Heard this just now on NPR/WAMC-- "The Washington Post writes about a White House pitch that might bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats: "President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare'..."(!!!)
Chilling, n'est-ce pas?...
Especially when the fact is that "overwhelmingly, multiple polls show that voters oppose deep cuts in or radical transformation of Medicare (78 percent opposed in a Washington Post poll); by large margins, voters support a surcharge income tax on millionaires and billionaires, which is similar to the higher rates Rep. Schakowsky proposes (81 percent in a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll)-- and a majority favors military spending cuts as a first step in deficit reduction (56 percent in the Post poll)"...
[from David Moberg's May 23rd piece: "What Americans Want: The People's Budget" (In These Times):
[...and let's not forget oft-ignored facts re: Social Security-- current $2.6 trillion surplus(!)...more here:
Anyone else out there interested in rally asap on this?...let me know!...perhaps in front of FDR site in Hyde Park (to stand up strong for Social Security as FDR did) or at Nan Hayworth Rt. 52 Fishkill office...
[...wake up, Dems-- let's not forget how Kathy Hochul recently won 26th C.D.-- not by being GOP-lite...]
[if we Dems here in FDR's own Dutchess County aren't going to stand up for Social Security-- who is?!?]
So-- call Congress NOW on this-- at (866) 338-1015-- and send a message to all 25 of us on this at firstname.lastname@example.org-- for us in our County Legislature to push back on this HARD!...
[...I'll be circulating a letter for my colleagues in Co. Leg. to sign on to on this-- your letters are crucial...]
Finally-- don't forget-- help Matt Rosenberg and I http://www.ReclaimtheDream.com Sun. July 17th 5 pm at The Rhinecliff (Hotel)-- email email@example.com for more; this just in from Van Jones on this ("time for peace and prosperity," as Van sez-- "not war and austerity"!...from: "Van Jones
Pass it on...
[see: "Invoke 14th; End Debt Standoff" KV. Heuvel http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/07-10 ]
[check out "GOP Deficit Reduction Plan: Leave Us Poor Struggling Millionaires Alone" by Abby Zimet:
http://www.commondreams.org/further/2011/07/07 ; sign http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ILikeIke ; fwd!]
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/07-12 ...
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by Salon.com
Reports: Obama Pushing for Cuts to Social Security, Medicare
by Glenn Greenwald
For months, the standard narrative among progressive commentators was that Republicans were outrageously exploiting the debt ceiling deadline to impose drastic entitlement cuts on a resisting and victimized Democratic President (he's weak in negotiations!), but The Post article makes clear that the driving force behind these cuts is the President himself, who is pushing for even larger spending cuts than the GOP was ready to accept:
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue. . . . As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.
This morning's New York Times article similarly makes clear that it is the President who is demanding an even larger "deficit reduction" package than has previously been discussed. Headlined "Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts," the article reports that "President Obama has raised his sights and wants to strike a far-reaching agreement on cutting the federal deficit" and that he "wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade." This is all in pursuit of "an agreement that ma[kes] substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security -- programs that had been off the table." The President, as part of the package, is reportedly seeking some elimination of modest tax "loopholes" that benefit wealthy Americans to claim, absurdly, that there is "balanced" sacrifice.
It's true that these articles rely upon anonymous sources, though multiple such sources close to the negotiations -- from both parties -- are cited in consensus about what is taking place, and there are numerous other reports entirely consistent with these. It's been bleedingly obvious for some time that the bipartisan D.C. political class and the economic factions that own it have been intent on massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare -- see George Carlin's 2007 video explanation below -- but the combination of deficit hysteria (repeatedly bolstered by Obama) and the manufactured debt ceiling deadline has, by design, created the perfect pretext to enable this now. As one "Democratic official" told the Post: "These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by." Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is not a GOP-exclusive dynamic.
How many people who voted for Obama in 2008 would have expected a headline like this a short two-and-a-half years later? Many more than should have. As Matt Taibbi explains in trumpeting Frank Rich's superb new New York article detailing Obama's subservience to Wall Street:
Throughout 2008, it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a politician whose legacy could still go either way. There were an awful lot of troubling signs on the horizon in Obama's campaign, not the least of which being the enthusiastic support he was receiving from Wall Street.
Obama in part ran a very slightly economically populist campaign, but the tens of millions pouring into his campaign coffers from the very rich (and specifically from hedge funds) told all of us that we probably shouldn't expect those promises to come off. For a piece I wrote that summer, I asked people in Washington why Wall Street would be throwing money at a guy who was out there on the stump pledging to reach into their pockets:
"Sadly, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be that Obama is, well, full of shit. . . . These populist pledges sound good, but many business moguls appear to be betting that the tax policies, like Obama himself, are only that: something that sounds good. 'I think we don't want to make too much of his promises on taxes,' says Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts. 'Not all of these things will happen.' Noting the overwhelming amount of Wall Street money pouring into Obama's campaign, even elitist fuckwad David Brooks was recently moved to write, "Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that capital-gains tax hike."
