Archive for June, 2011

“Raise, Don’t Save, Social Security”…Yes, please!

June 21, 2011 Leave a comment


“We have elderly people living on less than $10,000 a year. Is that what Democrats want to ‘save’?

‘But we can’t afford it!’ Oh, come on: We have a federal tax rate equal to nearly 15 percent of our G.D.P. — far below the take in most wealthy countries. Let’s wake up: the biggest crisis we face is that most of us have nothing meaningful saved for retirement. I know. I started my career wanting to be a pension lawyer. In the 1970s, lawyers like me expected there to be big pots of private pensions for hourly workers. By the 1980s, as factories closed, I was filing hopeless lawsuits to claw back bits and pieces of benefits. Now there are even fewer bits and pieces to get.

A recent Harris poll found that 34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement — not even a hundred bucks. In this lost decade, that percentage is sure to go up. At retirement the lucky few with a 401(k) typically have $98,000. As an annuity that’s about $600 a month — not exactly an upper-middle-class lifestyle. It’s too late for Congress to come up with some new savings plan — a new I.R.A. that grows hair, or something. There’s no time. We have to improve the one public pension program in place. Should we means-test it? No. I don’t care if they go out and buy bottles of Jim Beam: let our elderly have an occasional night out at a restaurant.

The most paralyzing half-truth in this country is that people hate taxes. People are willing to pay taxes that they spend on themselves. Two-thirds of those surveyed in a CBS/New York Times poll in January were willing to pay more taxes to save Social Security at its modest level. To ‘save’ it, most of us don’t need to pay. We could lift the cap on high earners, the 6 percent of workers who make over $106,800 a year. If earnings above the cap were subject to the payroll tax with no increase in benefits to high earners, there would be no deficit in the Social Security trust fund in 2037, as projected.

If people are willing to pay more just to ‘save’ Social Security, they should be glad to pay more to raise it.

What does it take to get Social Security up to half the average worker’s earnings? According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, to close the deficit and raise benefits to nearly half of average worker earnings, we would need to find an additional 5 percent of taxable payroll, or find the money elsewhere. If we lift the cap on the payroll tax without paying more benefits to those above it, that gets us 2.32 percent (or a bit less if we slightly increase benefits to the rich). Dedicating revenues from the estate tax at its 2009 levels to Social Security gets another half percent. A few other tweaks, like covering new public employees, add another 0.42 percent. The remainder can be found by raising the payroll tax by roughly 1 percentage point for both employees and employers.”


Thank you, Mr. Thomas Geoghegan.


After 8 years of the George W. Bush administration led to the Great Recession…Republican Governor Scott Walker gives tax cuts to businesses in Wisconsin that require concessions from labor unions to pay for those tax cuts and then some

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment


“Wis. Supreme Court upholds controversial union law

Sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court lets polarizing union law pushed by GOP to take effect

Scott Bauer, Associated Press, On Wednesday June 15, 2011, 9:09 am EDT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s polarizing union rights law will take effect thanks to a sharply divided ruling by the state Supreme Court that determined a judge overstepped her authority when she voided the governor’s plan to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The ruling Tuesday evening was a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who said the law was needed to help address the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall. His proposal — which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state Capitol for weeks earlier this year — thrust Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.

In a 4-3 decision that included a blistering dissent, the Supreme Court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped when she declared the law void last month. Sumi sided with a lawsuit that claimed Republicans didn’t provide proper public notice of a meeting that helped get the original legislation approved after Democratic senators fled the state to prevent a vote.

Walker claimed that the law, which also requires public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions, would give local governments enough flexibility on labor costs to deal with deep cuts to state aid. Democrats saw it as an attack on public employee unions, which usually back their party’s candidates.

‘The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again,’ Walker said in a one-sentence statement Tuesday.

Union leaders blasted the court’s decision. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, called it “an affront to our democracy.”

An avalanche of lawsuits is expected, because legal challenges couldn’t be brought until the law took effect.

In vacating Sumi’s ruling, the Supreme Court ruled the judge had ‘usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.’ The court also rejected arguments that Republicans violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law.

