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“Austerity” Equals Fascism, Part 2: A Kindler, Gentler T‑4 Program

Greeks protest­ing the “Aus­ter­ere­ich”

” . . . Oth­er fields of activ­i­ties for the group [Nazi gov­ern­ment in exile–fuehringsring]  were. . . . the ini­ti­a­tion of con­spir­a­cies in for­eign coun­tries on behalf of Ger­man indus­trial car­tels. . . .”  ( “Nazi Cir­cu­lar Let­ter of 1950 [Madrid], quot­ed in The New Ger­many and the Old Nazis by T.H. Tetens.)

“Imag­ine for a moment that two decades ago, a new­ly uni­fied Ger­many set out to take over the Euro­pean Con­ti­nent, as the pre­vi­ous uni­fied Ger­many had tried and failed to do half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er. This time it would use mon­ey, not guns, to accom­plish the goal. . . ” (“As Europe’s Cur­ren­cy Union Frays, Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries Fly” by Floyd Nor­ris; The New York Times; 06/15/2011.)

“ ‘Ger­many is our father­land; Europe is our future,’ [Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut] Mr. Kohl told the Ger­man Par­lia­ment. . . .” (“Kohl Says Mon­e­tary Line Aids Uni­ty” by Craig R. Whit­ney; The New York Times; 9/26/1992.)

“. . . The Ger­mans have a clear plan of what they intend to do in case of vic­tory. . . . Germany’s plan is to make a cus­toms union of Europe, with com­plete finan­cial and eco­nomic con­trol cen­tered in Berlin. This will cre­ate at once the largest free trade area and the largest planned econ­omy in the world. . . . . . . As far as the Unit­ed States is con­cerned, the plan­ners of the World Ger­man­ica laugh off the idea of any armed inva­sion. They say that it will be com­pletely unnec­es­sary to take mil­i­tary action against the Unit­ed States to force it to play ball with this sys­tem. . . . Here, as in every oth­er coun­try, they have estab­lished rela­tions with numer­ous indus­tries and com­mer­cial orga­ni­za­tions, to whom they will offer advan­tages in co-oper­a­tion with Ger­many. . . .” (Dorothy Thomp­son, writ­ing in The New York Her­ald Tri­bune, 5/31/1940; quot­ed in Ger­many Plots with the Krem­lin by T.H. Tetens,; p. 92.)

“. . . The [FBI] file [on Mar­tin Bor­mann] revealed that he had been bank­ing under his own name from his office in Ger­many in Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires since 1941; that he held one joint account with the Argen­tin­ian dic­ta­tor Juan Per­on, and on August 4, 5 and 14, 1967, had writ­ten checks on demand accounts in first Nation­al City Bank (Over­seas Divi­sion) of New York, The Chase Man­hat­tan Bank, and Man­u­fac­tur­ers Hanover Trust Co., all cleared through Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires. . . . ” (Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Man­ning, p. 205.)

COMMENT: In the first part of this analy­sis, we looked at the Naz­i­fied Reagan/Bush I admin­is­tra­tions, whose “aus­tere” poli­cies increased the U.S. nation­al debt five-fold in twelve years, cre­at­ing the foun­da­tion of the fis­cal straits that engen­dered the pro­pa­gan­da line of the cur­rent GOP. The bud­getary profli­ga­cy of Reagan/Bush I cre­at­ed the prob­lem the Repub­li­cans claim they can, and should, solve. Before exam­in­ing what the effects of GOP “aus­ter­i­ty” might be, we would do well to con­sid­er to what extent the Third Reich alum­ni staffing Reagan/Bush I may have been con­scious­ly involved in one of the “. . . con­spir­a­cies in for­eign coun­tries on behalf of Ger­man car­tels” described by T.H. Tetens above. With the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion main­tain­ing Nazi Par­ty com­mand con­ti­nu­ity and the Gehlen org main­tain­ing a degree of Ger­man mil­i­tary com­mand and con­trol in the post­war peri­od, the actions of the Reagan/Bush admin­is­tra­tions may well have been just such a con­spir­a­cy. Bush II engaged in bud­getary sui­cide as well, tar­get­ing social pro­grams of the New Deal as “unaf­ford­able.” This fis­cal profli­ga­cy was a delib­er­ate tar­get­ing of those pro­grams and the New Deal.

