Friday, September 09, 2011

Pass This Now? Yeah, Yeah... Sure, Sure


Treacherous Georgia John Bircher & alcoholic Paul Broun boycotted the President's speech last night

Early yesterday morning TV announcers were announcing that Obama was still fine-tuning his jobs proposal for his 7pm speech. Would it be $300 billion or $400 billion? Turned out to be faux-boldly 10% over $400 billion, mostly tax cuts, about $100 billion in straight up infrastructure, about a tenth of what would be judged to be a serious FDR-like proposal.

Last night we got a good look at what our president is made of: jellyfish bones. The speech was a weak and desperate call for Congress to get behind a mishmash of failed Republican policies. It was sad watching a Democrat pleading with Congress to save his ass by passing it. They won't. The nicest thing I heard anyone not on the Democratic payroll say about it was Paul Krugman who wrote it's better than nothing.
O.K., about the Obama plan: It calls for about $200 billion in new spending — much of it on things we need in any case, like school repair, transportation networks, and avoiding teacher layoffs — and $240 billion in tax cuts. That may sound like a lot, but it actually isn’t. The lingering effects of the housing bust and the overhang of household debt from the bubble years are creating a roughly $1 trillion per year hole in the U.S. economy, and this plan — which wouldn’t deliver all its benefits in the first year — would fill only part of that hole. And it’s unclear, in particular, how effective the tax cuts would be at boosting spending.

Still, the plan would be a lot better than nothing, and some of its measures, which are specifically aimed at providing incentives for hiring, might produce relatively a large employment bang for the buck. As I said, it’s much bolder and better than I expected. President Obama’s hair may not be on fire, but it’s definitely smoking; clearly and gratifyingly, he does grasp how desperate the jobs situation is.

But his plan isn’t likely to become law, thanks to Republican opposition. And it’s worth noting just how much that opposition has hardened over time, even as the plight of the unemployed has worsened.

A more typical analysis came from Nick Ruiz, the independent-minded progressive Democrat running for a Florida congressional seat held by demented teabagger Sandy Adams. Nick was less impressed than Krugman.
Obama is raiding the Social Security plan-- the cornerstone of the average American's retirement plan. By reducing the payroll tax even more-- it truly is a reductio ad absurdum. You want to cause Social Security to have problems-- Obama's plan is exactly how you do it. It's a giveaway to the hawks, wolves and sharks that call themselves "servants" of the people-- while they hold a dagger in their other hand.

Worse, what evidence is there that such a cut will do anything other than put pocket change in the hands of a severely beaten down populace? None. This part of the plan has one goal only: to deconstruct Social Security for the worse. Further, it's apparent Obama is still on board with cuts to Medicare/Medicaid, which is entirely unacceptable to Democrats worthy of that name.

There are aspects of the Obama plan that are desirable, like investment in schools, unemployment extensions, etc.-- but the net result is a poison pill. This package is not progressive, it's not New Deal philosophy, and it's a stretch to call it Democratic. It's just the kind of proposal Republicans from the 1990s would have been quite comfortable with-- and nothing that 21st century Democrats should endorse, without serious and extensive New Deal-style amendments, like legislation that requires that Wall St. pitch in to support the ailing economy they helped cripple, federal law that collects FICA tax all the way up the income scale, and federal income tax increases for the most fortunately wealthy of Americans. I agree with Obama in one sense-- yes, let's stop the political circus.

Even before he got up to speak, Ann McLane Kuster, New Hampshire activist and Democratic candidate for the House seat held by corporate shill Charlie Bass, sent out a letter with her perspective on what is needed to left the country out of the economic rut engineered by years of the pernicious corporate Republican economic agenda.
It is time-- in fact, it is way past time-- to make job-creation the single, critical priority of our entire nation.

Washington has spent plenty of time lately on other issues, from genuine crises like Libya to political distractions like the debt-ceiling debate and efforts to end Medicare. But we cannot afford to go another month without real solutions for getting more Americans back to work. 

I may sound like a broken record-- for the past two years, whenever I have been asked about the top three issues facing our country, my reply has been “Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs.” But the truth is, this Congress has done next to nothing to promote an economic recovery and get Americans back to work.

How do we do it? Education is how we grew an economy this strong in the first place, and it is where we have to start again. Innovation has been a powerful competitive advantage for America, and we can’t afford to lose our edge. And Rejuvenation-- of our bridges & roads, cities & towns, and economic networks (highways and broadband communications)-- that's the key to a country that is built to win the future.

There is room for smart cuts and streamlined regulation, but economists all agree that we can not build a stronger tomorrow simply through cuts alone. The time for political arguments and excuses is over. 

Doing nothing isn’t working. Let’s rebuild our country and win the future, again.

