Aug 302010
Small Businesses 4
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President Obama spoke briefly from the Rose Garden this morning about the economy. He acknowledged that the recovery is still fragile, but offered assurances that his team was, “hard at work on additional measures.” He offered few details, but pulled no punches in blasting GOP leaders for their obstruction of relief for small business. “I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade,” the President urged, referring to the persistent GOP filibuster of a small business aid bill that’s been stalled in the Senate since shortly after the House passed similar legislation this past March.

The small business aid bill, last blocked from going to the Senate floor at the end of July, includes $12 billion in tax relief and also creates a $30 billion fund intended to facilitate lending to small businesses. The tax breaks, designed to stimulate growth, include deductions for capital equipment investment and credits for new hires. With the large banks still withholding any funding for small business, the loan fund is designed to allow community and regional banks, those with assets under $10 billion, to fill the void. Small businesses need money to expand, and according to Bob Coleman, publisher of the Coleman Report, which provides information on small-business lending, many businesses are postponing expansion while they wait on the outcome of this bill.

Republicans in the Senate have spoken out against the bill, likening it to the TARP, which they all supported, but which has since fallen into disrepute. They label the bill as more Democrat spending, even though it’s fully paid for. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell explained that the Republicans had already been given 3 amendments to the bill, but that “three amendments is not enough.” Democrats countered that the border security provision offered by Republicans had nothing to do with small business, and that they would not allow the Republican maneuver to add a permanent extension to the Bush tax cuts. Republicans also complained about the $1.5 billion in aid to farmers contained in the bill, so Democrats removed the provision, but were still not able to sway any Republican support.

In his speech today, President Obama stated of the bill that, “there’s no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics.” Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research seems to be in agreement. Speaking in July, he characterized the standoff like this, “The Democrats want to hand money out to small banks and win some support among traditionally Republican backers, while the Republicans don’t want the Democrats to have any achievements to show when they campaign.” Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who typically sides with Republicans, is fully in favor of the legislation.

So, how is it that the Party who purports to be a champion of small business, comes to resist, so adamantly, a bill designed to help that very segment? This is the same party that bases their defense of extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich on the detriment their expiration would have on small business, yet they won’t support this fully funded stimulus. Conservative voters should take heed, because this is just another piece, amongst a vast body of evidence that indicates where Republican loyalties are tied.

President Obama did mention a few other examples of efforts being pursued by his administration. He emphasized that they were still fighting for the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. Although he gave no indication of how they might achieve that without also extending the cuts for the rich. They are incapable without GOP support, and thus far, Senate Republicans remain firm in their resolve to force an across the board extension, that adds $678 billion to the deficit from relief for the rich, or nothing at all.

The President stated that further tax cuts to encourage businesses to create jobs in the U.S. were being considered. He also listed initiatives being pursued, such as, “rebuilding more infrastructure for the future” and “redoubling our investment in clean energy and research and development.” But he gave no details on these items, nor did he even mention the current stimulus, which is actively moving these initiatives forward. The stimulus which is so often maligned by conservatives, but credited by economists for avoiding 2 addition percentage points of unemployment and adding millions of jobs, is also providing a critical service in moving our nation into a clean, alternative energy future and building infrastructure in the areas of public transportation and a smart grid.

Much to the disappointment of many progressives, the President’s speech failed to clearly identify the severity of our current economic problems or the details of the administrations plan to address them. With both consumers and businesses tucking their money away, there’s little hope that things will change without further stimulus, but in an election year where the deficit hawks are out hunting for prey, Democrats appear to lack the resolve to promote such a bold action. The alternative is obviously a very slow recovery in which the middle class foots the lion’s share of the bill — and minus the public wherewithal to understand that the deficit has merely been presented to conveniently block further corrective action, we appear to be doomed to stew in this status quo.

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Aug 282010
The Republican Party encourages every form of ...
Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

Article first published as I Think I’ll Vote Republican — NOT! on Technorati.

