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Snatching Defeat From The Hands Of Victory

That should be the tagline for the democratic party. How can I say that a week after democrats successfully recalled two state senators in Wisconsin, and a day after they successfully defended two Wisconsin senate seats? I can say it because they’re poised to fuck up the rest of the work that needs to be done in Wisconsin.

Here’s the deal; Scott Walker, whose approval rating is abysmal is eligible to be recalled in January. Sounds like a great position for democrats, right? Not so fast. National democratic strategists (I use that term loosely and with with much disdain) are now thinking about rolling the Walker recall vote into the 2012 election. Why would they let this asshole keep screwing working people in Wisconsin for another year and a half? Because it’s not about the people. It’s about the politics. And to rub salt in the wound, it’s about bad politics.

These brilliant “strategists” think that they have a better chance of recalling Walker if they ride the Obama wave in 2012. Yup, you read that correctly; The Obama Wave. I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, but I’m looking at the polls. The only waving being done here is by Obama, waving at his approval rating as it fades into the distance. He has plummeted into the high 30s. That’s right, the guy that defeated the pirates and killed Bin Laden is within 10 points of Bush when he left office. Now, depending on who you talk to, the low approval ratings are either because 70% of us are among the unreasonable “professional left” or, Obama is just the most ineffective president in recent history. But that’s a topic for another post, or several previous posts, as the case may be. My point is that they’re factoring in a mythical movement that isn’t validated by one single piece of empirical evidence. There’s no Obama wave. There is Obama frustration and Obama apathy. There is a decided lack of “wave”.

I believe that the Walker recall has a better chance if it’s a stand alone election. The polls clearly show that Wisconsinites want him to get the fuck out now. I don’t know why you would dick around for another year, hanging your hopes on an advantage that doesn’t exist.

On top of the sheer stupidity, waiting for 2012 clearly sends a message by democrats; We don’t give a shit about Wisconsin or it’s citizens. We just want to win.

This is exactly why most people don’t pay attention to politics and why they don’t vote. All of the options fucking BLOW, and the politicians are getting worse and worse at pretending they don’t suck.

But don’t despair, there is a glimmer of hope. Wisconsinites can buck the national democratic party and get the recall signatures on their own. They can snatch victory from the hands that want to snatch defeat from the hands of victory. Wait, I’m all confused now. Well, you get my point. Wisconsinites have the opportunity to set an example by ignoring the democrats’ nonsense and the republicans’ tyranny. If they take it upon themselves to rectify the situation, independent of either party, they have the chance to give us all hope that we can buck this two shitty party system that we have.

Both parties are being allowed to be shitty by us. It’s time that we start getting active in a meaningful way. I’m talking to you, Wisconsin! Go get em!


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Here Comes The Austerity

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Remember how I told you that we would know if we were going to get fucked on the debt ceiling deal, as soon as we found out who was going to be in the “super congress”? Yeah, we’re totally fucked. I knew we were fucked when Harry Reid announced that Max Baucus was going to be appointed to the committee. If past is prologue, he’s going to lead the charge to fold to any middle class decimating cut the republicans come up with.

Announcements from Mitch McConnell and Boehner today confirmed that. We got five back benchers plus Jon Kyl. No Paul Ryan, no Eric Cantor, no republican with political asperations beyond their current position. Why? Because being on the commission that guts the middle class isn’t exactly an inspirational resume item.

We’re fucked.

Our only hope is that Jon Kyle doesn’t intend for these cuts to be a factual statement.  

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Satan’s Amuse Bouche

For the non-elitists reading this blog, an amuse bouche is a small, single bite of food served before the appetizer. Emanuel Cleaver was being a sunny optimist when he described the debt ceiling deal as Satan’s sandwich. In my opinion, that deal was just the amuse bouche for what will surely end up being a seven course meal.

We’ll have a fairly good idea of just how screwed we are in about three weeks, when we find out who the members appointed to the super congress (good god, that makes me laugh every time I say it) will be.

But I’m going to go ahead and predict that it’s going to be pretty bad. As I said in a previous post, there isn’t a snow balls chance in hell that a Bernie Sanders or an Al Franken will be chosen to be superior. No, we’re most certainly going to get a stable of blue dog democrats and whackadoo far right wingers on this committee.

I expect to see cuts to medicare and medicaid. I expect to see cuts to pell grants, food safety, the EPA, and a whole slew of other programs that hit the middle class and the poor.

But it won’t be all bad. There will be one single revenue raiser in this plan. My guess is that they’re going to give US corporations a tax holiday to enable them to repatriate all of that money that they have sitting in offshore accounts. They’ll give them a comical 5% rate to entice them to bring the money back in, and they’ll call that a revenue raising measure. Oh, I take back what I said, it is all bad.

In 2005, the Bush administration allowed US corporations to bring their money back into the country for a comical 5.25% federal tax rate. 800 companies took advantage of this and brought 312 billion back into the US. Did they reinvest that money back into their companies and create jobs in the US? Fuck no. You won’t be surprised to hear that they spent 92% of the money on buying back stock (in order to jack up the stock price), paying shareholders, and paying executives big ass bonuses. In their defense, those big ass bonuses were well deserved. After all, those executives had just successfully played American tax payers for rubes. How did this all work out for job seekers? Brace yourself; they got fucked. Here’s a little chart that shows you what the biggest “repatriators” did in the year following their heist of the US treasury;

 

Corporation Amount Repatriated Layoffs In 2005-2006
Pfizer $37 billion 10,000
Merck $15.9 billion 7,000
Hewlett-Packard $14.5 billion 14,500
Honeywell $2.7 billion 2,000
Ford $900 million 30,000
Colgate-Palmolive $800 million 4,000

 

So why would our representatives do this again? They’ll do it so that they can call it a win. Obama loves calling mediocre (or shitty) legislation “historic”. Remember the crappy financial reform bill? That was historic. Remember the health reform bill that does nothing to actually bring down the cost of health insurance? HISTORIC! He’s going to make this shitty deal, and then claim victory for raising revenue. Republicans will claim the win because they cut taxes, again.

So who actually wins in this deal, republicans or democrats? If you picked either of those choices, you’re just not understanding politics in America. You’re still being sucked into the theater that is designed to make you support something that is against your own self interest. The “teams” aren’t republican versus democrat. The teams are working people versus the idle rich.

I took great care in including the word “idle” in that last sentence because I have absolutely nothing against rich people. I hope to be one myself someday. No, my issue is with people born into wealth, that give far less back to their country than they take. My issue is with the CEO that makes 320 times the salary of the average worker in his or her company. No CEO is worth that. Not even if they orally pleasure ever single worker in their company on a daily basis. I have no issues with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. They created something that the whole world wants to buy, and they create real jobs for people all around the world.

The divide is between those that give to the country and those that take. It’s the idle rich versus everyone else. Make no mistake, the winners in this deal or any deal are going to be the idle rich. The rest of us are going to be the big losers. Let me repeat; if you think it’s going to turn out any other way, you’re just not understanding politics in America.

I’ve been listening to Randi Rhodes and Stephanie Miller go on and on about how brilliantly Obama played the teapublicans on the debt limit deal. Their hypothesis is that by including a trigger that includes deep cuts to defense spending, they’re going to get the defense lobbyists fighting for cuts anywhere else. They believe that this deal turns all of the lobbyists for every major welfare industry in America against each other. They believe that Obama will definitely let the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire.

Every single assumption that Randi and Stephanie make is based on pure fantasy. First of all, these deep cuts to defense are a joke. How do I know that? Because nobody can tell me where the cuts are. No one has been able to say that we’re going to stop making this useless fighter jet, or giving cost+ contracts out to defense contractors. These cuts are hypothetical and intangible, which tells me they’re a mirage. Secondly, Obama is going to stand firm and let the tax cuts expire? Are you fucking kidding me? He’s never, not one time stood firm on anything. You believe he’s going to stand up to the one thing that republicans have repeatedly said is a non-starter? And you believe this based on what? I’m not a pessimist. I believe that past action is the best predictor of future behavior. I’m not foolish enough to expect the president to break his consistent record of folding like a cheap suit. No, this sunny optimistic view doesn’t make any sense at all.

So let’s all put on our eatin’ clothes (you know, the loose dresses and elastic waistband pants) because we’re about to feast on Satan’s all you can eat buffet.

 

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Gratuitously Liberal

Apparently, that’s my problem. It’s the root cause for why I’m not happy with Obama’s performance. Obama is actually doing a great job. I’m just incapable of seeing it because of my rigid, gratuitously liberal ideology.

Okay, so that explains my discontentment. I’m just a curmudgeon. How does Obama explain his falling poll numbers among independents? He’s losing the liberals, but they’re obviously a bunch of malcontents like me. But the independents? I think I know the answer to that one; they’re also in a very liberal mood these days.

Here’s the thing about America; we’re kind of fickle. When things are going well enough for us economically, that we don’t have a care in the world, we’re conservatives. Remember the late 90s when we had the luxury of talking about Bill Clinton’s penis in perpetuity? We had that luxury because we were employed and generally well off. We could indulge in cockpalooza because we weren’t looking for jobs. We weren’t worried about where our next meal was coming from, and we weren’t one paycheck away from total financial ruin. When Americans are financially prosperous, we start to go right in our thinking. The thought process is; “well I’m working and earning a good living, so someone else is clearly sponging off of my hard earned tax dollars”. You see, when are in a position of thinking that you’re not taking anything out of the system, you start to resent having to pay into it at all. 

Inversely, when times are tough, we all become filthy socialists. Programs like unemployment insurance, medicare, medicaid, and social security suddenly become essential components of the American compact. They suddenly become entitlements. Not in that dirty way of peh, entitlements that you didn’t earn and don’t deserve, you fucking freeloader! No, they become entitlements in the, “I paid into this program that I am now entitled to collect out of”.

We’ve seen these (now) predictable shifts in the ideology of the American people over and over again. The most glaring example being the transition from Hoover to FDR. America was ready to be socialized a la The New Deal. They weren’t sitting in front of their radios, in their Hoovervilles cheering spending cuts. It happened again in the transition from Clinton to Bush 2.0. Americans had jobs, and therefore had the luxury of swinging right

So when Obama was elected, his victory was born out of our desire for a little bit of socialism that had been missing from our lives. He was elected to be the dirty hippie that would counteract the policies that left us unemployed, uninsured, and drowning in mortgage debt. This simple fact seems to be lost on him and every member of his administration, regardless of what polling tells them.

When Americans disliked the health reform bill because it didn’t go far enough to change the system, it was because we were all being gratuitously liberal and just couldn’t appreciate a good compromise.

When Americans wanted to eviscerate Wall Street with strict regulations, we hated the ineffective reform bill that ultimately passed because we were being gratuitously liberal and just couldn’t appreciate a good compromise.

When the debt ceiling discussions were going on and congress was talking about cutting the crap out of programs that help the middle class to tread water, while preserving ever single penny of savings that the elite have enjoyed, Americans were unreasonable in their disapproval of the situation. We were just being gratuitously liberal and just couldn’t appreciate a good compromise.

This is honestly how they’re looking at the situation! Never mind the fact that his approval rating went up when he passed the stimulus package. That was a meaningless spike and Americans clearly prefer compromise to socialism.

I don’t know why it is that politicians seem to completely lose touch with Americans once they get elected. And I definitely don’t understand how it is that they become incapable of making the most obvious observations in the world. Nothing I’ve said in this post extends beyond the bounds of common sense and observation. Yet this administration seems oblivious to all of it.


They may be correct in their assumption that most Americans won’t notice that the debt ceiling deal just made college $8,000 a year more expensive. But they’re dead wrong if they think that we won’t notice that life is getting harder. As a country, we may not be engaged in the policy changes that make life more difficult, but we’re definitely noticing that we’re working harder and have less to show for it than our parents did. There’s a palpable anger in the air.

More and Americans are figuring out that Obama is never going to deliver on the hope that he promised. But there’s no one out there to give them new hope, so we’re left with a void.

My hope is that we eventually reach a level of hopelessness that motivates us into action. Not useless action like voting or picking the most likeable corporate shill to support, but real action. Action like collecting signatures to pass publicly financed campaigns all across the country. And action like squelching the myth of corporate personhood once and for all.

Dammit! There I go being gratuitously liberal again.

 



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President McCain

I’ve been waiting to comment on this whole debt ceiling nightmare until it came to a conclusion, so as not to sound like a pessimist. I didn’t want to sound hyperbolic in beating up on Obama prematurely. Well now we have a good idea of where this is all going, and I can’t possibly beat up on Obama excessively

I have so many thoughts on this whole debacle that I hardly know where to begin so I’ve decided to start at the end.

The “deal” is a turd that no one can polish. In exchange for what has historically been the routine task of raising the debt ceiling, Obama agreed to more than $1 in cuts for every dollar that the debt ceiling was raised. Are you fucking kidding me? This is a compromise?

And the cuts themselves seem shady, vague, and downright implausible. Am I really supposed to believe that we’re going to cut 350 billion out of defense? How the fuck is that going to happen? Aren’t there legions defense industry lobbyists whose sole purpose in life is to piss of as much tax payer money as humanly possible on useless equipment that doesn’t work, and that we don’t need? We’re supposed to believe that the politicians they’ve bought and paid for just went along with cutting defense? The only possible cuts to defense that I can see congress agreeing to, are those that pertain to veteran’s benefits. Why do I say that? Because veterans don’t have lobbyists. They’re the easiest target to hit in defense spending.


And I love how there are a first round of cuts with more cuts to come by the end of the year. What the fuck is that? Well let me tell you; it’s all meant to confuse and obfuscate so that we can’t tell exactly what gets cut and when they do it. Now that the debt ceiling crisis is over, does anyone believe that the nightly news will do much reporting on cuts to education, infrastructure, food safety, and a dozen other programs that are responsible for keeping us from becoming a third world country?

And what the fuck is up with this “super congress” bullshit? First of all, I think that most Americans would be overcome with joy if we had an adequate congress. Secondly, we’re supposed to be living in a representative government. Are we going to get to vote on who sits on this “super congress”? Who doesn’t think that the democratic representation in this “super congress” isn’t going to be Mark Warner and Mary Landrieu? Does anyone really think that Dennis Kucinich has a snowball’s chance in hell of being one of the democratic delegates to this super, special congress?

Now I want to rewind back to the beginning of this whole nightmare. Why, when republicans started this talk of spending cuts, didn’t Obama counter with a rational framing of the situation? Why did he accept their premise? Why didn’t he point out that cuts to domestic spending, in this economy are disastrous? Why didn’t he point out that policies like stimulus spending have resulted in more jobs being created by this administration that the entirety of the eight years of the previous one? Why didn’t he make sure that the conversation was about jobs instead of cuts? Why did he perpetuate the rhetoric that entitlement reform is vital to reducing our debt? Is he stupid? 

Here’s a graph that shows who owns our debt:

 

 Let’s take a close look at these numbers. The biggest chunk of our debt is owned by “US investors and private institutions”. Who is that? It’s mostly pensions and retirement accounts, as well as some investors. That would be us as in, you and I. The next biggest chunk of our debt is owned by the Social Security trust fund. That would be us as in, you and I. There are two other owners that I would like to point out; the US civil service retirement fund and the US military retirement fund. These are the nasty, worthless sloth sucking us dry through their government jobs. In other words; us as in, you and I. If you add up the money that is owed to us, we own 67.4% of the debt of the United States.

So when you hear anyone talk about cutting entitlements, what they’re getting at is not paying back the social security trust fund, the civil servant pension fund, and the US military pension fund. Do you think that Obama is unaware of who owns our debt? Or, is it possible that he wants to cut entitlements so that he doesn’t have to pay us back in order to balance the budget?

By the way, they’re called entitlements because it’s our fucking money. We’re entitled to get it back exactly as we were promised we would.

And remember a couple of weeks ago, when it became clear that the republicans were willing to play chicken with the debt ceiling? Remember how many people thought that Obama could invoke the 14th amendment to raise it without congress? And do you remember how Obama took that off the table right away? Why did he do that? Is he stupid? Or is he in on the plot to rob the middle class?

Oh, and do you remember when Obama insisted on a 1/1 ratio of increased revenues to spending cuts? Yeah, me neither. Is he the world’s shittiest negotiator, or is he in on the plot to rob the middle class?

Also, do you remember when he insisted on expiring the Bush tax cuts early in order to help bring the deficit down? Oh right, that never happened. He never mentioned the Bush tax cuts. You decide; is he in on the plot to rob the middle class so that the rich can stay rich without contributing a fucking thing to the country that enables them to be rich, or is he just a hapless rube?

There was a story floating all over the internet last Friday about how Apple Computer had more money in the bank than the US government. I saw people posting it all over the place. I didn’t see much discussion about how that happened. I didn’t see many people talking about the fact that Apple is sitting on all of this money that they were able to amass in part, because they’re paying a pittance in taxes compared to what they were paying when they started out. I didn’t see much talk about the fact that those tax cuts lead to money in the bank for Apple, rather than leading to more jobs for Americans.

Through this whole “negotiation”, I never heard a single word about how US corporations are sitting on 2 trillion dollars in cash reserves while nearly ten percent of Americans are unemployed. I heard plenty about “sacrifice”, but none if it was about sacrificing one cent of that 2 trillion dollars. Why is that? Why didn’t Obama bring up that one simple fact that would have had Americans pouring out into the streets with outrage? Is he stupid? Or is he in on the plot to rob the middle class in order to keep the rich on top of the economic food chain?

I titled this post “President McCain” because as this debt ceiling theater was being played out for us, I couldn’t help but think that we would have been better off if McCain had won the election. Yes, you read that right and no, I haven’t lost it. Think about it, do you think that entitlement cuts would even have entered the discussion if John McCain were president? Or do you think that democrats would have united against a republican president in blocking those cuts, as they have with so many republican presidents before? Don’t you think it’s harder for democrats to stand up against the leader of their own party?

A few of them have spoken out about what an incredible shitty deal this is for America’s middle class. John Conyers, the very first politician to support Obama in his bid for the presidency, suggested that it’s time for Americans to stand up and fight Obama.

I’ve always believed that only a democratic president could unravel the social safety nets in this country. I didn’t think that it would be Obama. I, unlike most political junkies, can admit when I was wrong.

And yes, a big part of me wishes that McCain had won the last election.




 

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