The Biggest Problem in the US Economy Today
Posted by: Phoenix Capital...
Post date: 08/19/2015
The American dream has become perverted into the equivalent of hoping to pick a winning economic lottery ticket: hoping that you somehow will become one of the lucky 0.00001% who strike it big...
Yes, Donald Trump, a Fox News political creation, was set to appear on Fox News to discuss his “relationship” with Fox News. But in the end, Fox hosts didn’t even ask Trump about his suddenly newsworthy relationship with Fox. Despite Doocy opening the interview by telling Trump, “glad we’re friends again” — to which Trump responded by assuring him, “we’ve always been friends” — there was no attempt to discuss Trump’s recent feud with Megyn Kelly and the network. Huh? Were they under orders from Fox chief Roger Ailes to ignore the friction?
During an appearance on Hannity last night, Hannity kicked off the interview by saying, “Let’s start with the elephant in the room. The Fox issue is resolved — and how did that come about?” Trump explained he has a “great relationship with Roger Ailes” and that “Roger called me the other day and it’s absolutely fine.”
The head of a “news” organization was phoning up a presidential candidate in order to clear the air; to assure the Republican he’d get fair coverage. Welcome to the house of mirrors created by Ailes, and welcome to the Republican Party’s Lost Summer of Trump, sponsored, of course, by Rupert Murdoch’s cable channel.
Fox News has not only eaten the Republican primary season — consumed it whole in recent weeks with the help of Donald Trump — it’s now burping it up all over cable television.
To laugh at the assembly of 10 right-wing presidential aspirants for two hours of questioning is to flinch from a truth too heavy to bear even as we must. The Fox News spectacle counts as entertainment only as tragedy does.
Given the position these people seek, the decisions the next president will make, how seriously our media and many voters take them, and the money lining up to advance one or another of them into office, we have just been advised of how very perilous the American predicament is at this moment.
You may ask.
Sounds about right to me.
Almost as if those in charge have been angling for this.
And as for the already chosen favorite candidate on the other side of the neolib axis?
It doesn't look that hopeful for either rich, well-known spoiler.
In January, I began writing a weekly column for Salon. Hillary Clinton was still in pre-campaign mode but already losing ground — churning out formulaic answers to stock questions, delivering pricey speeches to the privileged, hobnobbing with Wall Street players while we peasants, now a working majority of the body politic, stocked up on torches and pitchforks. I wrote that her political model — neoliberal economics wed, as it must be, to pay-to-play politics — felt spent. In March, her emails surfaced. She waited a whole week to stage a brief, dodgy, purposefully chaotic press conference. I thought it a serious problem, especially when viewed in the context of her political history and persona, so I wrote that too.
On both points I got hurricane-force blowback from Clinton backers. As is the custom now, a lot of it was personal (why do you hate the Clintons, we hate you, you’re stupid.) or warmed over consultant speak ( the election’s so far off everyone will forget, the issue’s so abstract no one will care). What my critics shared, apart from their devotion to Hillary and contempt for me, was polling data. In surveys taken after the story broke, Clinton held on to her huge lead. (Had I not seen them? How could Salon hire a political columnist who didn’t even read polls?)Last week, I wrote of another politician in trouble (at least if you regard Donald Trump as a politician). I said his debate performance ended any chance he had of being seen as a serious person, let alone a serious presidential candidate. It was a cringe-inducing spectacle, best understood in psychological rather than political terms, a portrait of a man unhinged by narcissistic rage. In the history of presidential debates, it had no equal and anyone not unhinged by rage or ideology should have seen it.
I got the same sort of feedback about Trump, albeit from different folks; personal attacks and political clichés wrapped in polling data. For three days after the debate, there was no data, so reporters hedged their bets. Of the few who took a flier most got it wrong, many writing admiringly of Trump’s feistiness and flair. On Sunday, NBC released a poll showing him at 23 percent; up a point among GOP primary voters.
Armed with data, everybody got it wrong, again. Trump was proclaimed “Teflon Don,” spokesmodel of the month for an America that’s even madder than you thought.
I tell Clintonites upset by my columns that rather than try to get me to stop writing them they should get her to start reading them. One reason they don’t may be the hypnotic power of polls to keep us from seeing what’s in front of our noses. Like Chico Marx asking, “Who you gonna believe, me or you own eyes?” polls make us question what we see. If you didn’t see that Clinton was digging herself a deeper hole every day, or that Trump came across in Cleveland as arrogant, vindictive, uninformed and out of control, you probably read too many polls and think too much about politics.