On this, the eve of Glen Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, I think it a good time to reflect on what it means to be a conservative in 21st Century America. Beck has scheduled his rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “March on Washington.” According to Beck, the purpose of the rally is to celebrate “upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.” Such patriotism, such vision, a staunch supporter of the Republican Party, Beck is at the core of contemporary conservatism.

So, what is it that defines today’s conservative? What is the Republican plan for the future of America?

John Boehner shared the Republican vision for America earlier this week. And fortunately for conservative voters, the Republican platform is far more simple than that of their Democratic counterparts. Republicans don’t spend all that wasted time worrying about equity and ethics and all that stupid liberal stuff. Heck, when your objective is limited to maximizing the profits of big-business and minimizing the tax burden of the top 2%, all that fairness stuff just gets in the way.

Oddly enough, the new Republican Party looks an awful lot like the party of George Bush. So drastic is the likeness, that topping their list of priorities is the extension of the Bush tax cuts — for even the very rich, permanently. They even espouse the same disproven Bush tenet that tax cuts pay for themselves. So, although economists contend that the $678 billion price tag to extend the cuts for the top 2% will directly impact the deficit for which the Republicans feign concern — not to worry — we just need to cut spending.

Ah, but where to cut? Not defense! Oh no, the Military Industrial Complex is the heart and soul of conservative America — not to disparage the fossil fuel industry or the gun lobby. But, with defense costing over $1 trillion and representing more than 25% of the budget, where better to slice? Wait a minute . . . what would George Bush do? That’s it — Social Security can be privatized! Never mind that it’s solvent through 2037 and that with minor tweaking it can provide a vital safety net well into the next century; it’s a huge pool of money just begging to be exploited.

But, what about jobs? The problem is that Americans still expect far too much in compensation for their labor. But is it government’s responsibility to get people back to work? Unemployment is actually a good thing, for business, so long as you don’t have to pay benefits. There are really few things better for corporate profits than an abundant supply of labor so desperate for work that pay-scale and fringes no longer matter. So, the solution is self-evident: oppose any government funding of benefits, rail against government investment in infrastructure or energy or anything else that might tip the balance of economic power, and for God’s sake make sure nothing stops the flow of jobs overseas.

So, less taxes, fewer entitlements, an eager workforce, it’s music to the ears of contemporary conservatism. And the final ingredient to restore the Bush recipe for a prosperous upper crust — more deregulation. Just keep those oil wells pumping, those insiders trading, that gas flowing, and blessed will be the fruit of the offshoring multinational. The heck with the environment. What’s a little oil spill here and a little flaming water there? Businesses have to compete on a global scale, and worrying about the environment just isn’t good for profits. Besides, if you’re already exploiting the people, who gives a care about the planet?

Does any of this sound at all familiar? It should, because it’s Bushonomics 101. Today’s Republican Party promises a full return to the very practices that produced the most meager job growth since the 1940s, resulted in the first decline in median household income of any cycle since 1967, set modern records for the concentration of wealth at the very top, crashed the economy, brought us the Massey mine disaster, filled the Gulf with oil, and divided our nation.

The only real difference between the Bush Republicans and the Boehner, McConnell, Palin, Beck contingent is that where the Bushies confined their fear mongering to terrorists and certain foreign enemies, the 2010 Republicans have turned their sites inward. American citizen or not, if you’re Islamic or Mexican, Black, gay or liberal — you are an “Other,” and that makes you the problem . . . or rather the solution, because wealthy or not, the Republicans still need votes, and with a platform that only benefits 2% of the population, distraction is everything.

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Aug 272010
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The man who wants to be Speaker of the House, John Boehner, spoke out against Democratic leadership earlier this week. A string of cheap attacks and tired one-liners, Boehner’s diatribe was pure substance-free political posturing. He called for President Obama to fire his economic team, extend tax cuts for the wealthy and to put the brakes on spending. Lacking any shame, the congressman actually had the temerity to suggest the nation needs a “fresh start,” with “people willing to accept responsibility” in charge — as if he or any of his big-business Republican cronies have accepted one iota of blame for crashing the economy and killing millions of jobs, or for doing everything within their power to stall recovery.