‘The doors of the Senate and Assembly were kept open to the press and members of the public … access was not denied,’ according to the majority opinion.

In a fiery dissent, Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that justices hastily reached the decision and the majority ‘set forth their own version of facts without evidence. They should not engage in this disinformation.’

Abrahamson also said a concurring opinion written by Justice David Prosser — a former Republican speaker of the Assembly — was ‘long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant’….

Attorneys for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, representing the Republicans who control the Legislature, had asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, in part to speed the process.

Walker counted on the law being in effect in the budget he put forward for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Walker has said the public worker concessions would generate about $300 million in savings to the state over the next two years.”


Madison, Wisconsin – The Epicenter of American History

March 3, 2011


“[Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Governor, Scott] Walker has rejected every offer of compromise.”



“Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being ‘broke,’ they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.

Perhaps because of the economic downturn, voting among union households was sharply down last November, which may help explain some of the Republican gains. Mr. Walker and his fellow Republicans, may wind up turning that around next year.”


Wisconsin: How we got here



“– [Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor, Scott] Walker also pushed through three tax cut bills negatively impacting projected tax revenues by $117 million — the tax cuts went toward health savings accounts, deductions for relocated businesses, and exclusions for hiring new employees.

– The pension system in Wisconsin is actually quite healthy. In fact, it was one of only four states (FL WA, and NY are the others) that entered 2008 fully funded.

‎– On collective bargaining, it:
1) removes rights to bargain collectively for most of 175,00 state employees;
2) exempts most law enforcement, firefighters, and Wisconsin State Patrol;
3) does not allow employers to collect union dues in paychecks.

Political power in Wisconsin
– State House is Republican controlled 57-38-1
– State Senate is Republican controlled 19-14

Other nuggets
– AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) started in Madison in 1932.
– Wisconsin was the first state to give local government workers and teachers collective bargaining rights with the Public employee Collective Bargaining Act in 1959.
– State government workers got collective bargaining in 1970s.”

Gabby Smiles

June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

* click the links to see the photos

“In Facebook Photos, a Smiling Gabrielle Giffords

Published: June 12, 2011

Two photos of a smiling Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona were released Sunday by her office, her hair short but few other telling signs of the gunshot wound to the her head.”


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Fair Game

June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

* I highly recommend the book and the movie. Read and see how the George W. Bush administration betrayed the identity of a CIA operative to intimidate a critic of the WMD-reason to go to war in Iraq, March of 2003. The Republican White House under Bush & Cheney sacrificed the life and livelihood of an American spy, as well as the lives of her family members and those with whom she worked on covert operations, in order to start a false war with a country that had nothing to do with 9-11, had no ties to al Qaeda, and had no Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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What I Didn’t Find in Africa

By Joseph C. Wilson 4th
Published: July 06, 2003


“If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It’s worth remembering that in his March ‘Meet the Press’ appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was ‘trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.’) At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president’s behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor ‘revisionist history,’ as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.”


June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer I have ever seen. It’s not Pelé. It’s not Maradona. It’s not Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s Messi. With or without a World Cup trophy, he’s simply the greatest footballer that has ever been. And he’s only 23! Come on, come on, it’s such a joy to watch the little man play. For the rest of his years on the pitch, sit back and enjoy the spectacular show.

When sport transcends to the point of Art, it is called “The Beautiful Game.”©


Categories: Literature & Art Tags: ,

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney steal Trillions of dollars from the People of the United States in order to fund a false war in Iraq for the majority benefit of politically connected military contractors, like Halliburton, as well as to distribute Tax Cuts for the majority benefit of the SuperWealthy, while allowing little-to-no regulation of Wall Street during SUBPRIME that requires a $700 billion bailout with taxpayers’ money in September 2008 for the majority benefit of rich bankers…well, then the result is the majority of Americans suffer the economic consequences for years afterward. Oh yeah, why isn’t Corporate America using its record $2 Trillion cash-on-hand to hire American workers, instead of squeezing more hours and productivity out of its downsized labor force? What happened to “The Majority Rules” in this country?

