Friday, February 25, 2011

Budget Crisis? Whatever You Do - Don't Tax the Rich! (Where the $$$ Hides Behind Smirks of Caring)

Because it's really, really hard to find those offshore accounts in the Caymans, etc.?

Not really. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

A great tragedy of the United States is that the answer to many of the country’s domestic problems is obvious, even simple, but can’t be done because of a dominating political/media dynamic that rules that solution out. The solution to these many problems – from the budget deficit to crumbling infrastructure, from mass joblessness to income inequality, from environmental degradation to educational shortfalls – is to raise taxes on the rich and to use that money to get the United States back on track and advancing toward the future.

And there are clear justifications for doing so, from practicality to fairness. Though many multi-millionaires fancy themselves self-made men (and women), the truth is that they all have profited from investments that American taxpayers have made over the decades, and even centuries.

For instance, President Dwight Eisenhower’s inter-state highway system enabled companies to move their goods more cheaply; President John Kennedy’s space program spurred the growth in computer sciences; the Pentagon created the Internet (yes, with critical support from Al Gore when in Congress), which revolutionized commerce and spread information.

These innovations and many more were achieved by the federal government using taxpayers’ money. Yes, entrepreneurs in their garages and dorm rooms did expand on these breakthroughs and deserve credit and a share of the profits, but they also should pay back at a much higher rate for the taxpayer-funded R&D that made their fortunes possible.

An even-stronger tax justification applies to Wall Street, where the greed and gambling of bankers tipped the economy into a severe recession just three years ago, costing millions of Americans their jobs and homes. To avoid an even worse outcome – a new depression – the federal government and Federal Reserve authorized trillions of dollars in bailouts.

To further calm Wall Street, the authorities essentially gave the bankers a “get out of jail free” card. Not a single prominent player in the sub-prime securities scandal has been prosecuted or forced to surrender much in ill-gotten gains.

Instead, many of the top Wall Street bankers are lining up again for massive paydays in the tens of millions of dollars, essentially skimming off profits that were achieved only because the U.S. government poured vast sums of public money into the financial sector. Yet, many of these same bankers insist that their taxes remain at historically low levels.

Other wealthy Americans have enriched themselves through holdings in multinational corporations that fattened their bottom lines by laying off middle-class Americans and hiring cheaper replacement workers overseas.

Not only did these American workers see their lives damaged by the exporting of their jobs but they face the indignity of helping to foot the bill for the gigantic U.S. military which protects the global interests of these multinationals.

And that ain't all. How about another very easy way to ease the budget deficits? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
U.S. Endless-War Budget Rolls On Another part of Ronald Reagan’s insidious legacy is that any politician or pundit who dares to question excessive U.S. military spending can expect to be denounced as “soft” on whomever the enemy du jour is. To protect themselves from such attacks, Democrats have typically lined up behind the Pentagon’s budget almost as slavishly as Republicans have, a pattern that is continuing in the Obama administration . . . . Under President Barack Obama's new budget for fiscal year 2012, the Great American War Machine just rolls on and on. . . . When Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that major cuts in military spending would be “catastrophic,” Obama settled for chopping $78 billion in cosmetic cuts Gates recommended over the next five years. . . . Some observers, by the way, think the Pentagon is, in fact, already running the show. Chalmers Johnson wrote in Blowback that the Pentagon is “close to being beyond civilian control”; that it “more or less sets its own agenda” and that it “monopolizes the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy.” So, in fiscal year 2012, which begins next Oct. 1, the Pentagon will just have to struggle along with $719 billion while the president calls for a five-year freeze on “non-security” discretionary spending such as, in the words of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, “programs the poor and working class depend on – assistance with home heating, community services, college loans, and the like.” Obama will get a lot of help from the Republican Party, which, of course, will not rein in spending for unjust wars but in a fit of what AFL-CIO's Manny Herrmann calls “budget insanity” plans to chop up Head Start, Pell Grants, food and job safety inspections, eliminate “hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs,” cut investment in infrastructure, and even cut the money needed “to send out Social Security checks.” Herrmann might have added Obama also seeks to slash nearly half the federal funds to help low-income families heat their homes.
Because you know those poor people only have themselves to blame (although, of course, there is all that lovely Koch-ed up moolah floating about these proceedings). After all, they voted for them. (Remember Wackenhut? How could we forget - other than that the MSM don't actually report on important current events anymore?)
Wisconsin's Right-Wing Radical Walker’s boasting about his ideological schemes is just the latest evidence that his legislative assault on labor unions is not about saving money, but is really about giving Republicans even a greater financial advantage in upcoming elections, an anti-democratic strategy . . . . It’s not just Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent efforts to strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain that have citizens of his state outraged. Walker is nothing short of a radical hell-bent on privatizing the public sector of Wisconsin. Last year, he exhibited similar dictatorial tendencies in his immediately previous role as a Milwaukee County Executive when he proposed laying off 27 security guards working for Milwaukee County and replacing them with nonunion private employees.

