Category Archives: social security

The Doomsday Economy

Back in January of 2018 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ moved what they call the Doomsday Clock two minutes from midnight. The clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and this adjustment is the closest the clock has been set since 1953. The countdown clock was design and developed as a warning since the development of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. Although the clock in 2018 was moved due to the threat of climate change, nuclear war and, the lack of confidence in U.S. leadership; I bring this up because the clock represents a real threat and humanity should be aware of the probability of crisis, but why don’t we have one for the economy?

I have listened to a number of economists that have warned for years since the Great Recession of 2008 and that wages have stagnated despite productivity increasing and the stock market showing record highs and recovery. For example, the minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, and, although a movement has called for a $15.00 an hour, a minimum wage of $21.72 per hour if adjusted with average productivity growth.

Of course there are arguments against raising the minimum wage such as it will create inflation; but inflation is already rising. Those that make more money and have skills, education or trades should not make the same as those who do not, and if a rising tide raises all boats, these skilled laborers would make more money too. Businesses can’t afford a raise in the minimum wage; yet a report by the American Sustainable Business Council showed 61% support for raising the minimum wage with the cost of living by small business owners.

From what I have read the likely threat is to the amount of subsidies the average tax payer has to pay for major corporations to provide low wages. Low wage workers turn to public assistance for help. Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families subsidized fast-food workers and their households at $243 billion over four years a paper from UC Berkeley reported. Estimates by Americans for Tax Fairness estimates Walmart costs taxpayers 7.8 billion a year. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is on the bargain as well.

After the 2008 crash the Federal Reserve responded by bailing out banks and lowering Federal Interest rates to 0.25% in Dec. effectively making the rate 0. These are the mechanisms in place that financial leaders have used to fix the economy and help the people: and they have failed. Bailouts saved the banks and reinforced that deregulation can work as long as a constituency of taxpayers are available to maintain the the institutions that lobby for “free markets”. With Federal Interest rates lowered banks and those that have assets in non-taxing accounts (such as the Cayman Islands) and can borrow money from the Federal Reserve at these low interest rates and buy stocks back and finally cancelling them driving up the cost. Driving up the cost is rewarded buy bonus and higher valued stocks options. The results are in and the mechanisms didn’t work.

Dani Burger wrote an article for Bloomberg titled “Rife with Anxiety, Markets are Churning at the Fastest Rate Since 2008” in the article Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, a J.P Morgan “strategist”, is quoted as saying “Market turnover tends to be high when uncertainty is high, as institutional investors tend to reshuffle their portfolios,” This is a period Max Keiser has called “smart money selling to dumb money”. My opinion is to watch as much economic news as you can, the battle of propaganda between investors has begun. While trying to convince some that the economy is fine or as John McCain said in 2008 “The fundamentals of economy are strong…” or as CNBC’s Jim Cramer from Mad Money answered in March 2008 whether Bear Stearns was still a safe investment his answer was … Bear Stearns is fine. Do not take your money out.” Bear Stearns investment bank and brokerage firm fails and gets a taxpayer bailout.

Media outlets like Bloomberg are late, too late. The failed policies over the past few decades have eroded the middle class and threatened the system that the 1% praise. The problems of our economic system are deeply rooted and originate in our corporate-captured political system. Attacks on Unions, wages, and the deregulation of the banking industry have crippled labor and the blue collared workers

Going back to the Doomsday Clock, maybe it’s time for an Economic Crisis Clock. We know that the economy cycles in booms and busts, some are honest about the causes of these busts other choose to ignore the contradictions. We need those with insight and foresight that have a wide view of the issues challenging or society and economy.  This board of economic advisors needs to be a group of economists, environmentalists, biologists, botanists, and climatologists.

