Friday, October 31, 2008

Bush Says No Welfare for Detroit

The Bush administration ruled out financial assistance for a possible General Motors and Chrysler merger, essentially kicking the problem down the road and making it the next president's problem.

Barack Obama said, “My hope is if I’m elected, that I’m immediately meeting with the heads of the Big Three automakers as well as with the United Auto Workers... And to sit down and craft a strategy that puts us on a path for an auto industry that can compete with anybody in the world.”

John McCain said he would do whatever he thinks needs to be done to save it, but said the focus should be on disbursing the $25 billion in loans already authorized by the U.S. Congress to help the auto industry.

Bottom line: If Obama doesn't win the election, the Big Three are toast. McCain is as anti-worker as Bush and the national media is falling in line behind them. The WaPo recently ran an editorial called Welfare for Detroit that argued against a bailout for many reasons. This was one of them:
[T]his bailout taxes the less well-off to protect the relatively privileged. The average individual General Motors production worker, whose job would be saved by the bailout, makes $56,650 per year, according to the Center for Automotive Research, and that doesn't count better-paid, white-collar types. Meanwhile, half of all households-- which typically include more than one earner -- make less than $50,000 per year. Where's the justice in that?
Justice? In case they didn't notice, banks are using government money to make dividend payments to shareholders and pay bonuses to executives on Wall Street. In fact, the WaPo reported yesterday that more than $80 billion from the Treasury Department will be used to pay dividends over the next 3 years. G.M. had reportedly asked for $10 billion in new funding.

Besides, as Dean Baker said, "none of these autoworkers are responsible for wrecking the economy." Very true, and working class Americans aren't responsible for the financial crisis on Wall Street either, but they're being taxed to protect the relatively privileged there.

An executive at G.M. saw the WaPo editorial, came to a similar conclusion and wrote a letter to the editor defending the auto industry and workers.
It was breathtaking to see the Oct. 27 editorial "Welfare for Detroit" blithely dismiss the domestic auto industry's contribution to the U.S. economy.

The nation's financial turmoil is not of the auto industry's making, yet its effects threaten the livelihoods of millions of workers, the social pact made between company and retiree, and the health of state and community revenue and services. More troubling, the economy's problems are hindering automakers' transformation into stronger companies that build new vehicles with new technologies that consumers want to buy.

Almost 4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product is auto-related, representing 10 percent of U.S. industrial production by value. One in 10 U.S. jobs is connected to our industry, and we provide health-care benefits to 2 million Americans and support nearly 800,000 retirees and spouses with pension benefits. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., has said that if Ford or GM fails, as many as 2 million jobs could be lost.

It was also stunning to see The Post describe the workers who build automobiles as relatively "privileged" because they earn about $56,000 a year. Auto assembly plant workers' base wage is about $28 per hour. For a newspaper that serves some of the most affluent communities in America to suggest that $28 per hour is too much reflects a profound disconnect between the editorial writers and the world outside the Beltway.

Vice President
Global Communications
Welfare for Detroit? During the last eight years, President Bush's economic policies have effectively redistributed the nation's wealth from the bottom to the richest Americans. They got their welfare. When do working-class Americans get the help they need?

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Millionaire McCain doesn't care about average Joe

McCain didn't even try to hide his contempt for the middle-class when CNBC's Maria Bartiromo interviewed him yesterday. When asked about the Employee Free Choice Act, McCain said he would veto it “in a New York minute.”
I will do everything in my power to block such legislation. And imagine, Sen. Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pushing the union agenda, it would be very, very, very unfortunate.
Got that? McCain will do everything in his power to prevent you from having a job with good wages, health care and a retirement plan.

The Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field for workers who say they'd join a union if they could, and there's a very good reason our young people may want to do just that - Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of Younger Workers.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a large wage and benefit advantage exists for young workers in unions relative to their non-union counterparts, and younger workers are earning about 10 percent less than their counterparts did in 1979, despite impressive gains in young workers' educational attainment over the same time period.
The report, "Unions and Upward Mobility for Young Workers," found that young unionized workers - those age 18 to 29 - earned, on average, 12.4 percent more than their non-union peers. In addition, young workers in unions were much more likely to have health insurance benefits and a pension plan.

The report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), found that unionization raises the pay of young workers by about $1.75 per hour. According to the report, young workers in unions were also 17 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 24 percentage points more likely to have an employer-provided pension plan than young workers who were not in unions.
Unionized workers in typically low-wage occupations benefited too.
Among young workers in the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members earned 10.2 percent more than those workers who were not in unions. In the same low-wage occupations, unionized young people were 27 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 26 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than their non-union counterparts.
Union jobs provide decent wages, health care and retirement security in return for our hard work. So, who really cares about the middle-class? Barack Obama said he will sign the Employee Free Choice Act. John McCain said he would veto it “in a New York minute.” That puts him at odds with the middle-class and those young people struggling to have a decent life. No wonder they're overwhelmingly siding with Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Great lessons of life from Obama's grandparents

