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Oh the Oppression! Oh the Tyranny! Oh the doG-awful Whining With No Reason!

10:55 am in Government, Media, Politics by dakine01

I was looking through various “news” web sites this morning when I came across this article from Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce). The headline alone made me shake my head, “Wall Street gets misty as Bloomberg departs” then it just got worse as I read the “article”:

Michael Bloomberg - Cartoon

Michael Bloomberg – Cartoon

Michael Bloomberg isn’t leaving office until January but Wall Street is already beginning to miss the New York City mayor — and bracing for a possible backlash from his replacement.

In his 12 years leading the city, Bloomberg has been a vocal champion of New York’s business and banking communities. When the knives have come out, he has time and again come to the defense of the financial services industry without batting an eye at the political reality that advocating for Wall Street is a highly unpopular move for public officials.

Awwww. Da poor widdle babies have their fee-fees hurt by those big bad people, led by a politician who thinks they might do a bit more to pay for services:

Many in New York’s business and financial elite, stung by the abrupt ascent of Bill de Blasio, an unapologetic tax-the-rich liberal, are fixated on a single question: What are we going to do?

The idea that someone like DiBlasio might replace Bloomberg as NYC Mayor seems to set alarums blaring among the power elite and rich in New York.

Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

A couple of years or so ago, I wrote a diary after reading some whines from JP Morgan/Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Now we have more of the rich 1% from Wall St whining about how their taxes might go up and how dare he! From Raw Story:

New York City, like much of the nation, is living with a vast divide between rich and poor. In appearances leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, Brooklyn-based Democrat di Blasio decried these inequalities, saying, “We are not, by our nature, an elitist city. We are not a city for the chosen few,” statements that have set off alarm bells among the city’s top tier of business leaders and the well-to-do.

Oh those oppressed Titans of Wall St and Masters of the Universe! They are so oppressed, just like the Fundamentalist Christians and straight white men, they never get things their way. Why, they just might have to go on Food Stamps after they pay their taxes in a DiBlasio administration:

When it comes to average per capita wealth, New York City has been eclipsed by a handful of other locales, but the city that never sleeps still holds sway in the public imagination as the capital of capital, the center of the financial industry, and a place where a $235,000 salary still only counts as middle class. But, as a couple of recent articles show, New York isn’t just a center of American wealth: it’s also a center of American wealth inequality, a place where the divide between the very rich and the very poor is sometimes only a matter of a few hundred feet … as the crow flies.

I’m sure you’ll pardon me if I shed no tears for these members of the Clueless Class.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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The Concern Trolls Very Serious People Are Out

11:38 am in Government, Politics, Social Security by dakine01

Damn but just when I reach a point where I think things can’t get any stoopider inside the Beltway, we have a week like this one with the release of President Obama’s “budget” and once again the reality of stoopid is even worse than imagined.

Word leaked last Friday (April 5) that Chained CPI was going to be part of President Obama’s budget, prompting me to point out a simple truth, “A Bad Idea Is a Bad Idea, No Matter Who Proposes It.” Of course, starting Monday, all the usual suspects and even a few somewhat surprising suspects started pushing the idea as a wonderful thing, maybe even as good as sliced bread.

The first cheers I saw, came from the Wall Street Journal. It is difficult to detail all the errors in this piece but it starts with the idea that Social Security has any bearing on the Budget in the first place the goes on to “explain” why Chained CPI is just such a good idea:

The chain-weighted CPI registers slower inflation than the usual CPI because it allows for the substitution effect of price changes. When the cost of one item rises, consumers switch to a similar product that has not risen in price (or not increased as much). The substitution can occur intra-item (whole wheat bread instead of white bread) and inter-item (beer versus wine). The chained CPI takes the shifts into its calculation; the traditional CPI does not.