Economists such as David Harvey, Richard Wolff, Kate Raworth, Michael Hudson, Stephanie Kelton, Herman Daly, Ann Pettifor and, Nomi Prins have given us warning and solutions to upcoming economic collapse. Suggestions for fixing our economic system have been worker co-ops (like Mondragon), raising minimum the wage, regulating Banks and Wall Street (like the Glass-Steagall Act), instituting a Green New Deal (an economic stimulus package that would invest in renewable energy and resource efficiency while creating new jobs), Framing our understanding of economics within social and planetary boundaries, eliminating college debt, Medicare fore all, or community based cryptocurrencies, all these potential solutions for big problems.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists factor in Climate Change in their calculations for the Doomsday Clock, all agree that time is running out (if it hasn’t already) for the nations of the world to respond in a meaningful way to limit the damage that is already predicted. The effects of Climate Change are already making an impact on our planet. 2018 is expected to be the hottest summer on record. Louisiana is losing coastal land to rising sea levels with the lower third of the state expected to be underwater if levels rise 3-5 feet, the islands Laiap and Ros of Micronesia have already lost two-thirds of their land area. The Antarctic is melting three times faster than expect and the largest contributed of rising ocean sea levels. In 2017 an iceberg the size of Delaware was discovered to have broken off from the ice shelf in Antarctica. Our Planet is presenting evidence that we are stressing its’ ability to sustain our living standard, the boundaries are being strained.

Energy Watch Group and The Post Carbon Institute argue that with the largest oil discoveries having been made between the late 1930’s to the late 1970’s new oil discoveries cannot continue to meet the world demand. Not only will these new discoveries be unable to meet current and growing demand these discoveries will not be able to meet the demand that will be need to use this energy for the conversion to renewable, sustainable and more ecological sources of energy. The pursuit of oil as the primary energy resource with coal not far behind has not only made our environment and climate stability tentative but also our economy and our international relations with global nations.

In the meantime industry not only squandering resources that could be used to convert our society to that of a more ecological and sustainable economy. Our financial industry is ruthlessly applying its’ influence and investment to the gain of a few, subsidizing the conspicuous  consumption of the wealthy affluent instead of making investments that could be used to ease, develop and optimize our communities and society.

The effects from our lack of planning and investment will present itself more so than it has in our climate. Our chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be used up in four years, the Global Carbon Project the rapidly increasing carbon emissions will push us past the 2 degree limit in only three decades. The small rise in global temperature will not only increase the heat but limit availability to freshwater, slow crop production, rise sea levels, melt ice and permafrost, none of these things are going to be good for the people or the economy.

The rich affluent may horde their paper money and gold but when the earth is your home and your home is unlivable those tokens lose value. Today people are concerned about their livelihood and are worried about the mechanisms and markets that affect them the most that is why the subjects of housing, food, water, healthcare, education keep being brought up. These are the issues that matter. If people could be concerned beyond these they could understand and potentially have an impact on the issues mentioned that will also greatly impact them. The economy is what we use to improve ourselves and the community, deregulation, lack of investment in the development of our infrastructure, suppressed wages are steering us toward another financial collapse.

The economy is cycling toward another crisis and we are two minutes to midnight.

 

Michael DeWitt

CoolCatM   Twitter: @CoolCat0001    Guerrilla Communication Tactics

The Sam Seder Tim Black debate, or the Sam talks over Tim while Michael Brooks makes snarky commentary.

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By Joseph Ballin 6/29/2017 5:37 PM EST

Reader’s note: I am a fan of both Sam Seder’s The Majority Report and The Tim Black Show. I do not hold any hostilities towards either person debating in this piece and am writing this to illustrate how we on the left can find better solutions to our problems. That being said I’m biased toward Tim in this debate.

What’s the difference between a liberal and a progressive? Personally I don’t care or like these labels. Hillary described herself as a “progressive who can get stuff done.” So I couldn’t care less about those labels, but Tim goes into what I think he meant is between neoliberal corporate shills and people who want change in this country. Yes Sam is correct that the Majority Report does talk about all of the issues that Tim Black listed. So Sam goes to Tim’s youtube page and criticizes him for not covering healthcare enough. However, Sam has not watched Tim’s show and doesn’t know that he’s covered healthcare numerous times on his show. And now Sam goes into the Seth Rich / Kimdotcom territory.

The one thing me and Jimmy Dore have both been very clear on, we want evidence. We want evidence of Russiagate, evidence Assad gassed his own people, evidence for or against the Seth Rich cover up, etc. That’s reality based thinking. That’s why I’m an agnostic atheist, because I can’t prove there isn’t a god/gods, but there is no evidence that they do exist so there is no reason for me to believe in them. In fact, nothing in the universe can be proven. A fact is a statement that is taken to be true based off of evidence. It is something we collectively as a society agree what is real and fake. A theory is a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.

Ok now that we got that out of the way let’s deconstruct all this shit. There is no verifiable evidence Russia hacked, interfered, or colluded with Donald Trump or his campaign. In fact, as president, US relations with Russia under Trump are at a record low. Trump has repeatedly attacked the government of Bashar Al-Assad and Iranian militias several times, Russia’s allies. Trump signed a treaty expanding NATO to Montenegro, something Russia opposes. He signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, which authorized $100 million dollars for the “Countering Russian Influence Fund”, to counter “Russian influence and aggression” and to “support civil society organizations in Europe and Eurasia.” It also included a measure imposing new restrictions and oversight on Russian diplomats in the United State. The Act also includes provisions that no appropriated funds may be used to support the Russian annexation of Crimea and assist Crimea, if such assistance includes the participation of Russian Government officials, or other Russian owned or controlled financial entities. It also states that no funds may be used to support “the Russian occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia” or to assist the central governments of other countries that have recognized the two territories’ independence. On top of all that, US has imposes more sanctions on Russia during Trump’ presidency. If Trump’s a Russian puppet, he’s doing a really shitty at it.

Again this is not to say there isn’t business ties Trump has to Russia, like with Deutsche bank and Trump hotels because he’s a billionaire, but he also has business ties to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Philippines, Azerbaijan, mafia, etc., but the mainstream media never mentions this. Why does mainstream media never bring up the fact General Flynn was a paid agent of the Turkish government? Why does the mainstream media not bring up the fact Trump appointed all these Goldman Sachs people because of his ties to Israel? Or China provisionally granting Trump 38 trademarks after getting elected? Or the Clinton’s business dealings in Russia? So there is enormous hypocrisy on this issue. Focus on Russia and nothing else. Why you may ask? Because starting a new cold war with Russia ensures defense contractors can make giant profit because now we have a great power enemy again. Also we can’t start a cold war with China because our economies are to tied together. It has less to do with Trump himself and more to do with more spending on the military and strengthening the police state. That’s why you don’t hear anything about getting rid of voting machines or having open, fair, and free elections.

As for the Syria gassing of 2017, the entire thing was brought up so briefly and forgotten about so quick by mainstream media and the Trump administration it really makes you wonder what really did happen in Syria. Why has there been no independent UN investigation into the gassing? There is no evidence Assad ordered the gassing of any civilians. As for the Seth Rich story, I stated on day one when I first heard about the Seth Rich murder that I found it very fishy. I have no idea is Seth Rich was the Wikileaks leaker or who killed him, but I do know a couple things. I do know Assange has hinted, but not confirmed, to Seth Rich being the leaker. Wikileaks, outside of the Garani Massacre Video which they said they would publish, but never did, has been 100% on point. So now that we got all that out of the way, back to the debate.

So Sam now brings up whether or not it’s a good thing to promote the Russia fear mongering story to split off three Republican votes in the Senate for healthcare. First of all I won’t advocate a new cold war with Russia over healthcare. Second of all why does Sam think Russia influences how Republican senators vote on healthcare. We’ve already seen the Senate healthcare bill be delayed because of how awful it is. People aren’t thinking about Russia when they think of healthcare, they are thinking of NOT DYING! Plus I would wager all that corporate cash the Republicans senators take is more of an influence than the so called Russia scandal over Trump’s head. The only thing that will force Republicans to change their votes on healthcare is though mass movements.

