After all, these are important people, so they deserve to be treated with respect, right?
Professor Paul Krugman gives us a compliment.
If people consistently make logically incoherent, ignorant arguments, the duty of a commentator is to say just that - not to mislead readers by pretending that these people are serious and making sense. You shouldn't make gratuitous insults - I have never, to my knowledge, declared that someone's mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries. But ignorant is as ignorant does, no matter how much influence you have.
Where I've been getting pushback lately is in my pronouncements that the whole Republican field of presidential hopefuls is talking nonsense about economic policy. That's a terrible thing to say, I'm told. But what if it's true? And, of course, it is.
Consider a couple of recent entries. Jeb Bush, the supposedly sensible candidate, has been pushing the utterly ludicrous claim that he can deliver 4 percent economic growth; so now Mike Huckabee, another G.O.P. candidate, is trying to one-up Mr. Bush by promising 6 percent. Well, I can beat all of them: Whatever they're promising, I promise the same - plus a pony.
Meanwhile, Rand Paul is decrying the irresponsibility of US fiscal management - why, the United States hasn't been debt-free since 1835. Clearly, disaster looms, and has been looming for 180 years. But that's nothing: Britain hasn't been debt-free since at least 1692. More than three centuries, spanning the Industrial Revolution and much more, of crippling irresponsibility. Just you wait!
Should Mr. Paul, Mr. Bush and Mr. Huckabee be treated with respect here? If they're outliers, which G.O.P. contenders actually do deserve respect?
I know that it's disturbing to read columns that portray the entire Republican field as a bunch of cranks.
But it would be a dereliction of duty, and basically an act of dishonest reporting, to pretend that they aren't. I'm all for respect here - but the people who deserve respect, in the form of honest assessment, are my readers.
Speaking of a dereliction of duty . . . .
Anyone thinking of Brownie (and our favorite Bush Boy - "W") this weekend? I know I am.
by Emily Atkin
Michael D. Brown sounded incredulous. I had just asked him about how his life was going now, and he said it was going well. I said I was glad.
“No you’re not. You think I’m an idiot,” he countered. “That I was the total screw-up.”
A lot of people do think Brown is a screw-up. He’s the guy at the center of that infamous quote from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
If you don’t remember it, it was said 10 years ago this week by President George W. Bush, a few days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. At the time, “Brownie” was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and his reputation in the media was that he wasn’t doing a “heck of a job” at all. In fact, he was facing serious criticism for his handling of the federal government’s response. One notable failure was a $100 million stockpile of ice that never got delivered, ordered by FEMA for stranded victims’ food and medicine. The agency’s former practice of delivering ice for non-medical purposes during emergencies is one that Brown strongly opposes today.
“It was a program where we spent tens of millions dollars a year on ice! That’s a waste of money,” he said.
“It’s not a government responsibility to make sure an individual American citizen is able to keep their bologna cold in the refrigerator.”
Brown resigned as FEMA’s director shortly after the “Brownie” quote hit the press. But he remained adamant that his reputation had been unfairly tarnished, as he does to this day. On our phone call, Brown said the the perception that he’s a “total screw-up” is incorrect. “We actually did a good job despite all the negative press, considering everything that was going on,” he insisted.
28 August 2015
. . . Ten years ago Friday, a storm half the size of Texas hit that old blues town in the teeth, and the ocean rose, and the sky fell, and the jazz stopped in jangled discordance, and everyone ran for their lives.
And the people were abandoned. It took George W. Bush and his mob of hapless brigands days simply to get water to dying citizens in one of the most important and iconic cities on the continent. Why? Because the people were Black, and poor? Because Bush and his people were incompetent beyond the bounds of useful language? Because greedy people plundered the levee budget to the tune of nine figures to "fund" the Iraq war prior to the storm? Yes, in my humble opinion, on all three counts.
. . . Ten years ago, the sea rose up and did damage the likes of which we've never seen. People were scattered to the wind, the Lower 9th Ward was subsumed and then devoured by developers, fast after the buck to be plucked from the wreckage left behind by good people in flight. Wreckage upon wreckage.
Friday, 28 August 2015
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation | Video
New Orleans' politicians are slapping themselves on the back for a job well done, clinking glasses and proclaiming the city to be better off than it was before Hurricane Katrina pummeled the coastline ten years ago. But are they right?
The numbers paint a markedly less triumphant picture of the postdiluvian decade. According to a Data Center analysis, of the million-plus residents displaced by the storm, more than a hundred thousand still haven't returned – most of them black.
The African-American share of New Orleans' population has dropped from 67 to 59 percent, and the white population has jumped from 27 to 31 percent. Some lifelong residents are trying to keep that demographic shift from affecting the cultural landscape.
"The city is different. It doesn't look the same," said Jeremiah Group Lead Organizer Jackie Jones. "We had a lot of folks who came in after the storm and they took up residency here. And I think people here in New Orleans do not want to lose the heritage, the culture, and I think they are willing to have their voices heard and to do the work that's necessary to keep some things in place."
The Data Center recently released the New Orleans Index at 10, which graded the rebuilding efforts of the eight-parish metro area in four main categories: economic growth, the inclusion of low-income populations in the recovery, quality of life and sustainability.
The report card was mixed. It found infrastructure investments and an influx of federal money benefitted the overall economy with an entrepreneurship boom. The region also made significant strides in educational and criminal justice systems. Revenue flowing to arts and culture nonprofits were four times the national average.
But the region scored abysmally on measures such as poverty, violent crime, incarceration rates, affordable housing and income inequality. New Orleans' poverty rate was a crushing 27 percent, and black families were suffering the most. Researchers found white households' median income to be on par with the national average, but the median income for black households was 20 percent lower than black households nationally.
The income disparity was 54 percent, well above the national average of 40 percent. To exacerbate matters, wages have not kept up with the ballooning housing, property tax and flood insurance costs, and the city does not have the authority to raise its minimum wage above the federal baseline of $7.25. "The stagnant post-Katrina income for the poorest New Orleanians suggests that many are not benefiting from the New Orleans economic recovery," concludes the study.
. . . Another facet to a fair recovery has been the fight to keep the million-plus residents who fled New Orleans enfranchised. "One of the most interesting memories of Katrina was trying to ensure that everyone that had been displaced would be able to participate in the elections," said Shelton. "It was really important because it meant that you still mattered and you still counted and that even though you weren't here, that there was this possibility that you could come back, that we were gonna figure it out, we were gonna fix the city of New Orleans better than it was before and that you would have a place in whatever that solution was."
Here's Bernie Sanders making the same arguments about the mistreatment of the Greek citizens that I and many others have for years. And, yes, these arguments apply to the U.S. as well.
Feel the Bern!
Friday, 28 August 2015
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders recently convened a panel of economists in Washington to discuss the debt crisis in Greece and throughout the world. In his opening statement, Sanders talked about the debt crisis in Greece as well as in Puerto Rico. "It is time for creditors to sit down with the governments of Greece and Puerto Rico and work out a debt repayment plan that is fair to both sides," Sanders said. "The people of Greece and the children of Puerto Rico deserve nothing less."
. . . SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: [What] we are here today to talk about is the very, very important issue regarding the ongoing debt crisis in Greece and the way that people and governments all over the world are struggling with too much debt. This is — we’re going to be focusing on Greece, but, in truth, this issue goes beyond Greece. And countries that are struggling not only with too much debt, too much inequality, and too little growth and income.
Today, as I think all of you know, there is a very, very serious economic situation unfolding in Greece. In many ways, Greece today resembles the United States of the 1930s in the midst of the worst depression, economic downturn in the history of our country. The Greek economy has basically collapsed, and the people of Greece are trapped in a very, very deep depression.
I want to begin by expressing my solidarity with the people of Greece, where five years of cruel and counterproductive austerity policies, policies demanded by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and International Monetary Fund, have left the people of Greece facing a full-blown humanitarian crisis. In my view, there is no more obvious example of the failure of austerity policies than what is going on in Greece.
For more than five years, Greece has cut pensions. Greece has slashed its government workforce. Greece has made deep spending cuts that have eviscerated its social safety net. In other words, despite what we have been led to believe by many in the media, Greece has not gone on a shopping spree. It has not overfunded its government. Rather, it has imposed massive spending cuts that have caused devastating pain to some of its most vulnerable people. It has done this because its creditors, led by Germany, have insisted that austerity is the only way to dig Greece out of its debt.
As a result, today, Greece has the highest levels of inequality and the worst unemployment rates in Europe. The official unemployment rate is 26 percent — 26 percent. Youth unemployment in Greece today is more than 50 percent. More than 30 percent of the people in Greece are living in poverty. And the Greek economy is 25 percent smaller, has shrunk by 25 percent over the last five years. That is really quite incredible.
Instead of solving the problem, austerity, in my view, has made a bad situation much worse. Greece has seen its debt-to-GDP ratio shoot up from about 120 percent to about 175 percent today. And now to, quote-unquote, "fix" the problem, the troika wants Greece to borrow more money and make deeper cuts to wages, pensions and other social programs.
In January, as you all know, the people of Greece stood up and said, "Enough is enough." They elected a new government, known as Syriza. Their promise: to end the harsh austerity policies — that was their campaign pledge — by increasing their minimum wage, by increasing job production, by protecting the most vulnerable against pension cuts, and ensuring that the wealthiest people in Greece started paying their fair share of taxes, a very serious problem in that country. But instead of working with the new government to find a rational path forward, the troika demanded more austerity than ever.