Hartheim Euthana­sia Cen­ter: GOP Head­quar­ters, 2016?

The bud­getary pro­pos­als of GOP Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ryan, endorsed by “The Ver­MIT­Tler,” (Rom­ney) will pull the trig­ger on those tar­get­ed pro­grams. (“Ver­mit­tler” is the Ger­man word for “agent.”) The Ver­MIT­Tler’s prospects for elec­tion may well hinge on the fate of the Euro, to be deter­mined in con­sid­er­able mea­sure by a Ger­many that has stead­fast­ly adhered to “aus­ter­i­ty” as the [final] solu­tion to eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ty. With the econ­o­my being the cen­tral con­sid­er­a­tion in this elec­tion and with the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a Euro­zone col­lapse could cause suf­fi­cient eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ty in the U.S. to bring about a Rom­ney vic­to­ry, a num­ber of things should be tak­en into account:

  • In his oblique col­umn on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Ger­many and the Euro, Floyd Nor­ris notes that Ger­man banks pro­vid­ed the loans that enabled the bub­ble which pre­ced­ed and caused the fis­cal cri­sis in the periph­er­al Euro­zone coun­tries. EXCERPT:  . . . Ger­man banks helped to finance hous­ing bub­bles in the periph­ery — usu­al­ly not direct­ly, but through loans to oth­er banks. . . .
  • In that same col­umn, Nor­ris posits a pos­si­ble Ger­man gam­bit, that may have been aid­ed by the loans from Ger­man banks: EXCERPT: . . . Con­ceiv­ably, Ger­many learned three things from the 1992 expe­ri­ence, and mapped out a course with those lessons in mind. First, absent fixed exchange rates, its export-ori­ent­ed com­pa­nies faced the risk of peri­od­ic com­pet­i­tive deval­u­a­tions from the rest of Europe. . . . Sec­ond, a cur­ren­cy union could help Ger­man exports if the euro’s val­ue were held down by less com­pet­i­tive economies. . . .
    Final­ly, if Ger­many adopt­ed a low-inter­est-rate pol­i­cy, and super­low rates arrived in Euro­pean nations accus­tomed to high rates, banks could open the cred­it spig­ot and cre­ate a debt-financed boom in much of Europe. That would invite a mush­room­ing of imbal­ances. Ulti­mate­ly, deeply indebt­ed coun­tries would face a cri­sis, one that they could solve only if they acqui­esced to Ger­man poli­cies and sur­ren­dered a large part of nation­al sov­er­eign­ty. . . .
  • With the large Ger­man banks under con­trol of the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work, the exi­gency hypoth­e­sized by Nor­ris may well have been real­ized.
  • If Ger­many con­tin­ues to insist on “aus­ter­i­ty,” instead of res­cu­ing the Euro coun­tries, the result­ing col­lapse could tor­pe­do the U.S. econ­o­my and Oba­ma.  EXCERPT OF LINKED ARTICLE: . . . Look at it this way: When Lehman Broth­ers went bank­rupt in 2008, send­ing the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem into a tail­spin, its debts amount­ed to about $600 bil­lion. Gov­ern­ment debt alone in Greece, Spain, Por­tu­gal and Ire­land — the most vul­ner­a­ble Euro­pean coun­tries — adds up to about $1.9 tril­lion. And the economies and gov­ern­ment finances of most devel­oped coun­tries are in worse shape than they were four years ago. . . .
  • Job Cre­ation, Aus­tere ‑Style

