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The Hoax of Conflict

3:17 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

This entry was written by HEIST co-producer and co-director Frances Causey.

The conflict and profit driven mainstream media continually props up the belief that Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything. But when it comes to economic policy, conflict is an engineered myth, a smokescreen perpetuated by the “inside the beltway gang” ostensibly to keep the faithful of both parties happy. I call it smoke and mirror politics.

What is being obscured is the fact that both parties shamelessly support multi-national corporations and financial elites at the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Since the late 1970’s, the GOP and their billionaire backers have spent billions of dollars shaping government in their own “profits at any cost” vision. The Democrats began falling nicely into line beginning with President Jimmy Carter who started the deregulation craze by deregulating the airline and trucking industries. No, this is not your grandfather’s Democratic party anymore.

The Democratic Party, once the champion of working people and defender of Roosevelt’s New Deal that defined liberalism, now finds itself making policy and laws that are destroying what is left of the New Deal and subsequently the middle-class.

Reading between the lines of President Obama’s Top 50 achievements speaks to this reality.
Yes, President Obama and Congress threw working people a few bones like the auto bailout and extension of long term unemployment benefits (to be rescinded somewhat if the sequester happens) but closer scrutiny of the list reveals that a majority of “accomplishments” were for the very few at the very top of the economic scale.

Number One on the list is health care reform. Polls show that 77% of Americans overwhelmingly wanted a government run healthcare option to compete with private insurers. But the public option was dead on arrival after President Obama and Finance Committee Chairman Democrat Sen. Max Baucus played the “Washington shell game” and let Big Pharma and the insurance industry dictate the terms of the legislation, which was a huge windfall to both.

The insurance industry got millions of new customers and high premiums subsidized by the taxpayer and Big Pharma can continue its predatory pricing and monopolistic policies while high drug prices and healthcare costs continue to devastate the budgets of working class families. Big money finds a way.

Number Two on the list is the passage of the stimulus, which was touted and allegedly designed to spur the economy for EVERYONE. But figures show that 93% of recovery dollars went to the 1%. The stimulus did keep the economy from going off the cliff by not completely shutting down our banking system but offered little else in the long term to bring back good jobs with benefits to working people. Relative to our 1979 economy (when Democrats acted like Democrats), the current economy has lost about one third of its ability to generate good jobs or those with good wages, healthcare benefits and retirement.

Lastly, lets look at Number Three on the list: Wall Street Reform. As I write, the White House and Congress are effectively putting the last nails in the coffin of Dodd-Frank, the law originally designed to re-write the rules of how Wall Street did business.

Instead, Congress is once again pandering to groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association that is sitting on bad mortgages to the tune of a 30% loss, which they are loath to write off. The only way to recoup their losses is to create another housing bubble and Congress is only too happy to comply by loosening lending standards again.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is currently crafting a bill that would set up a trust to “purchase or guarantee refinanced (private) mortgages.” Taxpayers will be forced once again to pay for the excesses of investors. After all, this IS how our democracy works these days.

America experienced her greatest prosperity in the 1950’s and 1960’s when we had a political balance of power and laws that ensured fairness. The Democrats representing working people were a counterweight to the power of the capital class, represented by Republicans. Income equality and upward mobility, a core component of the American Dream, was the result. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that your children will not have their fair shot at the American dream. Our Democracy and dreams have been sold to the highest bidder. If indeed there are only two kinds of power in America: organized money and organized people, organized money has had its way. Which do you belong to?

This entry is also available on Daily Kos.

Dear Mr. Speaker!

4:46 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

This entry was written by HEIST co-director/co-producer Frances Causey.

In opening the 113th Congress last Thursday House Speaker John Boehner declared that debt is imperiling the American Dream. This is the kind of intentionally misleading narrative Republicans, in collusion with corporate America and conservative think tanks, have spent 40 years and billions of dollars developing. Unfortunately, the old adage rings true that if you repeat a lie enough it becomes fact.

First, Speaker Boehner you are a bit confused about debt. And so are you Mr. President. Debt is not stealing the American Dream. Corporate America and its political collusion with Democrats and Republicans are. But lets cut to the political-economic quick America, we have one political party-the corporate party.

Look to any primer on debt provided by progressive economists like Dean Baker who predicted our economic collapse. According to Baker, the housing collapse, brought on by reckless Wall St. financial scams (think sub-prime mortgage and collateralized mortgage backed bonds), sank the world economy –and the steps that government took to counter all of this—created the preponderance of our debt. According to Baker this is indisputable. Many other economists like Robert Kuttner also echo this.

In 2007 the budget deficit was just 1.2 percent of gross domestic product output, a very reasonable amount. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this year’s deficit will measure 7.3% of GDP. So the increase in the public debt since 2007 can be squarely placed at the foot of Wall Street. Financial corporations (Countrywide, etc.) peddled “debt” to those who could least afford it, those who yearned for their slice of the American Dream-owning a home. Even former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson admitted in a 2009 Vanity Fair article that he and his Wall Street cohorts said housing would continue to go up in value. But Conservatives love to blame the victims as part of their narrative in order to rally their base, which conveniently believes that personal debt caused our current troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren who studied this extensively while at Harvard. I think it’s more plausible to blame those at the top of the pyramid who knew exactly what they were doing.

But tell that to Speaker Boehner and the “fix the debt” Corporate CEO’s who apparently were inspired by the guy who got us into this mess in the first place- Alan Greenspan! So instead of fixing the roots of the problem, which is corporate control of politics and the economy, these corporate acolytes want to instead swoop in and fix (in the coming negotiations over extending the debt ceiling) what ain’t broke, which is Social Security and Medicare!

In his speech Speaker Boehner said that if we “free ourselves from our debt“ (read that: reduce the social safety net) our economy will be set free and jobs will come home. Oh the hypocrisy! You know as well as anyone, Mr. Speaker, that most manufacturing jobs are not coming back to America.

Jobs are leaving America because you, at the behest of the corporations, passed laws that made exporting jobs incredibly profitable. Those laws are enabling 70 U.S. based corporations to not pay taxes on over 1.2 TRILLION in profits around the world.

In his remarks, Speaker Boehner cites that debt is “draining free enterprise”. Corporate profits have never been higher, but nor has inequality, a fact you will never hear from the Speaker. Work no longer pays in America. The game is fundamentally rigged and ordinary people who do everything right, who play by rules, still end up with the short end of the stick.

But make no mistake, the corporate party knows there is plenty of prosperity in America-it’s in the hands of the 1%. Investors all over the world are plowing into U.S. Treasury bonds, signaling a federal government nowhere near default. CEO’s know this, politicians know this and Wall Street investors know this but the media doesn’t, or at least doesn’t understand or acknowledge it, and therefore most Americans don’t either. I call it media free of fact.

But the reality Mr. Speaker, one that working Americans feel in their guts everyday, is that since the great collapse- created by corporate domination of our political economy-trillions in housing wealth has been lost, millions of families lost their homes to foreclosure, many millions more are underwater, millions remain out of work and over 46 million Americans live poverty. But you and your colleagues continue to play political games at the public’s expense and pander to the corporate elite who elected you. You can change that, by overseeing a government that represents ALL OF US, not just its profit at any cost corporations.

This entry is also available at Daily Kos.

You want true bipartisanship, you got it!

7:46 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

By Frances Causey

The fix is in. If you read the media tea leaves, it looks like Medicare and Social Security benefits will likely be cut to avoid going over the contrived fiscal cliff because signs are that BOTH U.S. political parties and the Obama Administration have already agreed to it. Reading between the lines of the media speaks volumes to this truth.

It is not so much what is being said by politicians but what ISN’T being said. Have you noticed the dog and pony show around President Obama “drawing a line in the sand” about tax increases for those making $200,000 and up, and House Majority leader John Boehner feigning a fight.

With his populist rhetoric, President Obama is sure to rally his “base” which will soften the blow when he cuts benefits to Medicare and Social Security. I particularly marveled when word leaked by the Obama Administration that he would not be averse to rescinding the tax increase after one year. Hint hint.

The reality? On matters of economics, the Democratic Party does not look a whole lot different from the Republican Party. The Democrats who are right of center as a party long ago abandoned the ideals of FDR who created policy that saved capitalism from itself in the 1930’s and defended working people against its excesses. We need today’s Democrats to put up a fight and they are taking a pass. Crimes of gargantuan proportions have been committed since the 1980’s and continue with instruments like derivatives. Now, the thievery continues with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. As Senator Bernie Sanders says in Heist.

If you really did the investigation, the Democrats would not be able to simply say; oh it was that George W. Bush, it was him. Well you know what, it was a lot of Bush. But I’m afraid the Republicans would be able to say, sorry, not just us, take a look at Robert Rubin, secretary of treasury under Bill Clinton, and all of the Rubin guys. They were working with Allan Greenspan; they were working with Phil Gramm, to deregulate all of this stuff. So you got true bipartisanship – everybody wants bipartisanship, you got it!

I’m still amused when I read or hear people talk about how both parties are separated by ideology with Democrats wanting big government while Republicans are for smaller government. This is just more subterfuge to deceive the public about what is really being negotiated between volleys on the Capital’s basement tennis courts. Both parties support big government to help their favorite industries (think Wall Street, military contractors or Big Pharma, for example,) and occasionally the 99%.

So Act Two of the ideological dog and pony show is trotted out on stage mainly to entertain the good ole boy network as Economic Policy Institute Co-founder Jeff Faux describes in Heist.

If Greenspan and Rubin had really believed the ideology that they preached, they would not have bailed out the S&L’s the way that Greenspan did.…Rubin would not have bailed out the Wall St. holders of Mexican bonds in nineteen ninety-five. Greenspan would not have bailed out the stock market in two thousand and two thousand one. The only explanation I can have for this is that it’s a class question. These people were protecting their class. And what class was that? That was the class – global class – the network of financial wheeler-dealers who had essentially dominated the world economy.

Did you see the actual details (or those NOT leaked to the media) of the financial wheeler-dealer and former Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles’ plan to repair our budget? These were provided by one of the two members (Elizabeth Warren being the other) of the Senate – Bernie Sanders – who retains any credibility.
According to Senator Sanders, Simpson-Bowles would cut Social Security benefits for current retirees by reducing the cost of living adjustment; cut Social Security benefits for middle class beneficiaries by 35 percent; raise the eligibility age of Social Security to 69; and cut Veterans benefits. (Remember during the campaign how both parties invoked these benefits as sacred.) But our favorite Simpson-Bowles bullet point is the one that would reduce taxes for the super rich and corporations, which has already done such wonders for our economy.

There is some good news. A truly progressive social movement is in its infancy in this country but who would know about it? Certainly not the mainstream news media. First we had Wisconsin, then Occupy Wall Street, the re-election of President Obama, the election of truly Progressive candidates Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren who demanded and won a seat on the senate banking services committee. And now we have fast food workers demanding a living wage and the right to join a union! Imagine that.

And the good people of California voted to raise taxes on the rich, defeated an anti-union initiative, and Washington state voted in legalization of gay marriage and marijuana. The 99% is awakening to the menace of corporate rule. Our work now is to not be fooled by the rhetoric of the Democrats who quietly and spinelessly agree to the severe, slow cuts outlined in Simpson-Bowles. Read behind the headlines to know where your bottom line is.

JeffreeB will be available for comment directly following publication.

This entry is also available on The Huffington Post and Daily Kos.