Monday, January 31, 2011

BILL MAHER, "WHAT MAKES NFL FOOTBALL SO GREAT: SOCIALISM"


Bill Maher uses humor to point out what many don't like to see ...

New Rule: With the Super Bowl only a week away, Americans must realize what makes NFL football so great: socialism. That's right, for all the F-15 flyovers and flag waving, football is our most successful sport because the NFL takes money from the rich teams and gives it to the poor teams... just like President Obama wants to do with his secret army of ACORN volunteers.

Read the rest here.

- Mark

P.S. For an interesting primer on the players dispute with the NFL owners check out this piece.

THE GOP'S STRANGE POSITION(S) ON RAPE & SPOUSAL ABUSE

Remember when Republican Senators voted to allow the health care industry to deny women insurance coverage if they were ever a victim of domestic violence? The rationale - straight from the insurance lobby handbook - was that spousal abuse was considered a "pre-existing condition" because if you were beaten once you're more likely to be beaten again. So Republican Senators voted to allow spousal abuse to be classified as a pre-existing condition, which allowed the insurance industry to deny victims of domestic violence insurance coverage. Nice.

Well, hold on to your hats. The Republicans are at it again. Only this time it deals with rape. Check this out.
... the new Republican-controlled House is already obnoxiously redefining "rape" in pieces of legislation. Under their plan, only abortions from "forcible rape" would be eligible for government funding, instead of the much simpler "rape."
Put another way, if you want an abortion and don't have the money for one don't go looking for Medicare or Medicaid to cover rapes involving drugs or alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacities, incest over the age of 18, and date rapes (among others). Sanctity of life, you know.

What will they think of next  ...

- Mark

Here's the GOP Senators who earlier voted to allow insurance companies to deny coverage to domestic violence victims.

* Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
* Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
* John Ensign (R-Nev.)
* Mike Enzi (R-Wy.)
* Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
* Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)
* Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
* Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
* Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
* Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)



Thursday, January 27, 2011

THIS IS YOUR MARKET ON CRACK ...

The good folks over at Zero Hedge have done us a favor and provided a list of 21 graphs and charts from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's report on the 2007-2008 market collapse. Here it is. The graphs make it clear that we're still in a mess. Seriously.

Want to know how much Wall Street has been betting on the real goods and services produced in the market? Check out this chart ...


______________________________________________

Note: In market-speak, the bets made (both for and against) on financial instruments, which are listed under "Gross Market Value," is represented by the "notional amount" (of outstanding derivative positions) ... I know, I know. But that's how Wall Street speaks.   
______________________________________________

As you can see, the bets on financial instruments (and claims on money) almost hit $700 trillion by 2008. How much is that? Our entire economy is forecasted to produce only about $15 trillion worth of tangible goods and services this year!

One thing becomes clear. After 2004, if not sooner, private investors and the market players on Wall Street began smoking some kind of financial crack.



- Mark

IT'S HERE ... WHAT CAUSED THE MARKET CRASH

Here's the 2007-2008 market crash report from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) that we've been anticipating for some time now.

FCIC report

A preliminary staff report from the FCIC, that says pretty much the same thing as this 600+ page report (and says it in only 42 pages), can be found here.

Three points, for now, should stand out for the Fox News/Republican crowd:


1. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "followed rather than led Wall Street and other lenders in the rush for fool's gold" (p. 26)

2. Deliquency rates for Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac instruments were "substantially lower" than those purchased and securitized by other private financial firms (i.e. our "shadow banking" system).

3. By the end of 2008 the mortgages that were securitized by private and Wall Street led investors - again, our "shadow banking" system - were far more likely to be "seriously deliquent" than those from Fannie and Freddie (28.3% vs. 6.2%).

No wonder the Republican "Primer" issued in December ommitted the terms "Wall Street," "deregulation," and "shadow banking." Their political and financial overlords are worried that their greed and gambling would be exposed, and they needed some political cover.

If there's any coverage on this report watch for Fox News and Wall Street's apologists in Washington to point to "discord" and "disunity" on the commission, and then hold up the Republican "primer" as evidence of honest dissent.
- Mark

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DOUBLING DOWN ON THE CRAZY

While Rep. Paul Ryan's response to President Obama's State of the Union address was notable for Ryan's fuzzy math, Rep. Michelle Bachmann's (R-MN) "fail to connect the dots" response to President Obama's speech was a classic [what do you know Fox News has scrubbed Bachmann's video; try this if the link below doesn't work] ...



