Sunday, February 27, 2011

GM Finally in the Black

I see that General Motors has posted an impressive $4.7 billion in profits for 2010. This was the first profitable year since 2004 and the highest profits in more than a decade. Not bad for a company that was comatose and out of options when Obama chose to act. You will recall that Republicans, more ideological than practical, said that government could not possibly help the situation and demanded that it be dismantled and left to die. They must have forgotten that Chrysler received government aid during Reagan's tenure.

You can see the full story at The New York Times, and The New Republic.

Yet another huge company going under, with thousands of lost jobs? Precisely what Republicans want to see happen on a Democrat's watch. Ain't gonna happen.

And now how about some ovedue credit to the Obama administration, which has so far proved its Republican naysayers wrong? That won't happen either.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Media Complicity in Wisconsin

Have you noticed how corporate interests always manage to get in front of the microphone when there is something they want? These links show how Republicans and our for-profit media help corporate America by controlling the narrative. If you don't take a little effort to learn the larger story, you might even believe the shit going down in Wisconsin is about the state's deficit.

Amanda Terkel writes how unions are being largely frozen out of the weekend talk shows. Republican governors? No problem.

Meanwhile, David Kay Johnston writes about some really bad reporting in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to "contribute more" to their pension and health insurance plans.

Accepting Gov. Walker' s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
The real story on taxes, who pays, and why we have deficits, is obvious to anyone with even a hint of scholarly self-respect. That leaves out Glenn Beck, but you can click here for one article from the Journal of Economic Perspectives showing how corporate America and the wealthy have shifted the tax burden towards the middle class.

As the authors say in the abstract: "The progressivity of the U.S. federal tax system at the top of the income distribution has declined dramatically since the 1960s. This dramatic drop in progressivity is due primarily to a drop in corporate taxes and in estate and gift taxes combined with a sharp change in the composition of top incomes away from capital income and toward labor income."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Willful Ignorance

Mike the Mad Biologist has an interesting post up at his blog. He is incredulous, as am I, at the number of Americans who have utilized government programs, but did not do not realize what they used was in fact, from the government.

I have reproduced the chart to which he refers. It is a little small; you may have better luck reading it at his site, which I linked above. Note that the original study is from Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era (2009), which can be downloaded here (PDF). It is an academic study, so teabaggers won't read it, and Sarah Palin can't.

As Mad Mike observes: "Anyone who follows politics regularly is aware of the phenomenon of the voter who 'wants the government to stay out of my Medicare' (Medicare is a government program). But a huge fraction of recipients of government aid do not believe they have received government aid."

While the data are subject to different interpretations, I think Mike is spot-on when he says:
"This seems a case of willful ignorance by definition. Government aid is for lazy slackers, for 'welfare queens', and, in some people's minds, for those people. Decent, hard-working people don't receive government aid, even when they do. In other words, any program that helps middle-class people, people like themselves, is, by definition, not aid, because government aid is inherently pejorative."
Pervasive and willful ignorance of government's role is the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who assured us repeatedly that government was our biggest problem.  Republicans have continued to frame the debate over government's role, while Democrats have responded ineffectively. A generation of fantastically ill-informed voters is the result.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let the Teacher Pushback Begin!

This is great.  MSNBC has an article on a teacher in Philly who dares to say what so many teachers feel:"A high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia who was suspended for a profanity-laced blog in which she called her young charges "disengaged, lazy whiners" is driving a sensation by daring to ask: Why are today's students unmotivated — and what's wrong with calling them out?"

Nothing's wrong with calling them out, and their parents as well. One or more students, none of whom was ever identified by the teacher, had their feelings hurt, so naturally the teacher, Ms. Munroe, was suspended. That is what school administrators do best; cave in to loud and threatening students and their parents. 
That won't change the facts; Munroe's sentiments are shared by thousands of teachers. Their message is my message; far too many students are indeed lazy, unmotivated, rude, and indifferent to education and personal effort. And do they ever have a sense of entitlement.

A lot has changed in a generation. Veteran teachers are struck by the changes in student attitudes; many will not read, will not carry large books (too heavy, uncool, and won't read it anyway), expect a passing grade just for showing up, and spend absolutely minimal time on homework. Teacher authority has been undermined by social attitudes, demanding parents, and a constant stream of more interesting alternatives, such as social media. Video games are more fun than algebra.