The would-be Speaker, obviously intent upon leveraging public concern over jobs, used every opportunity to label the administration’s programs as “job-killing.”  Weaving the term into every topic, “job-killing tax hikes,” “job-killing regulations,” “job-killing agenda,” Boehner evoked the reaper 12 times in all. Condemning the recent $26 billion stimulus bill, Boehner stated that it, “funnels money to state governments in order to protect government jobs.” Of course, he was referring to 161,000 teacher jobs, as well as 158,000 jobs for police, firefighters and healthcare workers. But those jobs weren’t worth saving to John Boehner. He continued his criticism with, “Even worse, the bill is funded by a new tax hike that makes it more expensive to create jobs in the United States and less expensive to create jobs overseas,” which would be alarming — if it were true, which it’s not. His “job-killing tax hike” was actually the closing of a loophole that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas.

What Boehner did reveal of the Republican plan for creating jobs appeared to be vintage Bush. It’s the same old recipe that drove the nation off a cliff the last time around — more tax cuts for the rich and less regulation. Conveniently ignoring the fact that President Obama wants to extend the Bush cuts for everyone making under $250,000, Boehner told the crowd that, “Raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster — both for our economy and for the deficit. Period. End of story.” He’s right, so if he truly believes what he says, he should stop fighting for cuts for the top 2% and join the Democrats in providing relief to everyone else — including all but 2-3% of small businesses.

Boehner is truly a master at the art of double-talk. He claims to advocate for small business, stating that expiring the cuts for the top 2% would, “affect half of small business income.” But he fails to mention that the “half” he wants to protect are “small business” only in terms of the number of employees. Boehner’s half makes 50% of the money, but consists of the wealthiest hedge funds, law firms and lobbying outlets, and comprise no more than 3% of the actual small businesses.

Amongst the newly formed ranks of Republican deficit hawks, Boehner also called upon President Obama to, “submit to Congress for its immediate consideration an aggressive spending reduction package.”  Of course, being a good Republican, Boehner did specify that the freeze should only be for non-defense spending.  But that’s just the tip of his forked tongue. Avoiding the disproven claim that tax cuts pay for themselves, Boehner is left with no explanation for his logical inconsistency in demanding spending cuts to fight the deficit, yet supporting $678 billion in millionaire tax cuts to choke revenue.

One lie after another, Boehner’s critique of the Obama Administration was as fact-free as his economic plan for the future. But possibly his most egregious distortion was regarding the stimulus. A critic from the beginning, according to Boehner, the program, “has gotten us nowhere.” Sadly, many voters will believe this whopper, even though it has absolutely no basis in reality.

Perhaps Boehner had not yet read the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the stimulus. The CBO analysis found that the stimulus had raised the GDP by 1.7% to 4.5% and increased the number of people employed by 1.4 to 3.3 million. In response to Boehner’s fallacious claim, Mark Zandi, former economic advisor to John McCain, took issue and stated that, “Without the stimulus spending, instead of a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, we’d have an 11.5 percent unemployment rate.”

But, the facts regarding jobs and unemployment really only scratch the surface. The real impact of the stimulus is still in process. It is creating jobs in the present, but it promises to create far more in the future. The program is investing in research and infrastructure, providing seed money to jump start alternative energy, modernize transportation, fund ground-breaking medical advancements and enhance technologies such as broadband and smart grids. And in so doing, the program is also transforming the way government works.

Ever the champion of the status quo, it’s easy to see why John Boehner doesn’t appreciate the progress funded by the stimulus. When Boehner says it, “has gotten us nowhere,” what he means is that it has prevented the huge drop in wages his corporate cronies so desperately desire, and that it’s also paving the road away from dependence on fossil fuels. A green America with well-paid Americans working in new industries is Boehner’s worst nightmare. He and his Republican brethren are just fine with things the way they are.

In Boehner’s own words, “It’s time to put grown-ups in charge,” and since it’s obvious that the congressman never even learned the most basic rules of adulthood, like telling the truth and practicing what you preach, he must not be referring to himself. So, let’s all hope he gets his way and voters make the intelligent choice in November —  they put the grown-ups in charge and vote Democrat.

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