AlterNet.org: Robert Borosage http://towww.alternet.org/authors/robert-borosage en Sanders Soars: The Democratic Race Is Closer Than the Republican One http://towww.alternet.org/election-2016/sanders-soars-democratic-race-closer-republican-one <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sanders remains an underdog, but he keeps surging and Clinton keeps sinking.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_367504109_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Bernie Sanders routed Hillary Clinton in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/us/politics/election-results.html">three Western states</a> on Saturday. He isn’t just winning; he’s winning with stunning percentages: Alaska 82-18; Hawaii 70-30; Washington 73-27. He’s taken five of six in the West, and chipped away Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates, trailing in pledged delegates by 1,243 to 975.</p><p>The Clinton campaign, echoed by the talking heads, sought to discount the victories as “expected” from the “largely white and liberal” Pacific northwest. But just as Clinton’s victories in the South should not be dismissed because they were built on loyal African American voters, Sanders’ victories shouldn’t be dismissed either. Liberals are Democrats, too.</p><p>Sanders remains an underdog, but he keeps surging and Clinton keeps sinking. Sanders has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html">won 15 primaries</a> and caucuses compared to Clinton’s 20, and he’s virtually tied in four others (Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri and Illinois). This from an unknown candidate who started at single digits in early polls. His crowds keep growing. The turnout in Washington was “huge,” state officials reported, nearly at the unprecedented levels of 2008. And he’s done this in spite of a mainstream media that can’t cover his campaign without dismissing it.</p><p>Sanders has now caught Clinton in the <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-03-24/democrats-evenly-split-over-clinton-sanders-in-bloomberg-poll-im63yb0w">most recent poll</a> of Democrats. He <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-sanders-money-idUSKCN0WN00T">raised more money</a> than she did in February (probably one reason the Clinton campaign didn’t blanche at sponsoring a <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/hillary-clinton-george-clooney-fundraiser-221207">$353,000-a-plate sit down</a> with the Clooneys on April 15 in San Francisco. That number is not a misprint).</p><p>What’s troublesome for Clinton is that she’s getting less popular as the campaign goes on. She’s now viewed <a href="http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/polls/cbs-times-24128">unfavorably by over 50 percent</a> of registered voters, the highest negatives—other than Donald Trump—since 1984 when they began asking the question. Voters have valued her experience and electability. But she’s had to walk away from many of her former views. And she continues to fare less well than Sanders in hypothetical face-offs with potential Republican candidates. Those polls are of questionable import, but they do suggest that electability may be a declining asset for the former secretary of state.</p><p>Even as his candidacy gains traction, Sanders keeps spreading the word and rousing activists. A presidential campaign isn’t a movement. At best, an insurgent can issue a call to action, elevate alternatives, and infuse millions with a sense that there is an alternative. Sanders is doing just that, particularly with young voters who fill his rallies and caucuses.</p><p>He’s raised a stunning <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/03/20/sanders-outraised-and-outspent-clinton-in-february-leaving-him-with-17-million-cash-on-hand/">$140 million from some 2 million donors,</a> proving that a candidate needn’t depend on big money to be competitive. This is a big deal. Sanders has shown it can be done at the presidential level. Now, we’ll see insurgents testing out similar efforts in Senate and House races.</p><p>The Sanders campaign has also virtually invented what is called <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-the-sanders-campaign-is-reinventing-the-use-of-tech-in-politics/?nc=1">“distributed organizing.”</a> His talented campaign team has learned how to benefit from activists that can and are organizing themselves, creating their own communities online and in neighborhoods. This is energy that will continue long after the campaign is over.</p><p>Clinton operatives suggest Sanders should cool it, and stop challenging the secretary. She is trying to avoid a debate before the New York primary. Sanders is well justified to turn up the heat. He’s driven the debate, with Clinton adopting increasingly populist positions. He’s now beginning to <a href="https://ourfuture.org/category/featured-stories/burning-issues">challenge Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy</a>. His speech on the Middle East showed remarkable courage and sense. He ran a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/us/politics/election-results.html">moving ad</a>in Hawaii featuring Hawaii veteran, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, arguing, “Bernie Sanders will defend our country and take the trillions of dollars that are spent on these interventionist, regime change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home.”</p><p>Sanders still faces formidable challenges—including competing with Clinton in her home state of New York where she served as senator. But what’s clear is that he is still building. Wisconsin is next on April 5, with the Wyoming caucuses on the 9th. New York is on April 19. Instead of continuing their 24/7 Trump fixation, the mainstream media would be well advised to cover the Sanders surge, not dismiss it, and put a bigger spotlight on the Democratic race.</p><p> </p> Mon, 28 Mar 2016 07:08:00 -0700 Robert Borosage, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 1053418 at http://towww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 sanders clinton election election 2016 Why Bernie Sanders' Presidential Bid Is the Real Deal http://towww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-bernie-sanders-presidential-bid-real-deal <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">His message will reach millions, helping to reinforce the realization that the rules have been rigged against them. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sanders_2.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Tweeting that “America needs a political revolution,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders threw himself Thursday into the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.</p><p>Sanders is in many ways the mirror image of Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate in the race. She has universal name recognition, unlimited funds, and a campaign operation rife with experienced political pros. He is not widely known, has little money, and has never run a national campaign. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal – a full-throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal.</p><p>Sanders will focus his campaign on the great challenges facing the country: a politics corrupted by big money, and an economy where the rules have been rigged by the few to benefit the few. That reality won’t be changed by politics as usual, where the viability of a candidate is measured by how much money he or she can amass in the backroom “money primary,” and the message of a candidate is judged by its poll-tested ability to appeal to voters without alarming donors. It will take an independent political movement to change our course – and Sanders will run as its Tom Paine, summoning Americans to save their democracy.</p><p>Sanders has already released a 12-point <a href="http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-details-economic-agenda-for-america" target="_blank">Economic Agenda for America.</a> He has been a leader in what is increasingly a consensus agenda for Democrats: an increase in the minimum wage, paid sick days, paid vacation, pay equity, affordable child care.</p><p>But Sanders’ agenda is far bolder. It addresses the structures that are geared to generate extreme inequality. Since 1978, CEOs have increased their own pay by almost 1,000 percent, while the wages of 90 percent of Americans have lost ground. As Sanders says, that can occur only if the rules are systematically rigged to favor the few.</p><p>So Sanders calls for an end to the corporate-defined trade and tax policies that have racked up unprecedented and ruinous trade deficits while shipping good jobs abroad. He is a leader in the effort to stop fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is supported by the Democratic president, the Republican congressional leadership and the business lobby.</p><p>He calls for breaking up the big banks, and making Wall Street serve rather than savage Main Street. The big banks are more concentrated than ever. Too big to fail, too big to jail, they are too big to exist. His leading donors are unions, not Wall Street bankers.</p><p>He calls for expanding, not cutting back basic security programs for America. He would lift the cap on Social Security payroll taxes to expand benefits to address the looming retirement crisis. He would move to a national health care plan – Medicare for all – that takes on the insurance and drug lobbies and makes health care a right. He would provide two years of debt-free college or advanced training for every student willing to earn it.</p><p>He calls for empowering workers, protecting the right to organize, fostering worker-owned cooperatives, while curbing the perversities of CEO compensation. This would help ensure that workers share in the profits and productivity that they help to generate.</p><p>He calls for fair taxes on the rich and corporations to invest in rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure and in renewable energy, creating jobs while leading the global effort to address catastrophic climate change.</p><p>He challenges the bipartisan consensus that America must police the globe, arguing that endless war will waste precious lives and sap our resources. He was against the Iraq intervention from the first lie.</p><p>And of course, he opposes big money in politics, and will drive reforms to clean up Washington’s corrupted revolving door lobby culture.</p><p>Many pundits suggest that there is little difference among Democrats. All are social liberals. All have become more “populist” in line with the times. But the real question is who is prepared to take on the entrenched structures that generate inequality and drive down wages. Sanders will put that question to voters and to his rivals.</p><p><strong> A Test of Populist Energy</strong></p><p>Sanders’ candidacy is less a test of the power of the populist message – its reach is apparent as even Republicans struggle to address economic inequality – than a test of populist energy and independence.</p><p>He starts with little money and less staff. He will camp out in Iowa and New Hampshire, raise money over the Web, largely in small donations. His message will be powerful in retail politics – house parties, rallies, town meetings and debates. The biggest obstacle is less to convince voters that he’s right than to convince them that he’s a serious candidate, worth supporting. He has to find ways to get a hearing. And he has to find ways to overcome understandable cynicism.</p><p>That is the challenge to the emerging populist movements. Will they be willing to support a long-shot candidate who is carrying their message? Or will they be fearful of alienating the powers that be, isolating themselves politically and losing their “access.”</p><p>For example, the brilliant Run Warren Run movement is headed to a moment of truth. It has built, by all accounts, the best operation on the ground in Iowa of any campaign. But the candidate of its dreams, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, remains clear that she has no intention of running. Their best hope now to get her to change her mind is to support Sanders big time, and show the power of his message in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders might be the Gene McCarthy to her Bobby Kennedy, opening the space for her to come in. He might also simply take her place as their champion. But that requires going full out for Sanders and against Hillary and other potential contenders. Are they independent enough to do that?</p><p>Similarly, the money-in-politics groups have shown that their issue is an increasingly potent one. Now they have a candidate who can credibly put the issue at the center of his campaign. Are they independent enough to recognize that, magnify his message, and rally to his side?</p><p>Similarly, labor leaders understand that they cannot survive with business as usual. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argues that to get labor’s support, candidates must step up:</p><blockquote><p>“We want action. We want big ideas, and we want structural change. We want Raising Wages. That also means no candidate can be all things to all people and still meet this standard. Standing with working people once in a while won’t work. Candidates can’t hedge bets any longer….</p></blockquote><p>Sanders meets that standard and puts labor’s challenge to the test.</p><p><strong>The Sanders Effect</strong></p><p>How Sanders will fare remains to be seen. The obstacles are forbidding. Clinton is a powerful and popular opponent. Sanders needs enough money to create the presence that will enable voters to see him as a serious choice. He has to rally activists to supply the energy that can supplant expensive paid field operations. Coming from Vermont, he has limited connections with the minority voters who are critical to the Democratic coalition. He has to find a way not only to get his message heard, but also how to get around the established gatekeepers in the black and Latino communities who will be lined up with Clinton. He has to exceed expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire, and see if he captures the public’s attention.</p><p>Many pundits and activists argue he’ll be good for Clinton. Like a batting practice pitcher, he’ll help her hone her stroke for the general election, and move her to the left. This is insulting to both Sanders and Clinton. She’s an experienced and sophisticated leader and candidate. She’s been moving to the left in part because the problems of the country leave little choice, and in part because that is where the voters are. She’s been in presidential politics for over a quarter century. She doesn’t need a practice run.</p><p>And win or lose, Sanders’ campaign will have far greater importance than serving as Clinton’s trainer. His message will reach millions, helping to reinforce the central realization that the rules have been rigged against them. He will powerfully attack Republicans for both their fawning billionaires competition and their reactionary economics. He’ll attract new energy, young organizers and activists who will gain experience and grow. New talented leaders will emerge through the campaign, using it to widen their own base and establish their own credentials. Out of the Jesse Jackson campaign in 1988, for example, came Paul Wellstone, who ran his operation in Minnesota and David Dinkins who put together the winning coalition in New York City, and many more.</p><p>Running for president against the Clinton operation, with little money and limited name recognition, risks embarrassment and reputation. Sanders has decided that the stakes are high enough and it is time to take that risk. Whether you support him or not, don’t discount him. He’s the real deal and this is a big deal.</p><p> </p> Mon, 04 May 2015 07:00:00 -0700 Robert Borosage, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 1035818 at http://towww.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics bernie sanders election 2016 democrats populism 5 Things Terribly Wrong With the Ryan-Murray Budget Deal http://towww.alternet.org/5-things-terribly-wrong-ryan-murray-budget-deal <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Every assumption of the deal is wrong-headed. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-12-11_at_2.34.31_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Beltway breathed a huge sigh of relief with the announcement of the budget deal cobbled together by Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan.  It is the deal, not the substance, that is being applauded.   If it overcomes opposition from a hostile right and largely resigned liberals, it could provide a two-year truce from the budget wars, hostage taking, and threatened government shutdowns.  But business as usual is hardly a virtue when that business isn’t addressing what needs to be done.</p><p>And that is the reality of this misdeal.  It keeps government open (at least until March when the borrowing authority is exhausted and another debt ceiling crisis looms), but it punts on any of the pressing challenges this country faces, a failure that only adds to the hole we are in.</p><p>Every assumption of the deal is wrong-headed.</p><p>1.  It assumes that deficits are still America’s fundamental problem.  Wrong.  Our fundamental problem is that Americans are struggling to find decent work.  We are halfway into a lost decade marked by mass unemployment, stagnant wages, rising inequality, growing insecurity and a sinking middle class.  As President Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/04/remarks-president-economic-mobility">stated </a>in his address on inequality: “A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.”</p><p>This deal says that for two years, the federal government will do nothing to address that opportunity deficit.</p><p>2.  The deal refuses to repeal the mindless sequester cuts that were designed to be abhorrent.  Instead it “pays for” alleviating less than half of them over the next two years.  And it insists that the relief be allocated equally between a bloated Pentagon, the largest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and threadbare vital domestic programs like infant nutrition, support for schools, clean energy R&amp;D.</p><p>3.  The deal accepts the bizarre Republican position that no billionaire’s tax rate can be raised, no multinational’s tax dodge shut down to provide resources for investments vital to our future.  So investments that even the Chamber of Commerce would agree are essential to an efficient economy – like rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure  — will not be made.</p><p>4.  The deal accepts the risible Republican position that the rich have too little money and workers too much.  So new federal workers will pay more for their pensions and military retirees will get a cut in their pensions.  But none of the global corporations that ship jobs and report profits abroad to evade taxes will pay a penny more.</p><p>5.  The deal accepts the Republican refusal to include renewal of unemployment benefits, insuring that over a million unemployed workers and their families will be cut off at the end of the year.  And it excludes any pledge to sustain funding for food stamps, even as the right is pushing for harsh cuts in the farm bill.  This is a deal that shelters the wealthy and exposes the vulnerable.</p><p>Consider what a sensible budget might look like.  It would</p><p>-- Repeal the sequester cuts as mindless and harmful</p><p>-- Protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and programs for the most vulnerable still struggling in the midst of a lousy economy.  Lay out plans to expand Social Security to provide the security seniors need to retire in dignity.</p><p>-- Detail the investments we need to make for our future – in education from pre-k to affordable college, in modernizing our infrastructure, in clean energy R&amp;D, in job training to increase the skills of workers, in service programs to put the young to work – and determine how to pay for them by insuring that the rich and multinationals pay their fair share of taxes, and rolling back subsidies for entrenched interests from Big Oil to Big Pharma.</p><p>-- Take the next steps to fix the long-term source of rising deficits – our broken health care system.  There the Obama reforms are already slowing the rate of cost increases.  A sensible next step would be to end the drug company rip-off, and empower the government to negotiate bulk discounts in drug prices, and crack down on patent abuses.</p><p>Due to popular organizing and massive public opinion, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were protected in the current deal, but nothing else was accomplished.</p><p>And everyone should be clear why this is so. Despite the fact that President Obama won re-election, and Democrats received more votes than Republicans in House races, Republicans scorned the mandate of voters.  Despite the fact that Republicans could not afford another shutdown of government, Democrats somehow negotiated from weakness, not strength.</p><p>We are not moving on the agenda America needs because Republicans are standing in the way.</p><p>Republicans opposed repeal of the sequester.  They won that</p><p>Republicans oppose any tax increases.  They won that</p><p>Republicans oppose expanding investments vital to our future.  They won that</p><p>Republicans oppose focusing on our problems here at home, while getting Pentagon spending under control.  They won that</p><p>Republicans want deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Democrats stopped that.</p><p>One thing is clear.  We will never get to the priorities we need so long as Republicans have the power to stand in the way.</p><p> </p> Wed, 11 Dec 2013 11:25:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, Blog for Our Future 935459 at http://towww.alternet.org budget Republicans Nix Food Stamps Because Starving People is Their Brand http://towww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-food-stamps <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They just passed a farm bill that included giant subsidies to agribusiness while eliminating food stamps and nutrition programs.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/republican_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Conservative Republicans have turned the farm bill -- normally a bipartisan grotesquerie of agribusiness subsidies and excess -- from legislation to identity politics. They wanted to make a statement, even though they knew it couldn't survive the Senate or the White House veto. They passed it anyway -- without one Democratic vote -- to proclaim this is who we are.</p><p>Who are they? They just passed a farm bill that included about $195 billion in subsidies to "farmers" (read: agribusiness) over 10 years, while eliminating food stamps and nutrition programs from the bill as "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-oh-snap-the-gop-misfires-on-food-stamps/2013/07/11/0d1a8a68-ea7b-11e2-a301-ea5a8116d211_story.html?hpid=z4" target="_hplink">extraneous."</a></p><p>Forty-seven million Americans <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/food-stamps/?hpid=z3" target="_hplink">receive</a>food stamps. Nearly half are children under 18; nearly 10 percent are impoverished seniors. Food stamps are often the difference between hunger and survival. Republicans famously seem intent on being a party of white sanctuary, writing off all people of color, yet more whites receive food stamps (over one-third of all recipients) than blacks or Hispanics.</p><p>This is how they choose to be identified. They will bring the government to a halt to defend against any tax hikes on millionaires, or to fend off the closing of corporate tax shelters. They will vote in lockstep to take the sequester cuts entirely out of domestic programs -- education, clean water, pre-school -- in order to protect a Pentagon budget that remains the biggest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.</p><p>And they will lavish subsidies on agribusiness while throwing children and seniors off the bus. Having stripped food stamps out of the farm bill entirely, they did not even have the common decency to pass any kind of food stamp provision separately. They haven't gotten around to getting a "consensus" on that.</p><p>This wasn't intended as legislation. It was intended as a declaration of identity. This is who they are. Think about that.</p> Fri, 12 Jul 2013 09:48:00 -0700 Robert Borosage, Blog for Our Future 868117 at http://towww.alternet.org News & Politics Economy News & Politics agribusiness Agricultural economics agriculture Democratic vote economics Federal assistance in the United States pentagon politics Public economics senate social issues Subsidy Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program USD United States Department of Agriculture United States farm bill white house agribusiness subsidies federal government food stamp provision food stamps stripped food stamps Ryan v. the Congressional Progressive Caucus http://towww.alternet.org/economy/ryan-v-congressional-progressive-caucus <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This week, two budgets lay out two visions and two futures for America.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1332197730079-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Budgets are pure EGO -- eyes glaze over. But this week revealed two budgets -- Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican "Path to Prosperity" 2014 budget and the Congressional Progressive Caucus "Back to Work Budget" -- that in stark terms lay out two visions and two futures for America. Next week the Congress will vote on each one of them. Neither will become law, but Ryan's budget is expected to pass with the support of virtually the entire Republican majority. The CPC budget will struggle to win a majority of the Democratic caucus. For those who take a look, the contrast will open your eyes.</p><p>Both parties agree that we suffer from mass unemployment, declining wages, and growing inequality. Both agree that rising future deficits should be addressed. But they offer completely different responses to these realities.</p><p><strong>Ryan's Rerun</strong></p><p>Ryan's budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.</p><p>The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in "fiscal cliff" taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in "Medicare cuts" that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.</p><p>Ryan's basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/tax-cuts-dont-lead-to-economic-growth-a-new-65-year-study-finds/262438/" target="_hplink">studies</a> showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.</p><p>The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating "tax expenditures" -- only <em>he reveals none of those that he would close.</em> <a href="http://ctj.org/ctjreports/2013/03/paul_ryans_latest_budget_plan_would_give_millionaires_a_tax_cut_of_200000_or_more.php#.UUHZIVs4UyA" target="_hplink">Studies</a> show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more -- and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn't want to reveal what's behind the curtain.</p><p>Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=3920" target="_hplink">estimates</a> of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.</p><p>Ryan would cancel the "sequestration cuts" for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services -- education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. -- would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.</p><p>His budget calls for savaging spending in other mandatory programs -- targeting Pell Grants, food stamps, school lunches, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and supplementary support for the aged and the disabled poor. The bulk of his cuts will come from the most vulnerable among us.</p><p>The combination of tax cuts that add little to growth and deep spending cuts will be a jobs killer, with the Economic Policy Institute <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/paul-ryan-budget-jobs_n_2862283.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_hplink">estimating</a> the loss of about 2 million jobs in the first year of the Ryan plan. This would likely drive the economy back into a recession,</p><p>Republicans have voted for this budget plan in the past, and are expected to pass it again next week. It reflects who they are and what they believe in. Republicans are truly the champions of the 1 percent. They truly do believe that the rich bear too great a burden and the "47 percent" too little.</p><p><strong>The CPC Back to Work Budget</strong></p><p>Unlike Ryan's budget, the CPC Back to Work Budget did not receive a flood of mainstream media coverage. This is regrettable because it demonstrates that there is a dramatic alternative direction for America -- a program designed to rebuild the middle class and strengthen our ability to compete in the next century, even as we get deficits under control. And in stark contrast to the Ryan budget, the CPC budget is candid -- it lays out what it would tax and what it would cut, where it would invest and where it would save.</p><p>The CPC starts with the assumption that mass unemployment is a crisis that is not going away. So it begins with a program to put people back to work, the necessary first step in getting our books back in order.</p><p>Its budget invests in a bold plan to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure, fund school modernization, provide aid to states to rehire teachers and cops, and target jobs corps for the most distressed communities. It would generate nearly 7 million jobs in the first year alone. They would increase deficits in the short term, but pay for the program over the decade.</p><p>The CPC would protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and strengthen Obamacare. It would intensify the effort to bring health care costs under control by challenging special interests, not by cutting benefits. So it advocates adopting a public option to compete with private insurance companies, negotiating bulk discounts on prescription drugs, and cracking down on waste and fraud in our health care system.</p><p>CPC would also exact savings by taking on entrenched interests. It reduces the bloated Pentagon budget, challenging the military-industrial complex. It revokes subsides for oil and gas and coal companies, taking on Big Oil and King Coal. It calls for ending subsidies for corporations shipping jobs abroad, and for closing down corporate tax havens, taking on the multinational lobby.</p><p>The CPC pays for its investment agenda with broad progressive tax reform. It would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for families earning over $250,000, which was the centerpiece of the last campaign. It would add higher brackets for millionaires and billionaires. It would tax investor's earnings at same rates as income for workers.</p><p>It then proposes taxes that will help rebalance the economy. It calls for a financial transaction tax that would help reduce excessive Wall Street speculation. It would impose a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee on big banks that still are too big to fail. The CPC budget also advocates a carbon tax, with a rebate to lower income households, to aid the transition to sustainable clean energy.</p><p>The result is a budget that invests billions to rebuild the country and put people back to work, while bringing our deficit under control by continuing to reform health care, curbing special interest subsidies and asking the wealthy and the global corporations and banks to pay their fair share. This isn't radical; it isn't even Social Democracy. At the end of the decade, outlays are 23.5 percent of GDP; the deficit is down to 1.2 percent (actually lower than it needs to be to be sustained idefinitely) and the debt is down to 68.7 percent and falling.</p><p>Virtually every element of this budget -- protection of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, investment in areas vital to our future, rollback of special interest subsidies and tax breaks, a more progressive tax code, saving money on the military by ending the wars -- reflects the opinion of the <a href="http://www.ourfuture.org/report/2012125117/american-majority-project-polling" target="_hplink">majority</a> of Americans. Provided a choice between Ryan's path and that of the CPC, there is little doubt where Americans would line up.</p><p>The question, of course, is where Congress lines up. Each of these budgets will come up for a vote of the full House next week. The Campaign for America's Future and a range of other groups are mobilizing a campaign asking citizens to contact their legislators and tell them to vote against Ryan's jobs killing and for the CPC Back to Work Budget. To join us, go <a href="http://signon.org/sign/support-the-back-to-work?source=c.url&amp;r_by=128318" target="_hplink">here</a>. There will not be a clearer measure of where your legislator stands, and what he or she is prepared to fight for. Republicans will line up like lemmings behind Ryan. It's time for Democrats to show where they stand and vote for the CPC Back to Work Budget.</p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 10:11:00 -0700 Robert Borosage, Huffington Post 809169 at http://towww.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics The Right Wing 111th United States Congress america bush tax cuts business coal congress Congressional Budget Office economic policy institute government head Healthcare reform in the United States History of the United States medicare Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act paul ryan pentagon Person Career politics Presidency of Barack Obama Quotation social democracy social issues start Taxation in the United States The Path to Prosperity USD United States House of Representatives urban league cuts decrepit infrastructure energy food stamps food insurance legislator mainstream media coverage oil and gas Outrage: Some Banks Are Too Big to Prosecute http://towww.alternet.org/economy/outrage-some-banks-are-too-big-prosecute <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Attorney General Eric Holder admits that the biggest banks are not just too big too fail, but above the law.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/big_bank_1.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">For years, the Obama Administration has been pummeled for failing to bring criminal charges against a single major Wall Street bank or a single leading Wall Street banker for what the FBI termed an “epidemic of fraud” that blew up the entire economy.  Investigations revealed the banks committed routine fraud in peddling mortgage securities they knew were garbage, trampled basic property laws, laundered money from Iran, Libya and Mexican drug lords, conspired to game the basic measure of interest rates and more.  Yet, time after time, the Justice Department and regulatory agencies settled for sweetheart deals, with no admission of guilt, no banker held accountable, and fines that were the equivalent in earnings of a speeding ticket to the average family.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Yesterday Attorney General Holder stated openly what was already apparent.  The Justice Department believes that Too Big to Fail Banks are Too Big to Jail.  Criminal indictments against banks or leading bankers might endanger the economy and thus were too big a risk.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Here’s what Holder <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130306/BLOGS02/130309912" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank">said</a></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” he said. “And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Holder was responding to questions by Republican Senator Charles Grassley about why the Justice Department brought no criminal charges against the large British bank HSBC after it admitted laundering money for parties in Iran, Libya and Mexican drug lords.  The Attorney General acknowledged that the sheer size of the big banks “has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.  That is something you (members of Congress) all need to consider.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; "><strong>Foam the Runway</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Allowing the big banks to operate above the law is at one with the philosophy that guided both the Bush and the Obama administrations during the financial collapse.  Tim Geithner, former head of the New York Federal Reserve bank under Bush and Treasury Secretary under Obama, would<a href="http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/bernankes-credibility-on-too-big-to-fail/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"> preach</a> that it was necessary to “foam the runway” to protect the banks from total crackup.  That “foam” included literally trillions in the backdoor bailout of banks organized by the Federal Reserve, abandoning the underwater homeowners who were victimized by Wall Street’s wilding, while neutering any regulatory or criminal accountability.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; "><strong> Above the Law</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Holder’s outrageous admission means that bankers operate – and know they operate – above the law.  That renders all the argument about regulations and legal limits risible.  Bankers spend tens of millions lobbying to weaken regulations and starve regulators of authority and resources.  But when the action gets hot, the bubble starts to build, the music keeps playing, they can trample the laws, mislead the regulators and defraud their customers, bolstered by the confidence that the laws will not apply to them.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Holder’s argument, however, is indefensible.  There is no reason a bank with billions of assets could not survive the indictment of its CEO or CFO.  If the Fed and Treasury can “foam the runway” to protect otherwise insolvent banks from collapse, they surely could insure that a bank survives while its executives are held personally responsible for their crimes.  Putting a few bankers in jail and holding them personally accountable for their frauds would do much to bring sobriety back to Wall Street.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">The Campaign for a Fair Settlement, of which the Campaign for America’s Future is a partner, has called on the president to repudiate Holder’s statement, and to direct the Justice Department to prosecute those who violated the law.  But Holder’s position forces a bigger issue.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; "><strong>Too Big to Be</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">So big banks operate above the law.  And as the conservative head of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank Richard Fischer and many others have<a href="http://www.dallasfed.org/news/speeches/fisher/2013/fs130116.cfm" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"> argued</a>, they are not disciplined by the market.  They know their losses are covered, while they pocket their winnings.  They have multi-million dollar personal incentives to leverage up, use other people’s money to make big bets on high risk operations that offer big rewards.  Their excesses blew up the economy, but they got bailed out and emerged bigger and more concentrated than ever.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">And, of course, since investors know the big banks can’t fail, the big banks can attract money at much lower rates than smaller banks, a subsidy worth about $83 billion a year according to <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-27/about-that-83-billion-bank-subsidy-we-still-mean-it-.html" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank">recent calculations</a> by Bloomberg News.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Clearly, institutions that are above the law and beyond the discipline of the market cannot exist in their current form.  The Congress has only two choices.  The big banks can be nationalized and treated as public utilities.  The public would pocket their profits and cover their losses.  Or the big banks can be broken up, and be accountable to both the law and the market.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Senators Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley have spearheaded the drive to break up the big banks.  This takes remarkable courage.  Brown had to overcome torrents of big money poured into the effort to defeat him when he ran for re-election last year.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Now they are gaining unlikely allies.  George Will has <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-08/opinions/36993798_1_community-banks-largest-banks-glass-steagall-act" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank">called on</a> conservatives to follow Brown to the barricades.  Republican Senator David Vitter has joined in calling for study of the subsidy big banks enjoy.  Retired bankers like John Reed, former president of Citibank have joined with Dallas Fed President Fischer and others to call for breaking up the banks.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">Can the big banks be held accountable?  Wall Street is a leading source of funds for both parties.  The revolving door between Wall Street and Washington spins no matter what administration is in power.  The Obama administration has opposed every effort to break up the big banks.  Republicans in Congress have shamelessly offered themselves as Wall Street’s protectors in exchange for campaign money.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; ">But Holder’s admission makes action – however improbable – imperative.  A nation of laws and markets cannot abide huge private financial institutions that are accountable to neither.</p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 05:27:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, Blog for Our Future 805608 at http://towww.alternet.org Economy Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Economy News & Politics banks eric holder too big to fail corporate crime obama administration 4 Ways the Sequester Worsens the Inequality that Is Killing the Economy http://towww.alternet.org/economy/4-ways-sequester-worsens-inequality-killing-economy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Extreme inequality corrodes our democracy and corrupts our politics. Today&#039;s across-the-board spending cuts serve the rich at the expense of everybody else.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_83827753.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><blockquote><p><em>Someone asked the Master about the principles of … traveling into the vast inane.</em></p><p>– From the Bao Pu Zi, AD 320,<br />Joseph Needham, <em>Science and Civilization in China</em></p></blockquote><p>Welcome to the vast inane. Today the “sequester” -- mindless, across-the-board cuts of military and domestic spending designed to be abhorrent -- will go into effect. Republicans claimed a “big victory” as House Speaker John Boehner shut down any negotiations and sent the House home.  The cuts will cost jobs and add to the headwinds facing the economy. The sequester will be followed by operatic melodrama over keeping the government open after the end of March and keeping the government from defaulting on its debt beginning in the middle of May.</p><p>The deficit is falling faster than any time since the demobilization after World War II, Americans are afflicted with mass unemployment and falling wages, but Washington will be traveling into the vast inane for the foreseeable future.</p><p>The media is focused on the possible effects of the cuts. But what is actually being sequestered is any sensible debate about the fundamental changes needed to revive the middle class and make this economy work for working families once more. The old economy -- and the failed economic ideas that drove it – benefited the few, while undermining the broad middle class, even before the collapse.</p><p>Sadly, that old economy is back. Consider the unsustainable imbalances that contributed directly to the Great Recession:</p><p><strong>1. Global Trade Imbalances.</strong> The U.S. trade deficit is still over $1 billion a day. The trade deficits with China remain the largest bilateral imbalances in history.   This costs the U.S. good jobs and undermines wage growth.  The Chinese suppress consumption in their own country to sustain their export-led growth.  This imbalance is destabilizing and unsustainable, but is not up for discussion.  Instead, the administration and the Republican leadership push traditional corporate trade accords that will only add to the problem.</p><p><strong>2. Gilded-Age Inequality.</strong>  In the two years coming out of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent <a href="http://www.decisionsonevidence.com/2013/02/saez-the-top-1-captured-121-of-the-income-gains-in-the-first-two-years-of-the-recovery/">captured an obscene 121 percent of the income growth</a>, while the remaining 99 percent lost ground. The rich pocketed all the new income growth and then some.  Corporate profits are setting new records as a percentage of the economy; wages are setting new lows. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/economist-joseph-stiglitz-income-inequality-us">has argued,</a> extreme inequality not only crushes the middle class, it saps the demand needed for a prosperous economy.</p><p>It also corrodes our democracy and corrupts our politics. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage, but deficit jockeying is consuming the limited congressional calendar, curtailing any discussion of even this modest reform. Also needed are measures to empower workers to organize and bargain collectively for a fair share of the profits and productivity they help to produce. Corporate tax reform should offer lower rates to those companies that create jobs at home rather than abroad and that limit the divergence between the median wages of workers and the compensation of the top executives.  Instead, Republicans are waging war against unions and basic worker rights, and CEOs continue to receive million-dollar short-term incentives to plunder their own companies.</p><p><strong>3. Starved Public Investment.</strong> All the posturing about cutting government -- with the president bragging about bringing discretionary spending down to levels of the economy not seen since Eisenhower and Republicans vowing to cut it to pre-industrial levels -- ignores the painful reality that America is starving public investments vital to its future.</p><p>Our dangerous and decrepit infrastructure costs lives while making our economy far less competitive.  If we are to be a high-wage country, we need to rebuild, modernizing and hardening our infrastructure to better withstand the extreme weather that is surely our fate.</p><p>We aren’t even doing the basics in education -- from universal preschool to affordable college and advanced training. Instead we’ve decided to use testing and piecemeal privatization to substitute for investment. It hasn’t and won’t work.</p><p>We should be doing more, not less, public investment in research and development, particularly in clean energy and the green industrial revolution that is already sweeping the world. Some of this could be achieved from changing priorities -- ending obscene subsidies to Big Oil and Big Pharma, reducing our bloated Pentagon budgets -- but any progress gets sabotaged by the fixation on cutting, not investing wisely.</p><p><strong>4. Bloated Finance.</strong> Wall Street’s financial wilding inflated the housing bubble and then blew up the economy, doubling our national debt in the process.  Deemed too big to fail, the big banks were bailed out at the cost of trillions. Financial reform tried to strengthen accountability, but the big banks have emerged from the crisis bigger and more concentrated than ever.  The financial subsidy they pocket from the reality that they won’t be allowed to fail makes it difficult for small banks to compete.  The guarantee also encourages gambling with other people’s money, for they pocket the winnings confident that we will cover their losses.  Progressive Democrats in the Senate -- Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and others -- as well as conservative Republican bankers and pundits have called for breaking up the big banks.  But this barely registers in the public debate.</p><p>President Obama had it right when he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/obama-makes-case-for-government-in-state-of-union-address.html?_r=0">said in his State of the Union address</a>: “We just can’t cut our way to prosperity.” We need to move beyond the “vast inane” in Washington if we are to begin even to consider what must be done to revive the American middle class.</p><p>Two years ago, Occupy Wall Street showed what it took to “change the conversation,” as the pundits described it. It will take a much more powerful and disruptive movement to actually begin to drive the reforms we need.</p> Fri, 01 Mar 2013 08:09:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 802649 at http://towww.alternet.org Economy Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Economy Labor News & Politics Occupy Wall Street inequality sequester austerity spending cuts 4 Ways the Austerity Obsession in Washington Could Cost You Your Job http://towww.alternet.org/economy/4-ways-austerity-obsession-washington-could-cost-you-your-job <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes on working people cost jobs. With automatic across-the-board spending cuts and a government shutdown looming, Congress threatens the economy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_104307521.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The U.S. economy shrank unexpectedly in the last three months of 2012, ending over 30 months of economic growth. Exports lagged, in part because of declining markets in Europe, now suffering a continued recession inflicted by misguided austerity policies. But the greatest cause of decline was unexpectedly large cuts in government spending, particularly in the military. Yes, Virginia, cutting government spending in a weak economy costs jobs. A three-month downturn is a caution, not a catastrophe. But Washington seems too wrapped in its deficit delusions to pay attention to the flashing yellow lights. Here's a cautionary guide.</p><p><strong>1. Austerity costs jobs</strong></p><p>This economy is still sputtering. Over 20 million people are in need of full-time work. While corporate profits are at record heights as a percentage of the economy, wages are at record lows and falling. An alarmed Federal Reserve has kept interest rates close to zero. Housing prices have started to come back. But companies are cautious, looking for customers before they do much expansion.</p><p>In these circumstances, cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes on working people cost jobs. Government workers and contractors get laid off. Small businesses feel the pinch as the afflicted tighten their belts. Interest rates can't go lower; business doesn't get any more confident. And as the last three months showed, it doesn't take much to push a slow growth economy into decline.</p><p><strong>2. More austerity is already being inflicted</strong></p><p>Last quarter's decline took place before the tax hikes agreed to in December's "fiscal cliff" deal. The increase of tax rates on the top 1 percent will have little effect on demand, since someone making over $400,000 can afford the hit. But the end of the payroll tax holiday cost the typical family 2 percent of their income, with the change visible in their January paychecks. For a family earning $50,000, that represents a $1,000 loss of income -- and will be felt.</p><p><strong>3. Even more austerity soon come</strong></p><p>House Republicans devoted their retreat to reordering the serial fiscal hostage taking they have planned for the next five months. The proper etiquette of hostage taking, they determined, begins with the threat of deep automatic cuts of military and domestic spending -- the sequester -- on March 1, then moves to the threat to shut down the government by the end of March, and finally to the threat to default on the national debts and shudder the global financial system in mid May. This reordering, they believe, gives them greater leverage to extort deep and unpopular cuts in spending, particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The mainstream media hailed this as a sign of their new maturity.</p><p>Republican leaders have already <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/deep-spending-cuts-are-likely-lawmakers-say-with-no-deal-on-sequester-in-sight/2013/01/29/286d4f94-6a1f-11e2-ada3-d86a4806d5ee_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_hplink">begun threatening</a> to let the full sequester -- $85 billion in across the board spending cuts from the military and domestic spending -- take place on March 1. This represents over 7 percent of annual spending on the military and 5 percent on domestic governance. To achieve those cuts with half of the fiscal year already behind us will require massive lay-offs -- furloughs without pay -- of workers, 15 to 20 percent of food and drug inspectors, air traffic controllers, park rangers, Social Security administrators and more.</p><p>Across the board cuts means that the vital gets slashed at the same rate at the wasteful. Cuts in housing vouchers will leave millions homeless. But overseas tax dodges will remain in place. In a weak economy, already in decline in the last three months, this is worse than reckless; it is lunacy.</p><p>Democrats have succumbed to the austerity hysteria as well, if in less virulent form. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports cutbacks, but wants the deep sequester cuts replaced "in short increments" with packages of spending cuts and revenues like repealing oil and gas subsidies. The president wants a "balanced" plan that combines spending cuts and revenue from loophole closings, shutting down overseas tax havens and the like. This allows a more rational policy of cutting waste and loopholes rather than essential services and military preparedness. But it still will cost jobs. More austerity is on the way.</p><p><strong>4. The deficit hawks are delusional</strong></p><p>Serial hostage taking is a truly inane way to run a government. What is striking, however, are the purblind delusions about deficits. We're forced to these measures, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan says, because deficits are out of control and will soon, eventually, sometime lead to America becoming Greece, with the dollar losing all value. It is a testament to the depths of his delusion that Ryan has been saying this for years, despite all<a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/the-financial-markets-agree-with-president-obama-and-disagree-with-paul-ryan" target="_hplink"> evidence</a> to the contrary.</p><p>The reality is the reverse. Ryan prides himself on his Ayn Rand devotion to free markets, but he's ignoring what the markets are saying. Out of control inflation hasn't broken out. Investors are not panicked. They are still willing to park their money in U.S. bonds for essentially no real return. Investors are saying that America isn't Greece; it's the rock of Gibraltar.</p><p>One reason is that the deficit isn't out of control. As the Congressional Budget Office<a href="http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43539" target="_hplink"> reports</a>, the annual deficit is down by 25 percent since 2009.</p><p>It is coming down faster than any time since the demobilization at the end of World War II. Our median term debt is essentially stabilized as a percent of GDP. Our long-term debt projections are completely a question of fixing our broken health care system.</p><p>The pace of the decline of annual deficits already exceeds prudent speed limits, contributing to faltering and inadequate jobs growth, leaving Americans struggling with mass unemployment, increased insecurity and declining wages. The major threat to declining deficits is an economy that stalls and goes back into recession. And that is exactly the warning that is flashing from the last quarter's decline.</p><p><strong>Calm the austerity hysteria</strong></p><p>The unexpected bad news from last quarter is a stark warning. Americans cannot afford the deficit delusions afflicting Washington. Republicans can only do damage if they continue to hold the economy hostage to force cuts in vital security programs like Social Security and Medicare. Democrats should reassess their austerity agenda.</p><p>We need a return to sensible governance. Repeal the sequester -- sudden and deep across the board cuts are idiotic. Promise to pay the debts already incurred and stop threatening a default that would shake global finances. Fund the government while working on a budget reflecting new priorities.</p><p>Commit to growing our way out of the hole we are in. Invest in areas vital to our economy and to our people. Pay for those commitments in ways that makes sense. Put people back to work and watch the deficits and debt burden come down.</p><p>That means launching a major five-year initiative to Rebuild America -- modernizing our decrepit infrastructure to make it a competitive advantage while creating jobs. Make the investments needed to provide every child with a world-class education -- from universal pre-school to skilled teachers to affordable college. Invest in research and development and sustain America as the global hotbed of innovation.</p><p>Pay for these and other vital priorities by ending the war in Afghanistan and reducing our empire of bases. Crack down on overseas tax dodges. Raise taxes on millionaires and tax the income of investors at the same rate as that of workers. End the obscene subsidies to big oil, big Pharma and big Agra.</p><p>This isn't rocket science. It is common sense. Yet, at this point, it can't be heard in the bedlam of a Washington afflicted with deficit delusions and austerity hysteria.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.</p> </div></div></div> Thu, 31 Jan 2013 06:29:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 786888 at http://towww.alternet.org Economy Economy Labor News & Politics deficit barack obama careers republican party Congress Economy economic growth austerity Budget Debate Congress-Sequester Jobs Deficit Obama Congress Obama Debt Obama Sequestration Sequestration An Ugly Deal: 4 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff Deal Is Worse Than It Looks http://towww.alternet.org/ugly-deal-4-reasons-fiscal-cliff-deal-worse-it-looks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">No one should be fooled. This is an ugly deal, with foul implications for the coming months. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1353256989871-1-0_11.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div itemprop="articleBody"><p>Early this morning, the Senate passed the fiscal cliff deal by 89-8, a margin virtually guaranteeing that it will survive in the House.  The deal has some good parts.  It lets the Bush tax cuts expire on the wealthy, raises the estate tax marginally and increases taxes on capital gains and dividends a bit.  Unemployment benefits are extended for a year.  Tax boosts for the low paid workers – the child tax credit, expanded earned income credit, refundable tuition tax credits – are extended, if only for five years.  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not touched.</p><p>But no one should be fooled.  This is an ugly deal, with foul implications for the coming months.</p><p>1.  Setting Up the Next Extortion</p><p>The most ominous part of the deal is what was left out.  The deal makes no provision for lifting the debt ceiling.  It postpones the sequester (automatic cuts in domestic and military spending) for only two months.  It is a smaller deficit reduction package than that originally sought by the president.  It therefore sets up the right-wing House zealots to hold the economy hostage once more, while demanding deep cuts in public services (known as cuts in domestic spending), backed by a media frenzy about deficits.  And while Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid escaped unscathed in this deal, they will be the prime targets in the coming debate.</p><p>2.  Hiking Taxes for Working Americans; A Million Jobs Lost  </p><p>By allowing the payroll tax cut to expire, every working American gets a tax hike of 2% of their income (up to about $113,000 in income).  A worker making $50,000 a year will pay an extra $1,000 in taxes.  Payroll checks will be cut.  Belts will have to be tightened even more.  That will lower demand, producing job loss totaling up to an estimated million jobs.  (Taxes on the wealthy go up also, but those have only marginal effects on jobs).</p><p>3.  Compromising the Compromising President</p><p>President Obama sensibly told Republicans that he would not sign any bill or agree to any deal that extended the Bush tax cuts on those making over $250,000.   He had stumped on that across the country on this pledge and received a mandate from the voters.  Polls showed the majority of Americans were with him.  With all the Bush tax breaks due to expire, Republicans were faced with letting taxes go up on everyone just to defend tax breaks for the richest Americans.  The President began the negotiations saying this was not negotiable.  He could not have been in a stronger position.</p><p>But he chose to compromise.  The Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire on couples making over $450,000.  This costs about $150-200 billion in revenue over 10 years.  The president argues he got the important extension of unemployment insurance and the working poor tax credits in return.  But these could have been folded into a package after going over the cliff.  And the cost to the president is significant.  Once more Republicans have learned that obstruction works, that the president will always blink.</p><p>The next extortion – the debt ceiling, automatic sequester – in the next eight weeks makes this a big deal.  The President says sensibly that he will not negotiate over lifting the debt ceiling.  Period.  And now there is even less reason for the Republicans to believe him than before. This encourages extreme demands rather than discouraging them.  This was the time to draw the line.</p><p> 4.  Feeding the deficit distraction</p><p>The deal is already being denounced in the mainstream media as “too timid,” offering too little in deficit reduction.  It guarantees the next eight weeks will be fixated on the debate about what to cut and how much to cut headed into the debt ceiling.</p><p>But this entire debate is wrong-headed.  You can’t fix the debt without fixing the economy.  And deficit reduction won’t fix the economy.  The recovery is too slow and too skewed to put people back to work.  Deficit reduction can only slow it further.</p><p>We need a big and bold debate about fundamental reforms needed to make this economy work for working people.  That includes making big investments vital to our future at a time when we can borrow for virtually nothing – rebuilding and modernizing our decrepit infrastructure, funding R&amp;D, doing at least the basics in education.  We need to balance our trade, and revive manufacturing, beginning with capturing a leading role in the global move to clean energy.</p><p>We need to address inequality frontally.  That requires much more than small marginal increases in taxes for millionaires.  It includes raising the minimum wage, empowering workers to organize and bargain for a fair share of the profits they help to generate, limiting perverse CEO compensation schemes.  It includes a financial transaction tax that might curb Wall Street gambling.</p><p>We need to continue health care reform, taking on the entrenched lobbies — the drug and insurance companies, the private hospital complexes — that drive up our medical costs.  If we paid per capita what other industrial countries pay for health care, we’d project surpluses as far as the eye can see.  We have to fix our broken health care system.</p><p>But Washington is talking about none of this.  Instead the Congress and the President are going to continue to debate how much more to cut from public services as if that would fix the economy.   That debate is likely to turn foul.  Republicans use the debt ceiling to demand structural cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They’ll likely be willing to repeal or dilute the sequester as an incentive to focus on the core security programs.  And they’ll be convinced that the president will fold once more.</p><p>Americans are struggling with mass unemployment, declining wages, increasing insecurity, Gilded Age inequality.  Trimming the deficit addresses none of these, and is likely to slow growth, making things worse.</p><p>We’ve had an ugly debate leading to a wretched agreement.  And that agreement only insures that the debate will get uglier.</p><div> </div></div><p> </p> Tue, 01 Jan 2013 10:40:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 769514 at http://towww.alternet.org News & Politics fiscal cliff senate economy medicare This Was the First Class Warfare Election of Our Gilded Age — and the Middle Class Won Big http://towww.alternet.org/economy/was-first-class-warfare-election-our-gilded-age-and-middle-class-won-big <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“God, guns and gays” didn’t work this time. The tricks used to divide working people and counter populist appeals backfired.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1352945772946-1-0_6.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In 2012, class warfare broke out in American politics. And from the president to key Senate races, the middle class won.</p><p>When the 2012 campaign began, the lousy economy made President Obama vulnerable. Republicans were favored to take back the Senate, given retirements in conservative states. Republican billionaires — the Koch brothers, Adelson and others — put up big money in the effort to have it all. Instead the president swept to victory, and Democrats gained seats in the Senate and the House.</p><p>Many factors contributed. Republicans learned once more the shortcomings of a stale, male, pale, Southern-based party in a nation of diversity. The GOP “legitimate rape” caucus helped give away two Senate seats. But too little attention has been paid to the new emerging reality. This was the first class warfare election of the new Gilded Age — and the middle class won big.</p><p>The Republican nominee Mitt Romney was inescapably the candidate of, by and for the 1 percent. He came from the world of finance and carried their agenda. He won the primaries, as Newt Gingrich complained, because he had more billionaires than anyone else. And the rich right were on a wilding, not only funding the Romney campaign, but also filling the coffers of superPACs and their offspring with hundreds of millions of dollars.</p><p>The class war, ironically, broke out in the Republican primaries. After Romney’s victory in New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry savaged Romney as a “vulture capitalist,” the “man from Bain” who profited from breaking up companies, shipping jobs abroad, and leaving a broken carcass behind. Romney’s negatives soared, reaching the highest on record.</p><p>And of course Romney reinforced the impression with revealing moments that exposed his yacht club cluelessness: “Corporations are people, my friends”; “I like firing people”; elevators for his cars; the $10,000 bet; $375,000 in speaking fees “isn’t a lot of money”; trying to appeal to Bubba because he knows a lot of NASCAR owners. He secreted his past income tax statements, while the one he revealed exposed a 14 percent tax rate on over $20 million in income, with, in the imitable phrase of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, his money “wintering in the Cayman Islands and summering in the Swiss Alps.”</p><p>Needless to say, Obama is neither by temperament nor predilection a populist class warrior. But faced with potential defeat, he turned to what works. The depths of the Obama presidency came in the summer of 2011 after the debt ceiling debacle, in which the president was roughed up by Tea Party zealots, and emerged looking weak and ineffective.</p><p>Obama came back by deciding to stop seeking back-room compromises with people intent on destroying him and to start making his case. In the fall, he put out the American Jobs Act and stumped across the country demanding that Republicans vote on it. His standing in the polls began to rise. Then Occupy Wall Street exploded, driving America’s extreme inequality and rigged system into the debate. In December, the president embraced the frame: He traveled to Osawatomie, Kansas, revisiting a campaign stop Teddy Roosevelt had made in the first Gilded Age. He indicted the “you’re on your own” economics of Republicans while arguing that “this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.”</p><p>In the run-up to the election, the president’s campaign employed two basic strategies. First, the president consolidated his own coalition. He defended contraception and pay equity while his campaign attacked the Republican “war on women.” He reached out to Hispanics by ending the threat of deportation for the Dream kids. He not only ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but also moved to embrace gay marriage. Widely described as socially liberal measures, these were also profoundly bread-and-butter concerns. Could women choose when to have children? Could Hispanic children be free to pursue the American dream? Could gay people gain the economic benefits of marriage?</p><p>At the same time, the president’s campaign made a risky but remarkably successful decision. Their opinion research showed that painting Romney as a flip-flopper had little traction, but the attacks on vulture capitalism hit home. They decided to spend big money early in such key states as Ohio on a negative ad barrage defining Romney as the heartless vulture capitalist from Bain. Both campaigns believe that Romney never recovered.</p><p>But rhetoric and attack ads alone would not have sufficed. In critical Ohio and the Midwest the president was buoyed by one of his most activist — and controversial — interventions: the rescue of the auto industry. Unpopular at the time, opposed by many of his advisors, the auto rescue was risky, painful and messy. But it became the president’s closing argument, for workers knew that he had their backs when they were in trouble.</p><p>And when Romney put Rep. Paul Ryan on his ticket, Medicare became central to the debate. Republicans labored to portray themselves as the defenders of Medicare, attacking the president for cutting “$716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a health care plan no one wanted.” But in the Democracy Corps/CAF election night poll, the president had a greater margin on who would do better on Medicare than on any other issue.</p><p>And of course, perhaps the most telling bit of class attack was self-inflicted: Romney’s infamous scorn for the “47 percent” of Americans who are “victims” who “don’t take responsibility for their lives.” Many Americans took the comments, uttered in a private setting before deep pocket donors, as revealing Romney’s true feelings. The Obama campaign took full advantage and opened up the largest lead of the campaign going into the first debate.</p><p>The president’s listlessness in that debate showed how vulnerable he was.Voters wanted change. They overwhelmingly think the country is on the wrong track. The president’s campaign — from its slogan “forward!” to its closing argument — perversely refused to offer anything than more of the same. As Bill Clinton pled at the Democratic Convention, his policies just need more time.</p><p>That left Romney an open field to be the candidate of change. But the Bain attacks countered his central argument, “I’m a businessman; I can fix this.” His agenda — a warmed over stew of conservative staples — let Obama argue that we can’t go back to what got us in this mess. The Republican convention, with its disingenuous “we built this” thematic, gave Romney no boost. In the end, voters gave Romney a small edge on who would do better on the economy, but they gave Obama a big edge on who better understands “people like me,” or who will do better restoring the middle class.</p><p>Most important, “God, guns and gays” didn’t work this time. The socially divisive tricks that political operatives Lee Atwater and Karl Rove perfected to divide working people and counter populist appeals backfired. The Republican effort to suppress the vote aroused insulted African American and young voters. The harsh anti-immigrant posturing of the Republican primaries drove Hispanics and Asians into Democratic arms.</p><p>Class warfare also benefited Democrats in Senate races. Elizabeth Warren, the scourge of Wall Street, used a powerful economic populist message to beat Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a popular incumbent and Tea Party poster boy, running a smart campaign that sought to label her an elitist “professor” who manipulated affirmative action to get ahead.</p><p>Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown faced over $30 million in outside negative ads, as Karl Rove made him his leading target. He won as a consistent champion of working people, for the auto rescue, against corporate trade accords, for taking on the big banks. Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay woman in the Congress, took down the favored former governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, largely by painting him as a lobbyist for special interests divorced from the concerns of working people. And Heidi Heitkamp produced the biggest upset of all in North Dakota, running an old-time plains populist campaign, for Medicare and Social Security, against corporate trade deals, while savaging her opponent for mistreating tenants in his housing projects.</p><p>America’s growing diversity and its increasingly socially liberal attitudes played a big role in this election. But looking back, we are likely to see this as the first of the class warfare elections of our new Gilded Age of extreme inequality. A besieged middle class is increasingly aware that the rules are rigged against them. They are increasingly skeptical of politicians and parties, and believe — not incorrectly — that Washington is largely bought and sold. But they are looking for champions.</p><p>For years, conservatives in both parties have warned against class warfare. Americans, we’re told, don’t like that divisiveness. They see it as the politics of envy. Inequality should, as Mitt Romney said, only be talked about in back rooms.</p><p>Nonsense.</p><p>More and more of our elections going forward will feature class warfare — only this time with the middle class fighting back. And candidates are going to have to be clear about which side they are on. Politicians in both parties are now hearing CEOs telling them that it is time for a deal that cuts Medicare and Social Security benefits in exchange for tax reform that lowers rates and closes loopholes. Before they take that advice, they might just want to look over their shoulders at what will be coming at them.</p> Thu, 15 Nov 2012 11:45:00 -0800 Robert Borosage, AlterNet 745491 at http://towww.alternet.org Economy Economy middle class romney