Now Black brings up the rigged 2016 Democratic primary and the DNC fraud lawsuit. Tim brings up exit polling being used by the US to determine whether an election is legit or bs in foreign countries. I would like to point out that irregularities in exit polling in Ukraine were cited by the US and EU for the fascist coup in Ukraine. And I would also like to point out Sam Seder has had on Greg Palast on Ring of Fire, someone who says the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged. But ok Sam I guess the primary wasn’t “rigged.”

Continuing on Tim brings why Democrats blaming progressives for the lose of Hillary Clinton. So Tim brings up Susan Sarandon and her revolution comment about Trump, stating we are seeing a revolution already taking place under Trump. Ok so I agree and disagree with Tim here. A revolution against Donald Trump hasn’t sustained itself, yet. It needs to be sustained though mass rallies every week and civil disobedience in the streets. And I believe a revolution under Trump can happen if he topples Assad and invades Iran

Michael continues to break into this heated debate to make a funny comment. Now we get back to Seth Rich. So Sam again thinks that it’s crazy to think that politicians won’t murder people to cover up corruption. I agree Tim Black that we need to ask questions. Again I’m an agnostic on Seth Rich, I don’t know who killed Seth Rich.

One of the most damming quotes from the Sam Seder vs Tim Black debate comes right around here. “She (Nancy Pelosi) is a great leader. I would not support a challenge to her” – Sam Seder. Ok so let’s give Sam the benefit of the doubt and say Pelosi wasn’t guilty for the thousands of losses of Democrats in elections over the past decade or so. So why is it Sam doesn’t bring up the fact Pelosi didn’t do shit to bring about real progressive change during her time as speaker from 2007 to 2011? She opposes single payer, she didn’t prosecute GWB, and she didn’t bring up the Employee Free Choice Act.

And finally Sam says Steny Hoyer would be worse than Pelosi. So Sam why not get rid of Hoyer? And if he’s replaced with another corporate Dem get rid of them until we get someone who will at least listen to progressives. That’s what the Republicans did with Eric Cantor and their party is stronger than ever. Tim brings up the fact Sam voted for Hillary Clinton in New York, a blue non-swing state, but he doesn’t blame Hillary for not appointing Bernie Sanders as her VP pick, which everyone agrees would have won her the election. You know why she didn’t do it? Because of spite and corporate greed. She would rather lose to a Republican than give an inch to progressives, and that’s why we have Trump.

The Mendacity of Hope for the End of Trickle Down Economics

Summary of my reaction to the Democrat's actions over the last 18 months: OK. OK. Oh no. Shit. Goddammit. Now that they are lame ducks can they do one thing right and put an end to trickle down economics?

Folks, we all know how disappointing the last two years have been. Shameless theft of this title is from a brilliant but thoroughly depressing summary of our country's political reality. You should definitely Click to see a preview of this book But that only makes this site more important, as our founder has recently pointed out. So, let's follow along with what should be easy for the lame ducks to get right: bring back the personal income tax rate to the wealthiest among us to where it was under Clinton.

You know the chatter…NPR said ALL the Bush tax cuts will most certainly be extended at least for a year or two. Fox said the same, Newsweek said the same… I especially liked to hear our Maine Senators put away their 'Rino' tusks for a moment to conflate small business tax cuts (which everyone is in favor of) with maintaining the historically low tax rate for the wealthiest among us. So they will hold hostage making all the other cuts permanent for the wealthiest 2%?

