Archive for category Perspective
Sequestration: John Boehner, not Barack Obama, has the power to lead us out of the budget mess. – Slate Magazine
It’s Time for You To Lead, John Boehner
Stop blaming the president: The House speaker is the only one who can fix the budget mess.
The only person who has the ability to move Washington beyond this endless debate
Washington is once again at an impasse over fiscal matters, and once again the overwhelming majority of the intransigence comes from the Republican Party, which continues to rigidly reject any deal that includes any meaningful increases in tax revenue.
Nonetheless, the conventions of deficit scoldery mandate that the mere existence of disagreement shows that both sides must be to blame. Thus the editorial board concludes that “Republicans are wrong to resist further revenue hikes” but still wonders “why is Mr. Obama not leading the way to a solution?” David Brooks complains that Obama “has become a participant” in “stale debates” and should instead unilaterally “fundamentally shift the terms” of politics. Ron Fournier at says Obama is “ultimately responsible for the success or failure” of negotiations, no matter what his opponents say.
This is pernicious nonsense. The president of the United States has many powers at his disposal, but the ability to pull a Jedi mind trick and force congressional opponents to agree to deals they don’t favor isn’t among them. It’s that the ideas Obama has put on the table aren’t perfect, but at least he has put ideas out there and shown some flexibility. The person who has to act now is the one person who actually can change the dynamic: House Speaker John Boehner.
It is Boehner, not Obama, who must lead and find a way to a solution. It is Boehner, not Obama, who has the ability to move Washington beyond the endless stale debate, and it is Boehner, not Obama, who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of policymaking in the 113 Congress.
Ryan Lizza, profiling Majority Leader Eric Cantor in , definitively nails down what many inferred at the time: Boehner and Obama were at one point close to a big deal, and then Boehner pulled the plug for fear of a rebellion on his right:
In June of 2011, the President and the Speaker began working toward a Grand Bargain of major tax increases and spending cuts to address the government’s long-term budget deficits. Until late June, Boehner had managed to keep these talks secret from Cantor. On July 21st, Boehner paused in his discussions with Obama to talk to Cantor and outline the proposed deal. As Obama waited by the phone for a response from the Speaker, Cantor struck. Cantor told me that it was a “fair assessment” that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama’s deal. He said he told Boehner that it would be better, instead, to take the issues of taxes and spending to the voters and “have it out” with the Democrats in the election. Why give Obama an enormous political victory, and potentially help him win reëlection, when they might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal with a new Republican President? Boehner told Obama there was no deal. Instead of a Grand Bargain, Cantor and the House Republicans made a grand bet.
Whatever the merits of that strategy at the time, the gamble clearly hasn’t paid off. It’s time for Boehner to admit as much, come back to the table, and act like a statesman by offering a bold proposal that will split his caucus and risk his speakership. Boehner needs to acknowledge that Obama has repeatedly been offering the kind of large spending cuts that Republicans say they want, and learn to take yes for an answer. Tax revenue is the price Obama has consistently demanded in exchange for spending cuts, and Boehner could be statesman of the decade by agreeing to take the deal.
He doesn’t need to embrace new revenue, mind you. He doesn’t need to say he’s eager to raise taxes or even that he favors it. He just needs to say that he’s willing to give ground in order to get what he wants.
This would give Boehner the chance to push Democrats off some of their gimmicky thinking on taxes. The White House’s view that in an era of high inequality the rich should pay more is perfectly reasonable, but Obama’s politically motivated insistence that the rich be the exclusive payers of higher taxes is paralyzing. A sensible, economically efficient, loophole-closing tax reform such as the one proposed by Diane Rogers Lim for the Hamilton Project would raise more money from rich taxpayers than middle class ones but at least some Americans all across the income spectrum would pay somewhat more.
A big concession on taxes would also give Boehner the high ground in the debate over spending. For much too long, GOP intransigence has papered over divides in the Democratic coalition. Democrats—correctly—like to tout the role of federal spending on R&D, infrastructure, and education as important to economic growth. But the lion’s share of nonmilitary spending doesn’t go to investments in the future, it goes to subsidies for the elderly. Obama has often stated a desire to curb this spending in the context of a balanced deal, but that position has always been controversial within his party. It’s never truly been clear how many Democrats Obama could bring along with him for a deal, and we’ve never had to find out because there’s been no Republican partner.
is a comfortable common denominator view for Democratic leaders, uniting the liberal and moderate wings of the party. And it’s a potent electoral combination that clearly polls better than the all-cuts alternative. Boehner is absolutely correct to say that the long-run fiscal gap is mostly a question of excessive projected entitlement spending and not tax shortfalls. But if Boehner really wants to reduce that spending, he must show some leadership and bring at least a fraction of his caucus to the table, ready to compromise.
