Sep 202011

If your doctor gave you a prescription to improve your health, and it made you deathly ill, would you follow said doctor’s orders to take ever-increasing dosages?

Of course you wouldn’t. You’d label the doctor either an incompetent quack or an unscrupulous shill for the pharmaceutical company; you’d stop taking medicine that was killing you, and you’d seek alternative treatment.

It’s all so obvious: you believe that something will be beneficial, so you give it a try, but once your experience proves that your faith was misplaced — you dummy up. You learn from your mistake and move forward a wiser person.

So, why is it that what seems so obvious in a healthcare scenario, and would also apply without exception if dealing with a mechanic, a lawyer, a contractor, or pretty much anyone else, somehow winds up being lost entirely in the world of politics?

More to the point: how is it possible, after experiencing the catastrophic results of conservative economic policy, that there’s a single American (who’s not either a Republican politician or some other member of the Top 1%) still willing to give the GOP Rx for the economy another nanosecond of consideration?

When King Solomon said that “there is nothing new under the sun,” he couldn’t possibly have done a better job at describing GOP economic policy. From the plans being offered by the illustrious ranks of Republican presidential candidates to those recently articulated by House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, their prescription is nothing but more of the same poison that crashed the American economy, blew unemployment up to historic levels, and fueled concentration of wealth not seen since the Great Depression.

The GOP Rx for the economy is ever-static and never works. Whether you’re talking decades ago or focused on today, it always consists of the same triple threat to the American people: cut taxes for the wealthy, deregulate, and privatize government along with the commons. They wrap their rhetoric up in a flag, label their plan as “job creating,” and somehow manage to sell the same warmed-over economic Vioxx time and again.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve already tried every element of the Republican plan, all to the detriment of the vast majority of Americans.

According to the GOP, we must lower taxes on the wealthy (a.k.a. the “job creators”) in order to address unemployment. Of course, tax rates today are at record lows with the total income tax burden at its lowest point since 1950 — a fact that begs the question, “Why don’t we already have the jobs?”

Well, the answer is that lowering taxes on the wealthy doesn’t create jobs. It never has and never will, yet whenever the opportunity arises, the GOP snake oil dealers come out of the woodwork offering the same poisonous tonic. Bush did it in 2001, promising 800,000 jobs from his Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, but the $1.6 trillion tax cut, that gave fully half of the savings to the Top 1%, didn’t actually create any jobs. In fact, following the cuts, we lost 2.7 million jobs by May of 2003.

In contrast, Bill Clinton had the unmitigated gall to raise taxes on the rich, which if GOP prognosticators were right should have been a death knell for job creation. But instead of the Republican predictions of an apocalypse, of a market collapse and dire straits for the economy, we entered into the most prosperous peacetime economy in American history. BLS records show that 22.7 million jobs were created under President Clinton and a paltry 1.08 million under George W. Bush. It seems pretty obvious which president had the better prescription for the American economy.

Once all of the hype is pushed aside, it’s plain to see that tax cuts for the rich have little to do with job creation and instead achieve only the one thing that the average person might expect — they make the rich even richer. They lead to the banana republic style distribution of wealth that now has the U.S. ranking 98th amongst 136 nations measured by the Gini index of income inequality — worse than Iran — worse than freaking China! But what can you expect when our top 1% now holds more financial wealth than the bottom 95% of the population?

So, maybe the GOP is wrong about tax cuts but right about deregulation. Maybe present calls to repeal Dodd-Frank to “free up Wall St.” are just the prescription for prosperity we need. Maybe there is validity in Michelle Bachmann’s claim that financial reform is “killing the banking industry.” And maybe Sarah Palin will actually run for president, there really is an Easter Bunny, and the GOP truly does give a fat flying flip about working Americans.

The deregulation story is actually scarier than the tax cut myth. It was deregulation that gave birth to the derivative market, allowed unfettered access to credit default swaps, tore down the barrier between investment and commercial banking, and created the Wall St. casino that bled the middle class for 30% of their combined wealth and sent unemployment to levels not seen since the last tax cutting, deregulating, military spending GOP buffoon, Ronald Reagan, sent the rate over 10%.

It was George W. Bush’s dismantling of the regulatory structure that gave us the housing bubble and subsequent economic collapse, allowed the Massey Mine disaster to kill 29 people, and laid the ground work of incompetence that led to the BP oil spill.

Republican style deregulation strips government of its power to carry out it moral mission to protect the people and replaces it with a charade of profit-focused companies pretending to police themselves. It assigns henhouse security to the fox by binding and gagging the farmer. It leads to companies monitoring safety requirements, as it did at Big Branch and in the Gulf, and leaves drug testing to the pharmaceutical companies, as was the case with Merck and their Vioxx pain reliever that caused tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes, and killed nearly 3,500 Americans.

