The UN says it is moving non-essential staff out of Ivory Coast, following the West African state’s disputed presidential election run-off.
In this video I, as one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters, lecture him and Senate Democrats on just how pathetic their willingness to “compromise” with Republicans on extending the tax cut for the rich is — and I offer a different way of characterizing their lack of strength, getting away from the traditional misogynistic terminology.
To win for themselves and the American people, all the President, Harry Reid and the Democrats have to do is force the Senate Republicans actually to filibuster the bill that extends tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.
If the Democrats don’t have the courage to fight for what’s right or publicly supported (only 26% of Americans favor extending the cuts for the rich; in fact a majority of Republicans want the cuts for the rich to expire) when they are in a no-lose situation, they are spineless, gutless, and any number of other non-gendered adjectives. But let’s stop using language indicating that this makes them like women:
Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. His book Eve’s Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History, upon which his analysis of the use of language of sexual imagery to degrade people is based, is presently out of print.
WASHINGTON — President Obama has insisted that a reauthorization of the Bush-era tax cuts include a reauthorization of federal unemployment benefits. But will the programs for people laid off through no fault of their own be kept in place as long as tax cuts for the rich?
Republicans have said they want the tax cuts reauthorized for at least two years.
“I’ve said that neither side has the votes to get what they want so I think we’re going to have to kick it over for about two years,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on CNN Sunday.
Nobody has said more than one year of unemployment is on the table (though the White House has declined to reveal the specifics of its demands in ongoing negotiations with congressional leaders). Last week Democrats in the Senate pushed a yearlong reauthorization of the benefits as part of a bill that would have allowed tax cuts for the rich to expire. Republicans defeated the bill on Saturday.
In a report last week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers analyzed the potential economic benefit of federal jobless aid in terms of a yearlong reauthorization. (It found that a failure to reauthorize the benefits would result in a 0.6 percent drop in economic growth next December.)
“If it is true that consensus seems to be building toward a two year high-end tax-cut for the top two percent of wage earners, it certainly would make sense to also provide a two year reauthorization of the federal unemployment insurance programs, something that would truly stimulate the economy in the most significant manner possible,” said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project.
“However, two years does not seem to be on the table or a realistic expectation right now, which is a shame,” Conti said.
The programs Congress created in 2008 and 2009 in response to rising unemployment provided up to 73 weeks of jobless aid for layoff victims who exhaust 26 weeks of state aid without finding work. The programs lapsed last week, potentially cutting off benefits for two million people during the holidays, according to the Labor Department.
The federal benefits are designed to wind down automatically as state unemployment rates decline. Congress has never let extended unemployment benefits expire during a recession before the unemployment rate has fallen below 7.2 percent. Economists expect unemployment to stay above 9 percent through 2011. If federally-funded benefits expire then, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives means reauthorizing the benefits again will be even more difficult than it already is.
Republicans and conservative Democrats have opposed reauthorizing the benefits without offsetting their deficit impact by cutting spending from elsewhere in the budget, something Democratic leaders have absolutely refused to do.
Hatch signaled Sunday that Republicans would relent in their deficit demands so long as the tax cuts for the rich are preserved. “Let’s take care of the unemployment compensation even if it isn’t — you know, even, it isn’t backed up by real finances,” he said.
Many of us have long advocated a green economy where jobs were generated in sectors like alternative energy and recycling. It was our hope that this economy could be both environmentally friendly and offer opportunities for high and rising living standards. Well, we’ve now got a green economy and there’s plenty of recycling, but it’s not exactly what most of us had in mind.
In a remarkable coincidence, last week we saw President Obama’s deficit commission hold its final hearing. Just two days earlier, the Federal Reserve Board released data revealing the specifics of the trillions of dollars of secret loans it made at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
While the specifics of the Fed loans may not have been especially surprising to most observers, it was still striking to finally know for sure what many of us had long suspected: the Fed had made trillions of dollars of loans, at well below market rates, to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Bank of America. Without this bailout from the government, these Wall Street behemoths would have gone under. This would have wiped out their stockholders, left their creditors with big losses and sent their high-flying executives to the unemployment lines.
However, as a result of the taxpayers’ generosity, the Wall Street banks are back on their feet again. The financial sector is again reporting record profits and the top executives at these companies are once more pocketing salary and bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars a year.