Disgustingly, Brooks turned out to be right, and the narrative of the Obama presidency did end up turning sour, on that front anyway.
When I first began writing about politics in late 2005, the standard liberal blogosphere critique -- one I naively believed back then -- was that Democrats were capitulating so continuously to the Bush agenda because they "lacked spine" and were inept political strategists: i.e., they found those policies so very offensive but were simply unwilling or unable to resist them. It became apparent to me that this was little more than a self-soothing conceit: Democrats continuously voted for Bush policies because they were either indifferent to their enactment or actively supported them, and were owned and controlled by the same factions as the GOP.
Now, Democratic commentators -- mostly the President's most hardened loyalists -- continue to invoke this "he's-weak-and-inept" excuse for Obama, but the evidence is far too abundant to sustain it any longer. As Paul Krugman -- long more clear-eyed than most progressives about Obama -- explained this week:
Since Obama keeps talking nonsense about economics, at what point do we stop giving him credit for actually knowing better? Maybe at some point we have to accept that he believes what he's saying. . . . , here's an unprofessional speculation: maybe it's personal. Maybe the president just doesn't like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it's not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.
And what's left, I'm afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.
I think Krugman's "personal" explanation -- that Obama is far more comfortable with "neo-liberal centrists" (i.e., corporatists) than with actual liberals -- is basically true (Frank Rich put it this way: "For all the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obama's background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys"). But it's also about ideology, conviction, and self-interest: Obama both believes in the corporatist agenda he embraces and assesses it to be in his political interest to be associated with it. If it means "painful" entitlement cuts for ordinary Americans at a time of massive unemployment, economic anxiety and exploding wealth inequality, so be it.
Krugman understandably describes this dynamic in the context of the debt battle because that's the area on which he focuses most, but this is the same exact dynamic that drives the Obama presidency in almost every realm. In the context of foreign policy and civil liberties, the public-private National Security State (the "Fourth Branch" of Government) is his Wall Street; military and intelligence officials and defense contractors are his Geithner/Summers/Dimon; and endless embrace of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism template of militarism and civil liberties assaults is his cutting of Social Security and Medicare. This is who Barack Obama is; it's what drives his presidency in every realm, not just in economic policy.
What's particularly revealing in the Social Security/Medicare assault is the political calculation. The President obviously believes that being able to run by having made his own party angry -- I cut entitlement programs long cherished by liberals -- will increase his appeal to independents and restore his image of trans-partisan conciliator that he so covets. But how could it possibly be politically advantageous for a Democratic President to lead the way in slashing programs that have long been the crown jewels of his party, defense of which is the central litmus test for whether someone is even a Democrat? The answer lies in how lacking in credibility is this statement, from The New York Times:
"Depending on what they decide to recommend, they may not have Democrats," Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said in an interview. "I think it is a risky thing for the White House to basically take the bet that we can be presented with something at the last minute and we will go for it."
There's nothing "risky" about that. Of course enough Democrats will get in line behind Obama's proposal to pass it once they're told they must. Similarly, those progressive commentators who are first and foremost Democratic loyalists -- who rose up in angry and effective unison to prevent George Bush from privatizing Social Security in 2005 -- will mount no meaningful opposition out of fear of weakening the President's political prospects. White House aides will just utter Michele Bachmann enough times like some magical spell and snap more than enough people into fear-induced compliance. The last thing the White House is worried about -- the last thing -- is its "base."
This was the primary lesson from the health care fight. Obama loyalists who maligned anyone who resisted that bill always misunderstood the point. It was never about the substantive belief in what became the very weak "public option" provision: at least not primarily. Instead, it was about political power.
Congressional Democrats began the health care debate by categorically vowing -- in writing, by the dozens -- never to support any health care bill that did not contain a public option (on the ground that it would be little more than a boon to -- an entrenchment of -- the private health insurance industry). But once they all abandoned that pledge when told that doing so was necessary to be good, loyal Democrats, it was clear from that point forward that they could be ignored. They had no willingness to exercise political power; their partisan loyalty trumped any alleged convictions; and they could always be counted on to snap dutifully into line at the end no matter how much their values were stomped on (and that debate followed the same template as the deficit battle: the White House publicly pretending to advocate for a public option while leading the way in private to ensure it never happened).
Obama knows full well that he can slash Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security -- just like he could sign an extension of Bush tax cuts, escalate multiple wars, and embrace the Bush/Cheney Terrorism template recently known in Democratic circles as "shredding the Constitution" -- and have most Democrats and progressives continue to support him anyway. Unconditional support ensures political impotence, and rightly so. He's attending to the constituencies that matter: mostly, Wall Street tycoons who funded his 2008 campaign and whom he hopes will fund his re-election bid, and independent whose support is in question. And he's doing that both because it's in his perceived interest and because, to the extent he believes in anything, those are the constituencies with which he feels most comfortable.
