Tuesday, July 08, 2008

tax the rich, close the loopholes, regulate the hedges, grant a living wage, bring back electric cars, invest smart infrastructure, support the unions

In which we count the obvious ways to make Americans less deeply embarrassed for their country...

One would surely be hard pressed to find a way on a national scale to erase or re-direct 30 years of ideological brainwashing, especially as manifested in vigorous knee-jerking, historical revisionism and sentimentalism and tired clichés concerning the fundamental evils of "Socialism," spasms brought on by any brave whiff of skepticism directed toward the fundamentalist "free" (private) market madness. This senseless dogma and basic paranoia is so acute precisely because it is a badge of pride for pathetic creatures, a sort of group-identity grunt and license to avoid thinking altogether–a desirable thing to do as repressing residual guilt over supporting criminally high discretionary and non-taxable income, in this day of modern suffering and failure, is as American as...whatever. Attending a wedding recently, sipping a $6 yuengling, some elder gent in the Sheraton Hotel evinced this mentality exactly. His stock response to courteous and factual rebuttals? "Well really that's all your concern now, you know....It's no longer up to me; it's up to your generation to come up with something." What's a young man to do? Tactful charming and prodding, slipping in the truth whenever possible. More satisfying to break bottles over heads, but you know, it was a wedding, after all so it was merely "Well...thanks a lot."

The Nation's Special Issue proves indispensable: Gabriel Thompson rips the lid off hedge-fund elitists/US plutocrats Bruce Kovner and John Paulson:
The living wage as socialist plot, unions as massive drain on the economy and Walmart as corporate savior: this is the sort of scholarship that Kovner subsidizes. Without squinting too hard, the outlines of such a capitalist dream world–imagined by well-paid fellows and funded by a billionaire–comes into focus: out from under the thumb of Big Labor, workers are free to work long hours for whatever wages a boss feels like paying. If they fall il, they're free to visit the emergency room. If they're really sick, they're free to declare bankruptcy. With Wal-Mart as the model, all workers become associates, free from the bonds of health coverage and overtime pay.

And on a local note:
In 2006 the loophole allowed Kovner to avoid paying $28.6 million in taxes; last year, it allowed Paulson to pocket an additional $150 million.
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that Levin's bill, which also eliminated the ability of fund managers to shift compensation to offshore havens, would bring in nearly $50 billion to the Treasury within ten years. Edwards, Clinton and Obama all came out in support of the legislation; even Fortune magazine concluded it was a sensible proposal On November 9 it passed the House.
The industry responded agressively. A primary target was Senator Charles Schumer, who sits on both the Banking and Finance committees and is close to the hedge-fund industry. Checks started flowing in to the Democractic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which Schumer chairs. Schumer, author of a book whose subtitle is Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority, publicly expressed his opposition to the bill, arguing that it unfairly targeted the two industries. In December the Senate overwhelmingly signed a bill leaving the tax loopholes in place.

On the day before the Senate vote, Frederick Iseman, then head of the private-equity arm of Caxton Associates, donated $28,500 to the DSCC. The day after the bill was passed, Paulson wrote the DSCC another $25,000 check. The gifts made up what was a record year for hedge-fund contributions, with individual giving more than doubling to nearly $10 million in the 2007-08 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. About three-quarters of those donations went to Democrats.


Whatever tortured excuse for this exists, I'm sure no working American wants to hear it.

See Firedoglake: Survival in an Economic Darwinism America

Sunday, July 06, 2008

one fewer elitist prick

Good stuff on Jesse Helms at firedoglake [update: especially this broadcast by Laura Flanders:
For sixteen long days, even with the senate majority against him, in 1983, he filibustered the bill making Dr King's birthday a national holiday. “ Dr. King’s action-oriented Marxism is not compatible with the concepts of this country,” said Helms. Even fellow racist Senator Strom Thurmond came around on the King Holiday. Not Senator No.

Which invites the question: where's the Democrat's Senator Helms? Where's the anti-war Helms who'll filibuster for what he or she believes?
...and some humorous anecdotes slip through the S.C.U.M.GOP/media complex:

Etsy, roots

An interesting article on how the grassroots/handmade movement is growing, responsibly. (Did I mention all my items are on sale, this week only?)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

McCain's economy, wondrous developments

Expect trends to continue (if Obama decides to protect the rich, not buck the 30-year-old tide, that is):
Their wages may be falling, but one thing has certainly increased as young Americans struggle to maintain a middle-class lifestyle: their debt burdens. In households headed by someone aged twenty-five to thirty-four, average debt has climbed to over $55,000, up 70 percent from the 1980s (after accounting for inflation). Indeed the average debt load for young Americans--comprised largely of housing debt and college loans--actually exceeds their annual household income, a sharp change from two decades ago.

And the safety net for young workers is in sorry shape. All told, more than one-fourth of the 45 million workers under age thirty-five do not have health insurance from any source--by far the highest rate of any age group. As for young workers with just high school degrees, two-thirds do not receive health coverage in their entry-level jobs, up from just over one-third in 1979.

Corporate America's increasing tightfistedness over pensions is also hitting young workers hard. The share of workers twenty-five to thirty-four participating in an employer-sponsored pension plan or 401(k) slid to 42 percent in 2005, down from 50 percent five years earlier.

As Anya Kamenetz points out in her book Generation Debt, the Internet Generation will enter the prime of life in a nation as gray as Florida is today, and as a result that generation will face an unprecedented burden in sustaining the Social Security system. In 1960, sixteen Americans were working for each retiree. Today there are four active workers contributing taxes to Social Security for each retiree. In 2030, there are expected to be just two-and-a-half workers per retiree. Today's young workers may well face a double squeeze--to keep Social Security solvent, Congress might increase the younger generation's payroll taxes as well as trim their Social Security benefits. Also disturbing is the fact that the folks in Washington are building mountainous budget deficits, and they're simply passing the bill to their children's and grandchildren's generations. How fair is that?

All these trends have fostered considerable pessimism. Forty percent of voters surveyed in exit polls conducted on Election Day, 2006 said that life would be worse for the next generation, while just 30 percent said it would be better. Still, it is important to remember that some things are better for the younger generation--longer life spans, lower crime rates and wondrous developments like the Internet.


A special issue of The Nation states the obvious well:
Over the past three decades, market-worshiping politicians and their corporate backers have engineered the most colossal redistribution of wealth in modern world history, a redistribution from the bottom up, from working people to a tiny global elite.[...]

A worker making $10 an hour would have to labor for more than 10,000 years to earn what one of the 400 richest Americans pocketed in 2005.

How vast has our parallel universe of the ultrarich become? The Wall Street Journal now dedicates a full-time beat reporter, Robert Frank, to cover what he calls Richistan. Richistan did not suddenly appear on the American scene. Our top-heavy era has evolved from a heavily bankrolled effort by conservatives and corporations to instill blind faith in the market as the magic elixir that can solve any problem. This three-decade war against common sense has preached that tax cuts for the rich help the poor, that labor unions keep workers from prospering, that regulations protecting consumers attack freedom. Duly inspired, our elected officials have rewritten the rules that run our economy--on taxes and trade, on wage policies and public spending--to benefit wealthy asset owners and global corporations.

To reverse this reckless course, we need to change our nation's dominant political narrative and restore faith in the critical role that government must play to protect the common good. But we can't stop there. We need to confront directly the threat posed by this inequality.[...]

The Senate couldn't even manage to eliminate a tax loophole for gazillionaire hedge-fund managers last year. And even progressive wish lists tend to call only for a return to pre-George W. Bush tax rates, a step that would undo a mere one-sixth of the rise in income inequality we have experienced since the late 1970s, according to the Brookings Institution.

Future historians, we have no doubt, will note a certain irony here. The "real problems" we Americans face owe their intensity--and often their origin--to issues of income and wealth distribution our society simply refuses to address.


For more sophisticated analysis and links, please see The Existence Machine.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

more gratuitous documenting...

Deserving of a good home other than my kitchen counter...

cherry and maple
white hickory, wenge and maple

ash and quarter-sawn oak


cats need to get jobs

OH, Poor Saint McCain!

Josh Marshall is my hero as the "big club" swings predictably down. Among others actually able to take legitimate criticism.

As for Obama, apparently busy reassuring the owners...well, it's equally predictable but what becomes of this cowering remains to be seen. Clearly he needs to feel more pressure from the genuine left, and will continue needing it...if only they can pull their roots together and hurl them at his window.

Update: The Obama campaign's impressive online response to criticism on the FISA issue is up here. The Nation comments:
While Obama's advisers may view this week's activism as inevitable liberal tensions in a general election -- an odd gloss, given the Fourth Amendment's bipartisan credentials -- the key dynamic is the development of a sophisticated network of activists. After all, they're not asking the candidate to be more liberal, they're asking him to hold strong on his own promise to oppose the spying legislation.

Even conservative bloggers are impressed that the Obama Campaign provides an open platform for supporters to organize against the candidate's position. "Rather than react in accordance with the practices of most campaigns by shutting and muffling dissent," observed the GOP blog The Next Right, "Obama is providing dissidents (many of whom are supporters of his) the opportunity to organize on his campaign web-site." The blog contrasted the approach to top-down campaigns on the right. "Can you imagine a Bush campaign reacting like this? I can't."