Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mario Piperni on Rafael Cruz

It’s Time To Put This “Ted” Talk to Rest

SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 BY  

Ted Cruz Talks   -   http://mariopiperni.com/

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
~John F. Kennedy

 

E.A. Blair shares his thoughts on names.

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I’ve never really trusted anyone who seemed afraid to use their given name. Not all of us are lucky enough to have parents who give us popular or reasonable names. I’m not talking about flower-child names, either. The Baby Boomers spawned a generation of Dweezils, Moon Units, Starshines and Aquarians; present-day celebrities have continued that trend. Despite my aforementioned distrust, I can easily see why someone with a genuinely odd name might prefer to use a middle name or a nickname if it makes life easier.

But there are many people who use their middle names when there is no apparently sensible reason to do so. Picture yourself doing a series of on-the-street interviews. How many people do you think would be able to tell you what “Scooter” Libby’s real first and second names are? How many people (readers of this blog excepted) could come up with Mitt Romney’s actual first name? How about G. Gordon Liddy? Does anybody have any idea what the “J” stands for in “J. Danforth Quayle” or “J. Edgar Hoover”? When H. Ross Perot first learned to write his name, what did he put down on the paper?

Sometimes a name change is understandable. The Screen Actors’ Guild, for example, does not allow two members to register under the same name (Ed Begley, Jr, lampooned this rule when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1984 and announced that, since his father had died fourteen years earlier, he was dropping the “Jr.” from his name and swept it out of the on-screen credits). The rule may, in fact, make the actual names of some of its members unrecognizable. Entertainers also change their names for the sake of popular appeal – Benjamin Kubelsky and Archibald Leach are not the best candidates for household names. “John Wayne” is a blustering, macho hero; “Marion Morrison” is not. “Erich Weiss” lacks a panache and mystique that “Harry Houdini” captures much better. “Norma Jean” is downright dowdy and lacks the virtue of alliteration, whereas “Marilyn Monroe” evokes a satisfying “Mmmmm”.

One may even wonder why middle names exist in the first place. Granted, the perspective I am presenting here is very American-centered. Other cultures have elaborate schemes for assembling complicated strings of first, middle, other middle, additional middle and hyphenated names from the maternal and paternal sides of the family. In some Asian countries, legally recognized names are adopted or dropped by the individual at will. The only values I have ever seen to middle names in the present-day US are twofold: the first is to placate both sets of grandparents and the second is for parents to let their offspring know when they are in trouble.

That still doesn’t keep me from wondering just what all those initial-bearing people have to hide. Which brings me to the main point of this little rant. The state of Texas, home to George Bush, Rick Perry and Louis Gohmert, has seen to inflict on the other forty-nine states yet another right-wing nutjob who calls himself “Ted” Cruz.

“Ted” is not his first name. It is not even either of his given names.

The junior senator from Texas is named Rafael Edward Cruz.

He was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to an American woman and a Cuban father who, at one time, had been a soldier in Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army. The obstetrician attending his birth worked under a national health insurance plan a step beyond the Affordable Care Act that he so vehemently opposes (probably for is own reasons, not for the benefit of his constituents).  How’s that for foreign?

So why “Ted”?

Is it so he can call his speeches and fauxlibusters “Ted talks”?

Or is it because of his base?

Is it that the same tea party who cannot accept that someone named “Barack Hussein Obama” could have been born in the united states would have their collective head explode at the notion of a “President Rafael Cruz”? It’s definitely not White enough for his base, and “Edward” is too formal for them as well. “Ted” is one syllable. It’s easy to spell and remember. Even “Eddie” isn’t good enough. Guys named “Eddie” are rebellious, they’re bikers, they’re played in movies by guys named Meat Loaf. “Ted” totes a gun. “Ted” is a real Texan, a real ‘Merican.

People who opposed President Obama made a sport of stressing his outlandish (in more ways than one) middle name.  So maybe it’s time to remind Mr. Cruz’ base that their poster boy has a touch of the “other” about him as well. It’s time to stop calling him “Ted” and start doing him the courtesy of calling him by his title and the name his parents, no doubt proudly, gave him: Senator Rafael Cruz of Texas. Let the Tea Party deal with it.

Oh, in case you were wondering, “Scooter” is Irving Lewis Libby. Mitt, as so many people here know, is really a Willard. The rest are George Gordon Battle Liddy, James Danforth Quayle, John Edgar Hoover and Henry Ross Perot;  what’s wrong with any of those names?  Benjamin Kubelsky was Jack Benny and Archibald Leach was Cary Grant. As a matter of course in days gone by, many movie actors had their names tacked on to them by managers and promoters to market them.

-E.A. Blair

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Common Dreams: Your Corporate Subsidy

Add It Up: The Average American Family Pays $6,000 a Year in Subsidies to Big Business

by Paul Buchheit

$6,000.

That’s over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It’s $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.

The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.

1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies

The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That’s an average of $870 for each one of America’s 115 million families. Cato notes that this includes “cash payments to farmers and research funds to high-tech companies, as well as indirect subsidies, such as funding for overseas promotion of specific U.S. products and industries…It does not include tax preferences or trade restrictions.”

It does include payments to 374 individuals on the plush Upper East Side of New York City, and others who own farms, including Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Ted Turner. Wealthy heir Mark Rockefeller received $342,000 to NOT farm, to allow his Idaho land to return to its natural state.

It also includes fossil fuel subsidies, which could be anywhere from $10 billion to $41 billion per year for research and development. Yet this may be substantially underestimated. The IMF reports U.S. fossil fuel subsidies of $502 billion, which would be almost $4,400 per U.S. family by taking into account “the effects of energy consumption on global warming [and] on public health through the adverse effects on local pollution.” According to Grist, even this is an underestimate.

2. $696 for Business Incentives at the State, County, and City Levels

The subsidies mentioned above are federal subsidies. A New York Times investigation found that states, counties and cities give up over $80 billion each year to companies, with beneficiaries coming from “virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.”

$80 billion a year is $696 for every U.S. family. But the Times notes that “The cost of the awards is certainly far higher.”

3. $722 for Interest Rate Subsidies for Banks

According to the Huffington Post, the “U.S. Government Essentially Gives The Banks 3 Cents Of Every Tax Dollar.” They cite research that calculates a nearly 1 percent benefit to banks when they borrow, through bonds and customer deposits and other liabilities. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion, or about $722 from every American family.

The wealthiest five banks — JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Goldman Sachs — account for three-quarters of the total subsidy. The Huffington Post article notes that without the taxpayer subsidy, those banks would not make a profit. In other words, “the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders.”

4. $350 for Retirement Fund Bank Fees

This was a tough one to calculate. Demos reports that over a lifetime, bank fees can “cost a median-income two-earner family nearly $155,000 and consume nearly one-third of their investment returns.” Fees are well over one percent a year.

However, the Economic Policy Institute notes that the average middle-quintile retirement account is $34,981. A conservative one percent annual management fee translates to about $350 per family. This, again, is an average; many families have no retirement account. But many families pay much more than 1% in annual fees.

5. $1,268 for Overpriced Medications

According to Dean Baker, “government granted patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by close to $270 billion a year compared to the free market price.” This represents an astonishing annual cost of over $2,000 to an average American family.

OECD figures on pharmaceutical expenditures reveal that Americans spend almost twice the OECD average on drugs, an additional $460 per capita. This translates to $1,268 per household.

6. $870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies

We’ve heard a lot about tax avoidance and tax breaks for the super-rich. With regard to corporations alone, the Tax Foundation has concluded that their “special tax provisions” cost taxpayers over $100 billion per year, or $870 per family. Corporate benefits include items such as Graduated Corporate Income, Inventory Property Sales, Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, Accelerated Depreciation, and Deferred taxes.

Once again, it may be even worse. Citizens for Tax Justice cite a Government Accountability Office report that calculated a loss to the Treasury of $181 billion from corporate tax expenditures. That would be almost $1,600 per family.

7. $1,231 for Revenue Losses from Corporate Tax Havens

U.S. PIRG recently reported that the average 2012 taxpayer paid an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost from offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. With 138 million taxpayers (1.2 per household), that comes to $1,231 per household.

Much More Than an Insult

Overall, American families are paying an annual $6,000 subsidy to corporations that have doubled their profits and cut their taxes in half in ten years while cutting 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. and adding almost as many jobs overseas.

This is more than an insult. It’s a devastating attack on the livelihoods of tens of millions of American families. And Congress just lets it happen.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Mario Piperni on a Government Shutdown

The Wingnut Series – Obamacare

SEPTEMBER 28, 2013 BY  

Wingnut-Series_Obamacare   :    http://mariopiperni.com/

Steve King actually spoke the words illustrated above.

“If there is a price to be paid for this, we will recover from a government shutdown, whether it’s a day, a week or two weeks … something will get resolved, we’ll recover from that as a country,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). “It’s a temporary inconvenience for a lot of people. But if Obamacare is ever implemented, we will never recover from that as a nation. We can never be a free people again.

Providing affordable health care for millions of their fellow Americans – thereby preventing the needless death of thousands each year – is, in the minds of these heartless delusional bastards, a loss of freedom. Freedoms which, you are told, can never be recovered.

Never…ever.

As for those temporary inconveniences, here’s what a government shutdown entails:

  • 368 National Park Service sites closed
  • 700,000 federal employees sent home
  • passport offices shut down and visas will not be processed
  • members of the military will remain on duty but will not receive a salary
  • veteran’s checks will, at best, be delayed
  • federal loans for small business and home purchases won’t be happening
  • …and a whole lot more

There is one small effect of a government shutdown that might get the crazies to reconsider their act of madness extortion…because if anything can get wingers’ heads to explode in unison, it’s the knowledge that a shutdown would mean that…

  • gun permits will not be issued.

What?!!? No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The John Boehner, Steve King and James Inhofe source photographs are Creative Commons licensed images from photographer Gage Skidmore.

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Mario Piperni on Repug Crazy

It Would Be Funny If It Wasn’t So Crazy

SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 BY  

Quote-of-the-Day-Obama_healthcare  :  http://mariopiperni.com/

The President just gave one of his better speeches on the health care law and, in the process, hammered Republicans pretty hard.

Ridiculing Republicans at length and quoting some lawmakers’ dire warnings about the consequences of the law, Obama said he will not be “blackmailed” with threats of default.

“I won’t negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” he said.

Without naming him, Obama quoted New Hampshire state lawmaker Bill O’Brien, who called Obamacare “a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”

“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” he added.

And it’s only going to get crazier. Ezra Klein outlines what Boehner’s latest debt limit bill looks like. It’s a fool’s wish list of everything Romney promised to do on day one of his presidency.

In return for a one-year suspension of the debt ceiling, House Republicans are demanding a yearlong delay of Obamacare, Rep. Paul Ryan’s tax reform plan, the Keystone XL pipeline, more offshore oil drilling, more drilling on federally protected lands, rewriting of ash coal regulations, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions, more power over the regulatory process in general, reform of the federal employee retirement program, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, more power over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s budget, repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, more means-testing in Medicare, repeal of the Public Health trust fund, and more.

All that’s missing is a demand that Obama admit that he was born in Kenya and an executive order invalidating the 2012 election results. Okay, I think it’s time to post this illustration again.

Republican_Head-Up-Ass-2

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Mario Piperni on Tailgunner Ted

Ted Cruz Reads a Bedtime Story

SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 BY  

Ted Cruz - Green Eggs and Sham   :    http://mariopiperni.com/

Sheesh. How embarrassing.

Former New York Republican Sen. Al D’Amato once sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” on the Senate floor. Current Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz may have topped that infamous feat by reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs And Ham during his symbolic filibuster in the world’s greatest deliberative body Tuesday night.

It wasn’t the first time Cruz mentioned the Dr. Seuss classic in his bid to stall a bill that would defund Obamacare, a law that Cruz opposes. Earlier, he said his father, Rafael, invented the dish green eggs and ham.

The title in my illustration would have been a more fitting title for any book Cruz read on the Senate floor. Comments are open to any Dr. Seuss-type verse describing Mr. Cruz and his grandstanding.

UPDATE

From my twitter feed:

Ted Cruz read from Atlas Shrugged and Green Eggs & Ham. One’s a nonsensical fairy tale. The other’s a children’s book

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Elephant image is a royalty-free clipart by Fresh Doodles.

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Corporatocracy

profits

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Trickle Down Illustrated

Income

The Media Selling Austerity for Thee

Published on Monday, September 23, 2013 by Al-Jazeera

The Media’s Complicity in Cutting Social Security and Medicare

US media outlets are disingenuously claiming that social programs are putting Americans in debt.

by Dean Baker

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New projections show that Medicare will be much less costly than previously thought. (Photo: Gallo/Getty)

Most people have probably heard about the Wall Street efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. There is a vast list of organizations like Campaign to Fix the Debt, the Can Kicks Back, Third Way, and many more that have as a central agenda item cutting back or privatizing Social Security and Medicare. When we hear one of these organizations tell us these programs should be cut it is not a surprise.

