Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Republicans Block Oil Spill Commission Subpeona Powers

Following is a video from Chris Matthews' Hardball via Crooks and Liars....

The news cycle moves on. Just a few months ago we were all awash with daily news about the New Horizon Oil Spill and how it was destroying the Gulf of Mexico. Now the leaking rig has been permanently capped and oil is still being cleaned up, but the news has gone on to more current topics.

Why would Jim DeMint block these subpeonas from oil executives? This makes me boil. What do you think??

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spread Kindness + New Video!

It's so simple
And easy
And fun 
Spread Kindness.

(click to enlarge)

There's a wonderful little not-for-profit organization that focuses on doing kind things for others. They are looking for like-minded people to join the cause. Won't you visit their website, watch and share their video and get involved? You can organize events wherever you are and invite your friends to participate! Isn't that cool?

I think you will really like this video!

For more information about how Spread Kindness started, go to this newspaper article written for the San Ramon Patch, a small community newspaper in the greater San Francisco bay area.

Thanks for stopping by. And please leave a comment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Two Contrasting Sets of Economic Values at Stake in Mid-Terms

Every once in awhile an author gathers up just the right information and puts it together in just the right way that I can understand things I never could before. Robert Creamer has done that tonight. As a progressive, liberal I can't understand how some of my conservative friends can not only agree with the economic policies that were in place during the Bush presidency, but continue to support those same policies that put this country in the ditch. So, I ask my conservative friends to read this article, think about what it says and feel free to comment. I really do want to hear what you have to say.  

There are those who believe that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans -- that everyone in Congress is beholden to the same economic interests -- that it really doesn't matter who is elected.

Those people are wrong.

Certainly there are conservative Democrats -- and Democrats that do the will of major corporate interests. But at their core, there is a fundamental difference between the economic philosophy and underlying values of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Which party's world view sets the course for American economic policy will have a profound effect on the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans.

Perhaps the sharpest contrasts is that Republicans and the Right believe that economic growth is driven from the top down, while Democrats and Progressives believe that growth is driven from the bottom up.

Progressives do not believe that the engine of economic growth is supply. It is demand. Productive investment in innovation responds to the presence of demand, not the other way around. "Trickle-down" -- or "supply side" economics has never worked to stimulate long-term economic growth, and it never will. It only works to legitimate the insatiable appetite of the very rich.

For almost a decade, the American Right conducted a massive experiment in "trickledown" economics. The results are in. It was an abject failure. It resulted in a reduction of the real incomes of average Americans and it ultimately lead to the collapse of the economy, and cost eight million Americans their jobs.

In her fascinating recent book Third World America, Arriana Huffington documents many of the disastrous consequences of right-wing economic policy -- in particular, the destruction of the American middle class.

And just last week, a Census Bureau report showed the toll the Great Recession took on the one in seven Americans now in poverty -- the highest level in half a century.

Of course the central flaw in the Right Wing economic vision is that the concentration of more and more wealth in a tiny number of wealthy people ultimately undercuts the ability of everyday people to buy the products produced by the economy. As much as the rich wish it were not true, consumer demand is necessary for companies to make products and profits. That consumer demand requires that economic growth be shared widely in the society.

Republican economic policy -- cutting taxes for the wealthy and cutting the rules that make big corporations accountable -- just exacerbate the natural tendency of the rich and powerful to concentrate more wealth into the hands of a few. That, in turn, creates the inevitable conditions for economic stagnation and collapse. Throughout the entire period of Republican rule, all of the economic growth was siphoned off to the top two percent. Real wages stagnated, and continued growth in the Gross Domestic Product was fueled -- for a time -- by an expanding credit bubble that ultimately burst.

To put it another way, Republicans believe in a low wage economy, and Democrats believe in a high wage economy.

Fundamentally, economic growth is about the development of processes and technologies that increase productivity. But these do not occur when labor prices are cheap. They occur when wages are high.

