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It’s Time to Stop Digging

1:48 pm in Economy, Government, Media, Politics by dakine01

Well, the Republican Congressional Arson Committee was out-voted Wednesday and the government shutdown has ended and the debt ceiling has been raised. At least for a few months. Now come the analyses striving to set the Conventional Wisdom.

First up we had this from McClatchy on Tuesday, before the shutdown had been ended:

WASHINGTON — It may be one of the most serious missteps of the federal government shutdown.

After weeks of planning, the nation’s spy chief sent home nearly three-quarters of the workers at the government’s intelligence agencies when faced with the partial shutdown. The move, James Clapper later admitted himself, put the United States at greater risk of terrorist attacks. He then reversed course and brought thousands of employees back to work.

Fix The Jobs THEN Fix The Debt

Fix The Jobs THEN Fix The Debt

Of course, as I noted in this post the other day, when there is a shutdown, the managers are almost required to make things as painful as possible for the maximum numbers of people to show the people pushing for the shutdown what happens. For myself, I would have preferred more oversight people kept working than those within the NSA and other members of the so-called “Intelligence Community” being allowed to spy on average citizens within the US, but that’s just me.

Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce) offers up an “Anatomy of a Shutdown.”

Bloomberg reports on the “Republican Civil War“:

A battle for control of the Republican Party has erupted as an emboldened Tea Party moved to oust senators who voted to reopen the government while business groups mobilized to defeat allies of the small-government movement.

CNN’s article on the ending of the shutdown was a bit pessimistic:

The debt cushion now extends through February 7, with current spending levels being authorized through January 15.

That means a few months of breathing room, but little more. After all, the bill doesn’t address many of the contentious and complicated issues — from changes to entitlement programs to tax reform — that continue to divide Democrats and Republicans.

Ah yes, our old friend “entitlement reform.” What a hoary old chestnut that is turning out to be. Why just yesterday the folks at “Fix the Debt” (Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles’s attempt to stay relevant and invited on talking head shows) held a “Twitter chat.” As Business Insider noted, it did not go well:

“Fix the Debt” just felt Twitter’s sweet, trollish wrath.

Championed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Fix the Debt — which The Nation magazine called a “fearmongering campaign to convince Americans that the deficits the United States has run throughout its history have suddenly metastasized” — held a Twitter live chat this afternoon to discuss next steps in America’s ongoing fiscal squabble.

And it didn’t go so well, with the #fixthedebtqa soon teeming with jokesters and those very much against Fix the Debt’s message.

My phrase of choice for people such as Simpson and Bowles and the rest of the austerity freaks is “willfully obtuse.” Between the shutdown, sequester, and overall fear-mongering of the last few weeks, the general economic consensus is the US economy took a $24B hit. Now, anyone who has read my posts these past few years is aware that I am not a big fan of most CW spouting economists but given how often they are surprised at the end results of things, my WAG is the $24B figure is probably conservative.

A note for the Fix the Debt folks (and Paul Ryan who used a Wall St Journal opinion piece to push for “entitlement reform”,) Harry Reid is quoted as saying, it ain’t happening. Now, Reid has backed off some of these type statements in the past, so we just have to make sure to hold him to his words.

I continue to be dumbfounded at the words and actions of people who think nothing of cutting funds for the elderly and the poor in order to throw more money at the DoD or Banksters or BigAg or Big Pharma or Big Insurance. As I noted here a few months ago, most people receiving Social Security are getting what amounts to less than a minimum wage. For many that is the only income they have. And as Forbes notes yesterday, minimum wage workers are not getting rich (though businesses that rely on them are and sticking the taxpayers with the bill.)

So all of you Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Politicians, and Courtiers, why don’t we do something unique from these last half dozen year. Let’s create some decent paying jobs, build the economy in the US, send a few economic criminals to jail rather than giving them multi-million dollar bonuses, and see what the result is for the economy and those “entitlement” programs. You might be surprised that jobs would mean people paying in would extend the life of these programs with no action required to fiddle and fuck with them.