A government that tells us which light bulbs to buy? 16,500 IRS/health care police? Oh, my ...

As I watched Bachmann speak I couldn't help but drift towards this Patsy Cline hit ...




- Mark

PAUL RYAN'S MAKE BELIEVE WORLD

Where's Joe "you lie" Wilson when you need him?


Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) - who has had trouble with numbers before - was selected by the Republicans to respond to President Obama's State of the Union speech. Political Correction has the goods on his make believe world views here, while the Huffington Post and Paul Krugman also have commentary.

Below are some of the Ryan "you lie" lowlights.

*************************

PAUL RYAN: The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies - an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as 'investment.' Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.

THE SPENDING FACTS:
Imagine that you worked really hard, and saw your pay go up from $43,000 in 2008 to $47,000 in 2009. You got an additional set of "one-time" commissions and bonuses that added up to $25,000 for your hard work (for a yearly total of $72,000 in 2009). Simple enough, right?

Your hard work continues through the next year and you get a raise. You now earn $53,000. But you get no bonuses or commissions like you did in 2009 because the bonuses were one-time. Did your wages and compensation in 2010 go up 84% from 2008 - as Paul Ryan might claim - or did your 2010 income actually rise just 24% from 2008?

Well, in Paul Ryan's world you saw a wage increase of 84% in 2010 because you got a bonus in 2009 (I know, I know ... it's his math, I'm just trying to explain it).

Try using Paul Ryan's math methods the next time you go into a bank for a loan. Apply your bonuses from the previous year(s) and see what they say, and what they do with your loan request.


********************

THE JOB FACTS:
To date, President Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs, while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs.
Here are the numbers in graph form.




In fact, since the Recovery Act (or Stimulus Money) was put into place, the Private Sector Has Added Jobs Every Month Since December 2009!

MORE JOB FACTS:
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the private sector shed 83,000 jobs in December 2009. Since then, the lowest monthly job gain was 16,000 in January 2010, and the highest was 241,000 in April 2010; private industries have added jobs for 12 straight months, the data show. Here's what the numbers look like in graph form.




But, wait. There's more ...

ECONOMY FACTS:
The non-partisan and highly respected Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the Stimulus Money (or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's policies) had the following effects in the third quarter of calendar year 2010. It ...

• Raised gross domestic product by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,

• Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,

• Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and

• Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise.
 
But, wait, there's even more that refutes Congressman Ryan's make believe, fact free, world. Princeton and Moody's Economists argue that the government's response to the market crisis was not only "Highly Effective" but that it has saved 8.5 million jobs.
 
There's more. Much more (which you can read here, here, and here), but Political Correction's stuff on the debt is especially good.
 
Suffice it to say that Congressman Paul Ryan's State of the Union response was disingenuous at best but can be explained by the fact that he's probably a lying sociopath.
 
And, keep in mind, Ryan is one of the GOP's pathetically named "Young Guns" who's supposed to lead them to the Promise Land. It gets worse. Ryan's also Chairman of the House Budget Committee.  
 
- Mark 

Monday, January 24, 2011

THE GOP'S 30 YEAR RACE TO THE BOTTOM


In an early James Bond classic the evil villain, Goldfinger, concocts an ingenious evil plan (aren't they all?). Goldfinger intends to irradiate the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox with an atomic device. The goal is to render the U.S. gold supply useless for decades. This, in turn, will make the value of Goldfinger's own gold holdings surge.

Achievement through sabotage - as opposed to achievement through hard work - is Goldfinger's way of helping us understand the Republican's decades long race to the bottom.

For the better part of thirty years the Republican strategy for acquiring power has been to dismantle and discredit the state by depriving it of cash, while dumping the worst mistakes of the market on to its books. Tax cuts for the rich and bailout politics for their political supporters have become the GOP's "irradiate the state" tools of choice.



Contamination by deliberate sabotage - like Goldfinger's irradiation plan  - allows the Republican Party to criticize a bailout saddled federal government and cash-strapped states who are increasingly unable to make even the most basic repairs.

Market players, who are made fabulously wealthy through continuous bailouts, reckless deregulation, and favorable legislation, grin and then make outlandish claims about the superiority of the private sector. That America's super wealthy have gotten even richer after thirty years of favorable legislation and the GOP's tax-cut-jihad is simply icing on their "hate-the-state" palooza.

The rationale for the Republican's Goldfinger-like irradiation policy today is really quite simple.