    Paul Krug­man has high­light­ed the con­ti­nu­ity between the GOP and the Ger­mans, not­ing that one of Ver­MIT­Tler’s top eco­nom­ic advis­ers penned a piece in a lead­ing Ger­man paper encour­ag­ing Merkel to “stay the course,” ignor­ing Oba­ma’s advice and head­ing for cat­a­stro­phe. EXCERPT OF LINKED COLUMN: . . . Actu­al­ly, it’s kind of iron­ic. While Repub­li­cans love to engage in Europe-bash­ing, they’re actu­al­ly the ones who want us to emu­late Euro­pean-style aus­ter­i­ty and expe­ri­ence a Euro­pean-style depression.And that’s not just an infer­ence. Last week R. Glenn Hub­bard of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, a top Rom­ney advis­er, pub­lished an arti­cle in a Ger­man news­pa­per urg­ing the Ger­mans to ignore advice from Mr. Oba­ma and con­tin­ue push­ing their hard-line poli­cies. In so doing, Mr. Hub­bard was delib­er­ate­ly under­cut­ting a sit­ting president’s for­eign pol­i­cy. More impor­tant, how­ev­er, he was throw­ing his sup­port behind a pol­i­cy that is col­laps­ing as you read this.
    In fact, almost every­one fol­low­ing the sit­u­a­tion now real­izes that Germany’s aus­ter­i­ty obses­sion has brought Europe to the edge of cat­a­stro­phe — almost every­one, that is, except the Ger­mans them­selves and, it turns out, the Rom­ney eco­nom­ic team.
    Need­less to say, this bodes ill if Mr. Rom­ney wins in Novem­ber. For all indi­ca­tions are that his idea of smart pol­i­cy is to dou­ble down on the very spend­ing cuts that have hob­bled recov­ery here and sent Europe into an eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal tail­spin. . . .

  • The Fed­er­al Reserve has pub­licly expressed ret­i­cence to take to steps to stim­u­late the econ­o­my so as to avoid appear­ing to be help­ing the Oba­ma cam­paign. Aside from the overt polit­i­cal pol­lu­tion of the Fed’s posi­tion (it has been under fire from the Con­gres­sion­al GOP attack machine), this indi­cates how far afield we’ve got­ten. The idea is to help the econ­o­my, the coun­try and its cit­i­zens.
  • The GOP has been naked­ly work­ing to under­mine Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion, rather like the CIA worked to under­mine the Allende regime in Chile in the 1970’s. They do not hes­i­tate to use dead­ly force, either.
  • If, for the sake of argu­ment, Rom­ney gets elect­ed with a GOP major­i­ty in both hous­es of Congress–a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty with 23 Demo­c­ra­t­ic and 10 Repub­li­can seats up for grabs in the Senate–what can we expect?
  • Paul Krug­man informs us: EXCERPT: The real­ly deci­sive evi­dence on gov­ern­ment cuts, how­ev­er, comes from Europe. Con­sid­er the case of Ire­land, which has reduced pub­lic employ­ment by 28,000 since 2008 — the equiv­a­lent, as a share of pop­u­la­tion, of lay­ing off 1.9 mil­lion work­ers here. These cuts were hailed by con­ser­v­a­tives, who pre­dict­ed great results. “The Irish econ­o­my is show­ing encour­ag­ing signs of recov­ery,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Insti­tute in June 2010. But recov­ery nev­er came; Irish unem­ploy­ment is cur­rent­ly more than 14 per­cent. Ireland’s expe­ri­ence shows that aus­ter­i­ty in the face of a depressed econ­o­my is a ter­ri­ble mis­take to be avoid­ed if pos­si­ble. . . .
  • With a pas­sage of the GOP/Ryan bud­get pro­pos­als favored by The Ver­MIT­Tler, an open assault on the New Deal, Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare is to be expect­ed. If, for exam­ple the vouch­er sys­tem pro­posed by Ryan, et al is made law, many elder­ly and poor peo­ple will not be able to afford the med­ical care they need to sur­vive. Peo­ple will die. Poor folks, sick folks, old folks, weak folks. And that is just exact­ly the idea. Peo­ple like that, when they vote at all, usu­al­ly vote for the Democ­rats. GOP is bril­liant­ly cyn­i­cal in its approach to such mat­ters.
  • When he became Pres­i­dent in 1989, the elder Bush promised a “kinder, gen­tler” approach to gov­ern­ment. In that same vein, we might view the  GOP pro­gram as a “kinder, gen­tler” euthana­sia pro­gram, rather like the T‑4 pro­gram under­tak­en by the Third Reich. That “War Against the Weak” was itself an out­growth of eugen­ics ide­ol­o­gy and prac­tices that occu­pied a very impor­tant place in the hier­ar­chy of West­ern polit­i­cal and soci­o­log­i­cal think­ing
  • Under­ly­ing “aus­ter­i­ty” is a Social Dar­win­ism that is part of a con­tin­u­um of social thought that pro­duced the hor­rors of the camps. “Death instead of Tax­es” might be one way of think­ing about the sit­u­a­tion.
  • Von Clause­witz would rec­og­nize the GOP/Ger­man-dri­ven aus­ter­i­ty as “war” by oth­er means–in this case an anni­hi­lat­ing “Post­war” that will accom­plish what the T‑4 pro­gram was intend­ed to do–week out “the unfit.”
  • The effects of “aus­ter­i­ty” on the Unit­ed States will be sim­i­lar to those in oth­er places that embraced the “Irish doc­trine” high­light­ed by Krug­man above. We will expe­ri­ence the down­ward spi­ral stem­ming from job loss, can­ce­la­tion of orders engen­der­ing fur­ther slow­down and oth­er high­ly unpleas­ant symp­toms of “aus­ter­i­ty” dis­ease.
  • This will dra­mat­i­cal­ly weak­en the Unit­ed States.
  • One can but won­der to what extent The Ver­MIT­Tler will be giv­en the task of imple­ment­ing and over­see­ing Amer­i­ca’s final col­lapse.
  • It is doubt­ful that the mas­ter cyn­ics of the GOP will sit back and allow the howls of out­rage from unem­ployed, new­ly-poor and polit­i­cal­ly-jilt­ed work­ers and vot­ers derail their agen­da at the midterm elec­tions of 2014. Rather, I sus­pect we may see some “event”–a mon­ster ter­ror­ist inci­dent or man­u­fac­tured dis­as­ter of some kind that would con­ve­nient­ly take the blame for eco­nom­ic prob­lems. That dis­as­trous event will also eclipse the dis­as­trous social poli­cies of Romney/Ryan that will have thrown peo­ple off the pay­rolls and unto unem­ploy­ment lines. In this regard, the “event” will serve to dis­tract, much as 9/11 served to obscure much of what the Bush admin­is­tra­tion was actu­al­ly doing, as well as jus­ti­fy­ing “emer­gency mea­sures.”

Discussion

36 comments for ““Austerity” Equals Fascism, Part 2: A Kindler, Gentler T‑4 Program”

  1. http://frontpagemag.com/2012/06/19/mormons-have-irrational-beliefs-who-doesnt/
    In an arti­cle for the out­let Front Page Mag­a­zine — Mor­mons Have Irra­tional Beliefs? Who Does­n’t? — writer Den­nis Prager gives us a pre­view of the com­ing era of irra­tional­ism by way of con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing Rom­ney’s far-right insan­i­ty with­in a larg­er glob­al rejec­tion of rea­son. Nazi doc­trine explic­it­ly rejects rea­son and embraces the irra­tional, plac­ing polit­i­cal or even sci­en­tif­ic prac­tice on the same lev­el as reli­gious belief and con­tin­u­al­ly inter­mix­ing all. Prager advo­cates ‘faith’, polit­i­cal and reli­gious, since rea­son proves so fee­ble and unin­spir­ing.

    Prager — “I read and hear these dis­missals of Mor­monism with some amuse­ment — because every­one who makes these charges holds beliefs and/or prac­tices that out­siders con­sid­er just as irra­tional.”