As you've probably heard, Barack Obama is canceling nearly all of his campaign events Thursday and Friday to visit his gravely ill grandmother in Hawaii. Madelyn Dunham is the "white grandmother" Obama referred to in his speech on race and the woman he lovingly recognized when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver.
She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me.
There's no doubt that Madelyn and Stanley Dunham loved Barack and sacrificed for him, but they also deserve to be recognized for their courage. Ta-Nehisi Coates touched on that quality in a moving meditation at The Atlantic. Here's an excerpt:
Likewise, I was looking at this picture of Obama's grandparents and thinking how much he looks like his grandfather. And suddenly, for whatever reason, I was struck by the fact that they had made the decision to love their daughter, no matter what, and love their grandson, no matter what. I'd bet money that they never even thought of themselves as courageous, that they didn't give much thought to the broader struggles in the the world at the time. They were just doing what right, honorable people do. But the fact is that, in the 60s, you could be disowned for falling in love with a black woman or black man. There is a reason why we have a long history of publicly biracial black people, but not so much of publicly biracial white people.

We often give a pass to racists by noting that they were "of their times." Fair enough, and I know Hawaii was a different beast, but still, today, let us speak of people who were ahead of their times, who were outside of their times. Let us remember that Barack Obama learned the great lessons of life from courageous white people. Let us speak of those who do what normal, right people should always do when faced with a child--commit an act love. Here's to doing the right thing.
We can all learn something from Madelyn and Stanley Dunham's example.

(Check out the picture of Obama's grandparents. His resemblance to his grandfather is remarkable.)

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Republicans Enable Domestic Terrorism

A blogging friend of mine has a post that I wanted to bring to peoples attention: How McCain-Palin are Fueling the Flames of Domestic Terrorism

The post was written by Donald Bortz (we know him as DJ), a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He spent 6 years of his life fighting terrorists and he's not happy - rightly so - about the tone of the McCain/Palin campaign and their followers.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Right-wing terrorism isn't a new thing. Tim McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Eric Rudolph killed and wounded hundreds of people. The Army of God is still in existence. But this is the first time that not only has a wave of domestic terrorist attacks have been perpetrated against a Presidential campaign, but this is the first time his opponent has condoned it.

We've had several attacks over the weekend. At an Obama rally, over 30 cars had their tires slashed. A black bear was shot and dropped at Western Carolina University with Obama signs stapled to his head. People had their lives threatened for putting Obama signs on their lawn. And a woman was assaulted for knocking on doors for Obama.
DJ just touched upon some of the incidents - there have been other ones - but he sums up the reason behind these attacks like this:
This is what happens when you tell your supporters that your opponent is a terrorist. This is what happens when you condone having your supporters scream "kill him!" and "terrorist" at your rallies.
Why isn't the Republican leadership condemning this behavior? Do they want their candidate to win so badly that they're willing to look the other way? Someone is going to end up dead.

As for McCain, DJ nails the reason he continues to defend these attacks.
Because he doesn't want to go against his base. He tried once to stop the hate that he helped create, and he was booed for it. He's more scared of what his base thinks of him than he is of preventing domestic terrorist attacks. It's sad that a war veteran is so unwilling to put country before political aspirations.
If someone does end up hurt or dead before election day, the McCain campaign, Republicans and media will be responsible. They were quick to condemn terrorism in the Middle East, but they're enabling it here at home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Voters to Republicans: Our eyes have been opened

In talking to friends who formerly voted for Bush but now plan on voting for Obama, one theme continues to come through - Republican hypocrisy. People are finally connecting the dots and beginning to see that Republicans treat other Republicans differently, depending on income.

One recent example is McCain's claim that Obama's plan to cut taxes on the middle class and lower-income families is welfare. They felt that was a bunch of hooey and agreed with Obama's take:
"If John McCain wants to talk about redistributing wealth to those who don't need it and don't deserve it, let's talk about the $700,000 tax cut he wants to give Fortune 500 CEOs, who've been making out like bandits -- some of them literally. Let's talk about the $300 billion he wants to give to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. Let's talk about the $4 billion he wants to give oil companies like Exxon-Mobil or the $200 billion he wants to give the biggest corporations in America. Let's talk about the 100 million middle-class Americans who John McCain doesn't want to give a single dime of tax relief. Don't tell me that CEOs and oil companies deserve a tax break before the men and women who are working overtime day after day and still can't pay the bills. That's not right, and that's not change.
Democrats and Republicans differ on giving people opportunities too. Democrats support expanding Pell Grants and the GI Bill, as well equal pay for equal work and affirmative action. Republicans believe people should succeed on their own merit without a helping hand. At least that's their talking point, but as Alberto Gonzalez, Monica Goodling, Harriet Myers, Brownie and all those no-bid contracts awarded to war contractors showed, who you know still trumps merit among Republicans.