- Sequestration: Boehner says Senate need to get ‘off their ass’ (suntimes.com)
- The sequestration show: Obama holds shipyard rally; Boehner talks tough (bizjournals.com)
- John Boehner: Sequester Requires Senate To Get ‘Off Their Ass’ (VIDEO … (huffingtonpost.com)
- Sequestration Debate: Obama Campaigns, Republicans Don’t Act (theepochtimes.com)
- White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Boehner blasts Senate Democrats for inaction (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Sequestration cuts: Obama cites Navy threat, immigrants freed as cuts loom – Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com)
- John Boehner’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed Failed (teaparty911.com)
- Boehner starts to lose his cool (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Obama highlights the defense hit in budget cuts battle – Reuters (reuters.com)
A Tax to Pay for War
By R. RUSSELL RUMBAUGH
Published: February 10, 2013
NOW that Congress has discarded the idea that taxes can never be raised, we must change how we pay for the wars we ask our military to fight. We should institute a war tax.
With leading officials calling for action in Syria, and the American military providing support for France’s intervention in Mali, the need for such a tax is urgent. And President Obama’s call for tax reform as the next round of budget negotiations begins offers a perfect opportunity to enact it.
Military spending has been declining since 2009, easing the conflict between pursuing our national security interests and solving our fiscal crisis. But if we undertake new military interventions, that tension will come roaring back.
Those who look at our military spending as a percent of gross domestic product and argue that we could spend more are right. At our current level of $646 billion, we are spending roughly 4 percent of G.D.P. on national defense, well below cold war averages. The missing part of their argument is whether we can afford to pay for it now or would have to borrow, adding to the national debt. After all, war spending — like all government spending — wrecks public finances only when more money is spent than is brought in.
This simple equation is nothing new. Three years ago, the Senate Budget Committee adopted a bipartisan amendment requiring that wars be paid for. The Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission and Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, both proposed doing much the same thing. None of these proposals resolved the question of whether to pay for future wars through spending cuts or raising more revenue. Now that Congress has finally passed legislation letting taxes increase, we must make a choice and require a tax surcharge to pay for any military operation.
War traditionally has motivated major changes in tax policy. The Civil War brought the first income tax. World War I made the federal income tax permanent. World War II brought tax withholding. In 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, the United States ran a budget surplus because of a tax surcharge Congress forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to accept.
Today’s budget negotiations offer a similar opportunity to make a surcharge permanent. President Obama called for counting as savings the money that will not be spent as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Many decried the scheme as playing with funny money because he plans to exit Afghanistan in 2014 anyway; the savings only exist because of an accounting trick in Congressional budgeting. But if those savings were associated with an actual policy change, they would start looking more real.
Since the Budget Control Act already caps military spending, there is an easy way to implement the surcharge: any spending over the caps would require it. If we felt the need to use the military and could do so under the spending caps, as the Obama administration did in 2011 responding to the earthquake in Japan and the uprising in Libya, no surcharge would be necessary. But if military action required supplemental financing, any amount over the caps would be offset with new revenue raised by an automatic surcharge on taxes.
By tying military action to additional revenue, the president would actually have a freer hand in deciding when to use force. Every argument the Obama administration makes for military action would explicitly include a call for increased taxes, forcing the question of whether the stakes in the military situation are worth the cost. If the American people agree they are worth it, the president will get both the political support and financing he needs.
Syria is the most immediate example. We now know that some top officials have argued for arming the rebels, as the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did last year. Others argue for an even more robust military response, while detractors insist that we should learn from Iraq and not get involved at all.
Such decisions should not be divorced from economic considerations, but neither should we allow our finances to prevent us from pursuing vital American security interests. Putting in place a permanent tax surcharge to pay for wars would ensure that we could achieve our interests throughout the world without further worsening our finances.
If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American.
- A Tax to Pay for War (dailyqueernews.wordpress.com)
- President Delivers a New Offer on the Fiscal Crisis to Boehner – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Stabilization Won’t Save Us – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Congress inaction on budget could affect raises, benefits for military (stripes.com)
- How will he pay for it? Fiscal realities put Obama agenda in question – NBCNews.com (blog) (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Tax rules change, but advice remains the same (cantonrep.com)
- War Addiction Default: America’s Political Dysfunction at Root is an Unwillingness to Cut War Spending (nationofchange.org)
- The GOP’s Defense Spending Problem (anirrationalviewoftheirrational.wordpress.com)
- Spoiled Brat Syndrome (safehaven.com)
- Obama’s War on the Troops (freebeacon.com)
We are a sick bunch of people.
Everywhere I go, all I hear and see is hacking and sneezing.
“I have allergies,” a woman said in line while I was waiting for my food.
Joe Heller / Green Bay Press-Gazette
No, you don’t. You have a virus like the rest of us.
Blaming allergies makes people around you feel safer. Allergies are not contagious, like that crud we’re all struggling with.