    The thrust of the arti­cle is that a rea­son­able path is not to be found and per­haps does­n’t exist, so one man’s crazi­ness is no worse than any oth­er’s, the impor­tant test being who wins. This is the core of Niet­zsche’s nihilism and Super­man phi­los­o­phy.

    At bot­tom the extreme right-wing econ­o­mists and pun­dits are as wea­ried by dis­cus­sions of data or doc­u­men­ta­tion as they are by argu­ments for moral­i­ty. Pow­er and rea­son do not mix well.

    Posted by Dwight | June 19, 2012, 7:37 am
  2. It’s not ALL bad out there on the eco­nom­ic front. At least there’s one group of work­ers out there that have man­aged to extract a bit more com­pen­sa­tion for their efforts dur­ing the Great Reces­sion even when their boss­es opposed it. And accord­ing to experts, it’s this group’s abil­i­ty to main­tain com­pet­i­tive com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages that has prob­a­bly played an impor­tant role in rebuild­ing the health of the US cor­po­rate sec­tor. Some­times, you see, the rule of “pay your employ­ees as lit­tle as pos­si­ble” that per­vades the cor­po­rate sec­tor does­n’t always apply:

    NY Times
    C.E.O. Pay Is Ris­ing Despite the Din

    By NATHANIEL POPPER
    Pub­lished: June 16, 2012

    YOU call this a rev­o­lu­tion?

    Prob­a­bly the most-heard com­plaint about big busi­ness these days, one seem­ing­ly tai­lored for the 99 per­cent, is how much mon­ey cor­po­rate C.E.O.’s rou­tine­ly pull down. Many ordi­nary Amer­i­cans prob­a­bly cheered when stock­hold­ers — that is, the peo­ple who actu­al­ly own pub­lic com­pa­nies — final­ly began to say, “Enough.”

    Yeah, well.

    Despite a lot of noise from share­hold­ers and a few vic­to­ries at big names like Cit­i­group and Hewlett-Packard, exec­u­tive pay just keeps climb­ing.

    Yes, some cor­po­rate boards seem to be lis­ten­ing to share­hold­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly on con­tentious issues like the sev­en-fig­ure cash bonus­es that helped define hyper­wealth dur­ing the boom. Since the bust, cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca on the whole has moved to tie exec­u­tive pay more close­ly to long-term per­for­mance by skew­ing exec­u­tive pay­checks more toward restrict­ed stock, which can’t be sold for years.

    But rewards at the top are still rich — and get­ting rich­er. Now that 2011 proxy state­ments have been filed, the extent of exec­u­tive pay last year has final­ly become clear. Medi­an pay of the nation’s 200 top-paid C.E.O.’s was $14.5 mil­lion, accord­ing to a study con­duct­ed for The New York Times by Equi­lar, a com­pen­sa­tion data firm based in Red­wood City, Calif. The medi­an pay raise among those C.E.O.’s was 5 per­cent. (The full list is avail­able here.)

    That 5 per­cent raise is small­er than last year’s. But it comes at a time of stub­born­ly high unem­ploy­ment and declin­ing wealth for many ordi­nary Amer­i­cans. Even cor­po­rate pay experts say that this is hard­ly the kind of change that will quell anger over the nation’s have-a-lots by the have-less­es, par­tic­u­lar­ly in an elec­tion year.

    “The big­ger issues are there, still to be worked on, and those are the more dif­fi­cult ones,” says Eleanor Blox­ham, the chief exec­u­tive of the Val­ue Alliance, a firm in West­er­ville, Ohio, that con­sults on cor­po­rate pay. Cor­po­ra­tions are chang­ing pay prac­tices, Ms. Blox­ham says, but not enough: “There is too much hype and too lit­tle sub­stance.”

    The lat­est list of the most rich­ly reward­ed exec­u­tives expands on a pre­lim­i­nary sur­vey Equi­lar put togeth­er for The Times in April, before many com­pa­nies had sub­mit­ted final reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ings for 2011. While the ear­li­er study showed the medi­an pay pack­age ris­ing 2 per­cent from 2010 to 2011, the final fig­ures put the increase at 5 per­cent.

