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The Memory Test

By: Michael Monk Tuesday January 1, 2013 11:45 am

In all this talk about fiscal cliffs, “out of control government spending”, sequesters, and threats of government shutdowns over the debt ceiling, there is a self-test you can do using your memory to determine if you are being politically manipulated. Those of us who aren’t and voice our frustration are usually told our thinking is confused and all wrong. But let’s use our memories for a moment. How many times was the debt ceiling raised under George W. Bush? The answer is seven. Why wasn’t there any consternation and calls for government shutdowns or needed deals during any of those unceremoniously raisings of the ceiling then? After Clinton ran balanced budgets, George W. Bush ran deficits throughout his eight years as President but do you remember any talk about how government spending was out of control? Under George W. Bush, the national debt was doubled but were there any commissions created to take care of deficits or any created deals to sequester government spending and raise taxes by a date certain if no “deal” was reached and call it “a fiscal cliff”? And if the media is “liberal” as many claim, why are they playing along? The national debt under Reagan was tripled and after his initial tax cuts that created running deficits, he spent his later years pushing tax increases to try and lessen the deficit gap. Was he then called a “tax and spend liberal”? Why not? It should start to be obvious at some point the general theme of our politics changes depending on who is in the White House rather than facts, figures, or your memory if you check it.

Traditionally, national governments have increased spending in severe economic downturns to put demand back into the economy and people back to work (which is really how you take care of deficits because when people are working, that’s more tax revenue). You can check history, data, and your memory if you are my age. So why are we going against history, data, and memories? Politics and ideology. If we have to fear tax increases on the wealthy because it will “hurt” the economy, then explain why the economy took off under the Clinton administration when it was done. And if government spending hurts the economy, then explain history, data, and the memories of those of us who haven’t forgotten why if you can. And also, explain the changes in narrative depending who is in the White House without it appearing as a political double standard. You can also explain why you think government spending has exploded under Obama since under his administration, federal government spending has increased the least as a percentage since President Eisenhower who was president when I was born. Have a great day and a wonderful New Year and occasionally try the memory test. Maybe one day, we can fix things again.

 

Washington Bubblenomics

By: Michael Monk Sunday October 9, 2011 9:16 am

There are a lot of people that were part of the Democratic Party’s former coalition out protesting and involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement such as Unions and laid off teachers and public sector employees as well as recently graduated educated young people. Yet my Democratic Party senator is out touting a new corporate tax holiday to “create jobs” that has a dismal record in doing so in past experience and contributes to future debt (which will be blamed on “big government spending”). The Washington bubble seems impenetrable and the bubble around the party keeps them out of the loop of trends they could benefit from like welcoming back instead of abandoning its former coalition. Maybe they could do what Keith Olbermann suggested recently and “touch it” to see what it is made of instead of chasing mythical Reagan independents. It’s time to choose a side. In the meantime, we will out wait you.

Is North Carolina a theocracy?

By: Michael Monk Thursday September 15, 2011 12:35 am

As North Carolina struggles with high unemployment and a depressed economy aided by the legislature’s budget cuts, they have decided to put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot box opposing same sex marriage. This follows numerous bills to post the ten commandments in public schools and political opposition to anti-bullying laws because they protect young gay and lesbian people from abuse. I have to ask whether we are a democratic republic or a theocracy like they have in the Middle East? I am reminded of the words contained in the Treaty of Tripoli written by George Washington’s administration and signed into law by President John Adams which contains the words, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”. I wonder which group of North Carolinians in the future will have their rights up for a vote on a ballot?

The Pre-funding Mandate. Bringing Down The American Postal Workers Union.

