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war on the middle class

You don’t – at least, I certainly don’t – see as much talk about the national debt as there was, say, back in the 1990’s. Perhaps even debt hawks among the sorriest dregs and rinsings of the contemporary human intellect – the conservative punditry – realize that the issue has lost its edge since it’s become clear that a huge federal debt doesn’t mean economic apocalypse.
 
But that’s not to suggest that a gi-normous national debt is a good thing. Especially if you consider what has really caused it. If you’re reading this you’re presumably enough into the issue to have seen graphs like the following plenty of times before.
 
US-national-debt-GDP-graph
 
Yeah, it started with Almighty Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich and military spending. And the fundamentals haven’t changed. The U.S. national debt is nothing more or less than the cost of 35+ years of aggrandizing the plutocrats and warmongers.
 
But the real cost of prioritizing that aggrandizement is even greater – indeed, far greater. It’s the cost of the lost potential inherent in a shrinking middle class, and a long-term underclass being screwed in almost every conceivable way. And so on; again, if you’ve read this far, having come to this blog, you know what I’m typing about. Fundamentally, we’re talking about constrained to virtually nonexistent access to substantial resources and opportunity for those not born to wealth, or otherwise granted ready access to it.
 
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middleclassIf this might affect you personally you really should read the whole article. There are multiple factors in play.
 

Considering it’s been less than a decade since the real estate crash that plunged the world into economic calamity, you might think Republicans in Congress would be a little wary of legislation that risked infuriating voters by pushing down house prices.
 
Apparently not! As part of the massive tax-cut push they’ve cued up for this year, GOP leaders are quietly contemplating a proposal that would indirectly curtail the mortgage interest deduction, long considered a sacred cow of American tax policy. The move would almost certainly lead some home values to fall, though it’s hard to predict by how much.
(Slate)

Proper reform of the deduction would stick to making it a lot less of yet another handout to the rich man. But that’s not in the cards.
 

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 2

by Dan Burns on November 29, 2016 · 0 comments

trump4The idea behind this series, incidentally, has to do with the fact that people hate realizing they’ve been suckered. So maybe – maybe – there’s a way, here, to reach some Trump voters, when things start to really go sour.
 

President-elect Donald “I’m supported by fear and hatred and ignorance” Trump has a fantastic new tax plan. Well, it’s not “new.” It’s basically the same sh*tty Republican tax plan that destroys the poor and working classes every time it gets enacted. Trump says the largest tax reductions are for the middle class. He also has a bridge in New York to sell you if you believe that. If you are wealthy, guess what? You will get to pretend that you are going to “create jobs” with your new found wealth — on top of the wealth you already have. If you are in the middle class? Sorry, Charlie!
(Daily Kos)

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The loathsome TPP crawls along

by Dan Burns on April 8, 2016 · 0 comments

tpp2This vile, corporate atrocity was signed by delegates on February 4. It now has to be ratified by legislatures. It’s telling that that’s not expected to be a problem in more totalitarian-leaning places like Malaysia and Vietnam, but it is perhaps iffy in somewhat more democratic ones.
 

Japan’s parliament has started in on it. This article does not include speculation on whether it’s expected to pass, there. It does note a great deal of controversy.
 

Canada and Australia has been suggested as other countries that may not go for it. There’s plenty of opposition, and therefore grounds for hope, in Canada. My searches this morning turned up nothing recent about where Australia may be headed.
 

The biggest question mark is probably right here in the U.S., where among other things all four major remaining presidential candidates (Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, Trump) have expressed opposition. The plan appears to be to try to get it passed in a lame-duck session in December, with tactics that could well include all-but-open bribery for outgoing congresscritters. I wish that I was as optimistic about it being killed as the author of this kind of appears to be. I really hope he’s right.
 

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tppUpdate x 3: Unsurprisingly, David Dayen has the best analysis of today’s happenings, of the ten or so that I’ve perused. Last I saw, another vote on TAA is planned for Monday or Tuesday.
 

Trent Lott used to say that you can’t pass trade deals in even-numbered years, when the public actually might be paying attention. That’s what is likely to happen with more delays. So the clock is the ally of those who oppose the trade deals, and the more they draw it out, the more difficult the climb becomes.
 
While this is definitely not over, if Democrats do hang tough and kill the President’s trade agenda by not playing along on TAA, it will be a victory for good government. This insanity of getting to pass the parts of a bill you like and having them smushed together Frankenstein-monster style makes it impossible to hold anyone responsible for the ultimate outcome. Democrats should be proud of opting out of that charade.
(Salon)

Update: TAA went down big-time, by better than 2-1. But, the House then went ahead and voted on fast-track, and that passed by 219-211. Apparently there may be another vote on TAA, to try to get the package reconciled with the Senate version before it can go to the President. (Incidentally, regarding the second blockquote below, Mitch got crushed.)
 
Update x 2: This is perhaps a somewhat optimistic assessment of where things currently stand. I saw somewhere that there may be another TAA vote next week.
 

A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.
 
Pelosi said the bill was “stuck in the station,” suggesting that changes could get it moving again.
 
Even so, it was unclear how majority Republicans and the White House would be able to gain the momentum.
(Talking Points Memo)

My original post, from this morning, is below the fold.
 
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TPP fast-track moves in Senate

by Dan Burns on May 22, 2015 · 0 comments

tppYesterday.
 

A free trade initiative that is pitting President Barack Obama against his own party cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday.
 