“Don’t worry, it’s just allergies,” she said. Yeah. That’s why everyone around you is going to feel like poop by tomorrow, right?
This season’s crud is stronger than usual. It grabs you and makes you feel like … crud.
“I’m sick as a dog,” I overheard another person saying.
No, you’re not. I have dogs, and they don’t get sick. If they did get sick, I would rush them to the veterinarian and get them well.
And, if you are sick as a dog (let’s assume that a dog got really sick and had to be rushed to the vet), what are you doing out here in public, spreading germs?
I used to get sick more often when I had little kids because kids are germ magnets. They got sick, shook it off in a few days, and I suffered for the next two weeks.
When I was in kindergarten, I remember chewing on the same rubber toy every other kid in the class chewed on. What an efficient way to spread germs. Only kids would think of that. Oh, yes, then comes kissing. That’s even more efficient.
After I sucked on the toy, I always washed my hands, just to be on the safe side.
Yes, we are sick, sick, sick.
I get the flu shot each year, but it does not protect against the crud. Last time I got it, I didn’t even feel the needle. Not that I’d freak out if I did, but I expected to feel a prick, and there was nothing. The tech did a great job. Then she sneezed. Good thing I got the shot.
A friend said she would rather be sick with the flu than get a flu shot. Excuse me? The flu is vicious. It takes you down and keeps you down.
With my luck, the only year I don’t get the shot, we’d have a repeat of the 1918 pandemic.
It actually lasted two years and killed between one and three percent of the world’s population.
It was started by a group of kids in a kindergarten class chewing on the same rubber toy. Just kidding. It started some other way.
So, getting the shot and parting with a few dollars is actually a much better option than becoming a human faucet for a couple of weeks.
What’s really unfair is when I get sick right before a big trip, and I bought non-refundable airline tickets. Watch out fellow flyers, here I come. I cannot get my money back, so all of you are now going to get the germ treatment.
I try to be thoughtful of others. I sneeze into my sleeve, not in the air. I even do silent sneezes, but that feels like a bomb going off in my head. It feels better when the sneeze is released normally … into my sleeve.
So, when you’re around me, and I don’t look all that good, don’t touch my sleeve; nor my rubber toy.
Being self-employed, it’s really a big problem when I get the crud. It took me a while to learn to deal with it.
I once called in sick, but nobody picked up the phone.
So, I left a message.
Nothing got done that day. I then decided to go back to work and stay late.
Like I said, we are sick people.
Making Sense, by Michael Reagan
We have junk food, junk mail and junk bonds.
Now, thanks to our dysfunctional and devious Congress, we have junk laws like the “Taxpayer Relief Act.”
Junk laws are really nothing new. The people we send to Washington to represent us have been passing legislation larded with pork or special privileges for their friends in business, agriculture and labor since the country was born.
Adam Zyglis / Buffalo News
Insiders have always known how this cynical bipartisan game is played. But now, thanks to the failure of Congress to deal with the government debt crisis it in large part created, the average American is starting to become aware of these junk bills.
Even the liberal media were outraged by what went on when Congress passed the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012″ — which, ironically, raised the taxes of every working American by 2 percent by returning the Social Security tax to its usual 6.2 percent level.
The “Fiscal Cliff Bill” did virtually nothing to solve the federal government’s money problems or create a single job. But it was junked up with nearly $70 billion of pure pork — including tax credits for the owners of NASCAR racetracks, wind turbine makers, Hollywood moviemakers and rum-makers in Puerto Rico.
While President Obama was promising to raise taxes on the rich but really shafting the working poor, congressional folk were so busy loading up the “Fiscal Cliff Bill” with presents for their friends that they forgot to pass the relief bill to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Members of Congress are grandmasters of deceit and dishonesty. Taking maximum advantage of every crisis or disaster that comes along, they attach their favorite pieces of pork to dishonestly named bills such as the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012″ and the “Affordable Healthcare Act.”
Members know these big important super-bills have to pass to avert a crisis, so they junk them up with their $200 million “Bridges to Nowhere” and their $59 million tax credits for the algae-growing industry.
A perfect example of how Congress gets its junk bills passed has to with the way it funds FEMA. Congress always underfunds the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Why?
Because Congress knows each year there will always be a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy that FEMA will need billions of federal dollars to address.
And when FEMA comes asking for emergency funding, members of Congress will clean out their closets and throw every piece of junk legislation they have into the relief bill, which they know will automatically pass without scrutiny.
Another reason we get junk laws is that few members of Congress actually read these monster bills before they vote for them. Nancy Pelosi’s career quote is going to be her comment on the healthcare bill, “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”
Law-making is not supposed to work that way. There’s a rule in Congress that a bill has to be posted for 48 hours before it can be voted on. But that rule has become a joke.
Just watch C-SPAN the next time a vote is being taken in the House. You’ll probably hear someone say something like, “Under suspension of the rule, we’ll now vote.”
What arcane parliamentary rule are they talking about? The 48-hour rule. No wonder Congress is always finding out after they vote what they just voted for. If members of Congress don’t read the damn bill, they shouldn’t vote on it.
I’m getting real tired of people saying, “My guy’s a good guy and your guy’s a bad guy.” They’re all acting like bad guys.
We need to start holding every member of Congress accountable. And we need more up-and-down votes in Congress, so that the next important piece of legislation doesn’t become another “Fiscal Cliff Junk Bill.”
- Congress to vote on Sandy aid as FEMA warns funds low (cnn.com)
- Sandy Shows Disaster-Relief Funding Is a Disaster – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Sandy Relief Bill Filled With $9 Billion of Pork (theburningplatform.com)
- Voting Against Sandy Relief is the Only Moral Option (txwclp.org)
- Long funding process to follow irate Sandy rhetoric (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- The Pork Filled and Expensive Non-Relief Sandy Relief Bill (conservativeread.com)
- HARD TO ARGUE: Taxpayer Advocate Says Tax Code is “Unconscionable Burden,” Suggests Junking the… (pjmedia.com)
- House passes $9.7B Sandy relief bill (cbsnews.com)
- Republican Congressman Says He’s Not Convinced Sandy Victims Need Relief (politicususa.com)
- Not So Fast, Governor Christie (personalliberty.com)
The Danger of Secret Alcoholism
High-functioning alcoholics are often hiding in plain sight—and they’re often more dangerous than drop-dead drunks.
January 8, 2013
“He was never drunk when I interviewed him,” the late writer Truman Capote’s biographer told me.
“It was just a mistake. He didn’t hurt anyone,” a friend said of an acquaintance who got a DUI last year.
“She doesn’t drink much,” my husband said of me when a therapist asked about our drinking habits. “Just a little white wine.”
Alcohol is confusing. For one thing, it is selectively addictive. Some people can drink safely; others can’t. For another thing, although alcohol is a depressant, especially in large doses, new research shows that in moderate doses it can also act as a happy stimulant. The first few drinks make the world a better place. The next few have the opposite effect: The drinker “may not be able to grasp the thread of a conversation; his reflexes will be somewhat delayed, his speech slurred, and his gait unsteady,” writes Dr. James Milam in his classic study Under the Influence.
Because ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, is a very simple and very tiny molecule, it is the Speedy Gonzales of addictive substances, zooming right through the protective blood/brain barrier and delivering an immediate punch. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it triggers a series of responses that can last 24 hours. Many heavy drinkers are always in some stage of inebriation or withdrawal, and this changes the way they engage with the world. There may be hours—entire mornings!—when they appear to be “normal,” but there is no “normal” in the body or brain of a heavy drinker.
Alcohol is metabolized at the approximate rate of one drink per hour. Someone who has two drinks before dinner, three beers with dinner and two nightcaps may pass out and wake up six hours late still drunk. If they sleep longer, they wake up with more alcohol out of their system but often in a painful state of withdrawal (along with dehydration and other nasty symptoms caused by the toxins that your body churns out as it processes the ethanol). Hangovers, which arguably have a greater effect on mood than alcohol itself, are the body’s scream for more. Soon enough, driven by a cellular level craving, the heavy drinker with a hangover will have that beer or that brandy in the coffee that quiets the disturbance, at least for a while.
Someone in withdrawal is even less likely to seem drunk than someone who has had a few drinks. But the effects can be deadly. “The strange truth that alcoholics are often in worse shape when their blood alcohol content is descending than when it is at its highest level is an extremely difficult point to grasp,” write Catherine Ketchum in her bookBeyond the Influence. “The withdrawal syndrome represents a state of hyperexcitability, or extreme agitation in the nervous system. “ Ketcham uses the tragic example of Henri Paul, the driver of the car in which Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in 1997. Paul, who had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit when his body was tested after the accident, had been waiting around the Ritz for two hours to drive during which he had little to drink. “Paul was drunk and he was in withdrawal,” Ketchum writes. “Both facts sealed his doom and the fate of his passengers.”
In Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, Sarah Allen Benton makes the case that the image of the archetypal alcoholic—the stumbling Bowery bum—has obscured a much more common and infrequently treated type of alcoholic—the alcoholic who can function in the world and appear to be fine. Perhaps because high-functioning alcoholics do not tax government systems and cause social problems, they get far less attention than more dramatic drinkers. Although these high-functioning boozers sometimes do not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, they are desperately in need of help. Examples abound: from former First Lady Betty Ford to actor Robin Williams and musician Eric Clapton. Dr. Mark Willenbring, an addiction specialist, told Benton, “[High-functioning alcoholics] are successful students. They’re good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis and two bottle of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet.”