By: Michael Monk Friday August 19, 2011 12:35 pm
"Mechanicsburg IL - United States Post Office Zip Code 62545"

"Mechanicsburg IL - United States Post Office Zip Code 62545" by myoldpostcards on flickr

As headlines across the corporate media world of the U.S. reported on August 11th, the U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its workforce by 120,000 jobs and withdrawing from the federal health and retirement plans. Initial reports were that during the last four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2010. Therefore, the U.S. Postal Service drafted two documents in “Workforce Optimization” paper and a paper on health and retirement benefits requesting breaking its labor contracts and reigning in its health benefit and pension costs. It would seem almost reasonable until one drills deeper down into the facts. If you do that, then you can see this is a case where the corporate state is union busting again (and attacking the middle class) through a deceptive creation of crisis to seek further privatization (classic shock doctrine).

At the heart of the matter is a 2006 Congressional mandate put on the US Postal Service contained in the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006” to pre-fund healthcare benefits of future retirees, a 75 year liability over a 10 year period. No other agency or corporation is required to do this. This provision costs the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year. When you add in an adjustment that was made in how workers’ compensation costs were calculated based on interest rate assumptions and long term predictions concerning health care and compensation of $2.5 billion (a non cash accounting adjustment), you come up with $8 billion in cost. Actual loss was $500 million and when added, comes to the $8.5 billion reported for 2010. While $500 million is a lot, it doesn’t compare with $8.5 billion and is down from the previous year loss of $1 billion. If you took out the onerous pre-funding mandate, the Postal Service actually shows a $700 million profit over the last four years instead of the $20 billion loss. The Postal Union has been trying to get Congress to authorize the transfer of the Postal Service’s money estimated to be between $50 billion and $75 billion overpaid in the Civil Service Retirement System transferred into the PSRHBF.

We need a challenger from the left at this point in history.

By: Michael Monk Thursday August 4, 2011 5:01 am

Otherwise, we will lose any remnants left of the American system with a proper balance of a public sector and a private sector that it was in the past. We no longer need a compromiser unless your goal is to define or shape a right-wing nation that has no healthy balance between sectors. Both parties believe in small government and limited regulation and flatter taxes. That is why we are going in that direction no matter the makeup of the branches of government. I can tell you, when I was growing up, there was no debt “crisis”, there was no problem funding public schools, or housing for the poor, or our infrastructure. I will not participate in the dismantling of my country. That means I will not vote for Republicans, Libertarians, New Democrats, or Blue Dogs. My line in the sand has been reached. And when this sick agreement kicks in with its “Super Committee” and the next hostage crisis hits and leaves more destruction in its wake, I hope more people will see it my way. What we have witnessed isn’t compromise. If you don’t believe in right-wing theories, it has been surrender. Compromise is meeting somewhere in some sort of middle. But since only one party does, this all must be by design because it makes no sense otherwise.

Debt Ceiling Hostage Taking. The Banality of Corporate State Propaganda and Belief In Things Not Real.

By: Michael Monk Monday August 1, 2011 6:39 am
"Belief - Neon sculpture by Joe Rees"

"Belief - Neon sculpture by Joe Rees" by Steve Rhodes on flickr

“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”-former Vice President Dick Cheney

On June 23rd, 2011, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) Va., and Senate Minority Leader Jon Kyl (R) AZ, walked out on the federal debt limit ceiling talks in the kabuki theatre that is Washington, D.C, these days. Why would a party that relies on deficit spending to further its ideology and declares that deficits don’t matter when they are in power do this? To extract more blood out of America’s dwindling middle class, the poor, public sector workers, the elderly, and the unemployed (which further contracts, not expands economic activity) to further an American “shock doctrine” for its billionaires and multinational corporate CEOs. They will vote to raise the debt ceiling after more bloodletting. After all, Mitch McConnell (R), (KY) offered a way out of the phony debt ceiling crisis. But then Obama (always trying to burnish his Reagan bonafides) wanted the “grand deal” of the “gang of six” that offered up Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (of which social security has not added to deficits and by law, cannot). But the extreme House radicals led by Eric Cantor pushed through the unworkable “Cut, Cap, Balance” in the House. That led the country back to negotiating what plans to further wreck the public square for theft by rich and powerful interests will prevail. Now it appears the “bi-partisan” deal making is a system of strait jackets and triggers. The corporatists who pretend to represent freedom are ironically trying to create the ultimate state controlled economy, a corporate state controlled economy.

