Thursday
Oct282010

Article of the day: SLASH MILITARY SPENDING  

Monday
Oct252010

Article of the day: SLASH MILITARY SPENDING

Slash Military Spending

How Many Millions More for the Pentagon?

By WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Congress and the Defense Department have added more than $2 trillion to the Pentagon budget. About half that increase covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the rest covered the "base" (non-war) parts of the Defense Department. Against all logic, the extra money made our military forces mostly smaller and older.

The Air Force, for example, got a budget increase of 43 percent, but the combat air fleet shrank by 51 percent. If the plans for the next few years go perfectly, the Congressional Budget Office tells us, the major equipment inventories will get even more outdated, as they shrink further.

It has likely been the most relentless squandering of resources the federal government has perpetrated since the end of World War II......

Read More:http://www.counterpunch.org/wheeler10252010.html

 

Winslow T. Wheeler spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.



Monday
Oct252010

Article of the day: Balancing the budget makes the economy worse

Premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump

In the spring of 2010, fiscal austerity became fashionable. I use the term advisedly: the sudden consensus among Very Serious People that everyone must balance budgets now now now wasn’t based on any kind of careful analysis. It was more like a fad, something everyone professed to believe because that was what the in-crowd was saying.

And it’s a fad that has been fading lately, as evidence has accumulated that the lessons of the past remain relevant, that trying to balance budgets in the face of high unemployment and falling inflation is still a really bad idea. Most notably, the confidence fairy has been exposed as a myth. There have been widespread claims that deficit-cutting actually reduces unemployment because it reassures consumers and businesses; but multiple studies of historical record, including one by the International Monetary Fund, have shown that this claim has no basis in reality.

No widespread fad ever passes, however, without leaving some fashion victims in its wake. In this case, the victims are the people of Britain, who have the misfortune to be ruled by a government that took office at the height of the austerity fad and won’t admit that it was wrong.

Britain, like America, is suffering from the aftermath of a housing and debt bubble. Its problems are compounded by London’s role as an international financial center: Britain came to rely too much on profits from wheeling and dealing to drive its economy — and on financial-industry tax payments to pay for government programs.

Over-reliance on the financial industry largely explains why Britain, which came into the crisis with relatively low public debt, has seen its budget deficit soar to 11 percent of G.D.P. — slightly worse than the U.S. deficit. And there’s no question that Britain will eventually need to balance its books with spending cuts and tax increases.

The operative word here should, however, be “eventually.” Fiscal austerity will depress the economy further unless it can be offset by a fall in interest rates. Right now, interest rates in Britain, as in America, are already very low, with little room to fall further. The sensible thing, then, is to devise a plan for putting the nation’s fiscal house in order, while waiting until a solid economic recovery is under way before wielding the ax.

But trendy fashion, almost by definition, isn’t sensible — and the British government seems determined to ignore the lessons of history.

Both the new British budget announced on Wednesday and the rhetoric that accompanied the announcement might have come straight from the desk of Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary who told President Herbert Hoover to fight the Depression by liquidating the farmers, liquidating the workers, and driving down wages. Or if you prefer more British precedents, it echoes the Snowden budget of 1931, which tried to restore confidence but ended up deepening the economic crisis.

The British government’s plan is bold, say the pundits — and so it is. But it boldly goes in exactly the wrong direction. It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack.

Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative.

Indeed, there has been a noticeable change in the rhetoric of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron over the past few weeks — a shift from hope to fear. In his speech announcing the budget plan, George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to have given up on the confidence fairy — that is, on claims that the plan would have positive effects on employment and growth.

Instead, it was all about the apocalypse looming if Britain failed to go down this route. Never mind that British debt as a percentage of national income is actually below its historical average; never mind that British interest rates stayed low even as the nation’s budget deficit soared, reflecting the belief of investors that the country can and will get its finances under control. Britain, declared Mr. Osborne, was on the “brink of bankruptcy.”

What happens now? Maybe Britain will get lucky, and something will come along to rescue the economy. But the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997. That is, premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump. As always, those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/opinion/22krugman.html

Wednesday
Oct202010

Article of the day: The Perfect Storm by Robert Reich

How the rich got richer, the return of the robber Barons, and there’s no jobs bill to speak of.