A high-wage economy leads to major long-term economic dividends because:
  • It incentivizes companies to invest in higher-productivity technologies that increase overall productivity and provide real economic growth.  
  • It creates customers with spending power to drive economic growth. There is a natural tendency of market economies to use low-cost labor and increase profits. That's good for each company's bottom line, but it kills off the goose that lays the golden egg by reducing the buying power of its ultimate customers -- the people who work for all the companies in the economy combined.
Progressives believe in Government policies that encourage unionization and a living minimum wage that fuel economic growth over the long haul. These provide a brake on the natural tendency of market economies to concentrate income and wealth among the owners of corporations.

While low-wage economies may be good for specific companies, high-wage economies are good for everyone -- by incentivizing innovation that increases productivity and by turbocharging economic demand.

In Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, Kevin Phillips summarizes the case against "trickle-down economics."

He argues that the economic history of the 20th century demonstrates that economic growth happens from the bottom up, not the top down. He points out that:

From 1933 to the early 1970s, real disposable income increased by over 130 percent for average Americans. Gross domestic product grew virtually continuously. That growth occurred on the strength of a broader and broader distribution of wealth and income -- more consumers who could buy products. This was the same time when hundreds of new protections for average Americans were passed by our Congress -- Social Security, Medicare, the Wagner Act that allowed serious labor organizing, and the minimum wage. 1968 marked the century's peak of purchasing power for the federal minimum wage.

  •  During the same period, the percentage of wealth concentrated in the top one percent of the population shrunk from a high in 1929 -- the year of the stock market crash -- to a low in 1976. 
  • Since then, the percentage of wealth concentrated in the top one percent has once again skyrocketed to 1929 levels -- all as part of the "supply side" philosophy that claimed that the increased wealth of a few would "trickle down" to everyone else.
  • But even before the 2008 market crash, the median income of the typical American family was almost the same as it was in 1969.
The myth that tax cuts for the rich somehow benefit the economy as a whole, as well as average workers, has also proven to be completely false. Phillips points out that during the greatest war of the 20th century, it was wealthy Americans who were called upon to pay more for the war effort -- not given tax breaks as they were during the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.

During World War II, the tax bite on wealthy Americans was close to punitive (the highest bracket was 91percent). But that didn't hurt the economy; far from it. By war's end, Americans were rolling in cash. The average weekly pay rose 83 percent between 1940 and 1945. Many families had their first discretionary income.

In contrast, the Bush tax cut/regulation cut regime of the last decade ultimately yielded zero growth in private sector jobs -- ZERO -- and a decrease in real income for everyday Americans.

The current battle over whether to continue these tax cuts for the rich -- on family incomes above $250,000, at a cost of $700 billion over ten years -- is the best illustration of the Republican's failed top-down economic philosophy.

Democrats want to extend the tax cuts for 96.6 percent of Americans for individuals who make less than $200,000 and couples that make less than $250,000.

According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the Democratic version of the tax cut would provide a $3,810 per-person tax savings for individuals making between $100,000 and $199,999. It would provide a $1,180 savings for people making from $50,000 to $74,999.

But Democrats refuse to support tax cuts for the wealthiest 3.4 percent of the population on income above $200,000 per individual and $250,000 per household. Why? Remember these people would still get the same savings as a person making $200,000. But they wouldn't get an additional $128,832 average tax break that the Republicans want to hand them.

To get a sense of the difference in top-down and bottom-up economics all you need to do is contemplate the fact that while the Bush tax cuts saved people earning $10,000 or less only $335 total from 2004 to 2010, they saved people making $7,700,000 (the average for the top .1 percent of the population) $2,326,607. Now that's top-down economics.

The difference between top-down and bottom-up economics is also highlighted in positions concerning wages.

Progressives categorically reject the right's claim that wages should be set solely by "private" markets and that anything else is "artificial" or "unnatural."

Human beings are not "commodities" to be bought and sold. They're the purpose of the economy, not objects to be chewed up and spit out when they're no longer needed. There is a huge population of unemployed workers in the developing world. In rural China alone there are 600 million people that are not necessary to produce food and must be integrated into the non-agricultural economy. If we allow the right wing to make supply and demand the sole basis for wage rates and payment for labor, we will see a continued race to the bottom, lower and lower wages and salaries, and in the short term, higher and higher corporate profits.

