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ABC This Week’s Elites to Wisconsin Workers: “We Won, So Screw You All”

9:10 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

ABC’s This Week didn’t even make a pretense of being fair and balanced, let alone honest, because the truth probably frightens them. In covering the historic labor protests in Wisconsin, ABC stacked it’s panel with the elitist right wing propagandist George Will (left unchecked by his nemesis fact-checker, Paul Krugman), a Tea-GOP freshman from Florida, and a senior ABC reporter apparently okay with deficit hysteria, all arrayed against “labor Democrat” Donna Brazile.

Even the usually sensible host Amanpour wondered if the President’s mild statement about an “assault” on public employees went too far. Heavens, pass the smelling salts!

Ms. Brazile thus got barely one chance in four to push back on the rest of the elitist panel’s defense of why it’s absolutely essential that states balance their budgets on the backs of public employees immediately after Wisconsin’s Governor and the elitists Obama/Congress just gave corporations and the wealthiest Americans massive tax gifts.

So while Brazile was able to note that banksters and their elite friends had caused the near depression that tanked families and state budgets and caused over 400,000 state employees to lose their jobs, she didn’t have enough moments to point our that income equality in America is worse than Egypt, that the richest 1 percent get nearly a quarter of America’s wealth and income and that the wealthiest 10 percent capture more than half.

The ABC panel couldn’t recall that banksters were bailed out with trillions, that they reaped record bonuses, then record profits but face no significant tax on their reckless transactions. Also lost from memory are that Obama and Congress just handed the richest Americans hundreds of billions with promises of trillions more, that hedge fund managers face far lower tax rates for their billion dollar paydays or that many corporations, including those to whom Governor Walker just gave $100 million in tax breaks, pay no taxes at all. And if you don’t know what $1 billion will buy you, see Dave Johnson’s 9 pictures that expose this country’s obscene division of wealth.

In the face of such facts that ought to have millions of us in the streets, none of ABC’s elitists thought it worth wondering why public school teachers or any of America’s labor class should be asked to contribute a dime to Gov. Walker’s partly self-inflicted deficit, let alone make major salary concessions (which they’ve offered) or give up collective bargaining rights.

The set up to this elitist “I can’t hear you!” session was a report from ABCs Bob Woodruff in which he gave prominent coverage to a relatively tiny group of Tea-bots and their leader. The leader’s main argument for stripping employees of their collective bargaining rights was “we won, you lost,” which he repeatedly screamed at the protesters as he walked through the huge crowds surrounding the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Mr. Tea-bot’s message, echoed by George Will and endorsed by Amanpour was simple: This is about power, and we won, so we can do anything we want to screw you, including stripping you of rights that are fundamental in allocating wealth and privilege in a democratic society. No one noticed that this principle — that government should have the right to strip citizens of economic and political rights — is the direct opposite of the individual rights premise the Tea-Party falsely claims to support.

Woodruff had to follow the Tea-bot around, because the story had begun with a high school teacher who found himself a leader when public employees and their tens of thousands of allies showed up every day last week. That’s the biggest story in America, right now, but Woodruff couldn’t tell it straight. The idea that large numbers of ordinary Americans might be disgusted when their right wing government tries to disempower them and spontaneously gather by the tens of thousands to protest the Beltway’s core beliefs about the distribution of wealth is not something an elitist network can handle.

So Woodruff played it safe and hid from us what any third grade math student would have noticed. This was just dueling demonstrations, he said. Here’s Bob talking to group A’s leader, here’s Bob talking to group B’s leader. Here’s a cropped picture of some people in one group, here’s some in the other group. But for heaven’s sake, never show or explain that there were an estimated 10,000, then 30,000, and by Saturday, between 55,000 to 70,000 protesters in Madison alone, opposing Governor Walker’s rights-stripping plans, but only a mere 1,000 or less on the other side who had been rounded up and bused in courtesy of one of Koch Industry’s front groups.

Koch is one of America’s largest oil/gas resources conglomerates and a major contributor to the Walker campaign. These were the equivalent of Mubarak’s paid thugs trying to provoke violence.

As Think Progress and others have reported, one of Koch’s front groups, Americans for Prosperity, is a major funder of the Tea Party; it helps organize and pay for “grass roots” Tea Party events.

Koch is also the founder of a right wing front group called American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), through which Koch and other corporations fund right wing think tanks and literally buy studies and op-eds in support of legislation for right wing state legislators. Among ALEC’s priorities, in addition to bills like Arizona’s to use the state police to bust undocumented workers, is to bust unions, both public and private. So it’s largely Koch/ALEC’s water that Wisconsin’s Governor Walker, as well as the right wing governors in Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida, are carrying.

One of ALEC’s hacks appeared with the inept Judy Woodruff on PBS News Hour last week. His role was to make certain that the American Federation of Teachers rep who tried to explain why the Wisconsin protests were important was forced to answer propaganda manufactured by ALEC. All of that should have been debunked before hand by PBS. But as usual, PBS didn’t bother to tell us who ALEC is, or who fronts them, and as usual with Judy’s “reporting,” that interview left viewers more misinformed than they were before.

We are overwhelmed in this fight if it’s fought in the elite media. But as Egypt showed us, the real numbers in the street are the counterbalance. If you’re in/near Wisconsin, or any of the other states where solidarity or related demonstrations are scheduled, go.

Nobel Economist Hints NYT Propaganda Against Public Pensions Can’t Be Trusted

1:18 pm in Executive Branch, Government, Media, Politics by Scarecrow

Can it be the New York Times worries it may lose the fact-free deficit hysteria propaganda market to the Washington Post? Today’s Times has its leading front page article suggesting public employee retirements benefits are so out of control and breaking the backs of state budgets that we may need a Constitutional Amendment to push States into bankruptcy. That way, the poor states can renege on their promises to public employees, defy their own state constitutions, and just for giggles, break the backs of employee unions.

The two-column, front page headline hides the responsibility for this propaganda hit piece in the passive voice:

A Path is Sought for States To Escape Debt Burdens

. . . which is followed by the subheading, “Traditional Bankruptcy Is Not an Option, but Versions of It Gain Support.”

The editorial viewpoint in this “news” is then reinforced by the first five paragraphs, all above the fold, making it appear that responsible policy makers are hard at work trying to solve this very hard problem before it forces defunding of essential public programs. Just marvel at the dishonest journalism:

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.

Bankruptcy could permit a state to alter its contractual promises to retirees, which are often protected by state constitutions, and it could provide an alternative to a no-strings bailout. Along with retirees, however, investors in a state’s bonds could suffer, possibly ending up at the back of the line as unsecured creditors.

So who are these heroes, these responsible “policy makers” and unnamed “proponents” and “members of Congress” who are quietly thinking about ways to save the Republic? Well, it’s the same gaggle of budget deficit hysterics who have systematically lied about the debt and the “crisis” in Social Security. The article eventually cites Sen. John Cornyn, House Republicans, and the paragon of fiscal virtue, Newt Gingrich! Those would be the same budget arsonists who gave us two unfunded wars ($1-3 trillion), an unfunded drug benefit (another trillion), Bush tax cuts (more trillions) and want extensions of the same (trillions and trillions) . . . forever!

It is not until we get inside the paper that the Times bothers to ask an employee rep what he thinks about this nonsense. And buried in a later paragraph, the Times barely mentions a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, but with little about what the CBPP says that might rebut the deficit/pension hysterics. It’s doubtful most readers will bother to check, even if they’ve read this far.

Enter a certain Nobel economist, who, unable to post much because he’s traveling, gives us this short note:

Probably no posting, unless we get stranded in some airport somewhere.

If you want something to read, look at Iris Lav’s debunking of myths about state and local finances

Huh. So what does the economist want us to read? Well, only that same CBPP report, where honest folks have politely but utterly debunked the entire premise of the Times front page and pension hysteria propaganda. The CPBB report is well written and should be read from beginning to end, but here are a few highlights:

A spate of recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.

The large operating deficits that most states are projecting for the 2012 fiscal year, which they have to close before the fiscal year begins (on July 1 in most states), are caused largely by the weak economy. . . . [i.e., the US could easily fix that, as they did partly in the stimulus act]

Unlike the projected operating deficits for fiscal year 2012, which require near-term solutions to meet states’ and localities’ balanced-budget requirements, longer-term issues related to bond indebtedness, pension obligations, and retiree health insurance — discussed more fully below — can be addressed over the next several decades. It is not appropriate to add these longer-term costs to projected operating deficits. Nor should the size and implications of these longer-term costs be exaggerated, as some recent discussions have done. Such mistakes can lead to inappropriate policy prescriptions.

What follows is a point-by-point debunking of all the fact-free gibberish from deficit hysterics that’s repeated on the Times front page. Samples:

Some observers claim that states and localities have run up huge bond indebtedness, in part to finance operating costs, and that there is a high risk that a number of local governments will default on their bonds. Both claims are greatly exaggerated. [followed by further historical data and rebuttal] . . .

Some observers claim that states and localities have $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities and that pension obligations are unmanageable, may cause localities to declare bankruptcy, and are a reason to enact a federal law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. Some also are calling for a federal law to force states and localities to change the way they calculate their pension liabilities (and possibly to change the way they fund those liabilities as well). Such claims overstate the fiscal problem, fail to acknowledge that severe problems are concentrated in a small number of states, and often promote extreme actions rather than more appropriate solutions. [followed by more factual rebuttals, including an explanation how misrepresenting or manipulating the assumed discount rate can make a more manageable $700 billion deficit look like a scarier $3 trillion deficit ]. . .

– States and localities have managed to build up their pension trust funds in the past without outside intervention. They began pre-funding their pension plans in the 1970s, and between 1980 and 2007 accumulated more than $3 trillion in assets. There is reason to assume that they can and will do so again, once revenues and markets fully recover.

– States and localities have the next 30 years in which to remedy any pension shortfalls. As Alicia Munnell, an expert on these matters who directs the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has explained, “even after the worst market crash in decades, state and local plans do not face an immediate liquidity crisis; most plans will be able to cover benefit payments for the next 15-20 years.” [5] States and localities do not need to increase contributions immediately, and generally should not do so while the economy is still weak and they are struggling to provide basic services. . . . [more follows]

Once again, the same intellectually dishonest deficit hysterics who have been conning the public and the media into believing we face imminent financial crisis that can only be solved by cutting Social Security, are pulling the same con about public pensions. The con is to get states to renege on commitments, some embedded in state constitutions (so much for conservative reverence for the 10th Amendment!), to fund public pension/retirement programs that employees worked, paid, and bargained for, while claiming we have no choice. It’s a lie.

It’s shameful that the New York Times is not reporting this straight but has instead published a blatantly misleading propaganda piece on the front page of its news section.