Thursday, June 7, 2012

(Give Up Yet?) Wisconsin, The Ex-Union State, Cassandra Denial & Does Inequality Lead to Instability?

So much to say. So little good-humored motivation.

Anybody else feel like just saying "Okay, I give up now" after viewing the wisdom (or the reported vision) of Wisconsin's voters?

Tom Degan at The Rant covers all the bases, many of which I've ranted about before.

His is a superior rant and one I will go with today.

Take it away, Tom:

The Wisconsin Microcosm

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

- Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

I'm damned-near speechless - but hardly surprised. Could the election have been tampered with? We'll never know. Democracy is today at the mercy of easily hackable, computerized voting machines, not to mention unlimited money for paid propaganda and misinformation. A strange new world. It took 1984 twenty-eight years to finally get here.

Do you want to get a clearer picture of what the future has in store for the people of the United States? Look toward Wisconsin. You say you want a revolution? Don't waste your time. The American people (or enough of them to make stealing the election easier) will be distracted by the pretty wrapping paper every time. Forget what's inside the package. Just look toward Wisconsin.

Do you have any idea the damage that the Supreme Court's disgusting Citizens United ruling of two years ago has done to your country? Would you like an example? Look toward Wisconsin.

Governor Walker and the Republicans attacked the unions by ending collective bargaining. They slash a billion dollars from public education. They lightened even further the tax burdens of huge corporations based in that state. They have effectively told the middle class to lay down and die. And yet yesterday, enough Wisconsin voters were lulled into complacency by the sweet sounding bells and the lovely whistles. In the recall election of June 5, 2012, an event that had political junkies across the globe riveted, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee was soundly defeated. He was outspent seven-to-one, most of the cash coming from the out-of-state Billionaire's Club. He never had a chance.

The president of the United States was out there pitching for the candidate. His contribution to the discussion? A tweet. You could have gotten as much from your pet canary. On his Twitter account, in the 140 spaces that are allotted to him, he sent out a single message saying what a neat governor he thought Tom Barrett would be. Give 'em hell, Barry.

Scott Walker is shill for the plutocracy. He doesn't even try to hide that fact any longer. Over a year ago, in what has to be the greatest political prank of the last fifty years, someone claiming to be one of the Koch brothers was able to get Walker on the telephone. In a recorded phone conversation, the fake Koch told the very real governor that when all of the right-wing agenda that he wanted passed in Wisconsin was finally the law in that state, he would fly him down to California and show him a good time. Scott Walker accepted the offer gratefully. Where I come from that is what is known as a bribe. Scott Walker will be sleeping in the governor's mansion for at least another two-and-a-half years.

June 5 usually marks a sad anniversary for conservatives in this sick country. It was, after all, eight years ago yesterday that their beloved Gipper shuffled off this mortal coil. That date now has a new significance in their delightfully twisted history. It will forever mark the day that the right wing was reborn, revamped, renewed and rejuvenated. Some of their talking heads have already picked Walker as the presidential nominee for 2020 (after Mitt Romney's two terms are over of course). Yesterday, enough of the Wisconsin electorate proved for all time and eternity that substance is passe. Enlightenment and vision don't matter anymore. It's all about the money. Money-money-money.

There is room for a healthy dose of schadenfreude here. The nitwits who cast their lot with Scott Walker on June 5, 2012 are going to deserve everything that happens to them. When their public schools are turned over to private corporations, when their adult children are struggling to get by on barely a minimum wage, when that monthly Social Security check that they labored a lifetime to obtain is merely a shadow of a memory - it'll be oodles of fun to be witness to their complete and utter despair. Cheer up. At least we have something to look forward to.

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Emily Dickinson

I have a bit of advice for the poor fools who decided yesterday to stick with Scott Walker. And since Wisconsin is a microcosm of America, I'll offer it to all of you. Always encourage your kids to grow by learning. Encourage them to read as much as they can about art, science, history and biography. Show them that there are indescribable, personal rewards to be gained in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Just don't bother sending them to college, okay? Don't waste their time. Don't waste your money. What's the point? Do you seriously believe that this recent epidemic of unemployed college graduates is merely a temporary, sociological fluke? You ought to rethink that one. If what happened yesterday is a grim harbinger of things to come, your children have no future. Keep your eyes on Wisconsin.