On July 5th, the people of Greece spoke once again: In an overwhelming show of solidarity with their government, 61 percent of the people of Greece said no to more austerity for the poor, for the children, for the sick and for the elderly. Yet, instead of working with the Greek government on a sensible plan that would allow Greece to improve its economy and pay back its debt, Germany and the troika continued to push Greece to accept even greater austerity.
They want even deeper pension cuts; an increase in the regressive VAT tax from 13 percent to 23 percent; automatic budget cuts if the Greek economy underperforms; privatization of state assets, including the electricity grid; deregulation of the transportation, rail, pharmaceutical and other sectors in the economy; weakening of trade unions. In other words, the people of Greece are being told that their voices, which they cast in two elections, really do not matter, that their misery does not matter, that an entire generation of young people who are unemployed or underemployed does not matter, that the sick and the elderly do not matter, that democracy itself does not matter. And that, to my perspective, is unacceptable.
I believe that this plan is simply unsustainable. In my view, austerity has failed, and continuing with austerity means the Greek economy will continue to fail its people. Unemployment, poverty and inequality will increase from already obscene levels.
And maybe, just maybe, some people are beginning to wake up to this reality. In a confidential report that was made public earlier this month, officials from the IMF warned that the IMF could not take part in any new bailout for Greece unless the Greek government was offered a substantial debt relief package as part of any new deal. In light of this report, it is time for the troika to provide the Greek government with the flexibility it needs to create jobs, raise wages and improve its economy. Without a substantial improvement in its economy, Greece will never escape its debt crisis.
And let us not forget a little bit about history. Let us not forget what happened after World War I, when the Allies imposed oppressive austerity on Germany — on Germany — as part of the Versailles Treaty. And I think all of you who know anything about history understand what happened. And that is, the Germany economy collapsed, unemployed skyrocketed, people were pushing their money around in wheelbarrows to buy a loaf of bread. And the result of all of that massive discontent was that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party won an election and took power. And you all know the results of that.
What many people do not know about Greece today is that the party that finished third in the Greek — recent Greek election is called Golden Dawn. This is a party which some people call a neo-Nazi party, but other people believe that it is nothing "neo" about it. It is a Nazi party, which came in third place in the recent election. In my view, we should learn from history. And we should understand that when democracy fails, when people vote for something and cannot get what the government promised because of outside forces, this leads to massive discontent, it leads to contempt for democracy, and it opens the path for right-wing extremist parties, like Golden Dawn.
Finally, let us remember that one of the main reasons why Greece was unable to take on so much debt was because it had help from Goldman Sachs, who helped disguise the nature of the Greek debt.
Today, when we talk about debt, we should appreciate that something similar is happening right now in Puerto Rico, where the government there is struggling with unsustainable debt, and a group of hedge fund billionaires are demanding austerity in Puerto Rico.
They are demanding the firing of teachers, the closing of schools, so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico. It is time for creditors to sit down with the governments of Greece and Puerto Rico and work out a debt repayment plan that is fair to both sides. The people of Greece and the children of Puerto Rico deserve nothing less.
Over 70 years ago, the major economic leaders of 44 countries gathered at a hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to establish international economic and financial rules. As a result of that conference, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were established.
I think it is clear to anyone who has taken a look at this situation that the rules regarding our international financial system today are rigged in favor of the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of everyone else. Today, 85 of the wealthiest people in this world own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population, over 3 billion people.
By next year, Oxfam has estimated that the top 1 percent of the world’s population will own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population. In my view, we have got to begin — and I hope this forum today is a start in that process — a serious discussion about how we change our international financial rules to expand — expand economic opportunity and reduce income and wealth inequality, not only in Greece and in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world. The global economy is simply unsustainable when so few have so much and so many have so little.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Paul Craig Roberts
Commentators are bemoaning the death of the American peace movement. However, Gerald Celente is in the process of reviving it. You can participate on September 20 at High Noon in Kingston, New York, at the intersection of Crown and John Streets, the four most historic corners in the United States with pre-Revolutionary stone buildings on every corner. Many historic happenings occurred in Kingston.
This is not a mere rally or prayer meeting. Celente is giving a solution — an Action Plan. Go to www.occupypeace.us and become acquainted with the program.
You don’t have to worry about being beaten by goon thugs or tasered, or tear gassed, or arrested, because the Mayor of Kingston, Shayne Gallo, is supporting Occupy Peace. The streets are legally blocked off by the Mayor of Kingston.
This is what you will miss if you are not there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoiLW9m3i7I
People are forever asking for solutions. Celente has solutions. Go and support them.
During the two days prior to Occupy Peace, the Trends Research Institute is holding a conference in Kingston that will examine the current trends unfolding in the world. I am speaking on Friday. The three days together provide a rare opportunity to both learn and to stand up for peace.
Listen to Steven Whitaker’s song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36gwr25M0Js and show up at Gerald Celente’s Occupy Peace www.occupypeace.us.