Jul 262010
Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina
Image via Wikipedia

Long a bastion for Democratic voters, the Bay Area will carry the torch into the November election, hoping to put a democrat in the governor’s office and prevent Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat from falling into Republican hands. Carly Fiorina is threatening to give Boxer a serious challenge, but a video released on Sunday may help to tilt the scale.

The short video on YouTube, created by Brave New Films, shows Fiorina singing praises for the Tea Party and stating that she agrees with their views. Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but in a state where 45% of registered voters who identify with a party are Democrats, and even the Republicans voters tend to be more moderate, strong Tea Party ties may not be advantageous.

A Rasmussen poll from July 14 shows Boxer maintaining a small lead at 49% support compared to Fiorina’s 42%. But a 7% lead does not a victory make, especially in a midterm election where conservatives are more motivated and likely to visit the polls. Barbara Boxer is counting on Democratic strongholds, like Contra Costa County where Democrats are a majority at 50.21% and nearly outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.

As evidenced by Fiorina’s support of the Tea Party, her politics are far from finding resonance with normal California attitudes. But these are not normal times, and Fiorina’s banter touting her business acumen and ability to balance budgets may fit well in the present economic climate. California is broke and struggling, and with unemployment currently at 12.3%, unsuspecting voters just might be swayed by Fiorina’s surface credentials.

But the surface is really all Carly Fiorina has. Even without looking at her Tea Party ties or her anti-abortion stance, a closer look at her business resume should leave any voter questioning both her abilities and her character. Fiorina acknowledges that jobs are a major issue for California, but when it comes to job creation, how much trust should voters place in a person who laid off over 30,000 workers and sent a massive number of jobs to China while heading HP?

Actually, the entire notion that Fiorina is a business professional who’s savvy and capable is suspect, to say the least. True, she was the CEO of HP, but during her tenure, not only was she the champion of hacking jobs, but she also presided over a 52% drop in stock price. In fact, Ms. Fiorina’s leadership record at HP was so abysmal that she was chosen as a member of the Conde Nast Portfolio magazine’s “20 Worst CEOs of all time.”

On the 20 Worst list, Fiorina joined the likes of Dick Fuld of Lehman Bros, Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns, and Martin Sullivan of AIG, all of whom showed their abilities and character while driving the country to the brink of economic collapse. Other of Fiorina’s notable “20 Worst” alumnus include Ken Lay of Enron and Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom. The folk at Portfolio had this to say about Fiorina: “a consummate self-promoter, Fiorina was busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered. She paid herself handsome bonuses and perks while laying off thousands of employees to cut costs. The merger Fiorina orchestrated with Compaq in 2002 was widely seen as a failure. She was ousted in 2005.” Of course, Fiorina did receive a $40 million golden parachute to leave HP — a slightly better deal than that given the thousands of employees whose jobs she cut.

Fiorina really is a garden variety one-trick pony, typical of her conservative brethren. Regardless of the issue, she offers but one tack — cut. In business that meant jobs, which she so eloquently referred to as “right-shoring.” But in government, she’s already pulled out the conservative playbook; we can create jobs and restore vibrancy to the economy, all we have to do is hack spending and cut taxes.

And the really good news is that Fiorina agrees with other Republicans who recently informed us that we don’t need to pay for tax cuts. Yes sir, the deficit reins supreme, so spending must be offset, but Fiorina subscribes fully to the Republican gospel concerning the budget magic of tax cuts. Falling in behind Senators, Mitch McConnell and John Kyl, Fiorina stated in a CBS interview that, “you don’t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves, if they are targeted, because they create jobs.” Of course, such myths have been soundly disproven and all empirical evidence is to the contrary, but what the heck — this is politics!

The plain truth is that Carly Fiorina was a terrible CEO and would make an even worse Senator. She cares not about jobs, at least not American jobs, as evidenced in a 2004 speech defending HP’s practice of off-shoring, where she told the crowd, “there is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore.” Which is true, but is it the ideology voters should value in an elected official?

In the end, voters will have to judge whether or not Fiorina is right for California, but when you add up her position to repeal healthcare, her denial that climate change is a serious national issue, her sitting out 15 of the last 23 elections, including the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and her position on abortion — and then couple them with her elitist attitude on jobs and her belief in voodoo tax cuts, it seems that Carly Fiorina is better suited to serving time in a mental institution than in the United States Senate.

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Jul 222010

Instead, the Massey Energy CEO, widely considered to be the most arrogant and dangerous man in a dangerous and dying industry, lectured the assembled throng about global poverty, preventable disease, the national debt, highway deaths, physics, the relationship between facts and happiness — and oh, yes, the need for the federal government to get off his back.

Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post

Pennsylvania - Scranton: Lackawanna Coal Mine
Image by wallyg via Flickr

What strikes me about this article isn’t how self-centered Mr. Blankenship is, but how we as a country have allowed men like him to rise to the top. Is he really any worse than the CEOs of many large corporations?

Blankenship’s selfish arrogance isn’t unique — it’s becoming the standard for the rich and affluent in America. Where it was once unfashionable to be solely focused on profits, it’s now a badge of success. The more a corporation can squeeze profit from its operations, the higher the rewards to the CEO. Never mind that they have to ignore safety, or even cause the death of employees, that’s how the game is played.

Wealth is the ultimate goal; scoring is done through profits; the playbook requires exploitation of people and planet, and the only rules are whatever they can get away with. This is how success is achieved in 21st Century America.

Corners were cut at Upper Big Branch and 29 people died. The same business practices took the lives of 11 people on the Deepwater Horizon and caused indeterminable loss to the ecosystems of the Gulf. The profiteers on Wall Street economically raped the American middle class, destroying the economy and putting 8 million people out of work. In each case the exploitation was rewarded.

This will remain the American way until we finally come together and adopt a system that recognizes the value of a person by what’s in their heart — not what’s in their bank account.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Jul 222010
April Marks Largest Job Gain Since March 2006
Image by Speaker Pelosi via Flickr

Democrats are now starting to support the Republican call to extend the Bush tax cuts. In a recent interview, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) stated that, “The general rule of thumb would be you’d not want to do tax changes, tax increases … until the recovery is on more solid ground.” I’ve got to ask, what effing “recovery” is Conrad talking about? Is he referring to the Dow being over 10,000? He’s sure not talking about the 30 million Americans who are unemployed or the countless others who are underemployed, threatened, or who have seen their nest eggs decimated.

The thing that most revolts me about this “you can’t raise taxes in a recession” pitch is that it’s spoken by the same folk who are suddenly budget conscious and focused on the deficit. Most recently, Republicans fought the extension of unemployment benefits because the $34 billion price tag was not offset with corresponding spending cuts. Now those same “leaders” are fighting for a $678 billion reduction in revenue by maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the top 2%.

To support their case, they offer the same voodoo economic tenets that supply side crooks have been spewing for decades: they claim that “tax cuts pay for themselves.” Of course, nobody actually believes this — not even the liars who say it’s so. Everyone knows that there’s ZERO empirical evidence to support this claim. In fact, all evidence supports exactly the opposite.

In a 2005 Congressional Budget Office study looking at the macroeconomic impact of an across-the-board 10% tax cut, the CBO estimated that the BEST CASE return was an offset of the loss in revenue by 22% over the first 5 years and by 32% over the second 5 year period. And those were their most optimistic projections. Their more conservative assumptions concluded that the offset over the first 5 years would be only 1%, and that the second period would actually experience a 5% increase in lost revenue. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that this study looked at across-the-board cuts, for rich and poor alike. If the cuts were isolated to only the top rates, even less of the money would find its way back into the economy.

Mark Zandi, head economist for Moody’s, provided analysis in 2009 that supports a similar conclusion. His study of the Fiscal Stimulus of 2008 shows that general tax cuts will increase the GDP by only $1.03 for every dollar of tax relief. The increase in GDP would then theoretically be taxed at some marginal rate, which at present would return no more than $0.36 in tax revenues. The bottom line is that while economists might debate whether or when tax cuts are good for the economy, they virtually all agree that cuts don’t pay for themselves.

But, where tax cuts have questionable impact, government spending provides a much better return. In stark contrast to the weak stimulus provided by tax cuts, the Zandi study concluded that an extension of unemployment benefits would grow the GDP by $1.63 for every dollar spent. The same study estimated every dollar of increased infrastructure spending would return $1.59.

So, why is it again — that we have to offset increased spending, but we don’t have to cover tax cuts?

Oh yeah . . . I remember — it’s because we need jobs, and those tax cuts for the rich are supposed to produce them.

But, wait a minute. Haven’t we tried that before? Weren’t the Bush tax cuts supposed to produce millions of jobs?

Actually, the Bush administration sold the tax cuts of 2003 by claiming they would create 1.4 million new jobs. These jobs were supposed to add to the 4.1 million jobs “expected” from earlier efforts. But in the end, only 2.4 million jobs were ever created. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the entire boom cycle of the Bush years only produced 5.6 million new jobs. In fact, the Bush era had the slowest rate of average job growth of any cycle since 1945, and it was even worse for those in their prime work years (ages 25 to 54), where only 1.8 million jobs were added throughout the Bush cycle.

The sad truth is that we spent most of the past decade testing the effectiveness of growing the economy and creating jobs by cutting taxes, and the entire process has been proven to be an abysmal failure. The first decade of this century produced ZERO net job growth, while no other decade going back to the 1940s produced less than 20%. Do we really want more of this medicine?

What the supply-side fallacy of tax cuts for the rich actually produces is intuitively obvious to even the most conservative observer — it’s more money for the rich. Those very same Bush policies that added all those jobs also brought the after-tax income of the top 1% to it’s highest level since 1979 (17.1%), concentrated more wealth in the top 1% than the bottom 90%, and gave average Americans the first decline of median household income of any cycle since 1967.

There’s only one reason that Republicans, and some Democrats, support tax cuts for the rich, and it’s best summed up by none other than G.W. himself: spoken at the Al Smith dinner in 2000, “This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite — I call you my base.” They owe their allegiance to the wealthy; they willfully sacrifice the average American for the top 2%; they paint government as the problem, knowing that it’s the only hope of The People, and they will do or say anything to serve themselves and further their elitist goals.

The American middle class was created through a system designed to effectively and ethically share the wealth of our great nation. At the core of that system was a structure of progressive taxation that provided the revenue required for it to function. That progressive structure once asked much of those who gained the most, and for decades it worked well. It worked to pay off the war debt and create the programs of the New Deal. But it stopped working in the 1980s, when movement conservatism worked to cut the top rates in half. It doesn’t work today for the same reason. Now those same conservatives are at work again — working to save money for their elite, working to starve government, working to end the American middle class.

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