And if Obama wants to get a different perspective than the conservative, Wall Street-oriented one he gets from his abysmal economic team, Ann laid it all out for him in black and white, in bullet points that will neatly fit on the TelePrompter:

• Education is how we grew an economy this strong in the first place, and it is where we have to start again.

• Moderate Republican David Brooks admitted the truth in the New York Times last week: We must “rebuild America’s human capital. The United States became the wealthiest nation on earth primarily because Americans were the best educated.” This means an investment in our schools and public higher education, including community colleges and vocational schools. We are in a global economy, and we must train our workforce to win on the global stage.


• Innovation as been a powerful competitive advantage for America, and we can’t afford to lose our edge. We need fast-growing companies to hire those well-trained workers.

• In New Hampshire, more than half of all workers are employed by small business-- that’s been one of our strengths in weathering the recession-- and even in this tough climate we have some small and mid-sized businesses experiencing explosive growth, especially in technology and renewable energy. We need more of them. Congress should encourage entrepreneurs-- make small business lending easier and more available and fix the broken tax code so that we are rewarding R&D investment and startup growth, not subsidizing rich and powerful industries like oil and gas, agribusiness, and redundant defense contracts that we simply can no longer afford.


• Rejuvenation-- of our bridges and roads, cities & towns, and economic networks (highways and broadband communications)-- that's the key to a country that is built to win the future.

• Hurricane Irene reminded us of just how fragile our region’s backbone really is. Meanwhile, huge opportunities lay waiting for us to exploit: universal access to broadband communication to allow every resident of the state to compete at the global level, biomass and new energy technologies to bring down the cost of energy and make us less dependent upon foreign oil and high speed rail that would expand our economic markets and the range of opportunity for jobseekers. 

• And of course, these projects themselves create good jobs as they are built. In the mid-nineteenth century we built the railroads, and prospered. In the 1950s, we built the interstate highway system, and grew. In the 1980s and 1990s, we grew American technology, and reaped the rewards.

Obama's been so busy promoting right-wing talking points about deficit reduction and the heinous Austerity agenda demanded by his institutional campaign contributors that he has completely failed to address the problem that most Americans care most about-- jobs. Scott Paul, Executive Director of the nonpartisan Alliance for American Manufacturing hasn't been a fan of Obama's (and Bush's and Clinton's) corporate trade policies. Yesterday before the speech he pointed out that "The trade deficit with China is growing and shows no signs of abating. But the real question is, will Congress and the Administration do anything about it? The trade deficit is more than a statistic. It represents jobs, income, and know-how leaving America. And it is another bill our children will have to pay someday." He continued:
If China were out-competing America, I’d say we only need to focus on getting our own house in order. But the truth is, China’s gains come largely from its undervalued currency, state-owned enterprises, and heavy industrial subsidies. Shame on China for its mercantilism and protectionism, but the real shame is on us for not doing anything to stop it.

There are concrete steps the Administration and Congress could take right now to lower this trade deficit. Congress should immediately pass the bipartisan and wildly popular Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 639) to counter China’s currency manipulation. The Peterson Institute on International Economics estimates that the Yuan is more undervalued today (28.5 percent) than it was a year ago (24.2 percent), so the need is even more urgent today.

For its part, the Administration could convene a multilateral meeting to address global imbalances and in particular Chinese mercantilism. If China doesn't agree to participate, designate it a currency manipulator this October. The Obama Administration has had the opportunity to cite China for its currency peg five times, but has failed to do so each time, despite near unanimous agreement that Beijing deliberately undervalues its currency. A failure by the Administration to designate China a currency manipulator this year, given American job loss and our skyrocketing trade deficit, would be indefensible.

Given a level playing field, our manufacturers can successfully compete and create good jobs. But the field is still dramatically tilted away from us, and towards China.

Obama will be hard-pressed to win reelection. At best, the Republicans will nominate someone perceived as even worse than him and lose it. But for progressives to win congressional races-- to get Democrats and left-leaning independents to even bother to come out to vote-- they're going to have to distance themselves from Obama's conservative approach. He may not even mind-- he's been distancing himself from them since he was elected.
“If they don’t get it done, then we’ll be running against a Congress that’s not doing anything for the American people, and the choice will be very stark and will be very clear,” Obama said last month at Decorah, Iowa.

The Democratic senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, isn’t too happy about that kind of rhetoric coming from the president.

“It’s not Congress’ fault,” he said sternly on Wednesday. “It’s the Republicans who were throwing up all these roadblocks, delaying things, objecting-- not Congress. If he wants to be forthright and
honest to the American people, he’s got to tell it like it is.”

The frustration has been percolating in Democratic circles for months. They argue that they carried the president’s agenda across the finish line for two years and now believe there’s greater urgency to shape public perception that Republicans are the ones blocking progress.