The fact that Wall Street’s prosperity comes at a time when the rest of the country is experiencing near double-digit unemployment is undoubtedly annoying to many. But the Wall Street titans don’t just take their money and walk away. The Wall Street gang recycles their money, supporting the politicians who ensured that they would have the government loans and guarantees necessary to get them through the crisis they had created.
In fact, because the Wall Street crew is forward looking and thinking about the potential tax burden on their children, they are demanding that the politicians whose campaigns they finance work to cut benefits like Social Security and Medicare. If these benefits are cut, then there will be less need for government revenue and, therefore, it will be less likely the children and grandchildren of the executives at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and the rest will have to pay higher taxes.
Of course, cuts to Social Security and Medicare are hugely unpopular. This could make it difficult for the politicians who support them to get reelected, even with their Wall Street funding.
The Wall Street crew has thought about that one as well. It has promoted the line that the cuts in Social Security and Medicare are actually necessary for the workers who are seeing their benefits cut. The story doesn’t make much sense, as can be easily shown. But when you can get $1 billion from people like Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson to push your case and a fawning media, you can get pretty far even with complete nonsense. Recycling really is great.
Of course, the ultimate triumph of recycling in Wall Street’s green economy was getting Erskine Bowles as co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission. Bowles was openly getting $335,000 a year as a director of Morgan Stanley, even as he drew out plans for the future of Social Security, Medicare and tax policy for decades to come. In deference to Wall Street, none of the major media outlets noted this seeming conflict of interest.
This omission was especially striking when the co-chairs issued a report that excluded any mention of a tax on Wall Street speculation, a route now endorsed by even the International Monetary Fund. Instead, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and other leading news outlets heaped praise on the co-chairs for their willingness to inflict pain on ordinary working people.
Bowles is also a tremendously important symbol for the politicians who worry that voting to cut Social Security and Medicare may hurt their political careers. Bowles himself is a failed politician who lost twice in runs for the Senate. Despite these setbacks, Bowles enjoys an enormous income and great prestige thanks to his Wall Street benefactors. In short, losing an election for serving Wall Street is no defeat.
In this new green economy, the money flows from taxpayers to Wall Street and then back to politicians who ensure that the flow continues and increases. Anyone got a problem with that?
Arizona’s Republican-led state government just decided to cut their state budget by slashing their state’s Medicaid coverage for organ transplants, even though Arizona has plenty of money to fund these life-saving medical procedures.
That’s right–Arizona has plenty of money to fund these life-saving procedures, despite what the politicians in the state claim. They just have warped priorities. We know this because the state’s politicians have been outspoken supporters of the costly, useless Afghanistan War that costs Arizona taxpayers many hundred times what these transplant procedures cost the state.
Taxpayers in State of Arizona will pay $1.6 billion for proposed Afghanistan war spending in fiscal 2011, more than 355 times the Arizona transplant cut. If the war were ended and the troops brought home, Arizona could comfortably absorb the cost of providing help to those who will die without these medical procedures. Yet, Arizona Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans, are outspoken supporters of the costly, futile Afghanistan War.
Let’s be clear about what the senators’ support for taking money out of their state to fund the Afghanistan War means for their constituents. It means that one hundred people on the transplant list are screwed. Many of them will die, and soon. For example, Randy Shepard, plumber and father of three, needs a heart transplant, but the state’s about to tell his daughters, “Too bad, we can’t afford to save your daddy’s life.”
The thing is, if Randy Shepard were to walk into a military recruiter’s office and join the Army, Senators Kyl and McCain would be more than willing to spend $1 million per year to send him to fight and die in Afghanistan. Arizona’s politicians will spend millions to take him away from his kids, but nothing to keep him with them.
What could kill Randy Shepard isn’t a lack of funds in his state. What could kill him is the warped priorities of the politicians that supposedly represent him and his fellow Arizonans at the state and federal level.
There’s a set of black panels in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. that hold the names of every troop that died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s a modest proposal: add to the wall every name of every Arizonan who dies for lack of a transplant that their state “couldn’t afford” while their government was wasting billions of dollars a week on a war that’s not making us safer.
Read more: War in Afghanistan, Debt, Deficit, Transplants, Rethink Afghanistan, Budget, Economic Crisis, Afghanistan, Mccain, Kyl, Defense Spending, War Spending, Arizona, Health Care, Afghanistan War, World News