* * * * *
The full video of the speech I gave on Obama and civil liberties in Chicago last weekend to the Socialism 2011 conference -- including a lively Q-and-A session that followed -- is now online here (relatedly, here is the video of the segment I did on Tuesday night on MSNBC's The Last Word show about Obama, Libya and war powers).
And here is the above-referenced, three-minute George Carlin video that explains pretty much everything about everything:
© 2011 Salon.com
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy. His next book is titled "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful."
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/07-10 ...
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by The Washington Post
Invoke the 14th - and End the Debt Standoff
by Katrina vanden Heuvel
On its current course, the United States is four weeks away from defaulting on its debt for the first time in its history. If that happens, businesses will fail. Financial institutions will fail. Home values will decline. Mortgage rates will skyrocket. Spending and investment will all but disappear. Social Security checks will stop being mailed. Everything from military pay to food inspection will be compromised, if not fully cut off. The millions upon millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed will be joined by millions more.
Across the world, America's second financial collapse in three years will drag down already fragile economies in Europe, Latin America and Asia, potentially creating a "worldwide depression," as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described it. In short, we would be thrown back deep into economic turmoil - only this time with even fewer tools to crawl our way out.
In theory, this is unthinkable, and it will be remedied by reasonable political parties making reasonable concessions across the negotiating table. But Republicans have been negotiating in bad faith, unwilling to compromise even an inch on their extremist and absolutist positions. Some are no longer willing to come to the table at all.
With that backdrop, President Obama may find that there is only one course left to avoid a global economic calamity: Invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which says that "the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned." This constitutional option is one that the president alone may exercise.
If the Aug. 2 deadline arrives and no deal has been made, Obama could use a plain reading of that text to conclude - statutory debt ceiling or not - that he is constitutionally required to order the Treasury to continue paying America's bills. In that sense, this is not just a constitutional option, it is a constitutional obligation, one even the Tea Party will have trouble denying.
There are reasons why such a solution is less than ideal. There ought to be some concern about executive overreach; the very idea of the president deciding which laws are and are not constitutional has disturbing ramifications. And to the extent that the goal of the move is to prevent market panic, it remains an open question as to whether it would succeed. But market panic will surely come with the failure to reach a deal altogether. The consequences of default are simply too severe - and too long-lasting - to take this option off the table. It may not be ideal as an elective choice, but as an option of last resort, it is a necessity.
If Obama does choose to move forward, he will be doing so on strong legal footing. In Freytag v. Commissioner (1991), the Supreme Court held that the president has "the power to veto encroaching laws .?.?. or to disregard them when they are unconstitutional." The final word still may lie with the Supreme Court, but in the interim, the president need not wait for its opinion. "As a simple matter of constitutional logic, the president can refuse to enforce a statute he believes violates the Constitution," said Professor Barry Friedman of NYU Law School in a telephone interview with me. "In fact, he is sworn by oath not to enforce it," added Friedman, author of the book "The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution."
It is also unlikely that the action would be successfully challenged in court. Only Congress would have standing to sue, but doing so would require a joint resolution, something a Democratic-controlled Senate would almost certainly block.
President Obama should commit to exercising this obligation - as a last resort. And he should commit publicly, as soon as possible.
Doing so will give him the leverage he lacks in the debt-ceiling negotiations. Right now, Republicans' willingness to let the economy default, consequences be damned, gives them enormous leverage. But presumably, if a deal is not reached by the deadline, and the president is forced to exercise his constitutional obligation, Republicans will get nothing at all. Not the trillion dollars in cuts already agreed to. Not the additional trillion in cuts they are seeking. The threat, alone, of invoking the 14th Amendment defuses the bomb Republicans have strapped to the hostage.
Most would agree that taking such a step would be out of character for a president who has avoided this brand of confrontation. But great leaders adapt to adverse circumstances, and this is no exception. The president doesn't just have a political and legal obligation here; he has a moral one, too. A default would be wrenching for the poor and middle class, stripping families of their jobs, their homes and programs they depend on for survival. A debt deal, negotiated entirely on Republican terms, would be devastating too - for everyone who isn't a hedge-fund manager or private jet owner.
That leaves the president with two choices: He can give in to unthinkable Republican demands or he can choose, instead, to exercise his constitutional authority, end the debt-ceiling standoff and craft a new budget deal, defined, finally, by shared sacrifice.
© 2011 The Washington Post
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.
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FEATURES » MAY 23, 2011
What Americans Want: The People's Budget
The Congressional Progressive Caucus lays out a surprisingly popular vision of the future.
By DAVID MOBERG
A national budget tells a lot more about a country and its politics than simply where the government's money comes from and where it goes. As President Obama rightly stressed, it is also "about the kind of future we want …[and] the kind of country we believe in."
But as happens so often in the United States, the political and media establishments distort the public debate by accepting the right-wing's framing. In this case that means the issue is simply deficits and spending cuts, not national needs and adequate revenue. In this context, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the architect of the Republican budget plan, gets taken seriously when he proposes-with echoes of Vietnam-that we destroy Medicare in order to save it.
Consequently, the public is confused. More significantly, the corporate media give progressive alternatives short shrift, even though opinon polls show the public often supports such measures.
The United States could do much better with more active and-yes-even bigger government, partly because many of the things our society needs, the government can do more efficiently, fairly and effectively than private individuals and businesses in a market.
The corporate press, acting in its own self-interest, is loathe to report this fact.
For example, where have you read about "The People's Budget"? It is an alternative budget offered by the 81-member Congressional Progressive Caucus that takes steps toward a saner role for government while reducing the deficit more and faster than either Ryan's "Plan for Prosperty" or Obama's plan.
The People's Budget immediately rescinds Bush tax cuts for the rich and lets the others expire (retaining some changes especially beneficial to the middle class), but it also taxes estates progressively, imposes the millionaire's tax proposed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (with several new, higher income tax brackets for the very rich), taxes capital gains as regular income and imposes a financial speculation tax.
The People's Budget also enacts a healthcare public option and mandates negotiation of prescription prices to reduce healthcare spending. It cuts wartime and baseline military spending and provides for bringing troops home from the wars in Southwest Asia. The budget strengthens Social Security by expanding the base of taxable earnings, and it increases spending for job creation, education, clean energy, infrastructure, transportation and scientific research.
Conventional budget wisdom
On the other hand, the Republican plan imposes two-thirds of its cuts on modest-income households, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
By making Medicaid an underfunded block grant, it guarantees taking healthcare from the needy, including the elderly poor. Privatizing Medicare with underfunded vouchers will double the out-of-pocket expenses for the average future 65-year-old. Privatization not only shifts costs to seniors but also increases their overall medical costs, since private insurance is less efficient than Medicare. And for good measure, the Ryan plan repeals the Affordable Care Act and its cost controls.
The plan also contains absurd giveaways, such as $4.2 trillion in tax cuts mostly for the very affluent over the next decade, and even repeals some recently passed regulations of the financial industry. Despite all the deficit hullaballoo, Ryan's plan only slightly reduces the deficit in the next decade (by $155 billion) because his destructive cutting mainly funds the tax cuts. Ryan does set long-term plans to reduce federal spending from 23.75 percent of gross domestic product to less than 15 percent by 2050, the lowest share since 1951. But a bipartisan proposal made in early February to cap spending at even 20.6 percent of GDP would "force deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," according to the CBPP.
By contrast, President Obama would make modest cuts in military spending, end the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and limit tax expenditures (e.g., tax credits and deductions). He would impose tighter cost controls on Medicare and make Medicaid more flexible while preserving both programs. He proposes a "debt fail-safe" trigger to enforce reduction of debt to his target levels. But his budget would maintain investments in education, infrastructure and research.
On the issues, the public seems much more on the president's side-and would even support a more progressive solution.
American dreams vs. reality
Indeed, Obama is overly conservative.
Given a choice, most Americans prefer a much more egalitarian society, according to a 2010 study by Duke and Harvard economists.
Most rich industrial countries recognize that government must play a large role to achieve social solidarity, comparative economic advantage in a global economy, and satisfy voters' preferences, but the United States has nearly the lowest tax revenue as a portion of GDP of all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And compared to other OECD countries, the United States is near the bottom in terms of equality and ranks extremely low on social spending, poverty rates, ease of escaping poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, voter participation and other indicators.
When pollsters at the University of Maryland presented voters with information and a variety of options on the budget, on average they increased taxes (especially on incomes over $100,000 or more), cut military spending and increased spending on education, job training, environmental protection and alternative energy far more dramatically than Obama did. In another poll, the same researchers found that only 59 percent of Americans think a free market system is best-a sharp 15 percentage point drop from 2009.
Similarly, the Democrats, and progressives in general, have failed to make a political issue of how the right has successfully, and quite consciously, instituted polices that have redistributed wealth upward. Over the last 25 years, the top 1 percent of American households more than doubled their share of the national income from 12 to 25 percent.
If income growth had been distributed equally since 1979, University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers calculates, households in the bottom four-fifths would each be making $5,600 to $10,100 more per year, thus increasing consumer demand to stimulate the economy and an ability to pay taxes. But as incomes for the 400 richest households quadrupled over the past dozen years, their tax rate fell by nearly half, thanks to both rate cuts and tax loopholes.
Instead of debating the fairness of this inequality, Washington is focused on the government's large deficit. Conventional wisdom-recently offered by Standard & Poor's, which has been wrong on every major economic crisis of the past 15 years-dictates dealing with the deficit quickly. Yet the deficit hysteria ignores two points. First, the country urgently needs more-and better-jobs. Second, while conventional wisdom also mandates deep cuts in government spending to address the deficit, increased revenues would deal with the problem equally well.