Recognizing that the Great Depression revealed the weaknesses of an unfettered marketplace the Republicans second bite at the "magic of the market" apple under Ronald Reagan exploded in their face. Thirty years of deregulation and tax cuts for the rich have pushed America's national debt from about $950 billion in 1980 to $14 trillion today (almost $11 trillion when President Obama was inaugurated). It also contributed to biggest market collapse since the Great Depression in 2008.

But it has also paid political dividends.

Today, with cities and states cash starved, and America's richest class getting even richer, the Republicans continue to harangue a discredited and "broken" state for shortcomings that their policies have made worse. Like Goldfinger's gold stock, the GOP's political stock rises every time they get someone in America to believe the state is the enemy.


Collapsing infrastructures and failed government responses have become the poster children of debt-strapped states that are increasingly burdened with challenges they don't have the resources to deal with (unless, of course, Wall Street needs trillions of dollars for wrecking the economy).



By squeezing resources from the state - and transferring them to America's richest class - the Republicans are on the verge of breathing political life into Grover Norquist's infamous quote, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

The fact that the state appears incapable of responding - or seems tone deaf - to natural disasters is beside the point. As long as the state gets blamed, the point is made. And like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, the Republicans party on through it all.


As Americans become increasingly frustrated with a toxic political environment, the state's problems are made worse by its seeming incompetence in the face of natural or market driven disasters.

Meanwhile, the ideas of the Republican Party, like Goldfinger's gold stash, have not been improved upon. In fact, they're not even trying. Think about it. The Republican Party voted to repeal President Obama's health care legislation last week - only to acknowledge that they had nothing to replace it ... The GOP complains about deficit spending, but continue to push for irresponsible tax cuts for the rich which make our deficits worse ... The current GOP leadership once proposed a budget with no numbers ... After railing against government spending for decades the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, couldn't think of a single program he would cut from the budget during his first week as Speaker.

Under the GOP's race to the bottom approach our future - like America's Gold reserves in the Goldfinger movie - is in trouble. Only this time it is being hijacked by ideologues who have no other strategy but to deprive and discredit the state. This race to the bottom has been going on for the better part of thirty years and - with the 2012 presidential season around the corner - won't be getting any better.

It's really that simple.

- Mark

UPDATE: I adapted this post for publication in our local paper, the Bakersfield Californian, which you can find by clicking here.  As well, this bumper sticker seems to fit in with the piece ...



Saturday, January 22, 2011

COLLEGES NOT TRAINING STUDENTS TO THINK CRITICALLY?



As George W. Bush once asked, Is our children learning? Apparently not in some cases. This study was reported in McClatchy News services ...

NEW YORK — An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.
Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study ...


But there is hope. The study also confirmed ...

... Greater gains in liberal arts subjects are at least partly the result of faculty requiring higher levels of reading and writing, as well as students spending more time studying, the study's authors found. Students who took courses heavy on both reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages in a semester) showed higher rates of learning.

A few points here.

First, this makes me even happier to see student complaints about too much reading in my classes. I regularly require 2-4 books for a 10 week course (also, I have never given a multiple choice exam).

Second, I would like to see how the study controls for course loads, class size (which compel some professors to limit page requirements and to tone down written exams), and adjuncts (who are prone to giving mulitple guess exams; they're easier to grade). Budget cuts do matter here.

Finally, the study is especially pertinent because it helps explain the number of students - who eventually become adults - who think Glenn Beck and Fox News are legitimate sources of information.

And, no, that last comment isn't a cheap shot.

- Mark

Friday, January 21, 2011

A BORROWERS' BILL OF RIGHTS

Are you tired of living in a world where the intgrity of the market is compromised, and the banks operate like this ...


If so take a look at RJ Eskow's "borrowers' bill of rights" for the financial sector. While his focus is on fixing foreclosure fraud, his suggestions would go a long way in getting Wall Street and the banks working on the side of the American consumer (which, by the way, Adam Smith said is supposed to be the primary goal of the market).

Here's ten commons sense regulatory suggestions from Eskow's piece that I like ...