Besides, if the Russian astronomers are correct, we might be hit with an asteroid in August of 2032, making things moot.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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And Now from the Department of Y’all Should Really Just STFU

10:19 am in Politics by dakine01

Caricature of Todd Akin

Caricature of Todd Akin

During this year’s silly season aka the stretch drive to the November elections, I have been watching the self immolation of various Republican campaigns around the country with a bit of fascination. The topic of rape and incest as exceptions allowing a woman to have an abortion has caused great consternation amongst the chattering classes. From Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s “pregnancy from rape something God intended” (a variant on Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s rape is just another “method of conception“) to Oregon Washington US House candidate John Koster’s “the rape thing” to Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard’s “some girls rape easy,” the topic of rape and abortion has been making headlines across the nation. But as Mr. Pierce notes, these sentiments are not the exception but:

…close to the mainstream of Republican thinking on the subject of abortion, which it is. (It is precisely the position maintained in the Republican platform, which did away with the exception for rape and incest with much fanfare down in Tampa.)

And of course, we also have Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon chiming in to continue the “short ride” tradition first offered us by Senator Joe Lieberman as supporters of amendments allowing hospitals to refuse to provide emergency contraception for rape victims.

Rape, to me, is one of the three most heinous crimes going, along with Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. These crimes often go unreported, in many instances because the victim is not believed and is made to feel victimized repeatedly after reporting the crime. I loved my father deeply but I remember him telling me that he had served on a rape trial jury one time probably 30 plus years ago and they found the defendant not guilty because “she was asking for it” and that response always has bothered me.

I am a late middle-aged white male and the odds are pretty good that I will not be raped in this lifetime. But as the NY Times reported back in December:

Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.

With that information, I can confidently say that I would wager that more than a few of my female relatives, friends, and acquaintances have been raped or assaulted. I don’t know who or how many nor do I want to know as that pretty much fits the definition of a “Nunya.” And this is why I decided I needed to speak out about these idiot statements about rape. As heinous as rape is, the main point to remember about all of these statements is the desire to limit a woman’s freedom of choice, freedom to terminate a pregnancy or not. At this point, rape is a symptom, not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is the on-going, seemingly never ending desire for a bunch of old men to control what women do with their bodies. By even discussing “exceptions” that would “allow” an abortion, we lose sight of the primary issue and that is:

no one should be allowed to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body.

As I noted above, I am a late middle-aged white male. I’m even less likely to become pregnant in this lifetime than I am to be raped. I have no authority or need to tell a woman what she should do. If a woman is raped, becomes pregnant, and decides to carry the baby to term, BRAVA! That is what choice is all about. It is her choice and her choice only. Just as terminating any pregnancy or having a child is the woman’s choice and the woman’s choice alone.

Such a simple concept yet so very difficult for so many to understand.

Update: Fixed state for John Koster. H/t Teddy Partridge

And because I can:

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Where has the Federal Reserve been?

2:19 pm in Economy, Government, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

As many folks know, I spend a bit of time each day perusing various news sites. My postings have been light the past few weeks and months as I’ve been working through issues after my sister’s death. More recently in the last week I’ve gotten a small piece of good news in my personal life (and not saying anything further as I try to nurture this news and make it grow – but it’s not a job) as well as further bad news for my extended family, so the roller coaster ride does continue.

But then I go and see a headline like this at NBCNews.com:

Fed ready to help economy ‘fairly soon,’ minutes show

Turns out, the article was from Reuters though their headline wasn’t much better:

Fed looks set to ease fairly soon barring swift rebound

Earth to Fed! Earth to Fed! Where in the holy hell have you been for these past few years?

(Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus “fairly soon” unless the economy improves considerably, minutes released on Wednesday from the U.S. central bank’s August meeting suggested.

While the meeting was held before a recent improvement in economic data, including a stronger-than-expected July reading for U.S. employment, policymakers were pretty categorical about their dissatisfaction with the current outlook.

…snip…

The Fed held policy steady at that gathering, but signaled a renewed readiness to act amid lingering softness in the economy. The minutes showed the central bank is actively considering a “flexible” bond-buying program, which could suggest that no upfront amount will be announced.

Let’s see. The “official” time frame for the Great Recession had a start in December 2007 and ended officially in June 2009. Last June I wrote a blog post where I predicted a double-dip recession. Officially, I was mistaken as the economy has managed to maintain just enough headway to avoid the term “recession.” But also last summer, I wrote a blog post asking Mr Bernanke just where the hell he has been these past few years. I and all the other people in long term un and underemployed situations have the same concerns. We want jobs. The Fed still has a “Mission Statement” that begins with direction for “…pursuit of maximum employment…” So we sit here with the official unemployment rate at 8.3% and the rate of un and underemployeds at 15%. These number still translate to nearly 13 million unemployed and another 10 to 15 million underemployed. And again, these numbers do NOT include new college grads trying to find their first full time jobs in their chosen fields. The numbers do NOT include all the millions who have been forced to become “self-employed, independent contractors. Add these groups into the official numbers and we are probably looking at (as a guesstimate) another 10 to 15 million people. Labor force participation was at 63.7%.