Collective bargaining, labor laws, a Federally-mandated living wage and trade policies that recognize the rights of labor and not just capital are necessary to assure that growth is widely shared and that individual workers are treated as human beings not commodities.

Finally, Progressives believe that there is no excuse for poverty. The only solution that Republican economic policy offers to eliminate poverty is "education" that allows the next generation to do better than the one before it.

But so long as there are people who make beds in hotel rooms, and sweep floors, and empty bed pans, and pick fruit there will be "low wage" jobs filled by someone -- unless there are no longer any "low wage" jobs, period.

We will eliminate poverty when we assure that every job is paid a living wage and our nation enacts an economic policy that assures that every American can find a job.

The economic policies of the Obama Administration are based upon Progressive principles. In several cases the size and effectiveness of these policies has been constrained by Republican opposition. This is particularly true of the economic recovery act that should have been substantially larger in order to deal adequately with the depth of the recession caused by Republican policies. But in virtually every area, Obama's policies are moving American in a Progressive direction.

The most profound question that will be decided in the Mid-terms is whether we continue to pursue a Progressive economic vision -- or we return to the failed right-wing policies of the past. Everyday Americans cannot afford to stay home November 2nd; their economic futures are riding on the outcome.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Republican Gridlock Bomb

Posted on Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog today...

Digby posted a letter from the Institute for America's Future, signed by 300 leading economists, urging the federal government to continue spending until we're out of the woods. The meat:

Today there is a grave danger that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics. A turn by major governments away from the promotion of growth and jobs and to premature focus on deficit reduction could slow growth and increase unemployment – and could push us back into recession.

History suggests that a tenuous recovery is no time to practice austerity. In the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal generated growth and reduced the unemployment rate from 25 percent in 1932 to less than 10 percent in 1937. However, the deficit hawks of that era persuaded President Roosevelt to reverse course prematurely and move toward budget balance. The result was a severe recession that caused the economy to contract sharply and sent the unemployment rate soaring. Only the much larger wartime spending of the early 1940s produced a full recovery.

There they go again. Using history and facts to prove a point. How quaint.

If the Republicans manage to take the House, spending will stop. Immediately. All of it. And, naturally, that's been the idea all along -- to sabotage the economy and therefore the Obama presidency. For now, without a majority, they're not entirely effective. But November could ignite a psychobomb that blows the whole recovery to smithereens.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rachel Maddow Covers The Values Voter Summit

Christine O'Donnell was there fresh from her primary win. Newt, Mike and Mitt were there, too. And then there were those other really interesting folks...

President Obama Speaks in Connecticut, Warns Of Corporate Takeover Of Democracy

President Obama was in Connecticut September 16, 2010 speaking about how corporations and special interests are funneling campaign money to candidates under benign names like Prosperity for America...etc.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tax Cuts And The Wealthiest 2 % In The USA

The debate continues about whether the Bush Tax Cuts should be renewed or allowed to expire.  President Obama proposes that those Americans with taxable incomes of $250,000 or less be given the tax break by renewing the existing tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts would be allowed to expire for those wealthier and wealthiest Americans with taxable income over $250,000. Republicans and some Democrats want the tax cuts renewed for all Americans.

I posted a couple of links on Facebook recently along with my own opinion stating that I thought the wealthiest Americans should pay more taxes. This is one of the responses I received...

@DiAnne - redistributing wealth has not worked in the past and it will not work in the future. Again, the top 10% of income earners, the so called "wealthy" already pay 80% of all taxes received by the federal government. Why can't you let them have their 4% cut???? Why are you so hell bent on having the so called rich shoulder YOUR tax burden??? Why are you not balking at the fact that about 40% (I think it's actually a whopping 46%) of income earners in this country are paying NO TAXES!!! Why do you not get that free enterprise works? Why do you want bigger government? Why do you think the government can solve problems better than private industry? Why, for a change, do you NOT quote left-leaning sites?"