Why?, we ask. Well, I'm not thinking this is a rich folk country club taking care of their own type of thing. And previous posts have brilliantly shown the history of the upper bracket rate, the amount of money at stake and the impact on balancing the budget. Oh wait, that's it! The old 'end around' to bankrupt the treasury so we'll have to roll back the New Deal because 'we can't afford it'. This is popular among our Teabagger friends. Has anyone heard where, exactly, they want the Federal Government to shrink? Defense? Hell no. This is the old 'two Santas' approach that Thom Hartmann likes to point out…you can have everything you want, and an amped up military to make you feel safe and secure, but you never have to pay for it!

Oratory Glory

I believe speeches can be significant. I think Obama’s speech on Wednesday’s might be one of those important moments. Or it may be more wasting of our time, more triangulation, more disappointment, more sucking up to the monied interest that currently dominate our government. My now seemingly naive hope when we elected Obama on the strength of millions of $20 donations, was that he would be able turn our corprate-ocracy back into a Constitutional democracy.

Fans of Thom Hartmann know I’m snatching this from Thursday’s show, but the similarities are too profound and I had to post this here. The following quotes are from a speech by FDR just before the ’36 election, after his first four years in office. This first clip talks about Republican attempts to undermine support for the just recently established Social Security program:

Here is an amazing paradox! The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them.

Every message in a pay envelope, even if it is the truth, is a command to vote according to the will of the employer. But this propaganda is worse—it is deceit.

They tell the worker his wage will be reduced by a contribution to some vague form of old-age insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar of premium he pays for that insurance, the employer pays another dollar. That omission is deceit.

They carefully conceal from him the fact that under the federal law, he receives another insurance policy to help him if he loses his job, and that the premium of that policy is paid 100 percent by the employer and not one cent by the worker. They do not tell him that the insurance policy that is bought for him is far more favorable to him than any policy that any private insurance company could afford to issue. That omission is deceit.

They imply to him that he pays all the cost of both forms of insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar put up by him his employer puts up three dollars three for one. And that omission is deceit.

But they are guilty of more than deceit. When they imply that the reserves thus created against both these policies will be stolen by some future Congress, diverted to some wholly foreign purpose, they attack the integrity and honor of American Government itself. Those who suggest that, are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence.

See any similarities? How many victims of the current ‘Wealthcare’ health ‘scamsurance’ system have been deluded into railing against a national insurance system? Only now, it is ‘understood’ that the American government is incompetent and incapable of doing ‘anything’. To those ‘nine word’ Reagan disciples I suggest they ’emigrate and try their lot’ somewhere else.

This next quote refers to the Republican administrations that came before his first term in ’32, that brought about the Great Depression:

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Sound familiar? I would love to hear the right wing punditocracy howl if Obama could ever remind us how we arrived at this economic state as forcefully as FDR did.

Click this link to hear the audio and read the transcript. I can’t get enough FDR audio. I hope I hear a little FDR on Wednesday.

Post Script – This article from Harpers Barack Hoover Obama is brilliant…thanks Uila for linking to it, it is so pertinent to this post and has great insights into the Hoover administration. It probably deserves its own post, but the bottom line from this piece is that Obama needs to recognize the extreme situation the nation is in and he needs to grow the sack to take radical action, or become the left’s Hoover.

Social Security Hypocrisy

Joe the plumber is not alone. Of course many hypocrites like to talk about how the social security program will never work. Any business that pissed away every profit it ever made wouldn’t last long. Well, it would be self sustaining as FDR proposed if we kept the surplus of workforce bubbles. But we haven’t. Mostly because the people running the government during the baby boomer prime earning years did everything they could to bankrupt every program in sight. The nine most feared words indeed. My new most feared words in the English language: “I’m a Republican and I want to run the government I believe is itself the problem”. If I worked for a company that elected as its president someone who firmly believed my company’s mere existence was an abomination, I’d be looking for another job. Newsflash Joe, Social Security has been one of the most successful and beloved programs in our history, until Reaganomics ushered in the new wave of anti-humanist republican party.. and by the way every advanced country in the first world has a program like it that works just fine.