1. Honor Contract Provisions (e.g. no altering terms when contracts are sold off).

2. Honor State/Local Laws (rather than allowing "dummy" corporations to bypass regulations).

3. Don't Allow Homes to Become Digital Gambling Chips.

4. No More Retroactive Immunity.

5. Public Admission of Wrongdoing in Plea Deals (like this sleazy Alabama deal done through JP Morgan).

6. Make Auditors Legally Liable.

7. No Bonuses if you Get Rescued.

8. If You Borrow From the Federal Reserve at 0% You Must Lend.

9. Banks Shouldn't Own Fee/Servicing Companies

10. Rescued Institutions Must Renegotiate Underwater Homeowners.


Read his article for the details, and more. They would go a long way in bringing integrity back to the market.

- Mark

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Primero Hay Que Aprender EspaƱol. Ranhou Zai Xue Zhongwen.

I was glad to see this Niochals Kristof article in the NY Times. Here's the opening:

A quiz: If a person who speaks three languages is trilingual, and one who speaks four languages is quadrilingual, what is someone called who speaks no foreign languages at all?

Answer: an American.

The article was nice to see, especially after I heard Rush Limbaugh do this ...

- Mark

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

REPUBLICAN SMOKE & MIRRORS CAMPAIGN

In December I wrote how the republicans want to absolve Wall Street and their congressional brethren's reckless deregulation policies from blame for the 2007-2008 market collapse. One of the tactics for doing so is to place blame on "the government" while deliberately failing to mention either "Wall Street" or "deregulation" in their reports on the market collapse.


In fact, I called their recently released report, which attempts to to exonerate Wall Street and deregulation, a joke. As a follow-up, I wrote an op-ed piece explaining what the GOP has done. It appeared in the Bakersfield Californian earlier today, which you can find here.

Enjoy.

- Mark

KEVIN McCARTHY ... STILL TAKING MARCHING ORDERS FROM LUNTZ

From Bakersfield Californian's  "Politics, Anyone?" ... It appears that our local Congressman Kevin McCarthy is getting his talking points from from GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz, again. Nothing of substance, just talking points that Luntz culled from his focus groups.


Here's what McCarthy has to say about health care, with my comments in bold/brackets. Kevin's references to the Frank Luntz school of political language from 2009 and Luntz' most recent health care survey appear in bold/red ...

****************


“Well, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

First of all let me say, I respect my friends on the other side of the aisle and I do believe you all, like us, want to improve America’s health care system. Congressional Republicans and Democrats don't differ on that goal [this puts McCarthy on the side of reform, which is a Luntz demand; p. 2].  

Where we differ, and differ quite drastically, is on how to accomplish this goal.

And the American people's opinion on health care reform radically differs from that, Mr. Speaker, of President Obama and the Congressional Democrats.

Americans understand that our health care system [Second time referring to it as a "system" instead of "your health care programs"; it appears this reverses Luntz's 2009 call to personalize the debate, by referring to it as Obama's "system" now], warts and all, is still the very best in the world [not so; he's pandering]. We have the best doctors, nurses, hospitals and health innovators in the world. We should be working together to improve the system rather than turning it over to thousands of health care bureaucrats [as opposed to keeping it the hands of tens of thousands of for profit health care insurance bureaucrats?], who believe they can make better choices than patients and doctors.

You know the debate today is a little different than the debate I remember when this bill was passed, Mr. Speaker.

Members are not held over for a weekend vote. There are not protestors outside rallying, wanting to, Mr. Speaker, to have their voices be heard [he's referring to the Tea Baggers absence here]. Today is an open, cordial discussion [because everyone knows that House Republican efforts are a political stunt, and will be derailed in the Senate].

That’s what the American people asked for [we didn't ask for stunts ...], a health care system that works, that doesn't deter [nothing about access or soaring private costs here]. A health care system devised by the patient and doctor [see #7].

Mr. Speaker, our families deserve better, our small businesses deserve better and to all my colleagues, America deserves better [left unsaid is how McCarthy and the vast majority of his congressional colleagues enjoy what they want to deny to 32 million Americans - access to health care, though they don't want anyone to know they chose government health care over private health providers].

Let’s repeal this health care bill. Start to replace it with an open and honest debate where the American people are involved [which includes a role for government], patients are involved, doctors are involved and the American public can have a health care bill that lowers the cost without destroying jobs [disingenuous at best; really just a lie] and health care system that keeps the innovation we know so well. I yield back.”
**************

Several clarifying points here.

First, since President Obama signed health reform into law on March 23, 2010, the economy has created approximately 1.1 million new jobs in the private sector. Second, if the House Republicans were to get their way - and somehow convinced the Senate to repeal the health care bill signed into law by President Obama (they won't) - the American economy would actually lose jobs. Finally, repealing the health care bill would add hundreds of billions to our national debt over the next 10 years.

