Friday, October 28, 2011

Wall St. Protesters Re-Occupy Oakland, But Empire Strikes Back Daily Nearby

Tents and protesters had reclaimed Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of Tuesday's police tear-gas attack that left Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen bloodied and focused international attention on Occupy Wall Street's Northern California franchise.

Nearby, at the Port of Oakland's massive container facility, giant container ships disgorged the outflow of globalization. The ships that sailed into San Francisco Bay and awaited their turn at Oakland's container port daily added to the economic imbalances the Occupy movement decried.

Manufactured goods from Asia. Produce from South America. Tax-free profits for multinationals.

The American economy's dire straits put thousands of fed-up protesters on the streets. In cities and towns across America, Occupiers protesting economic injustice camped out in mini-Hoovervilles. In Oakland, phalanxes of armored riot police from several agencies Tuesday zealously tore into a peaceful demonstration as the whole world watched on social media.

Under calmer conditions, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan attempted Thursday night to address the crowd that had reclaimed Frank Ogawa Plaza, and was booed off the stage as she queued for the microphone.

In a video Quan posted on her Facebook page, she said Tuesday's crackdown "was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened." Quan had been on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. when police barricaded the streets, cleared the Oakland encampment, and launched a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of a thousand demonstrators who had marched from the downtown library.

Ex-Marine and Iraq War veteran Olsen was struck in the head. As a group of protesters gathered around him to render aid, an additional device lobbed from the assembled law enforcement ranks landed among the clustered protesters, and burst next to Olsen, a KTVU news video revealed. Olsen suffered a fractured skull.

"I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said in a statement issued Thursday. "My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen." Lee's office stated the Congressmember had offered assistance to Olsen's family.

The 24-year old veteran, who'd served two tours in Iraq and was a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Friday remained in Oakland Highland Hospital's intensive care ward. His condition was upgraded to fair, although he might require surgery to relieve swelling to his brain.

Across the bay in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee, eager to avoid the public relations black eye Quan suffered, postponed plans to clear Occupy SF's Justin Herman Plaza camp.

Rumors of San Francisco's impending police crackdown Wednesday night only bolstered the Occupiers' ranks with several hundred reinforcements, including city Supervisors David Chiu and John Avalos, and State Senator Leland Yee. All three were Lee's rivals in the upcoming Nov. 8 mayoral election.

By Thursday morning, the ragtag assemblage of core Occupy SF stalwarts and indigenous homeless camped at Justin Herman Plaza had swelled to 50 tents and 300 protesters, as office workers and tourists joined partisan activists.

With Lee promising "dialoguing" with Occupy SF representatives, the sort of heavy-handed police crackdown seen in Oakland appeared unlikely at least until after Nov. 8.

Like a parade of gigantic hobby horses, enormous cranes lined San Francisco Bay at Oakland. Huge container ships piled with cargo containers sailed through the Golden Gate bearing the outflow of Asia's manufacturing juggernaut, as well as components from Europe and produce from South America. Globalization that was sold as a boon for American exports proved only to be a boon for the transnational plutocrats who'd lobbied for globalization.

In the end, the only thing America exported was jobs. And waste paper, which was America's biggest export product to China.

Instead of creating jobs in America, tax and economic policies coddling the wealthy and their multinational corporations only encouraged offshoring and outsourcing. Low taxes incentivized gratuitous profiteering, so instead of selling American products overseas, companies shuttered American factories and opted for cheap foreign labor. Cheap foreign labor and lax foreign regulation fattened bottom lines with profits that could be skimmed off without a progressive tax penalty.

Companies could slash manufacturing costs while charging the same prices for their products, and the tax structure enabled the rich to pocket the difference.

American labor suffered. Foreign labor, automation, mergers, and layoffs idled millions. Money flowed from labor to capital. The American economy collapsed.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce loved it, and their recent open letter outlining their jobs plan asked Congress and the President to get them more of the same.

The ultimatum big corporations' and their Congressional Republicans now delivered to America was: If America wanted more jobs, America had to suspend all business and industry regulations, lavish the rich with more tax breaks and subsidies, and hand over all the money set aside for pensions, Social Security and Medicare.

Baring that, the multinationals and their Republican allies would keep strangling America, and anyone who stood in the way would get his skull cracked like Scott Olsen.

Oakland police continued to insist they didn't use flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, or bean bags Tuesday night but hedged that officers from several other agencies had been present. A spent bean bag projectile was reportedly recovered near the spot Olsen had been injured. Oakland police claimed demonstrators "began throwing paint or other hazardous material at the officers who deployed tear gas as a defense tactic."

Rep. Lee countered, "The reaction was not appropriate. These are peaceful protesters who have a right to petition their government."

Scott Olsen's petition was rejected with a blast to the head.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Khadafy Killing a 'Good Thing' in an Age of 'Good Things'

They killed Khadafy.

By now, everyone knew what there was to know. Deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy was killed Thursday in his hometown of Sirte after a NATO airstrike busted up a convoy of vehicles, and rebel fighters found the bedraggled tyrant hiding in a drainage pipe. The wounded Khadafy was dragged from the pipe, and, apparently, an 18-year-old rebel fighter saved Libyan taxpayers the cost of a showy show trial.

Khadafy was the poster child among blood-thirsty dictators, and no one beyond the blood-thirsty dictator fan club shed any tears.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj of the Libyan military counsel proclaimed, "we have done a great job to liberate all the country."

The world's leaders chimed in.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "The disappearance of Moammar Khadafy is a major step in the struggle led for the last eight months by the Libyan people..."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "This day draws a line beneath the Khadafy regime: it is an important day for the Libyans."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, "The death of Moammar Khadafy is an historic moment for the people of Libya."

In the U.S., bickering legislators found themselves grudgingly in agreement.

"The passing of Moammar Khadafy from this earth is definitely not a bad thing," said Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (DE).

"Khadafy being gone is a good thing," said Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (MO).

Even Martha Stewart would likely arrange a couple of doilies around the tyrant's bloodied corpse and pronounce it "a Good Thing."

There was no doubting Khadafy'd been a baaad man, and that he'd been, in the parlance of the Wild Old West, someone who'd "needed killin.'"

And yet, and yet...

They killed Saddam Hussein, and everyone agreed it was a good thing.

They killed Osama bin Laden, and everyone cheered.

They killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, and everyone more of less nodded in assent.

Certainly, some very bad people had gotten their comeuppance of late. Their just desserts. Paid the piper. Had their dogma run over by their karma.

Certainly President Barack Obama had gotten to step repeatedly up to a podium to tell the White House press corp that yet another enemy of freedom, democracy and goodness had bitten the dust.

And yet, and yet...

Of course, this was the way it was supposed to be. Harry killed Lord You-Know-Who. 007 killed Goldfinger. Darth Vader redeemed himself by killing the Emperor. The 47 Ronin acquitted themselves by killing the evil Lord. Countless square-jawed Sheriffs gunned down countless black-hatted villains at innumerable high noons on innumerable dusty Main Streets.

And yet, and yet...

When did civilization devolve to the point where its only victories consisted of killing someone? When had the payoff for all the hope and struggle and toil and sacrifice become reduced to a bullet through someone's brain? When was it that the only tickmarks goodness and decency and democracy dropped into the "Win" column began coming from gunning someone down or blowing someone up?

It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't the best thing since killing bin Laden, but that it was the only good thing since killing bin Laden. It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't a good thing, but that killing some bad guy had become the only good thing anybody managed to accomplish in a very, very long while.

Couldn't anybody other than the Avenging Angel please make a play?

Couldn't the Angel of Mercy break a tackle and dance into the end zone for six? Couldn't Charity step to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and crank a three-run jack to send the fans home happy? Couldn't Kindness sink a three-pointer at the buzzer and draw the foul to put the home team over the top?

Couldn't faith, or hope, or temperance, or diligence, or patience, or humility bend that last-second kick into the back of the net as the play-by-play announcer ecstatically screamed, "Goooooooooooooal?"

