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.

Sunday Roast: Public vs Private Morality

I love the way Robert Reich explains things — words and pictures really work!

Get this, people:  Who we love, sleep with, or want to marry is our PRIVATE BUSINESS.  As in, stay out of other people’s business unless you want us in your business.  Ya know, the “golden rule?”

What people do in public, like looting the country, plunging the country into a depression, trashing teachers, lying about the motivations of the President, lying in general, destroying the social safety net, and gutting the education system is EVERYONE’S BUSINESS.

Read carefully:  The morality that really matters is PUBLIC MORALITY.  Understand?

Listen up, you so-called Conservatives aka Whacked-out Fucking Nutters:  I don’t give a shit what you do in your private life, so long as it doesn’t involve minors, abuse, or innocent animals — you know, stuff that’s against the law — and anything that goes on in my private life is — again — none of your business.  Guess what?  Whether or not a woman takes birth control or needs/wants an abortion, is PRIVATE.  So unless you want us to unleash the Viagra police, you better just can it.  Please do all of us a favor, and mind your own fucking business — and I do mean fucking business.  I used to be a legal secretary, so I know what you weirdos have on your computers.  You might think you’re fooling people, but you ain’t fooling your wives!

I am SO done with this bullshit.

This is our daily open thread —
Tie a knot in the end of the rope and hang on.

Sunday Roast: Amend 2012

Robert Reich, in his capacity as Chair of the National Governing Board of Common Cause, explains the effect Citizens United has had on our democracy.  In order to remedy this awful ruling by the Roberts Court, which drowns the political process in more unchecked money than we even know at this point, we need to pass an amendment to the Constitution.  You can find lots of information at Amend2012.

An amendment to get the money out of politics is a grand idea, but how much damage will be done between now and then — assuming we can get anything out of our broken Congress, and then get 38 states in a divided nation to agree.  Seems like a pretty steep mountain, although well worth doing.

This is our daily open thread — You know what to do.

The Watering Hole: October 13, 2011 – The Seven Biggest Economic Lies

via Robert Reich:

THE SEVEN BIGGEST ECONOMIC LIES

The President’s Jobs Bill doesn’t have a chance in Congress — and the Occupiers on Wall Street and elsewhere can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society – unless more Americans know the truth about the economy.

Here’s a short (2 minute 30 second) effort to rebut the seven biggest whoppers now being told by those who want to take America backwards.

The major points:

  1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else.          Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke.
  2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)
  3. Shrinking government generates more jobs.                         Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.
  4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.
  5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.
  6. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.                                            Don’t believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.
  7. It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. Wrong. There’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.

Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough,  start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it on.

This is our daily thread. Feel free to jump right in and share your thoughts!

The Watering Hole: June 17, 2011 — The Truth About the Economy

Robert Reich explains it all — with pictures:

1. Economy doubles since 1980, but wages flat.
2. All gains from the economy go to the super rich.
3. With money comes political power.
4. Huge budget deficits.
5. Middle class divided.
6. Anemic recovery.

No incentive currently exists to remedy this situation, other than convincing the super rich to willingly give up their unbelievably rich lifestyles and/or getting the politicians we elected to represent US in Congress to actually do something in our interests.  That ain’t happening.  Soooo….

This is our daily open thread — Discuss!!

Robert Reich explains the “Public Option”

Robert Reich speaks directly on what the ‘public option’ is and why it is so important to health care reform. I would go further. It’s essential.

Reich’s explanation is short, simple, makes sense, and compelling.

Call or write President Obama, your Senators, and your Representatives.

Do something. Before it’s too late.

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It’s on…

Truthout, Robert Reich

Yesterday the American Medical Association came out against a public option for health care. And yesterday the President reaffirmed his support for it. The next weeks will show what Obama is made of – whether he’s willing and able to take on the most formidable lobbying coalition he has faced so far on an issue that will define his presidency.

And make no mistake: A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal health care. It’s the only way to make health care affordable. It’s the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets. An ersatz public option – whether Kent Conrad’s non-profit cooperatives, Olympia Snowe’s “trigger,” or regulated state-run plans – won’t do squat.

The last president to successfully take on the giant health care lobbies was LBJ. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted because he weighed into the details, twisted congressional arms, threatened and cajoled, drew lines in the sand, and went to war against the AMA and the other giant lobbyists standing in the way. The question now is how much LBJ is in Barack Obama.

If past is prologue, I have very little hope of a public option making it through this fight.  President Obama spends too much time and political capital trying to be bipartisan and concilliatory.  Now is not the time.

In my opinion, the President under-played his hand regarding health care for all Americans.  He should have gone in with, “Single payer is the only way to go, that’s what I want for this country,” and bargained down from there — or fought like hell ala LBJ.  Now the ideologues, big insurance, and corporate health care will spend billions to chip away at affordable health care for all — money that could be spent to actually fix the problem — if they really wanted to do so.  But they don’t, so they won’t.

President Obama will only get one chance to fix health care.  If he succeeds, he’ll be remembered for generations as one of the greatest, most successful presidents in this country.  If he fails, it will be one more feather in the cap of the Right Wing Corporate America, and we will pay the price, because no one will ever try to fix the health care mess again.

Some congressional Democrats are willing and able to stand up to this barrage. Many are not. They need cover from the White House.

The President can’t do this alone. You must weigh in and get everyone you know to weigh in, too. Bombard your senators and representatives. Organize and mobilize others. And let the White House know how strongly you feel. This is one of those battles that define a presidency. But more importantly, it’s one of those battles that define the state of American democracy.

This is the battle we need to win.  Our country has been slip-sliding into ill-health and ill-education since the 80s, and we absolutely must stop it, because our children are already paying the price.

The health care issue affects all of us (except those in the top 1%, I would guess), and while they have most of the money, we have more votes.  It’s time to flood our Senators and Representatives — and the White House — with phone calls and letters, reminding them that they don’t represent Big Pharma or Big Insurance — they represent US.

How Pharma and Insurance Intend to Kill the Public Option, And What Obama and the Rest of Us Must Do

Commondreams:

by Robert Reich

I’ved poked around Washington today, talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.

You know why, of course. They don’t want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, “unfair” is anything that undermines their profits.

So they’re pulling out all the stops — pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called “moderate” Republicans who say they’re in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they’ve been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.

Max Baucus, Chair of Senate Finance (now exactly why does the Senate Finance Committee have so much say over health care?) hasn’t shown his cards but staffers tell me he’s more than happy to sign on to any one of these. But Baucus is waiting for more support from his colleagues, and none of the three proposals has emerged as the leading candidate for those who want to kill the public option without showing they’re killing it. Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy and his staff are still pushing for a full public option, but with Kennedy ailing, he might not be able to round up the votes. (Kennedy’s health committee released a draft of a bill today, which contains the full public option.)

Enter Olympia Snowe. Her move is important, not because she’s Republican (the Senate needs only 51 votes to pass this) but because she’s well-respected and considered non-partisan, and therefore offers some cover to Democrats who may need it. Last night Snowe hosted a private meeting between members and staffers about a new proposal Pharma and Insurance are floating, and apparently she’s already gained the tentative support of several Democrats (including Ron Wyden and Thomas Carper). Under Snowe’s proposal, the public option would kick in years from now, but it would be triggered only if insurance companies fail to bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in he meantime.

What’s the catch? … Read the rest of this article to find out.

There’s an indepth article worth reading over at TheDailyKos today called:
THE FACTS ABOUT THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY

Robert Reich endorses Obama

LA Times Blogs:

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary, and friend of Hillary Clinton for over 40 years, has chosen to endorse Barack Obama in his run for the presidency. It was not an easy decision for him…

“I’ve been very torn, frankly,” Reich said, speaking slowly, measuring his words, over the phone from his office at UC Berkeley, where he teaches. “I do feel some loyalty to the Clintons because I’ve known them for so long. … I did not plan to endorse. I wanted to stay out of the whole endorsement racket. But my conscience wouldn’t let me stay silent after this latest round of mudslinging.”

Like Bill Richardson, part of the reason for not backing his old friend is in reaction to the way her campaign is being run. Reich is the fifth former Clinton Cabinet member to endorse Obama, joining Bill Daley (Commerce), Federico Pena (Energy and Transportation) and Norman Mineta (Transportation).

“I’ve known the Clintons for a very long time, and it seemed unnecessary and inappropriate to endorse Obama. But this past week has been a tipping point for me.” Cites the negativity of Clinton campaign ads and seizing on ‘bitter.’ “The negative ads coming out of the Clinton camp were just appalling at a time when our nation is facing such huge challenges.

“To focus on whether Obama should have used the word ‘bitter’ when he talked about the plight of many in Pennsylvania and to resurrect the old Republicans themes of guns and religion and to call Obama elistist, quote-unquote, just put me over the edge. I could no longer sit back and be silent. I had to say what I believed.”

Wow.  Ouch.  Hillary Clinton reaps what she sows.