Of course, these types of discussions never point out how the folks who are already “substituting” are supposed to pay for price increases, just as it fails to recognize the basic facts of Social Security, including the fact that the average monthly benefit is $1,264 per month, which is barely more than a minimum wage job pays and we all know how richly you can live on minimum wage. (Yes, that’s snark.)

Scrap the Cap on Social Security

Scrap the Cap on Social Security

The Washington Post also is on the bandwagon and loving them some Chained CPI, once again pretending that Social Security is a part of the overall Federal Budget:

Most important, the president committed himself in writing to more than $100 billion in Social Security spending restraint over the next decade, along with $400 billion in health program reductions.

Ruth Marcus yesterday earned her WaPo0 money by being oh so very concerned with how the Republicans react to the President:

The conundrum of President Obama’s budget is that he has produced a “come let us reason together” proposal aimed at a Republican Party that has demonstrated no interest in being reasonable.

On Tuesday, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote a blog post comparing Paul Ryan’s “budget” with the President’s by stating that if Ryan’s budget is (self-described) as visionary, then the president’s is “strategic.” Bernstein quotes his colleague, Robert Greenstein (President of CBPP) who produced a statement in favor of President Obama’s budget, and specifically, in favor of Chained CPI.

I can’t begin to detail all the errors in Greenstein’s statement but will try to address the most egregious ones. First off:

As it stands, the package makes tough policy choices while largely adhering to the principle, as enunciated by the Bowles-Simpson commission, that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or inequality. Nevertheless, the budget’s substantial spending cuts, both in entitlements and discretionary programs, would have real-world consequences for millions of individuals and families.

While there was a Bowles-Simpson commission, there was nothing “enunciated” by the commission as there was no report since the recommendations could not achieve the necessary vote count to be accepted as official. And once again, we have someone who should know better (and most likely does) trying to conflate Social Security as part of the overall Federal Budget.

Then there’s:

Experts widely regard the chained CPI as a more accurate measure of inflation for the population as a whole. It may well be, however, less accurate for elderly individuals and many low-income people and, thus, understate the inflation that they face.

What experts are saying this? The best I have found is that the NY Times had an article claiming this that they would later correct as Dean Baker points out here.

Reuters presents it as The Grand Bargain while the Christian Science Monitor presents it as a great idea because liberals are angry so that must mean it is bi-partisany or something.

Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce) of all people, actually gets to the nut in their lede:

President Barack Obama says he’ll protect the most vulnerable seniors from his “chained CPI” proposal – but he’s not going to protect everyone. Not even all seniors.

The White House, fighting back against liberal critics who say he’s giving away too much, released details Wednesday of the protections Obama would include to make sure older seniors and low-income people don’t get hurt by lower benefits.

There it is. As I said the other day and will say many more times I’m sure, IF YOU HAVE TO MAKE SPECIAL PROVISIONS TO ASSURE PEOPLE ARE NOT HURT, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

Such a simple damn concept. But of course, with all the people doing the cheerleading, none of them are people who actually have to live on Social Security so for them, it is only an intellectual exercise, not reality.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Today’s Anti-Social Security Propaganda

8:40 am in Economy, Government, Jobs, Media, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

FDR Quote on Social Security

FDR Quote on Social Security

Well, it looks like there is a new push on in the long term destruction of Social Security today. Now, I usually write about the plight of the long term unemployed and underemployed but I am getting close to Social Security eligibility so decided I would discuss the anti Social Security effort today.

I’ll start with Fact Free Fred Hiatt’s Concern Troll op-ed in today’s (Monday, January 28) Washington Post. It seems Mr Hiatt wants to offer his advice to President Obama on “entitlement reform” using the guise of how Democrats and Republicans view the past four years:

To achieve a fiscal compromise, Obama agreed in 2011 negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner to changes in Social Security that would be anathema to liberals, but Boehner walked away from the talks.
…snip…

Both histories are factually correct. That coherent accounts can be written either way ought to suggest to partisans that neither version is quite the slam-dunk they imagine.

