Economy Is Better Despite Republican Efforts to Make America Fail

It started the day Barrack Obama was elected President and before he actually took office.

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“…reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” [1]

That’s right, the Republicans plan to win in the future was to make President Obama fail, and to do this they had to make America fail as well. Thus began the expansion of the “do very little Congress” into the “do nothing Congress”. Republicans would need a major collapse during President Obama’s tenure to prove their ideology of smaller government, full-bore capitalism without regulations, tax cuts for the rich and big business, austerity measures, and ignoring science is the best direction for America.

Source:  Maddow Blog

Source: Maddow Blog

While shamelessly ignoring the real concerns and needs of the American people, the Republicans continued with their eagle-eye focus on their seditious political maneuvering and shenanigans, like shutting down the government and endless votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Anything, except passing legislation that might have a positive impact on the economy, jobs, income inequality, health care, education, immigration, middle class, repealing tax cuts for the 1% and big corporations, climate control and much, much more.

Fortunately, President Obama continued to fight for common-sense action that would positively impact the middle class and America’s economy. The following good news graphs attest to President Obama’s and the Democratic-led Senate’s positive actions.

Job Growth

Source: Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

While this is good news, despite six years of all-out-resistance by the Republicans, it’s not all that we need. Jobs are up and unemployment is down, but we need good-paying jobs.

US Domestic Growth by Steve Benen-Maddow Blog

Source: Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

The U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is starting to gain strength again. The GDP is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period – you can think of it as the size of the economy. Of course, one of the key components of GDP is productivity. Productivity is off the charts for businesses, but wages have remained stagnated.

Dow Graph

Source: Huffington Post

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is another indicator of economic health. The DOW recently closed above 18,000 for the FIRST TIME EVER – despite six years of doom-and-gloom proselytizing by the Republicans. It appears that confidence in our economy is definitely looking up — despite the Republican’s tanking of the economy by constantly playing brinksmanship on raising the debt ceiling.

Indeed, this is good economic news – for all. There is a slogan that says “A rising tide lifts all the boats”. In reference to the economy, this means that an improving economy will benefit all participants in the economy, not just some.

Yes, it has taken longer than President Obama expected. But what if the Republicans and the “do nothing Congress” had actually worked with the President over the course of the last six years. All this good news probably could have started many years ago.

However, despite all the efforts by Republicans to make President Obama, and America, fail; the economy is better.

And true to form, the Republicans take the credit…

mcconnell smallMitch McConnell on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 in a Senate floor speech:

After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” McConnell said. “The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”

“Old Selfish White People”

This is perfect. I agree wholeheartedly with his comments.

bluntandcranky

Gentle Reader, here is a magnificent bit of prose from musician/artist/awesome dude Bob Ray Starker. Read and become enlightened, as did my cranky self:

Okay, I started out today trying to be civil and constructive, but all anyone wants to do is throw mud at each other… so what the hell, let’s get into this…

I am a 50 year old white american straight man and here is what I know for sure: Black people have never messed with me. Gay people have never messed with me. Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, poor people, none of them have ever messed with me. 

Which group of people have repeatedly made my life harder than it had to be for no good reason at all? White people with more money than me. 

They have laid me off, closed companies I worked for, made a lot of money by underpaying me for the work…

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America….Are You Proud?

America. The greatest country in the world. 

WAKE UP!!!

We have gone from being the “Best of the Best” to the “Best of the Worse!”

America the best country at being lastWhat happened to us?

Who would ever think that we would be saying this about the United States of America?

So, stop what you’re doing and take a minute to focus on this picture.

Are you proud of this?

“WHAT THE HELL HAVE WE BECOME?”

For my commentary on this subject, please read my blog posts below.

What Happened to my America

What Happened to my America – Part II

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Not From Keystone — From Clean Energy

Once again the Republicans continue to do the bidding of their modern-day robber baron supporters by trying to push through approval of Canada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. In summary, they want to approve building a pipeline across the United States from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Then the Canadian oil will be sold on the world market and not within the United States. Their argument is that it will create jobs, jobs, jobs, but it appears it will only create approximately 35 full-time jobs (beyond the temporary contractual jobs created to build it).

It’s not really about jobs because the Republicans could care less about jobs or climate control. It’s all politics. If liberals are for something, they are against it.

Reposted from HuffingtonPost | by Bob Keefe | November 14, 2014

As Congress tries to go around President Obama to approve Canada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we continue to hear about jobs, jobs, jobs.

If members of Congress are so concerned about jobs, why in the world are they willing to bet our future on the Canadian pipeline while refusing to support crucial, overdue policies that will expand clean energy that’s homegrown right here in the USA?

Consider the numbers:

Keystone XL will create about 35 full-time jobs and 15 temporary jobs, according to the U.S. State Department’s analysis. Granted, about 1,950 construction jobs will be created, but those jobs — while important — disappear after the pipe goes in the ground.

Clean energy companies, meanwhile, announced more than 18,000 jobs in more than 20 states in just the last three months alone, according to the latest report from my organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). See the full report here.

In other words, nine times as many jobs were announced by energy efficiency, solar, wind, biofuel and other companies in the USA — in just the last three months alone.

As President Obama put it:

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices,” he said.

“If my Republican friends really want to focus on what’s good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy. I’m happy to have that conversation,” Obama said.

Here’s the craziest part: While Congress mires itself in the politics surrounding Keystone, it continues to ignore critical tax policies that could lead to exponentially more American-made jobs in renewables and energy efficiency.

The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which gives wind energy generators a miniscule 2.3 cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of energy they produce, expired at the end of last year, for instance. As a result, wind companies laid-off thousands of workers and the industry is stalled in uncertainty.

Tax credits for homeowners who install better windows and make other energy efficiency improvements are disappearing too. So are credits for energy-efficient new homes; for commercial buildings; for producers of biofuels; for manufacturers of energy- efficient appliances and for a laundry-list of other clean energy and energy efficiency provisions.

All of these are bundled up in legislation called the EXPIRE Act (Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act) that sits languishing in Congress with the clock ticking and the future of clean energy in America hanging in the balance.

Yes, these tax credits for clean energy come with a cost.

They also come with billions in savings through energy efficiency. They come with the potential of tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs. And they come with the economic and national security benefits from making clean, renewable energy right here at home.

Contrast that with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

As E2 wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by about 250 businesspeople and others across America, the Keystone pipeline would saddle our economy with more than an estimated $100 billion in costs to address carbon pollution problems — weather disasters, health complications, etc. — that come with increasing our dependence on dirty tar sands oil.

It would undermine the economic growth and the jobs that are being created by the still-nascent clean energy industry. And it would send the wrong market signals to investment markets about the future of America’s energy and economy.

Despite all this, members of Congress remains frenetically focused on those 35 full-time Keystone XL jobs.

Meanwhile, they continue to ignore the EXPIRE Act. They continue to leave those 18,000 new clean energy jobs announced in the third quarter of this year – and the tens of thousands of potential new clean energy jobs that we could create here in the USA – hanging in the balance.

That’s not good for economy. It’s not good for the environment. And it’s not good for America.

**Emphasis in the article above are mine.

The “Texas Miracle” Fraud: Turns out it involves taxing the poor to help the rich get richer

Rick Perry the Texas Miracle

Rick Perry (Credit: AP/Justin Hayworth)

Yes, Texas has seen a lot of growth — but should conservatives really be bragging about it?

Remember “The Texas Miracle”? It was the story of how Rick Perry was going to be president because his state, Texas, was doing so much better than all the other states. Texas was doing so well, we were told, because it was very conservative: Low taxes, light regulation, and few pesky unions. We were supposed to compare Texas to California, which, we were told, was an apocalyptic mess because it was run by liberals.

Then we sort of stopped hearing about The Texas Miracle for a while, because Rick Perry forgot how to count and it no longer seemed like he was personally responsible for managing the economy of his vast state, but conservatives still enjoy telling themselves that Texas proves that their economic policy preferences are objectively superior to those of liberals. Except, well, maybe Texas isn’t that miraculous.

At Washington Monthly, Phillip Longman argues that Texas’ growth is fueled primarily by the energy boom and by population growth. And that population growth is not happening because people from other states are fleeing to Texas to avoid high taxes and onerous regulations, but because of immigration from Mexico and a high birthrate. More importantly (and probably obviously, to people who care about such things), the spoils of the Texas miracle have not been shared equally: Economic mobility is higher in California’s major urban areas than in those of Texas. Plus: “Texas has more minimum-wage jobs than any other state, and only Mississippi exceeds it with the most minimum-wage workers per capita.” Texas is falling behind various states in terms of per capita income.

As Longman concludes:

But regardless of its sources, population growth fuels economic growth. It swells the supply and lowers the cost of labor, while at the same time adding to the demand for new products and services. As the population of Texas swelled by more than 24 percent from 2000 to 2013, so did the demand for just about everything, from houses to highways to strip malls. And this, combined with huge new flows of oil and gas dollars, plus increased trade with Mexico, favored Texas with strong job creation numbers.

But for some, the good news on Texas continues apace. J.D. Tuccille, at the libertarian magazine Reason’s Hit & Run blog, points to a paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showing that Texas created more high-wage jobs than low-wage ones between 2000 and 2013. Tuccille also points out that “in 2012, ’63,000 people moved from California to Texas, while 43,000 in Texas moved to California.’” (That… actually seems pretty statistically insignificant when we’re talking about the two most populous states in the union, each with more than 25 million residents, but ok, sure.)

Even if it is the case that the Texas miracle is driven primarily by a resource boom and population growth, conservatives and libertarians could still argue that Texas is booming because of their preferred policies. They support exploiting natural resources, and libertarians, at least, support open borders. To use another example, while it’s a fact that North Dakota’s economic boom is happening almost solely because North Dakota happens to be on top of tremendous amounts of very valuable natural resources that recently became easier to extract, conservatives would argue that they are the ones who support drilling that oil, damn the environmental consequences.

But here’s one important fact that Texas’ conservative and libertarian boosters reliably fail to mention (perhaps because they don’t know it): If you’re not rich, Texas is not actually a low-tax state. In fact, most Texans pay more taxes than most Californians. That seems strange and incorrect at first — Texas doesn’t even have an income tax! — but it’s true. Thanks to sales and property taxes, Texas is among the states with the ten most regressive tax systems. Texans in the bottom 60 percent of income distribution all pay higher effective tax rates than their Californian counterparts. Texas’ top one-percent are the ones enjoying the supposed low-tax utopia, paying an effective rate of 3.2 percent. The rate for the lowest 20 percent is 12.6 percent. Kevin Drum has a helpful chart.

This is not unusual for a conservative state. As the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says: “States praised as ‘low tax’ are often high tax states for low and middle income families.” So… is this part of the conservative policy package that we are supposed to introduce everywhere to spur growth? Slash taxes for the rich and raise taxes on… the poor and middle class? It seems like it might be difficult to campaign on that.

When “growth” is its own self-justifying goal, creating an economy that only delivers for a privileged few doesn’t really seem like a problem. Still, don’t move to Texas expecting a better life, unless you own a petrochemical refinery.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 7, 2014

Economic Success Based on “Greater Worker Insecurity”

Corporate OverlordsSo when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.”

If workers are more insecure,

that’s very “healthy” for the society,

because if workers are insecure

they won’t ask for wages,

they won’t go on strike,

they won’t call for benefits;

they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively.

And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health.

 How do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”?

By not guaranteeing employment,

by keeping people hanging on a limb

that can be sawed off at any time,

so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work;

and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve

under miserable conditions for another year,

they should welcome it and not ask for any more.

That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations.

There it is, the truth is out… Corporations and the high-level people that control our economy believe that “greater worker insecurity” is “healthy” for society.

Think about that. Your “suffering to just get by everyday” and your “job insecurity” is “healthy” for society… You are truly a worker bee and nothing else.

ARE YOU MAD YET?

When Reagan took office in 1981, he started the movement of cutting taxes on corporations and the super-wealthy and tearing down America’s social safety net of government services. That began the transition from a collective society where everyone, including corporations, paid their fair share, and society prospered together; to the current socioeconomic classes of “haves” and “have not’s.”

We have now endured over 30 years of conservative policy-making based on greed, self-centeredness, corporate worship, and shrinking government services in the name of privatization. We now find ourselves in a society where no amount of wealth at the top is enough and no amount of suffering at the bottom is too much.

ARE YOU MAD YET?

How many times have you heard someone say “you should just be thankful you have a job?” While workers pay has stagnated, benefits are disappearing, and job insecurity is a constant threat; corporate profits, productivity, and CEO pay continues to sky-rocket at a record-setting pace.

So, I guess their principle is accurate because the “greater worker insecurity” of the 99% is definitely making the 1% of society “healthy!”

ARE YOU MAD YET?

One final thought for you… If you have ever thought or said to someone else “what has happened to our country; how did we get did we let this happen?”; well now you know. This “greater worker insecurity” principle employed by our government and their corporate masters is a strategy to keep you “insecure and needy.” That’s right, your suffering is “intentional!”

ARE YOU MAD YET?

IF NOT, THEN STOP COMPLAINING AND GO SERVE YOUR MASTERS!

Source: Remarks given by Noam Chomsky via Skype on 4 February 2014 to a gathering of members and allies of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA.  www.CounterPunch.org

Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten

Save Middle ClassWhy The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten

Why has America forgotten the three most important economic lessons we learned in the thirty years following World War II?

Before I answer that question, let me remind you what those lessons were:

First, America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth. If average people don’t have decent wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth.

In those years, business boomed because American workers were getting raises, and had enough purchasing power to buy what expanding businesses had to offer. Strong labor unions ensured American workers got a fair share of the economy’s gains. It was a virtuous cycle.

Second, the rich do better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy than they do with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.

Between 1946 and 1974, the economy grew faster than it’s grown since, on average, because the nation was creating the largest middle class in history. The overall size of the economy doubled, as did the earnings of almost everyone. CEOs rarely took home more than forty times the average worker’s wage, yet were riding high.

Third, higher taxes on the wealthy to finance public investments — better roads, bridges, public transportation, basic research, world-class K-12 education, and affordable higher education – improve the future productivity of America. All of us gain from these investments, including the wealthy.

In those years, the top marginal tax rate on America’s highest earners never fell below 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower the tax rate was 91 percent. Combined with tax revenues from a growing middle class, these were enough to build the Interstate Highway system, dramatically expand public higher education, and make American public education the envy of the world.

We learned, in other words, that broadly-shared prosperity isn’t just compatible with a healthy economy that benefits everyone — it’s essential to it.

But then we forgot these lessons. For the last three decades the American economy has continued to grow but most peoples’ earnings have gone nowhere. Since the start of the recovery in 2009, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.

What happened?

For starters, too many of us bought the snake oil of “supply-side” economics, which said big corporations and the wealthy are the job creators – and if we cut their taxes the benefits will trickle down to everyone else. Of course, nothing trickled down.

Meanwhile, big corporations were allowed to bust labor unions, whose membership dropped from over a third of all private-sector workers in the 1950s to under 7 percent today.

Our roads, bridges, and public-transit systems were allowed to crumble under the weight of deferred maintenance. Our public schools deteriorated. And public higher education became so starved for funds that tuition rose to make up for shortfalls, making college unaffordable to many working families.

And Wall Street was deregulated — creating a casino capitalism that caused a near meltdown of the economy six years ago and continues to burden millions of homeowners. CEOs began taking home 300 times the earnings of the average worker.

Part of the reason for this extraordinary U-turn had to do with politics. As income and wealth concentrated at the top, so did political power. The captains of industry and of Wall Street knew what was happening, and some played leading roles in this transformation.

But why didn’t they remember the lessons learned in the thirty years after World War II – that widely-shared prosperity is good for everyone, including them?

Perhaps because they didn’t care to remember. They discovered that wealth is also relative: How rich they feel depends not just on how much money they have, but also how they live in comparison to most other people.

As the gap between America’s wealthy and the middle has widened, those at the top have felt even richer by comparison. Although a rising tide would lift all boats, many of America’s richest prefer a lower tide and bigger yachts.

[ Re-post from www.RobertReich.org ]