Saturday, July 30, 2011

There Is A Solution-- And Austerity Isn't It


Frank Guinta is a dangerous kook; the other guy is dressed up as a Revolutionary War general

If you've been following Bernie Sanders' heroic efforts to refocus Congress on what the American people are actually interested in their representatives in Washington getting accomplished-- as opposed to the Austerity Torture that has taken over both parties-- it will have come as no surprise to you that the Alliance for American Manufacturing released a non-partisan poll this week that shows, conclusively (and once again), that by an overwhelming 67% to 29% margin voters prefer that Washington focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction. Confirming what Sanders has been telling everyone who will listen,
• Voters want Washington to act on jobs, especially in manufacturing.

• At the same time, voters give the President and Congress even worse marks than last year for taking any action at all on jobs and manufacturing.

• Voters across the spectrum see manufacturing as central to the nation’s economic success.

• Less than a third of Americans see the U.S. as the strongest economy in the world, but overwhelming majorities feel it is possible and important for the nation to regain that position.

• Though it may surprise pundits and media talking heads, Republican voters favor pro-manufacturing job solutions just as much as Democratic voters.

• When given an “either/or” choice, just 29% want Washington to focus on deficit reduction while 67% favor job creation.

I like the way independent-minded Democrat Nick Ruiz looked at the problem yesterday. (There's a reason he was the first candidate for Congress Blue America endorsed this cycle)
The mediastream is awash in debt talk. Such is the pop currency in circulation. It's not a train that is bound for glory, saddled as it is with the misinformation of the corporate coup d’état. The conductor in chief could easily change tracks, but he has not.

The trick of the ideological center people are talking about today, the "centrist cop-out" as it is being called -- is that there is no center. That is the trick of the tale. People once believed the Earth was at the center of the universe. I'm sure some of the radicalized Right still do. But as for the political axis, we should recognize that there are only interests, factions, alliances, allegiances and competition -- but no center. The center is what they call it when someone has won. New centers are created every political cycle.

That is why there is always talk of the pendulum swinging this way and that, each election cycle, with winners and losers. And we all know who has been winning lately. The center is the myth that the media sphere sells on CCTV, where everything is solicitation. But you don’t have to buy it.

Debt is in circulation, tradable, like any other instrument of financial imagination.

Will someone throw the people a line? Save them from being cut adrift, as Wall Street pouts and sulks; about as convincing to us as a teen-aged tantrum? Not this time.

Merck will cut 13,000 more jobs, hording cash. BHO says again today, he is willing to sever the New Deal legacy. McDonald’s continues to open a restaurant every other day, soon to be every day -- in China. All while the U.S. economy grinds essentially to a halt.

I'm sure Republican Sandy Adams (FL-24) would love to take your call, fax or email on all of this, and seriously consider your concerns about the Wall Street debt crisis, the destruction of the New Deal, the corporate miseducation of our children and the wholesale destruction of our natural environment; and candidly admit how wrong she is to follow the fake Republican simulation of prosperity. Perhaps you'd rather not waste your time.

But there is something you can do about all of this for the next phase of austerity that is sure to come -- help me to replace these kinds of Republicans with progressive Democrats, and give yourself the voice you deserve on Capitol Hill.

Carol Shea-Porter was one of the few progressives who got caught up in the big Tea Party mess last year. By a 121,655- 95,503 vote she lost her New Hampshire congressional seat to hackish on-again, off-again teabagger Frank Guinta. He got to Congress and promptly started voting to end Medicare and attacking Social Security. Carol has decided to seek a rematch now that New Hampshire voters are having a serious case of buyers' remorse all across the board. This week she approached this whole Beltway mess from another perspective in a guest column she did for New Hampshire media.
Social Security had its 75th Birthday last year. While Americans celebrated this vital program that has provided economic support and dignity to seniors, disabled people, and children of deceased workers, there were members of Congress and a political party who were laying plans to change and jeopardize the program. The Republican Party leaders, who previously tried to privatize Social Security in 2005, decided to "save" Social Security from the very people who have spent a lifetime paying into the program. Their Chairman of the Budget Committee introduced "The Path to Prosperity," which included raising the qualifying age and, yes, privatizing it. It is particularly grating to read the language from Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plan-- "Further, even if the current system could be sustained, it is no longer a good deal for American workers"-- because he, more than most, knows better. His father died young, and Paul Ryan rightfully became eligible for help from the federal government. He collected Social Security benefits as a minor. He saved those federal government checks to pay for college. This shows why we need to protect Social Security from the now educated and financially secure Paul Ryan and his party-- because Social Security provides economic support and, for the young, economic and educational opportunity.

