I’M WORRIED

The Republicans say we cannot allow the Bush tax cuts to expire because we cannot have American millionaires and billionaires taxed as they were under Clinton/Gore . . . because – although the economy was great in those years for millionaires and billionaires (and tons of new businesses were started) – Republicans simply will not allow it.  They are Republicans.  They only lower taxes – when times are good (because taxes are too high) and when times are bad (because unemployment is too high) and when times are anything else (because who doesn’t like lower taxes?).  It’s their brand.  They applauded the huge Reagan military build-up but didn’t want to pay for it (the National Debt quadrupled under Reagan/Bush-41).  They applauded the war in Iraq but didn’t want to pay for it (the National Debt doubled under Bush-43).  And now we have a debt per capita the same size as the one in Greece (about $45,000 for every man, woman, and child) and the way to finally restore fiscal prudence, say the Republicans, is to . . . keep taxes for the wealthy dramatically lower than they were under Eisenhower or Nixon or even Reagan, because . . . who doesn’t like low taxes?  It’s their brand.  And it’s their hoped-for route back to even more power because it is likely to lead to an economy so bad that voters will demand change – even though that would mean handing the reins back to the crowd who got us into this mess in the first place.

Rachel Maddow had a “Charlie Brown” segment last night showing how the Republicans come up with good ideas – the market-based cap-and-trade solution, the individual-mandate solution, the bipartisan budget commission solution, a sliver of revenue enhancement – and when the President accepts them . . . whoosh, they’re gone!  They turn against their own ideas.  It does not bode well.

SHE’S WORRIED

Friend of this page Janet Tavakoli Huff-posted this troubling piece:

If a drunk driver crashed his speeding rental car into your house and killed your spouse, you would be outraged if law enforcers took bribes and refused to give the driver a blood test.  If the judge then gave the killer a small fine and ordered you to pay the fine and pay for all the damages, you’d be outraged.  If the government then handed the drunk-driver keys to a bigger faster rental car, handed the drunk driver an even bigger bottle of whiskey, and then gave you the rental bill; you’d storm Washington, blizzard elected officials with protests and organize friends and associates to vote these malefactors, the elected officials that betrayed your trust, out of office.

Yet, we’ve remained largely silent in the face of the same sort of behavior by Wall Street and Washington.  Bonus-seeking bankers crashed into Main Street’s economy and ran control frauds within banks that would have failed without taxpayer bailouts.  Bureaucrats and elected officials bailed them out without demanding consequences.  Bankers are revving their engines again in credit derivatives, currency derivatives, and commodities trades.  “Financial reform” addresses none of the latter problems.

Arianna Huffington’s Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream explains that the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the bank bailout package also known as TARP, allotted only $72 billion to infrastructure projects.  Another feature of the bill was to have banks agree to lend money to medium and small sized businesses to stimulate the economy.  That didn’t happen . . .

The number one stimulus for any economy is not consumer spending, although that is a powerful secondary effect.  The number one stimulus is capital spending, investment in the production of real goods and consumables. As Third World America explains: “There were three flaws with the old economy that has crashed.  It favored consumption over production, debt over small savings, and environmental damage over environmental renewal.”

Our ongoing bank bailouts included the mispricing of around $4 trillion of toxic assets that the banks cannot afford to honestly price, since bank capital would be wiped out sparking another global financial meltdown.  We continue to provide cheap taxpayer funding through the Fed.  New accounting rules allow banks to cover-up the low price of impaired assets, and government debt guarantees provide ongoing subsidies to banks that have a value of trillions of dollars.

. . . Beyond the banks, we have fiscal mismanagement and corruption that plagues middle class taxpayers.  I happen to live in Illinois, the best example of this in the nation.  Cook County encompasses Chicago and some of its surrounding suburbs.  This week, the Cook County Treasurer discovered “stunning” debt.  This debt isn’t new, but apparently our officials are now properly terrified.  Our total debt for the municipality, education, county, sanitary, park, fire, township, library and special services is now $108 billion.  That means the debt per person in Chicago exceeds $23,700 or more than $63,500 per household, and that is just local debt.

. . . We’re not doing better on a national level.  Americans owe almost $166,600 per household or around $45,000 per person (Greek citizens owe $44,000 per person).  That’s on top of our local debt.

David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, says it’s even worse than that.  When he takes into account future obligations for Medicare, Social Security, Federal debt, Military retirement, Civil servant retirement, and more, we owe $546,663 per household.  That doesn’t even include your local debt — it may not be as bad as if you lived in Illinois, but it’s substantial nonetheless — and personal debt including mortgages and consumer debt that average more than $120,000 per household.

We’re told we are a great country and we can “grow our way out of it.”   Exactly how does that occur, when jobs are going overseas, taxes for the wealthiest in our country are uncollectible after exploiting tax breaks, and programs for investment in infrastructure and production are virtually nonexistent?

America’s biggest problem by far is that capital spending in new production facilities that create jobs and real products never occurred, not even after trillions of dollars were thrown at banks in the global financial system. . . .

☞  All this can be fixed if we put our minds to it, and part of the solution is taxes – both to fund infrastructure projects that will strengthen our country and put people back to work and also, ultimately, to lower the deficit.

Watch the Maddow clip, referenced above, and decide for yourself whether the Republican leadership are working to solve our problems.

MARRIAGE

In multi-colored chalk, on a display outside a store in Cape Neddick, Maine:  “If you don’t like gay marriage, blame straight people.  They’re the ones who keep having gay babies.”

VIBER – RATED

The estimable Alan Rogowsky:  “Have you downloaded Viber?  Free calls to anyone anywhere who has it as well.  Nice for international calling and more seamless than Skype. I ‘viber’ (and Skype) with my partner in St. Maarten constantly. I also have pals in Moscow, Sydney, Jerusalem and Paris who now use Viber. Makes a huge difference to be able to call cellphone to cellphone at no charge whatsoever. By the way, VTOK (which accesses Google Voice) is similar and adds video to the mix as well.”

“When you use Viber” (says Viber itself) “your phone calls to any other Viber user are free, and the sound quality is much better than a regular call. You can call any Viber user, anywhere in the world, for free. All Viber features are 100% FREE and do not require any additional ‘in application’ purchase.”

Early reviews were somewhat mixed, but if you have an iPhone or iPad, you might want to check it out.  Not only is it free, at least for now it’s even free of advertising.

JOHN LEEDS’ ACROSTIC

And finally, to start this holiday weekend, an acrostic – a poem the first letter of each line of which, when read from top to bottom, forms a word or phrase.

John Leeds:  “Here’s the only acrostic I wrote that I like (it’s rare I try them.)  It came from a rooster that moved into my neighborhood and would wake me predawn.  I caught him, released him at my wife’s protests, then protested to her he was destroying my sleep, and SHE recaught him on a predawn raid, chasing him around the neighborhood:

Red-legged raucous feathered flying beast
Of all your faults, your crowing I like least
On whim, I like your spunk and verve
Some days I rue your o’ersized nerve
That you could live but quietly
Enters often in my mind.  Don’t you see,
Rooster?  You and I are a couple from hell
So if I eat you, please don’t tell.

“And no, I didn’t really eat him, just moved him to a spot in a different part of town where I hoped he’d survive the winter.  He vanished in a huge snowstorm, but I suspect we’ll meet again.”

Have a great weekend.

 

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