While the world celebrated this good thing, it seemed incapable of creating jobs for people who needed them, or nursing the sick and injured, or caring for aging parents and grandparents. While the world did its touchdown dance and spiked the football over yet another bloody corpse, it seemed incapable of cleaning up its rivers and lakes and oceans, or clearing its air, or reversing global climate change, or even agreeing such problems existed.

When the good folks of eighteenth century France set up Dr. Guillotines' amazing slicing, dicing, person-o-matic in the Place de la Revolution and began dragging powdered aristocrats to the National Razor to take a foot off the top, the crowd agreed it was a very good thing. They whacked Louis XVI, and Collenot d'Angremont. They whacked Marie Antoinette. Maximilien Robespierre and the Revolutionary Tribunal figured it was all good and whacked aristos and collaborators and crooks left and right. There seemed to be no end to good things.

And yet, and yet...

Somewhere between the time they whacked Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins and Robespierre himself; sometime between the rise of an obscure army officer named Napoleon and a genocidal war in Spain; at some point between Austerlitz and a miserable, freezing retreat from Russia and the maelstrom of Waterloo, it ceased being a good thing.

Killing Khadafy was a good thing, everyone agreed. Killing Hussein was a good thing, most everyone agreed. Killing bin Laden was a good thing, most everyone west of Islamabad agreed. Killing Al-Awlaki was a good thing, many people more or less agreed.

Thanks to modern technology, there was no need to trek to a guillotine for a good thing, as good things could be administered remotely. Unmanned drones fired over-the-horizon smart missiles. Snipers blew people up from a mile away. Rockets and RPGs and IEDs all administered someone's idea of a good thing.

There was no end to the number of good things that could be done, and no end to the number of folks who figured they knew a good thing when they saw one.

Someone posted a $75,000 inducement on the internet figuring that murdering Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) was a good thing. Last month, someone, the same or otherwise, offered $100,000 for killing President George W. Bush. Or Donald Rumsfeld. Or Dick Cheney. Or any U.S. Senator, Congressmember, or their family members.

The FBI was investigating similar threats against Obama and other lawmakers. A lot of people seemed to have their own ideas about which things might be good.

It was a time when anger and disenfranchisement had spilled onto the streets of cities and towns around the world. It was a Time for Outrage!, declared revered diplomat and World War II French Resistance fighter Stephane Hessel.

It was a time that threatened to be full of good things.

And everyone knew how regrettable too much of a good thing could be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Despite 'Occupy' Protests, GOP Schemes Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes on All Others

Despite thousands of Americans in hundreds of American cities protesting economic injustice, Republicans continued to scheme new ways of lavishing themselves and their wealthy cronies with even more and bigger tax breaks while brutalizing everyone else.

Despite Americans Occupying Wall Street, LA, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Des Moines, Denver, Orlando, Richmond, Oakland, San Diego, Austin, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Philly, Seattle, Madison, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tucson, Baltimore, Tulsa, Louisville, New Orleans and points in between, Republicans continued to plan new ways to soak the poor and middle classes to keep the champagne flowing and the private dancers dancing in so many corporate suites.

Flat Tax. 9-9-9 Tax. Fair Tax. Despite poll after poll confirming more than six in ten Americans wanted to raise taxes on the rich, close budget deficits, and shore up Social Security and Medicare, Republicans continued to figure out new schemes to lower taxes on the rich, soak the poor and middle classes, and plunder and dismantle Social Security and Medicare.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee even wanted to eliminate completely taxes U.S. corporations paid on overseas profits.

While poll after poll found Americans were fed up with the tax and fiscal polices that had concentrated 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of America's wealthiest, Republicans schemed to transfer even more wealth to their rich cronies. While protests and marches and rallies across the nation decried economic injustice, Republicans schemed to pilfer the few sheckles the poor and middle classes had left to them.

GOP presidential hopeful and ex-pizza mogul Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan dumped the nation's tax code and replaced it with an across-the-board 9% income tax, 9% business tax, and 9% national sales tax. The independant Tax Policy Center found Cain's scheme would hike taxes on families making $10,000-$20,000 a year a mind-numbling 950%.

"It's very, very regressive compared to the current system, and that's largely because we're exempting capital gains, and we're taxing your spending with the sales tax," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. 'Regressive' meant it bitch-slapped the less well off.

Families making $10,000-$20,000 a year would suffer a $2,700 tax hike. Households making $40,000-$50,000 would suffer a $4,400 tax hike.

84% of Americans would suffer higher taxes under 9-9-9.

There were no bonus points for figuring out who made up the 16% that got a great big tax cut, with their marginal rate slashed from 35% to 9%, and their capital gains taxes eliminated altogether. But some of them were doubtless pizza godfathers.

Marginal GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's tax plan schemed to coddle his rich buddies with a plan that eliminated all deductions and slashed rates to 8%, 14% and 23%.  Like Cain's plan, Huntsman's scheme would deep-six the mortgage-interest deduction vital to middle-class homeowners, as well as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Then, having thus raised taxes on most everyone, Huntsman wanted to funnel the money to his rich pals and big corporations by slashing corporate taxes and taxes on dividends and capital gains.

Which was, of course, a typical Republican view of reforming the tax code.

Floundering GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday resurrected an old Republican favorite, the Flat Tax. He told a Republican gathering he intended to announce his scheme next week. Former minor GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who in 1996 ran unsuccessfully on a national flat tax with no deductions, recently joined Perry's brain trust.

"I am going to give the American people a huge big old helping of unbridled truth," Perry drawled to demonstrate his folksiness. "That we can't continue to spend what we are spending, that we can't avoid entitlement reform because we are afraid of the third rail of politics."

In other words, Perry was committed to dismantling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to fund more tax cuts to his rich cronies. In other words, Perry's flat tax was going to slash taxes for the rich and mega-corporations, and abandon the American people to poverty and destitution without retirement pensions or health care.

In other words, another typical Republican view of reforming the tax code.

Already, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) disgraced 2012 Budget plan had tried to cut corporate taxes from 35% to 25%, dismantle Medicare, and force future seniors to buy pricey private insurance policies with scant 'premium support' the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover a third of health care costs. Of course, the rich loved the idea, as they coveted the tax break and the discount off the Cadillac health insurance policies they were buying anyway.

Senate Republicans already demonstrated their utter disdain for 99% of the American people by nixing President Barack Obama's popular jobs legislation, voting down an extension of Obama's middle class payroll tax holiday and rejecting a 5.6% surtax on millionaires and billionaires.

Instead, Republicans advocated replacing income tax with a national sales tax, which they considered a "Fair Tax" because it hit the poor and middle classes hard, while allowing the ultra-wealthy to skate on billions in ill-gotten gains. Instead, Republicans schemed to impose a flat tax or 9-9-9 scam to further coddle billionaires and further oppress the 99%.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) was even leading an effort to eliminate altogether taxes corporations paid on overseas profits.

"We also need to move, I think, to a territorial tax system so we can compete around the world," Camp said in June about his plot to join Japan and Great Britain in not taxing profits their corporations earned overseas.

In the words of Lenny Bruce, "What mean 'we,' Kimosabe?"

General Electric already managed to avoid paying any taxes on $14.2 billion in profits by juggling their books to emphasize overseas profits. As U.S. law currently stood, corporations owed taxes on profits they made anywhere they operated, but were allowed to delay paying taxes on overseas profits until they brought those monies into the U.S.

Camp and Republicans on his committee wanted to change the law so U.S. corporations would never be taxed on overseas profits.

Never mind that it was American taxpayers who'd provided the seed money and the subsidies and the research grants and the infrastructure and the support of the world's biggest economy that enabled those corporations to exist in the first place. Never mind that it was American schools and American innovation and American cops and American firefighters that created and grew and kept secure those corporations to begin with. Never mind it was American military might that made the world safe for capitalism.

Camp and Cain and Huntsman and Perry wanted to throw America under the bus to coddle their plutocrat masters. It was easy to imagine Camp and Cain and Huntsman and Perry and all the Republicans as a human centipede eagerly attaching themselves to corporate excess.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Month In, Media, Pols Still Don't Get Occupy Wall Street Protests

Flip any TV onto any one of the sixteen gazillion channels of its banal, mindless offerings, and you'll see the one percenters. There'll be one percenters pretending they're cops. There'll be one percenters pretending they're nerds, even if they're the best-looking nerds anyone's ever seen. There'll be one percenters pretending they're sex-crazed suburbanites, all nipped and tucked and botoxed and collagen-injected and personally-trained into that creepy faux-thirty look so prevalent at Republican conventions.

There'll even be one percenters pretending they're journalists.

The mass media, lamestream and otherwise, were of, for, and by one percenters. The mass media's banal, mindless content, lamestream and otherwise, was created by one percenters, green-lighted by boardrooms filled with one percenters, produced by one percenters, and featured photogenic one percenters hawking some other one percenters' goods and services. And, it was all dedicated to generating bottom lines that tickled one percenter fancies.

Most everyone you'd see, or hear, or read about or hear about in the mass media were one percenters. Performers, politicians, and pundits; newsreaders and novelists; even carpenters and cooks were one percenters. Utility infielders for Major League Baseball teams were one percenters.

Little wonder the one percenters' mass media were baffled by the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the nation and the world, and marked their first full month with their biggest demonstrations yet in the capitols of Europe last weekend.

NBC News anchor Lester Holt Sunday acknowledged the Occupy Wall Street movement had galvanized thousands, but wondered, "toward what end?"

"It's not a middle class uprising," one well-heeled bank exec whined to the New York Times. "It's fringe groups. It's people who have time to do this," he said, likely unable to comprehend that 'middle class' didn't mean folks making only five or ten mil a year.

"For the most part, there just doesn't seem to be a coherent message," Tea Party Sen. Pat Toomey (R-FL) derided the movement Monday on Pennsylvania radio station WKOK.

"I am not sure this movement is going to last if it doesn't have some reasonably clear and cogent purpose and message and so far I haven't seen that," Toomey snorted dismissively.

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were usually being subjected to some sort of degrading hazing ritual to win the kind of prizes one percenters understood: money; notoriety; a brand new car!

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were being made to shed weight, or complete humiliating tasks, or sing or dance or otherwise win the approval of one percenters to be granted some cash reward, or a makeover, or, most splendid of all, admission to the ranks of the one percenters themselves.

The only other 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenter's mass media were wearing orange jumpsuits doing perpwalks.

Thus, it was no surprise that Holt and Toomey and Wall Street Financiers were plaintively asking, "What did the Occupiers want?"

Did they want a break on student loans? Did they want a makeover? Did they want a free trip to a Super Bowl party with Deion Sanders and Britney Spears? Did they want a brand new car?

What did Occupiers out in the streets of more than a hundred American cities and in the capitols of Europe demonstrating against economic injustice want? What could scruffy young people and laid-off web designers and grannies on Social Security marching and carrying signs decrying economic injustice possibly desire? What could a global backlash against economic injustice possibly be demanding?

What did the thousands gathered in New York and Tucson and Orlando protesting economic injustice want? What could countless marches and rallies in Phoenix and Sacramento and Richmond and Los Angeles and Chicago and countless other American cities denouncing economic injustice hope to accomplish? What could the massive demonstrations in London and Rome raging against economic injustice possibly have in mind?

A month into the protest, and the one percenters still didn't get it. A month of rallies and marches and demonstrations, and, with all their money, the one percenters still couldn't buy a vowel to get a clue. A month of outrage and exuberance spilling onto the streets of the world, and you still had to go full-on Charlie Sheen to get through: Duh, an end to economic injustice!

The Holts and the Toomeys and the Wall Street tycoons and all the one percenter mass media moguls couldn't imagine that the 99% wanted to stop the one percenters treating the entire planet as a plutocratic one percenter fiefdom. The Holts and the Toomeys and the tycoons and the moguls couldn't get that the 99% were fed up with one percenters preening and pontificating and plundering and pilfering and pillaging and polluting as though hitting the blind-luck, talent-and-brains-and-hard-work-had-nothing-to-do-with-it fame and fortune lottery somehow entitled them to wreck a whole civilization and demean an entire human species and degrade a whole planetary ecosystem so they could wallow in unlimited gold-plated, private jetting, ice sculpture-festooned decadence twenty-four-seven-three-sixty-five-except-in-leap-years-when-it's-three-sixty-six.

The one percenters couldn't rub their brain cells together and figure out the Occupiers didn't give a fig about a makeover, or a Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney, or a brand new car.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone - everyone, not just one in twenty-seven million with a chance to win - could find meaningful work that was valued and respected, and provided a decent, dignified life, with promise for the future and a chance for their kids to get on, and the chance to put aside a little - a little - for a comfortable retirement. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone could get decent health care, and a decent education, and live in a decent home that wasn't underwater because so many right-wing opportunists in so many rip-off financial services institutions sliced and diced and repackaged so much debt until it all collapsed, then came and demanded mo' money, mo' money, mo' money to do it all over again.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all the tax and economic policies and banking and financial rules and regs didn't concentrate 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of the wealthiest. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all that wealth wasn't concentrated into so few hands, giving the rich free reign to bludgeon everyone and everything with the blunt instrument of lobbyists and lawyers and bought-and-paid-for politicians to make sure the champagne kept flowing and the private jets kept jetting and Deion and Britney kept grinning and grinding in some luxury suite at the Super Bowl.

"Some of them are pretty radical," Toomey complained about Occupiers. To vilify and demean, he said, "You see the occasional sign that says 'Karl Marx was right.'"

"Karl Marx had it right," Nouriel 'Dr. Doom' Roubini, the New York University economist who'd accurately predicted the 2008 financial meltdown recently told the Wall Street Journal. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you can't keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

If Marx and Roubini were too radical for Toomey, Marriner Eccles, Chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 1932-1948, said:
"A mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption. Mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth....Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But, by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants."
By the time Eccles stepped down from the Board in 1948, massive government spending on an alphabet soup of Roosevelt Administration stimulus programs and exponentially more massive government spending on thousands of ships, tens of thousands of tanks, hundreds of thousands of aircraft and artillery pieces, millions of trucks and rifles and machine guns and uniforms and boots and shovels and flashlights and bandoliers and bandages during World War II had finally jump-started the greatest economic expansion in history.

The period after World War II saw the greatest growth in middle class prosperity ever. Abroad, the U.S. government funded the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. At home, the U.S. government funded the education of an entire generation of Americans with the G.I. Bill, as well as the building of the Interstate Freeway System, dams, bridges, schools, libraries and even a few rocket ships to the moon.

There was just one little thing about taxes. Throughout that period of unprecedented growth, the top income tax rate never dipped below 70%.

Then, the money moguls and oil barons and corporate tycoons decided taxpayers should stop funding a decent life for the 99%, and start funding a spectacular life for the one percenters. To that end, they promised everyone that slashing taxes for corporations and the rich would make everything much, much, much better.

They didn't mention it would only make things better for themselves, and much, much worse for everyone else.

What the 99% wanted wasn't a makeover, unless it was the making over an entire dysfunctional global economic and financial system that concentrated wealth from the many to the few. What the 99% wanted wasn't a brand new car, unless it was part of a decent life with a good job, and a secure future, and universally accessible health care, and a dignified retirement.

What the 99% wanted was a world remade for the benefit of everyone, not just for the greedy, narcissistic few who gloated over their power and taunted and cheered for the deaths of those who couldn't afford health insurance.

If the one percenters ever figured that out, they could send it gift-wrapped to the 99% at that Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney. If, as was much more likely, the one percenters never figured it out, the 99% would just have to crash that party.

And that was what the 99% wanted.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Across America, Cops That Coddled The Tea Party Crack Down On Occupy Wall Streeters

In Denver, armoured cops Friday arrested 23 and destroyed Occupy Denver's base camp on the Colorado State Capitol grounds. In San Francisco, cops demolished Occupy SF's Market Street base camp just as the movement was getting started. In New York, Friday's planned 'clean-up' sweep of Zuccotti Park was postponed just before it was set to begin, but more than a dozen arrests added to the list of hundreds rounded up during Occupy Wall Street's first month there.

From Des Moines to Boston, the Occupy protesters have from the beginning been besieged by the same authorities that coddled and shielded the right-wing Tea Party.
  • In Des Moines, police arrested dozens, including a 14-year-old girl, at Occupy Des Moine's first event Sunday. 
  • 10 Occupy Seattle protesters were arrested in Westlake Park Thursday.
  • In San Diego, police detained demonstrators and broke up their camp Friday.
  • Police Thursday arrested four Occupy Austin protesters for refusing to clear City Hall Plaza.
  • Eight Occupy Houston protesters were arrested and charged with criminal trespass Wednesday outside the Mickey Leland Federal Building, site of Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn's and Kay Bailey Hutchison's offices.
  • Police arrested 100 Occupy Boston protesters Tuesday when they refused to evacuate their Rose Kennedy Greenway park camp.
  • 10 Occupy LA protesters were arrested in downtown Los Angeles Thursday at a Bank Of America branch when they demanded the bank cash a $673 billion check.
Occupy Wall Street's New York demonstrators have been subjected to arrests almost daily, including 700 rounded up Oct. 1 on the Brooklyn Bridge. Occupy Wall Street protesters have been pepper-sprayed, battered and beaten, in sharp contrast to the red-carpet, kid-gloves treatment lavished on Tea Party zealots.

Tea Party zealots spat on Democratic legislators, shouted racist epithets, and brandished guns at town hall meetings, and were rewarded with fawning television interviews and book deals.

"The left is trying to create a counter force to the Tea Party, but it's almost laughable that anyone is comparing the two, because they're totally different," Tea Party Express honcho Sal Russo told The Politico.

The two movements were completely different, as Occupy Wall Street and its offspring were spontaneous popular uprisings, while the Tea Party was a calculated propaganda organ funded and organized by billionaires and the far-right wing of the Republican Party.

No blue-uniformed law enforcement officer worth his badge and gun would dream of pepper-spraying a Tea Party screamer backed by Charles and David Koch's and Rupert Murdoch's billions.

While Occupy protesters hopped Greyhound buses or drove themselves to events they organized through social media, Tea Party zealots were limousined in climate-controlled buses chartered by Koch Industries to access-controlled Fox News media circuses.

While Occupy Wall Street protested the injustice of rampant corporate plutocracy, the Tea Party demanded the expansion of plutocratic power.

While Occupy Wall Street was protesting Wall Street excess, the Tea Party was shilling for Wall Street itself.

Occupy Wall Street was more akin to the spontaneous pro-democracy occupation of Tienanmen Square, while the Tea Party was more closely related to Iran's choreographed pro-government rallies. While Occupy Wall Street protesters were uniformly attacked by cops, just as the Tienanmen Square protesters were attacked by troops and tanks, Tea Party zealots preened for Fox News cameras behind protective phalanxes of riot police, just as Iranian pro-government demonstrators chanted and waved banners for the cameras behind the protective curtain of armed Republican Guard thugs.

Occupy Wall Street was more like the unruly mobs gathered with Danton and Desmoulins in the streets of Paris calling for removal of the aristocracy. The Tea Party was more like the organized crowds waving green flags and cheering for the continued majority of Moammar Khadafy.

In short, Occupy Wall Street was anti-establishment, while the Tea Party was super-establishment.

In America in the first decades of the twenty-first century, the establishment was not government, but a junta of transnational corporate plutocrats. In America in the first decades of the twenty-first century, the enemy was not the democratic institutions of government, but rather international corporate oligarchies and the overwhelming power of the wealth they wielded.

The enemy wasn't government per se, but those who had implemented policies that had concentrated 84% of the nation's wealth into the hands of 20% of the nation's wealthiest, and would maintain and expand those policies.

Republicans, spearheaded by their Tea Party shock troops, pushed to dismantle oversight of banks and financial institutions, and suspend regulation of oil, gas and coal companies. After defeating President Barack Obama's popular $447 billion jobs bill and its 5.6% surtax on millionaires and billionaires, Republicans taunted him with a GOP jobs plan comprised of warmed-over GOP demands to gut the National Labor Relations Board, impose a moratorium on government regulation, eliminate oil, gas and mining regulations, impose a balanced budget amendment, roll back health care reform, and repeal financial regulations. None of the GOP demands would create any jobs.

"We have to be for something," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.

It was Tea Party stalwart Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), undaunted by his disgraced bid to dismantle Medicare, hand all its money to insurance industry cronies, and pawn off future seniors with worthless coupons the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover a third of health care costs, who plotted to expand his scheme by dismantling employer-sponsored health care benefits was well as Medicare and Medicaid.

It was Tea Party ringleader Rand Paul (R-KY) who was behind the GOP's Jobs Through Growth Act, the Republican scheme to dismantle environmental, business, and financial oversight, and slash spending at a time when the government should be stimulating the economy.

Meanwhile, it was Occupy Wall Street that railed against corporations and the ultra-wealthy running roughshod over 99% of Americans.

Inexplicably, the police seemed always to coddle the tax-dodging wealthy elite that busted police unions and raided police pension funds, and seemed always to brutalize the taxpaying citizens that paid for police wages.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unpopular Congress Nixes Popular Obama Jobs Plan

While Occupy Wall Street demonstrators railed against corporate greed and the injustices of a system that coddled the rich and debased everyone else, while real unemployment rose to 18.41%, while Americans from sea to shining sea gathered glumly around barren kitchen tables, a despised and disgraced Congress increasingly disconnected from its constituents and increasingly obsessed with wallowing in piles of K-Street lobbyist cash summarily dismissed President Barack Obama's popular jobs legislation.

By a 50-49 Tuesday vote in the Senate, Obama's $447 billion jobs package fell far short of the 60 votes needed to proceed. In a sign of how wretched this Congress was, no on was surprised the measure was defeated.

Two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson (NE) and Sen. Jon Tester (MT), joined every Republican in the Senate to defeat Obama's bid to fix 30,000 schools, hire teachers and firefighters and cops, extend a payroll tax holiday for middle class Americans, and slap a 5.6% tax surcharge on millionaires and billionaires.

It was no wonder a new Gallup poll revealed Congress continued to match its lowest-ever 13% approval rating, again tying a record for disgrace attained only twice before, in December 2010 and August 2011. Fully 81% disapproved of the job Congress was doing.

It was also no wonder that a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found the American people now trusted Obama to do a better job of creating jobs than Congressional Republicans, 49% to 34%. Just one month ago, Obama and Congress had been tied, 40% to 40%.

"If voting against another stimulus is the only way we can get Democrats in Washington to finally abandon this failed approach to job creation then so be it," crowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Tuesday, denigrating the sort of stimulus every economist not getting fat checks from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News agreed the nation needed.

Republicans were only interested to coddling corporations and their wealthy cronies with more and bigger tax cuts and subsidies, empowering more and bigger mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, outsourcings, and offshorings. Republicans were only interested in compounding the supply-side, trickle-down, voodoo economics that had already concentrated 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of America's wealthiest, and created the economic boom in their beloved China.

The 103,000 jobs the economy added in September failed to keep pace with the growth in the nation's workforce, which increased by 200,000. The official unemployment rate remained at 9.1%, while some measures of U-7 unemployment, which included full-time job seekers, a portion of part-time job seekers, the underemployed and discouraged workers, rose to 18.41% from 18.26%.

The number of people unemployed for 27 or more weeks rose from 6.03 million to 6.24 million.