I was one of those confusing invisible alcoholics. I didn’t stumble or slur. I didn’t break out in handcuffs. No one ever told me to stop drinking. There were no emergency rooms or rehabs. Most of the day, I considered myself sober. From the outside all was well: I had a loving husband, two terrific kids and an enviable career. From the inside I was hollowed out by despair. I got through the mornings on coffee and sugar, promising myself that I wouldn’t drink again. In this twilight state I lived my life—driving cars, arguing with the IRS, complaining about my marriage. By evening there only seemed one solution to the unbearable hammering of the hours—a glass of white wine, and then another. I felt entirely alone. Now, 20 years later, I realize that I had a great deal of company.
- The Danger of Secret Alcoholism (alternet.org)
- Digital Ice Cubes Designed To Monitor Alcohol Consumption (positivelygood.net)
- CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing (csmonitor.com)
- Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It’s Cold Out? (mentalfloss.com)
- Are Women The New Problem Drinkers, Because They Are Lady Binge-Drinkers? (theawl.com)
- Idaho inmates blame it on the alcohol (newsfixnow.com)
- Health News: Having a word can help cut dangers of alcohol (walesonline.co.uk)
- Binge drinking warnings ‘overstated’ (stuff.co.nz)
- CDC: 1 in 8 U.S. women binge drink 3 times a month (cbsnews.com)
- Dieters `often ignore alcohol calories` (indiavision.com)
Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics continued its monthly deceit and deception exercise. The December unemployment rate, according to the BLS, is 7.8 percent. In the same report, BLS announced that 155,000 new jobs have been created.
Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch
Immediately after the BLS released its statistics, major media outlets spun the falsely calculated data into an optimistic analysis which concluded that the economy is rebounding strongly, a vindication of President Obama’s policies. One headline read that the latest BLS figures, broadly referred to as the U-3 unemployment rate, prove Obama’s “naysayers” have been wrong all along. However keep in mind that under the U-3 definition some counted as employed could work as little as an hour a week.
If the naysayers include African-Americans, women and young adults, then their skepticism is justified. Unemployment for women rose to 7.3 percent in December from 7.0 percent while the rate for African-Americans increased sharply to 14.0 percent from 13.2 percent in November.
Even though December normally experiences a job creation spike in temporary positions because of seasonal retail shopping patterns, black employment fell in December from nearly 16 million to 15.8 million.
As for young Americans age 18-29, their plight is equally grim. Generation Opportunity, a national, non-partisan organization which advocates for what it calls millennials, announced that the overall non-seasonally adjusted December youth unemployment rate is 11.5 percent including Hispanics,12.2 percent and women, 10.4 percent.
A more comprehensive unemployment rate is the U-6 which counts all unemployed individuals 16 years and older seeking full-time employment (the aforementioned U-3 rate), marginally attached workers and those working part-time despite wanting full employment. Marginally attached workers include the discouraged who have given up the employment search. The December U-6 unemployment rate is 14.4; the 2012 average nearly 14.8 percent.
Analysts rarely address the question of which types of jobs have been created and, by extension, what wage they pay. The so called FIRE economy—finance, insurance and real estate—continued its twenty-year soft trend. Many of those jobs have commission based salaries. Manufacturing, once the backbone of the American middle class, continued its two decade decline.
On the other hand, low paying leisure and hospitality jobs remain strong. In the hospitality sector, the average wage is $13.41 per hour with 26 hours representing an average work week. Few leisure positions offer health care, paid vacation or pension programs.
Even the liberal Economic Policy Institute unequivocally stated that the job market is stuck in a depressingly deep hole—4 million jobs away from returning to pre-recession employment levels. Add the jobs that should be created in a normal economy and the United States is short nine million jobs. Assuming December’s growth rate, the EPI estimates that the labor market won’t catch up until the end of 2021.
As if all this discouraging news isn’t bad enough for beleaguered American workers, legal and illegal immigrants have taken two-thirds of the net employment increase since 2009 when President Obama took office. A Center for Immigration Studies found that 1.94 million more immigrants were working in the third quarter of 2012 than at the start of 2009 when the president was inaugurated compared to a 938,000 increase for natives during the same time period.
Despite overwhelming, irrefutable evidence that 20 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed and equally compelling proof that authorizing more foreign-born workers adds to U.S. worker displacement, immigration remains on autopilot. An average 1 million new legal immigrants annually with work authorizations compete with Americans, often successfully, for scarce jobs.
The federal government’s craven immigration policy that hurts suffering, unemployed Americans is inexplicably set to continue in perpetuity.
