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Just over 45% of able Americans have JOBS, but what Taibbi calls “The Real Housewives of Wall Street” are swallowing huge swaths of our tax money along with their caviar and champagne. But remember? They’ve convinced us its the teachers fault…
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Apr 15 2011
Apr 15 2011
How’s that Austerity thing working out for you again?
Pain of British Fiscal Cuts Could Inform U.S. Debate
By LANDON THOMAS Jr., The New York Times
Published: April 14, 2011
(I)n Britain, one year into its own controversial austerity program to plug a gaping fiscal hole, the future is now. And for the moment, the early returns are less than promising.
Retail sales plunged 3.5 percent in March, the sharpest monthly downturn in Britain in 15 years. And a new report by the Center for Economic and Business Research, an independent research group based here, forecasts that real household income will fall by 2 percent this year. That would make Britain’s income squeeze the worst for two consecutive years since the 1930s.
All of which has challenged the view of Britain’s top economic official, George Osborne, that during a time of high deficits and economic weakness, the best approach is to aggressively attack the deficit first, through rapid-fire cuts aimed at the heart of Britain’s welfare state.
(T)he big worry now is not tax rates. Instead, the fear is that Mr. Osborne’s emphasis on cuts in social spending – which aim to achieve an approximate budget surplus by 2015 and are likely to result in the loss of more than 300,000 government jobs – might tip the economy back into recession.
Already the government has had to slash its growth estimate to 1.7 percent, from 2.4 percent, for this year, as consumer incomes are under pressure from high inflation, weak wage growth and stagnant economic activity.
“My view is that we are in serious danger of a double-dip recession,” said Richard Portes, an economist at the London Business School. “This is going to be a cautionary tale.”
(note: dday mines some of the same territory.)
Apr 15 2011
A balanced budget with a surplus? No way not happening. Well it seems that there is a counter proposal by the Congressional Progressive Caucus that does just that.
The CPC proposal:
• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)
What the proposal accomplishes:
• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from
a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
• Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.
There was debate this morning in the House about the austerity budget put forward by Tea Party Rep. Paul Ryan’ (R-WI) that decimates Medicaid and Medicare. When Rep Keith Ellison asked Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) when the Ryan budget plan would produce a surplus, Rokita was clueless:
ELLISON: When does the Ryan budget create a surplus?
ROKITA: The budget proposed and voted on by the committee – […]
ROKITA: With responsible, gradual reforms to the drivers of our debt, like Medicare and Social Security, this budget will balance –
ELLISON: I asked the gentlemen when the Ryan budget created a surplus. He could have given me a year. He didn’t. That’s because he’s probably embarrassed about when that is. Let me tell you when the Progressive Caucus comes to surplus: 2021. That is known as a responsible budget.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Ryan’s budget will not produce a surplus until 2040 (pdf). The Economic Policy Institute looked that the Progressive Caucus budget. Their analysis said that it who produce a $30.7 billion surplus in 2021 (pdf).
Apr 15 2011
“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”
In case you wonder what her real name is
Heather “Digby” Parton: DC’s deficit frenzy
The entire political world has descended into a deficit frenzy that rivals the mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials. The mania has been growing for months, but exploded last week when D.C. heartthrob Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (R) unveiled what was widely received as the most important document since the Emancipation Proclamation and the entire political establishment started babbling about “brio” and “courage.”
Nothing else matters at this point – not anemic economic growth, not sustained, shockingly high unemployment, not a Middle East uprising of world-changing consequence – not even an epic nuclear catastrophe.
Robert Reich: President Obama’s Real Proposal (And Why It’s Risky)
Paul Ryan says his budget plan will cut $4.4 trillion over ten years. The President says his new plan will cut $4 trillion over twelve years.
Let’s get real. Ten or twelve-year budgets are baloney. It’s hard enough to forecast budgets a year or two into the future. Between now and 2022 or 2024 the economy will probably have gone through a recovery (I’ll explain later why I fear it will be anemic at best) and another downturn. America will also have been through a bunch of elections – at least five congressional and three presidential.
The practical question is how to get out of the ongoing gravitational pull of this awful recession without cow-towing to extremists on the right who think the U.S. government is their mortal enemy. For President Obama, it’s also about how to get reelected.
In December, President Obama signed legislation to extend hundreds of billions of dollars in Bush tax cuts, benefiting the wealthiest Americans. Last week, Obama agreed to billions of dollars in cuts that will impose the greatest burden on the poorest Americans. And now, virtually everyone in Washington believes, the President is about to embark on a path that will ultimately lead to some type of reductions in Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits under the banner of “reform.” Tax cuts for the rich — budget cuts for the poor — “reform” of the Democratic Party’s signature safety net programs — a continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies and a new Middle East war launched without Congressional approval. That’s quite a legacy combination for a Democratic President.
