Presidents and the Economy

So is the president responsible for the accelerating recovery? No. Can we nonetheless say that we’re doing better than we would be if the other party held the White House? Yes. Do those who were blaming Mr. Obama for all our economic ills now look like knaves and fools? Yes, they do. And that’s because they are.

via Presidents and the Economy – NYTimes.com.

Nice summation of a basic rant re: Obama.  Now that Obama has achieved all of the economic goals of the Republicans in the 2012 election one would think there would be a chastised tone coming from the folks who were so terribly wrong.

However, because our media system does a fantastically horrible job of educating the populace about reality, the GOP has actually gained seats based on the results their constituents *believe* Obama has gotten, which have very little in common with the actual results.

Anyway, it’s a fun dynamic to watch, although a tad bit frustrating from the rational actor viewpoint.

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Romney Stays True to Form, Blames Obama’s Habit of Helping People for Winning a Democratic Election

CNN Political Ticker 

“What the president, president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote,” Romney said in the afternoon call, according to audio aired on ABC News.

Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies — some of them this election year — that appealed to key constituencies.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” Romney said, according to The New York Times. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women,” he continued. “And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.” The president’s health care reform plan, he added, also brought out support from African Americans and Hispanic voters.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Looks like Romney being “completely wrong” about his comments on the 47% were themselves completely wrong.  The sad fact here is that I don’t think Romney gets that his “I’ll give you a 20% tax cut that doesn’t affect the deficit” was his own cynical attempt at “buying” the electorate….by advocating policies he thought were right for the country.

This GOP notion that the entirety of the Obama electorate, or even a sizable portion of it, just wants free stuff, is what is costing the GOP support.  It’s a foolish notion, based on bloviating talkers on the radio, that was never based on any objective reality.  It’s always been a subjective opinion.  And a fairly unpopular one.

I think the thing that threw the GOP pollsters and faithful off was the this notion that the U.S. is a “conservative” nation (based on polls like this).  They think that because twice as many people self-identify as “conservative”, they are therefore going to be Republicans.  But when asked to self-identify, we find a greater number of people find themselves to be Democrats.

This is the GOP-Disconnect.  Yes, many more Americans consider themselves to be conservative rather than liberal.  But we also find more Americans consider themselves to be Democrats than Republicans.

Conclusion…Republicans assuming all Democrats are liberals is just flat out wrong.  Republicans assuming all Democratic voters are just poor commies wanting free stuff are just wrong.

Until the GOP (and more importantly, their loudest media representatives) can come to terms with this disconnect, expect more “candid” comments like the ones Romney made…it’s what the GOP faithful truly believe…and it’s just not true.

 

Iraq records huge rise in birth defects, the Cost of War, Continued….

It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujahs homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their “City of Mosques” to “the polluted city” after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

via Iraq records huge rise in birth defects – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent.

There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

US marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American security company Blackwater were killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the street, with two of the corpses left hanging from a bridge. Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest US air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The Iraq War happened.  Even when many in this country can’t remember how Wall Street destroyed the economy four years ago and are now poised to vote for a Wall Street Tycoon, err, “Job Creator, we also forget about the nearly decade long occupation of Iraq.   There’s going to be more to this story.  I’ll write about it from time to time, but if anyone wants to dedicate their lives to solving a real and horrid problem…this is a good one.

You can also continue to advocate against offensive, BASED-ON-UTTER-BULLSHIT WARS!!

The problems they cause tend to last for generations.  Generations.

If you’re wondering why I fight for peace so hard, this is reason N!.

$200,000/yr = Mitt Romney’s conception of where the middle class starts

The Associated Press: Romney: ‘Middle-income’ is $200K to $250K and less

“No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is (to) keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers,” Romney told host George Stephanopoulos.

“Is $100,000 middle income?” Stephanopoulos asked. “No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less,” Romney responded.

No wonder this guy makes $10,000 bets at the drop of a hat. Everyone knows that’s like a normal two-week paycheck for middle class folks.

Big Oil profits from high gas prices lead to attacks on Obama about high gas prices…sponsored by Big Oil

Fossil Fuel Industry Opens Wallet to Defeat Obama – NYTimes.com 

This year’s campaign on behalf of fossil fuels includes a surge in political contributions to Mitt Romney, attack ads questioning Mr. Obama’s clean-energy agenda, and television spots that are not overtly partisan but criticize administration actions like new air pollution rules and the delay of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

“Since Obama became president, gas prices have nearly doubled,” said one advertisement by the American Energy Alliance, a group financed in part by oil executives. “Tell Obama we can’t afford his failing energy policies.”