But have no fear! All is not lost. Why just today, one of Willard Mitt Romney’s top economic advisers proclaimed that The Benbernank is doing a smash up job as Fed chair and deserves to remain in the position while the Republican Party has added a plank calling for an annual audit of the Fed. My guess is this is the sop to Ron Paul. And to be honest, I can see this is a good plank. Of course, we still have the Todd Akin Memorial Anti-Abortion Plank Human Life Amendment so some things never change. After all, one of the reasons the Republicans re-took the US House in 2010 was because of the lack of jobs. Yet from the very start, the House concentrated on anti-abortion legislation that included “re-defining rape.”

Todd Akin isn’t an aberration in today’s Republican Party. He is the epitome of today’s Republican Party and Paul Ryan is right there with him. Meanwhile, the denizens of the Beltway wonder what all the fuss is about with jobs and millions of un and underemployed people wonder how they will survive.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Sometimes You Just Have to Respond to the Stoopid

8:15 am in Economy, Government, Uncategorized by dakine01

Now, some folks may have noticed (ha!) that I have not been posting too much these last few months. Those who actually know me understand that I’ve had a very good reason for this. However, I have still continued to surf the news sites each day and keep up with various blogs as well. I figure Mr Pierce does such a fine job eviscerating the Zombie-eyed-granny-starver and so many other idiots, that there really isn’t much I can say and definitely can’t improve on. As well, Dean Baker continues to easily refute the gibberish of so many Beltway Village Idiots Pundits and Politicians, so there’s not much need for my rants.

So, I laugh when I see where someone has butt shot himself while thinking of all the “butt calls” I have received from family and friends. And I get a little sad when I see legislators in my home state embarrassing themselves with their diatribes against teaching evolution. (Note: Gravity is still considered a theory as well, maybe some of these folks complaining about teaching evolution “cuz it’s only a theory” should maybe be invited to test that gravitational theory from the top of the capital building – rhetorically speaking of course.)

But then, I wind up reading something that is so incredibly stupid and disingenuous, that I am moved to take a whack at it on my own. Today, I reached this point when I read this idiocy from Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post:

Judging by the political reaction, you’d think that Paul Ryan’s budget takes a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc for the elderly. Just the opposite is true: The Ryan budget spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice — and that’s the problem. We have (and, to be fair, this is mainly the doing of Democrats and their intellectual apologists) made those 65 and over into a politically protected class, of which nothing is expected and everything is given.

It is impossible to have an honest debate about the budget — and government’s size and role — unless this changes, because aiding the elderly is now the main thing the federal government does. If you remove that, fearing a backlash from the 50 million or so Social Security and Medicare recipients, you condemn yourself to bad choices: (a) you can’t deal with deficits, which may crowd out productive investment and risk a financial crisis; (b) you must dramatically squeeze the rest of government, including the social safety net, defense and research; or (c) you must raise taxes sharply, which may further slow the economy.

Now, I am admittedly not an economist (thank doG) but by my rough count those two paragraphs contain maybe two semi-factual statements and about ten misstatements, mis-directs, and outright lies.

My first response after reading Samuelson’s gibberish was to rush over to Beat The Press and see if Dean Baker had already taken Samuelson to task. Alas, Dean has been otherwise occupied with taking Casey Mulligan of the NY Times Economix blog and the Washington Post to task for their various misstatements and mis-directs. I imagine he can only deal with just so much stoopid and disingenuousness in one day before reaching his fill.

So if I may quickly:
The Zombie-eyed-granny-starver’s budget and Medicare ‘Plan’ does take a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc on the elderly (via Kaiser Health News).

Samuelson proclaims that the Ryan budget “…spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice…” (this seems to be an article of perceived Conventional Wisdom among the Villagers and TradMed if this and this are indicators. But the devil as always is in the details as this from Think Progress explains. I would like to add that the attempt at generational war by proclaiming loudly that “55 and above are exempt from the changes” presupposes that those of us older than 55 have no desire to see these programs available to our younger family and friends. Please note, not everyone has an “I’ve got mine, fuck you!” attitude, m’kay?)

I am going to close this without attacking the rest of Samuelson’s gibberish and try to re-store my blood pressure to a more manageable level. But I would like to say that Samuelson continues to act as if the social safety net spending, Social Security, and Medicare have been stand alone problems these last ten years while ignoring the destruction of the US and world economies by the Banksters and fraudsters on Wall St.

[/Harrumph harrumph rant]

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Here Is Class Warfare

11:20 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

"Class Warfare" Javier Hernandez-Miyares on flickr

"Class Warfare" Javier Hernandez-Miyares on flickr

Author’s Note: Please take a few minutes and Join the Firedoglake Membership Program today. FDL provides the tools that help me and others extend our reach with our rants so we need to support FDL when we can.

So apparently, the phrase of the week from Republicans is “Class Warfare!” as a response to President Obama’s proposal for a new Millionaire’s Minimum Tax. Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham both used the phrase yesterday on the Bobble head shows. The proposed tax has also become known as the “Buffett Tax” in honor of billionaire investor Warren Buffett who has long noted the irony of his paying a lower tax rate for his investments (aka Unearned Income) than the rate paid by his secretary (Earned Income). Of course, the folks at Forbes Magazine and the Murdoch NY Post think it is a bad idea to do such a thing.

The reality is, and Buffett noted years ago, we are in a class war:

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” 

Today as I was surfing through the various news sites, I saw a real example of the class warfare in action, although in a more subtle fashion than the whining about possible taxes on millionaires. It was this article from the NY Times on possible cuts to military retirement benefits.

Military pensions and health care for active and retired troops now cost the government about $100 billion a year, representing an expanding portion of both the Pentagon budget — about $700 billion a year, including war costs — and the national debt, which together finance the programs. 

…snip…

“We’ve got to put everything on the table,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said recently on PBS, acknowledging that he was looking at proposals to rein in pension costs.

One way to decrease those healthcare costs might be to end the occupations of Irak and Afghanistan and all the other adventurism around the world. Traumatic Brain Injury tends to have a significant increase to costs as does dealing with the need for prosthetic devices and rehab services. Read the rest of this entry →

An Unusual Source Speaks The Truth

9:49 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Government, Jobs, Media, Unemployment by dakine01

tell truth

tell truth by arimoore, on Flickr

Today (Monday, April 25) CNN has an opinion piece from former George W. Bush staffer David Frum that shocked me, and not in a Capt Renault kind of way.

Technically speaking, the U.S. economy is recovering right now. GDP growth has been positive since the summer of 2009. Employment is growing. If you like, you can say the recession is over.

But don’t say it too loud. With 13.5 million people out of work — 6.1 million out of work for 27 weeks or more — the odds are high that one of them may hear and take offense.

The recovery is weak, and job creation is slow. Everybody knows that. But here’s something that we don’t know, or anyway don’t think about enough: Isn’t it weird that in this dismal economic situation, neither of the two great U.S. political parties is offering a plan to do anything about the job situation?

Frum goes on to note that the Republicans at least have a “plan” (Rep Paul Ryan’s “budget”), even though the “plan” does nothing to help the unemployed, nor does it actually do anything on the budget. He also notes that the Democratic “plan” consists primarily of blasting the Ryan plan.

The administration does however have a political plan: Blast the Ryan plan. Since the Ryan plan is highly politically vulnerable, the blasting will likely hurt the GOP and help President Obama. The blasting will not, however, do much for the unemployed. But then we’ve all sort of given up on them, haven’t we?

I have to give credit when it is due and right now, Frum seems to be one of the few members in presumably good standing of the Village who is actually seeing something close to the reality faced by millions of us within the US today. Annie Lowrey of the Washington Post almost got it correct yesterday before reverting to Beltway cheerleading. The rest of the Very Serious People though are ever so serious as they toil away in the alternative world where the budget deficit is the ultimate problem in the world today. From Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post we get this. Of course in Samuelson’s world, everything is the fault of social spending. How else to explain these two little ‘nuggets’?

Who deserves government subsidies and how much? About 55 percent of spending goes to individuals, including the elderly, veterans, farmers, students, the disabled and the poor.

How much, if at all, should social spending be allowed to squeeze national defense?

Social spending is squeezing national defense? Seriously? I guess if you believe that we need a few more aircraft carrier groups, more nuclear submarines, more advanced fighter jets costing billions each, all relics of the Cold War, then I guess taking care of “the elderly, veterans, farmers, students, the disabled, and the poor,” that’s a squeeze. Enjoy life in that bubble Mr Samuelson.
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