Every cloud
has a silver lining, right? Not necessarily. What happened yesterday is bad all around. I have a silly question for the people who voted for Scott Walker. Assuming you really were the majority (and that's open for debate) did you folks even pause to wonder what the motivations might have been for the tens-of-millions of dollars that were poured into his campaign by out-of-state billionaires - some of whom I'm sure have never even visited to your state? Were you actually stupid enough to believe that it was merely a matter of civic duty on their part, and that they had your best interests at heart? You'll find out what their motivations were soon enough. They were making an investment - and they're expecting a return on that investment.

Just look toward Wisconsin.

And finally a message to my friend Jacqueline and my cousin Amy Clements (photo on left): the two of you were out in the thick of it, trying to warn your fellow Wisconsinites of the gathering storm. You did well. Remember what Theodore Roosevelt said. If you failed, at least you failed "daring greatly, so that [your] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Don't let the bastards bring you down.

After looking at a rough draft of what I had written, Jacqueline told me that there is still more room to believe that the election was rigged. She makes a good case:

he numbers do NOT make sense. There were NO exit polls that were made available. They are usually adjusted to match the "official" totals, but last night, For the first time ever, unprecedented really, the UNADJUSTED EXIT POLLS WERE NOT MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC....The electoral process is corrupted - the machines are riggable and the criminals go UNDETECTED. stolen elections are EATING democracy."

Jacqueline also informs me that the "liberal" media called the election before the polls had closed in three true blue counties. To be continued....

Say what you want about the times we live in, they sure as hell aren't boring. Anything but. Just look toward Wisconsin.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Democracy is Coming

Get the fuck out of the way.


Steven said... 
With even more respect...who cares what the national party thinks? They haven't had any interest in the working class for years. The Democratic Party is a joke. Unfortunately, the workers in Wisconsin had little other choice and look at what it got them...half hearted support from the national party. I'm willing to bet that small individual donations made up most of the money spent on the recall. I know they got mine and I don't even live there. If the Democratic Party would return to their Liberal roots, they might find more support.
Andrew said... 
Robert Reich even gets what is going on...
Redeye said... 
The National Democratic Party can kiss my Ebony Donkey from this day forth.
A reporter from The Guardian has the lowdown (he thinks) on Paul Krugman's current dilemma. Give it a glance, you won't be wasting your time.

'I'm Sick of Being Cassandra'

By Decca Aitkenhead, Guardian UK

05 June 12

The American economist has a plan to escape the financial crisis, and it doesn't involve austerity measures or deregulating the banks. But will policy-makers, including our coalition government, heed his advice?
y now you will probably have read an awful lot about the financial crisis. Perhaps I've been reading all the wrong stuff, but until now I hadn't managed to find answers to the most puzzling questions. If the crash of 2008 was preceded by an era of unprecedented prosperity, how come most of the people I know weren't earning much?

Deregulation of financial services was supposed to have made us all better off, so why did most of us have to live off credit to keep up? Now that it has all gone wrong, and everyone agrees we're in the worst crisis since the Great Depression, why aren't we following the lessons we learned in the 1930s?

President Obama is the only world leader who has attempted a Keynesian stimulus programme. Why has it been only minimally effective? Why do most other western leaders still insist the only way out is to tighten our belts and pay off our debts, when that clearly isn't working either? And how come the bankers, credit agencies and bond traders are still treated with cowed reverence - don't frighten the markets! - when they got us into this mess? These mysteries were beginning to make me feel as if I must be going mad - but since reading Paul Krugman's new book, I fear I'm in danger instead of becoming a bore. It's the sort of book you wish were compulsory reading, and want to quote to anyone who'll listen, because End This Depression Now! provides a comprehensive narrative of how we have ended up doing the opposite of what logic and history tell us we must do to get out of this crisis.
. . .
In an economy that produces $15tn worth of goods and services each year, $500m "is just not a big number". Back in 2009, Krugman had warned: "By going with a half-baked stimulus, you're going to discredit the idea of stimulus without saving the economy." And that, he sighs, "is exactly what happened. Unfortunately it was one of those predictions that I wish I'd been wrong about. But it was dead on."

Since the crash Krugman has become the undisputed Cassandra of academia, but he jokes: "I'm kind of sick of being Cassandra. I'd like to actually win for once, instead of being vindicated by the disaster coming - as predicted. I'd like to see my arguments about preventing the disaster taken into account instead."

The likelihood of that is a fascinating question. Krugman is not the most clubbable of fellows. In person he's quite offhand, an odd mixture of shy and intensely self-assured, and with his stocky build and salt-and-pepper beard he conveys the impression of a very clever badger, burrowing away in the undergrowth of economic detail, ready to give quite a sharp bite if you get in his way. His public criticisms of the Obama administration have upset many Democrats in the US, while his more vociferous criticisms of George Bush used to earn him death threats from angry rightwingers.