We are burdened by the deficit today thanks to Bush tax cuts (which favored the rich), the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the financial crisis, the resulting Great Recession (with less revenue and increased costs) and rising healthcare costs (made worse by Bush's poor design of the Medicare prescription drug program).
The people's choice
Yet the Democratic Party has been overly willing to seek a compromise that accepts-but tempers-Ryan's framework, while giving inadequate attention to how the deficit actually grew.
As a result of their muddled message, according to an April Democracy Corps poll, voters initially approved the Ryan budget by 48 to 33 percent and gave Republicans a 16-point advantage over Democrats on having the best budget approach. But given more complete information, support for Ryan's budget fell sharply. In other words, the Democrats (perhaps in thrall to corporate interests) have failed to forcefully articulate the vision voters already support.
The People's Budget, on the other hand, reflects the historical context. It is also more in tune with the sentiments of voters than either Ryan's or Obama's plan. Overwhelmingly, multiple polls show that voters oppose deep cuts in or radical transformation of Medicare (78 percent opposed in a Washington Post poll). By large margins, voters support a surcharge income tax on millionaires and billionaires, which is similar to the higher rates Rep. Schakowsky proposes (81 percent in a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll). And a majority favors military spending cuts as a first step in deficit reduction (56 percent in the Post poll).
The People's Budget is a lot more courageous, sensible and honest than either Ryan's plan or Obama's. It is a program that progressives and-if ardently championed-most Americans would support as a path not only to a responsible budget but also to a more prosperous, equitable future.
David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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From: "Van Jones"
Subject: We're not broke
We're putting our heads together to choose the best ideas for a plan to create an economy that works for ALL of us-a new "Contract for the American Dream." Today we need as many of us as possible to rate ideas about how to stop corporations and the super-rich from dodging taxes. Click here to get started:
Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday I asked for your help choosing the best ideas for the new "Contract for the American Dream," and the response has been amazing!
All told, folks registered more than 1,400,000 ratings on over 6,600 new ideas for creating jobs and fixing our economy.
Today we're looking at how to get the money to pay for all those good ideas. America is the richest country in the history of world. But we can't make the investments we need because giant corporations and the super-rich aren't paying their share.
Will you help craft our plan to solve this problem by helping to choose the best ideas for making sure we ALL pay our share? To inspire your thinking check out this new video from a group of self-made millionaires and billionaires who get it. They have a simple message of responsibility and patriotism that I wish every giant corporation and ultra-wealthy person shared: "Tax me."
Take a look at the video. Then help choose the best ideas here:
Watch the video and rate ideas!
We, the American taxpayers, have put a ton of resources on the table, creating a stable and highly productive environment for businesspeople. If their businesses do poorly, they shouldn't be expected to pay back much in the form of taxes. But if they do well, they SHOULD.
They're benefiting from our public schools, our roads, our courts and so much more that America provides to help them succeed. But they aren't paying us-their real anchor investors-back. Simply put, it's unpatriotic. Those who do well IN America, should do well BY America. That's what made America great, in the first place.
Instead we just keep seeing more tax shelters, tax breaks, and tax loopholes. Now some of these folks are even willing to put our entire country's financial future at risk by using the debt ceiling crisis to push for more cuts to critical government programs-while refusing to consider closing some of those loopholes or raising tax rates on the wealthy.
This has to stop.The question we have to figure out now is how to turn things around. How can we stop tax dodging and make sure all of America's giant corporations and super-rich folks help us invest in a prosperous future for our country?
We can best answer these questions when we put our heads together. So it's up to all of us to take part today. It's easy, and it doesn't take a lot of time. Just click here to visit the new Contract for the American Dream site. Help choose the best ideas:
Thanks for helping make the American Dream a reality.
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From http://www.thenation.com/blog/161846/entitlements-table-obama-plans-go-big-budget-deal ...
With Entitlements on the Table, Obama Plans to Go Big on a Budget Deal
July 7, 2011
Last night, several news outlets broke stories saying the same thing: President Obama is willing to make a deal on Social Security. Contrary to liberal hopes, this isn't a deal to raise Social Security benefits or lower the eligibility age - a reasonable idea when unemployment is high and growth is sluggish. Instead, Obama has reportedly offered to expand the scope of spending cuts, including major changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in return for $1 trillion in new revenue and an increase in the debt limit.
At the moment, it's far too early to say anything about the viability of this deal. Neither John Boehner nor Eric Cantor or Mitch McConnell are on the record as accepting the terms of this proposal, and it's hard to imagine that congressional Democrats would want to sacrifice parts of Social Security and Medicare for deficit reduction, particularly those running for reelection next year.
In light of the size of the White House proposal and its limited palpability to members of both parties, it's hard to see it as anything but political theater; an attempt to demonstrate President Obama's willingness to go "big" on deficit reduction. Even still, it's extremely disheartening; it demonstrates that, as always, Obama is willing to cater to the center-right in a huge way (entitlement cuts) for the sake of a small political advantage.
Moreover, this proposal is further evidence that the debt ceiling negotiations were an intentional decision on Obama's part. The president genuinely believes in deficit reduction, and chose to use the debt ceiling as an opportunity to cut spending with significant bipartisan cover. Obama hasn't been fooled into these negotiations, nor is he playing rope-a-dope or a complex game of 11-dimensional chess. This is what he wants.
What does this mean for liberals? Well, they can complain and attack Obama - they've already begun - but criticism from the left has yet to budge the president, and it's doubtful that this time will be any different. Demonstrations sound great, but they don't actually carry a high chance for success; if your only option for changing the political calculations of a president is protest, then you're probably too late to the game. Likewise, a primary campaign against Obama sounds like it might work, but outside of activist circles, there is little appetite for a challenge. The Democratic establishment is satisfied with President Obama, and will work to ensure his reelection.
Indeed, given the importance of presidential elections, Obama will be able to count on organization and support from every member of the Democratic coalition. Moreover, if a deal comes through, it will probably help him with independents, who support modest reductions in entitlement spending.
Simply put, liberals don't have much leverage over the Obama administration, which, unfortunately, makes our concerns - and our anger - a second-order consideration at best.
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/07-3 ...
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by Salon.com
Progressives Were Right: Obama's Health Plan Not Solving Crisis
New Data Show Why Simply Having Insurance Isn't Enough
by David Sirota
While the contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is already revolving around conservative-themed attacks on "Obamacare," back when the healthcare bill was being legislated, the most important debate was within the Democratic Party, which held large majorities in both houses of Congress. On one side were the drug companies, the insurance companies and President Obama -- the latter who had not only disowned his prior support of single-payer healthcare but had also worked with his corporate allies to actively undermine a modest public insurance option. On the other side were progressives who opposed any bill which further cemented the private insurance industry as the primary mediator between doctors and patients.
Two new studies - one from Massachusetts, one from Arizona - validate the original progressive criticism of the Obama health care bill. Specifically, the studies look at the inherent danger of strengthening insurance company power, and how doing that - as the Obama bill explicitly did - will not solve the underlying problems of medical debt and bankruptcy. As the studies show, those underlying problems then lead to skimping on preventative care and under-insured status. (iStockphoto/KLH49)
Ultimately, Obama and his corporate-backed allies organized enough conservative Democrats in Congress to win, effectively turning healthcare "reform" into a blank-check TARP-style bailout for the health industry. But, of course, to even whisper that last truism is to now run the risk of being labeled a blasphemer in a conversation that can only tolerate misleading red-versus-blue analyses. In today's national political debate, there are Republicans who insist "Obamacare" is a Canadian-style "takeover" of America's healthcare system, and there are Democrats who insist that the health bill is a major Medicare-like achievement -- any other argument, no matter how valid, has been vaporized by election-season pressure to fall in ideological line.
Unfortunately for the political class, however, reality doesn't take orders from partisans -- it persists irrespective of talking points, press releases and Twitter mobs. And on healthcare, the original progressive criticism is now being validated in a new study from Arizona. Going beneath the superficial rhetoric about health insurance and to the reality of actual health care and health costs, the study published by the American Journal of Public Health found:
Health insurance is not protecting Arizonans from having problems paying medical bills, and having bill problems is keeping families from getting needed medical care and prescription medicines, a new study has found... After taking age, income and health status into account, simply being insured does not lower the odds of accruing debt related to medical care or medications. In addition, says University of Arizona College of Pharmacy research scientist Patricia M. Herman, ND, PhD, who directed the study, medical debt is a separate and better predictor of whether people will delay or forgo needed medical care than their insurance status.
"On average, insurance coverage in Arizona is not protecting families from experiencing medical debt," Herman says. "From other studies we knew that paying medical bills is a problem for a substantial portion of both insured and uninsured Americans. This study helped clarify that the fact of medical debt is an additional and larger barrier to getting needed health care than whether a person is insured or not."
With 60 percent of all bankruptcies related to medical costs; with many of those medical-related bankruptcies occurring among those who have private insurance; and with the fear of medical bankruptcy encouraging the insured to unduly skimp on medical services, the Obama healthcare bill did purport to address the issue via caps on out-of-pocket expenses. But those weak caps -- and the bill's failure to achieve universal coverage -- promise to allow the medical debt problem to continue, just as they have in the state whose "reforms" most closely mimic Obama's bill.
As the Los Angeles Times recently reported:
Studying medical bankruptcies in Massachusetts, whose recent healthcare reform was a model for national reform, researchers found that while new insurance rules increased the number of people who had coverage, those rules did not improve coverage -- leaving many still struggling with medical debt... Proponents of the national healthcare reform passed into law last year have claimed that it would reduce medical bankruptcy in the United States by helping more Americans get insurance. This new study, which was published Tuesday in the American Journal of Medicine, suggests that a reduction in bankruptcies is unlikely.
Add to all of this a new Center for Public Integrity report about how American wages are still being eaten up by private health insurance premium increases, and the trajectory is clear: Events are proving that "real reform" and strengthening insurance industry power are mutually exclusive goals. That is, they are proving the veracity of progressives' original criticism of President Obama's healthcare legislation. This is, to be sure, a politically inconvenient truth to both parties and their insurance industry benefactors -- but alas, it is the truth. The longer we simply stare at it -- or pretend it doesn't exist -- the longer the healthcare crisis will continue.
© 2011 Salon.com
David Sirota is a best-selling author whose new book "Back to Our Future" is now available. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/04-4 (note-- I haven't voted for Nader since 2000)...
Published on Monday, July 4, 2011 by TruthDig.com
Ralph Nader Is Tired of Running for President
by Chris Hedges
The most important moral and intellectual voices within a disintegrating society are slowly discredited when their nonviolent protests and calls for justice cannot alter intransigent and corrupt systems of power. The repeated acts of peaceful civil disobedience, efforts at electoral and political reform and the fight to protect the rule of law are dismissed as useless by an embittered, dispossessed and betrayed public. The demagogues and hatemongers, the purveyors of violence, easily seduce enraged and bewildered masses in the final stages of collapse with false promises of vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. And in the spiral downward the good among us are reviled as naive and ineffectual fools.
There is no shortage of courageous dissidents in America. They seek to thwart the imperial disasters, looming financial insolvency and suicidal addiction to fossil fuel. They have stood in small knots on street corners week after week, month after month, year after year, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have occupied banks, shut down coal-fired power plants, attempted to halt mountaintop removal, interfered with whaling ships and walked in blustery weather to the White House, where they were arrested. They are struggling to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on a ship called the Audacity of Hope. But because the corporate state and the two major political parties are indifferent to principled calls for reform, and because the mass of the public still buys into the myths of globalization and the American dream, the plundering and destruction continue unimpeded.
When most Americans face the nightmare before us, when they realize the irreversible devastation unleashed on the ecosystem and the economic misery from which they cannot escape, violence will have a broad and terrifying appeal. Those of us who demand a return to the rule of law and remain steadfast to nonviolence will find ourselves cast aside-the useful idiots Lenin so despised. I watched this happen in the social and political implosions in El Salvador, Guatemala, the Palestinian territories, Algeria, Bosnia and Kosovo. I watched the same cocktail of despair, economic collapse and callousness from a corrupt power elite mix itself into potent brews of civil strife. I watched the same untiring efforts by those who detested the violence and cruelty of the state, and the nascent violence and intolerance of the radical opposition. I covered as a reporter the disintegration that tore these societies apart. Those who held fast to moral imperatives, including Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo, were thrust aside and replaced with killers on both sides of the divide who embraced violence.
"Wait until October," Ralph Nader said when we spoke this weekend. "That's when the budget cuts will hit home. It is one thing to have the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida and the legislators saying we will cut this and that. We don't know what will actually happen when the guillotines are put in place. You may have a different kind of surge of public resistance and protest.
"There will be more and more people in the streets, homeless and hungry," he said of the looming cuts. "Babies will be sick. Everything will be overloaded from the free food to the clinics. You never know where the spark will come from. Look at the guy who robbed the bank for a dollar. That was not quite the spark, but that is what I am talking about. This is what you have to do to get health care. Let's say 50 people did that. There are a lot of dry tinder piles like that."
The death of liberal institutions that once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, which once could respond to the suffering of the poor, the unemployed and working men and women, which once sought to protect the Earth on which we depend for life, means the last thin hope for reform is embodied in acts of civil disobedience. There are no established institutions that will help us. The press ignores the cries of the underclass and the poor. The labor movement is atrophied and dying. Public education is degraded and being rapidly dismantled. Our religious institutions no longer engage in the core issues of justice. And the Democratic Party is on its knees before Wall Street. The most basic government services designed to ameliorate the pain, including Head Start and Social Security, are targeted by our corporate overlords for destruction. The Kyoto Protocol, which was not nearly ambitious enough to prevent environmental collapse, has been gutted so companies like Exxon Mobil can continue to amass the largest profits in history.
Radical reform, including a breaking of our dependence on fossil fuel, must happen soon to thwart the effects of dramatic climate change and economic disintegration. And this radical reform will come only through us. I will join, for this reason, those planning the prolonged occupation of Washington on Oct. 6. Acts of civil disobedience are our last, thin line of defense against chaos. Make a resolution this Independence Day to join us. You owe it to your children and to the generations who come after us. I am not naive enough to promise you we can reverse these trends. I know the monolith we challenge. But I do know that if we do not begin to take part in these nonviolent protests then we have, in effect, given up all realistic hope of change and succumbed meekly to corporate enslavement, environmental catastrophe and severe social unrest.