Read all together and in their entirety, polls can tell a bit more of the truth. That NBC poll also put Trump ahead on the question of who did worst in debate: 29 percent picked him; 14 percent picked Rand Paul; 11 percent said Jeb Bush. No one else was in double digits. In a Suffolk Univ. poll, 55 percent of Iowa Republicans said the debate left them less inclined to vote for Trump.
In the same way, Hillary’s horse race numbers held steady for a while after the email eruption, but other numbers went south fast, including those in which a majority of voters tell any pollster who asks that she isn’t honest or trustworthy.
Sooner or later polls may catch up to where the truth is, or at least was. In the latest ones Clinton trails Walker, Huckabee, Rubio and Carson in Iowa; Walker, Bush and Paul in New Hampshire, and Sanders in New Hampshire. I’ve no faith in their predictive power, but they do affirm a deepening disaffection. I once said by the time Clinton fell behind in polls it would be too late to save her. That overstates the case but this much is clear: She must change and polls alone can’t tell her how. She has to see it for herself, and then believe what she sees. I’m not sure she can.
Polls do worse things than get races wrong. Their most insidious effect is on the quality and direction of public debate. They blind us to glaring truths about issues as well as people. A key issue in this race is the integrity, accountability and efficiency of government. Republicans talk more and more about it, Democrats hardly at all. In case you didn’t notice, the fallen state of politics and government is what Trump talks about most; that he does so vividly and bluntly is a big part of what some must consider his charm.
Credit Trump this far: When he says he didn’t arrive at his message via a poll, he’s probably telling the truth. He looked at government, stopped talking long enough to listen to a few people, and saw it was an issue voters really care about. Hillary Clinton on the other hand, relying on polls to plot her every step, never talks about it, except to repeat the Democrats’ mantric vow to overturn Citizens United and say a few words in a single speech about getting agencies better computers and improving management. It’s what happens when we let polls obscure core values and gut instincts. Here, even Trump’s gut instinct works better than Clinton’s polls.
With issues as with horseraces, polls can eventually catch up to the truth, or get close to it. Scott Rasmussen was the first major pollster to discover how much we care about nonfeasance and malfeasance in government. More recently, Stanley Greenberg has argued that these issues are the key to Democrats winning the votes of the white working class. A big reason other pollsters don’t draw the same conclusion is that they never ask. A big reason for that is that they’re paid not to.
The biggest driver of government waste and inefficiency is corruption by special interests, mainly powerful corporate interests. Nearly all major pollsters, including Democratic pollsters, make most of their living off corporate clients. So do most Democratic officeholders: either now in the form of campaign contributions or later in the form of cushy corporate lobbying gigs. So on the topic of the root cause of government dysfunction, Democrats observe a simple rule: don’t ask, don’t tell.
Their denial is killing them. After their midterm thrashing, Chuck Schumer, Wall Street’s best friend in the Senate, went to the press club to say his party’s biggest mistake was not to embrace government. It’s the opposite of the truth and could only make sense to a guy who spends too much time reading polls and raising money. Democrats must fix government, not hug it. People are furious at it. If your pollster hasn’t told you, ask a neighbor, or someone at work, or the next person you see on the street.
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From the pen of the illustrious Zander from Zander Versus the Stoopid:
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Republican governors in the South aren't bothering to wait for investigations or the truth.
The doctored videos "exposing" Planned Parenthood are just a cover to defund Medicaid at the state level and take health care services away from poor women, who in these particular red states are overwhelmingly black.
Following in the footsteps of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed his state's Department of Human Services to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. The termination will be effective in 30 days.In a statement, Hutchinson said, "It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them. This includes their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma."The announcement comes in the wake of outrage over heavily-edited sting videosreleased by anti-abortion activists alleging a litany of offenses by Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration contends that cutting Planned Parenthood off from Medicaid funds breaks federal law.Again, this is something that Republican governors have been wanting to do for a while now, but they needed a convenient excuse for cover, and boy, did they ever get one. This isn't about preventing abortions (they're going after the major source of contraceptive care for poor women). It's not about providing an alternative either (all of these governors are on record rejecting Medicaid funding, and want to repeal Obamacare and its funding increases for community health centers).
No, this is about punishing the people that put Obama in office, in particular women, and especially women of color.
I remember asking my marketing class back in 2002, as the TV news exploded with "Bomb Iraq" talk, did they think that brown-skinned people in the Middle East wouldn't mind their families being bombed and murdered any more than they would? I got a lot of raised eyebrows in response. But they knew the point of my perverted example (and to whom it was addressed).
It's still a valid question.
Too bad no one is asking it.
And in the right way.
August 19, 2015
Paul Craig Roberts
Europe is being overrun by refugees from Washington’s, and Israel’s, hegemonic policies in the Middle East and North Africa that are resulting in the slaughter of massive numbers of civilians. The inflows are so heavy that European governments are squabbling among themselves about who is to take the refugees. Hungary is considering constructing a fence, like the US and Israel, to keep out the undesirables. Everywhere in the Western media there are reports deploring the influx of migrants; yet nowhere is there any reference to the cause of the problem.
The European governments and their insouciant populations are themselves responsible for their immigrant problems. For 14 years Europe has supported Washington’s aggressive militarism that has murdered and dislocated millions of peoples who never lifted a finger against Washington. The destruction of entire countries such as Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, and now Syria and Yemen, and the continuing US slaughter of Pakistani civilians with the full complicity of the corrupt and traitorous Pakistani government, produced a refugee problem that the moronic Europeans brought upon themselves.
Europe deserves the problem, but it is not enough punishment for their crimes against humanity in support of Washington’s world hegemony.
In the Western world insouciance rules governments as well as peoples, and most likely also everywhere else in the world. It remains to be seen whether Russia and China have any clearer grasp of the reality that confronts them.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency until his retirement in August 2014, has confirmed that the Obama regime disregarded his advice and made a willful decision to support the jihadists who now comprise ISIS. (https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/officials-islamic-state-arose-from-us-support-for-al-qaeda-in-iraq-a37c9a60be4) Here we have an American government so insouciant, and with nothing but tunnel vision, empowering the various elements that comprise Washington’s excuse for the “war on terror” and the destruction of several countries. Just as the idiot Europeans produce their own refugee problems, the idiot Americans produce their own terrorist problems. It is mindless. And there is no end to it.
Consider the insanity of the Obama regime’s policy toward the Soviet Union. Kissinger and Brzezinski, two of the left-wing’s most hated bogymen, are astonished at the total unawareness of Washington and the EU of the consequences of their aggression and false accusations toward Russia. Kissinger says that America’s foreign policy is in the hands of “ahistorical people,” who do not comprehend that “we should not engage in international conflicts if, at the beginning, we cannot describe an end.” Kissinger criticizes Washington and the EU for their misconception that the West could act in Ukraine in ways inconsistent with Russian interests and receive a pass from the Russian government.
As for the idiotic claim that Putin is responsible for the Ukrainian tragedy, Kissinger says:
“It is not conceivable that Putin spends sixty billion euros on turning a summer resort into a winter Olympic village in order to start a military crisis the week after a concluding Olympic ceremony that depicted Russia as a part of Western civilization.” (http://sputniknews.com/world/20150819/1025918194/us-russia-policy-history-kissinger.html )
Don’t expect the low-grade morons who comprise the Western media to notice anything as obvious as the meaning Kissinger’s observation.
Brzezinski has joined Kissinger in stating unequivocally that “Russia must be reassured that Ukraine will never become a NATO member.” (http://sputniknews.com/politics/20150630/1024022244.html )
Kissinger is correct that Americans and their leaders are ahistorical. The US operates on the basis of a priori theories that justify American preconceptions and desires. This is a prescription for war, disaster, and the demise of humanity.
Even American commentators whom one would consider to be intelligent are ahistorical. Writing on OpEdNews (8-18-15) William Bike says that Ronald Reagan advocated the destruction of the Soviet Union. Reagan did no such thing. Reagan was respectful of the Soviet leadership and worked with Gorbachev to end the Cold War. Reagan never spoke about winning the Cold War, only about bringing it to an end.
The Soviet Union collapsed as a consequence of Gorbachev being arrested by hardline communists, opposed to Gorbachev’s policies, who launched a coup. The coup failed, but it took down the Soviet government. Reagan had nothing to do with it and was no longer in office.