At a minimum, it ought to propel the White House to continue acting in the national interest, whichever party that seems to serve. And for a long time, Obama has said the national interest requires both revenue increases and reform of entitlement programs.

Once again, Mr Hiatt and the Post are pushing the myth that Social Security is a part of the overall Federal Budget and needs to be “controlled” to “fix the deficit” when in fact, Social Security loans to the Genera Fund have been propping up the Federal Budget for decades, allowing for the tax cuts over the years.

While I expect this type of nonsense from the Washington Post, today’s Tampa Bay Times had a decidedly misleading headline (“US spends far more on seniors than on kids.”) How is it misleading?

In 2008, all government (local state, and federal) spent $26,255 on average for each person 65 or older, most of which is Social Security and Medicare.

The blurb on children spending:

Conversely, the federal government spends relatively little on children and Medicaid is the largest single item. State and local governments spend much more on children because they pay for schools. But overall, governments spend far more than double on seniors than they do on children 18 and younger.

Finally, at the very bottom of this post, the Times offers a couple of caveats to offset the misleading nature of their headline and opening:

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“Good News” but Not that Good.

7:54 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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.

In this post I wrote Tuesday, I predicted that the ADP Jobs report for June would come in at around 50K private sector jobs versus the economists prediction of 100K. Well the report is out (via Reuters) and I was way wrong while the economists were also under:

Payrolls processor ADP said on Thursday private sector employment increased 157,000 after a modest 36,000 gain in May, and beating economists’ expectations for a 68,000 rise.

The original report in May (as I quoted and linked to Reuters in this post) was actually at 38K jobs so 36K is a downward revision. For what it’s worth, I do like when I am wrong on these points, especially when I’m wrong and the numbers come in far better than I thought.

Now 157K jobs sounds like something to cheer about and I guess in a way it is but we shouldn’t get all giddy with excitement quite yet. After all, the economy needs to add 100K to 150K jobs each month just to absorb new folks coming into the work force each month so 157K jobs does not dent the long term un and underemployment numbers by much. Tomorrow’s numbers from the BLS for June will include public sector as well as private sector and it is likely the public sector jobs lost will push the 157K number down significantly. And I’ll say right now that July will be worse. How can I say that? Many states start their fiscal years on July 1 and the budget axes will be showing the results as Politico discusses here: Read the rest of this entry →

Political Posturing Versus Reality

10:32 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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.

This morning (Wednesday, June 22) David Dayen at FDL News reports that the entire Senate Democratic leadership is getting behind a jobs/stimulus push:

The Senate Democratic leadership – all of them, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich – planned a morning press conference today where they will call for job creation measures, or stimulus, to be included in any debt limit deal.

This follows a report from Politico on Sunday:

Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs.

Senate Democrats are now grappling with ways to gain an edge in the economic debate dominated by budget talk. For instance, in an attempt to woo Republicans, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the White House are open to extending a payroll tax break to stimulate the economy, but that has spawned unease from Democratic senators such as Maryland’s Ben Cardin who worry that it would drive up the deficit and unnerve liberals such as Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who are concerned it would deplete the Social Security trust fund.

While the Politico piece reinforces for me the idea of the Dems actions as just so much posturing, so does this, also from the Dayen piece:

There’s a sense that this is mainly rhetorical. Democrats have seen Republicans obstruct even the most piddling of jobs bills in the Senate. Yesterday the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration, an old Great Society program, failed to break a filibuster.

This article from today’s Washington Post on Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad’s claim that $2 trillion in spending cuts is not enough tends to reinforce the believe that it is posturing:

The debt-reduction package emerging in talks between the White House and congressional leaders would not “fundamentally change” the alarming rate of growth in the national debt, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said Tuesday.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the goal of slicing more than $2 trillion from the federal budget by 2021 falls far short of the savings needed to stabilize borrowing, reenergize the economy and avert the threat of a debt crisis.

