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The Dow Jones during the Bush Years and the Obama Years

The Dow Jones during the Bush Years and the Obama Years

UPDATED January 20, 2017 and moved to the top of the blog to show all of Obama’s term with all of Bush’s term:

Are you better off today than you were four eight years ago? The Dow Jones during the Bush years peaked and spiked, taking the market on a harrowing roller coaster ride. Well if you invested stayed in the market for the past eight years, I think the answer…

was YES! four years ago and the answer is YES!!! right now.

Here are two charts that illustrate how much better off your investments were under Obama’s tenure than Bush’s tenure:

Read More Read More

Morning in America or “Mourning” in America?

Morning in America or “Mourning” in America?

It depends on your point of view.

Production vs Comp graph

If you are one of those owners of capital at the top, well it’s been GREAT! But if you are a regular working Joe, not good at all.

From the graph you can see that everyone’s income went up along with productivity until around 1973. A divergence started and stayed fairly close until around 1980. Then in 1984, we heard this in and ad for President Reagan:

It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?

Well, maybe because even though the economy was in the doldrums for a few years preceding 1980, at least the wealth was kinda sorta still being shared. But after that, not at all.

And after Reagan we had George H. W. Bush, then Clinton, then W, and now Obama. And not one of them have been able to change the rules in our country that allow the richest of the rich to get richer and richer as the bottom 99% fall behind.

The rules of the game are rigged in favor of those who already have great wealth. If you read the article in The Atlantic where I found the graph, you’ll learn more about how and why the divergence started and continues to expand, and you’ll find out what might happen if we don’t do anything about it (it’s not good), and what we could do to start to close the gap. (Hint: spend money to improve the education of our population and improve our failing infrastructure).

If the rich want to avoid a revolution, they better start looking out for the health and welfare of the communities that supply them with workers; first by sharing the wealth that comes from increased productivity with their workers, and second by encouraging local governments to increase spending to repair our decaying infrastructure systems.

Bidding for the Blood of Ronald Reagan

Bidding for the Blood of Ronald Reagan

What you see there is described on the British auction website, PFCAuctions.com as:

The 5” glass vial with a half inch diameter has a green rubber stopper. Dried blood residue from President Reagan (1911-2004) can be seen clearly in the vial with a quarter-inch ring of blood residue at the end of the inserted rubber stopper.

Also included in this lot is a letter of provenance which reads:

“These articles have actually been in my family’s possession since 03/30/1981, the day that President Reagan was shot in Washington D.C. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, my mother worked for Bio Science Laboratories in Columbia, Maryland. Her laboratory was the laboratory contracted by Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well as the George Washington University Hospital to handle blood testing as well as other types of testing. Her lab did the blood work and testing for President Reagan.

And here’s a bit more of the seller’s back story:

“About 3 to 4 months ago, I contacted the Reagan National Library and spoke to the head of the library, a Federal Agent. I told him what I had, how I came across it and so on.

…he felt the family would be interested in it being returned to them and if I was interested in doing so to contact him and he would make all of the arrangements. I told him that I didn’t think that was something that I was going to consider, since I had served under Pres. Reagan when he was my Commander in Chief when I was in the ARMY from ’87-’91 and that I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that Pres. Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it.”

I don’t doubt the King of unfettered capitalism would prefer his blood be sold to the highest bidder rather than donated to some public museum or library. As of now the highest bid in the online auction that ends tomorrow is £9,181 ($14,410).

What will the buyer do with this vial of dried presidential Type-O blood? Will it be worn as a talisman that wields the magical powers of the free market and makes the wearer extremely wealthy and subject to little or no taxes? Or will it project the darker aspects of Reagan’s nature by empowering the wearer to make deals with torturing thugs that undermine democracy?

Buyer beware.

UPDATE:

The bidding for Ronald Reagan’s blood went as high as $30,086 before it was pulled from auction. The anonymous consignor, after realizing “the importance of this historical artefact (sic)” has donated Ronald Reagan’s blood to the Ronald Reagan Foundation.

The foundation’s Executive Director John Heubusch, who had called the sale a “craven act” released the following statement:

We are very pleased with this outcome and wish to thank the consignor and PFC Auctions for their assistance in this matter. While we contend that the removal of the vial from the hospital laboratory and the US auction sale in February 2012 were not legal acts in our opinion, we are grateful to the current custodian of the vial for this generous donation to the Foundation Ensuring President Reagan’s blood remains out of public hands.

I feel much safer now.