Congressman McCarthy knows all of this (or should know this). But acknowledging these points would ruin the political narrative the republicans are trying to establish (private sector good, government bad). Specifically, it would undermine their efforts to say "See, we repealed Obamacare, but the Democrats became obstructionists ...".

On the positive side, at least Congressman McCarthy is not referring to the legislation or to his political opponents as "Democrat legislation" or to members of the "Democrat Party" ...

- Mark

"GABBY WAS RIGHT, PALIN WAS WRONG" ... ALAN GRAYSON

With the health care debate heating up, and people ready to move beyond last week's tragedy in Tucson, former Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) - who I interviewed on air when I had my radio program - reminds us what's wrong with the Sarah Palin picture.

***************

When I opened my web browser yesterday, at yahoo.com, there was Sarah Palin, smiling at me.

“Oh, God,” I said to myself, “what has she done now?”

The headline was “Palin Defends ‘Blood Libel’”. That’s interesting, I thought. What else might Palin be defending? Cannibalism, maybe?

Well, it turned out to be a report on Palin’s disjointed remarks on Sean Hannity’s show, regarding the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. I then watched the report. Let me summarize it for you:

Palin: I am so misunderstood.

Hannity: I am so misunderstood.

Palin: I am so misunderstood.

But there was one person who seemed to understand Sarah Palin quite well. Gabby Giffords, herself, during the health care debate. Discussing threats against Democratic Members of Congress. After the door to her office was shattered. This is what Gabby said:

And here is Palin’s blithe response, on Hannity’s show: “That map wasn’t an original graphic.”
“You know, for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is the way that she has depicted it is the crosshairs of a gun-sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.”


What is that remark supposed to be, Sarah? An exculpanation?

Even before I heard earlier Palin’s whining about “misguided finger-pointing” and “irresponsible statements from people who are apportioning blame,” I thought about this:

Palin came to my district, and told her people to “take me out.”

Palin told people again and again, “don’t retreat, reload.”

The day before the health care vote, one of my five-year-old twins received a telephone death threat intended for me.

A right-wing commentator offered anyone $100 to punch me in the nose.

We received so many threats of violence from teabaggers that we started a file.

And the day before Gabby was shot, I received a postcard saying “you better get some personal protection. You could very well be getting your ass kicked soon.”

Cause and effect. As Gabby put it, “there are consequences.”

Of course, I wasn’t the only target of these threats.

Gabby’s tea party opponent held fundraisers in which he invited contributors to fire an automatic weapon.

Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s opponent conducted target practice on her initials.

Democrat Ron Klein’s opponent told his supporters to make sure that Klein was “afraid to leave his house.”

Democrat Frank Kratovil was hung in effigy.

Democrat Tom Perriello was burned in effigy. And the gas line to his brother’s house was cut.

Democrat Emanuel Cleaver – a minister – was spat on.

Democrat Russ Carnahan had a coffin left at his home.

I could go on, but you get the point. Cause and effect. “There are consequences.”

And the Republicans? The shot supposedly fired at Republican Eric Cantor’s office was quickly exposed as a hoax.

As I observed on MSNBC last week, there has been a stream of violence and threats of violence by the right wing against Democrats. Gabby warned against it, and then became a terrible victim of it. Palin has instigated it, and then tried to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

What do I think? I think that Gabby said it best: “We can’t stand for this.” We have to stand against it.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

****************************
 
Grayson should run for senate in Florida.
 
- Mark

Monday, January 17, 2011

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.


Here's his "I have a dream" speech ...



You can read Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" here.

- Mark

Friday, January 14, 2011

GOP'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND ECONOMICS

Let me see: four times five is twelve,
and four times six is thirteen, and four
times seven is -- oh dear! I shall
never get to twenty at that rate!

- Alice



Why does anyone take the GOP seriously when it comes to budgets? This is an especially pertinent question since we'll be going back to business as usual in about a week. Check this out ...

The director of the non-partisan and highly respected Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sent our newly minted Speaker of the House, John Boehner, a letter last week. The letter said that repealing President Obama's health care plan would add hundreds of billions to our deficits over the next decade. Boehner promptly brushed it off, saying the director of CBO was entitled to his own opinion.

