Friday, October 21, 2011

Party of Pollution

October 20, 2011


Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I’d like to see, but a step in the right direction. Republicans, predictably, have blocked it. But the new plan, combined with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, seems to have shifted the national conversation. We are, suddenly, focused on what we should have been talking about all along: jobs.

So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to allow more pollution. So what you need to know is that weakening environmental regulations would do little to create jobs and would make us both poorer and sicker.

Now it would be wrong to say that all Republicans see increased pollution as the answer to unemployment. Herman Cain says that the unemployed are responsible for their own plight — a claim that, at Tuesday’s presidential debate, was met with wild applause.

Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have, however, put weakened environmental protection at the core of their economic proposals, as have Senate Republicans. Mr. Perry has put out a specific number — 1.2 million jobs — that appears to be based on a study released by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association, claiming favorable employment effects from removing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. The same study lies behind the claims of Senate Republicans.

But does this oil-industry-backed study actually make a serious case for weaker environmental protection as a job-creation strategy? No.

Part of the problem is that the study relies heavily on an assumed “multiplier” effect, in which every new job in energy leads indirectly to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere. Republicans, you may recall, were scornful of claims that government aid that helps avoid layoffs of schoolteachers also indirectly helps save jobs in the private sector. But I guess the laws of economics change when it’s an oil company rather than a school district doing the hiring.

Moreover, even if you take the study’s claims at face value, it offers little reason to believe that dirtier air and water can solve our current employment crisis. All the big numbers in the report are projections for late this decade. The report predicts fewer than 200,000 jobs next year, and fewer than 700,000 even by 2015.

You might want to compare these numbers with a couple of other numbers: the 14 million Americans currently unemployed, and the one million to two million jobs that independent estimates suggest the Obama plan would create, not in the distant future, but in 2012.

More pollution, then, isn’t the route to full employment. But is there a longer-term economic case for less environmental protection? No. Serious economic analysis actually says that we need more protection, not less.

The important thing to understand is that the case for pollution control isn’t based on some kind of aesthetic distaste for industrial society. Pollution does real, measurable damage, especially to human health.

And policy makers should take that damage into account. We need more politicians like the courageous governor who supported environmental controls on a coal-fired power plant, despite warnings that the plant might be closed, because “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people.”

Actually, that was Mitt Romney, back in 2003 — the same politician who now demands that we use more coal.

How big are these damages? A new study by researchers at Yale and Middlebury College brings together data from a variety of sources to put a dollar value on the environmental damage various industries inflict. The estimates are far from comprehensive, since they only consider air pollution, and they make no effort to address longer-term issues such as climate change. Even so, the results are stunning.

For it turns out that there are a number of industries inflicting environmental damage that’s worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than create it. High on the list, by the way, is coal-fired electricity generation, which the Mitt Romney-that-was used to stand up to.

As the study’s authors say, finding that an industry inflicts large environmental damage compared with its apparent economic return doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry should be shut down. What it means, instead, is that “the regulated levels of emissions from the industry are too high.” That is, environmental regulations aren’t strict enough.

Republicans, of course, have strong incentives to claim otherwise: the big value-destroying industries are concentrated in the energy and natural resources sector, which overwhelmingly donates to the G.O.P. But the reality is that more pollution wouldn’t solve our jobs problem. All it would do is make us poorer and sicker.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Famous Quotes…

We live in a real scary time!  Consider some of these quotes…

Top Ten Scary Quotes by the Religious Right

Last week, HNN editor Maggie Ardiente put out a call for the scariest quotes ever made by leaders of the Religious Right in history … and we received dozens of suggestions! Thanks to everyone who participated.

Here are the top ten scary-but-true quotes made by religious conservatives in America:

10. "It is not possible for there ever, in the United States of America, to be a separation between God and government because God is the source of every single right which government has a sacred duty to protect ... not a single one of our unalienable rights will be safe in the hands of a president who believes that we evolved from slime and we are the descendants of apes and baboons ... look at the nation states in the 20th century which rejected the creator God of the Judeo-Christian tradition – Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Communist China. The one thing all of these secular states share in common is dead bodies." Bryan Fischer, American Family Association

9. “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” Ann Coulter

8. “The ‘wall of separation between church and state’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.” William Rehnquist

7. "The message of the Declaration of Independence is under attack from the ACLU and atheists because it refuted the lie about a constitutional mandate for ‘separation of church and state.’ Atheists have filed numerous lawsuits in the courts of activist judges to try to eliminate our right to acknowledge God in public places, in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and in Ten Commandments monuments. The atheists are trying to change American history, expunge all reference to religion from textbooks and make us a completely secular nation. History proves America was founded by religious men who believed that a divine Creator is basic to good government." Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum

6. “Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they’re quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments.” – Sarah Palin

5. “If you say God scattered Israel, Jews will really be offended. They go, ‘Oh, God scattered us?’ Uh huh. ‘Well, I thought the evil guys did.’ Well, you are under the discipline of God because of your perversion and sin." Mike Bickel, International House of Prayer

4. “We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we're having weekly shootings practically. We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS." Christine O'Donnell

3. “Atheists are parasites in the sense that they are benefiting from everything that religious culture has built in America, but they are doing nothing to add energy into the system." Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians

2. “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." Jerry Falwell

1. “I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” George H. W. Bush

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fear the future (if the GOP controls it)

October 13, 2011

Rabbit-Hole Economics


Reading the transcript of Tuesday’s Republican debate on the economy is, for anyone who has actually been following economic events these past few years, like falling down a rabbit hole. Suddenly, you find yourself in a fantasy world where nothing looks or behaves the way it does in real life.

And since economic policy has to deal with the world we live in, not the fantasy world of the G.O.P.’s imagination, the prospect that one of these people may well be our next president is, frankly, terrifying.

In the real world, recent events were a devastating refutation of the free-market orthodoxy that has ruled American politics these past three decades. Above all, the long crusade against financial regulation, the successful effort to unravel the prudential rules established after the Great Depression on the grounds that they were unnecessary, ended up demonstrating — at immense cost to the nation — that those rules were necessary, after all.

But down the rabbit hole, none of that happened. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because of runaway private lenders like Countrywide Financial. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because Wall Street pretended that slicing, dicing and rearranging bad loans could somehow create AAA assets — and private rating agencies played along. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers exploited gaps in financial regulation to create bank-type threats to the financial system without being subject to bank-type limits on risk-taking.

No, in the universe of the Republican Party we found ourselves in a crisis because Representative Barney Frank forced helpless bankers to lend money to the undeserving poor.

O.K., I’m exaggerating a bit — but not much. Mr. Frank’s name did come up repeatedly as a villain in the crisis, and not just in the context of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which Republicans want to repeal. You have to marvel at his alleged influence given the fact that he’s a Democrat and the vast bulk of the bad loans now afflicting our economy were made while George W. Bush was president and Republicans controlled the House with an iron grip. But he’s their preferred villain all the same.

The demonization of Mr. Frank aside, it’s now obviously orthodoxy on the Republican side that government caused the whole problem. So what you need to know is that this orthodoxy has hardened even as the supposed evidence for government as a major villain in the crisis has been discredited. The fact is that government rules didn’t force banks to make bad loans, and that government-sponsored lenders, while they behaved badly in many ways, accounted for few of the truly high-risk loans that fueled the housing bubble.

But that’s history. What do the Republicans want to do now? In particular, what do they want to do about unemployment?

Well, they want to fire Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve — not for doing too little, which is a case one can make, but for doing too much. So they’re obviously not proposing any job-creation action via monetary policy.

Incidentally, during Tuesday’s debate, Mitt Romney named Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw as one of his advisers. How many Republicans know that Mr. Mankiw at least used to advocate — correctly, in my view — deliberate inflation by the Fed to solve our economic woes?

So, no monetary relief. What else? Well, the Cheshire Cat-like Rick Perry — he seems to be fading out, bit by bit, until only the hair remains — claimed, implausibly, that he could create 1.2 million jobs in the energy sector. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, called for permanent tax cuts — basically, let’s replay the Bush years! And Herman Cain? Oh, never mind.

By the way, has anyone else noticed the disappearance of budget deficits as a major concern for Republicans once they start talking about tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy?

It’s all pretty funny. But it’s also, as I said, terrifying.

The Great Recession should have been a huge wake-up call. Nothing like this was supposed to be possible in the modern world. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be engaged in serious soul-searching, asking how much of what he or she thought was true actually isn’t.

But the G.O.P. has responded to the crisis not by rethinking its dogma but by adopting an even cruder version of that dogma, becoming a caricature of itself. During the debate, the hosts played a clip of Ronald Reagan calling for increased revenue; today, no politician hoping to get anywhere in Reagan’s party would dare say such a thing.

It’s a terrible thing when an individual loses his or her grip on reality. But it’s much worse when the same thing happens to a whole political party, one that already has the power to block anything the president proposes — and which may soon control the whole government.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This is a MUST READ!

Krugman hits the nail on the head, again.

October 9, 2011

Panic of the Plutocrats


It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.

Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.

And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.

Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street? You betcha!!!


When will the media finally figure out they can no longer ignore the protestors on Wall Street?  They deserve at least as much attention as they’ve given the ‘tea-baggers’ they so dearly love…

October 6, 2011

Confronting the Malefactors


There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.

When the Occupy Wall Street protests began three weeks ago, most news organizations were derisive if they deigned to mention the events at all. For example, nine days into the protests, National Public Radio had provided no coverage whatsoever.

It is, therefore, a testament to the passion of those involved that the protests not only continued but grew, eventually becoming too big to ignore. With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.

A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.

Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.

A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.

And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”

But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A little US History…

The U.S. Passed Mandatory Health Insurance In 1798 Under President And Founding Father, John Adams

July 3, 2011

By Matthew Desmond

Many people who oppose the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, also known as ‘Obamacare’, say the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have wanted the Government to make health insurance mandatory for private employees.

This is simply not true. In 1798, under 2nd President and Founding Father John Adams, the United States passed a law requiring mandatory health insurance for any private employees working on Maritime vessels. The bill was called “An Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen

It’s safe to assume that John Adams, who was the first Vice President of this country, the 2nd President of this Country, one of the Founding Fathers, and was a key negotiator in the peace treaty between the United States and Britain, had a pretty clear idea of what the Founding Fathers would have been alright with.

Via Forbes;

The ink was barely dry on the PPACA [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] when the first of many lawsuits to block the mandated health insurance provisions of the law was filed in a Florida District Court.

The pleadings, in part, read -

The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage.

State of Florida, et al. vs. HHS

It turns out, the Founding Fathers would beg to disagree.

In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed -“An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privatelyemployed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

Read more at;