All of that has led to a spate of negotiation advice from the liberal punditocracy advising the President how he can better defend progressive policy aims — as though the Obama White House deeply wishes for different results but just can’t figure out how to achieve them. Jon Chait, Josh Marshall, and Matt Yglesias all insist that the President is “losing” on these battles because of bad negotiating strategy, and will continue to lose unless it improves. Ezra Klein says “it makes absolutely no sense” that Democrats didn’t just raise the debt ceiling in December, when they had the majority and could have done it with no budget cuts. Once it became clear that the White House was not following their recommended action of demanding a “clean” vote on raising the debt ceiling — thus ensuring there will be another, probably larger round of budget cuts — Yglesias lamented that the White House had “flunked bargaining 101.” Their assumption is that Obama loathes these outcomes but is the victim of his own weak negotiating strategy.
The deficit reduction plan President Obama vaguely outlined yesterday lacks basic credibility. The problem isn’t that the math doesn’t add up-it is at least a dramatic improvement over Republican Paul Ryan’s plan, which literally defies logic and basic math. This issue is that many of the reductions President Obama promised yesterday come from actions that he has been promising for years, yet when the opportunity came up to fulfill them, he actively violated his word.
In the speech, Obama again promised huge deficit reductions from both letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000, and fixing Medicare Part D by allowing Medicare to directly negotiate for lower drug prices. We are supposed to believe he will fight for these despite having laid down on both before.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Fighting for a People’s Budget
On Wednesday, President Obama spoke in eloquent language of our social contract, of a progressive patriotism, and of a role for government that helps us “do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.” It was a clear rebuke to the GOP’s Robin Hood in Reverse agenda-taking from the poor and middle-class in order to preserve tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Obama made the right choice in defending Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and pushing instead for healthcare reform-even putting negotiating drug prices on the table. He again refused to renew the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy-a pledge he has made and broken in the past. He also called for cuts in a defense budget that has contributed 2 out of 3 dollars in increased discretionary spending since 2001
Mike Lux: It’s All One Story
I’m going to comment on the President’s budget speech in a minute, but first I want to highlight something happening on Capitol Hill today that really ties together the Republican governing philosophy.
There is a certain rich irony in Darrell Issa bringing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to the Capitol for a hearing on how Moody’s has boosted Wisconsin’s credit rating because of the union busting measures Walker has been pushing in the state. So in one sentence, you have a leader of the House Republicans that are trying to do away with Medicare and Medicaid, the governor who most personifies the attempt to crush collective bargaining in this country, and one of the principal companies at the dead center of the fraud on Wall Street that brought down the world economy. They should take their show on the road. You could entitle it “Cruelty, Arrogance, and Fraud: How to Dismantle the American Middle Class in Three Easy Steps.”
Issa, Walker, and Moody’s belong together. This is all one story – the story of a relentless assault on the working middle class and those desperately trying to gain a foothold on the ladder up to it.
Johann Hari]: This royal frenzy should embarrass us all
Republicans are not the Grinch, trying to ruin the ‘big day’ for William and Kate. We are proposing a positive vision
Okay, let’s cut a deal here. If Britain can afford to spend tens of millions of pounds on the royal wedding, we have to spend an equal amount distributing anti-nausea pills across the land – to all of us who can’t bear to see our country embarrass itself in this way. Don’t let the Gawd-bless-you-ever-so-‘umbly-yer-Majesty tone of the media coverage fool you. Most British people are benignly indifferent to the wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton. The 20 percent of us who are republicans, like me, have it slightly worse. We will suffer that face-flushing, stomach-shriveling embarrassment that strikes when somebody you love – your country – starts to behave in a deeply weird way in a public place.
Of course, when two people get married, it’s a sweet sight. Nobody objects to that part. On the contrary: republicans are the only people who would let William Windsor and Kate Middleton have the private, personal wedding they clearly crave, instead of turning them into stressed-out, emptied-out marionettes of monarchy that are about to jerk across the stage. We object not to a wedding, but to the orgy of deference, snobbery, and worship for the hereditary principle that will take place before, during and after it.
Apr 15 2011
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
April 15 is the 105th day of the year (106th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 260 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1912, Molly Brown avoids sinking with the Titanic
A 20th century version of the strong and resourceful women of the Wild West, Molly Brown wins lasting fame by surviving the sinking of the Titanic.
Margaret Brown (nèe Tobin) (July 18, 1867 – October 26, 1932) was an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous due to her involvement with the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, after exhorting the crew of lifeboat 6 to return to look for survivors. It is unclear whether any survivors were found after life boat 6 returned to search. She became known after her death as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, although she was not called Molly during her life. Her friends called her Maggie.
Born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, one of four children born to Irish immigrants John Tobin (1820-1899) and Johanna Collins (1825-1905). Her siblings were Daniel (born 1863), William (born 1869), and Helen (born 1871). Added to these, Margaret had two half-sisters: Catherine Bridget Tobin, by her father’s first marriage, and Mary Ann Collins, by her mother’s first marriage. Both her mother and father had been widowed young.
At age 18, Margaret relocated to Leadville, Colorado with her sister, and got a job in a department store. It was here she met and married James Joseph Brown (1854-1922), nicknamed J.J., an enterprising, self-educated man. His parents, too, had emigrated from Ireland. Brown had always planned to marry a rich man but she married J.J. for love. She said,
I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had determined to stay single until a man presented himself who could give to the tired old man the things I longed for him. Jim was as poor as we were, and had no better chance in life. I struggled hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I’d be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown.
Margaret and J.J. were married in Leadville’s Annunciation Church on September 1, 1886. The Browns had two children.
The family acquired great wealth when J.J.’s engineering efforts proved instrumental in the production of a substantial ore seam at the Little Jonny mine of his employers, Ibex Mining Company, and he was awarded 12,500 shares of stock and a seat on the board.
In Leadville, Margaret first became involved with the women’s suffrage issue, helping to establish the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and working in soup kitchens to assist miners’ families.
During 1894, the Browns moved to Denver, Colorado, which gave the family more social opportunities. Margaret became a charter member of the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission was the improvement of women’s lives by continuing education and philanthropy. During 1901, she was one of the first students to enroll at the Carnegie Institute in New York. Adjusting to the trappings of a society lady, Brown became well-immersed in the arts and fluent in the French, German, and Russian languages. During 1909 she advertised herself as campaigning for the U.S. Senate.
Margaret assisted in the fundraising for Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which was completed during 1911. Margaret worked with Judge Lindsey to help destitute children and establish the United States’ first juvenile court which helped form the basis of the modern U.S. juvenile courts system.
Margaret campaigned for Senate again during 1914 but stopped when her sister Helen married a German baron, with Margaret believing that the union would have made a successful campaign impossible.
By the time Margaret Tobin Brown boarded Titanic at Cherbourg, France, she had already made a significant impact in the world. She and her daughter Helen, who was a student at the Sorbonne, had been traveling throughout Europe and were staying with the John Jacob Astor party in Cairo, Egypt, when Margaret received word that her first grandchild, Lawrence Palmer Brown, Jr., was ill. She decided to leave for New York immediately, and booked passage on the earliest ship: Titanic. At the last minute Helen decided to stay behind in London. Due to her quick decision, very few people, including family, knew that Margaret was on board the Titanic.
After the ship struck the iceberg, Margaret helped load others into lifeboats and eventually was forced to board lifeboat six. She and the other women in lifeboat six worked together to row, keep spirits up, and dispel the gloom that was broadcast by the emotional and unstable Robert Hichens. However, Margaret’s most significant work occurred on Carpathia, where she assisted Titanic survivors, and afterwards in New York. By the time Carpathia reached New York harbor, Margaret had helped establish the Survivor’s Committee, been elected as chair, and raised almost $10,000 for destitute survivors. Margaret’s language skills in French, German, and Russian were an asset, and she remained on Carpathia until all Titanic survivors had met with friends, family, or medical/emergency assistance. In a letter to her daughter shortly after the Titanic sinking, she wrote:
“After being brined, salted, and pickled in mid ocean I am now high and dry… I have had flowers, letters, telegrams-people until I am befuddled. They are petitioning Congress to give me a medal… If I must call a specialist to examine my head it is due to the title of Heroine of the Titanic.”
Her sense of humor prevailed; to her attorney in Denver she wired:
“Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry.”
On May 29, 1912, as chair of the Survivor’s Committee Margaret presented a silver loving cup to Captain Rostron of the Carpathia and a medal to each Carpathia crew member. In later years Margaret helped erect the Titanic memorial that stands in Washington, D.C.; visited the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to place wreaths on the graves of victims; and continued to serve on the Survivor’s Committee. She was particularly upset that, as a woman, she was not allowed to testify at the Titanic hearings. In response she wrote her own version of the event which was published in newspapers in Denver, New York, and Paris.
The actor Kathy Bates, who portrayed Margaret “Molly” Brown in the movie Titanic, bears an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Brown.
Apr 15 2011
As Bahrain stifles protest movement, U.S.’s muted objections draw criticism
By Joby Warrickand Michael Birnbaum, Friday, April 15,
Two months after the eruption of mass protests in Bahrain, the kingdom has largely silenced the opposition, jailing hundreds of activists in a crackdown that has left the Obama administration vulnerable to charges that it is upholding democratic values in the Middle East selectively.
Bahrain’s monarchy, since calling in Saudi troops last month to help crush the protest movement, has been quietly dismantling the country’s Shiite-led opposition. On Friday, the Sunni government announced an investigation into the activities of Bahrain’s largest political party, the Shiite-dominated al-Wefaq, which could lead to its ban.
The Obama administration has repeatedly appealed to the Bahraini government for restraint, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week called for a political process that “advances the rights and aspirations of all the citizens of Bahrain.”
Apr 15 2011
Will there be another “cave exploration by our Spelunker-in-Chief? Despite President Obama speech on Wednesday and his
demand request for a “clean bill” to raise the debt ceiling, there are those who have their doubts about Obama resolve to stand his ground considering his past capitulations in the name of bipartisanship for the last two years.
Now Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has threatened to filibuster the bill should it not contain “other fiscal reforms” like a balanced budget amendment.
A top conservative senator on Thursday indicated he is willing to go to extreme lengths to prevent a vote on raising the debt ceiling, even if it hurts the Republican Party politically.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said on the conservative Laura Ingraham Show he is considering filibustering an upcoming vote to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit if it doesn’t contain other fiscal reforms.
While the Senate Minority Leader Mitch “The Human Hybrid Turtle” McConnell (R-KY) has said that the ceiling should be raised to avoid the dire consequences, he would like to see it passed with only Democratic votes.
Mr. McConnell is discouraging his colleagues from filibustering a vote to increase the federal debt limit because he knows that, if push came to shove, some of his colleagues would almost certainly have to vote yea. He’d rather it pass in a 51-vote environment, where all of the votes could come from Democrats, than in a 60-vote environment, where at least seven Republicans would have to agree to a cloture motion.
In the same New York Times article by Nate Silver the consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling would lead to another recession:
If the Congress does not vote to increase the debt ceiling – a statutory provision that governs how many of its debts the Treasury is allowed to pay back (but not how many obligations the United States is allowed to incur in the first place) – then the Treasury will first undertake a series of what it terms “extraordinary actions” to buy time. The “extraordinary actions” are not actually all that extraordinary – at least some of them were undertaken prior to six of the seven debt ceiling votes between 1996 and 2007.
But once the Treasury exhausts this authority, the United States would default on its debt for the first time in its history, which could have consequences like the ones that Mr. Boehner has imagined: a severe global financial crisis (possibly larger in magnitude than the one the world began experiencing in 2007 and 2008), and a significant long-term increase in the United States’ borrowing costs, which could cost it its leadership position in the global economy. Another severe recession would probably be about the best-case scenario if that were to occur.
The bill will not get to the Senate until sometime in May. When it does reach the “upper” chamber, it most likely will be loaded with hundreds of riders from the House Tea Party Republicans. The President and the Senate Democratic leaders have a limited choices. However, if that choose to stand their ground and push for that “clean bill”, there could be “savior”, Wall St., which stands to lose billions or more if the US defaults on its debt. As David Dayen at FDL suggests this is a plausible solution. But is it possible considering Obama’s inability to win at this “Congressional Game of Chicken”?
Apr 15 2011
- Late Night Karaoke by mishima
- Muse in the Morning by Robyn
- Six In The Morning by mishima
- Gha! by RiaD
Featured Essays for April 14, 2011-
- #Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement by TheMomCat
- On Open-Source Entertainment, Or, Today, Jon Kyl Meets Twitter by fake consultant
- Equal Pay Requires Specific Strategies by cabaretic
- How Low Will They Go? by TheMomCat
- What could possibly go wrong? by ek hornbeck
Apr 15 2011
Those of you that read this irregular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
I never write about living people except with their express permission, but since the topic is me, I hereby give myself permission to tell this story. I am guessing that it happened either in 1961 or 1962, when I when I was either four or five years old. I know that it was before I started school.
We lived in North Little Rock in 1962, because my father got transferred. Interestingly, we lived across the street and three houses up from the Fischer Honey plant, quite a thing, but a topic for another time.
Apr 15 2011
This is an Open Thread
Essays Featured Thursday the 14th of April:
Thursday Open Thoughts from mplo are More on the movie “The Town”; No sympathy for Doug or Claire:
On Open-Source Entertainment, Or, Today, Jon Kyl Meets Twitter from fake consultant
The touching tail of Kiva A Pootie Gets A Chance, from Wendys Wink, republished with permission.
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