Some ahistorical Americans cannot tell the difference between the war criminals Clinton, Bush, Cheney, and Obama, and Jimmy Carter, who spent his life doing, and trying to do, good deeds. No sooner do we hear that the 90-year old former president has cancer than Matt Peppe regals us on "CounterPunch" about “Jimmy Carter’s Blood-Drenched Legacy” (8-18-15).
Peppe describes Carter as just another hypocrite who professed human rights but had a “penchant for bloodshed.” What Peppe means is that Carter did not stop bloodshed initiated by foreigners abroad. In other words Carter failed as a global policeman. Peppe’s criticism of Carter, of course, is the stale and false neoconservative criticism of Carter.
Peppe, like so many others, shows an astonishing ignorance of the constraints existing policies institutionalized in government exercise over presidents. In American politics, interest groups are more powerful than the elected politicians. Look around you. The federal agencies created to oversee the well-being of the national forests, public lands, air and water are staffed with the executives of the very polluting and clear-cutting industries that the agencies are supposed to be regulating.
Read "CounterPunch" editor Jeffrey St. Clair’s book, Born Under A Bad Sky, to understand that those who are supposed to be regulated are in fact doing the regulating, and in their interests. The public interest is nowhere in the picture.
Look away from the environment to economic policy. The same financial executives who caused the ongoing financial crisis resulting in enormous ongoing public subsidies to the private banking system, now into the eight year, are the ones who run the US Treasury and Federal Reserve.
Without a strong movement behind him, from whose ranks a president can staff an administration committed to major changes, the president is in effect a captive of the private interests who finance political campaigns. Reagan is the only president of our time who had even a semblance of a movement behind him, and the “Reaganites” in his administration were counterbalanced by the Bush Establishment Republicans.
During the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a movement behind him consisting of New Dealers. Consequently, Roosevelt was able to achieve a number of overdue reforms such as Social Security.
Nevertheless, Roosevelt did not see himself as being in charge. In The Age of Acquiescence (2015), Steve Fraser quotes President Roosevelt telling Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau at the end of 1934 that “the people I have called the ‘money changers in the Temple’ are still in absolute control. It will take many years and possibly several revolutions to eliminate them.”
Eight decades later as Nomi Prins has made clear in All The Presidents’ Bankers (2014), the money changers are still in control. Nothing less than fire and the sword can dislodge them.
Yet, and it will forever be the case, America has commentators who really believe that a president can change things but refuses to do so because he prefers the way that they are.
Unless there is a major disaster, such as the Great Depression, or a lessor challenge, such as stagflation for which solutions were scarce, a president without a movement is outgunned by powerful private interest groups, and sometimes even if he has a movement.
Private interests were empowered by the Republican Supreme Court’s decision that the purchase of the US government by corporate money is the constitutionally protected exercise of free speech.
To be completely clear, the US Supreme Court has ruled that organized interest groups have the right to control the US government.
Under this Supreme Court ruling, how can the United States pretend to be a democracy?
How can Washington justify its genocidal murders as “bringing democracy” to the decimated?
Unless the world wakes up and realizes that total evil has the reins in the West, humanity has no future.
Bored from all this torturous heavy reading and feel the need for a fun game?
From the inimitable xkcd who warns viewers that "this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)":
Or anyone in the U.S.
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By Paul Krugman, "The New York Times"
19 August 15
I wrote Monday about the strange phenomenon of Republicans lining up to propose cuts to Social Security, a deeply unpopular policy that is, however, also a really bad idea. How unpopular? Lee Drutman has the data: only 6 percent of American voters support Social Security cuts, while a majority want it increased. I argued that this apparent act of political self-destructiveness probably reflected an attempt to curry favor with wealthy donors, who are very much at odds with the general public on this issue:
Now we have another example: Marco Rubio has announced his health care plan, and it involves (a) greatly shrinking the tax deductibility of employer health benefits and (b) turning Medicare into a voucher system. Part (a) is favored by many economists, although I would argue wrongly, but would be deeply unpopular; part (b) is really terrible policy — proposed precisely at the moment when Medicare is showing that it can control costs better than private insurers! — and also deeply unpopular.
The strategy here, surely, is to propose things that voters would hate if they understood what was on the table, but hope that Fox News plus “views on shape of planet differ” reporting elsewhere will keep them confused, while at the same time pleasing mega-donors. It might even work, especially if Trump can be pushed out of the picture and the Hillary-hatred of reporters overcomes professional scruples. But it’s still amazing to watch.
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