Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wikileaks = CIA! New Pauper Tips & The "New Jobless Normal" Means You Starve or Live In the Streets, Flimflammed Congress & America Goes Dark

So Wikileaks is the CIA's latest version of what became known during the Watergate fiasco and then the Iran/Contra/drug fest as the "limited hangout" operation. Hard to be surprised any more, isn't it?

Yet, more surprises abound . . . Cass Sunstein (Obama's Disinformation Czar) revealed in all his glory, Julian Assange (gadabout fact-revealing insider) releasing thousands of already well-known statistics about nothing much except for the re-animation of the world-killing Osama bin Ladin myth - he's alive! Be really, really frightened, Ellsberg's real purpose as saboteur of Nixon's efforts and the smearing of the 9/11 Truth movement. Whew!

It will never stop now. If you don't believe it, check out the Iran propaganda currently being trumpeted on the front pages of your own MSM choice, and the news from all over saying that the only thing that will save Obama is another terror attack. And as if I didn't know this already . . . but do you?

Gotta have some real courage now (unless the government (whoever that is now) decides to be pro-active and stop those gathering in the tent cities of the homeless from becoming truly desperate - and this will take more than the fraudulent action of encouraging the unemployed to borrow against fantasy future earnings to obtain more education for jobs that will never return in numbers (in this country, anyway) large enough to make a dent in the population's despair). Looks like the enemies of the lower classes have come together to define a "new normal" we must now accept and learn to live with.

(EXTRA: If anyone could make a contribution to my PayPal account (or otherwise - contact me for further info), it will be really, really, really appreciated as I'm in quite a pickle financially right now. I sincerely appreciate everything that my kind readers have done for me in the past financially and otherwise. Again, my heartfelt thanks. . . and now . . . back to your irregular viewing.)

Jobless and Staying That Way

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ

August 7, 2010

Americans have almost always taken growth for granted. Recessions kick in, financial crises erupt, yet these events have generally been thought of as the exception, a temporary departure from an otherwise steady upward progression.

But as expectations for the recovery diminish daily and joblessness shows no sign of easing — as the jobs report on Friday showed — a different view is taking hold. And with it, comes implications for policymaking.

The “new normal,” as it has come to be called on Wall Street, academia and CNBC, envisions an economy in which growth is too slow to bring down the unemployment rate, while the government is forced to intervene ever more forcefully in a struggling private sector. Stocks and bonds yield paltry returns, with better opportunities available for investors overseas.

If that sounds like the last three years, it should. Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian, who run the world’s largest bond fund, Pimco, and coined the phrase in this context, think the new normal has already begun and will last at least another three to five years.

The new normal challenges the optimism that’s been at the root of American success for decades, if not centuries. And if it is here, the new normal could force Democrats and Republicans to rethink their traditional approach to unemployment and other social problems.

Some unusual suspects, like Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Business and an economic adviser to George W. Bush, are talking about a new, expanded role for the government in addressing the problem. In particular, Mr. Hubbard favors investing more in education to retrain workers whose jobs are never coming back. “If there is a new normal, it’s more about the labor market than G.D.P.,” he said. “We have to help people face a new world.”

For his part, Mr. Gross, also a free-market advocate, believes that it’s time for the government to spend tens of billions on new infrastructure projects to put people to work and stimulate demand.

After the recession and the financial crisis, Mr. Gross came around to the view that something structural in the economy had been altered and that the debt-fueled boom led by consumers over the past two decades was over.

Last week only provided more ammunition for his argument. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned that unemployment could go up before it goes down, and on Friday, the jobs report showed that the economy lost 131,000 jobs last month.

Nearly half the 14.6 million unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, a level not seen since the Depression. That’s especially worrisome because the longer unemployment persists, the more skills erode and the harder it becomes to find work.

White House officials, like Christina Romer, a top economic adviser to President Obama, have been busy speaking out against the idea of a new normal. “The fundamental problem we are still facing is the old cyclical, not the new normal,” she said. “What you need to do to get back to normal is to find more ways to get demand up.”

But the new-normal concept is gaining ground. “There is no way to know for sure, but there are broad reasons to think the new normal is possible,” said Greg Mankiw, an economist who advised President George W. Bush and now teaches at Harvard. “We’ve had a deep recession that’s lingering for quite a while, and the question is: Will it leave persistent scars?”

Laura Tyson, chief economic adviser to President Clinton, counts herself firmly in the new-normal camp: “I think we’re going to have slower growth, a higher household savings rate and an elevated unemployment rate for several years.”

Of course, one month’s data is hardly conclusive. And highs and lows in the economy have always been punctuated by the observation that this time is different. But more evidence is emerging that the old normal of unemployment at about 5 percent during buoyant economic growth is over.

Not only are more people out of work longer, but their options are narrowing. Roughly 1.4 million people have been jobless for more than 99 weeks, the point at which unemployment benefits run out.