Wasn’t Citizens United AWESOME?

Now our most powerful and wealthy corporate “people” can dominate the political landscape in a truly Randian paradise. We’re almost there, just another few years of tax cuts, attacks on unions, and a few more years of high gas prices and the future residents of Galt’s Gulch will finally have the firm grasp on the reins of power they’ve always known they should have.

 

Post RNC-Mid DNC Desktop Clearing Link Dump

Let’s get this stuff out of here…another backlog of articles that were interesting but didn’t find the time…

First up, we start in conservative media fantasy-land.

THR: Does the media tie mistakes made by Democrats to President Obama as readily as they tie Republican mistakes to Romney?

Wallace: Yes, the mainstream media is terribly unfair to Obama, and they have to stop their bias in favor of Romney.

[Note: the funny part…Wallace was joking…and doesn’t consider the network that got the highest ratings for the RNC to be part of the mainstream media.]

Next up we see what is driving ratings for Fox News.

From : Fear of a Black President

Obama is not simply America’s first black president—he is the first president who could credibly teach a black-studies class. He is fully versed in the works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. Obama’s two autobiographies are deeply concerned with race, and in front of black audiences he is apt to cite important but obscure political figures such as George Henry White, who served from 1897 to 1901 and was the last African American congressman to be elected from the South until 1970. But with just a few notable exceptions, the president had, for the first three years of his presidency, strenuously avoided talk of race.

Next we move onto folks in black-face being using as political props…

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited an Ohio coal mine this month to promote jobs in the coal industry, workers who appeared with him at the rally lost pay because their mine was shut down.

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

We need to develop a “canary in the convention” that falls over dead when the b.s. gets too deep.

Speaking of b.s. at the convention, here’s the Rolling Stone piece that looks a bit deeper into how Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital made its start, and how it was saved in the early years by a taxpayer bailout.

And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America’s top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829#ixzz25c4gDbu1

In the background, quietly crying, you’ll find our environment.

Yesterday was August 28th 2012. Remember that date. It marks the day when the world went raving mad.

Three things of note happened. The first is that a record Arctic ice melt had just been announced by the scientists studying the region. The 2012 figure has not only beaten the previous record, established in 2007. It has beaten it three weeks before the sea ice is likely to reach its minimum extent. It reveals that global climate breakdown is proceeding more rapidly than most climate scientists expected. But you could be forgiven for missing it, as it scarcely made the news at all.

It also appears that Paul Ryan is quickly creating lots of jobs in various fact-checking departments…

•Accused President Obama‘s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.

•Accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.

•Claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.

•Faulted Obama for failing to deliver a 2008 campaign promise to keep a Wisconsin plant open. It closed less than a month before Obama took office.

•Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.

And there’s more….

The next statement Ryan made was that in 1980 “330,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy. Last year, under President Obama’s failed leadership, 1.4 million businesses field for bankruptcy.”

This is not true. According to American Bankruptcy Institute, under Carter 331,264 businesses and non-businesses filed for bankruptcy. That number includes not just businesses, but personal bankruptcies as well. In 1980, there were 43,694 business bankruptcies and 287, 570 non-business bankruptcies.

Ryan also got it wrong with regard to the number of business bankruptcies last year. In 2011, there were 1, 410, 653 total bankruptcies. Of that number 47,806 were business bankruptcies and 1,362,847 were non-business bankruptcies.

and just to keep it in perspective, Paul Ryan is being sold as the gold standard in Republican honesty and integrity when it comes to numbers.  Really.

Here’s a bit of the “liberal” media conspiracy…in that we have an actual liberal calling out the media for keeping certain things from the eyes of the public.

When Mitt Romney walked down the aisle toward the stage Thursday night, among the people whose hands he shook was the conservative billionaire and major political donor David Koch. But it was a moment missed by the tens of millions of viewers at home. While Democracy Now! was there on the floor and captured the handshake on video, the networks cut away just before the handshake to show footage of two enthusiastic young women supporters and then an overhead shot of the convention center.

You can even see Mitt’s face light up when he sees the Koch.

Heading back to that Rolling Stone story about how firms like Bain avoid paying taxes on their income…the NY State Attorney General (the one after the whore-monger) is now looking into the practice of treating wealthy and connected people’s labor as if it were capital (and thus getting a 20% tax break, from 35% down to 15%).

The New York attorney general is investigating whether some of the nation’s biggest private equity firms have abused a tax strategy in order to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from their tax bills, according to executives with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

The attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has in recent weeks subpoenaed more than a dozen firms seeking documents that would reveal whether they converted certain management fees collected from their investors into fund investments, which are taxed at a far lower rate than ordinary income.

