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In Cowboys and Aliens, Humans Win; In Washington’s Zombies Vs. Pods, They Lose

6:14 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

"Here You Leave Today and Enter the World of Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy"

"Here You Leave Today and Enter the World of Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy" by IceNineJon on flickr

To escape the fantasy world of confidence fairies, invisible bond vigilantes and the economic zombies and pod people who dominate Washington, I went to see Cowboys and Aliens. It was a healthy, life-affirming return to reality.  If you prefer horror films, watch CSPAN 2.

In this fun Hollywood escape, violent, prejudiced men trapped in their own machismo join with repressed victims of genocide to confront rapacious creatures  intent on capturing the gold market. People captured by the gold freaks are turned into zombies to feed the looters.  The heroes are Indiana Jones, 007, and the last of the Mohicans played phoenix-like by the pretty House Lady. There’s a liberal bartender and a kid who becomes a man by dissecting a bug.   In the end, the humans of all types realize they have to join together to defeat the rapacious creatures who are looting the planet and turning humans into zombies and pod people.   There’s hope for our species!

Back in Washington, D.C. there are no heroes and no upbeat ending.  Instead, the looting, muggings and beatings will continue until morale improves.

In our “real” world, there is a radical extremist group driven by zombies and zombie beliefs who successfully blackmail the nation into strangling its own economy.   The supposedly “sane” group that is supposed to stop this madness has become cowardly and turned into mindless pod people, who assure the nation that the  gutting of American government and essential services and safety nets won’t occur in one step but in several, whose outcome is locked in by an undemocratic Super Congress and the next debt limit blackmail in 2013. Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Sings Tea-GOP Song to Unemployed: La, La, La, We Can’t Hear You!

11:40 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

President Obama appeared in the Rose Garden this morning to respond to the dismal jobs report (Baker; more here from Konczal) that showed unemployment rising to 9.2 percent over 18 months after the recession supposedly ended. He responded by not mentioning that number or grappling with what it means.

Instead, he continued the excuses and pseudo-economic gibberish that makes sense only to Tea-GOP Zombies and which explains why we’ve made virtually no progress in regaining the jobs we lost. He no longer has a meaningful jobs program but is instead clinging to confidence fairies and expansionary austerity unicorns, which are even less helpful than guns and bibles. It has become pathological.

Misjudging the situation and denying responsibility have become the trademarks of Mr. Obama’s economic record. And so our economy remains at risk, not only because it’s under unrelenting assault by economic Luddites but because he keeps his head in the sands of Tea-GOP talking points.

The only honest response Mr. Obama could have given would be an admission that his employment recovery plans had failed. Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke saved the banks, for now, and our slanted tax laws and trade agreement outsourcing saved large corporations who are now sitting on nearly $2 trillion in unspent, uninvested funds.

That $2 trillion is about what the economy needs to put a large chunk of the jobless back to work. But there’s no one left in this Administration who either cares or knows how to refocus the nation’s vast wealth to save desperate states, under- and unemployed workers, the uninsured and everyone else in desperate need.

Obama conceded during the twitter event that he and his advisers underestimated the severity of the Great Recession he inherited. Fair enough; lots of smart people did. The last two administrations created the reckless conditions for a housing bubble, financial collapse and an economic depression, and it almost happened. But what are the implications of that truth? Read the rest of this entry →

David Brooks Is Disgusted . . . With the Wrong People

7:42 am in Economy, Executive Branch, Legislature, Politics by Scarecrow

David Brooks is disgusted at the Tea-GOP Zombies. In another bridge-burning column, he calls out the Tea-GOP Zombies for being not only ideological zealots “unable to accept compromise,” but also anti-intellectual morons having “no sense of moral decency.”

But before you cheer Brooks’ acknowledgement of what the rest of the planet realized long ago, consider what it is Brooks believes is morally indefensible versus what is reasonable and wise.

It seems those crazy Tea-GOP Zombies are immoral because they are preventing the presumably “moderate” GOP leadership from accepting the “deal of the century” on deficit reduction. They thus risk having voters conclude that the Tea-GOP has become nothing more than destructive fanatics who are “unfit to govern.” Uh, where have you been, Joe DiMaggio?

Though the Tea-GOP Zombies reject it for the wrong reasons, the “deal of the century” is not something the American people should want. Brooks can’t even get the most basic facts right. He claims this deal offers a 3:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. Uh, it’s more like 6:1 5:1, with revenues only 17 percent, but what’s a little math error when you’ve missed the larger point.

He claims it does nothing to imperil economic recovery, even though economists explain that any deficit reduction now will hurt the near-term recovery. Christy Romer points out that spending cuts will do more damage than tax increases; indeed, tax increases or spending cuts on the middle class are worse for the economy than increased taxes or spending cuts on the rich.

He claims the deal does not increase marginal tax rates, a favorite canard of those who can’t connect the dots when the feds deprive states of needed funding to prevent massive layoffs and cuts. States raise effective tax rates on public employees by cutting salaries and pensions and raising employee benefit contributions. If the tax rates on the rich were increased enough to avoid these de facto middle class tax increases, Brooks would be howling along with Cantor and Boehner about how unfair it all is and how foolish it is to raise taxes in a bad economy.

He claims the deal would put the country on a sound fiscal footing. Uh, no it won’t. In a rational world, sound fiscal footing needs solid growth and keeping productive workers employed and fairly sharing in the nation’s wealth, but this deal won’t help. We need an increase in tax rates or lower wealth transfers and subsidies for the wealthiest Americans for the simple reason those are unfair and wasteful. Those folks have hoovered up virtually all of the economy’s growth over the last two decades.

A sound fiscal policy would move to correct a maldistribution that is producing record poverty, record numbers of folks without health insurance, massive unemployment, starving education, and declining prospects for the bottom two thirds of Americans.

Even in strict budgetary terms, the long-run debt numbers are driven by the rise in private health care costs. While the reported “deal of the century” hacks away at Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security cost of living adjustments, so they don’t cover actual cost of living increases) — programs that benefit primarily the middle class and poor — nothing suggests the folks at Joe Biden’s dining table have seriously tackled the industry’s greed, graft and market aggregation that are raising private health care costs faster than GDP growth.

So in the end, the “deal of the century” might cut $3 or $4 trillion from the federal debt but leave the national economy still at risk.

Nevermind that the negotiators are doing nothing to alter the continued looting and hoovering out of the American economy by an undertaxed, underregulated financial sector — heaven forbid we consider a financial transaction tax! Yet this is what Brooks calls “sound fiscal footing.”

The sad reality is that the supposedly sane, non-fanatic and fiscally responsible actors in Brooks’ morality play are themselves irresponsible loons facilitating the hollowing out of America. The Tea-GOP Zombies can at least claim they believe in what they’re doing, and their defense is ignorance and insanity. But only the most cynical hypocrites would claim there’s any coherent theory to what President Obama, the Democrat leadership and the supposedly “moderate” Republicans are now proposing to do to America.

A budget deal is supposed to help matters, not retard them. But there’s nothing here to actually help the American economy, nothing to resolve the housing decline, no theory or relevant precedent under which any sensible person can claim otherwise. There’s no help for the states, no protection for workers, no relief for the unemployed, no fix of a still broken health system, no funding for decaying infrastructure, no boost to education. There’s nothing here to end America’s ruinous $4 trillion wars nor question the “we can attack any nation or assassinate anyone, anywhere, anytime” mindset.

There’s no transition to an alternative energy future, no vision of any future that even catches up with what other modern nations already have and do. We once built transcontinental railroads to speed people and goods across the nation. The Europeans and Japanese now do this 2 or 3 times faster than we do. The Chinese are rapidly laying high speed rail tracks while we lay off teachers and argue about Amtrak.

Deal of the century? More like the deal that guaranteed America’s continuing decline. That’s the “no-brainer.” So who are the irresponsible idiots in this story, David?

Update, via Politico, we learn Brooks has the Tea-GOP confused about percentages, never mind currency sovereigns.

“If we are net borrowing every year, adding to debt, then we will never be in position to fulfill a ‘sacred pledge to pay the money back,’” Morrissey wrote. “ That’s a rather large flaw in fiscal policy and in Brooks’ logic, which may be one reason why some of these Republicans don’t pay much attention to ‘intellectual authorities’ like, er, David Brooks.”

Uh, if we have healthy growth so that the GDP is expanding at a rate faster than the debt, then the aggregate debt can increase every year but it becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP. So there is no problem paying it back, even in their framework. Of course, this requires fourth grade math.

Tim Pawlenty: No Credit Risk In Debt Default If We Pay Foreign Investors First

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

A week ago, George Will advised Tim Pawlenty that now was the moment for him to make his move. On ABC’s This Week, Pawlenty did so. He got in the “let’s play chicken with the debt limit” car and headed it straight towards the cliff, joining the growing list of Tea-GOP presidential wannabes who should never be given a license to drive.

Pawlenty’s first response to Christiane Amanpour’s question whether we should raise the debt limit was a seemingly unqualified, “I don’t think we should raise the debt limit.”  He then followed with the usual rhetoric on spending.

“Really, not raise it,” she asked? Pawlenty replied by saying “there are serious people challenging the premise [that we have to  raise it],” then follwed with a duck: “we don’t really know what would happen.”  He then repeated that “serious people”  have “written thoughtfully” minimizing the risks.

(As in “we have top men working on this.”  “Who?”  “Top men.”)

Then Tim gave us this assurance:  We don’t need to worry about any impact on our international credit standing, because we can always pay foreign creditors with the revenues we have.   Are you listening, Wall Street? Pension funds?

So who are these “serious people” minimizing the risks?  In a previous post, I noted that the Tea-GOP Zombies were tapping right wing media/”think tank” hacks to invent reasons why we shouldn’t worry too much about risking a default on the national debt.  Their argument had evolved to note we’d have enough incoming revenues to pay interest on the debt, while failing to mention that meant something else would not be covered.  Tim didn’t mention that either, and Christiane did not think to ask what those other things might be.

Now Pawlenty is taking the “pay the bond holders first” argument one step further:  Pay the foreign bond holders first.

Sooner or later, everyone else who has to wait in line behind the Chinese and European banks is going to catch on that the Tea-GOP Zombies, including the supposedlly “moderate” Tim Pawlenty, are okay driving them off the cliff.   And they’re going to conclude that this entire Zombie party should not be given a driver’s license.

Obama Hits An Easy One, Rachel Maddow Cheers

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In a memorable segment of the movie, American President, Michael J. Fox’s character, Lewis, tells the President that people are so hungry for leadership they’ll crawl towards a mirage and even drink the sand. The cynical President replies that the reason is “they don’t know the difference.”

The reaction of liberals to the President’s speech Wednesday reminds us how thirsty liberals/progressives have been for President Obama to show the slightest hint of courageous and progressive leadership. So when Obama, who has repeatedly betrayed liberal values cherished by the Democratic Party since FDR, finally said what liberals/progressives have been saying for months, much of the liberal community cheered or at least said, “finally!” But this was easy.

This President has spent the last 18 months undermining liberal values, nowhere more blatant than his repetition of Tea-GOP talking points about deficits and debts, and how government had to tighten its belt because that’s what families do. What gibberish. His convening of the Catfood Commission, whose chair proposals would worsen the distribution of wealth towards the rich, and his partial endorsement of its framing today still hang over Social Security and other safety net programs.

Candidate Obama often told voters that government programs are both legitimate and necessary as a collective response to problems that can overwhelm millions of individuals if left alone. In today’s speech, we heard candidate Obama again, with only a hint of the Obama who’s been our President for two years. Which is the water? Which is the sand?

You could see this one coming late Friday night when the Tea-GOPs and the White House confirmed the deal to cut spending by some still undetermined amount for the fiscal year 2011 budget. The reaction among liberals, including some deep into what Jane Hamsher calls the “veal pen,” was almost universal disgust. You could see the concerns in the blog posts at WaPo, at TNR, at Mother Jones; you could feel the disillusionment in angry tweets.

It was clear by the weekend that the White House was facing a potential revolt among even the more loyal but now wavering followers, so something had to be done. And they sent White House adviser David Plouffe to do it, on four cable/network Sunday shows.

My guess is that Plouffe’s priority was to change the subject. The new topic, which immediately grabbed the compliant media’s headlines, was the announcement that Obama would make a speech on Wednesday laying out his framework for deficit reductions. It would be Obama versus Paul Ryan and the Tea-GOPs. Great theater. Supporters stopped moaning and waited.

Political genius? Hardly. All Obama had to do was beat pitiful Paul Ryan, the Tea-GOP’s budget flim flam man. Ryan not only fixed the numbers, he proposed to dismantle Medicare, the very program the GOP ran on saving from the evil Obama last November. How stupid is that? And he did it with a set of arguments and numbers that were so blatantly dishonest and so easily debunked that he left himself and his party exposed. Even better, Party leaders and numerous Tea-GOP Zombies endorsed Ryan’s budget, making it the official Tea-GOP position.

From that point on, Attila the Hun could have found room to run to the left of the radical Ryan Tea-GOP Zombies. My cat could’ve hit this one.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that even the inept political team in this White House realized they’d been handed a gift. All they had to do was to restate the central premise of American politics since FDR: Americans accept that while we honor individual initiative and freedom, we also share a collective responsibility to take care of each other, especially in individual or collective tough times. And the core programs that honor that belief — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — are sacred.

That core human value is not just liberal or progressive, though liberals embrace it without question. It transcends the left-right dichotomy. Every advanced society embraces it. The only people who don’t are Randian nuts and corporate thugs.

So I”m glad Rachel Maddow is happy with the President’s speech; Cenk was ecstatic, and Ed’s all aglow. But their President just made one of the easiest, most obvious political statements one can imagine, given how extreme and radical Paul Ryan and his Tea-GOP Zombies have become.

The only wonder is that it took so long for this White House and Dem leaders to make this move. The argument was available before November; it was available in December when Obama gave away what he said today he would never give away again. But it would have taken a bit more courage back then.

So was this a great liberal/progressive statement by a courageous President? Yes, as Rachel said, he made a lot of good points — good for him — but points that have been obvious and unsaid for over a year. He only made them now after Paul Ryan’s radical extremism made them easy to say.

What more could a courageous liberal have said? Ask yourself, where was the proposal to provide additional funding to states to replenish their unemployment insurance funds or to relieve states of their huge Medicaid burden, at least until employment recovers or the expanded Medicaid kicks in in 2014?

Where was the defense of government employees and the sanctity of their pension contracts? Where’s the major jobs program for the 25 million still unemployed or underemployed? Where is the warning that austerity plans are already hurting European economies and could hurt ours too?

Where’s the defense of climate change efforts in the face of the Tea-GOP meat axe to EPA? Where’s the defense of financial regulation or the proposal to tax Wall Street casino deals or clamp down on too easy money flowing into derivatives/commodities speculation?

Why was it okay to claim as a “savings” the unused funds for poor women and children merely because the states neglected to seek them out? What about the women who need family planning in DC?

The President got a soft slow pitch and he hit it out. Now, let’s see him hit a fastball and a curve and do it with the game on the line. We’re waiting.

Obama DemoPods Feed Tea-GOP Zombies, Keep Washington Monument Open

6:05 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

You would think that a sentient President of the United States would be embarrassed, ashamed, and contrite after one of the more mindless and destructive governmental performances in years. Nope. Not the President who foolishly believes the federal government needs to tighten its belt because he’s clueless about the difference between families and the federal government. Has there ever been a Democratic President more befuddled about what leadership requires?

Having locked his own DemaPod Party into voting to slash $38 billion for their own programs, Mr. Obama didn’t apologize. Instead he thought it was a moment to make another speech urging you to visit the Washington Monument, as though he were George Bush telling you to visit Disneyland. Why anyone would want to watch this spectacle of a government and party betraying their followers and making fools of themselves from the top of the Washington Monument escapes me.

This President owes an explanation to the American people why, at a time when the nation’s critical needs are going unmet at both the federal and state levels, when 50 million people are without health insurance, record numbers in poverty, 14 million people are unemployed — millions for more than a year — and Governors are balancing their budgets on the backs of teachers, firemen, police, health and safety workers, etc, he thinks the right policy is to slash federal spending even though the wealthiest Americans control 40 percent of the wealth and just got hundreds of billions in tax cut gifts.

It is wrong, stupid, cruel, mindless. In short, it’s a mistake. [As Dean Baker reminds us,] Moody’s Mark Zandi just explained that giving the Zombies what they demand would cost up to 700,000 jobs. So if you give them 2/3 of that now, we’ll lose about 465,000 jobs just this round. Yet Obama did not bother to contradict Mr. Boehner, who told the media this package will “help create a better environment for job creators.” In which alternate universe? Is anyone watching Ireland, Portugal, the UK, where these same austerity policies are hurting their economies?

The final vote in favor of setting this travesty in motion was overwhelming, indicating the degree to which Pods and Zombies now control our government. Of course, the richest individuals and corporations walked away from this zombie feeding unscathed.

Worse, Obama and the DemoPods foolishly maneuvered themselves into providing more than enough votes for the “largest spending cuts” in our history just so the 40 or so craziest Tea-GOP zombies could vote still “no.”

That neat trick means the Tea-GOP zombies can avoid responsibility for the dirty work the Obama DemoPods just performed on their own base, but not offend their own zombie base. Then they can come back in the next round, only a month away to demand even more insane cuts than last night’s.

And if you care about the “leadership” imagery, John Boehner just made Barack Obama look like a helpless fool. Boehner will get a few dumb primary threats, but he’s got two more rounds of this to feed the Zombies and he’s perfectly positioned for that.

Worse, Boehner will receive kudos from the Village for getting more than he first demanded and more than he ever expected, at zero cost to his party, while getting credit for being what passes for an “adult” in our nation’s captial. Gosh, he’s not at all like the Zombies whose agenda he just furthered.

“Compromise” is what the polls said Democratic voters wanted, but where are the compromises with the elements voters wanted in the deal? Repeal tax breaks on the rich? Make GE and their ilk pay their share of taxes? Tax the banksters for their casino games? Stop fighting needless wars? Never even considered.

Instead, the “compromise” consisted of the DemoPods giving the Tea-GOP Zombies 2/3 of what they demanded in this hostage feeding, instead of 3/3. But the Zombies still hold the hostages, because this will all replay on the debt limit debate a month from now, when Obama leads the DemoPods to feed the Zombies again.

You really have to wonder how many real people becoming DemoPods it will take before the last human Democrats wake up screaming that Barack Obama is destroying the Party and hurting the country. How much destruction will it take for them to stand up and say, “enough! I won’t let you lead us over the cliff again.”

David Dayen provides a thorough survey of the wreckage and what it means. More human casualty lists are in the New York Times.