“The situation is devastating,” said Robert Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern and an expert on the labor market. “We are legitimately beginning to draw analogies to the Great Depression, in the sense that there is a growing hopelessness among job seekers.”

Professor Gordon doesn’t foresee a quick turnaround. But the Obama administration predicts that unemployment will drop to 8.7 percent by the end of next year, and eventually sink to 6.8 percent by the end of 2013.

To reach that level, the economy would have to add nearly 300,000 workers a month over the next three years, according to Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland. Even in the first half of the year, when the economy grew at a healthy 3 percent, it added fewer than 100,000 jobs a month.

The problem is that the American safety net, which has been looser than those in Europe, was built on the assumption that unemployment would be short term. As a result, a rethinking is in order, said Mr. Hubbard, whose new book, “Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity,” is coming out this month.

The current approach, with its focus on payments over a relatively short period of time, he said, “came out of the world where unemployment was relatively temporary and then you went back to a similar position.”

“That isn’t what’s happening today.”

While he doesn’t favor extending benefits, Mr. Hubbard supports more government spending on job training as well as help for community colleges to reverse the erosion of jobs skills among the long-term unemployed.

Mr. Gross is more expansive. “We think the coma will last for years unless government policy changes to restimulate the private sector and bring unemployment down,” he said. He wants Washington to invest billions on infrastructure improvements and clean energy, along with the expanded job training favored by Mr. Hubbard.

Despite his long-held belief in free markets, smaller government and lower taxes, Mr. Gross said politicians must recognize that this time, “government is part of the solution.” He added, “In the new-normal world, there are structural problems, which require structural solutions.”

Here's the type of voice you won't hear from very often.

Joe Bageant is in the house!

How do you tell your story? That’s going to matter, because you’ll be brooding about what went wrong 24/7 whether you want to or not. And you’ll find that explaining one’s great fall is a vital skill among the fallen, as well as a deeply satisfying pastime. This raises the issue of denial, a vital and deeply misunderstood mechanism. Denial, like Kurtz said about Terror, is your friend . . . or it is an enemy to be feared.

You need some denial to keep your ego from being crushed completely. Your ego is going to get very sick, now that you’re nobody. It’s easy to be polite and self-deprecating when you’re winning. I used to be like that. You can’t afford that when you’re being crushed. Like the Cable Guy says, it’s prison rules. You have to demand respect if you expect to get it. The alternative is to dwindle away and disappear. Those antidepressants will help you deny the facts, but don’t be shy about doing ego-exercises, boasting practice, to reawaken that playground ego that so many of us polite middleclass types allowed to atrophy. You’re going to need it.

Gratis to my friend that gorgeous Penguin in a Bad Tux coming through the Earth-Bound Misfit's brilliant site for providing this essay on the desperation that is upcoming for all those getting ready for foreclosure (and worse).
Tips for New Paupers
By John Dolan

Little did I know that when I lost everything last year, I was doing research. At the time I thought it was just stupidity or bad luck or both. But now that the economy’s crashing, it turns out I’ve been out there gathering valuable tips for millions of new paupers.

And let me clarify, I’m talking real poverty. My wife and I fell through many layers of poverty in a few months. First we revisited the genteel poverty known to grad students, the sort of poverty where you have scary dreams about the rent and eat a simple, wholesome diet towards the end of the month. But we fell right through that into the sort of Dickensian privation spoiled first-worlders like me never expected to experience. That’s the kind of poverty a lot of people are going to be experiencing soon — because I’m here to tell you, it can happen here and it can happen to you. And it’s remarkably unpleasant. You may be saying “Duh!” here but you’re probably not imagining the proper sort of unpleasantness. So I’ll try to lay out what to watch for, how to hunker down when it’s not just a matter of cutting back or selling your second car but having no car at all, having no money for heat or food.

All the things we learned are going to seem pretty obvious, but remember that it’s very hard to think clearly when your life has collapsed. These are what they call the old verities, the truths of life before the middle class was (briefly) in session: Warmth. Above all you need to have a dry warm place to sleep. We had only an unheated boat, and that was not enough. We woke up to the thump of sea ice banging against the hull and realized that the old world was still very much in session. When we finally fled to stay with family, we stayed in our blankets up against their gas fireplace for weeks. You won’t even want food much after a while. You’ll want heat itself, not the chemical middle man. You are going to realize that cold is the most frightening thing in the world. In older English dialects, “to starve” meant “to freeze.” You will see why. Car. Got one? Maybe you should sell it. Cars drain the last dollars out of you. And there’s something worse: cops can smell desperation, and they hate the poor. I didn’t use to hate cops much, except drug cops, but God, I hate them now. The real purpose of cops is to keep poor people off the roads. That’s their only real goal. On my way to an interview for a job that could have gotten us out of the gutter, a cop stopped me because my insurance was two weeks overdue — for the simple reason we didn’t have money to pay it. She gave me a $600 ticket for that, plus $120 for not having an updated address on my driver’s license. Then she called for a tow truck and told me, “So, a lesson learned here today!” as I watched my car towed away and trudged off with our terrified dog down a typical Western suburban road: four lanes of fast traffic with no sidewalks.

