salon.com — The need for a “grand bargain” involving taxes and entitlements — in the next few years, if not immediately — has moved to the center of discussion in Washington. But it’s the wrong grand bargain — and a very bad deal for Middle America. According to the conventional wisdom, any grand bargain should be modeled on plans like the Bowles-Simpson plan or the Rivlin-Domenici plan — financing lower tax rates on the rich by closing tax loopholes and cutting Social Security and Medicare. In the aftermath of an election in which the candidates of the rich were trounced at the polls, America’s plutocratic conservatives might be satisfied with merely maintaining existing low tax rates on the rich, while capping loopholes and cutting Social Security and Medicare. This entire approach should be rejected. It is based on two fallacies.
huffingtonpost.com — More than 600 small business owners and executives wrote a letter to every member of Congress urging them to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy under any deal brokered to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." "As businesses owners, none of us hire more employees simply because someone gives us a tax cut. We hire more employees when our customers demand more of what we have to sell," the letter reads. "When a teacher, firefighter, or construction worker building public infrastructure loses his or her job, many of us also lose a customer." The letter also emphasizes that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy do not generally aid small businesses, and suggests that the money could be better spent on infrastructure projects, education, or other efforts to strengthen the economy.
alternet.org — As the final Twinkies, Sno-Balls and those glowing orange cupcakes were stuffed with cream and wrapped in cellophane on Friday, the business world and much of the news media knew who was to blame for this dying American icon. It was the unions. As Hostess moved to end its operations last week — a bankruptcy judge asked the company Monday to try mediation with its unions; those talks are scheduled to begin today — commentators were eager to blame the rigidity of unions. But the story is far more complicated than that — and in some ways, the exact opposite of the tale pushed by those on the right. It’s the story of two bankruptcies, hundreds of millions of givebacks from Hostess unions and hundreds of millions of debt piled onto the company by venture capitalists. It’s a story of management that boosted its own salaries, while failing to make agreed payments into workers’ pension funds. And it’s a story of changing tastes and diets.
I joined Campaign for America's Future's Richard Eskow to talk about the "fiscal cliff" scare, austerity, Social Security, Medicare and how we WON the election so we really should be talking about jobs instead. more »
motherjones.com — Not even two weeks have passed since Democrat Elizabeth Warren rode a wave of grassroots support to victory in the US Senate race in Massachusetts, ousting Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Senator-elect Warren has not yet hired her staff. She has not yet moved into her Senate office. But the banking industry is already taking aim at her, scurrying to curb her future clout on Capitol Hill. Lobbyists and trade groups for Wall Street and other major banking players are pressuring lawmakers to deny Warren a seat on the powerful Senate banking committee. Democrats have two spots to fill on the committee before the 113th Congress gavels in next year. Warren has yet said whether she wants to serve on the committee. But she would be a natural: she's a bankruptcy law expert, she served as Congress' lead watchdog overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout from 2008 to 2010, and she conceived of and helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
prospect.org — You remember the Twinkie Defense? It was a term of ridicule coined by reporters covering the 1979 San Francisco murder trial of county supervisor Dan White. The right-wing White had assassinated both fellow supervisor Harvey Milk, a heroic figure in San Francisco’s gay community, and Mayor George Moscone. Lawyers for White claimed that he overdosed on Twinkies, and was acting under the delusional influence of a sugar high. Now, there is a new Twinkie Defense, and it is equally shameless and delusional. The Twinkie Defense is: the unions made us do it.
policyshop.net — There are basically two ways to thwart regulatory oversight of Wall Street: One, block new rules or weaken existing rules; and, two, make sure that whatever rules exist are not fully enforced. The finance industry and its allies in Congress are pursuing both strategies. Yet while the campaign against Dodd-Frank has received much attention, less heed has been paid to how a budgetary attack is undermining the two top watchdogs over Wall Street: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC).
policyshop.net — In 2008 alone, the securities industry lost over $2 trillion in workers’ hard-earned 401(k) and IRA savings. This loss was problematic enough for the millions of American families who watched their balances plunge in horror, but the number that really drives home the need for reform is the more than $120 billion that the industry took home in compensation and commissions the same year it lost $2 trillion in savers’ wealth. Clearly, there must be something wrong with the rules and incentives for the securities industry for it to be able to pay itself so much while simultaneously performing so poorly. There are, however, several relatively simple rules that could be implemented to insure that the industry responsible for millions of Americans’ retirement works to help them retire comfortably -- as opposed to simply lining its own pockets at their expense.
aljazeera.com — The gang for gutting Social Security and Medicare (aka "The Campaign to Fix the Debt") are running in high gear. During the long election campaign they gathered dollars, corporate CEOs and washed up politicians for a full-fledged push in the final months of the year. They are hoping that the hype around the budget standoff (aka "fiscal cliff") can be used for a grand bargain that eviscerates the country's two most important social programmes, Social Security and Medicare. They made a point of keeping this plan out of election year politics because they know it is a huge loser with the electorate. People across the political and ideological spectrums strongly support these programmes and are opposed to cuts [PDF]. Politicians who advocated cuts would have been likely losers on Election Day. But now that the voters are out of the way, the Wall Street gang and the CEOs see their opportunity.