Republicans were doubtless delighted, as they likely viewed a moribund economy as their ticket into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2012. Republicans had an apparent vested interest in prolonging the nation's economic misery.

"Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Tuesday. "They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election."

The jobs plan Senate Republicans defeated had been a popular one among America's voters:
  • 85% had approved of Obama's proposal for small business tax cuts and hiring incentives.
  • 75% had approved of additional funds for more teachers, cops and firefighters.
  • 73% had approved of tax incentives for hiring the long-term unemployed.
  • 72% had approved of additional funding for public works projects like fixing up the 30,000 schools.
  • 56% had approved of extending unemployment benefits. 
And, of course, 66% had approved of raising taxes on those making $200,000 or much, much more a year. 23 polls conducted between December, 2010 and August 2011 showed roughly two-thirds of Americans wanted the rich to pay higher taxes to pay down national debt, close deficits, and shore up Social Security and Medicare. And, since August:
Now, Gallup found 81% disapproved of Congress even before they knew the Senate had rejected Obama's jobs bill and it's millionaire/billionaire surtax.

Apparently, by rejecting taxing the rich, the single most widely favored item on the checklists of the people they professed to represent, Congress was shooting for a perfect 100% condemnation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

'Mormonism Is Cult' Pastor Declares Christians Are Evil And Immoral

For days now, there's been a bit of a brouhaha over the Dallas Baptist preacher who called Mormonism a cult.

Poor ol' Robert Jeffress, pressed into introducing his fave GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter summit in Washington, D.C. Friday happened to opine afterward that he figured Mormonism was a cult, and that rival Republican candidate Mitt Romney, an adherent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, wasn't a Christian.

And the media, lamestream and otherwise, had been burning up the airwaves over the matter ever since. On CBS' Face the Nation, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich criticized Jeffress for criticizing someone else's religion. GOP presidential candidate and pizza mogul Herman Cain told CNN's State of the Union that he "didn't want to get into that."

Lost in all that was what Jeffress actually said.

"Mormonism is a cult," Jeffress told reporters gathered outside the Values Voter auditorium. "I believe Mitt Romney is a good, moral person and has a wonderful family, but that's not what makes you a Christian."

Well, thank gawd that's been straightened out. And thank Robert Jeffress for explaining the Inquisition, the Reformation Wars, burning women at the stake, slavery, and the genocide of Native Americans, Jews, and Muslims.

Jeffress said that Mitt Romney was good and moral and had a wonderful family, and couldn't possibly be a Christian. Of course, as Mormons accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, apparently what made you a Christian was being evil and immoral and having a horrible family.

Granted, the whole point of Christianity was that it was for people who were evil and rotten and immoral and despicable. Grace was Amazing because it Saved evil, rotten, immoral, despicable, slave-trading white supremacist wretch John Newton. Grace, or anyone else, didn't get credit for a Save, amazing or otherwise, with a nine-run lead.

Thus, Christianity was a sort of get-out-of-Hell-free card for the truly vile and repugnant. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was a Christian.

Maybe Jeffress meant that Romney and the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, didn't need Christianity. Just as Gandhi was a maha (great) atma (soul), maybe Jeffress meant Romney, too, was already working with a nine-run lead, and could go the distance without bringing in a bearded closer to nail down the Save.

In fact, back in the day, Protestants invented Protestantism in part because they figured their doing good deeds couldn't get them into Heaven at all, as Catholics had earlier figured. Protestants figured they were so far gone good deeds weren't even in it. They figured the only way they could get into Heaven was through Grace and Grace alone. Jesus had to cut them some slack. Toss out some low scores. Look the other karmic way.

Conveniently, that precluded having to part with any ill-gotten gains they'd spent a lifetime of doing ill to get just to buy a lousy admission to Heaven with a priestly Indulgence.

Which also explained the origins of the Tea Party.

Of course, perusing the liturgical fine print revealed that Heaven in the Judeo-Christian tradition was a special kind of Heaven. In the Christian Heaven, your dead bones arose and were clothed in new flesh, and you lived, in your taut new meatsuit, forever and ever with Jesus in a special plane specifically created for meat-suited reanimated Christians.

This was significantly different from the sort of Heaven other religions promised, which mostly all featured a non-corporeal afterlife of hanging with the Big Guy. So, maybe there was a regular, non-corporeal Heaven for good, moral, wonderful-family-raising Mahatmas and Romneys and Buddhists and Hindus and such with sufficiently good karma, and a separate, fleshy Heaven made just for folks on the good/evil bubble who called in the Beard and squeaked out a one-run victory in the bottom of the ninth.

This separate, fleshy Christian Heaven was the one for reanimated meat-suited Christians like Jeffress and Rick Perry. All the Christians would be there. Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition, would be there. The Borgias would be there. Gangland mobsters would be there.

All the child-raping priests would be there.

And, it being Heaven, all those torturers and murderers and gangsters and child molesters, not to mention Texas politicians, got to spend all Eternity doing just as they pleased as much and as long as they wanted. The only real requirement was having to say you were on Jesus' pass list.

Which might make one wonder whether Christian Heaven wasn't actually some sort of supernatural diversion program for the otherwise Hell-bound. Sort of a maximum-security afterlife for flesh-clothed undead miscreants administered by an omnipotent bleeding-heart liberal Rabbi from Nazareth.

After all, anyplace that was designed to keep anyone or anything out was likewise effectively designed to keep something in. Maybe, the whole being-reclothed-in-flesh thing was the innovation that kept spiritual third-strike offenders out of hard time by guaranteeing they couldn't wander off into regular, non-corporeal Heaven to frighten the locals with tommy guns and loud country rock music. No need for an ankle monitor when just having an ankle would do.

Thus, the only real issue in the whole Mormonism-Christianity-cult kerfuffle was whether Romney was ticketed for Christian Heaven, with bones and a fresh new meatsuit, whenever he finally got his ticket punched. Being a good and moral person, as Jeffress had already assured one and all, Romney clearly had already made the cut for regular, unfleshy Heaven, along with Krishna and the Buddha and the Dalai Lama.

Either way, Visiting Hours were on Tuesdays.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gaffe-Prone, Science-Bashing Right-Wing Derides Occupy Wall Street

Tea Party darling House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called them a "mob." New York Mayor and sometime-Republican Michael Bloomberg sicced his pepper spray-wielding cops on them and bemoaned their besieging of poor, defenseless banking giants. Right-wing chatrooms and bloggers derided them as "even dumber than first thought."

A right-wing obsessed with black helicopter plots, bashing climate change science and decrying evolution denounced Occupy Wall Street, the grassroots movement fed up with big-money plutocrats subjugating middle America.

"If you read the newspapers today, I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs on Wall Street and the other cities across the country," Cantor opined Friday at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., the Politico reported. "And, believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was unimpressed. "I didn't hear him (Cantor) say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol. And, he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them," she told ABC's This Week.

Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer complained the demonstrators, "don't even know why they're out there protesting on Wall Street," but that their goals were "completely unrealistic." Kremer did not explain how a group that didn't know why they were protesting could have goals, unrealistic or not.

Right-wing talk radio's Sean Hannity, under the guise of interviewing an OWS participant, launched into a hysterical tirade, deriding his guest as a "Marxist," and screaming "you don't believe in liberty, you don't believe in freedom."

Tea Party zealots alternately whined that Occupy Wall Street was being lavished with media coverage, and shrieked that the Occupy Wall Street movement was nothing like their own.

In fact, Occupy Wall Street was very different from the Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street was a spontaneous, grassroots movement, which, unlike the Tea Party, wasn't organized and funded by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and coal magnates Charles and David Koch. Occupy Wall Street didn't ride into town on air-conditioned buses chartered by Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth. Occupy Wall Street wasn't shilling for, well, Wall Street.

Right-wing chatrooms and blogs were filled with anti-Occupy Wall Street hate, decrying the movement as "even dumber than first thought."