There are no doubt regulations that do place an unnecessary burden on businesses, and they should be addressed, but they are in the minority. Most regulations serve a vital purpose to protect the citizenry from those who would exploit people and planet in order to add to their bottom line.

Government regulation is as necessary as our system of criminal and civil law. It ensures the safety of our food, infrastructure, medicine, energy, transportation system, consumer products, water supply, and workplace — without regulation we cannot have a functional society. Regulatory reform may indeed be essential, but it must be accomplished intelligently and without compromise that sacrifices the moral mission in exchange for the profit motive. Such reform cannot be achieved through GOP “starve the beast” tactics, where funding for the FDA, SEC, FAA or FEMA and OSHA are indiscriminately cut, nor will it happen through attacks on unions, the NRLB or the EPA as proposed by Eric “Corporate Shill” Cantor and his ignorant mob of Tea Party ideologues.

The Republican plan for America is simple: starve government of necessary funding, cripple government by axing regulations, and turn whatever’s left of government over to private enterprise to milk for profits. They ignore the reality that our economy is stalled because of lack of demand stemming from concentration of wealth not seen since the Great Depression. They ignore science, clutching onto the desperate notion that 98% of climate scientists are wrong about global warming in order to justify their loyal support of fossil fuels. And they ignore the selfish drain on the economy presented by the Wall St. casino and fat-cat government contractors who provide services at rates averaging 183% of the costs to simply hire federal workers.

Sadly, none of this matters to the GOP. When facts get in their way, they just invent another marketing phrase, regurgitate more of their distorted talking points, and spin their poison in populist labels like “liberty” and “freedom.” But in spite of their flag waving and lip service for working Americans, the truth of the GOP is that their core mantra remains “government is the problem,” and they will stop at nothing to deliver on their self-fulfilling prophesy.

Make no mistake about it, the GOP Rx is effective. The problem is that the America it’s intended to serve is comprised of only the top 1 to 2% of Americans. The strength of our nation depends upon both a strong democracy and a healthy capitalist economy. Sadly, the Republican Party is willing to trample the rights of the People and decimate that democracy in order to feed the greed of the economic elite.

Americans need to wake up before it’s too late. They need to smell the burning apple pie, and realize that the parasitic capitalist machine is killing its host. Republicans may still talk about jobs and small business, but it should be obvious to the most casual observer that high unemployment and the lower wages it brings are nirvana for GOP strategists, and real small business is anathema for their vision of an American corporatocracy.

The GOP Rx for our economy deserves a grade of “D” for “Death” of the American Dream. And any working American who subscribes to their prescription and believes that the policies that are destroying the middle class will somehow magically start producing a different result deserves a great big “F” for “Fucking Insane!”

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Oct 262010
Official "Vote NO on Prop 8" logo
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Okay, the midterm election is another day closer, and here’s the next installment of my Voter’s Guide. So, if you have the time and are so inclined, you can read on. I’ll give you my position on each issue and also share why I’m voting the way I am.

Of course, if you’re a conservative, you’re not likely to agree with my positions, as I just today reviewed the guides assembled by several Democratic leaning groups, like the Courage Campaign, CREDO and the California Democratic Party (okay, so a little more partisan than just a lean), and it looks like I’ll be voting the party line on all issues for which they’ve taken a position. Perhaps this content could still have some value for conservatives though — as an anti-guide, or maybe just to help understand why somebody might vote along the Democratic line.

Proposition 22: Prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.

Under the State Constitution, state and local governments share revenue from certain sources. This arrangement leads, from time to time, to the state affecting the distribution of funds to local agencies. This initiative will apply new limits to the authority of the state over local finances.

Specifically, the measure will limit the state’s access to fuel tax revenues, including temporary borrowing for cash flow purposes; it will also prohibit the redirection of redevelopment funds and eliminate the state’s ability to temporarily shift taxes from cities, counties and special districts to schools. There is also a provision to prohibit the use of Vehicle License Fees to cover state mandated costs.

In a nutshell, this initiative is designed to tie the state government’s hands in matters of the distribution of shared revenues. On the surface, this seems to have some merit. Those promoting the initiative label it a measure to “stop state raids” of local funding. Who wouldn’t be for that?

The problem is found in the detail. First off, Prop-22 attempts to constrain the state at a time when we have a $20 billion budget crisis. And it does so in a manner that prohibits the state from even performing such innocuous maneuvers as temporary borrowing to avoid cash flow issues. It also takes money from schools and codifies into the State Constitution protections for redevelopment agencies.

These measures seem unwise and imprudent in such a time of fiscal crisis. Proponents argue that the money should flow to its originally intended targets, while the opposition would argue that when money is tight, it should flow in order of precedent for the services most needed.

Good organizations are split on this proposition, with cities, most police, and local firefighters in favor, and teachers, nurses, and state firefighters opposed. The truth is that, if passed, the initiative will take significant funds from schools and healthcare and send it to redevelopment agencies and the private developers who rely on their funding. This is just bad policy and deserves to be defeated by an informed electorate.

Proposition 23: Suspends implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB32).

The state enacted AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, in 2006. AB32 set a target of reducing the Green House Gas (GHG) to their 1990 levels by 2020. The legislation required the Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt the rules required to make this happen. Proposition 23 seeks to suspend the implementation of AB32 until the unemployment rate in California drops to 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters.

Proponents of the initiative promote the measure as a smart move to minimize energy costs and spur job creation. They insist that the move is needed, in spite of pollution concerns, because of the state’s $20 billion budget deficit and high unemployment. They contend that, while Global Warming may be a serious concern, California cannot solve the issue on its own.

What the proponents don’t want to reveal is the fact that since 1970, California has had only three periods when the unemployment rate was below 5.5 percent, and that those periods each lasted only around 2-1/2 years. The fact is that with unemployment currently over 12 percent, it will be a long while before California experiences a full year where unemployment dips below 5.5 percent.

The other thing that Prop-23 supporters don’t want California voters to understand is that main backers of the proposition are Valero and Tesoro oil companies — two Texas firms who are amongst the worst polluters in the state.

This proposition has nothing to do with jobs. These oil companies are simply trying to use the state’s unemployment situation as leverage to rationalize legislation that will only serve to increase pollution and bolster their bottom lines. For them, this is all about maintaining the status quo, about keeping the profits in the coffers of polluters instead of transferring the wealth to a new generation of clean energy companies.

California is on the leading edge of developing a clean energy economy. Millions of jobs will be established as this effort is allowed to move forward. Californians need to reject the self-serving propaganda of these old-world, dirty energy polluters and embrace the future. Clean energy will return America to the forefront of technology, establishing new export industries and putting the planet on a track for a sustainable future, while simultaneously addressing our nation’s security and economic issues associated with dependency on foreign oil.

Prop-23 is a death blow for progress that serves but one purpose — to save the profits of polluters. There is absolutely no reason to vote in favor of this proposition except to support dirty energy and the oil companies behind it. VOTE NO — Please!

Proposition 24: Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability.

The background on this proposition is that the legislature and governor recently made certain agreements that changed the rules for business tax treatment in California. This proposition seeks to repeal these deals and return the tax rules to their previous status.

Prop-24 will repeal deals involving business use of financial losses, the determination of income for multistate businesses, and the ability of businesses to share tax deductions.

With regard to losses, the initiative will repeal the deal that allowed businesses to claim present losses on amended returns for previously filed tax years. It will also return the allowance permitting losses to be carried forward for 20 years back to only 10 years.

On the topic of California taxable income, the measure will eliminate a new rule that allows businesses to be taxed based only on the portion of their sales in California. It will return the process to its former state where business income was based on three factors: the value of the businesses properties in California, its payroll within the state and its sales. It will also, obviously, prevent business from changing the method they choose to use each year.

Finally, the initiative will repeal a deal where businesses within a unitary group of businesses were allowed to share tax credits, and it will return the rules to their former status where only the business that earns a tax credit can use it.

The fiscal impact of Prop-24 amounts to an increase of state revenue of around $1.3 billion by 2012-13. Most of that increase will be channeled to schools under Prop-98.

Proponents of Prop-24 label the measure the “Tax Fairness Act.” Opponents call it the “Jobs Tax.” Therein lies the debate. But oddly enough, Republicans and Democrats alike support Prop-24. Why? Because they understand that giving special tax breaks that apply only to multistate businesses is not only bad governing —  it’s also BAD BUSINESS.

California is in dire economic straits, and making special deals for large, multistate businesses that will greatly reduce tax revenues and require further cuts to essential services is as imprudent as it is unfair. Businesses that are based in California need to pay taxes to California, regardless of where they make their sales — just like other California businesses.

A vote for fairness is in order — vote YES on Prop-24.

So, that’s installment #2. If you’re interested, stay tuned and tomorrow we’ll finish the propositions with installment #3 of Dave’s 2-cents on the California election.

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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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