The question is why do mainstream news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post use their news sections to tell the same stories? Last week when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued new long-range budget projections both papers were quick to ignore the numbers and to tell readers that we have to cut Social Security and Medicare.

The reason why this coverage was so bizarre is that it is not news that Social Security and Medicare will cost more in the decades ahead. We actually have known about the rising cost of these programs for about fifty years. The birth of a huge number of baby boomers in the years 1946 to 1964 pretty much guaranteed this outcome barring a horrible war, famine, or epidemic.

While the aging of the baby boomers may not have qualified as news, there was actually important news in the CBO projections that went unmentioned in both newspapers. CBO lowered its projections for health care cost growth, meaning that Medicare, Medicaid, and other government health care programs are now projected to cost less in the decades ahead than had been assumed in prior years.

This change is substantial. The new projections show that spending on Medicare and other government health care programs will be 7.6 percent of GDP in 2035. By comparison, just two years ago CBO projected that Medicare and other health care programs would cost 8.5 percent of GDP in 2035.

The difference of 0.9 percentage points of GDP between the 2011 cost projection for these programs and the most recent numbers would translate into roughly $150 billion a year in today’s economy. In other words, this is a big deal. The change in CBO’s projections of health care cost certainly comes closer to standard definitions of “news” than the aging of the baby boomers.

However there is more than a question of newsworthiness here. Both papers harped on the idea that Social Security and Medicare needed to be cut in order to bring the budget into long-term balance. Cuts to these programs are usually put in the context of a “grand bargain” which would also involve some increase in taxes.

The CBO projections imply a substantial cut in spending on these health care programs, most of which would be borne by seniors getting Medicare and Medicaid. In today’s economy, the new projections would imply almost $1,700 less in spending per year on each beneficiary, or a reduction in spending of $3,400 on a senior couple. This is for an age group with a median cash income of a bit more than $20,000 a year per person.

By comparison, we heard endless sob stories about how the ending of the Bush tax cuts would hurt higher income people. For a couple with an income of $500,000 a year, the tax increases put into effect at the end of last year would translated into a tax increase of roughly $3,000.

If we had crafted a grand bargain three years ago, would anyone have suggested cuts in Medicare and Social Security that would have cost a typical senior couple more than $3,400 a year? In other words, the new CBO projections might imply that much of any needed cuts in spending on seniors has already been accomplished.

It’s true that the lower projections are based on lower projected cost growth and not a reduction in services, but it’s difficult to see why this would matter. There is an enormous amount of waste in our health care system which leads us to spend more than twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy countries. In fact, if our per person health care costs were comparable to those in other wealthy countries our long-term budget projections would show huge surpluses, not deficits. Do the grand bargainers have a scorecard where we only count cuts that lead to inferior care for seniors as opposed to the elimination of waste?

Turning to the revenue side of the picture, the new projections are striking in the extent to which they show the long-term problem is really a lack of revenue story. In the late 1990s, CBO projected that revenue would average 21.1 percent of GDP into the indefinite future. If revenue were actually at this level, the new projections show that the primary budget would be in surplus for almost two decades, and the debt to GDP ratio would be falling sharply.

© 2013 Al-Jazeera

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer and the more recently published Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of The Bubble Economy. He also has a blog, “Beat the Press,” where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues.

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The Racist War on Drugs

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From , “Criminal injustice: The percentage of African-Americans in prison,” on MSNBC:

“Our nation’s prison population has more than quintupled,” she said. “And this is due largely to the war on drugs and the ‘get tough’ movement. The drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color even though studies have consistently shown now for decades that contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but by waging this drug war almost exclusively in poor communities of color, we’ve now created a vast new racial under-caste.”

Since 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, there has been a 700% increase in the U.S. prison population. Today, African-Americans are also more likely to spend time in prison for drug related offenses than their white counterparts. According to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans make up 12% of the nation’s drug users, but represent 34% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 45% of those in state prison for such offense as of 2005.

In her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander chronicled how black youth are less likely to be drug users. White students use cocaine and heroin at seven times the rate of black students, and use crack at eight times the rate, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker behind the documentary “The House I Live in,” thinks that Americans have been swindled into believing these higher incarceration rates among minorities are justified by drug use.

“Once you know that fact, it reminds you how much propaganda has hoodwinked us for 40 years about these drugs,” he added. As of 2002, more than 80% of Americans sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African-Americans, according to the Sentencing Project, which also has found black drug offenders have a 20% greater chance of being sentenced to prison than white drug offenders, while Hispanics has a 40% greater chance.

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