Specifically, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the director of the CBO wrote that repealing health care reform would (1) add $230 billion to deficits over the next decade, (2) leave 32 million fewer people with insurance and (3) lead to higher costs for those who are covered. Boehner disagrees

Boehner's reluctance to embrace the CBO analysis (he must have read the already debunked piece Douglas Holtz-Erskin penned on the topic for the Wall Street Journal) wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for one thing. When it comes to the budget the Republicans have gotten it mega wrong over the past 30 years, and have ignored CBO (or actuary) estimates when it suits their political interests.

Check out these budget busting whoppers ...

* The Bush administrations claimed that the money from Iraq's oil could pay for Iraq's reconstruction ... as we know, Iraq's oil is paying for nothing. We're into our first trillion for our unfunded wars.


* The GOP asserted that an unfunded Medicare Part D would cost hundreds of billions less  than Medicare's chief actuary said it would ... but it's even worse. It's going to cost us trillions more than suggested.


* The Republicans said that President Bush's budget busting tax cuts for the rich would help the economy and lower budget deficits ... President Bush effectively doubled our national debt (by adding more than $5 trillion), and then handed President Obama a trillion dollar-plus budget deficit.


* President Reagan and GOP supporters said that his trickle-down, tax cuts for the rich, politics would not only pay for itself, but that it would reduce budget deficits ... but then Reagan effectively tripled our national debt in 8 years, turning Reaganomics into a cruel hoax (which the conservative Mises Institute pointed out back in 1988)

Then, how about the GOP's big March 2009 budget roll out? It had no numbers ... which is convenient if you can't add or subtract to begin with.

The point is, once we get back to business as usual, why should anyone listen to the GOP when it comes to health care and reading our budget tea leaves? Still, many will.

Back to the rabbit hole ...

- Mark

Addendum: As a point of reference, Medicare Part D was a phenomenal taxpayer funded give away to the pharmaceutical industry. For a review made by a pissed off conservative that explains how Medicare Part D was passed by President Bush and his Republican led Congress (to shore up the senior vote) click here.

STEWART MOCKS (FOX) NEWS CYCLE

After initially praising President Obama's Tucson speech, Fox News morning program slipped back into form ... by nitpicking the Tucson Memorial. Jon Stewart, in his usual biting way, tells it like it is.

- Mark

Thursday, January 13, 2011

OBAMA'S EPIC SPEECH



I haven't always agreed with President Obama's speeches, especially the one he gave on Wall Street. But last night's Tucson speech was epic. Even the folks at Fox News liked it. Here's the speech in it's entirety ...



- Mark

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SADLY, THIS IS POLITICS IN AMERICA

Kudos to my friend from high school, Tove Beatty, for bringing this Rolling Stone article on John Boehner to my attention. While I'd like to say the article - "The Crying Shame of John Boehner" - explains the career of John Boehner alone, sadly, it also explain politics in America.



Seriously, it's one of the best reviews of how things get done in Washington that I've read in a while (this goes for both Republicans and Democrats). It goes beyond Boehner.

- Mark

THE DANGERS OF "US vs. THEM" (as explained by Yosemite Sam)

One of the problems I see with today's "Us vs. Them" political environment is how it encourages extremists to dehumanize and demonize the other side. This Bugs Bunny clip provides a humorous take on how this mindset can lead myopic extremists toward irrational beliefs and behaviors ...



I know, I know .. it's just a cartoon. But gun-toting extremists - even if it is just Yosemite Sam - don't need much for them to see the other side as unsanitized vermin who need to be avoided, or cleaned out.

The metaphors of violence, which are used so loosely in certain circles, needs to stop.

- Mark

Monday, January 10, 2011

SARAH PALIN AND FREE SPEECH

Because there are free speech issues involved here, it's not fair to specifically blame Sarah Palin and her crosshairs target list for Saturday's ugly events.



Simply put Sarah Palin didn't pull the trigger.

Still, there's no doubt that her crosshair target list of key Democratic districts feeds a toxic environment, made worse by demented individuals and groups who wink and nod at stuff like this ...


and then chuckle at stuff like this ...



while smiling at stuff like this ...
Google "conservative hunting license" (under images) for more.

I think I'll jump my free speech lecture up a week to discuss this in tomorrow's class.

- Mark

Addendum: Here's an interview I did on the topic yesterday with Channel 29's Anthony Bailey. My segment starts at -1:10 ...

Friday, January 7, 2011

THE REPUBLICAN'S FIRST WEEK ... IMPRESSIVE

What a week it's been for the GOP. Check it out ...

