Sara Robinson

Tea Party: Everything You Know Is Wrong

The Tea Party is shaping up to be 2010’s first major media darling. First came the storm of coverage that surrounded the Tea Party convention in Nashville two weeks ago. Then, they stole the show at last weekend’s CPAC conference in DC. Now, they’re gearing up for a new month-long road show that starts at the end of March — a repeat of last fall’s national tour, this time with more busses and, no doubt, more media coverage. It’s obvious that the movement’s organizers have a professional touch for getting the corporate media’s attention. What’s less obvious is how much of this attention is deserved.

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Dave Johnson

Calls To Cut Social Security At Same Time As $140 Billion In Bank Bonuses

The President is setting up a “Deficit Commission.” Many, especially on Wall Street, are demanding that Social Security — the retirement program that people paid into all of their working lives — be cut. They want it cut rather than start paying back what was borrowed from the trust fund and used to pay for tax cuts for the rich — also especially on Wall Street. (Never, ever any mention of military, on which we spend about $1 trillion a year if you include veterans programs, spies, nukes and interest on military’s share of borrowing. More than is spent by every other country in the world combined.) Again, mentioning Wall Street, this year $140 Billion was handed out for Wall Street bonuses even as Wall Street did not increase lending. Instead, the profits that generated these bonuses were largely the result of government subsidies.

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Zach Carter

The Rising Toll Of Wall Street’s Global War

WEEKLY AUDIT The Global Economic Crisis Over the past thirty years, Wall Street has waged a steady war against governments around the globe, convincing policymakers of various ideological stripes that whatever raises profits for bankers and traders will be good for the rest of society. It’s a very simple and appealing portrait of how the world works. Unfortunately, it’s completely wrong. Profiting from hunger In an interview with AlterNet’s Terrence McNally, economic luminary Raj Patel explains the connection between widespread global poverty and wild Wall Street profits. Markets are defined by a set of rules—if those rules completely disregard social welfare, then the participants in those markets will ignore them as well.

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Alan Jenkins

Power of the Pen

Last week President Obama used a strategy that should become an important part of his leadership going forward. On February 18, he issued an executive order creating a bipartisan commission on addressing the budget deficit, after the Senate failed to enact legislation that would have done so. Whatever one thinks of the commission’s mission or likely recommendations, the order should represent a rediscovery of the power of the presidency. Perhaps because he came to the White House directly from the Senate, the President has been overly reliant on that body to achieve his goals. It goes without saying that the Senate is dysfunctional and divided—by contrast, the House has passed superior versions of many of the President’s legislative priorities, only to see more anemic version die at the other end of the building.

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Richard Eskow

The White House Weighs In on Health Reform. What’s Next?

The White House has just released “The President’s Proposal” on health reform. It must be considered in context, and the context is this: The House and Senate have each passed a bill and they’re deadlocked on the differences between them. The President is outlining what he considers a reasonable resolution of the two bills, with the expectation that it will be used to guide the remaining negotiations.

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Bill Scher

Behold The (Extremely Tiny) Wonders Of Bipartisanship

Five Republican Senators joined most of the Democratic caucus to forge the necessary 60-vote supermajority allowing the Senate’s first jobs bill of the year to advance. Is this a cause for celebration? Is this proof that a 59-seat Democratic caucus can actually function despite Republican obstructionism? Well, let’s look at what was actually accomplished. How little was actually accomplished. While we need to create 402,000 jobs a month for three years just to dig out of the jobs hole created by the recession, the only thing new in this bill is a small tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed, which in a best-case estimate would yield about 28,000 jobs a month. There was very little in the bill for infrastructure investment, nothing to help state governments avoid mass layoffs, nothing to help the unemployed stay afloat while we wait for the jobs to come.

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Sam Pizzigati

Did the Founders Want Government Small?

The new conservative ‘Mount Vernon Statement’ unveiled last week claims that right-wingers are upholding what the Generation of 1776 held dear. But those right-wingers, history shows, are conveniently overlooking what the Founders truly feared. The pillars of American right-wing thought and action — top officials from over a dozen national groups — assembled along the Potomac last week. At Northern Virginia’s historic Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, these luminaries met to “recommit” themselves to the one ideal they believe all conservatives can share. That ideal: small government.