“The use of cancer in political discourse encourages fatalism and justifies “severe” measures-as well as strongly reinforcing the widespread notion that the disease is necessarily fatal. The concept of disease is never innocent. But it could be argued that the cancer metaphors are in themselves implicitly genocidal.” –Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 1977

Can We Go Home Now?

By: Michael Monk Saturday May 14, 2011 9:29 am

I for one am not excited about the ongoing pissing match between Democrats and Republicans over the death of Osama bin Laden. I just want my country back. Not the made up machinations of the “birthers” or “Tea Partiers” and their billionaire puppeteers. I mean that country which predates GW Bush and the neoconservatives. It is the one which had habeas corpus and civil liberties. That country is also known to have had Constitutional checks and balances as opposed to a “unitary” executive above any law. It was one that did not violate its own laws, international law, and its own Military Code of Justice. It did not torture as rogue states do. Also it was not a security state. The country I remember was one that I didn’t have to question every waking moment whether I was getting the truth. In fact, even in the raid to get bin Laden the government felt compelled to lie to us again in the beginning much in the style of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman affairs. Old habits seem hard to break.

In regards to who masterminded the attacks of September 11th, 2001, our government first claimed it was bin Laden. Then it claimed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Have they made up their minds yet? One got a summary execution on the spot while the other got capture, torture and is to receive a trial of sorts. And many of us tried to point out the connections of Pakistan’s ISI and al Qaeda. We also tried to inform the public that the Iraq invasion and occupation was based on lies, falsehoods induced by torture and forgeries instead of intelligence. But no one would listen to us as we were deemed insufficient of patriotism and worse. All the while, those that lied to the nation have cost lives, untold billions, and have been hailed as straight shooters and heroes. In fact, now we see them paraded in front of our television screens hailing torture and many other illegal acts against our Constitution and laws trying to grab credit for the operation that got Osama bin Laden they were not involved in to justify their behavior. And the useless talking heads of our corporate lap dog media give into and debate the twin falsehoods of whether torture is effective or legal.

They say you can never go home again. That seems to be true for our military personnel as the completion of the TAPI pipeline remains. The geopolitics of Central Asian pipelines and privatization of Middle Eastern oil that the neoconservatives’ “Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 has produced continues while they implement the “shock doctrine” at home with an economy they have already ruined. It also seems to be the case at home whereby we have traded Constitutional rights, due process of law, and the Bill of Rights for a security state and journalism for government position stenography. You see, I have a pre 9/11 mindset. I didn’t lose my sanity nor allow myself to live a life centered on fear. I want to go home now. I hope I’m allowed to. I just hope that pre 9/11 America isn’t sharing Osama bin Laden’s watery grave. One can only hope.

Republicans Prove It Wasn’t About The Budget In Wisconsin

By: Michael Monk Wednesday March 9, 2011 4:40 pm

Senate Republicans in Wisconsin executed a surprise move in the Budget Repair Bill today. They have separated the fiscal areas of the Budget Repair Bill from the collective bargaining measures. In doing this, they can pass the union busting measures because it isn’t dealing with fiscal matters which requires the 20 Senate members to vote on. It is a move to get around the missing 14 Democrats preventing a quorum. In doing so they are proving Walker’s Budget Repair Bill really wasn’t about the budget at all. The union had already made concessions and had indicated their willingness to negotiate. Details coming in indicate it went to conference committee where it passed 4 to 2. Mary Spicuzza reported on the move at The Wisconsin State Journal. Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar was quoted as calling,

the maneuver undemocratic and “almost barbaric.”

The Senate then passed the bill, 18-1, with Sen. Dale Schultz voting no.