Charles Krauthammer Hates Obama the “Class Warrior”

Charles Krauthammer Hates Obama the “Class Warrior”

I bet you all figured out by now that this week is Class Warfare week. And I bet you all want to know what the famous Dr. of Psychiatry, Charles Krauthammer, has to say about President Obama’s plan to fix our government’s debt problem with a mixture of spending cuts and, (are you sitting down? You might want to sit down for this.) tax increases.

I think Dr. Krauthammer went off his meds and was suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome when he wrote this one:

…the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

President Obama is a self-proclaimed “Class Warrior?” Really? I’ve never heard him refer to himself as a class warrior. “Soak the Rich” is one of his campaign slogans? Really? I’ve never seen that on his website or on a bumper sticker.

I have written numerous times about how the Republicans have screwed the middle class, the poor, and the infirmed. How they have tried to marginalize homosexuals and non-Christians, but I’ve never said that their candidates use campaign slogans like “Screw the Middle Class!” or “Doing all We can to Rid our Country of the Poor and People with Pre-Existing Conditions!” or “Exterminate the Homos!” or “Atheists Suck!” No doubt that many of the candidates believe all of those slogans, but you’ll never see them used in their campaign ads or on bumper stickers.

And Krauthammer says Obama is “a member of his base” as if there’s something wrong with that. And he thinks Obama’s centrism is phony? If only it were! In reality its been anything but phony for the past three years, much to the dismay of people like me who voted for him.

If the good doctor thinks that raising the income-tax rate on the super rich by four or five percent and taxing capital gains like any other income is “soaking the rich,” one has to wonder what he thinks of the patron saint of Republicanism, Ronald Reagan, who raised the capital gains tax to 28% “out of fairness,” (Ronnie’s words, not mine), when he lowered the top-marginal rate to that same rate. Was Ronald Reagan soaking the rich? If not, how is Obama’s plan to increase the capital gains rate from its absurdly low rate of 15% to something like 20% or 25% soaking them? They’d only be paying something closer to what people who work for a living pay.

If proposing to increase taxes on people earning over $250,000 is class warfare, what does that make the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who have fought long and hard to lower capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and marginal income-tax rates so that the super rich – who have seen their income quadruple over the past 20 years – now pay the lowest effective tax rate in over 50 years? Those wealth-protecting congressmen are like superheros for the rich. They waged war on the middle class so that the rich can pocket more profits gained from paying lower wages and reduced benefits to their workers – and now they pay lower taxes on all that extra income! The super rich love their superhero congressmen because now they can use all that extra cash to purchase mega-mansions, million dollar cars, yachts, and jewels. And if they have so much money that they can’t spend it all, they can pass their excess wealth down to their children who will be so rich they won’t even have to work. Why would they work when they can live a lush life off of capital gains and pay a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs and body guards?

Yes, that’s life in Krauthammer’s America, and every good Republican believes his fairy tale because it’s been told so many times that they too believe they will someday benefit from a tax system that is rigged to benefit only a tiny sliver of our population that holds tremendous wealth and power.

Ronald Reagan 21st Century Democrat

Ronald Reagan 21st Century Democrat

Who said:

“Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.”

A. Obama

B. Carter

C. Clinton

D. Reagan

If you picked D, you are a winner!   (Yes, I know the title of the post gave it away…)

And if you agree with the quote and are used to calling yourself a Republican, well I welcome you to the New Democratic Party.

If you read this blog then you know I tend to rant about how far our two major political parties have moved to the right.  Anyway, just to reiterate, the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it’s left it’s hero Ronald Reagan standing on the roadside with President Obama looking on in disbelief as Tea Party destructionists march by.

Note: I got the quote from Dana Milbank’s column in the Washington Post.  Take some time to read it if you want to know how many times the debt limit was raised during Reagan’s term and how many times congress raised taxes while Reagan was president.

Oliver North Critical of Obama Striking Libya without Congressional Approval

Oliver North Critical of Obama Striking Libya without Congressional Approval

Lt. Col Oliver North, who was a key player in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal that supplied arms to the Nicaraguan rebels has criticized President Obama for not getting congressional approval to join the allied forces in a strike against Qaddafi in Libya.

Congress explicitly prohibited U.S. involvement in the Nicaraguan war, and the Reagan Administration ignored their order.  So now a key player in the illegal operation is criticizing President Obama for not getting congressional approval?  Yes he is… watch:

Quite frankly, it’s unparalleled in my entire experience in the military going all the way back to the 1960s.  Every president has gone to the Congress to get a resolution to support whatever it is he wanted to do. And he [Obama] doesn’t ask the Congress because he doesn’t know what he wants to do.

