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Recently, BuzzFlash at Truthout talked about how Republican Congressional "deficit reduction" and tax cuts for the rich and corporations don't help and even hurt small businesses in America, because the actual policies facilitate large companies in crushing small business competitors.  But another reason the GOP claim to tax cuts for the wealthy is dishonest in that most small businesses bring home less that $250,000 a year.  That means if the US reinstated the taxes for the rich from the Bush administration, small businesses would not be affected, but our national defiicit would decrease  -- and perhaps some funds could be allocated to really help small businesses. That is because President Obama wants to keep the tax cuts for those households making less than $250,000 a year, but raise them for wealthier households.

The New York Review of Books recently noted, "But relatively few small business owners earn $250,000—in fact, fewer than 3 percent of the 20 million people who file business income on their personal tax forms (the 1040s) earn that much."

As Elizabeth Drew -- seasoned Washington DC analyst (formerly for the New Yorker) -- writes in the New York Review, the Republicans have controlled the debate on "debt reduction" by continuing to move the goal posts, as the White House then gives up more yardage.  But facts cannot be argued, as in the case of small businesses, in reality, getting the short end of the stick from the GOP.  As Drew observes:

The antitax dogma of the Republican Party is strongly rooted in mythology. The theory that tax cuts create jobs has been discredited by the results of George Bush’s tax policies. The Republicans cling to the myth that “small business” owners are the “job creators,” and so they oppose proposals to eliminate the Bush rate cuts for even those earning over $250,000. But relatively few small business owners earn $250,000—in fact, fewer than 3 percent of the 20 million people who file business income on their personal tax forms (the 1040s) earn that much.

In fact, to repeat, the GOP Congressional policy hurts small businesses -- as they are shrinking in America -- by facilitating the growth of mega-corporations that drive small stores and manufacturers out of business.  That turns the Republican Party into a job killer.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

For many years, BuzzFlash offered a GOP hypocrite of the week award.

The problem was not in finding someone who fit the "honor," it was selecting one from a teeming cauldron of candidates.

In some ways, hypocrisy is a built-in component of being an inflexible Republican, since a major part of the party is known for its pronounced moral scolding and inflexible stances allegedly based on "principle."

Human nature being what it is, an abundance of Republicans are revealed to be hypocrites on everything from monogamy to feeding themselves at the public trough.

In the debt ceiling political spectacle, a freshman GOP Congressman from Illinois, Joe Walsh, has been a leader of the hard-line "fiscal responsibility" Tea Party faction.

But the hypocritical skeletons are coming out of Congressman Walsh's closet, according to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.

"I won't place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!" Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation's finances in order.

Walsh's wife is not a happy camper with his hypocrisy: "In 2004, Laura Walsh complained in a motion that despite her ex-husband's claims of poverty, he took a vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend and another to Italy."

The details get more sordid as you read the Sun-Times article:

In addition to the foreclosure on his condominium, Walsh was haunted during his campaign by disclosures of liens on his property from unpaid bills and staffers abandoning his campaign, saying he wasn't paying them.

Keith Liscio, who said Walsh hired him to be campaign manager - Walsh disputes that - has sued Walsh for $20,000 in salary he said Walsh owes him. Both sides are trying to settle that case.

Staffers learned during the campaign that Walsh was driving on a suspended license. His license was suspended twice in 2008 for his failure to appear in court, and he was cited in 2009 for driving on a suspended license, according to the Illinois Secretary of State.

Another noteworthy point is that it appears Walsh's current Congressional salary, $175,000 per year (along with tremendous benefits), is the highest he has been paid in years. He is prospering off taxpayer dollars.

As we wrote the GOP hypocrite of the week articles for many years, we would wonder: Are these con men (and the vast majority were men) or just people with profound psychological repression?

Either way, America loses as we get a daily dose of duplicity instead of public policy that can advance the nation.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

UPDATE: Since this commentary was written in the early afternoon of July 27th, Think Progress has confirmed that President Obama was negotiating a gradual increase of the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. As Think Progress reported:

Jacob Hacker, political science professor at Yale University, has called the scheme "the single worst idea for Medicare reform" since it "saves Medicare money only by shifting the cost burden onto older Americans caught between the old eligibility age and the new, as well as onto the employers and states that help fund their benefits." Worse still, some seniors between the ages of 65 and 67 could "end up uninsured," the Center on Budget And Policy Priorities' Edwin Park predicted. Individuals "with incomes too high for premium subsidies in the exchange and those who qualify for only modest subsidies" could be priced out of affordable coverage, he warned.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, raising the eligibility age to 67 would cause an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket health insurance costs for beneficiaries who would have been otherwise covered by Medicare. Seniors in Medicare Part B would also face a 3 percent premium increase, the study found, since younger and healthier enrollees would be routed out of Medicare and into private insurance. Beneficiaries in health care reform's exchanges would see a similar spike in premiums with the addition of the older population. Federal cost savings, meanwhile, would be slim.

Meanwhile, Think Progress also revisited how Timothy Geithner had warned Obama against negotiating on the debt ceiling because it would likely lead to a quagmire.  Obama ignored his advice.

President Obama's view of himself as a consumate behind closed doors negotiator with Republican leaders may be due to hubris, but is certainly not effective; in fact, he generally ends up as the guy at the poker table who started with the biggest stake, but ends up with no chips left to play.

Yes, polls show Democrats, in general, would vote for him again, but it may be due more to a fear that he is the only thing between America and the cult of barbarians at the gate than due to his weak leadership and feckless negotiations.

OBAMA'S OBSESSION WITH COMPROMISE HAS COMPROMISED HIS PRESIDENCY

Regardless of the current political theater taking place over the debt ceiling, what drives much of the right wing - in terms of symbols - is the iconic image of the lone male (usually with a gun) who doesn't flinch from a fight, when his integrity and justice are at stake.

Let's call this "The John Wayne Syndrome."

Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood colleague and buddy of Wayne, was the epitome of this - in large part because he could act the role so well.

This brings us to the issue of form vs. content in the Obama presidency. Obama has positioned himself as a mediator between the Democrats and the Republicans, not as an unwavering leader for a specific agenda or vision. Since his presidency began, he has been primarily on the defensive, caught on the Republican side of the football field with has back to the goal line.

This is where his emphasis on "compromise" may have compromised his presidency. The Republicans, in general, value strength in politics over concession. They tend to look at a man who is frequently backing away from his positions, whatever his lofty rhetoric, as weak and as someone who can be pushed around.

The intangible in all this is that, while most Americans want the "gridlock to break in DC," it hasn't broken. Despite polling that shows Obama is perceived a bit better on the debt ceiling issue than the Republicans, he is starting to lose advance polls against some GOP candidates for the next election.

What Obama may not understand is that most Americans want strong leadership standing up to bullies and thugs, as Gary Cooper did as the sheriff in "High Noon" (popular culture drives our image making, after all). They didn't elect a mediator in 2008; they elected a leader who would break the DC logjam not by showing weakness, but by showing resolve and an ability to forcefully exercise the power of the presidency.

Republican political leaders are jackals at sensing weakness in opponents. In the end, President Obama's insistence on pleading with the GOP to accept legislation that is similar to what they originally proposed as a first-step debt reduction target is a sign of a failed strategy and risk aversion, not strength.

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Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ignorance isn't bliss, or so we are learning as political discourse based on misinformation plays itself out in the corporate mass media and the halls of Congress.

As the narrator/director of the cult classic documentary, "Orwell Rolls in His Grave," asks: "Could a media system, controlled by a few global corporations with the ability to overwhelm all competing voices, be able to turn lies into truth?"

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There's a simple reason that President Obama will not invoke the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis: the Supreme Court.

Yes, there is speculation that Obama is too risk averse to assert that the Constitution gives him the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling - and that may be true.

But Obama and his advisers know that if he bypasses Congress by using the 14th Amendment, it will immediately be challenged in the federal courts - which are loaded with partisan Republican judges - and fast tracked to the Supreme Court.

With Scalia having led a partisan majority time and time again - including his stopping of the State Supreme Court-ordered presidential recount in Florida in 2004 so as not to harm the reputation of the presumed winner, George W. Bush, (Scalia wrote in justification of his infamous opinion) - it is a given that five members of the Supreme Court have no compunction about leaving the Constitution in the dust.

As BuzzFlash has argued before, despite calling themselves "strict constructionists," the five majority votes on the Supreme Court are anything but. In fact, they often interpret the Constitution to justify their political outlook as they did in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, and a host of other rulings that have dramatically affected the direction of this nation.

Thom Hartmann views the 5-4 majority record as being so significant that they have become a de facto arm of the Republicans in Congress. Hartmann calls the GOP majority on the court the "Five Kings."

The 14th Amendment is pretty clear when it comes to the debt ceiling: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

That's about as strict constructionist as you can get in prohibiting Congress from limiting the debt ceiling, even though it has been their tradition to vote on increasing it - as they frequently have done under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

But the "Supreme Court Five" aren't going to really enforce the Constitution as it is written, should Obama invoke the 14th Amendment. They will rule against presidential authority and side with the Republicans in Congress. Because their motivation in high-stakes partisan issues like this is not the law as it is written; it is scoring a victory for their political beliefs and sponsors.

That is why President Obama will ultimately not assert the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis. The "Five Kings" won't allow him, in the end, to do so.

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Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash read this headline and thought that it was refreshing that God was becoming more selective in his choice of Republican candidates for president: "God Urges Rick Perry Not To Run For President."

Except that it was from the satirical web site, The Onion.

Thus far, among the GOP primary candidates for the White House, we have been led to believe that God has indicated to just about all of them that they should run.

This rather promiscuous urging of several Republican candidates to run - based on their claims that God is backing them - leads one to believe that the GOP aspirants are either lying or God likes a good political donnybrook.

Back in the '60s, Bob Dylan understood the hypocritical power to do evil simply by claiming that God is on your side:

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

After invoking all the wars America has engaged in with "God on its side," Dylan wonders whether the great betrayer of Christ also had "God on his side."

That's something to think about when evaluating candidates who claim that they have been divinely chosen to run.

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Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

I never thought that I might be contributing to a possible ecological implosion in our oceans because of the kinds of fish that I eat.

That is, until I saw the eye-opening documentary "The End of the Line," which dramatically details how massive industrial fishing is endangering the viability of an increasingly large number of fish species.

"Overfishing is the great environmental disaster that people haven't heard about," said the documentary's producer George Duffield. This is not merely an indictment of mercenary corporate fishing, it is also exposes how consumers choose to ignore the impact of eating endangered fish. In fact, as supplies of certain fish dwindle, they become more expensive and, therefore, more of a delicacy.

It's not just specific fish that are being depleted beyond the point of no return, but overfishing contributes to creating an ecosystem change in the oceans that will not be to the benefit of the residents of the planet. Not to mention that many people in poorer nations rely on fish to survive, but are seeing a diminishing supply because of huge fishing fleets off their shores from developed nations. They are floating factories that use high-tech tools to relentlessly sweep the oceans of endangered fish and fish that are becoming threatened.

Published in EditorBlog
Thursday, 21 July 2011 03:55

Tea Party Conundrum: China Owns Our Butt

China is concerned about the possibility of an US default, due to a possible failure to raise our debt ceiling.

It might come as a bit of surprise to all the Tea Party members who buy Chinese manufactured products - which used to be made by American workers like themselves - that the Communist government of China is America's biggest lender.

Given the Washington, DC, procrastination over the debt ceiling, China is taking the position that a Wall Street investor would take. It wants to be assured that its loans to the US government will be paid back.

According to The Associated Press:

China, the biggest holder of U.S. Treasury debt, appealed to Washington on Wednesday to take steps to boost confidence in the dollar and protect its investors....