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Terrance Heath

CPAC: Sideshow and Snake Oil, Pt 1.

The Sideshow Glenn Beck, in a sense, is right. CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is not and could never be a “big tent.” Neither is the brand of conservatism it tries so hard to sell. The “big tent,” to borrow his circus analogy is usually reserved for acts featuring genuine talent and skill that tend to draw people into the “big tent.” CPAC, as speaker after speaker demonstrated,  is more or less a sideshow — relegated to a small tent, and populated with notions that  have no basis in and would never work in reality, and that just don’t stand up to close inspection. Inside that small tent, where people who paid the admission price really want to believe their eyes, it works. But in the cold light of day, not so much.

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Bill Scher

Dropping Public Option For Bipartisanship = More Partisan Attacks

The White House’s health care proposal takes the Senate path and excludes a public health insurance option. The apparent logic, as indicated by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, was that a public option couldn’t get even 50 Senate votes today. This may be true, only 20 have signed this month’s letter urging its inclusion. But if the sudden drop of support is based on the notion that scrapping the public option will end the slanderous right-wing attacks, Republican Party leaders quickly proved that was not the case. Despite their being no public option that can be twisted around to charge President Obama with wanting a government takeover of health care, Republicans leader continued charging Obama with wanting a government takeover of health care.

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Dave Johnson

Whirlpool Exec Responds: The System Made Us Do It

In last week’s post, Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It, I wrote about Whirlpool closing a factory in Evansville, Indiana. In summary, • Whirlpool closes a plant in Evansville • Taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs. • All the local supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs are destroyed. • Even more home foreclosures in the area as a result. • Local businesses are stressed or have to go out of business. • They are playing nearby Iowa against Indiana for tax breaks and subsidies to keep just a few of the jobs. • Whirlpool is profiting from making all this someone else’s problem. • And, of course, Wall Street celebrates the move.

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Richard Eskow

Five Former Treasury Secretaries Endorse Volcker Rule

Since the nation’s capital is enamored of bipartisanship in all its forms, it’s surprising that today’s letter from five former Treasury Secretaries – both Democratic and Republican – isn’t front page news. The secretaries strongly endorsed the so-called “Volcker rule” in a letter to the Wall Street Journal.

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Mary Bottari

Deceptive Big Bank Ads Will be Key to Election 2010

Even before a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision blew the lid off corporate campaign spending, it was clear that the big banks would be key players in the 2010 election cycle. Unemployment will remain high and so will resentment against the banks, a volatile combination that will encourage savvy Members of Congress to continue to fight for meaningful reform of the financial sector. While a major reform bill is winding its way though Congress right now, it only addresses aspects of the problem, leaving loose ends for reformers to pick up and pursue in 2011. Groups for and against the current financial reform bills have already conducted their polls, polished their messages and are starting to engage ad-war skirmishes that foreshadow the deluge of big bank spending to come as Wall Street fights to elect candidates who will vote against reform and protect their interests and privileges.

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Sam Pizzigati

Our Plutocracy: Some Perspective on an Official Federal Portrait

Never before in modern American history, suggests a new look at America’s highest 400 incomes from the IRS, have so few made so much at the expense of so many. Or paid so precious little in taxes. The IRS has released, with not a trace of fanfare, the latest figures on America’s 400 highest incomes. A shame. These new IRS figures deserve fanfare, at least a trumpet blast or two. Our top 400, the new numbers show, have moved into an exalted realm. They now rank among the greatest plunderers of all time. Vandals and Huns, move over. Conquistadors, make room. You all have met your match — in the kingpins of high finance, hedge funds, and Silicon Valley who sit at the tippy top of 21st century America’s economic summit.