Along the way, many parents have adopted an attitude of their own: if my kid is not learning, it must be the teacher's fault. And while many parents remain supportive, Republicans seen an opportunity to chip away at yet another public institution. Their constant hectoring reveals an almost pathological contempt against teachers and especially their unions.

My advice to right-wing loudmouths, pseudo-experts, and other assorted assholes: If you have not taught in a US public school in recent years, you have no idea what teachers have to go through and the blame-teachers-for-everything attitude that eats away at their morale.

Is it any wonder that teacher turnover is so high?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blowjobs in Perspective

This is why Republicans (and too many Democrats) like their voters ignorant, and why so many in the media willingly oblige. Ratigan might have added that the Republican-dominated witchhunt investigation of Whitewater cost $80 million; you know, the one Republicans were able to drag out for nearly all of Clinton's eight years, that turned up no evidence of wrong-doing, but our idiot media still calls a "scandal."

So let's see, $80 mil for Whitewater, another $40 mil for Lewinsky. Too bad for Republicans the Lewinsky incident happened late in Clinton's second term; they didn't get the chance to drag it out any longer. And that's the only reason they stopped at $40 million.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

They Want Your Social Security

This is excellent. In the video below, Cenk Uygur again states the facts about social security and comes to the unavoidable conclusion that Republicans, and a few blue dogs as well, are absolutely lying about social security.

Republicans say we must cut back benefits because they are hurting the deficit, but social security does not add to the deficit or debt. It continues to pay for itself and then some; roughly $2.5 trillion in surplus. Cenk notes that the surplus has been "borrowed," which points more to Congressional thievery, and not to any shortcomings with SS.

Cenk lays all of this out very well. It is a fantastic spectacle to see conservative politicians insist the working class must work even harder, and sacrifice even more, after extending tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent. It is all incredibly blatant, almost like a clumsy parody. I never thought I would see such a brazen and concerted effort to turn over ever more wealth and power to the financial elite.

I agree with Cenk that Republicans want to privatize social security for the benefit of Wall Street. And they are indeed lying when they say we must cut back now so as to ensure social security's future. Their long-term goal is undoubtedly to gut social security and privatize retirement. But their short-term goal is reduce benefits so that SS will begin running up an even greater surplus, one they can continue to borrow from, just as they, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been doing for years. They will take whatever surplus is created and spend it on war and tax cuts. They don't give a shit about fixing social security, and they don't want to pay back the trillions they have already borrowed. But if they want SS to be the perpetual golden goose, they have to convince you that it is a failure and that we cannot afford it. Republicans won't raise taxes, but they can get the same result by slashing benefits to middle class retirees. They have no problem doing that.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pushing Back Against Reagan Mythmaking

The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birthday is almost upon us and the myth makers on the American right are gearing up for his beatification. Although you won't see much of it from our for-profit media, many are determined to push back and present a more realistic view of our 40th president and the legacy he created.  

For example, in Ronald Reagan, Enemy of the American Worker, Dick Meister relates how stridently anti-labor Reagan was. In a blatant display of institutional capture, Reagan turned over control of the National Labor Relations Board to anti-labor hacks who, indifferent to the NLRB's mandate, stonewalled efforts by labor to seek relief for workers illegally dismissed for attempting to organize unions. 

In The Reagan Ruins, Robert Borosage explores the peculiar disconnect between the myth of Reagan today and the reality of his presidency. The man expanded government, raised taxes multiple times (remember revenue enhancements?) oversaw a dramatic increase in our trade deficit, and turned the US from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor. On the other hand, he did give rich people tax breaks, greatly increased military spending, gutted consumer protection laws, and began the turn towards an economy dominated by Wall Street. And that, apparently, is what conservatives want.

And finally, Will Bunch has an article over at Daily Kos that details the coming hoopla to which we are going to be subjected. Millions of dollars are being poured into an extravaganza meant to sear an image of Reagan-as-god into the fact-challenged, the wavering, and those too young to remember the guy.

Bunch reminds us that social security is strong today because Reagan saw fit to increase payroll taxes (after giving tax cuts to the rich), ensuring a multi-trillion dollar social security surplus, and the continued success of a popular program.

Bunch is the author of  Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy.