Democratic Party ‘Mainstream’ Prefers ‘Balance’, As Only Max Baucus Can Deliver
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took little time in announcing he would be naming Senator Max Baucus as one of three Democrats (including Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. John Kerry) to serve on the “Debt Super Committee”.
Matthew Yglesias assures Liberals there’s little to worry about with regards to Baucus. His rationale is that there’s little disagreement between moderate and liberal Democrats on the “core issue” facing the super committees:
In general, people should remember that while an important cleavage exists between moderate and liberal Democrats about the desirability of cutting Social Security spending, there’s really very little disagreement about the core issue facing the super committee, which is whether Democrats should agree to far-reaching domestic cuts without any offsetting tax hikes. Baucus is firmly within the party mainstream in demanding balance.
In other words, both moderate and liberal Democrats alike agree that far-reaching domestic cuts are okay AS LONG AS Republicans agree to impose tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. I.e. it appears (according to Yglesias) we’ve all bought into Obama’s “shared sacrifice” spiel: that it’s okay to impose austerity measures on average Americans or even the most vulnerable Americans during a severe recession, as long as the wealthy throw some “tip money into the jar”. And we can be assured that Max Baucus will not bend on this ‘mainstream’ Democratic Party ‘balance’-principle.
Meanwhile, CNN just released a new poll today that reveals the complete opposite about the ‘mainstream’ Democratic Party:
Breaking the CNN Poll results down:
Should increases in taxes on businesses and higher-income Americans be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 80% Yes, 19% No
Liberals: 82% Yes, 17% No
Moderates: 74% Yes, 25% No
Should major cuts in spending on domestic government programs be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 39% Yes, 58% No
Liberals: 40% Yes, 58% No
Moderates: 52% Yes, 44% No
Should major changes to the Social Security and Medicare systems be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 28% Yes, 71% No
Liberals: 30% Yes, 70% No
Moderates: 30% Yes, 69% No
It would appear from the numbers above that Democrats (as an ENTIRE group) don’t buy into Obama’s concept of ‘shared sacrifice’ or ‘balance’. A clear majority DON’T EVEN WANT major spending cuts in domestic government programs TO BE ON THE TABLE. They want the Super Committee to focus entirely on revenues, and they want those revenues to come from corporations and the wealthy.
And let us not forget Sen. Baucus’s track record. Here is a Senator who was instrumental in overriding the will of the American people on healthcare reform (and was rewarded handsomely by the health insurance industry & BigPharma for his efforts).
Now, it’s true that the Senator has made a few surprisingly encouraging statements in defense of Medicare and Social Security recently. But after the healthcare reform debacle, we all know a thing or two about Baucus’s integrity.
“Job Creators” & “Investors”: The Disconnect Between Republican Policies & Economic Stimulus
The Republican Party’s latest economic policy proposals are nothing short of pure unadulterated neo-liberalism — the radical merciless ideology foisted upon the world by economist Milton Freedman. Recent events throughout the country have been playing out like a chapter straight out of Naomi Klein’s hugely important bestseller, The Shock Doctrine.
First the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then the calls for deregulation, union-busting, and privatization; followed by — surprise! — severe austerity measures. These policies, if fully enacted, will accomplish little more than transferring trillions of dollars to the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and in doing so crushing the lives of average Americans.
Any ‘trickle down’ effects yielded from extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — which added nearly a trillion dollars to our national debt — would have been negligible at best. But they will literally be jack-hammered to oblivion if followed by the Republican-proposed Draconian measures.
Their calls for deep spending cuts in the public sector (both at Federal and State levels) will translate into whittling away all safety nets for America’s elderly and most vulnerable, while issuing pink slips for teachers, cops, firemen, postal employees, librarians, etc.
Instead of paying teachers to educate our children, and cops to fight crime, taxpayers will instead be writing their unemployment checks. That is, until Republicans can finally figure out a way to terminate unemployment insurance as well. Meanwhile, our national infrastructure continues to crumble beneath our feet.
And their proposals do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy. Unless you believe that sacking public workers will magically reduce unemployment, and somehow stimulate consumer demand (the driver for economic expansion).
Rather than subjecting lower and middle-income Americans to severe austerity measures, our economy would be best served by doing the very opposite. Policies that help to improve the financial bottom-line for struggling Americans guarantees an economic spark, if only because these Americans have little choice, but to spend every last dollar they make on necessities (i.e. they put ALL of it right back into the economy).
Unlike lower and middle-income Americans, the wealthy have the luxury to hoard each and every penny netted from their tax cuts. And few of them will be enticed to invest in a recessionary environment where risks are abnormally high.
How many millionaires are out stimulating the economy right now by purchasing third or fourth homes here in the U.S., when economists are now forecasting a double dip in home prices? How many are considering starting up new businesses, dependent upon consumer spending, when consumer bankruptcies just hit a 5-year high?
For wealthy individuals who do choose to invest, many will wisely target foreign companies, foreign mutual funds, foreign real estate, and multinationals who do business where economies are still growing. In other words, the ‘trickle-down’ part of Republican economic policies will actually occur in China, India, and elsewhere.
The supply-side ideology is based upon a faulty and outdated model that conveniently ignores competition for investment dollars overseas, and is largely dependent upon exaggerating the discretionary spending behavior of the wealthy.
As for corporate tax laws, two-thirds of all U.S. corporations dodged paying a single penny in taxes between 1998 and 2005. And how did these corporations repay the favor? By shifting their labor investments overseas, to countries where the cost of labor is extremely low, and where few if any environmental protection laws exist.
Cisco just released their international salary report showing that the average annual salary of their technical professionals in India ($14,508) is just 1/4 of what their American counterparts make ($62,993). And yet their Indian employees work 56 hours per week, on average — that’s 25% more hours than their American counterparts (45 hrs).
To rub some serious salt into the wounds, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that U.S. corporations (not even including Wall Street Banks) were sitting on close to $2 trillion in cash — the highest corporate cash reserves in over 50 years! — and still refuse to hire in the United States:
Rather than pouring their money into building plants or hiring workers, nonfinancial companies in the U.S. were sitting on $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of September, up from $1.8 trillion at the end of June, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Cash accounted for 7.4% of the companies’ total assets—the largest share since 1959.
The cash buildup shows the deep caution many companies feel about investing in expansion while the economic recovery remains painfully slow and high unemployment and battered household finances continue to limit consumers’ ability to spend.
Yet, Republicans contend we must deregulate our industries further to help corporations cut their costs — at the expense of the environment and consumer protections — and desist from demanding they pay their fair share in taxes — all so that they will have the money they need to “create jobs”.
NO informed American — outside of wealthy individuals and corporate profiteers — could possibly support the Republican Party’s economic policies.
Which begs the question: how does a political party, which serves only the interests of its wealthiest contributors, continue to successfully legislate policies that work against the very interests of the American people?
Since their ideology is unsupported by the facts, they hire “word doctors” who coin misleading phrases to be repeated over and over again. Phrases that are both simplistic and somehow ‘intuitive’ to a non-discerning public.
This has remained their tried and true method for selling destructive economic policies to the American people. Take Frank Luntz, probably the most famous of all conservative “word doctors”. He coined the phrase “government takeover of healthcare”, which became the talking point for the Republican Party during the health care reform debate. It helped spur the Tea Party into storming Democratic town hall meetings during that period — terrified that “Marxists” were coming after their Medicare.
Their current economic play-script is inundated with two phrases: “job creators” and “investors” — to be used in place of “corporations” and “wealthy individuals”. These phrases — more or less the equivalents of “fair and balanced” being used to describe Fox News ‘reporting’ — are now the cornerstone of the entire Republican economic policy narrative.
Take Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Virtually every sentence that comes out of his mouth includes the phrase “job creators”. Check out his Twitter account and count the tweets where he reiterates the phrase “job creators”. In fact, he created a website called AmericanJobCreators.com where he asks “job creators” to tell him what kinds of consumer protection regulations he should dismantle on their behalf.
The guy is a corporate lobbyist’s wet dream.
And our obsequious President — instead of showing leadership on this issue and dismantling this fictitious narrative — first capitulated on extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then capitulated to Issa back in January on the argument that deregulation helps create jobs. In doing so, he legitimized what he knows to be untrue, making it next to impossible for his party to now push for MORE regulation and RAISE taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals without immediately being branded as hostile to “job creators”.
The Conservative Party in Canada, having noticed the success their Republican counterparts across the border were having with this “job creators” phrase, quickly employed it as their own anti-tax slogan.
But make no mistake about it. Our current economic plight was created by:
- Bush’s deregulatory policies leading to a financial meltdown, and the ensuing AIG and TARP bailouts.
- Bush’s misleading us into unnecessary & expensive wars.
- Bush’s granting the wealthiest 2% nearly $3 trillion in tax cuts over the last decade.
- Two-thirds of all corporations having evaded paying a single penny in taxes from their trillions in profits over the last decade.
- Corporations having moved our higher paying jobs overseas to low-cost labor countries.
It is not due to a lack of investing capital by cash-hoarding, tax-evading corporations and the wealthiest 2% (the so called “job creators”) — which remains the Republican rationale for cutting taxes and deregulation.
Yet, somehow the lives of the rich and powerful keep getting easier — more comfortable — while the burden for the reckless calamity they unleashed on this country slowly, but surely — thanks to a combination of an emboldened right-wing and a compliant, timid President — gets shifted onto the backs of the American people in the form of harsh austerity measures.
Milton Friedman’s legacy continues to haunt us.
What Makes America Safer: Fiscal Stability, Or Chasing 100 Terrorists Around Afghanistan?
In Obama’s Afghanistan speech at West Point, he announced he would be escalating our troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000-35,000 to ensure those who attacked us on 9-11 are resoundingly defeated. ABC News notes that Obama conveniently left out a very significant fact, when making his case:
A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABCNews.com the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations.
So, Obama is committing 30,000-35,000 new U.S. troops — at $1 million per soldier per year, which comes to $30-35 billion dollars in more U.S. national debt — to defeat 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan? That works out to $300-350 million per Al Qaeda operative! Has he lost his marbles?!
Al Qaeda is a loosely affiliated network with operatives all over the world: Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, Britain, Spain, United States, etc. and we’re to dig ourselves into an even greater financial ditch chasing after just 100 of these operatives who may very well be somewhere beyond the Pakistani border, or possibly now in Somalia, or Saudi Arabia?
Al Qaeda can nearly claim themselves ‘victors’ in their war against the world’s last superpower. Not because of anything they did — 9-11 was mostly about inadequate airport security and a Bush Administration unwilling to read their national security memos, like the one entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” — a memo which sat on Condi Rice’s desk for one month and a week before the planes hit the twin towers.
Rather Al Qaeda is winning, because of our ineffective, money-bleeding, military occupations. We have effectively self-destructed as the world’s largest financial power. Essentially, we became so shortsighted — so determined to fix a menacing fly buzzing around our face, we reached for a twelve gauge shotgun, targeted the fly resting upon our forehead — and pulled the trigger.
American al Qaeda figure Adam Gadahn — no, I didn’t say Afghan, I said American — gloated in a recent video about how they were defeating the West:
Gadahn called on Muslims to support jihad with “men and money,” while claiming that the West was now on the verge of collapse under the strikes of the militants.
“The enemy under the leadership of the unbelieving West has began to stagger and falter, and the results of its unabated bleeding has began to show on its economy, which is on the brink of failure,” said Gadahn.
All they have to do is keep some operative alive, in some Muslim country, and America will fiscally come apart looking under every single rock until he’s found.
Is it any wonder that Americans have had enough of this lunacy? New polls show Americans are turning sharply towards isolationism:
At the very moment when President Barack Obama is looking to thrust the U.S. ever more into global affairs, from Afghanistan to climate change, the American public is turning more isolationist and unilateralist than it has at any time in decades, according to a new poll released Thursday.
The survey by the Pew Research Center found a plurality of Americans — 49 percent — think that the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally” and leave it to other countries to fend for themselves.
It was the first time in more than 40 years of polling that the ranks of Americans with isolationist sentiment outnumbered those with a more international outlook, Pew said. […]
The shift in sentiment comes after more than eight years of war in Afghanistan and almost seven in Iraq, as well as the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Just 32 percent of the public favors increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and only 46 percent say it’s likely that Afghanistan will be able to withstand the threat posed by the Taliban.
The Hill reports that a significant majority of Americans now view overseas war expenditures as a direct threat to fixing a collapsing economic system here at home:
Seventy-three percent told Gallup in its latest measure, released Friday, that they were “very” or “somewhat” fearful the White House’s newly announced troop surge would make it difficult for Congress and the president to tackle such issues as healthcare and the economy in the coming months.
By contrast, only 26 percent signaled they were not concerned the new strategy’s cost — estimated to be about $30 billion — would in any way complicate domestic policymaking.
It would be wise to remember the former U.S.S.R.’s experience in trying to militarily tame Afghanistan:
It was Moscow’s Vietnam, we have come to accept. A bloody quagmire with disastrous consequences that left a million Afghans dead and a generation of Soviet men pulverised by trauma, as had happened to their American counterparts in southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. The conflict lasted 10 years and the Soviet army retreated only to see its very existence crumble a few years later with the collapse of Communism.
Mr. President, it’s time to bring our troops home, rebuild our economy and our health care system, and get our financial house in order. I’ve never felt so insecure as an American in my life, and it has absolutely nothing to do with those 100 Al Qaeda cave-dwellers in Afghanistan. Claim victory, and withdraw already.
UPDATE (Dec. 6, 2009):
Here’s a good read by Sam Stein / Huffington Post on Senator Russ Feingold’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos this morning. Feingold makes a similar point:
Pakistan, in the border region near Afghanistan, is perhaps the epicenter [of global terrorism], although al Qaida is operating all over the world, in Yemen, in Somalia, in northern Africa, affiliates in Southeast Asia. Why would we build up 100,000 or more troops in parts of Afghanistan included that are not even near the border? You know, this buildup is in Helmand Province. That’s not next door to Waziristan. So I’m wondering, what exactly is this strategy, given the fact that we have seen that there is a minimal presence of Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but a significant presence in Pakistan? It just defies common sense that a huge boots on the ground presence in a place where these people are not is the right strategy. It doesn’t make any sense to me.