As States flounder with record deficits and, at the same time, provide Wall Street banks with millions of dollars in state tax revenues, the publicly-owned State Bank of North Dakota provides a credible alternative to laying off workers, continued unemployment and foreclosures, and dire economic consequences.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011
After less than two months in office, Wisconsin’s new Governor, Scott Walker (R) has generated more controversy culminating in a stronger progressive push-back than progressives themselves could have created. Walker’s over-reach of three unfunded $117 million tax cuts to the state’s wealthiest citizens and out of state corporations has contributed to a $134 million deficit of his own creation. That deficit is now Walker’s justification for attempting to eliminate his state’s pesky public unions with abolition of its collective bargaining rights.
Creating a highly divisive environment in six short weeks that has galvanized the country, political progressives can thank Governor Walker for:
* teaching a new generation of students about the ideals of the labor union movement with a real-life hands-on experience of democracy in action as they march to the State Capitol, awakened to the great American traditions of fairness, equal treatment and political activism.
* reinvigorating a lackluster national labor movement to remember the exhilaration of what it was to stand up to corporate toads and political bullies as they find their collective voice and join the protests in the streets. The Wisconsin marches, which have attracted up to 70,000 citizens, have built a fire under unions in other similarly threatened States as they agitate to save their collective bargaining rights.
* providing the Wisconsin Fourteen (State Senators) with an opportunity to become Folk Heroes as they have, by example, shown the limp, weak-willed US. Senate Democrats what it means to take a principled stand on behalf of middle class Americans. The Wisconsin Fourteen sought out-of-state refuge after being denied an opportunity to offer amendments to the Governor’s fast- track legislation.
* providing the citizens of Wisconsin with an opportunity to forge a powerful bond with their neighbors as they rally in support of librarians, nurses, teachers and other necessary civil servants as the country reflects on the workers who provide those essential community services.
* presenting the firefighters of Wisconsin with an opportunity to own their own souls in a proud display of integrity as they march with their union brothers and sisters rather than cave into political expediency. The firefighters and police unions were given a blanket exemption from Walker’s proposal to eliminate bargaining rights in exchange for their acquiescence.
* bestowing MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who cares deeply about America’s working class citizens, with a platform as the Nation’s Conscience. With continued timidity from Washington, DC, the void in leadership has been deafening. Schultz’s early attention to Madison revealed a lack of understanding by the mainstream beltway media’s reporting which mostly dumbed-down the magnitude of what has been occurring in Wisconsin.
* supplying the Democratic national leadership (which has the most to lose in this fight) with an opportunity to show some moral fiber with unequivocal support for those middle class voters who have faithfully supported their re-elections over the years. As Rev. Jesse Jackson’s visit excited protesters, statements from only House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin have been disappointing but not unexpected as was Obama’s early luke-warm concern for unions (but not for Wisconsin citizens) while he remains ensconced in the White House, the equivalent of an American ivory tower.
In no small part, the protests have been inspired by the State’s famous advocacy of the early labor rights movement including the historic leadership of Sen. “Fightin’ Bob” La Follette (1906 - 1925) as well as the State’s adoption of the nation’s first worker compensation plan in 1911, the nation’s first unemployment insurance program in 1932 and the creation of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) in Wisconsin in 1935. The State’s contribution to the national labor movement in support of the 8 hour day and the 40 hour week was firmly established when 7 on-strike workers were murdered in 1887 by the State militia.
Without Governor Walker’s intervention, the progressive community would, most likely, still be groping for an adequate response to an impending austerity budget that punishes average working Americans. Wisconsin citizens have shown the way. Thank you Governor Walker.
Monday, February 7, 2011
In his recent State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama presented an inspirational image of a thriving American economy. Enjoying a second honeymoon with a bump in the polls after a productive lame duck session and striking just the right tone in Tucson, the President appeared on a roll. He is to be commended for defending the role of an often beleaguered Federal government.
