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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.

Who Are Mitt Romney’s Freeloading 47% and How did they Get Here?

Who Are Mitt Romney’s Freeloading 47% and How did they Get Here?

The 47% of people who did not pay federal income tax is made up of the elderly, the disabled, the those earning military pay, and even some millionaires, but the largest portion of those who do not pay the tax are the working poor. They don’t pay federal taxes because of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The idea that lead to the Earned Income Tax Credit orginated with conservative economist Milton Friedman. He proposed a transfer of funds to every citizen that he called a negative tax. If the transfer was set at $6,000 per person per year, then a family of four with no other income sources would have $24,000 to live on. Congress did not like the idea of giving everyone the transfer payment because they believed it would result in too many freeloaders.

Congress took Friedman’s idea and applied it to only those who work. The idea was to encourage people to work, but provide subsidies to those who work for low pay. The law was passed in 1975, and President Ronald Reagan praised it:

Millions of working poor will be dropped from the tax rolls altogether. The bill I’m signing today is not only an historic overhaul of our tax code and a sweeping victory for fairness, it’s also the best anti-poverty bill, the best pro-family measure and the best job creation program ever to come out of the Congress of the United States.

The Tax Policy Center concluded that the law accomplished its goal of bringing more people into the labor market.

The Newt Gingrich controlled House worked with President Bill Clinton in the nineties to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in their efforts to “end welfare as we know it.” Clinton signed the bill in 1997.

President George W. Bush pushed through a huge tax cut in 2001 that moved even more lower-income people off the federal tax rolls. His massive 2003 tax cut was aimed at the wealthy and drastically cut their taxes – some even as far a zero. Bush’s doubling of the $500 Child Tax Credit moved even more off the the tax rolls. (Yes it’s true, not all of his tax breaks targeted the wealthy.)

When Mitt Romney said to Neil Cavuto on Fox News last night: “I know some believe that government should take from some to give to the others. I think that’s an entirely foreign concept,” did he insult all the former Republicans that helped enact the Earned Income Tax Credit? Oh my God! Ronald Reagan must have been a foreigner! Has anyone checked his birth certificate?

Seriously though, Republicans pushed through most of the tax laws that cut taxes for 47% of Americans to zero, so when Romney says the idea that our government should redistribute wealth is a foreign, just what party does he think he represents? How stupid does he think we are? Does he think he can get away with running as the Republican candidate for President and complain that 47% of Americans pay no income tax when his party that was instrumental in bringing that about?

Based on all he’s said and done in the past few weeks, one could very well think he is a stupid man, but I don’t really think is. I think he knows quite well that what’s fueling our long-term debt is that, in addition to redistributing tax payments to the working poor, the Republicans also gave away trillions of dollars of tax cuts to the super rich. I also think he knows  our social safety net is here to stay, so if he wants to change the tax code to run surpluses, he has to do what Bill Clinton did: Arithmetic. He won’t do it though, because the Paul Ryan/Tea Party faction of his party won’t let him.

Karl Rove’s Audacity of Mendacity

Karl Rove’s Audacity of Mendacity

Karl Rove continues doing what he excelled at doing for President George W. Bush: Presenting the Untruth as Truth.

Today in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece he set his sights on President Obama’s campaign video, The Road We’ve Traveled.

One of Rove’s most mendacious statements is about the debt created under Bush compared to Obama. Rove states that, “the administration has piled up more debt in three years and two months ($4.93 trillion) than his predecessor did in eight years ($4.8 trillion).” Rove, who was deeply involved in the workings of the Bush administration should know better and probably does, but he doesn’t want you to know what he knows. I’ll let The Old Viking explain. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email:

Since 1980 the federal fiscal year begins on October 1.

Bush was elected in 2000 and took office in January 2001. At the end of that budget the national debt was $5.8 trillion (57% of the GDP)

Bush left office in January 2009. He created the 2009 budget under which Obama operated for 8 mos & 2 weeks. At the end of that budget the national debt was $11.9 trillion (84% of the GDP)

Bush’s budgets increased the national debt by $6.1 trillion because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the tax cuts and the bailout packages.

Obama’s first budget year ended on September 30, 2010. Total national debt was $13.6 trillion (93% of the GDP)

As of February 7, 2012 the national debt was $15.4 trillion (101% of the GDP).

Therefore it is fair to conclude that Obama’s budgets–including those that originated in the GOP House of Representatives–have increased the national debt by $3.5 trillion (29%), not $6.4 trillion (64%)

Rove’s numbers in his Wall Street Journal column are way off, and it’s no surprise that the WSJ, now owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (Fox News), let him get away with such falsehoods.

Rove also says the economy Obama inherited wasn’t “the worst” since The Great Depression and goes on to complain about Obama’s stimulus package and very successful auto-industry bailout that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But worst of all, he brushes aside one of Obama’s major accomplishments: the successful mission to find Osama bin Laden that ended in his death. Rove strapped on his big brass balls before writing this:

Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the film, “that’s the call I would have made.”

Two problems: First, George W. Bush lost interest in putting himself in that situation, so he never had the opportunity to make the call.  And second, thanks to News Corp, Rove got away with presenting only part of what Bill Clinton actually said:

He took the harder and more honorable path. When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself, “I hope that’s the call I would have made.”

After being attacked by Obama supporters, the WSJ edited the original column by adding “I hope” to Clinton’s quote. If the editors had any balls they would have put in the whole quote, but then that would have underminded Rove’s phony criticism even more than what was done by adding those two words.

Karl Rove is a despicable man that only the likes News Corp would hire to offer political opinions that pit President Obama against his boy George Bush, who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the worst presidents ever.

Rich and Not Rich on Jobs and Deficits

Rich and Not Rich on Jobs and Deficits

From the February 2012 Harpers’s Index:

Average annual tax savings for member of the top 1 percent of earners under the Bush tax cuts:  $66,384

Average annual income for the other 99%:  $58,506

Factor by which an American is more likely to cite unemployment than deficit as the country’s “most important problem”: 3

Factor by which a wealthy American is more likely to cite the deficit than unemployment: 3

And there you have it.  The rich have been paying taxes at historically low rates for the past few decades (Yes, even the Clinton top rate of 39.4% is low by historical standards. It was 70% during the Kennedy years, and 91% during the Eisenhower years) and they are most concerned by the deficit while they are in the best position to do something about it-pay more taxes. Many of them do want congress to raise their taxes, but Republicans are doing everything in their power –  filibustering – to prevent any increase in federal revenue through any types of changes to the tax code. In fact, every tax plan proposed by Republicans running for president includes more tax cuts for the super rich, and some even include tax increases on the middle and lower classes.

If wealthy Americans are really concerned about the deficit, then they should contact their representatives in congress and ask them to raise taxes on the top 1% earners.

If wealthy Americans are really concerned about the deficit, then they should contact their representatives in congress and ask them to pass the Obama Jobs Bill that would put hundreds of thousands of currently unemployed people back to work. Providing jobs increases tax receipts and reduces the deficit. Providing jobs also increases consumer demand which grows the economy.

All the proposed austerity measures that Republicans are pushing will decrease jobs and shrink the economy causing greater deficits. Simple math tells me they are really all about making the rich richer and screwing the middle and lower classes.

The very wealthy people need to start paying more taxes – at least at the rate they paid during the Clinton years – and the government needs to start spending money on projects within our borders that create jobs. Once the economy gets back to pre-recession levels, taxes should go up on the middle class too.

Hillary’s Call for ALL Democrats to Vote for Obama

Hillary’s Call for ALL Democrats to Vote for Obama

Hillary Clinton is a much better former candidate for president than she was a candidate for president. 

While listening to last night’s speech, I was convinced for the first time that she really would make a good president, and she really does have strong leadership qualities.

I could not help but think that if she had campaigned for herself instead of campaigning against Obama, she could very well have ended up with the nomination.  Her campaign’s mean-spirited attacks against Obama were what brought her down.

But that’s all behind us.  Now she is campaigning as I thought she always should have:  She’s emphasizing the differences between the party platform by pointing out the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, and attacking John McCain for his wrongheaded support of failed Bush policies, and she’s promoting the better plans that her party supports.

And to all those Hillary supporters who say they’d rather vote for McCain than Obama, I thought she nailed it with:

I want you — I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him?

Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids?

Were you in it for that young boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?

Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

We need leaders once again who can tap into that special blend of American confidence and optimism that has enabled generations before us to meet our toughest challenges, leaders who can help us show ourselves and the world that with our ingenuity, creativity, and innovative spirit, there are no limits to what is possible in America.

We don’t have a moment to lose or a vote to spare. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance.

That is our mission, Democrats. Let’s elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden for that future worthy of our great country.

She really delivered a great speech, and I am looking forward to hearing more from her during the next couple of months.

Primary Postscript

Primary Postscript

We have a presumptive nominee for the Democratic nomination for the office of President of the United States of America.  His name is Barack Obama

Most of us recognized him as the winner of the Democratic primary contest well over a month ago.  Last night he secured the number of delegates necessary to win the nomination. 

Or did he?  Clinton gave a speech last night but she did not recognize him as the winner and concede.  Instead we heard this:

Who will be ready to take back the White House and take charge as Commander-in-Chief and lead our country to better tomorrows?  People in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the territories, all had a chance to make your voices heard and on Election Day after Election Day, you came out in record numbers to cast your ballots.  Nearly eighteen million of you cast your votes for our campaign, carrying the popular vote with more votes than any primary candidate in history.  Even when the pundits and the naysayers proclaimed week after week that this race was over, you kept on voting.

Followed by a lot of “I,” “I,” “I… ” and finally:

This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.

Hillary is STILL claiming that that she received more votes than any other primary candidate in history.  The only way she can make that claim is to count only the votes for her in Michigan and not give any of the “other” votes to Obama – a ridiculous assertion that basically says there were no Obama voters in Michigan – and to not count the caucus states’ votes, again… ridiculous.

Go here and you will see that Obama won the popular vote by any reasonable method of counting votes.  More importantly he won more delegates, and that’s what matters.

So why did Hillary spin her tired old yarn in last night’s speech?  I can think of only one reason:  To discredit the winner.

And about that “Who will be ready?” bullshit?  Not her!  She won’t be participating in the general election for president. 

Has anybody told her she lost?  Seriously.  You’ve got to wonder…

There were two other speeches last night.  Here’s what John McCain said in New Orleans:

Pundits and party elders have declared that Senator Obama will be my opponent.  He will be a formidable one. But I’m ready for the challenge and determined to run this race in a way that does credit to our campaign and to the proud, decent and patriotic people I ask to lead.

When Americans confront a catastrophe they have a right to expect basic competence from their government… Our disgraceful failure to do so here in New Orleans exposed the incompetence of government at all levels to meet even its most basic responsibilities.

The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again.  I have a few years on my opponent, so I am surprised that a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas. Like others before him, he seems to think government is the answer to every problem; that government should take our resources and make our decisions for us.  That type of change doesn’t trust Americans to know what is right or what is in their own best interests.  It’s the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency and common sense of free people. That attitude created the unresponsive bureaucracies of big government in the first place.  And that’s not change we can believe in.

What?  Hey John!  Do you know what the government is?  It’s “We the People,” and we ARE the ones that have to find solutions to our problems.  We on the Left have chosen Obama as our candidate because we think he best represents OUR ideas for solving the many problems we face today.  When he is elected president, he will be making decisions based on what all Americans think is in their own best interests.  

Mr. McCain, you are being extremely cynical when you say your opponent has “bought in to so many failed ideas.”  You mentioned the “disgraceful” failure of the Bush Administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  The government failed because it wasn’t a government of the people headed by a president who represented the people.  It was a government who’s primary mission was to return favors by appointing cronies and giving away billions to the rich people that got him “elected.” 

And what about that twisted first sentence of the second paragraph above:  “The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again.”

Are you suggesting the president should not look to the past?  Are you crazy?  Whoever is elected president must surely look to the past to see what types of policies worked and what types of policies failed.    The successful policies of the past are good starting points fore developing new solutions for today’s problems.  The policies that worked in the past should not be ignored.

Now to the main event.  Obama’s victory speech.  If you missed it, go watch it or read it now. 

Here’s the part of it that I thought was a great response to McCain’s “government is not the answer” bullshit.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better and kinder and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment.  This is our time, our time to turn the page on the policies of the past, our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face, our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long.  I face this challenge — I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations, but I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

He needs to keep making these types  of speeches to remind people that he really does represent something different from the status quo, and that it’s not just him that will turn things around, it’s us, and he will lead the way.

There’s a lot of work to do between now and November.  He will be hammered by the mean, nasty, hypocritical R’s.  There will be rough times in the next six months, but when he comes out of them, he needs to return to what he said tonight.  There will be plenty of opportunites to flesh out the details of his platform, and he’ll have to make convincing speeches and win some tough debates to show the Democrats have a better plan.  But now he now has the entire Democratic party behind him (Let’s hope Clinton makes a gracious exit soon… ) so he should be able to tap the best (dare I say elite?) minds of the party, and run an unbeatable campaign.

She’s Lost the Race…

She’s Lost the Race…

… and lost her mind.

I have friends who have expressed concern for Obama’s safety and worry about him getting assassinated.  Friends bringing it up in conversation is way different than Hillary bringing it up in a television interview. 

You’ve got to wonder what is going on in her head?  All of the candidates knew the party nomination rules when they entered the race.  They knew the race would be decided by delegate votes.  The candidate that was most effective campaigning for delegates now has an insurmountable lead.  No matter how she tries to spin the numbers, she’s still behind.

So why is she staying in the race?  She’s lagging behind waiting for an assassination?

Mr. Fish has another great comic about the race.  Go read it now.

What I Learned from the Indiana and N.C. Primaries

What I Learned from the Indiana and N.C. Primaries

Barack Hussein Obama is the Democratic candidate for the President of the United States of America.

Jonathan Schwarz thought about that and put up a post on This Modern World:

It’s September 12, 2001. You’re sitting in front of a TV, watching footage of the World Trade Center collapse over and over and over again.

All of a sudden, someone from seven years in the future walks out of a tiny temporal vortex, and tells you: George W. Bush is going to fuck this up so badly that in 2008, the United States of America will likely elect as president a black man whose middle name is Hussein and whose father was Muslim. Oh, and he also admits he’s used cocaine.

I think it would have been easier to convince me of the reality of time travel. “No, no, I believe you really are from the future. But the other stuff, that’s CRAZY.”

Of course Hillary Clinton hasn’t admitted to herself that she’s so far behind now that, even if she is granted her wish to have the “disputed” delegates from Florida and Michigan counted in her favor, she won’t be able to overcome her deficit in both pledged delegates and the popular vote in the remaining primaries.  Phil Singer, one of her own campaign spokesmen, estimates that even in a best-case scenario, she’d still be about 100 delegates behind. 

Clinton will fight on regardless.  She says she’s “staying in this race until there is a nominee,” and has decided to loan another $6,000,000 of her own money to her campaign fund.

So what are going to see from now until the nomination that’s already been decided is decided?  Garbage time.

Yes… Hillary is like a player in an NBA series that is already down three games and is eleven points behind with 14.8 seconds to go.  Intentional fouls are ugly things, but that’s what we’re going to have to watch for the next few weeks.  Obama will fend them off and shoot his free throws in the remaining contests.  If he misses a shot here and there, Hillary might close the gap a little bit, but she’s not going to win.

Hillary will probably continue to hack away at Obama and attempt to prove to the superdelegates that she, in spite of what we voters have decided, is the better candidate for president. 

She’s not the better candidate, but she could be a better opponent.  

All she has to do is look at the bigger picture.  She’s a Democrat and the real battle ahead is with the Republicans.  She could choose to focus her attacks on John McCain while she runs out the clock on her campaign.  She could explain why it would be terribly wrong to vote for a man that wants to appoint more Supreme Court justices like Roberts and Alito; that it’s a bad idea to vote for a man that doesn’t have a plan to end the war in Iraq; that voting for a man who wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent will lead to larger budget deficits and greater income inequality; and that voting for a man that thinks free markets will solve all are problems will not get us on the pat the universal healthcare.

We’ll soon find out how she chooses to play the game.

Politics and Religion… and Race

Politics and Religion… and Race

Mr. Fish illustrated the unnatural combination of politics and religion perfectly in this week’s comic featuring a caricature of Barack Obama.  Go read it now and then come back here.

Mr. Fish could make the same point with any of the candidates running for president.  All he’d have to do is replace Obama with McCain and add statements made by James Agee, or replace him with Clinton and mention her former pastor who was recently convicted of molesting a seven-year-old girl or her membership in The Fellowship.

All the candidates would be well advised to lay off each others’ ties to religious figures and religious organizations.  Counter attacks are too easy and, no matter how much the media chooses to focus on it, religion isn’t supposed to have anything to do with who we choose to be our president.  What’s supposed to matter is what the candidates themselves say and do.

The real story isn’t that these candidates are Christians and attend churches.  The real story is about how the media’s coverage is driven by race.

Read E. J. Dionne, Jr. today.