In fact, while reading Lawyers, Guns and Money, I was surprised to find that Bill Kristol and right wing journalists benefit from the same connections. [emphasis added]
Right wing journalism/punditry is absurdly nepotistic, and not just in the sense that many of the major pundit/journalists are second generation. Everything depends on relationships; this is of course true in every community of this sort, but the importance of relationships is more pronounced in the world of conservative punditry than in liberal or mainstream. Every conservative writer of note has a portfolio of these relationships, which allows said writer to place articles, give talks, find jobs, get invited on junkets, and even find the best parties. [...] These relationships are the grease that makes the world of conservative journalism run; it's mildly absurd that a community whose ideological focus rests so firmly on conceptions of "merit" depends almost entirely on relationships, but nevertheless.
But surely Bill Kristol, the godfather of conservative journalists, earned his position entirely on his own merits, right? Not according to a comment left by Harry Hopkins at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
I remember back in the late '90s when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture to an economic philosophy class I was taking. [...] Anyhow, Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol back either during the first Bush administration. The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon's domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at The White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at UPenn and the Kennedy School of Government. With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. "I oppose it", Irving replied. "It subverts meritocracy."
That's affirmative action Republican-style and the voters are not amused. They're finally beginning to realize that the torchbearers for the Republican Party have defrauded them.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain plans new tax cut for millionaires

McCain flip-flopped back and forth last weekend about a new economic proposal before finally settling on The Pension and Family Security Plan. Part of his plan proposes cutting the tax rate on long term capital gains and dividends to 7.5 percent in 2009 and 2010. The current tax rate for these capital gains is 15 percent.

Who benefits the most from his plan? Wealthy millionaires like buddies Dick DeVos and George Bush. From the Wonk Room:
Today, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) released an analysis showing who would benefit from this cut. Like the rest of McCain’s tax cuts, this one overwhelmingly aids the wealthy, with two-thirds of the benefit going to those making over $1 million:
In 2009, under a plan that lowers taxes on both gains and dividends, those making $1 million or more would get two-thirds of the benefit, and an average tax cut of more than $72,000. Those making less than $50,000 would get, on average, nothing. [emphasis mine]
And according to Jared Bernstein:
The average tax savings for the top 0.1%--income above $3 mil--is $244,000.
Besides, in what world is John McCain living? In case he hasn't noticed, the stock market has been losing value, and losses are already deductible from our taxes.

Jared Bernstein summed it up best: "This isn't a recipe for helping families hurt by the financial crisis and recession. It's a recipe for more income inequality."

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Modern Day Charles Dickens Era

In the midst of the bailout crisis, I worried that taxpayers were being played. It looks like my concerns were well-founded. Via Dean Baker:
Remember way back to last week when it was going to be the end of the world if Congress didn't pass the bailout package? Remember the Washington Post's account in which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told President Bush, "there is no Plan B."

Well, it looks like the Fed has discovered a Plan B. It turns out that the Fed can buy commercial paper directly from non-financial corporations needing credit to maintain operations. This will keep the credit markets working even if the zombie banks aren't up to the task. In other words, the threat of a complete meltdown in the absence of a bailout was nonsense and the media once again got taken for a ride by the Bush administration.
Adding insult to injury, we now find out that the limits on executive compensation were essentially meaningless too. When do we get our bailout, or do we have to work till we drop over dead? That scenario becomes more probable with each passing day.

Via the AP:
Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion in the past 15 months, Congress' top budget analyst estimated Tuesday.
Public and private pension funds and employees' private retirement savings accounts — like 401(k)'s — have lost some 20 percent overall since mid-2007.

Rep. George Miller, D-California, summed it up best: "Unlike Wall Street executives, America's families don't have a golden parachute to fall back on. It's clear that their retirement security may be one of the greatest casualties of this financial crisis."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lessenberry vs Johnny McNasty

Columnist Jack Lessenberry wished he could have faced McCain in the first debate.
I desperately wanted to be Barack Obama, standing on that stage with old Johnny McNasty.

What I wanted to do most is stick a broom handle in front of the old turtle's face. McCain would have clamped on it, hissing violently, back feet kicking, shredding the wood with his little yellow teeth. Trust me, he would have done it. I know. I caught a large snapping turtle in the woods when I was in grade school, and it did exactly that. And it had exactly the same reptilian eyes Old Nasty does, except the turtle's were brighter and more reflective.

That was almost half a century ago, when McCain was only middle-aged. But on Friday night, the visibly aging Mac was a sarcastic sourpuss. He refused to look at Obama, evidently because that might acknowledge that his opponent was a human being.

"I'm afraid Senator Obama doesn't understand," McNasty sneered, over and over, usually when he was trying to justify his having sold his soul to Dubya over the mess in Iraq. Unfortunately, the batteries Karl Rove inserted at the base of McCain's scrotum didn't last as long as called for. At one point, I thought the oldest living boy in Arizona was having a seizure when he stumbled over the name of the Iranian president, seemingly trying to sneeze out his name (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) before butchering it.
I think one could safely say Jack was not impressed with McCain, but he did find the silver lining:
Now, for the first time, I really think there is a real chance that we as a people may be able to put aside our racism and actually elect the superior human being and candidate.
That, as Martha would say, is a good thing.