As its name implies, a State of the Union is a reasonable time to bring unfinished business before the public, examine fundamental issues of civic importance with the President sharing his own vision for the future. Whether Obama convinced the American public, after performing a pompom dance to American Exceptionalism, that the economy had turned a corner is uncertain despite his endorsement of infrastructure initiatives to generate jobs and the next generation of innovative technology to compete in the global marketplace. Sounding like a laissez faire Democrat before the 1929 crash, Obama’s soaring rhetoric was another masterful performance but failed to provide a reality check on the solvency of Federal, State and local governments.
Greeted by Congress with a predictable lovefest fervor, the President’s oft-repeated plea for bipartisan cooperation was akin to a broken record stuck on the same annoying chorus with the annual address offering a Presidential opportunity to rebuild his leadership for the 2012 elections. Clearly in an upbeat mood and enjoying the dais, Obama’s centrist speech struck a tone of Reagan boosterism crediting a free enterprise system for driving innovation, regulatory relief to unburden business and a commitment to reorganize the Federal government.
The President’s assertion that the “stock market is roaring back” and that the “worst of the recession is over’ were reminiscent of Herbert Hoover’s failure to recognize the depth of the Great Depression on the American middle class. As the usual economic indicators show no real signs of recovery as compared to 2008 levels, the President’s assurance that the United States has ‘the largest, most prosperous economy in the world’ offered no solace to 25 million unemployed Americans, over 11 million who have lost their homes or other citizens hanging on by their fingernails with no Federal bailout forthcoming.
Throughout the speech, the President’s disconnect from the anguish of American families was apparent as he stated with belated, if cruel ironic recognition that ‘we cannot afford tax extensions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans’ which he endorsed in December as was his ludicrous suggestion that “millionaires give up their tax break.” Assuming a $10 trillion debt from Bush, Obama again failed to express any heart felt emotion at how the banks have screwed the American people.
Even as Obama was announcing a comprehensive, if unrealistic, vision for growth, his five year annual freeze on discretionary spending to reduce the deficit by $400 billion over the next decade bringing those commitments to ‘its lowest level since Eisenhower’ was as if such a hold on domestic spending was something to be proud of. Promising ‘painful cuts’ to Community Action Programs seemed oddly out-of-kilter coming from a former community organizer.
After the Democrats squandered healthy Senate and House majorities on a health care plan that keeps the insurance industry in the driver’s seat and a financial ‘reform’ package that will not prevent another meltdown, the quest for immigration reform, cutting $4 billion petroleum subsidies and addressing corporate tax inequities did little to inspire confidence even as his allusion that “a parade of lobbyists rigged the tax code” rang hollow as those who rigged the financial system have been by his side in the Oval Office.
As a constitutionally aware attorney, the President’s positive words that “America’s moral example must always shine” stumbles when one considers his denial of a truth commission on Bush Administration illegalities, initiation of an assassination program on American citizens, threatening whistleblowers with jail and continued imprisonments at Guantanamo and of Bradley Manning who has been charged with nothing.
The affirmation that the war in Iraq is over and promising troop withdrawals in Afghanistan by July 2011 (contrary to Gen. Petreaus’ assessment) bumped up against the President’s declaration that “we will not relent, we will not waiver and we will defeat Al Qaeda” and that colleges should allow military recruiters on campus.
Even as the country east of the Mississippi was blanketed by another crippling snow and ice storm, Obama’s address neglected any mention of renewable energy or climate change or its impact on increased commodity prices and escalating foods costs. Noticeably absent from the President’s address were details of the coming austerity budget, a promised comment on America’s violent gun culture, whether reducing the $14 trillion debt is mathematically possible or the loss of jobs overseas (3.2 million since 2000) or a corporate culture that has deprived the Federal treasury of $100 billion in off shore accounts. Most disappointing was the lack of connecting the dots that two wars have drained the American economy while continuing to drive the country into a financial-ditch-of-no-return.
Pledging to “make America the best place on earth to do business” as if there is no longer any urgency to the economic crisis, President Obama’s romance with business is more than embarrassing as he evolves into a political player rather than a principled President.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Former Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission which recommended $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade. Simpson served in Congress for 18 years and since his retirement in 1997 has been receiving a Congressional pension of indeterminate amount.
The following are quotes from his interview on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley February 6, 2011 which may raise questions as to his uncouth disposition.
“Does anyone support the really tough stuff in that Commission Report on entitlement spending, defense spending and taxes?"
“Yeah, the people who embraced it were on the commission are now embedded in the U.S. Senate, four of them. You’ve got Coburn, they thought he was very suspicious, right wing; Andy Stern, the union guy, didn’t vote for it but old Doc Coburn and Stern worked together on defense issues cutting 250,00 contractors out, they don’t even know how many they have. then you have Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin deserves a medal of honor I’ll tell you, he voted for it; so you got 4 guys sitting “Crapo, Coburn, Durbin Conrad – sitting in the us senate, who sat with us for 10 months; they’re embedded, spreading the virus.”
Simpson criticized politicians who are proposing to get rid of "earmarks, all waste, fraud and abuse, foreign aid, Air Force One, congressional pensions" as playing politics. “That’s just sparrow belch in the midst of a typhoon. that’s about 6-8-10% of where we are.” Simpson makes a phlemy-splotching sound with his lips.
“I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, there's only one way to do this, you dig into the big four, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense. Anybody giving you anything different than that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie."
“The God here in Washington is the God of reelection and I think that God is a little tarnished and the feet are crumbling. I had a Democrat Senator, I won’t say who it was, who said last night, I won’t use the time, who said that he is ready to go out this time by carrying the ball on this program even if it defeats me.”
“Full faith and credit of US will be in peril and we might have to close the government and they said they why we came here, and then we’re going to grab their elbows and hearing the crackling of their bones. We’re going to say how do we get your vote and they say cut spending cut spending and don’t me that jazz.
“We’re not balancing the budget on the backs of social security.. I said to the AARP hire-ups, are there any patriots in here or just markeeters.. these people are monsters. They said there are two modest things to help social security solvency …could you share with us what they might be and they never do they just babble; sit there like sphinxes in their marble and wood temple up there, an unbelievable place up there, they spend $17 million bucks a year rent the last time I looked at them…I had a hearing on them and they nearly went goofy..but I loved them."
“Don’t forget what we’re doing with Social Security; we're taking care of the lowest 20%, taking care of people over 80, we’re not talking about privatization, these jerks who keep dragging it up are lying, we never suggested that; talking about doing a hideous thing to change the retirement age to 68 by 2050 and here people howl and bitch about that.”
“If we don’t do anything by the end of this year the guys who hold our paper, will say we don’t like the paper anymore, we thought you guys had the guts to do to the big stuff and you didn’t. You did the little teeny crap that means nothing and we want some money for our paper.“
“If you don’t do anything with social security, when you waddle up to get your check, you will get 22% less in 2037. I can’t believe the stupidity and cupidity who raise the specter of a cat food commission we were called….that’s ghastly.”
On President Eisenhowers’ warning re military spending and sacrifice re social security, medicaid and medicare.
“We (the deficit commission) were stunned. We were like the people who know too much…the ten months that all of us spent there we saw things…we asked Durbin and Conrad what do you hear from the defense department when we talk about cutting contractors; they don’t know how many contractors they have; it’s something between 250,000 and a million so our proposal is to cut 250,000 contractors out of the game.."
“and then you got guys who retire after 20 years in the military and go to work for big time defense people at big time salaries and they’re knocking into the system twice, it is an incestuous sick little cozy system and they get an idea of something that will shoot around corners without eyeballs and they go and get somebody to buy it, procure it.”
“You mention the word defense and you’re supposed to collapse and do some flip on your head. Let me tell you guys, nobody’s going to hurt the military, we’re not going to hurt Iran and Iraq. This is first war in our history where we never had a tax to support a war including the revolution.”
On the 67 page commission report:
“We use words like ‘self sacrifice’ “sacrifice’ we use words like ‘going broke.’’ Before you write and bitch to me again, read it. That’s what I tell people and then i don’t hear from them again except to get some delightful emails, some of them very crude. Well, enough of that…it’s sad.“
“But I have one regret. I meant to say that America was a milk cow of 300 million tits and not just Social Security.”
“Deficit denial is dead as a doo-doo bird and if deficits mean nothing, I ‘ll buy the drinks.”
Listen to Sen. Simpson:http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/06/simpson-politicians-need-to-step-up-tackle-big-debt/