mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Lies That Will Kill America”: Pundits Run To The Defense Of A Massive Bank And Other Tales Of The Lapdog Media

Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it — the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post,  screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “U.S. robs bank of $13 billion.”

Say what?  Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure.  If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.

This isn’t the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $6 billion settlement with institutional investors is in the works and criminal charges may still be filed in California.  The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it’s hard to keep them sorted out – everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids.

Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny.  Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud.  No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks.  If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism.

One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch’s Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Obama, whose administration, we are told, “is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies.”  But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama’s favorite banker, with so much entree he’s been doing his own negotiating with the attorney general of the United States.

But that’s crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault. Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be “up a creek” without Dimon. “One of the smartest, toughest guys around,” Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch’s exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.

Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications –at least in its reporting –  echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrowPost. The government just wants “to appease their left wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing Congressional districts right before the 2014 election.” We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots .

Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.

While it’s true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures – more than 30 — have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work. Just the other day, Eric Stern atSalon.com fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity’s show. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity declared, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”

Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not. “I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster,” Stern reported. “But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange.”

And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it’s banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it’s true. According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University’s Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.

Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia. It is, as an old song lyric goes, “the self-deception that believes the lie.” The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.

 

By: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Salon, Originally Published in Bill Moyers Blog, October 25, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Big Banks, Democracy, Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let’s Not Beat Around The Bush”: Voter ID Laws Have But One Intent, To Limit The Franchise

Belatedly, federal Judge Richard Posner has arrived at the obvious conclusion about voter identification laws: They are enacted as a barrier to the franchise, an un-American tactic hatched by conservatives to prevent certain people from voting. It’s too bad that his epiphany came so late.

Posner is one of the nation’s most respected conservative jurists. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, he might have led the nation’s highest court to reject new restrictions around voting. Instead, in 2007, Posner wrote the majority opinion that upheld Indiana’s stringent law, setting the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to reason that it did no harm to an unfettered franchise.

That was quite wrong, as Posner now acknowledges. While he disavowed his earlier endorsement of the law in a new book, Reflections of Judging, he went further in a video interview earlier this month with The Huffington Post, saying that the dissenting view was the right one.

In that dissent, the late Judge Terence Evans wrote: “Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.” That about sums it up.

Still, I see in Posner’s late-arriving epiphany occasion for hope that debates about obstacles to voting, which have proliferated in states controlled by Republicans, will now proceed with more intellectual honesty. Let’s give up the preposterous justification that the barrage of new restrictions around the franchise — regulations that include limits on early voting — are intended to prevent voter fraud.

Recently, the consequences of those restrictions have been clear in Texas, which was among the states that rolled out new measures after the U.S. Supreme Court decimated the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. (Posner has had interesting comments about that decision too, dismissing its intellectual and legal foundations as non-existent. “The opinion rests on air,” he wrote.)

Eighty-four-year-old Dorothy Card, a Texas resident, has voted for six decades, but she stopped driving 15 years ago and doesn’t have a driver’s license, the ID preferred in voter-suppression states. By late last month, she had tried three times to obtain an ID that would allow her to vote in November elections, according to Think Progress, a left-leaning political blog. Her daughter said she would keep trying but with little expectation of success since each attempt required a different set of documents.

But perhaps the case that poses the biggest challenge for the Texas voter-suppression camp concerns a sitting judge, Sandra Watts. She was nearly barred from voting earlier this month because her name is listed slightly differently on her driver’s license than on voter registration rolls. Her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while the voter registration roll lists her real middle name. As a consequence, she was told she’d have to vote using a provisional ballot, which would be checked to assure her identity.

As she told a Texas TV station, it’s not unusual for a married woman to condense her name by putting her maiden name in the middle. “I don’t think most women know that this is going to create a problem. That their maiden name is on their driver’s license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married …” she said.

Meanwhile, there are no — zip, zilch, zero — comparable stories of fraud prevented by the new laws. Perhaps that’s because in-person fraudulent voting of the sort the new laws ostensibly prevent is virtually non-existent. Analyses have consistently shown that voter fraud is much more likely to occur through absentee ballots, which the voter-suppression crowd have usually ignored.

Here’s the not-so-hidden agenda behind voter ID laws: blocking the franchise for voters who lean toward Democrats. Those voters can be found easily enough among poorer blacks and Latinos, who tend to be less likely to own cars and to have driver’s licenses. Target them, and you can shave off several hundred or a few thousand votes — enough to win a close election.

That’s what Republicans are up to. Let’s hope Posner’s acknowledgment might at least spark more honesty about their motives.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, October 26, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Republicans’ Food Stamp Fraud”: Telling Poor Children The Fourth Box Of Macaroni And Cheese Is Excessive Is Indecent

What’s the single worst thing the Obama-era Republicans have done? Tough one, I know.