The guy’s got balls.  I’ll give him that but he and many other pundits on the Right are critical only when it’s not their guy running the show.  They need a little history lesson because, as the Old Viking pointed out in a response to a Bruce Ramsey column:

Congress has declared war on only five occasions; the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

There are more than two hundred instances in which presidents have sent armed forces into hostile situations without a declaration of war. Our first intervention outside the US was an undeclared war with the Philippines with intense battles between 1899 and 1902.

The US fought 95% of the modern wars–in Korea (1950-1953) and in Vietnam (1959-1975)–without a formal declaration. Desert Storm in 1989 and our incursion into Afghanistan were and are full-blown conflicts.

We occupied Mexico’s California province in 1848 and, between 1848 and 1855, US Marines were sent to Panama to protect US lives and property. The Marines participated with Europeans in crushing the Chinese Boxer rebellion in 1900. In 1906, US Marines restored order in Cuba, which is why we still occupy Guantanamo.

In 1983, Reagan invaded Grenada to remove a Marxist dictator. US troops have been used to restore order in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia. All of this occurred without a formal declaration of war.

So go ahead and disagree with Obama’s decision to support the rebels in Libya trying to oust Qaddafi, but read your history books before you go spouting off about how presidents must get congressional approval before ordering the U.S. military into action.

Ronald Reagan’s 100th Birthday Hype-Fest

Ronald Reagan’s 100th Birthday Hype-Fest

President Ronald Reagan was born February 6, 1911 and was elected president on November 4, 1980 at the age of 69.  Were he alive today, he would be 100 years old.  Were he alive today, he wouldn’t remember much of anything after around 1986.  That was the year he appeared before the Tower Commission and couldn’t recall much of anything about the Iran-Contra Affair.

In spite of presiding over one of the biggest scandals in American history today, in between  conservatives will be celebrating his birthday and their version of his legacy.

They will celebrate is crusade against big government even though during his term he increased federal spending by 2.5% per year and increased the government payroll from 2.8 million jobs to 3 million jobs.

They will celebrate his conservative fiscal policy of cutting taxes even though it resulted in a quadrupling the national debt.

They probably won’t mention that “in 1988, Reagan signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which stated that torture could be used under ‘no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever,'” because that would reflect poorly on his dimwitted protégé that brags about using torture today.

They will celebrate his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech and give him credit for winning the cold war even though shortly after the wall fell, an overwhelming majority of Americans gave credit to Mikhail Gorbachev.

So all you conservatives out there, go ahead and raise a toast to your patron saint of conservatism.  I hear there’s even going to be some special commemoration just prior to kickoff of today’s Super Bowl.   I will raise a glass too, but it won’t be for Ronald Reagan, it will be for Bob Marley, also born on February 6th in year of 1945. (Listen to Bob Marley’s 1980 album, Uprising, today.

National Education Standards at Last?

National Education Standards at Last?

The good news, potentially, was the release last week of new national standards for math and reading by a panel of experts convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. I say potentially because the standards have to be accepted and adopted by individual states, two of which (Texas and Alaska) have already refused to participate in the process.

The bad news is that to get to this point, it has taken us exactly ten years since the last effort, initiated by President George H Bush (America 2000)  continued under Bill Clinton (Goals 2000) and killed by George W Bush, who replaced it with the disastrous No Child Left Behind.  Where his predecessors’ efforts focused, in part, on encouraging all states to adopt rigorous educational standards while providing federally funded but independent reviews and assessments of the results, Junior’s NCLB has had the opposite effect. Its perverse incentives actually encouraged states to dumb-down their standards, and the tests that stem from them, so as to show illusory improvements in performance. Conversely, states that maintained high standards, such as Massachusetts, have been punished by NCLB.

The pace of reform in this country since ‘A Nation At Risk’ was released during the Reagan years makes a snail look like a sprinter.  It really is enough to make you want to scream in frustration. 

The issue of standards is a case in point. How can anybody actually think that it makes sense to have fifty different sets of standards to determine the appropriate reading level of our ninth-graders, or what our sixth-graders should know in math? Yet the move to national standards has been bitterly resisted, primarily by Republicans in congress who have clung to the manifestly erroneous belief that all educational decisions were best left to individual states and local school districts.  If states were competent to handle it alone, we wouldn’t be lagging most advanced countries in the educational performance of our children 25 years after ‘Nation at Risk’ sounded the warning bell.

It’s heartening that a bipartisan consensus among the nation’s governors has prompted this very significant and long overdue step which could have enormous future benefits for our children. Rigorous national standards will, hopefully, lead to common if not identical curriculum and tests, and a measure of coherence may yet emerge from the patchwork quilt that is the American K-12 education system. 

 That’s definitely worth a loud cheer.

About that GOP – the Party of Reagan and Lincoln

About that GOP – the Party of Reagan and Lincoln

I read an amusing article by Michael Kinsley on The Atlantic Wire yesterday.  It was about how Ronald Reagan, based on his record and his statements, would not be able to adopt the “Reagan Resolution.”  It’s a list of ten principles to uphold that many Republicans wanted to adopt as an acid test for their candidates getting any money from the Republican Party.  The ten principles are:

(1) Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill
(2) Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
(3) Market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) Workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check
(5) Legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
(6) Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
(7) Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat
(8) Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
(9) Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
(10) The right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership

Kinsley writes:

He was a great one for assertions of principle but never one for mean-spirited anathemas. It’s a good thing, because if you judge from what he actually did as president, as opposed to what he said he would do—or, by the end, what he might have claimed (or even honestly believed) he had done—Ronald Reagan would not be able to sign the Reagan Resolution.

Kinsley then went through all ten principles and by his count came up with four apostasies of Reagan.  My interpretation of Kinsley’s summary follows, and I say interpretation because Kinsley might be saying Reagan did not comply with #2 (he had no stance on healthcare reform), and it’s difficult to say for sure if he would have adhered to #7.  But anyway…

He increased the size of the government payroll and increased tne national debt.

He signed a law that authorized amnesty for illegal immigrants.

On the “contaiment of North Korea and Iran” principle, the records shows that he publicly supported Sadaam Hussein’s regime, and secretly funneled money to Iran.  I wouldn’t call that contaiment.

He was in favor of the Brady Bill that imposed some restrictions on gun ownership.

(Read Kinsely for yourself to see if you agree.)

That was a good read, but even funnier was this comic that I just read on Mr. Fish’s site.

PennyForYourThoughts

Ronald Reagan was a Michael Jackson Fan, John G. Roberts was Not

Ronald Reagan was a Michael Jackson Fan, John G. Roberts was Not

I was reading through the June issue of Harper’s Magazine and came across a letter from Ronald Reagan to Michael Jackson that was sent after Michael’s hair was accidentally burned while filming a Pepsi commerical.  I wanted to post the letter here, so I searched for it hoping I would find it and not have to type it myself.  I found it and a whole lot more.

Here’s the letter that started my search:

Dear Michael:

I was pleased to learn that you were not seriously hurt in your recent accident. I know from experience that these things can happen on the set–no matter how much caution is excercised. All over America, millions of people look up to you as an example. Your deep faith in God and adherence to traditional values are an inspiration to all of us, especially young people searching for something real to believe in. You’ve gained quite a number of fans along the road since “I Want You Back” and Nancy and I are among them. Keep up the good work, Michael. We’re very happy for you.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

In addition to the letter, I found this New York Times “The Caucus” blog post that gives a rundown of the relationship between Reagan and Jackson.  There I learned that Jackson visited the White House in May 1984 and also appeared with Reagan at an anti-drunk-driving event.

In September of 1984, Jackson invited Reagan to a “Victory Tour” concert at RFK stadium.  Reagan’s office drafted a letter to decline the invitation and to invite Michael Jackson back to the White House, but this time with his brothers. 

The letter was reviewed by a young associate counsel who objected to Reagan signing the letter.  The associate was John G. Roberts, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

David Weigel at The Washington Independent got a laugh out of this part of Robert’s rejection:

In today’s Post there were already reports that some youngsters were turning away from Mr. Jackson in favor of a newcomer who goes by the name “Prince,” and is apparently planning a Washington concert. Will he receive a Presidential letter? How will we decide which performers do and which do not?

Prince, the “newcomer,” was touring in support of his sixth album, Purple Rain.

That’s pretty funny, but I thought this part was even better:

Why, for example, was no letter sent to Mr. Bruce Springsteen, whose patriotic tour recently visited the area?

Yes… another clueless Republican who heard only the chorus to “Born in the U.S.A” and never bothered to listen to the verses.  Springsteen’s 1984 tour was not patriotic in any way, and he loathed the Reagan Administration.

Reagan wasn’t a very smart man, but he did recognize a foe when he saw one.  Young John G. Roberts?  Not so smart…