or an end to the unemployment extension, inequality will only get worse as the poor get, rapidly, poorer. Meanwhile the rich, as has been noted many times, are just concentrating their wealth.

Here in the U.S. in the 1930s, to stave off widespread revolt, we got the New Deal. Elites in this country realized it was worth giving in to prevent the communist revolution that was spreading in other places. In the 1960s, riots as well as mass nonviolent protests pushed LBJ and others to enact social reforms.

Conservatives, backed by an ascendant business class, have been systematically dismantling those bargains, cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, and privatizing public programs and properties ever since. There is no force like communism to give a name to the fears of the capitalists, but the rich nevertheless may look at global revolts with a shudder. As the unemployed, the working poor, and a middle class increasingly pushed downward into near-poverty struggle and new protest movements and strategies spring up, it’s not just individual theft, burglary and kidnapping the rich fear—it’s an organized movement targeting their wealth.

The question is now whether spreading fear among the elites of the US will be connected to the economic policies that are leaving more and more of us with no solutions—and a whole lot of rage.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

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LUV Newsletter

Will the Ceiling Fall In?

Disastrous Outcomes From an Orchestrated Crisis

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

With the world concerned about US financial credibility and the poor outlook for the US economy, now is not the time for the Republicans to grandstand on the public debt. The debt ceiling needed to be quietly raised.  Instead, the Republicans started a fire and then threw gasoline on it, creating an inferno that could burn up the US social safety net or the US Treasury’s credit rating and the US dollar’s role as reserve currency or what remains of the separation of powers.

Consequently, world financial markets, currency markets, commodity markets, central banks, and mutual fund money market and bond funds are on pins and needles.

This level of irresponsibility is seldom seen even from American politicians.

Republicans have created a totally unnecessary crisis and turned it into compelling political theater.  Will the US default?  Will entitlements be slashed?  Will Obama seize the power of the purse from Congress in order to save the dollar and the US credit rating?  None of these questions needed to arise.

While the world media fixates on the orchestrated debt ceiling crisis, the US government continues to bomb civilians in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia and continues with preparations to do the same thing to Syria and Iran.

The violations of other countries’ sovereignties, the naked aggressions that constitute war crimes, the murder of noncombatants, and the horrible moral and economic expense inflicted by the maximization of the military/security complex’s profits are somehow not a crisis.  These are just routine, normal, everyday necessary events. Nothing to notice or to become upset about.

The offshoring of US jobs, GDP, tax base, and consumer demand that has eroded away the US economy and the government’s tax base, thus elevating the deficit, is somehow not a crisis. These are just the imperatives of globalism and the routine maximization of shareholders’ profits and management’s performance bonuses.

The US has become such a ridiculous collection of fools that no real crisis can be recognized.  Instead, the country is mesmerized by a fake crisis.

The fake orchestrated crisis can easily turn into a real one.  If income support programs are slashed, so will be consumer demand, and the US economy will decline further, widening the budget deficit and national debt.

If the Republicans force the country into default, the dollar will suffer. At the least, import prices will rise and the trade deficit with them. At the worse, the dollar will lose its reserve currency role, and the US will no longer be able to pay its oil bill in its own currency.  With its balance of payments deep in the red, it has no foreign currency with which to purchase oil.

If Obama has to seize the power of the purse in order to prevent a new financial crisis from landing on top of the ongoing financial crisis, democracy will take another big hit.

Americans need desperately to ask themselves why they put into political office such utterly irresponsible and incompetent people capable of creating such a totally unnecessary crisis loaded with such disastrous potential outcomes. It would appear that the American population is too insouciant to use the vote with any care.

Little wonder that the president is becoming a Caesar.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, and professor of economics in six universities. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, was published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Educating the Entitled

There’s money to be made in charter schools, as this story shows. They’re not just to keep junior separated from the riff-raff. You got $10 million to invest? You can double it in 7 years… And those public schools that have been bled this year (in dear Texas to the tune of $4 billion)? We’ve got our ways: This story in the Texas Tribune talks about the new fees for things like your school bus rides.


The Real Death Panels

Angry Senior

Crude Language/Angry Citizen

Alan Simpson, Senator from Wyoming, Co-Chair of Obama’s deficit commission, calls senior citizens the Greediest Generation as he compared “Social Security” to a Milk Cow with 310 million teats.

Here’s a response in a letter from a unknown farmer in Montana…. I think he is a little ticked off! He also tells it like it is !

“Hey Alan, let’s get a few things straight..

1. As a career politician, you have been on the public tit for FIFTY YEARS.

2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63).

3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud.

4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission are proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN.

