mykeystrokes.com

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

“Economic Royalists”: The Panic Of The Plutocrats

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.

Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.

And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.

Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 9, 2011

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Capitalism, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Democracy, Equal Rights, Financial Reform, GOP, Ideologues, Journalists, Media, Middle Class, Politics, Press, Pundits, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Famous “Reality TV Star” Sarah Palin Laments That Politics Resembles Her World

After starring in her own reality TV show, camping with Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame, dining with Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump, and cheering for her daughter on Dancing with the Stars, Sarah Palin has taken to Fox News, where she is paid handsomely as a contributor, to lament that the media creates “reality show intrigue” around possible GOP candidates.

In what is perhaps the least self-aware 16 minute television interview every given, Palin then proceeded to assert that “I am a proponent though of the media providing as much coverage of candidates in order to vet these candidates as possible,” even harkening back to the 2008 election cycle, when she refused most interviews and championed the idea of reaching voters directly, by saying that “we learned our lesson in electing Barack Obama who was not vetted by the media.” Who’d have imagined, based on coverage during the 2008 campaign, that he’d pass a liberal health-care bill, seek to raise taxes on the rich and wind up having been born in America? In all seriousness, it’s hard to think of anything that the news media has dug up about Obama that went unreported before the election but has since proven even marginally consequential.

Let us now marvel at the former Alaska governor’s latest attempt at determining who counts as a real American. “What’s going on in the real world, outside the political beltway where they call it flyover country I guess, the heartland of America, we’re having a hard time finding jobs and keeping jobs, believing that our economy is going to be solvent, and that we won’t be a country on the path toward bankruptcy,” she said. Already, the “we” makes this problematic: Alaska is not flyover country, nor is New York, where Fox News has its studios, or Arizona, where Palin owns a second home, and she doesn’t seem to be having a hard time getting work. Also note that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the lowest unemployment rate in America during August 2011 were North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Vermont and Iowa in that order — and that the places with the highest unemployment in America, starting with the worst, were Nevada, California, Michigan, South Carolina, D.C., Florida, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia, in that order. The lesson: Palin’s obsession with privileged “coastal dwelling elites” and the long-suffering “real Americans” in flyover country and the heartland blinds her to reality.

Finally, watch as Palin zings her employer, Fox News, for allegedly spreading misinformation. “I think it’s kind of humorous to see the way that the media is covering these candidates. Let me give you an example of this,” Palin said. “Earlier today, Greta, on Fox News, you had a host who said, ‘Sarah Palin in the polls, she’s way way down there in the polls.’ And I’m kinda scratching my head going, ‘Wait a minute, on another network, on CNN just the other day, they showed a poll where I was within five points of President Obama.’ I was doing well, much better, than many of the other candidates, and I’m thinking, all this misinformation and contradictory information even from hosts on this network itself, it adds to the disconnect of not just the permanent political class, but many in the media also, because sometimes they don’t do their homework, and many times a host or a reporter, they have their own agenda. And they interject their agenda in the information.” If ever a network got what they deserved from an employee, it’s Fox News.

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, September 28, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Journalists, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“See Spot Run”: Dick Morris Still Can’t Read

A few weeks ago, Dick Morris, the sleazy Republican consultant, wrote an entire print column built around a single observation: the economy lost 30,000 health care jobs in the month of August. There was, however, a small problem: the economy actually gained 30,000 health care jobs in August. Morris’ entire indictment was based on numbers he misunderstood.

This week, it happened again. Here’s the lede in Morris’ new print column, published yesterday.

Behind the president’s whining to the Black Caucus, begging them to “quit grumbling,” is a decline in his personal popularity among African-American voters that could portend catastrophe for his fading reelection chances.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today — a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!

If the president’s favorability rating among African Americans really had slipped to 58%, that would be a pretty significant development. But once again, Morris based an entire column on numbers he chose not to read carefully enough.

What the poll actually found is that President Obama enjoys an 86% favorability rating among African Americans — 28 points higher than Morris’ column claimed.

How’d he screw this up? The poll found that 58% of African Americans have a “strongly favorable” view of Obama, but that’s only part of the basis of a favorability rating. Morris apparently noticed one number, brushed past the relevant detail, and published a claim that’s plainly not true.

The point here isn’t that the president can ignore some of his key supporters, and win a second term with his current levels of support. Clearly Obama has a lot of work to do. The point is, The Hill keeps publishing Dick Morris claims that are demonstrably wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion — the columnist is making specific arguments about numbers that aren’t connected to reality.

Indeed, Morris said Obama was doing well when his favorability rating among African Americans was 83%. But right now, they’re 86%. By Morris’ reasoning, Obama is doing great with this constituency.

Also note, this wasn’t just some side detail Morris flubbed — just as with the clearly dishonest health care column a few weeks ago, the columnist is building entire print pieces around basic statistics that don’t exist.