 

It’s a perfect storm. And I’m not talking about the impending dangers facing Democrats. I’m talking about the dangers facing our democracy.

First, income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top 1 percent of Americans.

The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

Who are these people? With the exception of a few entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, they’re top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge-fund managers, and private equity managers. They include the Koch brothers, whose wealth increased by billions last year, and who are now funding tea party candidates across the nation.

Which gets us to the second part of the perfect storm. A relatively few Americans are buying our democracy as never before. And they’re doing it completely in secret.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates  — without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They’re laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Malek, whom you may remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon’s notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed Creep in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a third.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

We’re back to the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom.

Just before it recessed the House passed a bill that would require that the names of all such donors be publicly disclosed. But it couldn’t get through the Senate. Every Republican voted against it. (To see how far the GOP has come, nearly ten years ago campaign disclosure was supported by 48 of 54 Republican senators.)

Here’s the third part of the perfect storm. Most Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings, and even homes are on the line. They need a government that’s working for them, not for the privileged and the powerful.

Yet their state and local taxes are rising. And their services are being cut. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

There’s no jobs bill to speak of. No WPA to hire those who can’t find jobs in the private sector. Unemployment insurance doesn’t reach half of the unemployed. 

Washington says nothing can be done. There’s no money left.

No money? The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it’s been in more than 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower (who no one would have accused of being a radical) it was 91 percent. Now it’s 36 percent. Congress is even fighting over whether to end the temporary Bush tax cut for the rich and return them to the Clinton top tax of 39 percent.

Much of the income of the highest earners is treated as capital gains, anyway — subject to a 15 percent tax. The typical hedge-fund and private-equity manager paid only 17 percent last year. Their earnings were not exactly modest. The top 15 hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion.

Congress won’t even return to the estate tax in place during the Clinton administration – which applied only to those in the top 2 percent of incomes.

It won’t limit the tax deductions of the very rich, which include interest payments on multi-million dollar mortgages. (Yet Wall Street refuses to allow homeowners who can’t meet mortgage payments to include their primary residence in personal bankruptcy.)

There’s plenty of money to help stranded Americans, just not the political will to raise it. And at the rate secret money is flooding our political system, even less political will in the future.

The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations [1], Locked in the Cabinet [2], and his most recent book, Supercapitalism [3]. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on publicradio.com [4] and iTunes [4].


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Tuesday
Oct192010

Today's press release: George Orwell spotted working at WXYZ

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
19 October 2010

                             GEORGE ORWELL NOW WORKING AT WXYZ-TV

George Orwell was seen alive and well working at WXYZ-TV/Channel 7.  Orwell, thought to be dead years ago,  is the new director of the TV station’s "Democracy 2010" project.  Orwell, famous for inventing catchy phrases that disguise their true meaning, called Newspeak, took credit for naming the series "Democracy 2010."

He said his primary task at WXYZ’s Democracy 2010 is to suppress all references to third party candidates.  "Whenever I see the words Green Party or Libertarians I just chuck 'em down the memory hole," Orwell said.

“For example, none of the "Democracy 2010" video interviews include third party candidates and the "Complete Voter Guide" only has information about Democrats and Republicans,” said Orwell.  "I insisted on using the word 'complete,'" said Orwell, grinning.

He also admitted to secretly working with Democrats and Republicans for years.  He claimed credit for naming the Patriot act, No Child Left Behind, and the words "free trade" as in NAFTA.

Chuck Stokes, editorial/public affairs director for WXYZ-TV/Channel 7, had no comment on the Orwell's employment status.  Stokes denied any censorship at WXYZ and claimed his TV station had, "recently installed a new computer program that automatically deletes all references to so-called third parties."

"I heard people refer to the Democrats and Republicans as two wings of the same bird," Stokes said, "but all that talk is downright Un-American and wont be tolerated at my station.  Besides, we talk about the Tea Party all the time and they're a kind of third Party.  There's no censorship at WXYZ."

Paraphrasing Henry Ford he said, "People can vote for anyone they want as long as it's a Democrat or Republican."

See WXYZ-TV candidate bios and videos here: http://www.wxyz.com/subindex/news/political/elections_local
                                                                      
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CONTACT GEORGE CORSETTI 313 885-4685
Green Party Congressional Candidate for 13th District, Michigan
http://www.george-corsetti.org/
gcorsetti@ameritech.net