However, San Francisco PBS affiliate KQED's This Week in Northern California found Occupy SF protesters, the local Occupy Wall Street group, remarkably well-informed and eager to discuss arcane details about the fractional reserve banking system. "This is not your grandfather's protest," reporter Mark Calvey said.

Nonetheless, a right-wing that denied climate change science, declared vaccines caused autism, and rejected evolution to maintain a supernatural justification for white supremacy said Occupy Wall Street was deluded.

A right-wing, whose champion, Sarah Palin, said Paul Revere warned the British; told disgraced racist talk show host Laura Schlessinger "don't retreat, reload!;" and said, "obviously, we have to stand with our North Korean allies!" derided Occupy Wall Street as dumb.

A right-wing, whose presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said HPV vaccine caused mental retardation; lethal carbon dioxide wasn't a harmful gas; John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father at age nine; swine flu outbreaks occurred during the Carter Administration instead of the Ford Administration; and actor John Wayne was from Waterloo IA, although he was from Winterset, IA, and the John Wayne from Waterloo was the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, ridiculed Occupy Wall Street as ignorant.

A right-wing, whose presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and orchestrated his state's infamous pay-for-play influence peddling regimen, but dipped in recent polls for being soft on immigrants, denounced Occupy Wall Street as anti-American.

A right-wing, whose American Family Association leader Bryan Fischer claimed gays caused the Holocaust; wanted Muslims banned from military service; and said freedom of religion didn't apply to Mormons, decried Occupy Wall Street as divisive.

A right-wing, whose Dallas First Baptist Church pastor Robert Jeffress Friday introduced Perry to the Values Voters crowd as "a genuine follower of Jesus Christ," then went outside and called the Mormon Church a cult and said rival candidate Mitt Romney "was not a Christian," mocked Occupy Wall Street's values.

A right-wing, whose Tea Party minions would abolish Medicare, Medicaid and even employer-sponsored health care benefits, then cheer for the deaths of the uninsured, dared to insinuate Occupy Wall Street, or anyone or anything else alive on the Earth, was more repugnant, more despicable, more irredeemably evil than themselves.

Republicans, Tea Party zealots and the right-wing were schoolyard cliques of jocks and cheerleaders, inanely obsessed with their nipped, tucked, siliconed, botoxed, collagen-injected Stepford appearances, deriding anyone outside their clique.

Republicans, Tea Party zealots, and the right-wing, seemingly obsessed with taking off their clothes whenever possible, reigned over social conservative legions of schoolyard goons and toadies that coveted approval while indulging their own hatred of foreigners, immigrants, persons of color, gays, science, and followers of non-evangelical faiths.

Together, they devoted themselves to currying the favor of the rich, lavishing them with more and bigger tax cuts, breaks and subsidies, while scheming to pay for that largess by dismantling vital health care entitlements, plundering Social Security, and slashing all the services and oversight all Americans depended on.

That Republicans, Tea Party zealots and the right-wing denounced Occupy Wall Street proved Occupy Wall Street was on the right side of history

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Obama OK With Millionaire Surtax, Americans OK With Taxing Millionaires

Urging Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs legislation, President Barack Obama Thursday told reporters that he was "comfortable" with Senate Democrats' proposal to pay for his plan with a 5.6% surtax on millionaires.

The American people were probably comfortable with such a scheme as well, as poll after poll has consistently revealed that about seven in ten favored raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations to pay the nation's debts or bolster Medicare and Social Security. The other three in ten were Republicans, who favored coddling the rich and big corporations with bigger tax cuts, breaks and subsidies paid for by slashing services everyone depended on.

A CBS News poll released Monday found 64% of all respondents wanted to raise taxes on millionaires to lower the federal deficit. 30% figured millionaires should get a pass. 83% of Democrats and 65% of Independents favored hiking taxes on millionaires, while 54% of Republicans wanted to let them skate.

An American Express/Harrison Group poll released Tuesday likewise found 65% of respondents supported raising taxes on millionaires.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans quickly moved to vote on Obama's jobs bill without the millionaire surtax, hoping to be able to claim the legislation, which in its original form was expected to be defeated by a wide margin, was unpopular with both parties.

Obama told reporters, "We're still going to need to reform this tax code to make sure that we're closing loopholes, closing special interest tax breaks," pushing for implementation of his 'Buffet Rule' to assure the wealthy paid taxes at least at the same rates as the middle class. "But in terms of the immediate action of getting this jobs bill passed, I'm fine with the approach that they're taking," he added, supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) proposal for the 5.6% millionaire surtax.

Republicans were quick to dismiss any notion of making their wealthy cronies pony up. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-OH) said, "Democrats would rather talk about partisan legislation that they know won't pass than about actually passing legislation we know would create jobs."

Apparently to McConnell, the wishes of 65% of the American people were deplorable "partisan" harangues.

McConnell and the GOP were only interested in lavishing more tax breaks and subsidies on big corporations and their wealthy cronies, along with dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and abolishing all business and industrial oversight to allow their cronies unfettered plundering.

Americans, meanwhile, were beginning to understand that slashing taxes for the rich had simply concentrated 84% of the nations wealth into the hands of just 20% of the nation's wealthiest, while 40% of the nation's poorest had to make do splitting just three-tenths of one percent of the nation's wealth. Americans were beginning to understand slashing taxes for the rich and big corporations simply encouraged mergers, consolidations, layoffs, union-busting, outsourcing, and offshoring.

Americans were beginning to understand slashing taxes for the rich empowered billionaires to use their accumulated fortunes as blunt instruments to bludgeon the American policy-making process with their armies of lawyers, lobbyists and fawning politicians. Coal magnates Charles and David Koch had $50 billion to fund their Americans for Prosperity schemes. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch had $7 billion to funnel into the Tea Party.

Which was why poll after poll revealed Americans wanted millionaires to pay more in taxes.
  • A Gallup Poll from September 20 found 70% favored increasing taxes on corporations by eliminating certain tax deductions, and 66% favored increasing income taxes on those making $200,000 or much, much more a year.
  • The Economist/YouGov Poll taken Sept. 24-27 found 68% favored raising taxes on families making more than $1 million a year, and 55% favored raising taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.
  • An Aug. 9 Marist poll found 68% of Americans favored raising taxes on those making $250,000 or much, much more a year, and 60% favored eliminating subsidies for oil and gas companies.
  • A CNN/ORC poll released Aug. 10 found 63% believed Congress should raise taxes on businesses and higher income Americans.
  • A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken July 14-17 found 72% favored raising taxes on those making $250,000 or much, much more a year to reduce the national debt.
Former Reagan Administration advisor and George H. W. Bush Treasury official Bruce Bartlett recently compiled a list of 23 polls conducted between Dec. 12, 2010 and Aug. 10, 2011 that all found Americans wanted the wealthy to pay higher taxes to address the nations debts, and to fund Medicare and Social Security.

Just as slashing taxes for the rich in the years leading up to the Great Depression of the 1930s caused wealth to accumulate in the hands of the few and choked off economic growth, thirty years of slashing taxes for, and lavishing subsidies on, the rich sequestered vast sums of American wealth in arcane financial instruments and choked off economic activity.

"Karl Marx was right," New York University economist Nouriel Roubini ruffled feathers recently. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

Of course, any economist not getting fat paychecks from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News understood businesses weren't hiring in America because Americans weren't buying enough goods and services to warrant putting on extra shifts or building new plants. Americans weren't buying because they were tapped out from decades of stagnating wages and unemployment, mountains of consumer debt, and having to pay more for things that used to be free: Parking, tolls, museums, school supplies, personal security.

And, as demand wasn't coming from consumers, any economist not getting fat paychecks from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News understood the government should be acting as the consumer of last resort, and kick-starting demand by fixing the $2 trillion in infrastructure that needed fixing, or building a high-speed rail network, or bringing broadband access to all Americans, or putting solar panels on everyone's roofs.