Here are some facts about Social Security. First, more than 90% of Americans 65 and over receive Social Security. More than 6 million children receive benefits due to a parent's death or disability, and a deceased worker's spouse collects if there are children under the age of 18. Millions rely on it to survive. While almost half of all seniors would be poor without it, women would be hurt even more than men, because women earn lower wages and generally live longer than men. More than half of all elderly women would live in poverty.

This would have an enormous economic impact on middle class families with aging parents. Already struggling adult children would have to care for themselves, their kids, and their parents. Without Social Security, families would have to make devastating decisions about living arrangements, health care, education, transportation, etc, as they tried to divide resources between the young and the old. Also, reducing future benefits or privatizing Social Security would not be a "shared sacrifice.” As former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers recently wrote in Vanity Fair, "The top 1% of Americans now take home nearly a quarter of all income and control more than 40% of the country's wealth-- roughly the same as the bottom 90%." Not exactly shared sacrifice. Therefore, we must stop Paul Ryan and New Hampshire's Republican Representatives from dismantling this program.

Both of our Republican Representatives have attacked Social Security. One supported the Bush plan. The other said, at a May 2009 rally with Glen Beck's 9/12 group, "…future generations should seek different private sector solutions and have personal responsibility start to lead the way."

Why are Republicans doing this? Is there really a problem with Social Security? Right now, there is actually a surplus. As Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in USA Today on 22/21/11, "...the problem is not with Social Security, but with the rest of the budget. In 2001 and 2003, Washington cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and later expanded Medicare without paying for it. Blaming Social Security for our fiscal woes is like blaming you for not saving enough in your checking account because the bank lost all depositors' money."

Social Security will have problems paying at today's rate in 26 years, but it can be fixed if the Congress would do what Reagan did in 1983-- fix it. First, raise the cap. Right now, people who earn under $106,800 pay tax on every single dollar they earn. People who earn over that do not pay on every dollar, just the first $106,800. This amounts to a hidden tax cut as their income rises. This is not fair. We also need to stop the Social Security tax “holiday” that was enacted last year, which reduced workers' payments 2%. This denies the fund essential resources.

As President Roosevelt said about Social Security in 1941, “We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” We need to tell our leaders again-- don't scrap our social security program!

Stimulating the economy to put American victims of the Bush/Wall Street/GOP Recession back to work, while protecting the lives and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens, is clearly what Americans expect from our government. Someday we may figure out what President Obama is thinking. It's not difficult to know just how progressives like Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, Raúl Grijalva and Carol Shea-Porter feel about it-- and how strongly they'll stand up against the right-wing onslaught. In the end, of course, it's up to the voters to chose. And in New Hampshire, voters are more than a little shocked to see how the Republicans they have empowered have chosen to proceed, after being-- excuse the phrase-- given the keys to the car.

Yesterday Robert Reich warned his readers to not fall for the Republican lies that have totally infused the corporate media. His point: there's a job crisis and a growth crisis, not a budget crisis.
[T]he best way to get jobs and growth back is for the federal government to spend more right now, not less-- for example, by exempting the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes this year and next, recreating a WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, creating an infrastructure bank, providing tax incentives for small businesses to hire, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on.

...Repeat after me: The federal deficit is not the nation’s biggest problem. The anemic recovery, huge unemployment, falling wages, and declining home prices are bigger problems. We don’t have a budget crisis. We have a jobs and growth crisis.

The GOP has manufactured a budget crisis out of the Republicans’ extortionate demands over raising the debt limit. They have succeeded in hoodwinking the public...

I like the ad below that's running in Iowa this weekend. It could have just as easily run in either of New Hampshire's congressional districts-- or against Sandy Adams in central Florida.

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