The easy math…

George W. Bush = $2.7 Trillion Price Tag

$1 Trillion = “illegal” and unnecessary Iraq War that mainly benefited military contractors, like Dick Cheney’s Halliburton

-$1 Trillion = Bush Tax Cuts for SuperWealthy

-$700 billion = 2008 TARP bailout of Wall Street banks due to Republican mismanagement of our economy, aka the Subprime Mortgage Meltdown

* The TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was supposed to be used by the banks to buy up “troubled assets,” such as houses with subprime-mortgages…but the Wall Street banks gave their employees bigger bonuses than the year before instead. And no, very little was done to help the American homeowner, as TARP was originally pitched by then Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Henry “Hank” Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. So the Wall Street banks and their enablers double-crossed the majority of Americans on the $700 billion bailout.

Teachers and school staff will bear the brunt of the layoffs this summer, as hundreds of thousands will likely be laid off around the nation. The national job numbers should reflect the hit in July and September.

It’s not uncommon for state and local governments to take longer to emerge from a recession. But usually by then, businesses have ramped up their hiring. This time around, private sector hiring has remained soft, making government cutbacks that much more painful.”


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“Corporate America sat on a record $2 Trillion cash-on-hand, but decided against increased hiring of workers, so that real unemployment remained above 10 percent.”

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“Coupled with the cheap cost of capital, the enormous amount of cash on corporate balance sheets estimated at $2 trillion to $3 trillion, is a heady cocktail that may augur more deals.”

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“At home, from March 2008 to May 2009, the Fed extended a cumulative total of nearly $9 trillion in short-term loans to 18 financial institutions under a credit program….

Even bedrock corporations like Caterpillar, Harley-Davidson, General Electric, McDonald’s, Toyota and Verizon relied on a Fed program that supported the market for commercial paper….

So did the California Public Employees Retirement System, the nation’s largest public pension fund, and several insurers and university endowments.”

* We gave the corporations cash in order to cover their “troubled assets,” so that the corporations could then hire people back to work. Now the corporations are double-crossing us by not increasing hiring, so that roughly 10 percent of our nation’s working-age people are unemployed and almost 20 percent  are underemployed (working part-time or employed through short-term contract work because they are unable to find full-time employment).

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“‘What would more liquidity do? It’s not being used. It’s sitting on the sidelines. The gas tanks are full,’ [Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher] said.

Fisher said he expects economic growth to accelerate in the second half of this year to an annual rate of about 3 percent to 4 percent and said businesses were poised to hire.

‘We are lean and mean, our balance sheets are in great shape in America,’ he said. ‘There is a lot of liquidity out there. I am eager to see the trigger — I don’t know what it is — for that money to be spent putting Americans back to work.'”

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“Job growth slowed sharply in May [2011], according to the monthly employment report released Friday. Employers added a net total of only 54,000 positions in May, down from an average of 220,000 per month in each of the previous three months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent from 9 percent. That report raised concerns among many analysts that without more jobs, the economy will remain anemic for much of this year.

Openings fell across most sectors in the economy. There were fewer positions advertised in education and health care, at hotels and restaurants, and with professional and business services — accountants, engineers and legal services. Job openings rose in retail and construction.

Tuesday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, suggests that the pace of hiring won’t pick up any time soon. Companies can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months to fill a job opening.”

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“Posted at 02:53 PM ET, 06/07/2011

What the GOP didn’t learn from the Bush tax cuts

By ….
Bush wasn’t a big fan of regulations either. So we got a test of the low tax/low regulation approach in the Aughts. And how did it work out? ‘That business cycle was the first one in the postwar period where the income for a typical working-class family was lower at the end than at the beginning,’ says Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. You can see a comparison of the Clinton economy, which took place amid tax increases, and the Bush economy, which followed massive tax cuts, in this graph: And that’s the more important lesson. Suggesting that tax cuts increase federal revenues is foolish. Suggesting that tax cuts and lower regulations could boost growth isn’t. But anyone making that argument needs to deal with the failure of the Bush tax cuts to give us more growth, lower deficits or higher median incomes.”
“The only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.And that explains why creditor interests bulk so large in policy; not only is this the class that makes big campaign contributions, it’s the class that has personal access to policy makers — many of whom go to work for these people when they exit government through the revolving door. The process of influence doesn’t have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what’s good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they’re rich, they’re smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.But the reality is just the opposite: creditor-friendly policies are crippling the economy. This is a negative-sum game, in which the attempt to protect the rentiers from any losses is inflicting much larger losses on everyone else. And the only way to get a real recovery is to stop playing that game.”Read more:

“Only 22 states reported a net gain in jobs in May [2011], while 27 states lost jobs. That’s much worse than April, when 42 states gained jobs.