Are you poor? The cops are your enemy now. Accept it. The car is how they’ll try to get you. Sell it if you can—which is to say, if there’s any decent public transportation—hah!—where you live.

Shame. As in, forget about it. Shame is an affectation. I don’t even need to say this, really. Once you’ve experienced actual cold and hunger, your good old Ouldivai Gorge mammal body and brain will take over, and believe me, shame won’t be a problem. You’ll also find that most of the social stuff is easier than you’d expect. These people are in show biz in a way; they have to be, just to survive. Makes them lively. And though I suppose it all depends on where you are when you lose out, in my experience they’re not especially violent. They talk about it a lot, but so do all the white jocks I ever met, and in neither case does anything actually happen. They’re flinchy people, mainly, who spend a lot of time waiting for things. When you’re waiting, you get very frustrated but you don’t want to shake things up.

So they’re tense, bitter, sociable, gossipy and treacherous—a fine cross-section of the population. After waiting around with them in line at the local food bank, sharing “how I ended up here” stories and hanging out with them around a propane heater trying to stay warm, I relaxed a lot. They’re not going to mug you. They are going to try to get any cash you have, and God did they get a huge chunk of our last resources, but it was friendly, schmooze-based extortion, just like in the middle-class world. All that was missing was the deodorant.

Food Banks. These places, usually in the basement of a church (because churches are the only public institutions in the new suburbs of western North America) hand out baskets of groceries every week or, more often, two weeks. You have to wait a long time, so learn your refugee skills. Come early, get a number first, and be nice-but-pushy. It’s a delicate operation being nice-but-pushy, but you’ll learn it. The “nice” part is because you need to ask people for help and advice; you’re not rich enough to be solitary any more. The pushy part is simple: it’s to prevent you from being ignored. So always talk to people, but never show money or mention it, if you have any.

Read on for the future of many.

That tiny-brained Paul Ryan is still the hero of the rightwingnutters? Paul Krugman says he's a Flimflam Man, but I'm thinking: Flimflammed Congress?

One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

. . . The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged — and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

Enough said. Kick him off the screen.

And I've thought the following was happening the whole last decade (metaphorically). Nice they could bring Obama on to take the final credit, what say? He's been so well trained that it is getting to be terrifying just waking up every day to find out what the progressives are now threatening us with.

America Goes Dark

By PAUL KRUGMAN

August 8, 2010

The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.

Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead.

We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable. And it’s true that state and local governments, hit hard by the recession, are cash-strapped. But they wouldn’t be quite as cash-strapped if their politicians were willing to consider at least some tax increases.

And the federal government, which can sell inflation-protected long-term bonds at an interest rate of only 1.04 percent, isn’t cash-strapped at all. It could and should be offering aid to local governments, to protect the future of our infrastructure and our children.

But Washington is providing only a trickle of help, and even that grudgingly. We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade.

In effect, a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter.

It’s a disastrous choice in both the short run and the long run. In the short run, those state and local cutbacks are a major drag on the economy, perpetuating devastatingly high unemployment.

It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump.

That is, for all the talk of a failed stimulus, if you look at government spending as a whole you see hardly any stimulus at all. And with federal spending now trailing off, while big state and local cutbacks continue, we’re going into reverse. But isn’t keeping taxes for the affluent low also a form of stimulus? Not so you’d notice. When we save a schoolteacher’s job, that unambiguously aids employment; when we give millionaires more money instead, there’s a good chance that most of that money will just sit idle.

And what about the economy’s future? Everything we know about economic growth says that a well-educated population and high-quality infrastructure are crucial. Emerging nations are making huge efforts to upgrade their roads, their ports and their schools. Yet in America we’re going backward. How did we get to this point? It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.

The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around.

But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole. So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.

Nowhere.

Certainly not the USA.

Suzan ______________

4 comments:

Phil said...

Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. Story of my life.

Suzan said...

We are both there, sweetheart.

Move over.

The boat across the Styx is pulling out.

Love you,

S

Tom Harper said...

That Paul Krugman column was really alarming. It seems like our rightwing leaders watched the Soviet Union collapse 21 years ago after spending themselves over a cliff, and thought to themselves, "gee, I want to do that too."

Let's keep on spending trillions to prop up the remains of the American Empire while our crumbling infrastructure continues to collapse.

Suzan said...

It's nice seeing the big boys finally alarmed isn't it?

Today I've covered David Stockman's surprise (shock!) and alarm at the failure of his policies for Rayguns. Ha! And an ex-VP of Goldman Sachs. Boo hoo for them.

Good times!

Love ya,

S