Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Progress Means Regress

I treated myself to a teensy bit of misguided hope a few weeks ago when I read that more than 100 Congressional Democrats had written a letter to President Obama urging him to remove Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid from the chopping block in the latest installment of manufactured brinkmanship.

Of course, if you'd paid attention to the actual semantics of the letter, you might have noticed that these congress critters didn't actually say they would vote against any such Grand Bargain Obama hopes to negotiate with the Republicans. And now that a few real Progressives have written another letter vowing they will buck Obama and vote against the planned cuts, a pretty astounding 54 of the 70 members of the House Progressive Caucus have refused to sign on. Three-quarters of the caucus membership have wimped out, regressed, caved, been bribed, brainwashed, paid off, personally seduced by Obama. Pick your poison.

 I was actually pretty surprised that even Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who up until a few months ago had been a most outspoken champion of New Deal and Great Society protections, is now among those unwilling to go so far as to defy the president.

Norman Solomon of the RootsAction advocacy group writes:
What about the other 54 members of the Progressive Caucus? Their absence from the letter is a clear message to the Obama White House, which has repeatedly declared its desire to cut the Social Security cost of living adjustment as well as Medicare. In effect, those 54 non-signers are signaling: Mr. President, we call ourselves “progressive” but we are unwilling to stick our necks out by challenging you in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we want some wiggle room that you can exploit.
In contrast, the House members on the short list of the letter’s signers deserve our praise for taking a clear stand: Brown, Cartwright, Conyers, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Kaptur, Lee, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.
President Obama remarked during the Democratic convention that he was confident he would eventually be able to bring the bulk of erstwhile Progressives on board with his Catfood Commission austerian approach of raising the Medicare age and initiating the chained CPI method of reducing Social Security benefits. He certainly got Millionaire Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on his side more than a year ago. See if these other Congressional Quislings who still dare call themselves Progressives serve your particular district:

Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonameci, Michael Capuano, Andre Carson, Donna Christenson, Judy Chu, Yvette Clarke, William "Lacy" Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, Daniel Cicciline, David Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Daniel Davis,  Rosa DeLaura, Donna Edwards, Sam Farr, Chaka Fatah, Lois Frankel, Marcia Fudge, Janice Hahn, Jared Huffman, Rush Holt, Michael Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Jackson, Joe Kennedy III, Anne McLane Kuster, John Lewis, David Loebsack, Ben Ray Lujan, Carolyn Maloney, Ed Markey, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Gwen Moore, Jim Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frank Pallone, Ed Pastor, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Jared Pollis, Charles Rangel, Lucille Roybal-Allard,  Linda Sanchez, Jan Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter, Bennie Thompson, John Tierney, Mel Watt and Peter Welch. 

You can contact them here. Demand that your campaign contributions be returned. Threaten to join the Tea Party. Do whatever it takes to make them feel more afraid of you than they are of the Wall Street branch of the Democratic Party -- which, come to think of it, now amounts to the whole damn blighted trunk. The progressives have shrunken to a mere twig, hanging on for dear life, blowing in the toxic wind of our corrupt politics.  

Even so, a recent blind poll conducted by Business Insider reveals that nearly half of Republicans support the Progressive Caucus's own plan to avert the sequester over that of their own blighted party.This plan, naturally, is not getting any attention from either Obama or the corporate media hacks now in thrall to the Centrist Cult's astroturf Fix the Debt propaganda campaign being funded by Wall Street tycoons with the complicity of self-described Democrats.

Monday, February 25, 2013

As the Sequester Festers

Denying Republican claims that she is out to frighten people with scare tactics, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano today warned that we are at horrible risk of a terror attack unless we continue pouring money into the voracious maw of the Orwellian surveillance state (a/k/a the tax-immune defense/spy industry.)

And almost as if reinforce that salient point, her published remarks on The Hill blog were accompanied by this cookie-generated advertisement from Boeing -- showing a menacing predator drone about to swoop down at you at the stroke of twilight:  


You may or may not see this particular ad when you visit the page, because of the constantly evolving nature of the Google-generated marketing beast. The words "sequester", "terror" and "the economy" were also spawning a half-page blurb from BP, about how much it cares about the Gulf and all of America, as it strives to cut a pre-trial deal with Uncle Sam, to get out of paying any more millions than it absolutely has to in order to cover its Deepwater Horizon pollution liability.

Like the drone ad says, the corporacracy is always dreaming up new ways to innovate and endure.

But I digress. As I started to tell you, Janet Napolitano is trying to scare reassure Americans that the self-inflicted sequestration cuts of $85 billion "will make it awfully, awfully tough to mitigate threats." Of course, she was really talking about the ephemeral threats of outside terrorists, rather than the very real threats imposed by our own homegrown domestic policy makers -- to wit, Congress and the White House.

Napolitano warns that sequestration will force the furloughs of those friendly TSA agents who pat you down at airport security checkpoints! It will tragically reduce the number of beds for the record number of undocumented immigrants currently being housed in for-profit privatized prisons! Oh, the humanity. Oh, the terrible horrible no good very bad day at DHS!

Meanwhile, as Napolitano and other cabinet minions do their fear-fomenting duty on the complicit cable TV news shows, President Obama is showing his own true cynical colors. Rather than simply urging Congress to nullify the whole stupid sequester, he is once again calling for a Grand Bargain of safety net "reforms" in order to avoid the horrific specter of cuts to Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and all the other monoliths of the endless war industry. Their job is to keep us cowed and themselves secure with the endless stream of corporate welfare dollars.

And, coincidentally, Obama will glibly regret the coldly prearranged cuts in day care subsidies, AIDS treatment and prevention, shelters for battered women, home heating and low-income housing assistance, and myriad other programs reserved for those in such dire need that they cannot possibly afford a lobby or even an Internet connection in order to advance their own causes.

Obama hopes to accomplish the unraveling of the New Deal by utilizing the David Brooks formula of intergenerational warfare. As he said in one overlooked section of his State of the Union speech,
Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms -- otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.
Actually, Medicare spending is slowing down. But never mind facts. This is the same tired old refrain constantly droned out by right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and centrist cults like Pete Peterson's Third Way: that allowing old people to live out their lives comfortably is tantamount to sucking the life out of the grandkids, not to mention all the incipient fetuses and zygotes of the future. Of course, when Obama sings it, this silliness is magically transformed into a soaring progressive anthem called "Oh Beautiful for Balanced Approach, for Equal Waves of Pain."

One of the programs conveniently placed on the sequestration chopping block is Head Start. So what more perfect way to save all the poor preschoolers than to guilt-trip the geezers into "sharing the sacrifice" via the Chained CPI method of cutting lifetime Social Security benefits?

As economist Bill Black so succinctly puts it, "The only logical inference that can be drawn is that Obama remains committed to inflicting the 'Grand Bargain' (really, the Grand Betrayal) on the Nation in his quest for a 'legacy' and continues to believe that the Sequester provides him the essential leverage he feels he needs to coerce Senate progressives to adopt austerity, make deep cuts in vital social programs, and to begin to unravel the safety net." 

Obama's vaunted "balanced approach" is, in fact, skewed heavily toward cuts: a ratio of two-thirds cuts to one-third "revenue", to be exact. This, despite the fact that austerity is already shrinking the deficit, despite the fact that underemployment and stagnating wages are becoming the new normal in the Dystopian States of America

I don't know about you. But these constant re-runs of Disaster Capitalism Theater are getting a tad stale. It's gotten to the point where we can't even escape into the mindless never-land of Oscar Night without FLOTUS crashing the show with some Banana Republic noblesse oblige. Complete with a dressy militaristic backdrop, just to give you that warm and fuzzy Homeland-y feeling.

And the Winner Is.... Not You!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Crown Jewels of the Obama Administration

Those of us not yet moribund with Outrage Fatigue Syndrome (see previous post) were flabbergasted to learn that while tens of thousands of  people were protesting against the Keystone Pipeline in front of the White House last weekend, the president was far, far away in Florida, golfing with oil and gas barons.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama was off on her annual Aspen ski vacation, hosted once again by billionaires Jim and Paula Crown, who own and control a big chunk of defense/security contractor General Dynamics. The Crowns, as you may know, are prominent Obama campaign bundlers,  having helped to finance Obama from the very start of his career in Illinois state politics. The General Dynamics arm of their vast corporate empire now has major contracts with every single one of this country's intelligence agencies. Although it has reported a paper loss in profits since the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the looming budget sequester, the prospects of an endless drone war and Orwellian spy state have them champing at the bit. 

And why not? The use of drones under Obama is skyrocketing, as is the growth of military bases throughout the world. Africa is all set to be re-colonized by American corporate interests. Therefore, an annual ski junket for the Obama women, along with a few relatively paltry donations to his continuing campaign apparatus is the least the Crown family can do. It is the slim price they have to pay to remain full-fledged and well-compensated partners in the state-sponsored terror campaign that constitutes Obama's foreign policy, euphemistally described as the disposition matrix of pre-emptive self-defense. In other words, an illegal campaign of murder-by-drone of civilian "pre-criminals."

Nicolas Davis has written an exhaustive, detail-oriented account of the tangled relationship of the Obamas and the Crowns. It is well worth a read. His chilling conclusion:
Benjamin Ferencz, who wrote the preface to my book on the U.S. war against Iraq, is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He has described how the lead defendant at the Einsatzgruppen trial, SS-Gruppenfurher Otto Ohlendorf, Ph.D., defended the massacres of tens of thousands of civilians with an argument that is all too familiar today: preemptive self-defense. Ohlendorf told the court that Germany invaded other countries to prevent them from attacking it; that Jews had to be killed because “everyone knew” they supported the Bolsheviks; and that Jewish children had to be killed because, if they grew up and found out what the Germans had done to their parents, they too would become enemies of Germany.
As Ferencz explains, this illegitimate principle of preemptive self-defense is the same one by which Presidents Bush and Obama justify their war crimes today: our fear entitles us to attack countries and kill people to prevent them doing the same to us or our allies at some point in the future. Ohlendorf never showed any remorse for his crimes, even as he went to the gallows at Landsberg Prison in 1951. He was the highly educated product of a political system dominated by military-industrial interests and extreme nationalism that made war crimes seem justifiable, rational or even necessary. By selecting its senior officials through “legalized bribery” within a superficially democratic system, the United States has developed a more sophisticated way to institutionalize and justify ever-expanding plutocracy, militarism and war crimes. This may be more sustainable and palatable—but that does not necessarily make it less dangerous.
General Dynamics, meanwhile, has a brand new gadget it wants to sell to Obama for some of that civilian spying and pre-emptive killing. Called the Micro Air Vehicle (MAV), it is capable of perching, hovering, flying, spying -- and killing you.  Conor Friedersdorf, who cadged a copy of a promotional video that General Dynamics produced for the Air Force, has posted it on his Atlantic blog. He calls it the "most terrifying drone video yet." (I hadn't realized there were apparently a whole series of scary drone videos out there terrorizing Americans. The real enchilada, of course, is terrorizing and bug-splatting whole neighborhoods in Pakistan).You can watch the video here. It has all the hallmarks of state-sponsored dread: dystopian urban graphics, a doomsday soundtrack, the constant drumbeat of paranoia. It is perfectly designed to boost the adrenaline and checkbook-grabbing urges of every procurement official who watches it, instilling fear of all the dangerous civilian populations who walk, breathe and eat, both at home and abroad.  Writes Friedersdorf:

When I watch that simulation I am horrified. I also think to myself, this technology is more likely to diminish American security than to enhance it. In a world without micro-drones, our military remains overwhelmingly powerful. But what about a world where micro-drones are pervasive? Who knows? Sure, we have a technological advantage right now, but micro-drones sure seem like a disruptive technology that will eventually help rather than hinder attempts at asymmetric warfare.
Yet the U.S. government is making no effort to enlist other powerful nations with the most to lose and establish international norms against the use of drones (in the way we've stigmatized biological weapons) -- rather, we're continuing to fuel a drone arms race that guarantees widespread proliferation. Perhaps such an effort would fail, but to never even try seems shortsighted.
How far ahead is President Obama thinking?
He might have asked what President Obama is thinking, sending his wife and daughters to frolic on the largesse of war profiteers and weapons manufacturers at the same time he is pretending to campaign for domestic gun control.  But perhaps I am being unfair. The Crown Family is like family to him. He said so himself at their home last year at yet another of their many bribe-fests fund-raisers:

.... actually the Crown family from the grandpas all the way to the grandkids, they supported me when I ran for State Senate; supported me when I lost a congressional race; supported me when I won my Senate race; and then supported me in my run for the presidency. These guys have been friends for a really long time. And Michelle and I love them to death, and to see how remarkable their children have turned out, watching them grow up, is a great thing to see. So please give the Crowns a big round of applause. (Applause.)
So I am not going to give a long speech. This really is family. You guys know me.
And know him they should. The Crowns are part of the shadow government, not only supplying the state with its weapons and the politicians with their money, but essentially dictating policy at the same time. Grandpa Lester Crown has reportedly even served as a personal envoy between Israeli hardliners and the president over a potential attack on Iran.

Just like family. The Crowns are also major shareholders in JP Morgan Chase, that too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-jail bank the size of a country that has enjoyed continuous deregulation and immunity from prosecution in the Obama administration. Jim Crown, who  heads the bank's risk policy board, recently became embroiled in the London Whale Fail scandal, in which billions of dollars were mysteriously "lost." No indictments, no investigation.

Just like family. One big, happy, fat, incestuous family. The old name for the corporatization of government was fascism. Now they prefer to call it Public Private Partnership. Euphemisms are the sugar that helps the propaganda medicine go down.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Most Ingenious Paradox

In 2004, during the height of the Bush era crimes against humanity and logic, The Onion ran a piece called "Nation's Liberals Suffering from Outrage Fatigue".

It provides a list of symptoms necessary for an official diagnosis of outrage fatigue syndrome. The general theory behind this creeping scourge is that the more information people get about government corruption, the more inured to it they become. After awhile, people have become so benumbed that each new jolting revelation of political malfeasance becomes one more shot of Novocaine. Too many doses of outrage end up being anesthetizing rather than stimulating. In medicine, this is called called the paradoxical reaction.
With so many right-wing shams to choose from, it's simply too daunting for the average, left-leaning citizen to maintain a sense of anger," said Rachel Neas, the (fake) study's director. "By our estimation, roughly 70 percent of liberals are experiencing some degree of lethargy resulting from a glut of civil-liberties abuses, education funding cuts, and exorbitant military expenditures."
Liberals in the Age of Obama  find themselves now, as then, requiring ever greater doses of government corruption and hypocrisy in order to maintain any semblance of righteous indignation. And as a (real) new study by Salon shows, when Obama is the provocateur of what would normally constitute an epidemic of outrage (over failure to prosecute banksters, his campaign of targeted drone assassinations, unprecedented secrecy, record deportations of undocumented immigrants, draconian whistleblowing prosecutions, establishment of a political action slush fund that accepts unlimited corporate money, selling out education to the highest corporate bidders, etcetera and so forth) the typical popular reaction is a big collective Meh.

Outrage is dead. Long live ennui. Welcome to the new age of American totalitarianism.

That the daily doses of outrage coming from Washington are having a parodoxical effect on the populace and the journalistic class that covers it is evidenced today in the placement of, and reaction to, a New York Times blockbuster revealing that President Obama is refusing to hand over legal opinions on his Oval Office murder squad to Congress, and trying to get away with it through some cynical political horsetrading with the Republicans over Benghazi-Gate. In exchange for handing over some emails on what he knew about the firebombing of the consulate and when he knew it, Obama will try to force through the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director with Republican votes, without ever having to explain just what it is that he thinks gives him the right to kill people. If Congress agrees to turn a blind eye to his role as judge, jury and executioner, then he will accomodate them with a few meaningless emails on an unrelated topic.

Obama would rather please Lindsey Graham than Ron Wyden. His recent promises of transparency over his kill list are just that -- empty promises. His continued success at stringing his fans along with glib words is continuously astounding.

The article initially appeared in the desirable and visible top left corner of the digital homepage late last night. But by this morning, it had been relegated to smaller type, buried between a piece on the Pistorius case and a retrospective on the red tape encountered during Hurricane Katrina. More than 12 hours later, the Times had published only 100 reader comments -- and judging from the low reader recommendation tally, the story was not generating much interest. But I guess we should take comfort from the fact that among those readers who are taking an interest, their reaction is almost universally scathing against Obama and Brennan. Here's my own comment:

If the White House is refusing to allow Congress to see the legal opinions, then it can only be because either the opinions are as embarrassingly flimsy as the paper they are written on, or because they are damning enough to constitute physical evidence of war crimes. And who knows -- maybe they don't even exist at all, or are rough drafts written in invisible ink. Perhaps this Administration is wary of what happened to the Bush Administration after they released their own opinions on torture -- and foreign governments proceeded to issue indictments and arrest warrants based on violations of the Geneva convention.
This refusal to provide the requested documents is even more troubling given that only last week, President Obama promised more transparency about the drone program, acknowledging that nobody should just take his word for it and that we have a right to know "the parameters" around the program. His alleged refusal to furnish the legal opinions to even his own party, while making a show of compromising with the Republicans over a contrived scandal, betrays a stunning cynicism and a contempt for the rule of law and the democratic process.

Maybe there is also such a thing as immunity to outrage fatigue in a certain stubborn segment of the populace. But for now anyway, the herd immunity to the onslaught of virulence coming from the very top of our government remains the norm. The Obama Administration represents both the disease and the treatment of it. The president quips, the politicians quibble, the journalists nibble, the people are stuck right in the middle. A most ingenious paradox.

How quaint the ways of Paradox
At common sense she gently mocks. (Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hold That Tiger

First there was Rosemary Woods, the Nixon secretary reputedly responsible for erasing some of the boss's tape recordings at the height of the Watergate scandal. Now we have Tiger Woods-gate, in which the well-known philandering golfer played a round with well-known perfect husband and father Barack Obama in Florida over the weekend, and the courtiers of the media were barred, shunned, dissed, maligned and peeved.

Dylan Byers of Politico (which Charles Pierce hilariously calls Tiger Beat on the Potomac) writes that Obama did try to make amends with the stenographers afterwards. But it was off-the-record. Did he beat Tiger? He wouldn't say.

Why did the suddenly transparency-conscious trolls of the White House press corps not get their precious photo-ops? I suspect it is because Obama could not do what he usually does when posing for pics with African-American athletes: hold them up as role models of black fatherhood for other black men.

He couldn't dog-whistle to the white PTBs that he is totally down with their conventional racist attitude that as a group, black guys leave something to be desired when it comes to their parenting skills.

The president does this consistently whenever he greets star athletes at the White House. Most recently, as he hosted the Miami Heat basketball champions, he gratuitously pointed to three of them (LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade) as rare examples of responsible (and moneyed) black fatherhood:
And let me just say one last thing about these guys, and I mentioned this as we were coming in.  There’s a lot of focus on what happens on the court, but what’s also important is what happens off the court.  And I don't know all these guys, but I do know LeBron and Dwayne and Chris.  And one of the things I’m proudest of is that they take their roles as fathers seriously.  And for all the young men out there who are looking up to them all the time, for them to see somebody who cares about their kids and is there for them day in and day out, that's a good message to send.  It’s a positive message to send, and we’re very proud of them for that.  (Applause.)
Demeaning much? "We" (the ruling class) are very proud of black men whenever they bravely and surprisingly overcome our shameless, all-American continuing institutionalized system of Jim Crow by getting rich, staying monogamous, not abandoning their families, paying child support or staying out of jail for relatively minor drug offenses. Obama is peddling a lot of trickle-down morality here. He gets away with what no white politician could ever get away with -- pandering to white people at the expense of black people, at the same time signalling to white America that he, himself, is "safe."

Much of his constant need to refer to responsible black fathers as exceptions to the rule probably stems from the fact that his own philandering father left the household when he was just a toddler. Tiger Woods fits very uncomfortably into that same category, his own son just a baby when the bimbo scandal erupted. Barack and Tiger appearing to be buddy-buddy on the golf course in the course of a luxurious stag weekend? It had the potential of staining the president's carefully-crafted image as family man.

Obama has long been criticized for "talking tough" to black people, black fathers in particular. His annual Fathers Day sermons, for example, invariably chide African-American males to start acting like men. Other examples can be found here, here and in one particularly cogent analysis of his visit back to Chicago last week to tout gun control before a largely minority audience, here: Writes Zettler Clay  of Obama's blaming absentee black fathers for much of the gun violence:
It's one thing to promote fatherhood and community in the context of overcoming and pushing for riddance of systemic ills. It’s another to sell the merits of dads as panacea. That’s irresponsible.
Black and white fathers abandon their children, yet I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a speech like this given to children living in Newtown, Conn. Statistics are often reported to justify this strategy, but one side doesn’t have a monopoly on favorable statistics.
In 2007, a study conducted by Boston University reported that black fathers who don’t reside in the home are more likely to sustain regular contact with their children than fathers of any other group. This isn’t to exonerate black men who neglect their duties, but to emphasize how collective the issue is.
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report is also a longtime critic of Obama's treatment of the black community. Writing about the then-candidate's Father's Day 2008 speech in Chicago, Ford pointed out that the presidential contender was primarily pandering to an uncomfortable white audience:
Thus it was no surprise that Barack Obama used the occasion of Father's Day to give Black males the back of his hand, no doubt to the delight of millions of potential white supporters. Black males have "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men," said Obama, citing statistics on female-headed households. "You and I know how true this is in the African-American community."
Even the New York Times could see through Obama's transparent bid for white approval at Black people's expense. Reporter Julie Bosman noted that Obama "laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make" - terms (such as boy?) that "his campaign hopes [will] resonate among white social conservatives in a race where these voters may be up for grabs."
Fast-forward to the Obama-Woods golfing twosome of 2013. A photo of the paternalistic scold-in-chief with a black athlete who does not adhere to the ideal of responsible, affluent African-American fatherhood?  Barack Obama might have been outed as a  hypocrite. If he couldn't use the special occasion for presenting his usual moralistic spiel in an opportunistic photo op, then there would be no photo-op.

Case closed, end of story. Now, if only the Washington press corps would be more strident in urging transparancy on, and investigating, Obama's Organizing for Action slush fund, his kill list, and his failure to prosecute Wall Street banksters, I might have a little more sympathy for them. As it is, they too have once more outed themselves as hypocrites more interested in access than in accountability.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tinfoil Hat Fun

Anybody else think that this two-fer headline on today's New York Times homepage is hilariously macabre?

President Plans Decade-Long Effort to Map Human Brain

The Obama administration is outlining a project that would examine the human brain and build a broad map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for the study of genetics.

What's this? Illegal brains are getting a two year jump on Murikan brains? Call Homeland Security, surround the laboratories with drones!

But seriously: will there be a balanced approach to the brain study? Will both right and left hemispheres be given equal weight? Will scientists succeed in a grand compromise in the centrist corpus collosum? Or will the reptilian brainstem win out over the cerebral cortex in the continuing process of American devolution? Wait ten years, and maybe you'll find out. Unless, of course, the zombies have snuck over the borders and eaten all our brains.  

In other news, (which did not make the Times homepage ) tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on Washington over the weekend in the biggest climate change rally in history. Protesters against the Keystone pipeline stood in front of the White House, demanding that the president come out and talk to them. He did not respond. 

That is because the president and his entourage, which apparently includes the entire Washington press corps, are all down in Florida. They are either playing golf with Tiger Woods, or kvetching about the lack of access to same. The courtiers of the media might relieve their boredom simply by looking skyward and watching all the F-16 fighter jets in action, intercepting a veritable squadron of private planes and one helicopter which have thus far inadvertently invaded Barry's personal air space during his good old boy weekend on the Gold Coast. 

Maybe somebody should do a study of the brains of plutocrats who have the balls to fly over a president hitting balls. But first, let's do  a study on the brains of the press corps, which I fear have already been consumed by the zombie ideas of the corporacracy to which they pander.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Blowback: Greed Edition

"Where are all the customers? And where's all their money?" frets a Walmart vice president in some panicky emails revealed today by Bloomberg News.

Cameron Geiger, who runs the hilariously-named U.S. Replenishment Division at the world's largest retailer, might start looking at his own employees, whose crappy average $8/hour paycheck has shrunk even further thanks to the rising price of food and medical care and the demise of the two-year payroll tax holiday. Walmart workers are also Walmart's best customers. What's earned in Walmart is spent in Walmart. And the world's biggest retailer just had its worst quarter in seven years.

So, does this mean that the Walmart honchos are going to replenish  their workers with a pay raise to make up for that dent in their paychecks and get them spending again? Of course not. The workers have simply been directed to just try even harder to make those unaffordable cheap items fly off the store shelves into the hands of penniless big spenders. According to Bloomberg,
 Wal-Mart’s Geiger in his e-mail urged employees to improve business by "fixing something that could really make a difference to our performance." He quoted Tim Yatsko, the company’s executive vice president of global sourcing, saying:“We need to ‘stop the stupid.’”
Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said during a Feb. 1 officers meeting, the minutes of which were attached to Geiger’s e-mail, that the troubled economy leaves little room for internal errors.
“In an environment like this, we can’t afford to hurt ourselves,” Simon said, according to the minutes. “Self-inflicted wounds are our biggest risk and our toughest enemy.”
Of course, nothing is being said about healing their self-inflicted wound by raising that abysmal hourly wage. It might have the horrifying result of inspiring other corporations to do the same, even without the unlikely passage of the excessively stingy $9/hour minimum suggested by President Obama. No. Walmart's solution, according to the correspondence, is to grab the ever-shrinking piece of the meager consumer pie all for themselves by whatever means necessary. Who knows -- they may even figure out a way to reduce hours and wages even more and have their lawyers write a whole new tome of corporate welfare legislation. When they talk about "everybody suffering" in their emails, they are not talking about their workers or their customers. They are talking about their business competitors, such as those other go-to shopping centers for the indigent -- the Dollar Store franchises. 

Walmart has always had a ready, willing and able partner in the Obama Administration. The Justice Department recently announced there will likely be no criminal prosecution for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of those involved in that Mexican bribery scandal. Michelle Obama has long been a booster of the retail gulag's various greed-washing campaigns for hiring vets and stocking their shelves with healthier food, ignoring its anti-union stance and gender discrimination. And President Obama is now set to appoint Chief Walmart Greed-washer Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his chief budget officer.

The defacto policy of the neoliberal Age of Obama will continue to be: Work hard for less. Always the low standard of living. Always.

Meanwhile, the income gap between the richest of the rich and the rest of us is growing ever wider. The top one percent's share of the pie has risen by 11% since the recovery, and stagnated or shrunk for everybody else, according to a study by economist Emmanuel Saez of UC Berkeley. From the New York Times:
Excluding earnings from investment gains, the top 10 percent of earners took 46.5 percent of all income in 2011, the highest proportion since 1917, Mr. Saez said, citing a large body of work on earnings distribution over the last century that he has produced with the economist Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics.
Concern for the declining wages of working Americans and persistent high levels of inequality featured heavily in President Obama’s State of the Union address this week. He proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 from $7.25 as one way to ameliorate the trend, a proposal that might lift the earnings of 15 million low-income workers by the end of 2015.
Of course, the Walmart heirs themselves are getting richer by the minute. They now have as much wealth as the bottom 42% of Americans combined. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute calls them "Exhibit A" in the national scandal of extreme income inequality.  
In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30.5 percent of all American families.
And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.
It’s hardly a surprise that the economic circumstances of the Walton family and that of most Americans are moving in opposite directions, but some have attempted to quibble with the use of this particular statistic by noting that nearly 13 million American families have negative net worth—meaning that they have outstanding debts greater than the value of their assets. This is a bit of a strange objection—of course, many American families have negative net worth, but this is an economic reality, not a statistical fluke.
Walmart relies very heavily upon those negative-net worth customers. One of the reasons the retailer is experiencing such a setback this quarter is that IRS tax refunds  (including for those struggling consumers qualifying for the earned income tax credit) have been delayed due to the manufactured feckless cliff crisis and other glitches. 

And how about the other phony crisis known as the Sequester, which is designed to make poor people share the sacrifice with the military industrial complex?  Congress is dealing with it by blowing town for an entire week for an extended Presidents Day seven-day weekend. The president and the missus will be taking their own separate vacations, golfing and skiing respectively.

So that should answer the burning question I know has been on all your minds lately: Where are all our politicians? Where's all our money?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shorter SOTU

From deep within the Beltway Bubble
I now will take the time and trouble
To regale you with some slick Talk-Double.
Pretend we're climbing from the rubble.

Now here's some rank hilarity,
Designed for my posterity --
I'll serve up cruel Austerity
And call it shared Prosperity!

My cuts to social safety net
Will please the folks at Fix the Debt
The plutocrats I will abet,
No matter how you fume and fret.

But I'll pretend to love your kids
I'll sell Pre-K to corporate bids
Republicans can flip their lids
Democracy can hit the skids.

And how about that minimum wage
To foment up some Teabag rage?
My liberal base I will assuage
As they give three bleats from their ovine cage.

By scoffing at the Bill of Rights
I'll take my power to new heights
I'll send my drones on endless flights
We've got the whole world in our sights.

We'll do free trade with far-off lands
And bow to corporate demands.
Climate change is in my hands -- 
So let's frack for more gas and flow those tar sands.

My gun control ending dazzles with luster
But thanks to the Dems, it'll never pass muster.
There's no reform of the filibuster,
So my call for a vote is so much bluster.   

God Bless America and keep her free,
Give up your rights, call it liberty,
Give up your wealth to Plutocracy,
God Bless America, and God Bless Me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You've Been Warned

I don't put much stock in State of the Union addresses. They are an annual theatrical exercise in pomp and circumstance. Or pomposity and circumlocution. Remember the mortgage fraud task force rolled out last year, for example, and how it was never fully staffed or funded and how it was just a smokescreen to reward the criminal behavior of banksters?

And if this preview just released by the White House is any indication, President Obama will again go full-bore humane Republican in tonight's demagogy:

 “It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.
There he goes again with the personal responsibility narrative so beloved of the ruling class. We are warned that only by responsibly working our asses off for the Big Boss can we possibly thrive. The implication is that the weak, the infirm, the elderly, the chronically unemployed, the marginalized, the servant class and the mentally challenged do not deserve a place in our great exceptional meritocracy. This homage to  Horatio Alger feeds right into the GOP mythos of Makers vs Takers. The nod to gay rights is meant to appease the pseudoliberals.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours.”
This is pure Obama doublespeak. The government will work on behalf of the many and not just the few, as has been its wont. But, but, but -- you have to be an entrepreneur and make it on your own, because traditional employment no longer really exists. Don't even think of relying on direct hiring by the government, either. If you don't have what it takes for a corporate hoarder to give you a job due your own lack of "individual initiative", fuggedaboutit. If you are feeling mentally depressed, your president wants you to snap out of it by sheer force of will.  Obama has already cut the federal government workforce, and has actually frozen the pay of all federal employees.

Re-reading this segment of his speech actually makes me suspect it was plagiarized from any one of 1000 identical Thomas Friedman columns. To wit: only the above-average children of Lake Woebegone will succeed, because the only way to succeed is get high-tech, get on the Intertoobz and start your own start-up. Lift yourself up by your bootstraps, people! The guvmint will cheer you on from the sidelines. You may even become a prop in a presidential campaign-style speech as he travels the grand landscape of Amerika.
“A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
Uh-oh. Whenever a politician mentions a guiding star, it's like the Bible. He doesn't intend for you to take him literally. The way to attract more jobs to our shores smells like a ploy for the tax- evading, deregulated corporations to repatriate their overseas profit stashes at little to no cost to themselves. It sounds like the corporations are going to get even more government subsidies to train more American wage slaves, get Obamacare waivers and the like. I am anxious to hear how he will ensure that "hard work" (laboring till you die? 60-hour work weeks?) will translate into a decent living. Will he propose a federal minimum wage? I am waiting with baited breath.

“Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”
Uh-oh again. It is the knell of doom that he mentions The Deficit at a time where there is a humanitarian crisis of unemployment, underemployment and downright poverty. I can't wait to hear about this jobs program that is not paid for and conforms to the cruel austerity package laid out in the recent hostage-taking negotiations. He again embraces the Republican credo of Small Government. Nope -- it does not appear that the federal government will be doing any hiring. Nor does it appear that your father's Democratic Party will be making any great comeback tonight.

Hope I am wrong. But unless he suggests stuff like scrapping the cap on Social Security FICA contributions and imposing a financial transaction tax on Wall Street trades, tonight's speech will just be more droning on and on and on. And if he suggests "entitlement reforms" such as chained CPI, that impose even more suffering on already struggling people, I am going to throw my sock at the TV. I am not so stupid as to actually throw a heavy object at my TV, because then I might miss out on all the talking heads talking up The New Improved Aggressive Obama.

Suggestions for fun: take a drink or throw a sock every time he mentions Middle Class, Deficit, Fair, Responsible, Balanced Approach, and Future.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Age of Obushma

Ronald Reagan was known as the Teflon President,and John Gotti's moniker was the Teflon Don. No matter how toxic these guys were, they were untouchable for most of their lives -- until the imprisonment of mind or body finally got them.

 Until this past week, President Obama seemed to wearing the Teflon mantle himself.  Nobody was paying much attention to the fact he's been on a detached rampage of drone assassinations, and prosecuting whistleblowers, and spying, and claiming he could imprison people without charge or trial. Because nobody was paying much attention, he's been virtually untouchable in this regard, even by his Republican frenemies. They agree wholeheartedly with his evisceration of the Bill of Rights. He is only finishing what they started, after all.

But now that the mainstream media are finally taking a long-overdue look at his unprecedented powers, they're actually starting to compare Obama to The Worst President of All Time -- George W. Bush. An Obushma is born, and he walks among us.

The New York Times ran a front page story on the topic in its Sunday edition. Even such Obama-friendly media stars as Melissa Harris-Perry and Rachel Maddow have suddenly awoken from their self-inflicted partisan comas and joined the bandwagon of noticing that the president has morphed into an emperor. And what a difference a week makes in the polls:
A majority of voters believe President Obama has been no better than his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to balancing national security with the protection of civil liberties, according to a new poll for The Hill.
Thirty-seven percent of voters argue that Obama has been worse than Bush while 15 percent say he has been “about the same.”
The results cannot be fully explained as party line responses. More than one in five self-identified Democrats, 21 percent, assert that the Obama administration has not improved upon Bush’s record. So do 23 percent of liberals.
The results are especially striking given the liberal hopes that attended Obama’s election, the opprobrium he heaped upon Bush’s national security policies during the 2008 campaign and his early promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The majority, however, still approve of the drone program itself. But give them time. They'll no doubt change their tunes when they see, or more likely hear, their very first drones in the friendly skies above their own little chunks of real estate. 

The majority also very likely have no idea what it is, exactly, that they approve of. David Carr of the New York Times today joined Public Editor Margaret Sullivan in criticizing the lack of media attention to the New Age of Orwell, but he also blamed the paranoid secrecy of the Obama Administration coupled with an apathetic Congress and an apathetic public for the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of ennui in the face of the destruction of our own civil liberties:
If the Congress — and perhaps the public — doesn’t know about the drone program, it isn’t for lack of coverage. Perhaps the reason so many people are in the dark is because they want it that way. After all, if the bad guys are on the run without risking legions of boots on the ground, what’s not to like?
For many people, of course, there is plenty not to like. Michael Isikoff of NBC News obtained a 16-page white paper outlining when the government contends that it is legal to kill Americans who join Al Qaeda. His reporting helped make the drone issue part of the confirmation hearings, leading to this statement on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Mr. Brennan, which sounded like a parody of Washington doublespeak: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”
Congress, in spite of the pointed questions aimed at Mr. Brennan last week, has been remarkably incurious since the program began.
“Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue.”
But let's face it. The media approach to terrible truths resembles a cat walking across a wet floor. (h/t Raymond Chandler) As I pointed out in a comment in The Times yesterday, the paper of record, for example, still squeamishly softens torture into "harsh interrogation techniques."
 Euphemisms are the enemy. They are the words of propaganda that enable tyrants to literally get away with murder.
The victims of drones are invariably declared to be "militants" by both government and journalists. Or, if they're really lucky, "suspected militants." The White House definition of militant is any male in the prime of his life.
Homicides by presidential fiat become bland "signature strikes." Ordering a hit is rendered as innocuous as the president putting his signature on a piece of legislation renaming a post office.
A relentless campaign of state-sponsored American terror so severe as to border on potential genocide becomes the "disposition matrix". (John Brennan coined this Philip K.Dick-ish term.)
Maybe we'll get lucky and the United Nations will accuse this administration of war crimes. Maybe we'll get even luckier and the 70% of Americans who are still just fine with drone strikes will wake up, smell the burning of the Constitution on its funeral pyre and rescue it through the sheer strength of our numbers.
And speaking of Obushma, wasn't it a striking coincidence that a whole slew of Bush Famiglia emails was hacked by a guy named Guccifer, and made public the exact same week as the infamous White Paper was released? If you're going to compare Obama to Bush, then it's just about the right time to rehab The Worst President's image, don't you think? It would not surprise me if the so-called hacking -- complete with humanistic (albeit primitive and narcissistic) self-portraits of George in the bathroom was not a deliberate leak by the Bushes themselves. (prepping for a Jeb run in 2016). Here's what I wrote in response to Maureen Dowd's column yesterday:
 I wonder if Guccifer might really be Dubya. The hacked emails do show this rather unpopular plutocratic bunch in a surprisingly human light. The self-portraits are too suspiciously flattering. Bush has actual feet instead of the cloven hooves we suspected were hidden in his Gucci cowboy boots! (Lucifer>Guccifer) The image of his buff torso looks to be an homage to his bromance with fellow shirtless despot Vlad Putin.
Where are the emails where Babs disses the poor victims of the latest natural disaster? Where's the lowdown on the off-shore bank accounts, the military service and drug cover-ups, the efforts of Jeb to sell out Florida education to the highest bidder? What a downer. I smell a rat.
I also smell a rat around the white paper leaked right on the eve of John Brennan's senatorial love-fest on drone assassinations. I wouldn't be surprised if the so-called leak came from the White House itself, to take the shock and awe right out of the proceedings. By the time Brennan appeared, the American public was already bored with the novelty of having a hit squad in the Oval Office. Presidential assassinations are already the new normal. The parallel humanization of a protected war criminal painting self-portraits in bathrooms reeks of propaganda to make us forgive and forget. The PTBs desperately want us to be so numbed that we accept that the Constitution, except for the 2nd Amendment, is just a piece of paper. There will be no prosecutions of torture, murder or banks.
Let's not forget that more Americans believe in the devil than believe in Darwin. Two-thirds believe that Satan is an actual living being. The Devil made Barry and Bush and Reagan and Nero and Caligula do it. And the Devil Wears Prada. So does the soon-to-be ex-Pope, who at least has enough sense to quit as the mental and physical bars of fate finally begin to close around him.

Bathtub Justice... Or Not

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Barack the Unbalanced

Millions of people are stranded or without power and heat today in the aftermath of the fifth or maybe sixth Storm of the Century to have hit in the past year, the direct result of a stunning lack of attention to climate change on the part of our leaders. Millions of us remain unemployed and underemployed, a fifth of us are in poverty, with almost half us in danger of becoming destitute within three months of a job loss or other catastrophe. Fifty million still lack basic health care. And millions of those who do have insurance still can't afford to see a doctor because of high copays and deductibles. We cannot afford to retire because our savings and pension plans have been wiped out by financial criminals who not only caused the economic collapse of 2008, but who now continue to rob, cheat and steal with impunity thanks to the complicity of our bought-and-paid-for public officials.

To add insult to injury, we have a president who has given himself the power to imprison or even kill us without charge and without trial. And what's even more chilling is that the vast majority of Americans are totally fine with this state of affairs. They reassure themselves that they will never be put on a Terror Tuesday kill list, or have their movements monitored, or be thrown in prison because of their ethnicity or journalism. They have given their president a 60% approval rating.

But maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of us will not be complacent for very much longer if Barack Obama gets his way. This morning in his weekly radio address, he finally delivered what is essentially a coup de grace to the American people. You may not yet be in danger of drones, but you're definitely on a Kill List. He starts out with a huge whopper of a Big Lie right in his very first paragraph. And he never lets up. Rather than comforting the victims of the many storms assailing us, he foments the fear. He presents a Code Red Threat Level:
Hi, everybody. Over the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have come together and cut our deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties say we need to stabilize our debt.
This deserves a Pinocchio nose the length of three football fields. Obama agreed to 100% cuts and zero revenue during the Debt Ceiling manufactured crisis of 2011. The second round, during Feckless Cliff Theater, gleaned only 30% revenue to 70% cuts. (see chart below). Moreover, not one legitimate economist has ever espoused reducing the deficit by $4 trillion, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. That toxic idea comes straight from Wall Street, straight from the plutocrats of the Fix the Debt campaign, and it's being kept alive by the echo chamber of inside-the-Beltway corporate media hacks. Barry the Unbalanced either needs some remedial 'rithmetic or an extended stay in an ethics rehab facility. 

Pies Don't Lie, Barry!

I believe we can finish the job the same way we’ve started it – with a balanced mix of more spending cuts and more tax reform. And the overwhelming majority of the American people agree – both Democrats and Republicans.

He doesn't so much want to finish the job as he wants to finish you off, as per his presidential candidacy audition, way back in 2006, to the Rubinites of the Goldman Sachs-funded Hamilton Project. The only reason that deficit reduction is the Number Three concern of those polled is because of that concentrated, relentless media propaganda campaign convincing them we have a fiscal crisis. Barry fails to mention that the top concern of all Americans happens to be JOBS.
Now, my preference – and the preference of many Members of Congress – is to do that in a balanced, comprehensive way, by making sensible changes to entitlement programs and reforming our tax code. As we speak, both the House and Senate are working towards budget proposals that I hope will lay out this kind of balanced path going forward.

"Sensible" changes for the continued enrichment of the plutocracy equal cruel changes for everyone else. The raising of the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and the chained CPI method of impoverishing already struggling retirees and veterans and disabled people remain on his table. The reformation of the tax code, rather than the scrapping of the FICA contribution cap or the imposition of a Wall Street transaction tax, is the exact same policy that Mitt Romney campaigned on. Rombama lives. Or is it Obamney? 
But the budget process takes time. And right now, if Congress doesn’t act by March 1, a series of harmful, automatic cuts to job-creating investments and defense spending – also known as the sequester – are scheduled to take effect. And the result could be a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole.
Time's a wastin'. Billionaire Shadow President Pete Peterson of the Third Way, the Council on Foreign Relations and Fix the Debt, is getting antsy. Ergo, Obama is sounding more and more like the trickle-down Reaganite he truly is. "Job-creating investments" and defense spending will help the middle class. Uh-huh. When Obama refers to "our economy" he is of course referring to the unregulated, reckless, and feckless free market -- not you. So now, it's time for him to pivot to some heavy-duty fear-mongering: 

If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off. Firefighters and food inspectors could also find themselves out of work – leaving our communities vulnerable. Programs like Head Start would be cut, and lifesaving research into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s could be scaled back. Small businesses could be prevented from getting the resources and support they need to keep their doors open. People with disabilities who are waiting for their benefits could be forced to wait even longer. All our economic progress could be put at risk.

You're all gonna DIE. America will become Max Max's Thunderdome. Your kids will turn stupid as they wander the filthy streets, your houses will burn down, a plague of disease and senility will descend upon this great land, only Walmart will be left standing to squeeze every last nickel out of you, people will thrown out of their wheelchairs and rendered incapable of even reaching a dumpster for their next meal, which will have been poisoned anyway owing to layoffs of food inspectors. Oh, and Wall Street will get the vapors. All because of a crisis manufactured with the full cooperation and connivance of the executive and legislative branches, for the sole purpose of providing a fig leaf for no less damaging (because they will be permanent) cuts to social programs.

And then there’s the impact on our military readiness. Already, the threat of deep cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. As our military leaders have made clear, changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world. And we will be forced to make even more tough decisions in the weeks ahead if Congress fails to act.

He won't be able to kill as many people or occupy as many countries or drone as many drones? His Kill List will resemble a frayed baseball card collection that loses all its value? Well.... okay.
The good news is, there’s another option. Two months ago, we faced a similar deadline, and instead of making deep, indiscriminate cuts that would have cost us jobs and slowed down our recovery, Democrats and Republicans came together and made responsible cuts and manageable changes to our tax code that will bring down our deficit. This time, Congress should pass a similar set of balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution.

See above charts. The Feckless Cliff Aversion Act punished the poor and gifted the rich. We let the Social Security tax holiday expire for no apparent reason. People have less money to spend. People still have no jobs, no health care, no retirement savings. Nonetheless, Obama wants you to feed what little you do have into the voracious maw of the ruling class. Work till you die, if you're lucky enough to still have a low-wage job, so that your betters can maintain, even improve, the lifestyles to which they are accustomed. Be placated as they close the tax loopholes of the wealthy with their flimsy thread, be ignorant as they wait thirty seconds before sewing them all up again.

Right now, most Members of Congress – including many Republicans – don’t think it’s a good idea to put thousands of jobs at risk and do unnecessary damage to our economy. And yet the current Republican plan puts the burden of avoiding those cuts mainly on seniors and middle-class families. They would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.

Republicans want you to suffer. Your president wants you to suffer too, but only when he can call it even by easily making Lloyd Blankfein give up the tax deduction on his Lear jet. Temporarily, that is. Because once the retirement and Medicare age goes up, there will be no givebacks to poor people, who don't have lobbyists at their beck and call.
Over the last few years, we’ve made good progress towards reducing our deficit in a balanced way. There’s no reason we can’t keep chipping away at this problem. And there’s certainly no reason that middle-class families and small businesses should suffer just because Washington couldn’t come together and eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes, or government programs that just don’t work. At a time when economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress, we shouldn’t allow self-inflicted wounds to put that progress in jeopardy.
There is no good reason why we should be worrying about the deficit at all. Chipping away at it serves no useful purpose and will, in fact, make recovery even more difficult. Barack the Unbalanced disingenuously does not admit that the very austerity he is espousing is a self-inflicted wound. Actually, that is not quite right. The wound he is inflicting is on us, not on him or his Wall Street backers. And anyway, Congress could repeal the self-inflicted wound of sequestration any time it wants to. It obviously does not want to, preferring instead to use it as a manufactured crisis to give cover for austerity and the continued unraveling of our social safety net. 

So my message to Congress is this: let’s keep working together to solve this problem. And let’s give our workers and our businesses the support they need to grow and thrive. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Psssst! Hey, Congress and fellow plutocrats. Let's work together to gin up another phony crisis and the rubes'll never know what hit them. Together we will grow and thrive. See you on the slippery slopes.

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