China held some $1.15 trillion in Treasury debt as of the end of April, according to U.S. government data. Chinese leaders have repeatedly appealed to Washington to avoid measures that might erode the value of the dollar and those holdings.

"We hope the U.S. government concretely takes responsible policy measures to increase the confidence of international financial markets and respects and safeguards investors' interests," the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said in a statement.

So, China is acting just like any capitalist lender; it just wants to protect its investment.

And wouldn't members of the Tea Party and the corporate wing of the GOP laud China for acting like any US bank that is "too big to fail" would?

After all, it's the American way. Let's just hope China doesn't start foreclosure proceedings.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cutting taxes doesn't mean lowering expenses for the middle class and the poor.

That's because, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out before, with declining income taxes and decreased state spending, the costs that used to be covered by government pop up elsewhere. In many cases, depending upon the needs of a family, the rise in costs and "user fees" - as two examples - outweigh the middle-class income tax decreases that were extended from the Bush years.

A July 17 San Francisco Chronicle article gets to the heart of the matter:

With college tuition increasing again last week at the UC and CSU systems because of state budget cuts, many other Californians were crushed by the cumulative costs of daily life in a "no new taxes" world. CSU's $1,032 tuition increase means that a family sending a child there will see its tax windfall evaporate all at once.

"It's politics," Renwick said. "They can say we had no new taxes but we really did. They just put it in a bunch of places we don't notice."

Public transportation users are being hit with repeated fare hikes across the country, not only resulting in a hidden "user tax," but also pushing America in the wrong direction on efficient fuel use for moving people from one place to another. This "user tax" also discourages the growth of mass transportation that would reduce global warming.

"You're starting to see the anger," one analyst told the Chronicle. "You can let your roads collapse, you close fire stations or watch your library permanently shut down."

The rich will always be able to afford the higher "user fees" and flat taxes that result from declining income and corporate taxes, but many "anti-tax" crusaders in the middle class don't realize that they are biting off their noses to spite their faces.

 

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Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Is the Tea Party just another name for an anarchy party?

Granted, given that the Tea Party was financially turbo-charged by the Koch Brothers (Americans for Prosperity) and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, it's a challenge to define members of the loose-knit group. It's clear, for instance, that a significant segment of the party consists of individuals who are venting their racist gripes with President Obama.

But if you look at the corporate media conventional wisdom perception of how the Tea Party impact plays out on Capitol Hill, it is an uber anti-government force that believes taxes of any kind are akin to theft.

This is not just an eccentric BuzzFlash at Truthout theory; there is indeed a school of libertarian economic theory known as anarcho-capitalism. In fact, the son of Milton Friedman - the guru of the Reagan-era school of economics, which now seems liberal compared to the Cantor/Bachmann/Tea Party theories - is one of its foremost adherents. David Friedman believes in the primacy of the individual and property, without the interference of any governmental entity, including laws.

As excerpted from "Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism," by Peter Marshall, the extremity of what is being played out by the GOP Tea Party wing is a bit chilling:

Anarcho-capitalism has recently had a considerable vogue in the West where it has helped put the role of the state back on the political agenda. It has become a major ideological challenge to the dominant liberalism which sees a role for government in the protection of property. The anarcho-capitalists would like to dismantle government and allow complete laissez-faire in the economy. Its adherents propose that all public services be turned over to private entrepreneurs, even public spaces like town halls, streets and parks. Free market capitalism, they insist, is hindered not enhanced by the State....

Anarcho-capitalists, according to "A History of Anarchism," "maintain that even the minimal state is unnecessary since the defense of person and property can be carried out by private protection agencies."

The major area that anarcho-capitalists (and Ayn Rand adherents) would have a falling out with most Tea Party adherents is over social issues, in which anarcho-capitalists have no interest. For example, without a government of laws, it would be hard to legislate against gays, immigrants etc. In short, the government dreaded by the Tea Party could not be used by them to establish authoritarian, moralistic control over people.

But when it comes to economic theory, Eric Cantor, for example, certainly sounds a lot like an anarcho-capitalist.

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Published in EditorBlog
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