- The Most Unemployed Cities In Every State (businessinsider.com)
- 155,000 Jobs Added In December, Jobless Rate At 7.8 Percent (wnyc.org)
- US unemployment aid applications tick up to 371K (miamiherald.com)
- Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Rose Last Week to 371000 – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Making sense of the unemployment rate (finance.yahoo.com)
- Stimulus From Jobless Aid Fades as U.S. Hiring Grows: Economy – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Dismal December jobs report shows another lost year for US workers (aei-ideas.org)
- Unemployment falls below 7 pct. in most US cities (seattlepi.com)
- Unemployment falls below 7 percent in most US cities (kfwbam.com)
- Youth Unemployment 11.5 Percent, 22.1 percent for Young Blacks (colorlines.com)
Democrats blast AIG’s ‘outrageous’ threat to sue feds over bailout
By Vicki Needham - 01/08/13 04:09 PM ET
Democrats responded with outrage Tuesday to reports that insurance giant American International Group (AIG) might sue the federal government over the terms of its 2008 bailout.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called the potential $25 billion shareholder lawsuit “outrageous” and “unbelievable.”
“AIG’s reckless bets nearly crashed our entire economy,” said Warren, who before being elected to the Senate served on a task force that oversaw the distribution of the $700 billion in bailout funds.
“Taxpayers across this country saved AIG from ruin, and it would be outrageous for this company to turn around and sue the federal government because they think the deal wasn’t generous enough.”
Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the lawsuit would be “an unbelievable insult to our nation’s taxpayers, who cleaned up the mess this firm created.”
“The American taxpayers were a lifeline to this firm, and for certain shareholders to now criticize the terms of the rescue is utterly ridiculous,” he said.
In a terse letter to Robert Miller, board chairman of the American International Group, Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the company would quickly become “the poster company for corporate ingratitude” if board members took that step.
“Don’t even think about it,” the lawmakers wrote Tuesday. “AIG became the poster company for Wall Street greed, fiscal mismanagement, and executive bonuses – the taxpayer and economy be damned. Now, AIG apparently seeks to become the poster company for corporate ingratitude and chutzpah.”
According to numerous reports, AIG’s board is meeting Wednesday to discuss whether the company, which took a $182 taxpayer-funded bailout, will sign on to a $25 billion suit, initiated by the firm’s former CEO, seeking compensation for shareholders allegedly harmed when the government took over the collapsing company in 2008.
Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, who headed AIG for decades before stepping down in 2005, alleges — among other things — that the government charged onerous interest rates as the company was paying back its taxpayer-funded bailout loan. Greenberg sued the government in 2011 and is urging his former company to get on board.
The possibility that AIG could join the lawsuit comes as the insurer has launched an advertising campaign thanking taxpayers for the support. In the spot that began airing this year, AIG employees tell their company’s story and thank taxpayers for the bailout, which the commercial says was paid back.
Capuano and Welch did not threaten any specific action if the AIG board joins the suit, but warned that the public backlash would be severe.
“Taxpayers are still furious that they rescued a company whose own conduct brought it down,” they wrote. “Don’t rub salt in the wounds with yet another reckless decision that is on par with the reckless decisions that led to the bailout in the first place.”
Warren argues that the insurer was able to recover from $2.2 billion in losses in 2010 and reap $17.7 billion in profits the next year because of special tax breaks from the Treasury Department.
“When a company accepts a taxpayer bailout to stay in business, it ought to follow the same tax laws followed by companies that aren’t bailed out,” Warren wrote in a op-ed with other members of the Congressional Oversight Panel in March 2012.
“In its ongoing efforts to reform corporate tax law, Congress should close this egregious loophole and prevent AIG from continuing to receive a stealth bailout every time it files its taxes,” she said.
Although White House spokesman Jay Carney would not comment directly on the lawsuit, he highlighted the Obama administration’s push for the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
“Thanks to the action of the president, thanks to the action of the administration and Congress, an action like the kind that was taken to deal with AIG’s potential disorderly failure, however necessary during the financial crisis, should not happen again, and that’s why this president pursued Wall Street reform,” Carney said Tuesday.
“And that’s why it is essential to continue to move forward with the implementation of that reform.”
- AIG considers joining lawsuit against U.S. over bailouts (latimes.com)
- AIG May Join Suit Over Bailout, Angering Many (sfluxe.com)
- AIG Feels Wrath Of Congress Over Potential Lawsuit (valuewalk.com)
- Outrageous! Washington’s jaw drops at possibility of AIG lawsuit… (kaystreet.wordpress.com)
- Lawmakers Warn A.I.G. Not to Join Lawsuit Against U.S. (dealbook.nytimes.com)
- Lawmakers warn AIG not to sue Washington (upi.com)
- Elizabeth Warren: Possible AIG Lawsuit ‘Outrageous’ (kzawadzki88.wordpress.com)
- Washington’s Jaw Drops At Possibility Of AIG Bailout Lawsuit (huffingtonpost.com)
- A.I.G. might sue the U.S. government for saving it (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- Senator Elizabeth Warren Is Outraged That AIG Is Considering Suing The US Government (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: We’d All Be Packing Heat If the NRA Had Its Way
Even life and death are measured by profit margins, so the organization’s cure for gun violence shouldn’t surprise.
January 4, 2013
We wrote and spoke about guns just a few days before Christmas, following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. So did Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association. His now infamous, “no questions” press conference was the most stunning, cockeyed one-man show since Clint Eastwood addressed that empty chair at the Republican National Convention.“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he pronounced.
LaPierre might well have plagiarized his vision of a wholly armed nation from another “man of the people” of 40 years ago, the protagonist in the famous sit-com “All in the Family.” On a 1972 episode, when a local TV station comes out in favor of gun control, Archie Bunker hits the airwaves with an editorial rebuttal:
Good evening, everybody. This here is Archie Bunker of 704 Hauser Street, veteran of the big war, speaking on behalf of guns for everybody. Now, question: what was the first thing that the Communists done when they took over Russia? Answer: gun control. And there’s a lot of people in this country want to do the same thing to us here in a kind of conspiracy, see. You take your big international bankers, they want to — whaddya call — masticate the people of this here nation like puppets on the wing, and then when they get their guns, turn us over to the Commies … Now I want to talk about another thing that’s on everybody’s minds today, and that’s your stick-ups and your skyjackings, and which, if that were up to me, I could end the skyjackings tomorrow … All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. He ain’t got no more moral superiority there, and he ain’t gonna dare to pull out no rod. And then your airlines, they wouldn’t have to search the passengers on the ground no more, they just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip, and they just pick them up at the end! Case closed.
Case closed. Except that Archie Bunker’s a fictional character created by Norman Lear, who knew better. Not Wayne LaPierre — he’s real and he means business. Big business.
Every time we have another of these mass slayings and speak of gun control, weapon sales go up. And guess what? As journalist Lee Fang reports in The Nation, “For every gun or package of ammunition sold at participating stores, a dollar is donated to the NRA.” Customers can make a contribution at the point of purchase or the gun companies make an automatic donation every time the cash register rings. Last year, just one of those merchants of death, Midway USA, used one of these NRA programs to give the gun lobby a million dollars.
So naturally, in a country where even life and death are measured by the profit margin, the cure for gun violence is, yes, more guns! Bigger profits. Never mind that just before LaPierre spoke, three were shot and killed outside Altoona, Pennsylvania. Or that early on Christmas Eve morning, in Webster, New York, two volunteer firemen were called to the scene of a fire, then executed by an ex-con who allegedly set the blaze and murdered them with the same kind of assault rifle used against those school kids and their teachers in Newtown. Or that on New Year’s Eve, in Sacramento, California, reportedly in a fight over a spilled drink, a 22-year-old opened fire in a bar, killing two and wounding two others. In fact, according to Slate.com and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths, at this writing, in just those few weeks since the Newtown slaughter of the innocent, more than 400 have died from guns in America. That should boost the last quarter profit margins. Not surprising, the merchants of death are experiencing a Happy New Year.
We have to keep talking about this, because Wayne LaPierre and the NRA will keep talking and they are insidious and powerful predators. Have you seen the reports in both the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Washington Post of how, 16 years ago, the NRA managed to get Congress to pull funding on gun violence studies at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Since then, JAMA reports, “at least 427,000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide. To put these numbers in context, during the same time period, 4,586 Americans lost their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Last year, Congress stopped the National Institutes of Health from spending any money that might be construed as advocating or promoting gun control. There’s even a section that was snuck into President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that prevents doctors from collecting information on their patients’ gun use. Denise Dowd, an emergency-care physician in Kansas City and adviser on firearms issues to the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the Post, “This illustrates the fact that the NRA has insinuated themselves into the small crevices of anything they can to do anything in their power to prohibit sensible gun-safety measures.”
As Wayne LaPierre’s brazen call for an armed populace makes clear, the odds don’t favor common sense. Several members of the new Congress are reintroducing bills that would change the gun laws and USA Today reports that the White House is “likely” to issue its recommendations January 15, but there are always those legislators willing to do the gun lobby’s bidding as they profess their love of the Second Amendment and wait like hungry house pets for the next NRA campaign donation.
Every American packing heat is a frightening vision of our future. It doesn’t have to be, if only we stop and think. That’s what a fellow named Frank James did. He stopped, thought — and changed directions. A pawn shop owner in Seminole, Florida, whose youngest child is six, Frank James told a local ABC station he has decided to stop selling guns.
“It’ll probably cause my business to go out of business because it was a big part of it, but I just couldn’t live with myself,” he said.” I thought, wow, this is crazy. As a gun dealer myself, I’m like, yes, we need more gun control. Guns are getting into the wrong hands of the wrong people.” He also said, “I’m not going to be a part of it anymore. Conscience wins over making money.”
Thank you, Mr. James.