“I personally prefer for the president to create a bright line by defining who is opposing his policies to create jobs and move the country forward versus who is supporting him,” said Sen. Robert
Menendez (D-N.J.), who is up for reelection next year. “But when you just say ‘Congress,’ you draw the whole institution together, that means both Houses and both parties when in fact that isn’t necessarily the case.”

The White House’s relationship with Democrats has grown increasingly strained as of late, as Obama has tried to cut a sweeping budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and as the president’s reelection campaign has begun to suck up cash from deep-pocketed donors who are also being courted by Senate Democratic officials.

A reminder: Blue America has never contributed to Barack Obama and we have no intention of ever doing so. Recall a few days ago we ran the letter from House Democratic caucus chairmen asking for a meeting to talk with Obama before the speech. He refused. Blue America works to elect progressives, like Eric Griego (D-NM), who tweeted this morning, "Mr. President: We need a bold new Marshall Plan for American jobs to put millions back to work!" And Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), who wrote yesterday that “The size of the federal budget deficit is not keeping the American people up at night; they’re worried about how to pay for groceries. That’s what members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus found when we traveled across the country on a jobs tour this summer, listening to struggling Americans and seeking to elevate their voices over the misleading noise from Washington. Members regularly heard from families struggling to stay afloat, losing their homes, and emptying their savings just to pay the bills.”

John Waltz is running for the Michigan congressional seat currently held by corporate shill and hereditary plutocrat Fred Upton. He was cautiously hoping for more from Obama. He'll be the Blue America guest on September 24 but this is what he told me after the speech last night:
Obama seemed to put his campaign face on in his jobs speech, but he tamped that down by showing he wanted to offer programs that will appeal to both sides of the aisle. Somehow he must have missed the obvious message from Republicans, which is they will do anything to ensure he is defeated in 2012. 

Obama’s plan is a mix of tax cuts that have shown to be a failure in the past because what employers need is demand. That demand can be spurred by the investment in our ailing infrastructure, which puts folks back to work and in turn the workers will pump money into the economy. We can’t stop at just infrastructure we need much more. 

Obama touched on what we can do to compete with foreign countries, but it came up light on details. Here are some details that should have been put out and laid in stone... we need to immediately start creating jobs by scrapping current free trade agreements and start over again. We need free trade deals that will allow us to compete fairly with countries that we trade with. 

Obama spoke of the wealthy and corporations paying their fair share, but again came up short in details. Let us get down to brass tax on how we can stop coddling the superwealthy: End the Bush era tax cuts, restore tax brackets for the superwealthy with the Fairness in Taxation Act, tax Wall Street speculation and finally end the Paris Hilton giveaway by establishing a stronger estate tax via the Responsible Estate Tax Act.

Lastly, we need to invest in the future by injecting money into creating clean energy jobs, invest in public education, and the jobs that are created must pay living wages protected by collective bargaining. Talk is great, but what we need is real action. 

Real action? You can donate to John's campaign here. While you're getting out your credit card, take a look at Bernie Sanders' response to Obama's speech. And you can contribute to his campaign here.

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At 7:54 AM, Anonymous John Evan Miller said...

I think Obama definitely needs to grow a backbone and stop begging Congress to make things happen. It is getting really sad to watch at this point.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

Job creation is a stupid goal. We don't need no stinking jobs we need money to buy the things we want and need.

Most of our present jobs don't create anything of real value.

High unemployment is a sign of success. Science has turned on the cosmic reservoir and whatever needs to be done can be done. Machines have been invented that are our energy slaves. They make cars, other machines and tools that do thousands of times the work of a human. We are constantly doing more with less. These great accomplishments are not properly showing up in our economic system. It is time that these common inventions and science show up as extra purchasing power not as a bunch of stock certificates and bank account balances of the few. There are no scarcities, there is abundance.

Why are we hung up on jobs? Instead of millions of mom and pop stores we have wall to wall mart.

Making money and making sense are mutually exclusive. All our job producing enterprises are set up to make money. We need to set up our enterprises to make sense. They need to produce the things we want and need. And most of all the where withall to have purchasing power to get them. Make a list. Set goals of what needs to be accomplished. We must stop fouling up the planet. We must stop letting people starve. We must become energy efficient although we have plenty to waist using only 17 units of energy from the Sun daily will the Sun is sending 86,000 units in daily.

Of course this will require work. We must not stay mired in our present economic, social and political systems as they are not getting the job done. all the kings horses and all the kings men can't put them back together again. Bold thinking is required. This will never come from our political class. We must depend on our design artists/scientists.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Teejay said...

What is the basis of calling Broun an alcoholic? has he acknowledged
that? Does he have an arrest record? If you have a basis you should say so. If not ...

At 9:11 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Teejay, Broun is a well-known alcoholic, womanizer and crook, although he claims to be "cured" now. You can read more about it in Will Bunch's book, The Backlash, and I have an excerpt here you might enjoy: Broun.


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