5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills.

6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you
come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU.

1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?

3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?

4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the “greedy” ones. It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes. That’s right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it.

And you can take that to the bank, you miserable ASS.

To which friend Gwen replied:

No doubt about it. Why doesn’t this side of the story — the accurate part — get coverage in the American corporate media. Even the best of the media lot — Rachel Maddow, and her cronies at MSNBC, and Keith, now at Current, do not broadcast this information.

I’d like to know why — except for this person, and a few others — the guts, gall and balls to tell the truth about the con played on citizens gets — not short shrift — but NO shrift (definition: to receive confession and absolution). I looked it up.

Why does the truth have to be politically correct? When someone plops dung on your head, are you not allowed to voice the appropriate expletive? >:o

Whether Social Security or a private pension fund, or as in Illinois and other states, for state employees, their mandated savings plan, the assumption by such creeps is that the American workers have been sitting on their duffs waiting for the dole for 30-50 years. Where did these guys park their brains?

And consider how many private pension funds are pulling out, short changing their retirees. And those guys want ALL retirement plans to be “in the market”? 😦

For these people there is nothing called “The Social Contract,” the unspoken arrangement and agreement from earliest tribal history where the TRIBE worked together, supported one another, and cared for those who had contributed when they no longer could.

Even the law of the jungle is more real than this “dog-eat-dog”attitude. Elephants assist their ill and aged, carefully, and lovingly, to the burial ground.
Thanks,
Gwen

LUV Newsletter

ARE WE STAYING IN IRAQ?

The Bush Administration negotiated a deal in which all American troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, but the Obama regime has offered to keep 10,000 troops there, according to British news this morning.

Iraqi officials, as corrupt as any client government in the Empire, have not yet made the deal, likely fearing a backlash from the Iraqi people, who have good reason to hate being occupied, but they are considering it.

President Obama doesn’t appear to want to end any of the wars, as he offers up Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to cut spending as his budget deal.

PRIVATIZING PUNISHMENT

Even as our government leaders beat their breast and whine about how we must protect the wealthy from being taxed, government privatization, with the taxpayer providing profits, continues.  Florida is privatizing 30 more of its prisons in order to transfer more wealth to the investment class in which one fourth of one percent own over half of all the investments.

This is being done because the private prison industry puts some of their wealth into campaign bribes.  The end result is that the wealthy will profit greatly through the increased misery resulting from privatized prisons, in which we are sometimes amazed that inmates even get food, since the rich could make more profit starving them.

The imperative today is to lock up more people, in order to provide more profit to those who are too wealthy to pay taxes.

Back in the ’70s, Mary Adelaide Mendelson wrote a book called Tender Loving Greed, which dealt with the scams unearthed in the nursing-home business — which had become a lucrative business thanks to guaranteed government money and those all too eager to skimp on granny and make a buck. In 1973, Jessica Mitford wrote Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business, a lesson we’re doomed to learn again.

You may also seen this link on our Facebook page yesterday, about the privatization of schools and the thinly veiled motive behind the establishment of charter schools: Investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well . . . The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.

As always, follow the money. The plutocrats will squeeze every penny possible out of society — and speak from the other side of their mouths in glowing terms of a “greater good.” Yeah, right.

Borowitz Report

China Puts US on eBay

‘Government Sold Separately,’ Sales Listing Says

BEIJING (The Borowitz Report) – Showing its impatience with the debt ceiling stalemate in Washington, China today took the extraordinary step of putting the United States of America on eBay.

Officials at the online auction site said they believed it was the first time a major Western nation had been listed for sale there “if you don’t count Greece.”

In Beijing, the Chinese Finance Ministry said that it had considered waiting until August 2 to see if the US would ever pay back its multitrillion-dollar obligations, but ultimately decided to cut its losses.

“We think we’ll attract a buyer on eBay,” the Ministry said.  “Say what you will about the US, it’s still one of the top fifty countries in the world.”

The sales listing for the US contains some interesting information, such as China’s description of the former superpower as being in “fair to average condition.”

The listing also includes the stipulation “government sold separately,” which the Finance Ministry took great pains to explain.

“We thought that including the government in the sale might turn off potential buyers,” the Ministry said.  “Plus, the US government isn’t ours to sell anyway – it’s owned by the Koch brothers.”

With no bidders in the first 24 hours on eBay, China admitted that it would be challenging to unload the US, but it still held out hope that a buyer would step forward: “We’ve got our fingers crossed for Zuckerberg.”

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that he understood China’s decision to sell the US, but warned that a buyer would have to turn up on eBay before August 2: “After that, the Internet gets shut off.”