But spare me a moment here—plus a thousand words down the page—and I think maybe you’ll agree with me that the single worst thing the Obama-era Republicans have done is try to push through a $40 billion cut to the food-stamps program. It’s just unspeakably cruel. They usually say publicly that it’s about saving money. But sometimes someone—one congressman in particular—lets slip the real reason: They want to punish poor people. The farm bill, which includes the food-stamp program, goes to conference committee next week. That’s where, the cliché has it, the two sides are supposed to “iron out their differences.” The only thing the Democrats on this committee should do with an iron is run it across the Republicans’ scowling faces.

The basic facts on the program. Its size fluctuates with the economy—when more people are working, the number of those on food stamps goes down. This, of course, isn’t one of those times. So right now the SNAP program, as it’s called, is serving nearly 48 million people in 23 million households. The average monthly individual benefit is $133, or about $4.50 a day. In 2011, 45 percent of recipients were children. Forty-one percent live in households where at least one person works. More than 900,000 are veterans. Large numbers are elderly or disabled or both.

It’s costing about $80 billion a year. Senate Democrats proposed a cut to the program. A small cut, but a cut all the same: $4 billion over 10 years. The Republicans in the House sought a cut of $20.5 billion over 10 years. But then the farm bill failed to pass. Remember that? When John Boehner didn’t have enough votes to pass his own bill?  After that debacle, the House took the farm bill and split it into two parts—the subsidies for the large growers of rice and cotton and so forth, and the food-stamp program. Two separate bills. And this time, Eric Cantor doubled the cut: $40 billion over 10 years. This number, if it became law, would boot 3.8 million people—presumably, nearly half of them children—off the program in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

These would come on top of cuts to the program that kick in Nov. 1. The 2009 stimulus bill included extra food-stamp money because unemployment was so high after the financial meltdown that legislators knew more people would be applying for SNAP assistance. So there was a “stimulus bump” in food-stamp spending, but that is now ending. A family of four would see a $46 cut each month.

The proposed GOP cut is such a piddling amount of money, in terms of the whole federal budget and especially when spread out over 10 years. But nearly half of it is quite literally taking food out of the mouths of children. What’s the point? The point really is that Tea Party Republicans think these people don’t deserve the help. That’s some fascinating logic. The economy melts down because of something a bunch of crooked bankers do. The people at the bottom quarter of the economy, who’ve been getting jobbed for 30 years anyway and who always suffer the most in a downturn, start getting laid off in huge numbers. They have children to feed. Probably with no small amount of shame, they go in and sign up for food stamps.

And what do they get? Lectures about being lazy. You may have seen the now-infamous video of Tennessee Congressman Steve Fincher, who told a crowd over the summer that “the Bible says ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’” This while Fincher, a cotton farmer, has enjoyed $3.5 million in federal farm subsidies. This year’s House bill ends “direct payments” to farmers whether they grow any crops or not—except for one kind: cotton farmers.

Religious bloggers have noted that Fincher got his theology wrong and that the relevant passage, from Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, wasn’t remotely about punishing people too lazy to work. It was about punishing people who’d stopped working because they thought Jesus was returning any day now. So: mean bastard, hypocrite, and Scripture-mangling idiot to boot. Nice trifecta.

The other argument one sometimes hears concerns the dreadful curse of food-stamp fraud. The actual rate of food-stamp fraud—people selling their coupons for cash—is 1.3 percent, but this of course doesn’t prevent the right from finding a couple of garish anecdotes and making it seem as if they’re the norm. Voter fraud, Medicaid fraud, food-stamp fraud…Somehow, in Republican America, only poor people and blacks commit fraud.

This cut is the fraud, because it’s not really about fraud or austerity. It’s entirely about punishing the alleged 47 percent. The bottom half or third of the alleged 47 percent. It’s absolutely appalling. These folks have done a lot of miserable things in the past four years. But this—the morality of this is so repulsively backward, the indecency so operatically and ostentatiously broadcast, I think it takes the gold going away.

The conference process starts next Wednesday and is going to take maybe a few months. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has taken the lead on this issue and has been terrific. Ditto Pat Leahy. Max Baucus, I’m told, is a good get to go a little wobbly (surprise). But this is one where the Democrats have to say this won’t stand. It’s one thing to shut down the government for two weeks and take quixotic stabs at Obamacare. Telling poor children that that fourth box of macaroni and cheese is excessive is something very different.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 26, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Poverty, Republicans, SNAP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Addicted To The Apocalypse”: Scaremongers Can’t Bring Themselves To Let Go

Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.

Consider, for example, Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor, who has lately made a splash with warnings about the burden of our entitlement programs. (Gee, why hasn’t anyone else thought of making that point?) He could talk about the problems we may face a decade or two down the road. But, no. He seems to feel that he must warn about the looming threat of a financial crisis worse than 2008.

