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Warren Buffett says Raise Taxes on the Rich

Warren Buffett says Raise Taxes on the Rich

Billionaire Warren Buffett in an interview on ABC’s This Week With Christiane Amanpour that will air next Sunday:

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further,but I think that people at the high end — people like myself — should be paying a lot more in taxes.  We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

How good has it been?  Here are some statistics from a recent Nicholas Kristof column:

The Top 1% earners takes 24% of all US income earned.

The Top 1% took 80% of all increased income from 1980 to 2005.

In 1980 CEOs of largest American companies earned 42 times as much of the average worker.  In 2001 they took  531 times.

And from Paul Krugman:

Between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.

Next week there will be a battle in the House over whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone or only to those earning less than $250,000.  Obama has asked that the Bush tax cuts be extended only to those earning under $250,000.    Obama’s plan would give the Top 0.1% a tax break of $61,000.  The Republican plan would give the Top 0.1% a tax break of  $370,000 and would cost the US Treasury somewhere between $700 to $800 billion dollars over the next decade.

The Republicans say that these huge tax cuts for the extremely wealthy will create jobs.  Warren Buffett thinks otherwise:

“The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you, but that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

You would think that after three decades of Republican tax cuts that have created huge deficits with unfunded wars and unfunded medicaid benefits while funneling trillions of dollars to the extremely wealthy that the American Public would catch on.  You’d think they recognize that most of us haven’t seen any real gains in over 35 years.  But you have to wonder.  If the American public is catching on, why did they vote for more Republican congressmen that want to keep giving more money to the rich?

Wake up America!  Tax cuts for the rich make you poorer.  By granting them tax cuts we are essentially giving them money.  That’s money that our country could use to pay for the wars, improve education, rebuild our infrastructure, and provide healthcare for our citizens.

George W. Bush Book Tour Commentary by Mr. Fish, HW Brands, and The Daily Show

George W. Bush Book Tour Commentary by Mr. Fish, HW Brands, and The Daily Show

Mr. Fish gets it with just one frame:

Bush Book Signing - Mr. Fish

Mr. Fish has another good one here.

Presidential historian H. W. Brands, author of Traitor to His Class: The Priveleged Life and Radical Presidency of FDR, wrote and delivered a commentary for NPR:

Bush acknowledges some tactical errors: He should have moved faster to deploy federal troops to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, he says.  He should have pushed for immigration reform before Social Security reform after his re-election in 2004. He still gets a “sickening feeling” when he thinks of the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Bush closes by saying he’s comfortable with the fact that history’s verdict on his presidency won’t come until after he’s gone. That’s just as well, since history isn’t likely to be as easy on him as he is on himself.

And Jon Stewart covers it all from the Matt Lauer interview, to the Oprah interview, to the Kanye interview, and back to Lauer again where Bush accepts Kanye’s apology…

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Decider Returns
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“I am not a hater.  heh heh heh…”

George W. Bush’s Decision Points Released Today

George W. Bush’s Decision Points Released Today

If you want to read a review about President Bush’s memoir, I recommend Margaret Carlson’s review over at Bloomberg titled: “George Bush Picks Up Barney’s Poop, Leaves Rest of Us“:

Presidents get the memoirs they deserve. In “Decision Points,” George W. Bush writes about his two terms in office much as he lived them — somewhat offhandedly, almost as if he’s writing about someone else.

Bush prides himself on making “crisp and quick” decisions, even if calling himself “the decider” provided a perpetual laugh line for late-night talk-show hosts. The book is organized around 14 important decisions, beginning with the one that made everything else possible — the decision to quit drinking.

If you want to know what people in other parts of the world are saying about Decision Points, read the editorial from today’s Guardian:

The contrast in the reception that these two presidents [Bush and Obama] get is almost too painful to watch.  If you are intellectually simplistic, if you go to war twice and foul up in each of them, if you cut taxes on the eve of a world recession, you are treated with deference, you are allowed to retire in peace and declare yourself part of history.  But if you are unusually intelligent and capable, do and say the right things, you are demonised as un-American, alien, a man from whom the country needs be “reclaimed”.

Mr Obama’s Republican opponents use an argument to justify the Bush era which is even more specious than the banality the former president himself uses, when he claims to have honestly served his country.  It goes like this: the difficulty that Mr Obama has in trying to close down Guantánamo and bring the most diehard of terrorists to justice as it is experienced in a US domestic court, is somehow proof that the original decision to establish extraterritorial detention and secret interrogation centres was right in the first place. Rather, though, it is proof of the opposite.  Once a country responding to a terrorist threat abandons the principles, such as the rule of law, on which it is built, it is on a slippery slope from which recovery is long and hard.

If you want to know about how Decision Points could be made into a video game where your goal is to make decisions that end up making you the worst president ever, go back and read this post I put up when the book was announced last April.

Obama’s White House White Board

Obama’s White House White Board

Our black president, (well half-black anyway) now has a White Board on the White House website.  Looks like there may be a series of short informative videos posted on the site that will make the administration’s points clear with charts and graphs.  Don’t worry… it’s more like Ross Perot and his charts and less like Glenn Beck and his blackboard. 

The premier video features Professor Austan Goolsbee, who recently took over Lawrence Summers’ position as head of the president’s Economic Council.  The video makes the administrations case for leaving the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes under $250,000 in place but letting the cuts expire for those above that threshold.

Professor Goolsbee has been on The Daily Show a few times, and his appearances are always informative and entertaining.  His most recent one was February 1, 2010 when he talked with Jon Stewart about how to stay away from Depression Land.

TARP Bailout to be Back in Black

TARP Bailout to be Back in Black

From today’s New York Times:

Even as voters rage and candidates put up ads against government bailouts, the reviled mother of them all — the $700 billion lifeline to banks, insurance and auto companies — will expire after Sunday at a fraction of that cost, and could conceivably earn taxpayers a profit.

…the once-unthinkable possibility that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program could end up costing far less, or even nothing, became more likely on Thursday with the news that the government had negotiated a plan with the American International Group to begin repaying taxpayers.

The rescue of the troubled insurer included $70 billion from the bailout program that was enacted two years ago, at the height of the global financial crisis late in the Bush administration, initially to prop up big banks.

So if the government ends up in the black after collecting all the money owed to them by A.I.G. and other financial institutions, I guess that would make TARP George W. Bush’s first profitable venture ever.

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.

George W. Bush, Advocate of Torture

George W. Bush, Advocate of Torture

The New York Daily News reported last week that former President George W. Bush said:

Sure, we waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, former President George W. Bush reportedly said on Tuesday.

And he would “do it again to save lives.”

Bush and his military advisors adhered to the morally misguided “intelligence at any cost” school of thinking.  Bush was too stubborn and dumb to realize that the costs of obtaining intelligence through torture was too high. 

There’s a very well researched article in Military Review by Major Douglas A. Pryer, U.S. Army, that examines the Bush way and the more dominant American tradition of the “shining city on the hill” way. 

The article includes a summary of email exchanges between military officers who approved of torture and those who opposed it.  The ethical side was represented by Major Nathan Hoepner, who wrote:

We have taken casualties in every war we have ever fought—that is part of the very nature of war.  We also inflict casualties, generally many more than we take.  That in no way justifies letting go of our standards.   We have NEVER considered our enemies justified in doing such things to us.  Casualties are part of war—if you cannot take casualties then you cannot engage in war.  Period.  BOTTOM LINE: We are American Soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.

Pryer writes that  those who say that the use of torture saved lives (as Bush stated last week) are wrong:

Tragically, interrogators at Abu Ghraib, in the 3ACR, and at FOB Iron Horse had HUMINT leaders who felt morally justified in sanctioning enhanced interrogation techniques, and this belief led their interrogators to use techniques that slipped into truly serious abuse at Abu Ghraib and in the 3ACR.  Furthermore, due to personalities unique to Abu Ghraib, abuse descended further still into the sadistic, sexualized violence that shamed our Nation and nearly led to our defeat in Iraq.  In retrospect, it is ironic that, while these leaders had meant to save lives via enhanced interrogation techniques, their actions helped to destabilize Iraq.  This destabilization, in turn, created thousands more casualties than these leaders could ever have prevented through tactical methods.

Andrew Sullivan was on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday, and he observed that most former presidents advocate human rights, but this one advocates torture, proving he is truly a monster.

Bush’s Book, Decision Points, Now a Video Game

Bush’s Book, Decision Points, Now a Video Game

Bush Book

In this video game based on George W. Bush’s yet-to-be-released book, the 43rd president is your avatar so, unlike most video games, this one does not start at level one.  You begin at Level 13.  From there you encounter people and situations requiring you to make decisions that will drop you down to the lower echelons.  The savviest players will be able to plunge into sub-zero levels previously explored and understood only by George W. Bush himself.

You’ll start your journey as a young George born to an aristocratic political family in New Haven, Connecticut.  See how quickly you can get through Houston’s public elementary schools, then Phillips Academy prep school in Andover, and move on to Yale and Harvard.  Find out what decisions you must make to become a prep-school cheerleader and a face-busting rugger.  Who must you befriend to lead you on a path to alcoholism and drug abuse?  What are the lessons you learned in business school that you must unlearn later in order to bankrupt your first oil company?  What baseball managers and what player trades must you approve as a managing partner of the Texas Rangers to make them a lower-tier baseball team that turns you a $15,000,000 profit when you sell your interest?

Learn how to avoid Vietnam and your obligations to the Texas Air National Guard that you joined to keep you out of the jungle.

Who do you choose as a mentor when embarking on a political career?  Do you choose the honest agent or the evil, squinty-eyed, rotund man who promises you votes, votes and more votes by whatever means necessary? 

Should you agonize over moral standards like hard work, honesty, compassion and fairness or move glibly ahead in pursuit of large campaign donations from evil greedheads? 

What must you do as governor of Texas to make your state the most polluted in the nation? 

Once president, how quickly must you act to reward your “base” with federal budget busting tax cuts that plunge the country into decades of debt?

Feel the vacuum forming in your head as you read The Pet Goat to elementary school children just as the country is attacked by al Qaeda on September 11th.

Observe the minion from Hell disguised as the human known as Dick Cheney emerge from a deep dark hole in the Badlands of Wyoming.   Feel your mind erode as he rips the remaining shreds of decency from your receding brain matter and convinces you that the Geneva Conventions are for pussies and that due process and the right to privacy are reserved for idealistic fools.

It is at this point where you must make decisions that common men are incapable of comprehending.  How do you convince people in spite of the evidence and what you know to be true that invading a secular country in the Middle East that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks is the right thing to do?

Yes it’s a game, and if you can meld minds with George W. Bush in your quest to descend to the lowest levels of human existence ever imagined, you too can know what it’s like to be the WORST PRESIDENT EVER!

Who’s a Better Role Model? T.I. Harris or George W. Bush?

Who’s a Better Role Model? T.I. Harris or George W. Bush?

From in Atlanta, Georgia:

HENRY COUNTY, GA — Out of jail and doing community service, Clifford “T.I.” Harris made a trip to Woodland Middle School in Henry County on March 5, an unwanted surprise for one family.

Tom Myers was surprised when his daughter came home and told him that T.I. had been the speaker at the assembly on anti bullying. Myers told 11Alive News that had he known T.I. was speaking, he would not have allowed his daughter to attend. So he wrote an e-mail to Woodland’s principal, Dr. Terry Oatts.

“The first e-mail I sent to him was to ask that from now on we have some kind of parental input whether or not a speaker is appropriate. If I don’t want my child to be there, just give me the right to opt them out,” Myers said.

Myers also wrote in the e-mail, “How about next time, let him mow the grass or pick up the trash around the school grounds? If the kids see that they might understand that what he did was wrong.”

In e-mails obtained by 11Alive News, Oatts replied in his e-mail, “I thought about asking a guy who snorted cocaine and got arrested for DUI when he was 30 to come and speak to our kids, but President George W. Bush was not available.”