The 62-38 vote to end debate on the bill, moving it toward a final vote, was a victory for Obama, who had linked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to push the bill despite opposition from Senate Democratic leaders…
 
The Senate is now set to vote on changes to the bill, including one that would force the Obama administration to use trade deals to crack down on countries that manipulate the value of their currencies to give their exports a price advantage in the United States — an amendment the White House opposes because it would add a huge new complication into trade negotiations.
(CNN)

We’ve seen this before during the Obama presidency, especially early on. The obsession with getting a deal causes him to give away far too much. Perhaps there’s such a thing as “conciliatory personality disorder.“ Maybe the following will change during the amendment process. But, with the way things have been going, I wouldn’t count on it.
 
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povertyA few recent items.
 

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don’t drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don’t require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they’re pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don’t require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don’t use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.
 
That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don’t recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That’s because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.
(Washington Post Wonkblog)

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TPP fast-track gets another headwind

by Dan Burns on April 30, 2015 · 0 comments

tppIt’s been taken for granted, more or less, that fast-track authority for the noxious travesty that is the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, is a gimme in the Senate. Not so fast, according to this:
 

Trade legislation is sowing discord among Senate Republicans that could make it tougher than expected to pass fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
 
While much of the attention in the trade fight has focused on the divide between President Obama and liberal Democrats, Republican leaders are facing dissent within their own caucus because of currency manipulation and immigration concerns.
 
“The polling is bad, and some people are getting nervous,” said a GOP senator who requested anonymity to talk about his conversations with colleagues.
(The Hill)

The fast-track votes apparently still aren’t there in the House, either. The U.S. and Japan are currently trying to wrap things up, on the deal itself.

 
“No, the TPP Won’t Be Good for the Middle Class.”
 

The basic argument for why the TPP is likely to be a bad deal for the middle class is pretty simple. For one, even a genuine “free trade agreement” that was passed with no other complementary policies would actually not be good for the American middle class, even if it did generate gains to total national income. For another, the TPP (like nearly all trade agreements the U.S. signs) is not a “free trade agreement”—instead it’s a treaty that will specify just who will be protected from international competition and who will not. And the strongest and most comprehensive protections offered are by far those for U.S. corporate interests. Finally, there are international economic agreements that the United States could be negotiating to help the American middle class. They would look nothing like the TPP.
(Economic Policy Institute)

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safe_imagephpdAQA0Ubd1yNoWTNbvw90h90urlhttp3A2F2Fwwwhumanbannersfcom2Fwp-content2Fuploads2F20112F102Ftax-the-1-percent-d-150x150Yet conservatives continue to pimp the same whimpering, groveling welfare-for-the-wealthy crap. David Cay Johnston is among my favorite political writers.
 

According to an analysis by Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston, formerly of the New York Times, the Bush tax cuts, touted as a harbinger of prosperity by the Republican Party, actually robbed each American taxpayer of $48,000 in pre-tax personal income during the twelve years of their existence, for a total of approximately 6.6 trillion dollars.
 
This is more than enough to pay for every student loan, car loan, and credit card debt in the U.S, while still leaving 2.4 trillion dollars in the pockets of Americans. It is the equivalent of an extra 11 dollars a day lost to each American taxpayer over the last twelve years.
(Daily Kos)

This has a long, involved explanation of the above, for the truly wonky among us.
 
(Update: Here is Johnston’s original column, which is kind of hard to get to via the links posted above.)
 
And, also on the theme of right-wing claims about the economy inevitably being complete and utter BS:
 

We see that while (as per usual) there is considerable variation in unemployment rates across groups, the unemployment rate is substantially higher now than it was before the recession started for all groups. The unemployment rate is between 1.2 and 1.7 times as high now as it was seven years ago for all age, education, occupation, industry, gender, and racial and ethnic groups. Elevated unemployment across the board, like we see today, means that the weak labor market is due to employers not seeing demand for their goods and services pick up in a way that would require them to significantly ramp up hiring, not workers lacking the right skills or education for the occupations or industries where jobs are available.
(Economic Policy Institute)

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400764_569839239704612_1390490571_nIn the case of the plutocrats, we can only hope:
 

“For the immortal gods usually allow those men they wish to punish for their crimes a time of success and a period of impunity, so that when a change of fortune comes they are all the more grieved by it.”
– Caesar, The Gallic War, I, 14. (trans. Carolyn Hammond)

Of course, a necessary, but not sufficient, element of the “change of fortune” required is a (much) better U.S. Congress. And not just on the “right side of the aisle,” either.
 
It would be great if “traditional” media did a better job of highlighting how this particularly egregious ripoff of most of America’s populace continues to happen. But it won’t. It seems to me that this could be a particularly good talking point when looking to encourage “persuadables” in our direction.
 

A bill introduced (August 1) by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) would close a loophole that currently serves as a taxpayer subsidy for excessive CEO pay. The Institute for Policy Studies has been calling for a fix to this outrageous glitch in the tax code for two decades.
 
Under current rules, corporations can deduct unlimited amounts off their income taxes for the expense of executive stock options and other so-called “performance-based” pay.
 
“The more corporations pay their CEOs, the less they pay in taxes,” notes Sarah Anderson, a co-author of 19 annual IPS executive compensation reports. “This loophole creates a perverse incentive to pay executives excessive amounts, while ordinary taxpayers wind up paying the bill.”
 
…In May 2013, IPS published a report that was the first to put a price tag on the tax breaks specific corporations have enjoyed from this loophole. The report found that the 90 publicly held corporate members of the ‘Fix the Debt’ lobby group raked in at least $953 million — and as much as $1.6 billion — from the “performance pay” loophole between 2009-2011.
(Institute for Policy Studies)

Regarding the other item I’m passing along, there’s been more talk on the blogosphere about retirement finances of late, because it looks as if public workers in Detroit will be screwed.
 
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