According to financial statements, Bain partners saved more than $200 million in federal income taxes and more than $20 million in Medicare taxes.

[full story]

Thus goes the “secret to his success”.

And finally we see a Business Insider story that hits the nail on the head.

Lots of things are wrong with the economy, but the main problem can be summed up with two simple facts:

  • Corporate profits as a percent of the economy are at an all-time high
  • Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low

The following charts clearly illustrate that problem.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-ford-salary-increase-2012-8#ixzz25cGRYdou

I repeat…

  • Corporate profits as a percent of the economy are at an all-time high
  • Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low

This is the natural results of 30+ years of supply-side economics.

History of Supply Side Experiment

Here we see the real world effect of “supply side” economics.

And there you have it.  Links dumped.

Oh…one final note…it appears that some of the rich, if eaten, might actually sustain us for a while.  Just a thought…

Just in case you were beginning to think rich people were deeply misunderstood and that they feel the pain of those who are less fortunate, here’s the world’s wealthiest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart, with some helpful advice.

“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain,” she said in a magazine piece. “Do something to make more money yourself — spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.”

Yeah, let them eat cake.

Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it. Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia’s wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet.

 

I guess using every tax avoidance loophole in history is “hard work”, but doesn’t it disqualify one from being realistically considered for public service?

Washington Post 

“Carried interest was intended to motivate managers going forward,” said Victor Fleischer, an expert in carried interest at the University of Colorado law school. “In cases like the Romneys, it just shows it is really all about fancy tax planning. It’s not motivating managers going forward.  Not only is Mitt not providing any future services, Ann never did.”

In recent years, the carried-interest deduction has proved controversial on Capitol Hill. There have been several unsuccessful efforts to eliminate the tax break, which critics say improperly treats profits like capital gains, and tax these earnings as ordinary income at 35 percent.

Some tax experts worry that the arrangements Romney benefits from set a bad precedent for a president. “He looks for every tax angle to a degree that is unbecoming in someone who would be the executive in command of the administrative apparatus that enforces the tax law,” said Lee Sheppard, a tax lawyer and contributing editor for Tax Analysts, a publication for accounting and legal professionals.

Only the rich and connected get to treat their labor as if it were capital (and thus get a 50%+ “motivational” tax break) . This is *the* problem, not a solution.

I’d love to see this kind of spending stopped immediately

Where have all the protesters gone?
http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/02/politics/rnc-protest-vermin-supreme/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

“This RNC has been so over-militarized, even attendees were complaining about the level of security,” said sociology professor Sarah Sobieraj. “They were ready with everything — unscalable fences, bomb-sniffing dogs, even long-range acoustic devices, which are nasty.”

The unmistakable message to the protesters: Don’t mess with Tampa.

“It is clear that these extreme measures were not intended to prevent a terrorist attack, they were for protesters,” Sobieraj added. “There has been a shift toward a criminalization of dissent that is a real problem.”

Looks like they spent about $50,000,000 between the city and the Feds.  Up to and including those freaky-ass acoustic deterrents.  I guess it really is the 21st century.  Hrmmm..

If you believe in Net Neutrality, you must stands against the GOP

Patexia.com | GOP opposes net neutrality, internet piracy | Patexia.com

Receiving considerably less attention was the downright Orwellian naming of the “Internet freedom plank,” which opposes net neutrality. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans are looking to remove regulations in the telecommunications industry. Specific regulations are not mentioned.

Perhaps more surprisingly, particularly from the party of the USA PATRIOT Act, is a promise to protect your private data from the prying eyes of Big Brother. The Obama Adminsitration’s stance in favor of net neutrality is derided as “frozen in the past.”

The party that brought us the “series of tubes” we call the “internets” now plans to turn the tubes over completely to corporate America. This is not a good thing.

For those that don’t know or have been misinformed, “Net Neutrality” is the concept that all traffic on the Internet gets treated the same.  What many Telecoms and ISP’s want to do is filter traffic to allow those that pay more to have their content delivered faster and more reliably.  This has the obvious effect of slowing down and degrading the content of those who don’t pay the piper…or “tuber”.

It is the founding principle of the Net, and now Republicans are officially dead-set against it.

John Hodgman nails it, repeatedly, with a huge hammer

Why Winners Should Vote for Obama – The Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/john-hodgman/how-i-learned-to-be-a-winner_b_1834692.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment&ir=Entertainment

After that I learned to appreciate Obama in a different way. I appreciated that he inhabited a world in which idealism — and ideology — could never by sheer force of will overcome objective reality, and the hard compromises, uneasy truces, and constant errors that must be made to live in that world. I especially felt better about this position when I learned that John McCain carried an indian feather around FOR LUCK. This was not how I wanted my country run. By myth and superstition and magic tokens.

This is similar to my own understanding, as I realized Obama could best be described as a “pragmatic realist with liberal aspirations“.

It just makes a whole more sense that trying to paint him as a radical.  Unfortunately for many on the left, that’s not good enough, and appears to be the same as Romney.  As Hodgman notes, that’s generally loser talk.

And make no mistake, the rational folks are losing this country…one little election at a time.

Those on the right who began wishing in 1980 to dismantle the Great Society, de-regulate and de-unionize business, and starve the beast of the federal government are, you may have noticed, very close to succeeding. I am not saying this to scare you; maybe you agree with them. But the point is that it happened because they endured the compromises, hypocrisies, and retreats needed to get the wins, and profoundly change policy in ways we barely noticed — the repeal of Glass-Steagall; the massive tax cuts; the empowerment of corporations as political donors. These things did not happen because conservatives who believed in them kicked Reagan out of office in 1984 for failing to outlaw abortion immediately. It happened because they won elections.

 

Romney revives tax discussion with admission of tax avoiding history and expertise

Romney Says Corporations Familiar With ‘Low-Tax Havens’ – Businessweek 

The newly released Bain records show that Romney took advantage of investments with the firm that achieved a low tax rate, for example, by engaging in what are known as management- fee conversions or fee waivers. Bain Capital Fund VII LP disclosed in a 2009 report that the general partner in the fund had in the past waived management fees and converted those fees into an interest in the fund called a “priority profit share.” That had the effect of turning fees that would be taxed at ordinary income rates, as high as 35 percent, into capital gains, taxed at a rate of 15 percent.

So by using this loophole he is essentially cutting his tax rate from 35% to 15%.   A 20% reduction.   Considering he made $20M last year, 15% is $3m.  35% is $7M.   So he is getting a roughly $4m/yr tax loophole.

Multiple this by 10 years, and you find the $40M he used to run for President in 2008.  You’ll also find that the U.S. ran a budget deficit this whole time, so a good portion of Mitt’s tax loophole money was replaced with borrowed from China money.

The thing about this is…it only takes 300,000 people paying that extra $4M/yr to make up our $1,200,000,000,000/yr deficit.

300,000,000 million people in the country, divided by 300,000…is the top 0.1%.  I.e. the top 10% of the top 1%.

In 2005 (seven years ago), the top 0.1% averaged nearly $1.7M each.

So while closing this loophole doesn’t completely close our budget gap in and of itself, it closes a good portion of it…and does so in a responsible manner.

Right now we are borrowing from the wealthy to pay our bills rather than taxing them.  The same folks are then turning around and using that money to “job create….” in the sense that Mitt Romney is using that money to run for President…again (he took the $17m he spent in 2008 as a loss on a personal loan to himself on his 2009 tax returns…one would assume…since he is hiding them and it makes sense to do so).

Far from being the petty thoughts of small minds, wondering how much folks like Mitt pay in taxes, and how they have avoided them in a very relevant discussion in 2012…at least if anyone knows how math works.

CBO: Congress doing Nothing is the Best Tax Scenario

According to a new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the United States federal government debt is projected to peak in 2015 and then drop substantially over the coming decades, all by itself if Congress can just sit on its hands and stop handing out tax breaks to individuals and corporations. Unfortunately, Republicans are bent on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, which the CBO found earlier this year will add $5.4 trillion to the debt in the next decade alone. And the Democrats proposals aren’t much better. President Obama’s proposal to extend the tax cuts for the first $250,000 a family makes and the first $200,000 a single person makes would actually result in an extension of 78% of the Bush tax cuts and would cost $3.5 trillion in the next decade. (This is still preferable to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to extend the tax cuts for the first $1 million of income a family makes.) Congress should, however, increase the budget deficit temporarily if the result will be greater economic growth. But extending the Bush tax cuts would provide very little boost in economic output (compared to proven measures like increased unemployment insurance, food stamps or other types of spending programs).

I’m all for letting the whole shebang expire, go back to the tax rates we had when the budget was balanced…and move forward from there. In every way, form, and fashion the Bush cuts have not worked…they need to die…soon. — Should Congress Just Go Home? http://ctj.org/taxjusticedigest/archive/2012/06/should_congress_just_go_home.php