Either Dick Morris can’t read or he’s assuming his readers won’t bother to check. Either way, maybe it’s time for The Hill’s editors to start taking a closer look at his pieces.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 28, 2011

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, President Obama, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things All the GOP Candidates Agree On And They’re Terrifying

By the very nature of political journalism, the attention of those covering the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest tends to be focused on areas of disagreement between the candidates, as well as on the policy positions and messages they are eager to use against Barack Obama. But there are a host of other issues where the Republican candidates are in too much agreement to create a lot of controversy during debates or gin up excitement in the popular media. Areas of agreement, after all, rarely provoke shock or drive readership. But the fact that the Republican Party has reached such a stable consensus on such a great number of far-right positions is in many ways a more shocking phenomenon than the rare topic on which they disagree. Here are just a few areas of consensus on which the rightward lurch of the GOP during the last few years has become remarkably apparent:

1. Hard money. With the exception of Ron Paul’s serial campaigns and a failed 1988 effort by Jack Kemp, it’s been a very long time since Republican presidential candidates flirted with the gold standard or even talked about currency polices. Recent assaults by 2012 candidates on Ben Bernanke and demands for audits of the Fed reflect a consensus in favor of deflationary monetary policies and elimination of any Fed mission other than preventing inflation. When combined with unconditional GOP hostility to stimulative fiscal policies—another new development—this position all but guarantees that a 2012 Republican victory will help usher in a longer and deeper recession than would otherwise be the case.

2. Anti-unionism. While national Republican candidates have always perceived the labor movement as a partisan enemy, they haven’t generally championed overtly anti-labor legislation. Last Thursday, however, they all backed legislation to strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prevent plant relocations designed to retaliate against legally protected union activities (power the NLRB is exercising in the famous Boeing case involving presidential primary hotspot South Carolina). Meanwhile, at least two major candidates, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, have endorsed a national right-to-work law, and Romney and Perry have also encouraged states like New Hampshire to adopt right-to-work laws.

3. Radical anti-environmentalism. Until quite recently, Republicans running for president paid lip service to environmental protection as a legitimate national priority, typically differentiating themselves from Democrats by favoring less regulatory enforcement approaches and more careful assessment of economic costs and market mechanisms. The new mood in the GOP is perhaps best exemplified by Herman Cain’s proposal at the most recent presidential debate that “victims” of the Environmental Protection Agency (apparently, energy industry or utility executives) should dominate a commission to review environmental regulations—an idea quickly endorsed by Rick Perry. In fact, this approach might represent the middle-of-the-road within the party, given the many calls by other Republicans (including presidential candidates Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich) for the outright abolition of EPA.

4.Radical anti-abortion activism. Gone are the days when at least one major Republican candidate (e.g., Rudy Giuliani in 2008) could be counted on to appeal to pro-choice Republicans by expressing some reluctance to embrace an immediate abolition of abortion rights. Now the only real intramural controversy on abortion has mainly surrounded a sweeping pledge proffered to candidates by the Susan B. Anthony List—one that would bind their executive as well as judicial appointments, and require an effort to cut off federal funds to institutions only tangentially involved in abortions. Despite this fact, only Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have refused to sign. Both, however, have reiterated their support for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion forever (though Romney has said that’s not achievable at present).

5. No role for government in the economy. Most remarkably, the 2012 candidate field appears to agree that there is absolutely nothing the federal government can do to improve the economy—other than disabling itself as quickly as possible. Entirely missing are the kind of modest initiatives for job training, temporary income support, or fiscal relief for hard-pressed state and local governments that Republicans in the past have favored as a conservative alternative to big government counter-cyclical schemes. Also missing are any rhetorical gestures towards the public-sector role in fostering a good economic climate, whether through better schools, basic research, infrastructure projects, and other public investments (the very term has been demonized as synonymous with irresponsible spending).

Add all this up, and it’s apparent the Republican Party has become identified with a radically conservative world-view in which environmental regulations and collective bargaining by workers have strangled the economy; deregulation, federal spending cuts, and deflation of the currency are the only immediate remedies; and the path back to national righteousness will require restoration of the kinds of mores—including criminalization of abortion—that prevailed before things started going to hell in the 1960s. That Republicans hardly even argue about such things anymore makes the party’s transformation that much more striking—if less noticeable to the news media and the population at large.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, The New Republic, September 19, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Climate Change, Collective Bargaining, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Unions | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good News!: If Top Tax Rates Return To Reagan Era, Bill O’Reilly Might Quit

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly boasted the other day that he enjoys “more power than anybody other than the president.”

Apparently, though, this rather extraordinary degree of influence over national affairs isn’t quite enough for the conservative media personality. In fact, O’Reilly is so concerned about his potential tax burden under the “Buffett Rule,” he told his television audience last night he might just quit working altogether.

“I must tell you I want the feds to get more revenue. I don’t want to starve them as some people do. We need a robust military, a good transportation system and protections all over the place.

“But if you tax achievement, some of the achievers are going to pack it in. Again, let’s take me. My corporations employ scores of people. They depend on me to do what I do so they can make a nice salary. If Barack Obama begins taxing me more than 50 percent, which is very possible, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. I like my job but there comes a point when taxation becomes oppressive. Is the country really entitled to half a person’s income?”

In case anyone’s interested in the relevant details, let’s clarify a few things.

First, we don’t know if President Obama is eyeing a top rate of 50%, and even if he did, the likelihood of congressional passage would be roughly zero.

Second, a top rate of 50% does not mean O’Reilly would lose “half” his income. I know this can seem a little complicated, but that’s just not how marginal tax rates work.

And third, a 50% top rate for millionaires and billionaires would be a departure from the recent past, but to describe it as “oppressive” is to forget much of the 20th century.

In Ronald Reagan’s first term, for example, the top rate was — you guessed it — 50%. Did Reagan’s “oppressive” tax rates prevent robust economic growth? Did “the achievers” decide to “pack it in”? No and no.

For nearly all of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, the top rate was 91%. That’s not a typo. Did this Republican president’s “oppressive” tax policy prevent the U.S. economy from growing in the 1950s? Apparently not.

That said, if O’Reilly is contemplating retirement to avoid helping America pay its bills, I’m not inclined to discourage him.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Media, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: