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!



Karen Garcia said...

Speak of the devil. Brooks has written about generational warfare again and the pressing need to destroy, I mean reform, the safety net. My response:

The problem is not the old grabbing from the young. The problem is the rich grabbing from the poor. This notion of generational warfare is manufactured out of thin air by the right wing in order to disguise the fact that the plutocrats are robbing us blind. Riches without end for them, austerity for everybody else. That is the inequality. That is the injustice.

Brooks humblebrags about his new-found humility, then pivots right back to his usual intellectual dishonesty. He gives a concern-trollish nod to income disparity, then pins it on the obesity epidemic afflicting mainly the children of those poor, ignorant unwed mothers. The implied imprecation hisses straight from the pursed lips of the late Duchess of Windsor to the Brooksian ear: "You can never be too rich, or too thin."

And the titans of Wall Street, and the politicians they own, and the pundits they operate, present an argument as thin as the gruel they would have us subsist upon. Their whole aim is privatization of the commonwealth, particularly privatization of our great Social Security program. They attempt to demean us by calling it an entitlement. If they called it the earned benefit that it truly is, it would become impervious to their grasping machinations.

Guilt-tripping older people into "sharing the sacrifice" by imposing a world of hurt on the poor and the young through the gratuitously cruel Sequester is just the latest nasty battle in the class war, and one more step in the downhill road to fascism.

falken751 said...

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

"one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

What a crock, a big lie, just like the United States of America. The states aren't united and there never was justice for all.

Anonymous said...

I just watched an old Johnny Depp/C Everett Koop PSA on AIDS. I was just a teen living in SF when the crisis hit full force. Lost some older friends. but Koop made a difference in our lives.

Hard to imagine that was nearly three decades ago.

Denis Neville said...

FLOTUS crashes the Oscar show with militaristic Banana Republic noblesse oblige.

Meanwhile, POTUS, tool of the billionaires for austerity, aims to gut the safety net for the poor, elderly, disabled, children, and unemployed during these austere times.

But FLOTUS will be there, when the time comes, to serve them soup at the local soup kitchen, in her $540 trendy Lanvin sneakers.

There is a climate of insensitivity and it is hurting us and our nation.

Pearl said...

I would just like to soften yesterday's rather painful discussions of the Jewish influence in politics that has disappointed and alarmed many of us.
There is another side to the coin, regarding the many Jews who have contributed their talents and life's work to inspire and improve our lives. Namely, in music, science, medicine, education, writing, bold political opposition - the list is endless and hopefully balances out the distaste for those who do not live up to the best hopes of Judaism by oppressing others and seeking power and wealth. This is what gives me the courage to speak out about this sad state of affairs. I see progress among the younger Jews both in Israel and the U.S. who will hopefully create a better future for everyone involved and avoid catastrophe in the Middle East.

I appreciate the wonderful comments of our group who share my concerns and validate what I have witnessed personally in my life. And thank you Karen for giving us the opportunity to say what is in our hearts even if we don't always agree. Your columns are always inspiring.

Pearl said...

addendum --

If you don't like what someone has to say, argue with them.

Noam Chomsky

Kat said...

Well, if the sky is out, then it's time for generational warfare on the op ed pages of the NYT. I know Nick Kristof is off saving the ladies or whatever he does when he researches a book, but his compadres just work harder filling the gap. Thank you liberal media! Glad to have you around.
Study finds consuming a gluten free mediterranean diet while watching Downton Abbey dramatically reduces your risk of alzheimer's while increasing your child's chances for acceptance to Ivy league university because after all, 500K a year is practically poverty wages in NYC. Grand bargain.
There. Now the NYT can shut down.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why the comments appended to Karen's penultimate discussion left such a bad taste in my mouth, but I think people were unkind, to say the least, to John in Lafayette.
I am not Jewish, separately, I am not Israeli. But my friends and fellow Americans own land that does not belong to us. In fact, we own some of the choice real estate that was stolen by previous owners from rightful tribal heirs, whom we largely massacred, when disease did not do the work for us.
I am not uncritical of Israel, but I do not see Pearl giving up her land to the native tribes. Thus I wonder about the origin of her particular focus on Israel. And I was not at all impressed by her apology, such as it was.
Quoting Chomsky does not give one license to lump all Jews together in one group.

Zee said...


I appreciated your thoughtful remarks at the tail end of the prior thread. If I appeared to be giving AIPAC a “pass” in my final post, well, that was not the intention. I most definitely do not view criticism of Israel and the Israeli lobby as necessarily “anti-Semitic,” depending upon the language that is used.

Indeed, I, myself, am highly critical of much that Israel has done to tarnish its reputation and thwart peace since—and even before—the 1967 war. And I resent as much as anyone having the “anti-Semitism” card played against me when I express my dismay at Israel's continued colonization of the West Bank to the detriment of a two-nation settlement.

I wrote in haste and without due consideration because I believed that @John in Lafayette was unfairly—and, almost deliberately— baited with toxic language to which he could only respond in anger.

I will not dwell on this topic, but I fear that we have lost a regular and valued contributor here over careless choices of language. I will miss him.

Zee said...


If you have already seen this, I apologize, but for those of you who hate the New York Times, this is the ultimate "send-off."

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my response to another Maureen Dowd column on yet another Plutocatrix (Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!)

This must be the week where the deficit scolds and the scold sisters join forces to make the 99% quake in their shoes. Their mission is to ensure that we feel the fear. Fear of a job loss, fear of health insurance loss, fear of home loss, fear of retirement savings loss. And thanks to the jobs crisis being made worse by needless austerity, there's always a steady supply of those willing to put in the long hours. Where the bosses can see us. Where they can time our bathroom and lunch breaks. Where overtime pay is a myth.

Whether it's a cruel budget sequester or the sequester into the veal pens of workplace America, the designated plutocratic control freaks are keeping us in our places. We're expected to stick out our chins and grin and the sun'll come out tomorrow in the brave new world of trickle-down corporate feminism.

There's a war on women in America, and it goes a lot farther than an assault on our reproductive rights. This country is one of the very few which has no paid maternal leave policy, the lack of which has been termed harmful to families by Human Rights Watch. Our only concession to working moms lately has been a new law making workplace breast pumps tax-deductible. Yahoo and Yippee!

But just wait until the golden years. Women who depend on Social Security are now facing a bipartisan stealth plan known as Chained CPI, designed to further reduce our lifetime benefits and condemn us to an old age of abject poverty.

We have not come a long way, baby.

Anonymous said...

No one has yet pointed out the elephant in Mo's column... back in the glory days of bell labs, the worker had a support network called... a stay-at-home wife. So the dude could focus on engineering neat stuff without stressing out over picking up kids from soccer. Don't laugh, it makes a difference when only one parent has to work.

Jay - Ottawa said...


As to who jumped on whom here yesterday or had a right to feel insulted, I will have to fall back on a phrase of Lenin’s: “Who whom?”

The issue we wrestled with on the previous thread has come around soooo many times for most of us. When the old conversation starts up again, it seems each side is likely to read its lines in the script with a little less patience than the time before.

In any event, what is finally called for, after everyone tries – predictably without success – to point out what is and is not just, is a referee to order all contenders to cease and desist. And so Karen closed the doors on that salon.

You’ve probably heard about a conversation US and Soviet nuclear arms negotiators were said to have had at the end of yet another round of their talks. These same people had had many meetings over the years to argue over the same negotiating points. Each side knew the other side’s positions and tactics by heart. So it was suggested that next time they met, instead of restating negotiating points that would be countered by the predictable response from the other side, they would instead use numbers to substitute for the various negotiating ploys. Somewhat the way ‘Catch-22’ is used.

Thus, a standard opener in talks might be: “Dmitri, why doesn’t the USSR pull back it’s 36 armored divisions from along the West German border.” To which the Soviets would predictably reply for the umpteenth time: “Gladly, Richard, but only if the US takes its 350 MGM-31 Pershing missiles out of Western Europe.”

Next time they met, the conversation would sound like this: “TWENTY-EIGHT!” (which would correspond to “Dimitri, why doesn’t the USSR pull back…etc., etc.”). To which the reply was not “Gadly, Richard, but only if you…etc., etc.,” but “ZIRTY-VOUR!”

The practice would save time and be so much more diplomatic.

Anonymous said...

I'm really struck by the disparity between Zee's post-John response, and those of Pearl and Jay...

Right off the bat, Zee recognized and acknowledged that someone had been "deliberately" "baited" - badly enough to want to leave the discussion forever.

Zee expressed remorse and sadness.

Zee also expressed empathy.

Pearl invoked Chomsky, but didn't recognize John's hurt or her misplaced rage against a friend. Jay told an anecdote about cold war negotiations that had nothing to do with how John had been treated.

I think I can understand very well John's throwing in the towel. I think I also gained newfound respect for Zee. Thanks for the light, Zee.

Anonymous said...

I am retired from DHS/CBP. A worse agency could not have been created. Just to inform taxpayers: costs to hire border patrol agents doubled shortly after DHS was created. Employees are chattels. And veterans looking for jobs are not respected and often not hired, although the veterans are quite often the most qualified in the applicant pool. Veterans employed by DHS are not promoted regardless of education and training. Promotions and jobs go to federal and (more importantly) private contractor toadies. The civil service and merit systems are corrupted and gutted. So much of what this agency does is for the media, and so much of what it does is secret and in direct conflict with the founding principles of this country.

Denis Neville said...

Closing down the tax loopholes exploited by multinationals and the super-rich to avoid paying their fair share would reduce the deficit. The government could then focus on stimulating the economy, rather than squeezing the life out of it with cuts and tax rises for the 99% of people who aren't rich enough to avoid paying their taxes.

Instead, the sequester targets the poor. And Obama, tool of the austerian billionaires, will get the Vichy Left to cut Social Security and Medicare. Three-quarters of the 70 member Progressive Caucus have not taken a stand against cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Worldwide billions suffer from poverty, malnutrition, disease, violence, and environmental degradation.

Paying taxes is perhaps the most fundamental way in which private and corporate citizens engage with broader society. Tax revenues are the lifeblood of the social contract. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

The elites, however, have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations.

“We are ruled by people who think $250,000 annual income means you're poor, but the minimum wage is too high and the olds have it too good.” - Atrios

Real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes. Tax avoidance is so big that it has become an engine of growth for the whole of the investment banking arm. Wall Street bonuses have risen to $20 billion! Tax havens are to those engaged in tax evasion what fences are to thieves. Tax shelters are to democracy what pollution is to the environment. Soon-to-be Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew has investments in the Cayman Islands. Remember when liberals slammed Mittens for his holdings in the Cayman Islands?

One one-thousandth of one percent (0.001%) of the world’s population, about 92,000 people, has $10 trillion in assets stashed in tax havens. The Tax Justice Network calculates that all together there are upwards of $21 trillion, possibly $32 trillion, in these tax havens worldwide. Standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. But politicians continue to tout trickle-down economics.

So capitalism is for poor people and socialism is for capitalists. This view is not just offensive. It is catastrophic. “It is the 'horse and sparrow' theory of income distribution and its taxation. If you feed a horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.”

The rich shift the burden of taxes to the middle and lower classes, where it doubtlessly belongs because they don't have enough sense to become rich so they can afford their own accountants.

“This parallel economy is a hothouse for crime and corruption, facilitating capital flight from developing countries on a mind-boggling scale, a corollary of the City's boasts about attracting capital into the UK. The offshore economy distorts markets by providing tax loopholes to some businesses but not others. It corrupts democracy, helping elites to evade their responsibilities to the societies that nurtured them, and breaking fundamental relationships of accountability that are forged when rulers tax citizens. It does not create wealth but redistributes it from poor to rich. Worse, it destroys wealth and slows growth.” - John Christensen, Director Tax Justice Network

All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.