And paying for it by taxing the millionaires, billionaires and big corporations Republicans kept referring to with hallowed reverence as Job Creators, but who weren't actually creating any jobs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rove's Crossroads To Pour $240 Million Into GOP Races

The ragtag gathering clustered around the folding tables in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, which they referred to by its pre-2006, pre-corporate name of Liberty Square, were an amorphous bunch protesting the overwhelming power of the trans-national corporate megaliths that reigned over Western Plutocracy.

Occupy Wall Street wasn't yet an army, despite inspiring parallel protests in Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Occupy Wall Street's supporters managed to raise $8,000 for pizzas to feed the mostly-young stalwarts.

Meanwhile, the big money powers Occupy Wall Street were arrayed against had hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. The money those Goliaths funnelled into just one Super PAC, American Crossroads, and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)4 group whose donors remained anonymous, aimed to flood the 2012 elections with $240 million for their right-wing Republican candidates.

The Crossroads groups spent $70 million in 2010 to put Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. They figured $240 million should be enough to defeat President Barack Obama and take over the U.S. Senate in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling that anonymous corporate donors could pump unlimited amounts of cash into elections cleared the way for Crossroads' donors to bludgeon the American electoral process with the blunt instruments of Mammon.

"I believe that I am not represented by the big interest groups and the big money corporations, which have increasing control of our money and our politics," OWS participant Elise Whitaker told The New York Times.

"Now, the energy, intensity and money is flowing to Republicans and to promote conservative causes," American Crossroads' Jonathan Collegio told The Politico. "Understandably, the left is anxious."

When 84% of America's wealth was concentrated into the hands of 20% America's wealthiest, a political process fueled by money was, for the vast majority, hardly a democratic one.

"This is what the Citizen's United decision has brought us to," said former Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, who lost his seat in 2010 after Republican money moguls spent millions to defeat him. "All of those Democrats are going to need to be prepared for the onslaught."

Former George W. Bush mastermind Karl Rove helped set up Crossroads in 2010, which has lately enlisted another of the GOP's most prolific fund raisers, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

"Both Gov. Barbour and Karl Rove are prodigious fund raisers and brilliant strategists," said Crossroads president Steven Law. Barbour raised $115 million for the Republican Governors Association between 2009 and 2010. "We are reaching high in our fundraising goals because we believe this is going to be a destiny shaping-election for our country."

The destiny Crossroads and the GOP planned to shape for America was one in which tens of millions would be denied access to health care, in which seniors and future seniors would be denied Social Security and retirement pensions, and in which only the sons and daughters of the privileged elite could afford higher education. Not that any of those privileged sons and daughters would do anything at a university except drink and vomit and spend trust fund checks.

Crossroads and the GOP were eager to implement their Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) retooled scheme to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and even employer-sponsored health insurance benefits, forcing everyone to buy expensive private insurance policies, and pawning everyone off with scant aid from limited 'premium support' tax credits. That way, the rich could enjoy nice taxpayer-funded discounts off pricey private insurance plans they were going to buy anyway, while most Americans would become uninsured and be frozen out of health care completely. Crowds of Tea Party zealots waited their chance to taunt and chant "let them die."

Crossroads and the GOP were eager to plunder all the money in the Social Security Trust Funds, and hand the cash to their Wall Street cronies to pile onto the roulette wheel of international equity markets while pawning Americans off with nothing at all. While the money changers always got their rake, nothing at all was what anyone who'd spent the last ten years buying shares in an S&P 500 index fund got, seeing how the index was at 1,147.39 on October 1, 2001, and closed today at 1,123.95.

The destiny Crossroads and the GOP planned for America was one in which the wealthy and the big corporations got even fatter and surlier as ever more and bigger tax cuts, tax breaks, and tax subsidies transferred ever more of the nation's wealth from the many to the few.

America had once been a country where progressive income taxes created a nation for the middle class, where ordinary people pooled their money and acted through government to provide for themselves public schools, freeways, affordable health care and pensions for the aged, and the promise of a better life for all.

Crossroads and the GOP preferred a country where tax cuts, breaks and subsidies gave the rich a free ride, while anyone who couldn't pay top dollar was consigned to misery, squalor and death.

And, the Crossroads Groups were just two of many groups funded by the torrents of cash trans-national plutocrats siphoned out of America and funnelled into their coffers. Coal magnates Charles and David Koch, with $50 billion between them, would hardly miss a billion or two should it vanish between the seat cushions over at Americans for Prosperity. Rupert Murdoch, a pauper with just $7 billion, could still throw a Tea Party or three.

The ragtag assemblage milling about the folding tables at Liberty Square weren't yet an army. For democracy to stand a chance, they would have to become one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Offers Hope For American Autumn

Finally, finally, a few have stepped forward.

From the Lower Manhattan base camp they called Liberty Square, the original name for Zuccotti Park before it was rechristened in 2006 after a corporate CEO, Occupy Wall Street's marchers Saturday fanned out onto the Brooklyn Bridge, tying up traffic for a couple hours and declaring that the three-week old protest against the effects of rampant plutocracy had truly arrived.

Organized through social media as had been the Arab Spring, the originally tiny gathering mustered enough support to get 700 protesters arrested on John and Washington Roebling's noble neo-Gothic edifice.

Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and were shooting for Memphis, TN, Allentown, PA, Hilo, HI, Mason City, IA, Mobile, AL, Little Rock, AR, and Santa Fe, NM.

The group, spawned by Adbusters and US Day of Rage, Thursday issued it's Declaration of Occupancy through it's self-proclaimed General Assembly, including a pretty comprehensive list of grievances. The General Assembly promised a list of demands would be forthcoming, although horizontally-organized organizations tend to be disorganized enough they often didn't follow through in any organized way.

Hopefully, that list of demands would bear in mind the engine of the massive disequilibrium that has destabilized civilization was the massive concentration of wealth into the hands of the very few. As New York University's Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini recently pointed out, "Karl Marx had it right. At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

Roubini's frightening the natives and earning himself a right-wing lambasting for mentioning Marx notwithstanding, the economist who predicted the '08 market crash was just stating what most economists not getting a paycheck from Rupert Murdoch knew.

The present social and economic catastrophe reflected in OWS's list of grievances was apparently what capitalism looked like as it self-destructed. Whenever the tipping point occurred, it was apparently around the time 84% of America's wealth ended up in the hands of 20% of its people. More importantly, it was apparently around the time the poorest 40% of Americans ended up having to get by splitting three-tenths of one percent of the nation's wealth.

For thirty years, America slashed income taxes on its wealthy and its big corporations, over-incentivizing bottom line profits, leading to cost-slashing mergers, acquisitions, staff and plant consolidations, union-busting, outsourcing, and offshoring. Corporations became less interested in making and selling things than in trading proprietary investment portfolios.

In the past, businesses needed American workers to operate their plants and offices, and needed American consumers to buy their products. Changing tax structures over-emphasized profits and eliminated the consequences of eroding indigenous skill-sets and buying power. Production and profits were plentiful over the horizon, as companies incrementally combined operations, slashed payrolls, moved operations first from union-friendly states to right-to-work-states, then overseas to a Japan, then a Taiwan, then a Thailand, then an Indonesia, then China.

"As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery. Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had...drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth...By taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand...that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations," said Marriner Eccles. Eccles wasn't a Marxist pinko, but the Federal Reserve Board's chair from 1934 to 1948. And, he was referring to the Great Depression. Which explained the sexist reference to men's buying power.

In 1926, the top income tax rate went from 46% to 25%, creating Marriner Eccles' giant suction pump.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration created their giant Suction Pump 2.0 by slashing the top tax rate first from 70% to 50%, then from 50% to 28%.

Between the Roosevelt and Reagan years, America jumped its top income tax rate first to 63%, then 79%, then over 90% for the war, then down to 70%, and saw history's greatest period of growth and prosperity. Certainly, the Right loved to go on about how Roosevelt's alphabet soup of economic stimulus programs, from the CCC to the TVA to the WPA, didn't pull America out of the Great Depression, and how it was World War II that finally hauled the economy out of the doldrums. But, the Right hated mentioning that World War II didn't curtail government stimulus, but put it on steroids.

