Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prophets of Doom

The Journal-Sentinel’s praise of Paul Ryan as of late is getting scary. They have a new editorial bestowing the virtue of his “Road Map for America’s Future,” with a few caveats. This editorial repeats many of the lines they gushed in a previous piece. The problem is that it's mostly rubbish.

First of all, Social Security is fine. For the mainstream media to keep pushing these ominous threats about Social Security's impending doom is inexcusable. Even the Congressional Budget Office admits that Social Security is solvent, as is, without any changes until 2052, and up to 80 percent after that. And the idea that somehow privatizing it, making it dependent on the whims of the stock market, is the answer, is a myth. Wake up, people! This is simply one more, in a long line of Republican schemes to loot the Treasury for their own benefit.

Medicare is a quandary, but not because of it’s entitlement issue. It’s because of managed care and the pharmaceutical industries skyrocketing profits. For our health care we spend twice as much as any other developed nation, we get worse results, and 50 million are uninsured.

Also, the push for 10 percent and 25 percent tax rates, "simplified" rates, or a flat tax has been debunked since the first charlatan plotted it. How about we just remove the write-offs, deductions, exemptions, subsidies, and other nefarious tax code ploys that merely benefit the uber wealthy?

This all ties in neatly with our current recessionary woes. Much of this is due to deregulation. Those whom are merely guided by the profit motive cannot be counted on to regulate themselves. This travesty is just more reinforcement for the case for government intervention. Why do we pay $100's for pills while other nations charge pennies? Because the pharmaceutical industry pays for the politicians that allow such. And it's the same reason why the services provided by private managed care companies are so deplorable.

Ryan should be applauded? I hope this is the Journal's attempt at sarcasm. He’s wrapped the same old greedy, exploitative, reward-the-rich Republican idiom in modified rhetoric and snappy one-liners. Just when I believe the Journal-Sentinel cannot not possibly sink any lower as a newspaper, the bottom falls out.

All of these proposals have been laughed at by actual economists (not pretend ones like Paul Ryan) and proven to be Trojan horses attempting to push through typical regressive Republican policies.

What does Paul Ryan have to say about the war? The money we’ve spent on that travesty could shore up Social Security and Medicare for decades. (Not to mention what could be achieved by simply making corporate tax avoiders pay their fair share.) And the real ludicrous part is that the Journal-Sentinel sees nothing wrong with applauding Ryan’s ridiculous proposal, but can’t connect the dots between money being spent in Iraq and money to take care of our nation's sick and elderly.

The media allowed our horrible president, and has continued to allow him, to spend billions on a fabricated and misguided war. This money could have been spent on our real priorities – Medicare and/or fixing the health care system, public infrastructure, education, etc. In economics that’s called an opportunity cost. But I’m sure Paul Ryan and the Journal-Sentinel, being the great economists they are, knew that.

For Further Reading:
Alarming Parallels Between 1929 and 2007
Bat Boy Lives! As Do Myths About Social Security
Debunking The Social Security Myth
Deregulation & The Financial Crisis
Don't Privatize Social Security
Flat Wrong
Inventing A Crisis
Myth of Social Security's Imminent Collapse
Simple Arithmetic Of Flat Taxes
Tax Plan A Con
What Social Security Crisis?
Why Not The Best?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

A recently released "study" finds that conservatives are happier than liberals. I guess it's true what they say, ignorance is bliss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Voter Fraud Hoax

Voter fraud delirium is the latest in the Republicans attempt to suppress the vote of elderly and low-income constituents, whom usually vote Democratic. As Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt note, "At least 11 percent of voting-age Americans [approximately 21 million Americans], disproportionately elderly and minority voters, lack the necessary papers [for IDs]." Study after study in state after state has shown that voter fraud is a myth.

In Wisconsin a voter identification law would disenfranchise 13 percent of the population. Conversely, positively, same-day registration in Wisconsin is partially responsible for our 10 percent higher than the national average voter turnout. Richard G. Frohling, an assistant United States attorney in Milwaukee, asserts, "There was nothing that we uncovered that suggested some sort of concerted effort to tilt the election." Of the hundreds initially suspected in Milwaukee, 14 faced charges, only 5 were convicted.

The recent case of Indiana is one of the more perplexing. The law there purports to stop "voter impersonation," yet the number of prosecutions for such events ever in the state is zero. Due to the law, election officials recently turned away nuns at their polling place.

Jeffrey Toobin explains, "Nationwide despite an attempt by the Bush Justice Department to crack down on voter fraud, there were only a hundred and twenty federal prosecutions and eighty-six convictions between 2002 and 2006 -- a period in which close to four hundred million votes were cast." As Eric Lipton and Ian Urbina state, "Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules."

Karl Rove instituted this devious voter fraud scheme to curb those whom typically vote Democrat from doing such. As Harold Meyerson comments, "Five of the 12 federal prosecutors either sacked or considered for sacking last year had been singled out by Rove and other administration officials for nonperformance on voter fraud...all five came from states where Republicans were embroiled in tight election contests." David Iglesias (District of New Mexico), one of the eight U.S. Attorneys fired in 2006 for failing to find and prosecute voter fraud, after convening an election fraud task force in 2004 never found enough evidence to establish a single case.

With voter turnout abysmally low compared to other nations, the problem isn't that too many are voting, but too few.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Economic Stimulus

The answer to our present economic hardship is not suspending the gas tax (robbing our transportation infrastructure of much needed revenue for repairs and maintenance), nor is it initiating/maintaining regressive tax cuts (robbing our state and federal treasuries of much needed revenues for aid, programs, and operations).

The answer is progressive, uniform taxation. That means making corporations and capital pay their fair share. Of course this coincides with a broader need for trade reform (with revised environmental and labor standards) alongside a reinvigorated industrial/manufacturing policy. Another much needed correction is removing the cap on income taxed for Social Security. And, if anything, gas should be taxed at a higher rate. Plus, a whole host of regulations need to be re-enacted so that these booms and busts are not so severe in the future. It’s enough of this band-aid economic policy that allows the wealthy to takes risks and reap rewards at the expense of working men and women the world over.

Our minimum wage, let-the-bankers-call-the-shots, economy is not sustainable, as witnessed by increasing volatility and bailouts. The U.S. has gone from a leading creditor, manufacturer, and energy producer, to the largest importer of manufactured goods, the number one importer of foreign oil, and a debtor nation.

We have gone from a nation that produced meaningful, useful things, to a nation that buys shit...a lot of shit! Sadly, we’re buying all this shit with debt. We have gone from a nation that had a tax structure that allowed one breadwinner to maintain a good standard of living and provide for a family, while also being able to look forward to a content retirement. Now we’re in the midst of a zero-sum economy where most people are drowning in debt to maintain the appearance of a decent standard of living.

We used to innovate and produce technologies and products that were used worldwide. These days the only ones making money are the hedge fund managers and bankers moving highly risky, “securitized” financial packages around the globe. And even when they lose and their speculation goes belly-up, the taxpayers are the ones whom ultimately pay for the bailout. They get all the profit while we are responsible for all the risk.