As we all know, Conrad is one of the Gang of Six Five Thieves Deficit Hawks who doesn’t quite seem to comprehend that creating jobs would go a long way to addressing those long term deficit problems through increased tax revenues across all aspects of the economy. Even Wall St Journal and Bloomberg/Business Week columnists have come out this week and stated that jobs are the most serious issue of all today. Now, I don’t know of anyone who would perceive that the folks at either of these as being “card carrying members of the professional left” yet both are pointing out the fallacies of the current political discourse.
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They Were Against the Wars Before They Were…Wait, Now I’m Confused

3:40 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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.

I spend a lot of time confused about things that are happening in the world today. I mostly write about the economy at my sucky little blog and stay away from foreign policy issues but occasionally there are days like today that just leave me scratching my head and looking around for a scorecard.

The last couple of weeks, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner and President Obama have been going back and forth a bit on whether the President is operating within his authority in LIbya. Today, we had Senators Lindsey Graham (via Politico) and John McCain (via ABC News) seemingly telling their colleagues to sit down and STFU. Graham especially seems to offer a novel “Constitutional” argument:

“I would take the course that conservatives have been taking for the last 30 years — The War Powers Act is unconstitutional, not worth the paper its written on,” Graham declared. “It’s an infringement on the power of the commander in chief.”

So much for the Congressional power to declare war and control the purse strings.

McCain didn’t go quite as far as Graham:

Former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took aim at his party for what he called its growing movement towards isolationism, chastising the current GOP presidential field for not supporting U.S. military intervention in Libya and calling for speedy troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

…snip…

President Obama has come under fire recently for the U.S. involvement in Libya, which is taking place without congressional approval. Although McCain criticized Obama for “leading from behind” by having NATO take charge of the operation, he encouraged Congress to pass his co-sponsored resolution with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) giving congressional authorization for U.S. military involvement in Libya, which reached the 90-day mark today.

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“Are Ya Gonna Believe Me or Yer Own Lyin’ Eyes?”

12:35 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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 what makes today any different from any other day? Not a thing. It’s a day ending in “y” so that means we are treated with a mix of articles and opinions where the headline doesn’t actually match the story or the lede is buried or the cheerleaders try for the misdirection.

One of the first articles I saw this morning in my surfing of the news sites was this one from CNN on jobs returning to the US from overseas:

It’s still only a trickle compared to the flood of jobs that America lost to overseas outsourcing in recent decades. But some American businesses are bringing jobs home again.

…snip…

This trend of reshoring or insourcing is likely to grow in the coming years, as the cost gap between building overseas and building at home narrows. It’s an encouraging sign in a job market where hiring has stalled in recent months.

…snip…

According to BCG, Chinese labor costs are rising about 15% to 20% a year. That makes producing goods in China not nearly as cheap as it used to be. For many manufacturers, that narrowing is enough to tip the balance back to U.S. plants.

…snip…

What’s more, countries such as China and India that have profited from U.S. offshoring won’t stand pat and lose the potential jobs without a fight.

“It’s not as if the Chinese government is helpless is to offset this rising wage trend,” Tonelson said.

Anyone else find it interesting that the Chinese government isn’t helpless on jobs but the US government is? Apparently, repression is good for business in all ways.

From this article in today’s Washington Post and this one from the Daily Caller (via Yahoo), it seems that White House Chief of Staff William Daley wishes he had the power to do away with many of the regulations in government. You know, those pesky little things that go to protect food, the environment, rivers, air, and other aspects of life on earth. From the Post article:

One by one, exasperated executives stood to air their grievances on environmental regulations and stalled free-trade deals. And Daley, the former banker tasked with building ties with industry, found himself looking for the right balance between empathy and defending his boss.

…snip…

On the status of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, he suggested politics was proving to be a challenge. He said there are “people who lose from these agreements” and urged businesses to lobby their workers to help overcome opposition on Capitol Hill.

…snip…

White House officials described Thursday’s encounter as part of a work in progress. Spokesman Eric Schultz described the meeting as a “frank and open conversation . . . about steps we can take to drive private-sector job growth.”

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Could the Cable Industry Have a Clue?

1:13 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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.

The weekly report on Initial Unemployment Claims came out earlier today and while the numbers did fall a bit, they are still over the 400K threshold that seems to be the cut off for declaring that things are going to get better. From Reuters:

The Labor Department said on Thursday new jobless claims fell to 414,000 in the week ended June 11 from an upwardly revised 430,000 in the prior week.

Economists polled by Reuters had been looking for a smaller decline, to 420,000. Claims have been above 400,000 for two months, reflecting a rough patch in the recovery that has led to renewed weakness in an already anemic job market.

Just as they did last week, the reporter just brushes right on by how the figures for the week before had been revised upwards. Last week it was reported as 427K now revised up to 430K – the week before it had originally been reported as 422K but then revised up to 426K. I would not be surprised if next week’s report revised this week’s numbers upwards again, closer to the original figure from the economists of 420K.

There were a couple of articles in the past couple of days that suggested to me that there are a few folks in corporate boardrooms who might have finally gotten a small clue. Surprisingly enough to me, it is the cable television industry! It’s not as if the cable industry has not been noted for trying to squeeze people at each and every turn with annual rate increases while they take channels away from the “basic cable” and move to more expensive groupings on “digital tiers.” Got to rent those digital cable boxes doncha know. I think that is one lesson from the old Ma Bell that was adopted early on – rent equipment for as long and as high a rate as possible.

Reuters presents the cable industry concerns as:

For all the talk about competitive threats from the likes of Netflix Inc or Apple Inc, it is rising poverty among households that TV executives say is their biggest source of concern.
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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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Will the Gang of Six Receive the Gang of Four Treatment?

9:55 am in Economy, Government, Media by dakine01

I won’t say that great minds think alike but I had to laugh when I saw a link to this from HuffPo’s Ann Stark. Beyond Teddy Partridge’s Firedoglake post from Sunday night “Anti-gang Enforcement Needed On Capital Hill,” Ms Stark’s tweet about the Gang of Four rather crystalized for me some thoughts about how easily the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits fall into their usage of short hand terms without really any apparent understanding of the genesis of those terms. Whether it is the “Gang of Fourteen” or either of the two “Gang of Six” in the US Senate, I wonder if they want to remind people of the fate of the “Gang of Four.”

From Time Magazine Gang of Four On Trial:

After many delays, the “evildoers “finally enter the dock

The long parade of limousines and buses knifed through Peking’s wintry smog just before 3 p.m. As police and soldiers kept away curious bystanders, sober-faced men and women emerged from the cars, strode through the gates of the public security compound at No. 1 Zhengyi (Justice) Road near Tian’anmen Square and entered a large, brightly lighted courtroom. After taking their seats, the 35 judges and 880 “representatives of the masses” looked on impassively as the ten defendants were led into the court by bailiffs to hear the charges against them.

Thus began the long-awaited trial of China’s notorious Gang of Four and six other high-ranking “evildoers.” The carefully orchestrated courtroom drama, which is expected to last for several weeks, is the most important show trial to take place in the 31 years that the Communist Party has ruled China. The most celebrated defendant is Jiang Qing, 67, the widow of Mao Tse-tung, who, along with her allies in the Gang of Four,* led Mao’s reckless and violent Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. They were arrested four years ago, shortly after Mao’s death in 1976. Also on trial are a group of senior military officials who allegedly plotted with the late Defense Minister Lin Biao to assassinate Mao in 1971 and seize supreme power for themselves.

Now I am not advocating that the current “Gang of Six” from the US Senate be subjected to a “show trial” for their zeal in dismantling the social safety net under the guise of “saving” it. But when these men have to next face the voters, they probably will not want to highlight their participation in cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, all while preserving tax cuts for the top of the income chain.
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