"The first sign that there is a real breakdown is that the bridge between the people you mentioned and the people who should be speaking out as a result of their professional status is not there," Nader said. "I am talking about the deans of law schools and law professors, as well as leading members of the bar.
The obverse of that is that in 2005 and 2006 there was a bridge built. It was the president of the [American Bar Association] Michael Greco. He thought the destruction of the rule of law by George Bush was historically very dangerous. He commissioned three reports, using members of the ABA who were formally in national security agencies such as the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and the Justice Department. They came up with three white papers on three subjects, one of them being signing statements. They concluded that the recurrent violations by President Bush had risen to the state of serious violations of our Constitution. These papers were made public. They sent them to President Bush. He never replied. Apart from The Associated Press, the press, including the [New York] Times and the [Washington] Post, ignored it. That to me was a much bigger litmus test. It showed how deep the institutionalized official illegality has become, more important than the ignoring of people like Chomsky and us.
"Usually people who are candid in calling things as they are, are viewed as people on the outside who want to change the system," Nader said. "In the historic past they were socialists. They were radical labor leaders such as the [Industrial Workers of the World]. This time those people who are speaking out want a restoration of the rule of law. This is a pretty conservative goal. The extreme radicals are now in charge of our country, the military-industrial complex and the White House. It is not so much the military as the civilian leadership, the neocons in the White House. The military does not like to get into wars, but once they are in it is very hard to control them because they want to win.
"It's not like Japan in 1939, which really was a militaristic society," Nader went on. "It is exactly the opposite of what the constitutional founders thought would be the case. They put the civilians in charge to restrain the military. In effect, these people are activating and pushing the military into places the military does not want to go. They use a volunteer Army, flatter it, give it a lot of weaponry and send it abroad. Only about 5 million people, soldiers and their families, feel what is going on. Once it is entrenched, once you accept this neocon ideology, which is a vitriolic, aggressive, empire-spreading ideology, run largely by draft dodgers who in their youth gung-hoed the Vietnam War but wanted their friends to go and die for it, then democracy is too weak to overcome that. Two dozen people plunged this country into war. The first arena designed to stop this is the Congress, but it does not observe its constitutional duties or require a declaration of war."
While protests are useful, Nader does not see any possibility for reform until there is a widespread effort to organize a sustained and radical opposition movement. This will come by building a movement that offers an alternative ideology and vision to that of unfettered capitalism, consumerism, empire and globalization. It is something Nader tried and failed to do during his own presidential campaigns.
"There is a tremendous asymmetry," Nader said. "Seven hundred thousand people demonstrated in London. But where are they the next day? And where are their adversaries? The next day their adversaries are on the job. Where are the 700,000 people? They are out of there. How many organizers are on the ground in the 435 districts? Could labor unions have been organized without organizers? Could the suffragist movement have been organized without organizers? Could the anti-slavery movement or the civil rights movement been organized without organizers? If you don't have organizers on the ground you know ipso facto that your demonstration is going nowhere."
When I asked Nader, who mounted campaigns for the presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2008, if he would consider running again, he answered that it was "very unlikely."
"You have millions of people who say run, run, run," he said. "Then you put yourself out there and find they are voting for Obama. Until they become mature, until they realize that if they generate 5 to 8 million votes behind a progressive third-party candidate for leverage, what is the point? Why should people try four or five times? Let someone else do it.
"The people who go out there with some credibility and record, go into 50 states, sweat it out month after month, beating back ballot access obstacles, fighting the Democrats who are trying to suppress free speech and candidate choices for the voters, and then you still can't get on the air to discuss civil liberties," he said. "Never mind that they do not want to upset dear Obama or dear [John] Kerry. They don't give you airtime to discuss the simple issue of the denial of civil liberties and the crushing of third parties."
If elections were that effective, as the anti-war activist Phil Berrigan used to say, they would be illegal. We must follow the path Nader forged, attempting to sway enough people with conscience to sever themselves permanently and unequivocally from the mainstream and especially the Democratic Party. This defiance will again be dismissed as counterproductive and ineffectual. The sacrifices we are called to make will be real, uncomfortable and immediate, while the goals will be distant and uncertain. It will remain hard, for this reason, to jolt people awake. The expediency of the moment has a habit of subsuming the moral imperatives of the future. But time is not on our side. The impending disasters that await us, ecological and economic, are already visible on the horizon. If we do not sever ourselves from established systems of power, if we do not become in every action we undertake agents of rebellion, then the ecological, economic and, finally, human distortions that arise in times of confusion, suffering and collapse will overwhelm us.
© 2011 TruthDig.com
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.