* Read the Fine Print: Republicans fell over themselves backing away from their solemn pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget during their first year in power. Their "read the fine print" excuses are classic.

* No Amendments, Please: After whining that they weren't allowed to make amendments to the Democratic-led health care bill - and then promising to do better - Republicans have determined that they won't allow any amendments to their "let's repeal the health care" bill coming down the pike.

* Constitutional Follies: In spite of unemployment running at close to 10% the Republicans spent more than 2 hours reading a clipped version of the U.S. Constitution (with no reference to the 3/5 person-slave clause). But their deep, deep respect for the U.S. Constitution allowed them to lose sight of the fact that ...

* I Don't Need No Stinking Oath: Incredibly, two Republican House members - Reps. Pete Sessions and Mike Fitzpatrick - weren't sworn in because they were busy with a fundraising event (presumably doing the people's work). But they voted on legislation anyways.

* Can't Think of a Program to Cut: After railing against government spending for years, and being a member of congress for over 20 years, new Speaker of the House John Boehner capped off the GOP's first week in power by saying he can't think of a single program that he would cut from the budget. Seriously. None.

Oh, and let's not forget the crying ... all that manly-man, "I'm so proud of myself" crying.


Can hardly wait for next week.

- Mark

Thursday, January 6, 2011

GOP'S "READ THE FINE PRINT" AGENDA ...

Business as usual.

That's what we're going to get with the Republicans taking over the reins of power in the House of Representatives. How do we know? Because interview after interview has Republican leaders falling over themselves to say "Did you read the fine print?" when they're asked about their pledge to cut or save $100 billion from the budget during their first year in office.

As well, under Republican leadership House members won't be allowed to propose changes (amendments) to legislation designed to repeal health care reform - in spite of the Republicans promise to end such heavy-handed tactics.

Today? Instead of getting to work on jobs, unfunded tax cuts for the rich, the debt ceiling, or their $100 billion budget cutting pledge, the Republicans are playing political games. They are reading the U.S. Constitution on the House floor (Hmm. I wonder which Republican is going to read the 3/5 of a person clause ... or the 16th amendment ... or the regulation of commerce clause).

Next, the GOP will be setting the Obama administration up for failure by blaming him for not going along with their policies - after they've already made it clear that they will not compromise on their principles. Gridlock and finger pointing will follow.

Let the games begin ...

- Mark

UPDATE: Too funny. As if on cue, House Republicans voted against requiring members of congress to disclose whether they're taking advantage of federally funded health insurance plans. This would have allowed their constituents to see whether they've opted for private plans, which they tout, or depend on the government for their health care needs. Republicans are expected to vote against federal health care for their constituents in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

JOHN BOEHNER DISCONNECTED ... ALREADY


The "will of the people." This is what John Boehner said he would pursue as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Curiously, though, our new Speaker of the House wants more unfunded tax cuts for the rich and thinks we should privatize social security, or cut program benefits, to solve our budget woes.

And he won't compromise on his policy principles because, in part, he believes that he has a mandate (though President Obama, apparently, didn't have one when he was elected).

So, does Boehner have a mandate to pursue the will of the people? Well, that depends on what the people want. Clearly most Americans disagree or are split on how to fix entitlement programs. So there's no mandate for Boehner to go after entitlement programs, as he claimed.

But when asked specifically whether we should cut defense, social security, medicare, or tax the rich to help balance the budget a Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll found that more than 6 out of 10 respondents want congress to tax the rich. That's right. Tax the rich.


The same fix applies when Americans - or "the people" - are asked what should be done to shore up social security.

Oops.

- Mark

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

WALL STREET GETS TRILLIONS ... MAIN STREET STAGNATES (yawn)

With corporate America registering record profits (again), have you ever wondered how much money Wall Street and America's moneyed elite have taken away over the past thirty-plus years? Well, wonder no more. Check this out ...



A little over ten months ago I wrote about the failures of economic policies that have promoted deregulation, tax breaks for the rich, and debt driven growth. What we've ended up with is a two-tiered casino economy that is debt ridden and dependent on favorable legislation to survive. In the financial sector the market players who thrive in this economy shun wealth creation built by hard work and discipline and depend on outlandish gambles regularly backed by bailouts to extract wealth from the economy.

Market bailouts, dating as far back as the 1970s, and favorable legislation have done much to prop up profits and shift wealth to Wall Street and America's financial aristocracy.



For example, and most recently, Wall Street's claims on wealth have exploded and depend on political favors. These favors range from allowing mortgage bankers to make a mockery of property rights (MERS), to the Obama administration's bungled attempts at creating a soft landing for the banks in the housing sector (HAMP), to unfunded trillion dollar guarantees and record bailouts (TARP) for Wall Street and their pampered clients.

Main Street's share of income and wealth, on the other hand, has either stagnated or collapsed as Wall Street's quiet coup of policy making in America has helped block reforms that might protect the American taxpayer.

The results have been predictable and, if we look at claims on the money supply, are easy to track. Specifically, if we look at the claims on money made by Wall Street (M-3) over the past 40 years versus the claims made by Main Street (M-1) we see something rather interesting ...

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Demands on U.S. Money Supply (select years)
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Year       M-1                M-2                 M-3 
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1972          $249 billion              $802 billion               $886 billion
1974          $274 billion              $902 billion               $1.070 trillion
1975          $287 billion              $1.017 trillion            $1.170 trillion
1984          $551 billion              $2.312 trillion            $2.991 trillion
1994          $1.150 trillion           $3.498 trillion           $4.370 trillion
2002          $1.219 trillion           $5.801 trillion           $8.568 trillion
2003          $1.306 trillion           $6.062 trillion           $8.872 trillion
2004          $1.376 trillion           $6.422 trillion            $9.433 trillion
2005          $1.375 trillion           $6.692 trillion           $10.154 trillion
2006          $1.367 trillion           $7.036 trillion           $10.299 trillion
2007          $1.367 trillion           $7.447 trillion                  N/A
2008          $1.600 trillion           $8.108 trillion           $13.835 trillion*

03-09         $1.577 trillion           $8.110 trillion                  N/A
04-9           $1.608 trillion           $8.364 trillion           $14.8 trillion*
12-09         $1.696 trillion           $8.542 trillion                  N/A
11-10         $1.832 trillion           $8.804 trillion                  N/A

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Note I: In very simple terms M-1 is the category we use to measure what you and I have in our pockets and in our checking accounts. Essentially M-1 represents what Main Street has available to spend. Without getting into the details, M-3 represents what Wall Street spends or claims from the U.S. money supply. For more on money and how we categorize it click here
Note II: Keeping track of M-3 (as a data category) was suspended as a "cost saving" measure by the Bush administration in 2006. I discuss this in Chapter 12 of my book, "From Deregulation to the Mother of all Bailouts" in The Myth of the Free Market.
Note III: * denotes "unofficial" M-3 tracking sites. Click on the links.
_________________________________________________________

Specifically, the claims on money by America's biggest financial players have soared (M-3), and went from a factor of roughly 3.5 times what Main Street claimed (M-1) in 1994 to 7.5 times in 2006 ... to 8.6 times in 2008 ... and a whopping 9.25 times by April of 2009.


So, what does all this mean?

First, it means that instead of running parallel to each other (at a historical ratio of 3.5 to 4 times greater) like this  =, the gaps between what Main Street has (M-1) and what Wall Street claims (M-3) now diverge like a sideways chevron like this < . This development is possible only because Washington has consistently bailed out Wall Street's ill-advised activities over the past 30 years.

Second, it helps us see that the bailouts, guarantees, and other market programs were never designed to save distressed homeowners, or the American taxpayer. Instead, favorable legislation and trillion dollar bailouts - which actually began in the 1970s and 1980s - have always been designed to keep money pumping into Wall Street.

Finally, it means that the earnings and income gains of Wall Street, and America's biggest market players, are not tied to the mythical "invisible hand" of the market. From favorable legislation, to tax breaks and tax write-offs, to deregulation, globalization, and the constant attacks on unions and minimum wages, the earnings and wealth gains that America's wealthiest classes have seen over the past 30 years have come off the collective backs of America's middle class.


Don't believe me? Check out personal debt loads in America. In fact, take a look at what has happened to personal obligations and government debt loads over the past 30 years.




At the end of the day, the reckless gambles made by the high rollers on Wall Street have been rewarded, under the guise of the saving the system, while Main Street is forced to absorb the costs of successive bailouts and mounting deficits. 

- Mark

Monday, January 3, 2011

OUR CHANGING WORLD

From Barry Ritholtz ... In 2000 there were 8 cell phone users for every 100 people around the world. I wasn't one of them. Today there are 76.2 cell phone users for every 100 people. I'm now one of them.

Our changing world (click to enlarge) ...


- Mark