Roosevelt didn't cut government spending because Dubya Dubya Two interrupted tonight's episode of The Shadow. Instead, the federal government went out and bought 297,000 aircraft, including 12,731 B-17s and 18,482 B-24s. They went out and bought 86,000 tanks, including 49,234 M-4 Shermans. They bought 193,000 artillery pieces. They bought two million trucks.

They bought 23 aircraft carriers, and 200 submarines, and 300 destroyers, and 600 PT boats, and 1,000 Landing Ship Tanks, and 3,200 Liberty and Victory ships.

They bought rifles and mortars and machine guns, light and heavy. They bought ammo clips and ammo belts and ammo cans. They bought bandoliers, panniers, flashlights, combat boots, and cool leather jackets for pilots and bomber crews. They bought uniforms, shoulder patches, helmets, bayonets, parachutes, backpacks, duffle bags, frying pans, lip balm, camoflage paint, c-rations, k-rations, and dog tags. They bought bullets and shells and bombs and mines and rockets and torpedoes, many of which could only be used once.

They bought a whole Manhattan Project to invent and build nuclear weapons.

Then, seeing how World War II had trashed the global neighborhood, the federal government rebuilt Europe and Japan, and sent an entire generation of Americans to college or vocational training on the GI Bill. They built the Interstate Freeway System, plus state highways, county roads, suburban interchanges, city streets, bridges, dams, levees, schools, libraries, city halls, opera houses, museums, and urban redevelopments (some of which ended up pretty nasty). They bought polio shots and lunches and band classes and gym classes and driver's ed for another whole generation of kids.

The federal government ponied up cash to develop the technology that created computers, cell phones, and the Internet. They bought a whole National Aeronautics and Space Administration to put human beings on the moon.

And, the 70% income tax rate didn't keep anyone from looking good on Mad Men.

Instead, the 70% tax rate kept jobs in America, and created value in every Americans' work. Factory workers, warehouse workers, longshoremen, cooks, bartenders, clerks, secretaries (not yet admins) and stewardesses(not yet airline flight attendants) enjoyed middle class lives promising home ownership, two cars, college for the kids, and tickets to lower stand box seats at Yankee Stadium, all without going into hock up to their eyeballs for all eternity.

People didn't even need credit cards until the seventies.

Then, Ronald Reagan earned the adulation of plutocrats eveywhere by destroying everything America had created in exchange for unlimited executive compensations, and the ice sculptures and corporate jets that came with them.

It was slashing the progressive income tax rates that concentrated the all the wealth and destroyed the manufacturing base and busted up the middle class. It was dismantling progressive income tax that enabled the very few to buy up all the lawyers and lobbyists and politicians and crushed all opposition to their omnipotent reign.

It was destroying progressive income tax that destroyed a democratic America built for the many, and replaced it with a plutocratic America coddling the few.

And renamed Liberty Square for a corporate CEO.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Perry Too Liberal For Republicans Leading America Into Far Right Abyss

America was in serious trouble. Recent polls revealed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, viewed as the Republicans' savior of America just weeks ago, had tumbled in his followers' esteem following his performance in televised debates with his rivals.

Perry's crime? He felt young women should be inoculated against cervical cancer. He felt pouring billions of dollars into a giant fence along his state's southern border with Mexico was wrong. He thought children of immigrants, illegal or not, should pay in-state tuition fees.

Perry was not being lambasted because he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Perry was not being ridiculed because he denied climate change science. Perry was not being scrutinized for Texas' wide-open pay-to-play influence-peddling.

Perry was not being excoriated for leveraging the environment to coddle oil and gas moguls.

In America in the first decade of the twenty-first century, those were Perry's good qualities.

Perry was being chastised throughout Republicania for being too liberal.

Perry had once opened a double-digit lead over his nearest rival, former Massachusetts Governor and perennial presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, but now, the most recent Fox News poll had Perry trailing Romney, 23% to 19%.

Perry fought back Friday, burnishing his right-wing bona fides by assuring a New Hampshire town hall gathering he denied climate change science.

"For us to take a snapshot in time and to say that what is going on in the country today, the climate change that is going on is man's fault and we need to jeopardize America's economy, I'm a skeptic about that," Perry said. "I'm not afraid to say I'm a skeptic about that."

"I'm shocked that the political debate in the U.S. is so far away from the scientific facts," European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, a member of the Danish Conservative Party recently told reporters on behalf of the civilized world. "When more than 90% of researchers in the field are saying that we have to take (climate change) seriously, it is incredibly irresponsible to ignore it."

What was considered wild-eyed leftist raving in America was routinely accepted by Conservatives in Denmark.

America was, in fact, falling off the right-wing end of the political map.

In America, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), instead of figuring out how to extend health care to all Americans, was pushing a plan to reserve health care for those who could afford it, while abandoning everyone else to misery and death.

In America, Tea Party zealots at the nationally televised CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate cheered abandoning those without private health insurance to pain and misery. If someone was uninsured, Tea Party zealots and Republicans cheered for society to "just let him die."

GOP Presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) denounced human papillomavirus vaccine partly pandering to the Luddite anti-vaccine crowd, but mostly in solidarity with right-wing moralists who denied young womens' sexual maturation.

While the Republican Party's wealthy elite only wanted license to unfettered plundering, their social conservative masses demanded the institution of rigidly uniform cultural conformity, based in white supremacy and theocracy.

The American right wanted Sharia law with Christian-themed jargon administered by an omnipotent plutocracy. Sort of an Orwellian nightmare with corporate overlords and lots of "Thou arts," "Sayeth the Lords," and "Blessed" pronounced with two syllables. Americans displayed a frightening combination of naive cultural superiority and astonishingly fragile egotism, a sort of whiny megalomania.

Many, many Americans believed health care should be reserved for the righteous and the wealthy, climate change science was a liberal conspiracy, sustainability was a leftist plot to force whites to take public transportation and live among persons of color in inner cities, evolution was an elitist scheme to deny white supremacy, and that Jesus of Nazareth spoke in 17th Century British English.

The American political landscape had tilted so far to the right that President Barack Obama, a right-center politician, was routinely described as "liberal." The American political landscape had tilted so far right that Richard Nixon was a screaming commie.

America was so far to the right that extremist evangelical parents routinely consigned their children to right-wing torture camps throughout the South and Mountain West to be beaten into ideological conformity.

America had become a society of surgically-attained Stepford countenances spouting canned religious platitudes. America had become a bastion of narcissistic sociopaths spewing delusional conspiracy theories while obliterating thousands upon thousands of people around the world with an unprecedented arsenal of advanced weaponry. America had become obsessed with placating and coddling its wealthy elite while its infrastructure crumbled and its people descended into poverty.

America had tilted so far to the right that words like "conservative" and "right-wing" were no longer adequate to describe its rising extremism. America had gone so far to the right, it was uncertain how much further it would plunge as both global financial markets and the global environment teetered on the edge of catastrophes in large part minted in the U.S. of A.

And, America had gone to the far, far right extreme not among its policy elites, not within its ruling classes, not in its political leadership, but straight through the core of its populace.

An entire segment of American had gone so far to the right that Rick Perry was too liberal, that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was a weak-kneed appeaser, that House Majority Leader and right-wing attack-dog Eric Cantor (R-VA) was often decried as a deplorable Republican In Name Only.

America had gone so far to the right, it was no longer a very long or winding road before America reached that point where it committed crimes of historic, catastrophic magnitude. Societies that careened as far to the right as America rarely pulled back from the abyss. America had gone so far to the right, it was no longer impossible to say that America would not plummet into that abyss of infamy, and that someday, future generations alluding to the unspeakable, the reprehensible, the most utterly and completely contemptible, might use the word "American."