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Dave Johnson

Create Real Jobs That Pay Off: Update Our 1970’s Infrastructure

One legacy of the Reagan tax cuts is that we stopped maintaining – and never mind modernizing – our infrastructure. As a result there is a LOT of work that needs doing. And there are a very, very large number of unemployed people. Hmmm… There are so many more ways our economy suffers as the consequences of Reagan-era choices come home to roost. The current economic doldrums are in great part the result of Reagan-era choices: * The deferred infrastructure maintenance and modernization that resulted from the tax cuts mean that our economy is no longer world-class. Bob Herbert has been writing about this problem for a while. From his most recent, Schools, highways, the electric grid, water systems, ports, dams, levees — the list can seem endless — have to be maintained, upgraded, rebuilt or replaced if the U.S.

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Dave Johnson

Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It

Whirlpool, recipient of federal stimulus “smart grid” dollars, is closing an Evansville, Indiana freezer-topped refrigerator and icemaker production plant and moving the 1,100 jobs to Mexico. Whirlpool knows that taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs. Closing a plant like this also means all the supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs go away. For example, 100+ Disabled Workers Could Lose Jobs Whirlpool employees aren’t the only ones losing their jobs when the plant closes. More than 100 blind or disabled individuals could also be left jobless. The Evansville Association for the Blind has issued a public plea, asking businesses to consider using their employees. There will be more home foreclosures, and local businesses are stressed or have to go out of business.

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Bill Scher

Will the Public Option Surge Hit The Bipartisan Summit?

The Huffington Post headline states “Public Option Support Surging In Senate” after 18 Senators, with more possible to come, signed a letter calling for the choice of a public health insurance plan to be included in the final health care bill. Now, a surge is not a victory. It takes far more than 18 Senators to win passage, even using the simple majority budget reconciliation strategy. But the boomlet is a reminder that the public option has consistently remained an easily understood, popular provision among all the complexity of the health care debate. Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo have taken the lead in rallying the grassroots to push their Senators to sign the public option letter. Absolutely, everyone should respond to that call.

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Richard Eskow

Will This Study Finally End Democrats’ Magical Thinking About the ‘Cadillac Tax’?

It’s been a fascinating anthropological exercise to watch the health excise tax concept (the so-called “Cadillac tax”) keep its popularity among Democratic and liberals, even as one study after another discredits the assumptions behind it. It’s the Democratic equivalent of trickle-down economics – an idea that doesn’t seem to die no matter how much it’s contradicted by the facts. The Senate health reform bill places a 40% tax on all employer health benefit costs above a certain threshold. This tax came with a set of assumptions which have been disproven one by one. We were told that the tax would target health plans with especially ‘rich’ or ‘generous’ benefits, for example, but a comprehensive analysis showed that wasn’t the case.

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Terrance Heath

On Bearing Grudges

President Barack Obama doesn’t begrudge Wall Street’s banksters their bonuses. The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is "an extraordinary amount of money" for Main Street, "there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well." "I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen," Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. "I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth.

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Dave Johnson

Yes, Nuclear

I believe that global warming is the most serious threat humanity faces. So we need to use every possible technology we can to replace energy sources that put greenhouse gases into the air. This includes nuclear energy. One big problem with nuclear is figuring out what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. But here’s the thing, when we burn coal and oil we’re just putting the dangerous waste product into the air and it is destroying the planet. So we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good — nuclear waste is not destroying the planet and fossil-fuel waste is. We simply have to replace coal and oil as our energy source. Climate change is an emergency. We need to do everything we can. This means we need to put up every windmill we can, every solar panel we can, every solar power plant, biofuel and geothermal facility that we can.

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Roger Hickey

Now Obama Owns a Deficit Commission – and Senator Simpson

This morning President Obama signed an executive order creating a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This commission is based on an idea promoted by two Senators, Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus warned that the Conrad-Gregg legislative version of the deficit commission would have “painted a big red target on Social Security and Medicare. That’s what this commission is all about. It’s a big roll of the dice for Social Security and Medicare.” President Obama pushed to get the Senate to pass the Conrad-Gregg commission, which would have required the Congress to vote on its budget-cutting recommendations in a “fast-track,” undemocratic up-or-down vote with no amendments and little opportunity for debate.

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