I hope none of that gets in the way of his argument. What we need to do, Krugman says, is simple: ditch austerity, kickstart the economy with ambitious government spending, and bring down the deficit when we're back above water again. Most importantly of all, we need to do it now. "Five years of very high unemployment do vastly more than five times as much damage as one year of high unemployment. To say: 'Yes, it's painful, but time does heal these things … " He breaks off and sighs in despair. "Well, no. Time may not heal it."

I've been a bad girl lately in not quoting from Joe Stiglitz's column more.


The Price of Inequality and the Myth of Opportunity

Joseph Stiglitz, Project Syndicate

06 June 12

merica likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity, and others view it in much the same light. But, while we can all think of examples of Americans who rose to the top on their own, what really matters are the statistics: to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and education of his or her parents?

Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data.

This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

It would be one thing if the high incomes of those at the top were the result of greater contributions to society, but the Great Recession showed otherwise: even bankers who had led the global economy, as well as their own firms, to the brink of ruin, received outsize bonuses.

A closer look at those at the top reveals a disproportionate role for rent-seeking: some have obtained their wealth by exercising monopoly power; others are CEOs who have taken advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used political connections to benefit from government munificence – either excessively high prices for what the government buys (drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells (mineral rights).

Likewise, part of the wealth of those in finance comes from exploiting the poor, through predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices. Those at the top, in such cases, are enriched at the direct expense of those at the bottom.

It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to trickle-down economics – the quaint notion that everyone benefits from enriching those at the top. But most Americans today are worse off – with lower real (inflation-adjusted) incomes – than they were in 1997, a decade and a half ago. All of the benefits of growth have gone to the top.

Defenders of America’s inequality argue that the poor and those in the middle shouldn’t complain. While they may be getting a smaller share of the pie than they did in the past, the pie is growing so much, thanks to the contributions of the rich and superrich, that the size of their slice is actually larger. The evidence, again, flatly contradicts this. Indeed, America grew far faster in the decades after World War II, when it was growing together, than it has since 1980, when it began growing apart.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, once one understands the sources of inequality. Rent-seeking distorts the economy. Market forces, of course, play a role, too, but markets are shaped by politics; and, in America, with its quasi-corrupt system of campaign finance and its revolving doors between government and industry, politics is shaped by money.

For example, a bankruptcy law that privileges derivatives over all else, but does not allow the discharge of student debt, no matter how inadequate the education provided, enriches bankers and impoverishes many at the bottom. In a country where money trumps democracy, such legislation has become predictably frequent.

But growing inequality is not inevitable. There are market economies that are doing better, both in terms of both GDP growth and rising living standards for most citizens. Some are even reducing inequalities.

America is paying a high price for continuing in the opposite direction. Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency. Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset – its people – is not being fully used. Many at the bottom, or even in the middle, are not living up to their potential, because the rich, needing few public services and worried that a strong government might redistribute income, use their political influence to cut taxes and curtail government spending. This leads to underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and technology, impeding the engines of growth.

The Great Recession has exacerbated inequality, with cutbacks in basic social expenditures and with high unemployment putting downward pressure on wages. Moreover, the United Nations Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, investigating the causes of the Great Recession, and the International Monetary Fund have both warned that inequality leads to economic instability.

# Feral Dogz 2012-06-06

Conservatives I know like to say that America guarantees opportunity, not success, so if you're poor, its your own fault for not working hard enough.

This is mostly the opinion of those who have never really had to work hard for little pay. Their privileged positions have given them, from birth, comfortable homes, good diets, good education and the society of other privileged people. All advantages that the hardworking poor have never had.
Is that equal opportunity?

It is the rule, not the exception, that those from privileged backgrounds experience financial success. It is the rare exception when an underprivileged child achieves great success, but when one does, conservatives point him out as proof that the system works. And quite often that rare individual will embrace the conservative view (I got mine, and I'm keeping it all). The trappings of success are very seductive.

To a large degree, this is just human nature. But there are those among us who have had comfortable lives and some success who also have some empathy and consideration for those less fortunate. We are liberals, progressive, socialists, environmentalis ts, teachers and other public servants who see their ability to do something positive grow smaller and smaller as conservatism tightens it grip on public policy.

And Amy Goodman gives us the real American reason for being.

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