- “NRA’s Vision: A Nation Packing Heat,” Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, January 5, 2013, Moyers & Company (themoderatevoice.com)
- We’d all be packing heat if the NRA had its way (salon.com)
- Bill Moyers: We’d All Be Packing Heat If the NRA Had Its Way (alternet.org)
- The Madness of the NRA (consortiumnews.com)
- Bill Moyers: WATCH: The Gun Lobby’s Firepower (huffingtonpost.com)
- The NRA’s ‘Bunker mentality’ (blogforarizona.com)
- Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: We’d All Be Packing Heat If the NRA Had Its Way (alternet.org)
- NRA’s Vision: A Nation Packing Heat (proglib.newsvine.com)
- We’d All Be Packing Heat If the NRA Had Its Way (alternet.org)
- Moyers: More than 400 dead in gun violence since Newtown massacre (rawstory.com)
If you go to the website of Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland, you’ll see a whole page devoted to Hurricane Sandy recovery. You’ll see pictures of him touring flooded coastal towns. You’ll see the number to call if you lost your power. You’ll even see a link to the website for the National Flood Insurance Program.
Chris Weyant / The Hill
What you won’t see on his Hurricane Sandy Recovery Update is an explanation for why he voted against letting the flood insurance program borrow more money to pay flood insurance claims, 800 of which are pending in Maryland. That particular bit of malarkey is on anotherpage:
“The current national flood insurance program is obviously broken and must be reformed,” stated Harris. “Unfortunately, today’s vote does nothing to ensure the long-term stability of the national flood insurance program which is important to the Eastern Shore.”
Harris wasn’t the only congressman to vote against the first chunk of Sandy relief. In all, 67 members of congress voted No—all Republicans, bless their hearts. And Harris wasn’t even the only one representing a hurricane zone to vote against funding flood relief for Sandy, so maybe he doesn’t deserve more than his share of scorn.
There’s also Steve Palazzo from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Farther down the coast you’ll find Randy Weber, who represents the area of Texas flooded by Hurricane Ike. Both voted No on Sandy relief.
Mo Brooks from Alabama offered a toxic excuse for his No vote on Sandy relief.
“People have to protect themselves from the risks of weather, particularly if they live in an area that is periodically hit by substantial storms,” said Brooks, who secured federal aid when his district that was hit by tornadoes in 2011. “They should not expect American taxpayers to subsidize a vacation home on the beach.”
It might help Brooks and his fellow Gulf Coast hypocrites sleep better if they believe that’s what congress approved, but that dog don’t hunt. People who live in coastal areas do protect themselves. It’s called buying flood insurance.
And congress wasn’t handing out money to anyone. Instead, it increased the borrowing power of the flood insurance program so it could pay claims. The program used to be self-sustained by flood insurance premiums, but the fund went deeply into debt after Hurricane Katrina.
This is where the hypocrisy of these virulent nitwits starts stinking up the fridge. Within two weeks of Katrina making landfall, congress had already passed two emergency relief packages totaling $62.3 billion, and they did it with the votes of at least 16 of those who voted against Sandy relief.
Members of the House Science Committee also show up prominently on the list of those who voted for Katrina relief but against Sandy relief, including Jim Sensenbrenner, who believes solar flares cause global warming, and Randy Neugebauer, whose response to the drought and tornadoes in 2011 was to sponsor aresolution calling on Americans to pray. Thank God. Without congress, I’m not sure Americans would remember to pray. Also on the science committee are our friends Brooks, Harris and Palazzo, so we’re in good hands there.
This is what the Party of Lincoln has come to: congressmen voting the flood insurance program into debt and then using that debt as an excuse to vote against funding flood insurance for flood victims who are only flood victims in the first place because of global warming, a problem they’re in charge of addressing but which they believe is an elaborate hoax.
“They’re a bunch of jackasses,” said former three-term Republican Sen. Al D’Amato, a resident of Long Island. “Every one of the 67 who voted no are nothing more than pawns of a philosophy that is not backed up by facts.”
A recent poll found congress was less popular than colonoscopies, used car salesmen, and Nickelback and only slightly more popular than gonorrhea. But maybe that’s not fair.
After all, you can cure gonorrhea.
- Sen. Harry Reid: Hurricane Katrina ‘was nothing in comparison’ to Sandy (video) (al.com)
- FEMA’s Flood Insurance Program Needs Bailout (sweetness-light.com)
- Right Wing Group Will Punish Republicans Voting for Sandy Flood Aid (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- Sen. Vitter calls Reid ‘idiot’ for comparing Hurricane Sandy to Hurricane Katrina (thehill.com)
- Congress to vote on Superstorm Sandy flood aid (kansascity.com)
- Flood insurance faces new stress (victoriasluxuryestates.wordpress.com)
- Government Is Worse Than Sandy (lewrockwell.com)
- Congress to vote on Superstorm Sandy flood aid (newsobserver.com)
- Congress to vote on Sandy flood aid (kypost.com)
- Superstorm Sandy relief measure to be considered in Congress (wjla.com)