Or consider the deficit-scold organization Fix the Debt, led by the omnipresent Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. It was, I suppose, predictable that Fix the Debt would respond to the latest budget deal with a press release trying to shift the focus to its favorite subject. But the organization wasn’t content with declaring that America’s long-run budget issues remain unresolved, which is true. It had to warn that “continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment.”

As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.

On the Chicken Little aspect: It’s actually awesome, in a way, to realize how long cries of looming disaster have filled our airwaves and op-ed pages. For example, I just reread an op-ed article by Alan Greenspan in The Wall Street Journal, warning that our budget deficit will lead to soaring inflation and interest rates. What about the reality of low inflation and low rates? That, he declares in the article, is “regrettable, because it is fostering a sense of complacency.”

It’s curious how readily people who normally revere the wisdom of markets declare the markets all wrong when they fail to panic the way they’re supposed to. But the really striking thing at this point is the date: Mr. Greenspan’s article was published in June 2010, almost three and a half years ago — and both inflation and interest rates remain low.

So has the ex-Maestro reconsidered his views after having been so wrong for so long? Not a bit. His new (and pretty bad) book declares that “the bias toward unconstrained deficit spending is our top domestic economic problem.”

Meanwhile, about that oft-prophesied, never-arriving debt crisis: In Senate testimony more than two and half years ago, Mr. Bowles warned that we were likely to face a fiscal crisis within around two years, and he urged his listeners to “just stop for a minute and think about what happens” if “our bankers in Asia” stop buying our debt. But has he, or anyone in his camp, actually tried to think through what would happen? No, not really. They just assume that it would cause soaring interest rates and economic collapse, when both theory and evidence suggest otherwise.

Don’t believe me? Look at Japan, a country that, like America, has its own currency and borrows in that currency, and has much higher debt relative to G.D.P. than we do. Since taking office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has, in effect, engineered exactly the kind of loss of confidence the debt worriers fear — that is, he has persuaded investors that deflation is over and inflation lies ahead, which reduces the attractiveness of Japanese bonds. And the effects on the Japanese economy have been entirely positive! Interest rates are still low, because people expect the Bank of Japan (the equivalent of our Federal Reserve) to keep them low; the yen has fallen, which is a good thing, because it make Japanese exports more competitive. And Japanese economic growth has actually accelerated.

Why, then, should we fear a debt apocalypse here? Surely, you may think, someone in the debt-apocalypse community has offered a clear explanation. But nobody has.

So the next time you see some serious-looking man in a suit declaring that we’re teetering on the precipice of fiscal doom, don’t be afraid. He and his friends have been wrong about everything so far, and they literally have no idea what they’re talking about.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 24, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Raising The Medicare Age”: A Terrible Republican Idea Exposed As Even More Terrible

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report assessing the budgetary impact of something many conservatives have supported, raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. What they found was that the change would save far less money than had previously been assumed: only $19 billion over the next decade. The main reason is that many of the people no longer eligible for Medicare would be eligible for either Medicaid or insurance subsidies through the health exchanges, so the net effect on the federal budget would be small.

But more important than that, this is an opportunity to remind ourselves that when government is doing something worthwhile, doing less of it isn’t a good idea even if it saved a lot of money. And if cutting back only saves a modest amount of money, it’s a really bad idea. You know what else would save a lot of money? Eliminating the United States Navy. But I’m guessing that most conservatives think having a navy is a good thing. Medicare is a spectacular success, one of the greatest things this country has ever done. Letting fewer people get on it is like the Miami Heat saying, “We won the championship last year, so what we need to do now is get rid of LeBron James.”

Don’t forget, Medicare is more efficient and less expensive than private insurance. Let me repeat that: Medicare is more efficient and less expensive than private insurance. It costs less to administer, its costs have risen more slowly than those of private insurance, and its beneficiaries love it. I realize that these facts cause many conservatives to begin blinking rapidly as their brains threaten overload from the cognitive dissonance produced when they realize that there are places where a government program outperforms its private-sector counterparts. But it’s true.

Yes, Medicare’s costs are projected to rise greatly in the coming decades. But that isn’t because the program doesn’t work, it’s because of the high cost of health care in general, and because there are going to be a lot more old people. And not incidentally, there was one piece of legislation that found ways to save hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare’s future expenses. It was called the Affordable Care Act, and you may remember that Republicans didn’t think too highly of it. In fact, they even pretended to be terribly opposed to those very savings, falsely characterizing them as cuts to benefits. But instead they’d like to just make the program available to fewer seniors?

If you don’t let people get on Medicare when they’re 65, it isn’t as though they’ll just step into their suspended animation pods for two years and then pop out when they turn 67. Those people will have to get coverage from private insurers. That means they’ll be paying more out of their own pockets. And look, I realize that many conservatives believe that someone getting health insurance from the government is an inherently bad thing, no matter how well the program works. But it isn’t. When a senior goes on Medicare, it’s something to be celebrated. It isn’t free, but it’s government doing exactly what it ought to do.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 25, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: