Nov 172010

Article first published as Economic War Declared on the American Middle Class on Technorati.

If you’re a middle or working class American, whether or not you accept it, we’re all in the same boat, and we just had a shot fired across our bow. The co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission released their initial proposal late last week and made one thing perfectly clear — they believe our nation’s fiscal problems must be corrected on the backs of working Americans.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was created by executive order this past February. The commission’s primary mission was to identify “policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run,” and also to “propose recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015.”

It’s difficult to fault either the notion to form the commission or the assigned mission. The group was even structured in a bipartisan manner, requiring that no more than 10 of its 18 members be of a single political party. But if the co-chair proposal is any indication of the content of the final report that’s due for commission vote by December 1, then it’s now evident that class warfare has been waged in America, and the two major political parties have allied against the interests of the majority of citizens.

Fortunately, there may still be hope that this isn’t the case, that the co-chair’s full frontal assault on working Americans will not receive the 14 votes needed to move forward. The proposal, as released, is the work of former Republican Senator, Alan Simpson, and Erskine Bowles, who served as advisor to President Clinton.

Simpson’s politics are certainly no mystery, as evidenced by the abusive e-mail he recently sent to the executive director of the National Older Women’s League where he described Social Security as being “like a milk cow with 310 million tits.” And while Mr. Bowles is purported to be a Democrat, his views put him squarely in the DINO (Democrat in name only) camp. He is an investment banker, formally employed by Morgan Stanley, on whose board he still serves, and the co-creator of his own investment firm.

Whether the severe anti-middle-class slant to the present proposal is upheld by the larger commission or not, there is no escaping the elitist agenda of the co-chairs. Their 10 “Guiding Principles” starts with the solemn acknowledgement that we must “come together on a plan” to “get this crushing debt burden off our back.”  And the second principle is like the first, stating that “A sensible real plan requires shared sacrifice.” But sadly, the Simpson/Bowles idea of who exactly needs to participate in said sharing is limited to middle and working class Americans.

The Simpson/Bowles plan does contain a significant number of spending cuts, with illustrative examples that total over $200 billion in 2015 that are interestingly split between domestic and defense expenditures. And while one might wonder why we can trim only $100 billion from a defense budget that’s over $1 trillion — more than that of all other countries combined — or how adding to unemployment by cutting 440,000 federal jobs is going to help the economy, it’s really the proposal’s tax reform recommendations that expose the co-chair’s corrupt idea of shared sacrifice and total disregard for working Americans.

In order to gain clarity regarding the co-chair’s glaringly regressive economic philosophy, one really need look no further than the “goals” they set forth for tax reform: the first of 7 goals is to “Lower Rates” and at the end, in seventh position is “Reduce the Deficit.” A more upside-down prioritization for a “deficit reduction” commission is hard to imagine, but even worse is the fact the detailed recommendations are heavily skewed toward benefitting the wealthy, with a few bones for the poor and a tab that’s picked up by everyone in the middle.

With working America still struggling in the wake of an economic calamity that stripped away as much as a third of the overall wealth of the middle-class and fed the proceeds to rich Wall Street bankers, Simpson and Bowles actually have the temerity to recommend that the few tax advantages held by the vast middle of American wage earners be ended. This would be bad enough if proposed as the mainstay of deficit reduction, but this is not the case. The dynamic duo would use most of the increased revenue, not to reduce the deficit, but to provide steep cuts to the top marginal and corporate tax rates.

The co-chairs propose to slash taxes for the rich by dropping the top marginal rate from 35% to 23% and the corporate rate from 35% to 26%, the combination of which will ADD tens of billions to the deficit. Their proposal also includes restrictions that will prevent Congress from collecting taxes on businesses, like Exxon which had $42.5 billion in 2009 profits and paid ZERO in U.S. income tax.

But never fear, this pair of elitist scoundrels will pay for their proposed tax breaks by eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction and subjecting healthcare benefits to taxation. They’ll also impose co-pays for veterans who use VA hospitals, raise fees at national parks and start charging admission to the Smithsonian museums, and force college students to make interest payment on loans while still in school. It’s time to bend over middle class, because that upper one 1% now make 23.5% of all U.S. income, and they need a tax break.

The “deficit reduction” label of this proposal is nothing more than a rhetorical smokescreen for the “starve the beast” crowd of conservative ideologues to further their goal of plutocratic rule. The gross concentration of wealth in America already has the top 1% holding more than the bottom 90% — a situation that hasn’t existed since the last time the economy collapsed in such grand fashion — the Great Depression. This proposal will only increase that disparity and hasten the American people’s race to the bottom.

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Nov 162010

Olbermann took on veteran TV newsman Ted Koppel on Monday, saying he and other journalists failed the country during the Iraq War because they were too worried about being objective.

Koppel had criticized the rise of opinionated cable news programming in an essay titled, “Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news,” published Sunday in the Washington Post. Koppel, the former ABC “Nightline” host, said Fox and MSNBC show the world not as it is, but as partisans would like it to be.

David Bauder, AP

Cropped headshot of Keith Olbermann
Image via Wikipedia

Ted Koppel is a pandering fool. He’s correct in asserting that journalists should strive for objectivity, but when such action results in willful acquiescence of known falsehood and deceit, the “journalist” becomes complicit in the wrongdoing. Keith Olbermann and his fellow hosts at MSNBC did not create their shows in a vacuum for the purpose of sensationalism; they were born of the need to balance the unmitigated rubbish that Fox packages as “news” and to refute the unrelenting stream of falsehood that spews from the Fox commentators.

To equate these two agencies and conclude their equivalence is beyond irresponsible. It’s true that both present one-sided commentary that is often exaggerated for effect, but the similarities end there. The premise that this commonality results in equivalence is utterly fallacious — the same reasoning would conclude that because they both used tanks, bombers and battleships, the Allies and the Axis were equivalent.

The fact of the matter is that MSNBC is not equivalent to Fox but rather its antithesis. They are the polar opposite, not only in terms of political position, but more importantly on the continuum of morality. Fox is a propaganda machine with little regard for the truth and a dedication to furthering the cause of corporate power and plutocracy. MSNBC is a countervailing voice with a commitment to the facts and a devotion to the ideals upon which our nation was founded — those silly notions of equality, general welfare, and unity.

Thank God (and Keith) for MSNBC!

Read the entire Article at Huffington Post

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Nov 122010
Senior advisor David Axelrod during a meeting ...
Image via Wikipedia

According to the Huffington Post, David Axelrod suggested to reporters late Wednesday that the Obama administration would be compromising on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. The news may seem appropriate to conservatives and Blue Dog democrats, but for most liberals, it registers on the shock chart as unbelievable.

It’s not that it’s so shocking that the Obama administration would compromise. After all, they’ve made moving to the right and telegraphing that position a mainstay of their failed negotiation and bargaining strategy.  The most glaring aspect of this particular issue is that in the aftermath of the midterm losses, when they should be doing everything they can to reenergize the people who got them elected, they choose instead to cave. It’s so inspiring.

If the story is indeed true, and compromise is once again the administration’s chosen path, it becomes exceedingly difficult to defend against claims that President Obama is a party to the corporate takeover of America. It essentially forces the conclusion that Obama cares no more about the middle class than do the congressional Republicans.

Axelrod frames the issue around a change in political climate forced by the election. His “We have to deal with the world as we find it” explanation of how the administration’s hands are now tied is nothing but a pathetic excuse to voluntarily hand Republicans yet another victory. There is really NO reason for the administration to back down on the Bush tax cuts. And Axelrod’s nonsense about doing it because “I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class” is nothing but unadulterated RUBBISH!

For Axelrod to suggest that they’ll fight hard against Republican attempts to repeal the healthcare legislation, while remaining silent on the deficit reduction commission proposal and signaling a compromise on the tax cuts is clear evidence of where the administrations loyalties lie.

The sad truth is that the healthcare bill mostly benefitted the poor, and that’s okay, because we need to work together as a nation to lift up everyone. But between the commission’s debt-reduction proposals — which attack all Americans who rely on wages to subsist — and this kowtow on the Bush tax cuts, it’s clear that the intention is to finance everything on the backs of the middle class.

Of course, recognizing the backlash of his statements, Axelrod was quick to back peddle and attempt a whitewash by claiming that he was merely reiterating the previously stated position of the administration. This may be true, but the report did cause a stir, and should have left no doubt that the President’s base is not in favor of compromise.

In the end, whatever Axelrod said is immaterial. What really matters is what President Obama does next. He has a mandate from — not only dedicated Democrats — but also a huge number of Independents and even a fair number of Republicans. Polls show that a majority of Americans are in favor of allowing the cuts for the very top income levels to expire. Only fools outside the rich are willing to pay for the increased opulence of the most wealthy. Obama has the support from the public.

And thanks to the Republicans, people are deficit conscious right now. The Republicans put the deficit into the public spotlight to use against Democrats. They worked their way through the election hammering that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible. But they did their bit and used the deficit for political gain and now want to immediately turn around and ignore it.

Democrats cannot now respond by allowing the Republicans to push the deficit into the background. They cannot allow the Republicans to spin a $700 billion increase to the deficit as anything but fiscal irresponsibility of the highest order. They need to make it perfectly clear to the American people that all economic benefit for the past 30 years has gone to the top 2% while compensation for the rest of the population has stagnated. They need to stand up for the middle class and demand that the rich stop taking at everyone else’s expense. And they need to take the strongest position against increasing the deficit simply to fill the coffers of the very rich.

They call this sort of issue a no-brainer. It doesn’t get anymore no-brainer than this. Democrats, even those in the upper middle class who would pay the most, would rather fight and wind up paying higher taxes than to just concede and let the rich squeeze the country again.

This is a seminal issue for the second half of President Obama’s term and for Democrats in general. If they cave, it’s a sure sign that they’re either complicit in the rape of the middle class, they’re just completely gutless (which equates to useless) — or they’re freaking incompetent. There really are no other options.

Which one is it?

You can help by raising your voice: just sign this petition and tell the President that you want him to fight against tax cuts for millionaires.

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