When the County Board nixed his proposal, Walker unilaterally pushed it through anyway, citing a budgetary emergency. He laid off the workers, and hired new ones through a $1.1 million contract with the UK-based security firm Wackenhut.

And the problems compounded. The head of the newly constituted security force, Chad H. Wegener, turned out to have five misdemeanor convictions. A criminal complaint had also been filed against Wegener for drunk and disorderly conduct and for making unwelcome sexual advances on his male subordinates. Wegener was dismissed.

Walker’s staff had calculated the privatization of the guards would save the County more than $750,000. Months later, that estimate had been revised down to $411,000. And now, even those savings will be lost, as an arbitration board ruled in January that Walker acted improperly and the guards have to be rehired, with back pay costing as much as $430,000, a net loss for the County, thanks to Walker’s rash, unilateral act.

It doesn’t appear that the county will appeal the ruling.

Walker had also forced the layoff of nine airport employees, also in the name of a budgetary emergency. Supervisor John Weishan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, that the layoffs hadn’t saved the county any money and were really aimed at punishing the county union officials who had not bowed to Walker’s demands for concessions.

Walker’s latest battles were triggered by his budget bill, which includes provisions to dramatically reduce public union bargaining rights. But now that protests have shed light on the bill, activists in Wisconsin are continuing to discover other disturbing provisions of the bill.

One provision would give the Governor power to change Medicaid in the state with little input from the public. According to the Wisconsin State Journal on Feb. 20, under the bill, 50,000 people could lose coverage while others could face increased rates and reduced benefits.

New power to revise fees and benefits paid would be handled solely by the Legislature’s budget committee instead of the full legislature.

And still, it gets worse.

This same bill also proposes to privatize state-owned power plants. This same plan had been proposed -- and defeated -- in 2005. Opponents had successfully argued that such a move would raise the cost of energy, because once sold, there’d be no way to maintain control over prices.

It’s no wonder that the Koch brothers – the billionaire owners of the Kansas-based energy company Koch Industries – are backing Walker to the hilt, and have even opened a lobbying office in Madison just a block from the Wisconsin state capitol.

While some have speculated their goal in backing this legislation is to buy the soon-to-be-privatized power stations, others see a more sinister scenario: overseeing the dismantling of as much government and publicly controlled property as possible as a matter of principle.

This is not even about money. This is a raw power play to thwart democratic power on all fronts.

And if you saw the news today, you know how this has worked out in the Wisconsin Assembly. The trick is that it's not really a citizen groundswell. More like a geyser.

The Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed a bill that would strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights — the first significant action on the new Republican governor's plan.
And no one on the 'thug team (Blue Dogs/Rethugs/street thugs) values the American worker. At all. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

As the latest showdown to dominate American politics, the battle between Wisconsin’s governor and public employees carries many unspoken messages. It tells us, for instance, that Republicans do not see collective bargaining as a fundamental human right. It also suggests that Democrats are willing—finally!—to draw a line in the sand. But most important of all, it shows what government really sees as its top priority.

Recall that in recent years, we’ve witnessed two separate debates over two types of taxpayer-subsidized laborers. First, we saw a brief argument over how much taxpayer money should pay government-sponsored bankers on Wall Street. Now, we’re having a more prolonged discussion about how much taxpayer money should pay public employees in our schools, police departments, fire departments and infrastructure agencies.

The first set of workers, underwritten by ongoing multitrillion-dollar Treasury and Federal Reserve bailouts, mostly cannibalize wealth through foreclosures and speculation. The second set of workers, by contrast, primarily create and protect wealth through educating kids, preventing fires and crimes, and building public assets.

To the government-funded bankers, we’ve applied the notion of “you get what you pay for.” Thus, our government has refrained from ending exorbitant pay packages at taxpayer-funded banks in the name of “retaining talent.” That was the mantra of politicians and publicly subsidized financial executives when they weakened proposals to cap annual bank salaries at $500,000. Though an astronomical sum, one Wall Street adviser told reporters that half a million bucks “is not a lot of money,” while others repeated a talking point from a corporate report insisting that government-sponsored banks would “experience a talent drain” if barred from paying employees millions.

Of course, this same idea of paying a premium to retain talent is nowhere in our discussion about the other set of public workers. Instead, we mostly hear politicians and media voices berating teachers, firefighters and police officers as “freeloaders” or “welfare cases.”

This, despite the Economic Policy Institute reporting that these non-bank public employees make 3.7 percent less than those in similar private-sector jobs.

Taken together, this may seem like a double standard, but it’s actually a consistent, if abhorrent, statement of priorities in an age of avarice—an age in which financial executives can grossly outspend middle-class workers on campaign contributions.

In this corrupt system, public compensation decisions by bought-off elected officials highlight a larger corporatist ideology—one that says attracting the best and brightest to the “greed is good” financial industry is more important than attracting that work force to common-good endeavors.

But they have no Koch-dollars. So they (we) lose. The march of fascism never relents until faced and defeated. Oh, and FYI - I just heard that the following question yelled out in a town hall meeting with Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., was met by raucous laughter in the formerly great state of Georgia.

"Who is going to shoot President Obama?"


And you've undoubtedly heard that Rahmbo (Rahm Israel - no lie - Emanuel) was annointed the new Mayor of Chicago. I'm teary-eyed at the thought that this boy who came up from nothing is now triumphant over our world. Go RAHM! (to hell) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The Illinois Democrat raised more than $12 million since leaving the White House in October 2010 for his mayoral campaign. Interestingly, only 46 percent - or $5.38 million - of the contributions Emanuel received came from Chicago residents. The rest of the contributions were from donors from outside of the Windy City, according to the Daily Caller. Emanuel is a prolific fund-raiser and has an extensive career in business and politics. In 1992, he was the director of then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign finance committee and in this role Emanuel raised an astonishing $72 million. From 1993 to 1998, Emanuel served in the Clinton Administration as the assistant to the president on political affairs, and, later, as senior adviser for policy and strategy. In these roles, he took charge of leading health care reform and other domestic issues. By 1998, Emanuel left the White House and joined Wassertein Perella, an investment bank. In 2000, Emanuel was appointed to the board of directors of Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company.

And you know how that worked out?

Are there any states left where this is not de rigueur?

And, of course, another very liberal Democrat has joined another firm that lobbies hard.

But not for liberal agendas.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, can add another title to his extensive resume of public and private sector careers. On Wednesday, Richardson joined APCO Worldwide, a global public relations firm, according to The Hill.

Richardson will be working as the chairman of the company’s executive advisory service, Global Political Strategies (GPS), according to a press release.

Richardson’s previous extensive background in government includes a tenure as a seven-term congressman, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration and a two-term governor of New Mexico.

Richardson was a presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2008. During the campaign he raised $18.6 million, but he dropped out after finishing fourth in the New Hampshire primary.

During 2010, APCO Worldwide reported earning $3.3 million in lobbying income and spent $470,000 to hire ML Strategies to lobby lawmakers, according to an analysis by the Center For Responsive Politics.

Well, I guess this is all okay and above board as long as they aren't trading on inside information. ________________

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