California, New York and Pennsylvania reported large job losses, partly reversing gains earlier this year. California said employers cut 29,200 jobs last month, with big losses in professional and business services, which includes accounting, engineering, and temporary services. The construction sector also lost jobs.

New York said employers cut 24,700 jobs and Pennsylvania reported a drop of 14,200 jobs.

Florida, meanwhile, reported the biggest job gains. Employers in the Sunshine State added a net total of 28,000 positions. The state’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth straight month to 10.6 percent. The gains were mostly in education and health services and in leisure and hospitality, which includes amusement parks, hotels and restaurants.

Earlier this year economist had expected much stronger job growth. But a payroll tax cut enacted in December hasn’t spurred the additional consumer spending that many economists expected. And Americans have had to spend most of the extra money to pay higher prices for food and gas.

The economy grew by only 1.8 percent in the January-March period, a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent annual pace in the October-December quarter.

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate among the states, at 12.1 percent, though that was down sharply from April’s 12.5 percent. California had the second-highest rate, at 11.7 percent, down from 11.8, followed by Rhode Island at 10.9 percent, which was unchanged.”

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“Lukoil and many of the other international oil companies that won [Iraqi] fields in the auction are now subcontracting mostly with the four largely American oil services companies that are global leaders in their field: Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Schlumberger. Those four have won the largest portion of the subcontracts to drill for oil, build wells and refurbish old equipment [in Iraq].”

“Super Cool Biz” in Japan and Little-To-No Hiring in United States

* We – all of humanity – could be building up a solar-electric infrastructure around the globe…a solar-electric system on every available rooftop and a plug-in electric car in every garage. Change the source of your energy to the clean, green power of the Sun. We can create jobs, stabilize energy prices, and reduce carbon emissions. Maybe we can create a stable society and keep people out of jail too?

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picture source:

Illustration by Matt Clark



Japan wants businessmen to shed suits, save energy

Anticipating summer power crunch, Japan wants businessmen to shed staid suits for cooler duds


“The Japanese government wants the country’s suit-loving salarymen to be bold this summer. Ditch the stuffy jacket and tie. And for the good of a country facing a power crunch, go light and casual.

Japan’s ‘Super Cool Biz’ campaign kicked off Wednesday with a government-sponsored fashion show featuring outfits appropriate for the office yet cool enough to endure the sweltering heat.

This summer may be especially brutal. The loss of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled by the March 11 tsunami, means electricity could be in short supply around the nation’s capital, Tokyo, during especially hot days.

To prevent blackouts, the government is asking companies and government offices to cut electricity usage by 15 percent. It wants companies to limit air conditioning and set room temperatures at a warm 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

The idea isn’t new. ‘Cool Biz’ was introduced in 2005 by the environment minister at the time, Yuriko Koike. The campaign was part of efforts to fight global warming.

But with Japan dealing with an ongoing nuclear crisis and the aftermath of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, officials decided they needed to take Cool Biz one step further this year.”


Treasury yields reach 2011 lows on hiring drop

Treasury yields sink to 2011 lows after reports point to drop in hiring, manufacturing


“Government bond yields dropped to their lowest levels of the year after two reports cast fresh doubt about the economic recovery.

Payroll processor ADP reported Wednesday that private employers hired just 38,000 people in May, far below what economists expected. A separate survey showed manufacturing expanded at the slowest pace since September 2009.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury sank below 3 percent for the first time this year. Banks and other lenders use the 10-year yield as a benchmark when setting interest rates for mortgages and other loans. Yields for two-year and five-year Treasury notes also dropped to 2011 lows.”