1. Redistributing wealth has worked in the past. See table below.
2. The so called "wealthy" have millions of dollars in off-shore accounts that they pay no taxes on. What is the income level of the top 10% versus the bottom 90%?
3. I pay my taxes. I don't want the rich to pay my taxes. I want those who are less fortunate than me to get a break. Latest statistics indicate that one in five children are living in poverty.
4. Yes. Nearly 46% of Americans pay no income taxes. Many of them are eligible for Earned Income Credits and other tax exemptions or they just don't make enough to begin with. See the information on growing poverty below.
5.Yes. Free enterpise does work...for a few. This is a democratic society here in America, not a capitalistic society. But you wouldn't know it by today's economic and social reality. Trickle down economy doesn't trickle down.
6. I want a government that is big enough and strong enough to regulate business, finance and banking so that this disparity is lessened between the "haves" and the "have nots."
7. If I could find a right-leaning site that had anything to offer in the way of real ideas that would help the majority of Americans, I'd quote it. I will not watch Fox News to get a "fair and balanced " viewpoint.

As Bill Maher said in an interview on Larry King Live the other night..."We live in two different realities. The Conservatives have one reality and the Liberals have another. It does no good to try to talk to the other side. Nothing will get through. You can't reason with unreasonable people." (not an actual quote, but paraphrasing)

In my liberal opinion, I think America is in trouble if we do not find a way to redistribute the wealth in this country. I know it doesn't sound fair...that those who have made the most should pay more taxes...but historically this has been done in the past and the vast majority of Americans thrived. Remember the 50s and 60s?

This graph shows what the tax structure was in the 1950s, 60s...when the wealthiest were taxed up to 90%.

The Poverty Rate Increases
And here is the latest news...
"The poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent during 2009 from 13.2 percent the previous year as household income stayed flat and the number of people without health insurance reached its highest level since such data has been collected, the government announced Thursday."

It's Sad
All of this news is disheartening to me. I worry about the rising numbers of homeless people...children who are going hungry, those who are losing everything because they have lost jobs. I see these people. I know these people. My heart hurts for these people.

I don't know any multi-millionaires...except through news articles. I did write an article here in my blog on the Koch Brothers...those influential money bags who are part of the political puppet show...the ones who pull the strings behind the scenes and flood their interests with money. Here is some of my research on the top 2 % wealthiest people in America...

 Here is an article published today (Sept. 9, 2010) by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. I don't believe it is a left-leaning organization.  

Top 1 Percent of Americans Reaped Two-Thirds of Income Gains in Last Economic Expansion

Income Concentration in 2007 Was at Highest Level Since 1928, New Analysis Shows
By Avi Feller and Chad Stone
September 9, 2009

Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.[1]

During those years, the Piketty-Saez data also show, the inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households.

The last economic expansion began in November 2001 and ended in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which means the Piketty-Saez data essentially cover that expansion. The last time such a large share of the income gain during an expansion went to the top 1 percent of households — and such a small share went to the bottom 90 percent of households — was in the 1920s

To read the entire article and view graphs, go here.

Wealth, Income and Taxes is another excellent article I found while "googling" the top 2% of income earners in the USA. It appears in the blog, Who Rules America and was written by UC Santa Cruz Sociology Professor G. William Domhoff in 2005. He recently updated it in August 2010.

Domhoff writes:
"In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%. "

"In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America."

Figure 4: Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99%
and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-2007.

"Here are some dramatic facts that sum up how the wealth distribution became even more concentrated between 1983 and 2004, in good part due to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the defeat of labor unions: Of all the new financial wealth created by the American economy in that 21-year-period, fully 42% of it went to the top 1%. A whopping 94% went to the top 20%, which of course means that the bottom 80% received only 6% of all the new financial wealth generated in the United States during the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s (Wolff, 2007)."
To read the entire article and other related articles, go here.

Does anyone question the fact that the numbers are much worse three years later?