The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 17, 2015: Why We Must Raise The Debt Ceiling

In a new column posted on Alternet, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains in terms even your average conservative can understand why it is important to raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, and put more people to work by increasing rather than decreasing spending on public investments like education and infrastructure. [Not that I’m a journalist, ethically obligated to reveal such things, but in the interests of full disclosure, I am a member of MoveOn.Org, who helped produce the video below.]

Before continuing with my own less coherent babble, I want to make something very clear. It’s important to differentiate between political party and ideology. When people complain about the Republican party, they ignore the ideology behind what they’re doing. Many people use the terms “Republicans” and “Conservatives” interchangeably, but they shouldn’t anymore than they should use the terms “Democrats” and “Liberals” interchangeably. When it comes to our federal government (and less dramatically so on the state and local level), virtually every single Republican is a Conservative (not even a moderate one), while the Democrats have both Liberals and Conservatives in their ranks. In some cases, a slightly moderate conservative is the best the Democrats could do to get someone elected, and they don’t always toe the party line the way Republicans do. Despite all the baseless lies they tell, it is Conservatives and Conservatism that are the enemy of the People, not Liberals and Liberalism.

Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who famously said his goal was to “shrink government to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub,” has been a driving force in American Conservative politics for irresponsible tax cuts for the super wealthy and huge corporations, based on the lie that if their taxes are reduced, they’ll spend more and this will create jobs. (Did you know that Norquist first thought of this idea when he was twelve years old? makes sense now, doesn’t it?) It’s not just a lie, it’s a huge Denali-sized pile of horse shit. Not the part about how spending helps create jobs (that part is absolutely true), but the part about rich people and corporations spending their money to create jobs. They won’t. They haven’t so far and their taxes have been cut enormously. Some of the largest corporations in America have paid zero federal taxes, but they’re not hiring millions of otherwise unemployed people right now. Clint Eastwood’s “Any Which Way But Loose” co-star Donald Trump isn’t hiring people for no reason just to create jobs, which he theoretically would be doing if the conservative argument on taxing the rich had any merit. Nick Hanauer explained it best in his famous TED talk from three years ago.

Not everyone agreed, of course. Forbes magazine panned Hanauer’s speech as wrongheaded and claimed that capital investment creates jobs. This is more horse shit for the pile. Capital investment doesn’t create jobs, it creates businesses. But if nobody wants what they’re selling, how can they stay in business? Consumer demand creates jobs and this is indisputable. Spending creates jobs, not savings. When you put your money in a savings account, the bank uses it to lend money to businesses and people and to make a profit for themselves (the banks.) But if there are no consumers to buy the goods or services those businesses offer, they won’t have any reason to keep as many people on their payroll, and unemployment will go up. Poor and lower middle class people need to spend much of their money just to get by each week. They can’t afford to put money away for savings, even for college for their kids. But the money they do spend at their local grocery stores and gas stations keeps those local merchants in business. They might not be if their customers had socked away their money in savings accounts, to be used some day down the road for something else entirely. But Conservatives want you to think that saving money creates jobs, not spending. They also want you to think that you’re a bad person if you don’t save money so that other people can use it for their personal benefit. They think a lot of things that are wrong, and one of the things that they are wrongest about is the debt ceiling.

We are facing another debt ceiling crisis, which eventually outgoing Speaker John Boehner may or may not avoid, depending on how much the ungovernable part of his party (hint: think of the 20th letter of the alphabet) pisses him off. They refuse to raise the debt ceiling because they say spending is too high and that we can’t afford to do it. More horse shit. The problem isn’t that spending is too high, the problem is that taxes are too low, especially on the super rich, who we know are not the true job creators. Trickle down economics does not work the way they claim, no matter how many times they claim it. All it does is increase income inequality, which leads to super rich people deciding that rather than create jobs with the extra money they have they’ll buy themselves some state and federal governments (this is why overturning the Citizens United decision is so important), and the cutting of government services essential to the people who are not super rich. Government needs money to operate, and that money is raised through taxation. Conservatives who follow Norquist’s “thinking” believe that austerity will bring us out of tough economic times. No, it won’t. It will only make things worse for the vast majority of us who don’t have millions of dollars at our disposal. Especially when you’re borrowing money to fund the military, which is not an investment that will return more money to the economy the way infrastructure spending will. Military spending benefits weapons manufacturer investors, which is why Forbes and their ilk like it so much. No matter what the conservatives tell you, the debt ceiling is not about spending, it’s about borrowing. If taxes had not be cut so drastically, we would not have needed to borrow so much money top pay for illegals wars. When you raise taxes, you borrow less, and you approach the debt ceiling much later. The solution to running up against the debt ceiling is not to reduce spending but to raise taxes, and the best people to raise taxes on are the people making so much money they literally could not spend it in their lifetimes or their grandchildren’s lifetimes. They won’t miss it one bit.

If you care about not just yourself and your family, but your friends and neighbors and the country as a whole, the worst thing you could do on Election Day is vote for a Conservative to represent you in government. Conservatives do not care about you (unless you’re just like them, and who wants to be?) Conservatism is a philosophy rooted in Selfishness. It’s all about “What’s in it for me?”, not “What’s in it for us?” Every single social advancement in our nation’s history was supported by Liberals and opposed by Conservatives, and always with the same tired horse shit arguments. Every. Single. One. My mother would not have lived as long as she did without Social Security and Medicare, two of the most popular programs in the country, both of which are opposed by Conservatives. They say they want to save them, but they want to do it by making everyone invest in the stock market and take their chances there. Instead of a safety net, they want a sieve. They got theirs, so they don’t care what happens to you. It’s just not in their nature to do so. Because they’re Conservative. And you should never vote for one again. Because they would never vote for you.

Daily open thread. Have at it.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 13th, 2014: More Money than God

At billmoyers.com, I spotted an article by Sam Pizzigati, regarding the recent publication of the Forbes 2014 Billionaires list. An excerpt:

“…the richest of these 400 hold far more than that average. Take Larry Ellison, the third-ranking deep pocket on this year’s Forbes list. Ellison just stepped down as the CEO of the Oracle business software colossus. His net worth: $50 billion.

What does Ellison do with all those billions? He collects homes and estates, for starters, with 15 or so scattered all around the world. Ellison likes yachts, too. He currently has two extremely big ones, each over half as long as a football field.

Ellison also likes to play basketball, even on his yachts. If a ball bounces over the railing, no problem. Ellison has a powerboat following his yacht, the Wall Street Journal noted this past spring, “to retrieve balls that go overboard.”

Hiring that ball-retriever qualifies Ellison as a “job creator,” right? Maybe not. Ellison has regularly destroyed jobs on his way to grand fortune. He has become, over the years, a master of the merge-and-purge two-step: First you snatch your rival’s customers, then you fire its workers. In 2005, for instance, Ellison shelled out $10.6 billion to buy out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor. He then proceeded to put the ax to 5,000 jobs.

Here’s the Forbes 2014 list. Note that the Koch Brothers are tied for 6th place – aww, they didn’t make #1? They must be spending too much money on Republican/Teabagger political candidates. And, of course, several members of the Walton family took 8th through 11th place. I have not perused much of the list, but I see that one of the other sugar daddies of the right, Sheldon Adelson is at #15, while evil left-winger George Soros is at #24. (In between is Wayne’s former ‘boss’ at Xerox, Carl Icahn, at #22.)

One of the “highlights” listed towards the bottom of one of the Forbes articles is this factoid that gave me pause:

“The oldest billionaire is David Rockefeller Sr. (# 190), age 99, with a net worth of $3 billion.”

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate - Hudson River in the background.  (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate – Hudson River in the background. (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Now, we grew up in an area where the Rockefeller estate is about half-an-hour away, near the legendary “Sleepy Hollow” area. I have cousins on my father’s side who lived near the estate, and when we used to visit them when I was young, the drive took us along, and through, parts of the estate (one could tell by the tall fencing that seemed to hold the estate’s huge old trees back from the road, often on both sides.) So we always considered the Rockefeller family as sort of ‘neighbors.’ Despite his obvious personal flaws, i.e., not making Happy Rockefeller happy, at least Nelson D. Rockefeller was a fairly moderate Republican in the days when there really were moderate Republicans, several of whom could be respected regardless of one’s political affiliation. Of course, these days, Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller would be considered RINOs.

Another excerpt from Pizzigati’s article:

“This year, for the first time ever, Forbes has assigned a “self-made score” to every one of America’s richest 400. More than two-thirds of this year’s 400, Forbes claims, rate as “self-made,” Ellison among them.
[emphasis mine]Forbes doesn’t bother asking how those rich went about self-making their fortunes. We should. Our top 400, after all, haven’t just made monstrously large fortunes. They’ve made a monstrously large mess. To unmake it, we need to unmake them.”.

Amen to THAT, folks.

Oh, yeah, one more thing about the Forbes list: if you’re worth a mere billion dollars, you’re still not rich enough to make the list, as the minimum to qualify this year was $1.55 billion.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss whatever you want.