    ...

    Because the list includes only the C.E.O.’s of pub­lic com­pa­nies, it does not cap­ture the many bil­lions that have been earned by top hedge fund man­agers and pri­vate-equi­ty deal­mak­ers in recent year. But even in the more nar­row uni­verse of pub­lic com­pa­nies, the com­plete Equi­lar study shows that there was not one, but two exec­u­tives who had nine-fig­ure pay­days last year — the first time that has ever hap­pened, accord­ing to Aaron Boyd, Equilar’s head of research.

    David E. Simon, the top exec­u­tive at the Simon Prop­er­ty Group, was the sec­ond-high­est paid C.E.O. last year, with $137 mil­lion. He joined the exclu­sive nine-fig­ure niche occu­pied by Tim­o­thy D. Cook, who suc­ceed­ed Steve Jobs at Apple. Mr. Cook received a pack­age val­ued at $378 mil­lion. The pay of both Mr. Simon and Mr. Cook were bol­stered by one-time rewards that the com­pa­nies said would not be repeat­ed, and that are tied to future com­pa­ny per­for­mance.

    In Mr. Simon’s case, this was a stock pack­age that will be dis­trib­uted over eight years that was worth $132 mil­lion when grant­ed last year. Like Mr. Cook’s bonus, it has already gained sub­stan­tial­ly in val­ue.

    While Apple share­hold­ers over­whelm­ing­ly approved Mr. Cook’s com­pen­sa­tion, Simon Prop­er­ty investors lop­sid­ed­ly reject­ed Mr. Simon’s pay pack­age at the annu­al meet­ing in May, with 73.3 per­cent vot­ing against it, accord­ing to Insti­tu­tion­al Share­hold­er Ser­vices. But such votes aren’t bind­ing. That means com­pa­nies can do as they want, what­ev­er share­hold­ers say.

    The fact that there were votes at both com­pa­nies shows the new pow­er that investors have seized. Despite oppo­si­tion from cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, the Dodd-Frank leg­is­la­tion man­dat­ed that pub­lic com­pa­nies give share­hold­ers a vote on com­pen­sa­tion strat­e­gy at least once every six years. Last year brought the first onslaught of such say-on-pay votes, and this year 1,714 com­pa­nies have already held them, says the con­sult­ing firm Sem­ler Brossy. Among those, 45 com­pa­nies’ pay strate­gies have been reject­ed by share­hold­ers, up from 29 last year at this time.

    The votes have had imme­di­ate impact, push­ing many cor­po­rate boards to explain to investors how they reached pay deci­sions, and influ­enc­ing some com­pa­nies to rein in gold­en para­chutes like the ones Hewlett-Packard gave its last two chiefs.

    ...

    Ira T. Kay, a man­ag­ing part­ner at the con­sult­ing firm Pay Gov­er­nance, said com­pa­nies had set “hard goals” for exec­u­tives that explained why they “are so moti­vat­ed to run these com­pa­nies very well.” He gives these pay pack­ages some cred­it for the per­for­mance of Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions, which have recov­ered faster from the finan­cial cri­sis than the over­all econ­o­my. “Maybe it has caused some issues between the 1 per­cent and the 99 per­cent,” he said. “But it has cer­tain­ly made for a very strong cor­po­rate sec­tor in the U.S.”

    Still, the votes against the pay pack­ages at com­pa­nies like Simon Prop­er­ty also under­line some of the hol­low­ness of the share­hold­er ini­tia­tives. Investors get a vote on pay only after the num­bers have been set by cor­po­rate boards. And, because the votes are non­bind­ing, they car­ry only the sting of pos­si­ble embar­rass­ment.

    After its meet­ing, Simon released a state­ment say­ing exec­u­tives “val­ue” share­hold­ers’ input and that its com­pen­sa­tion pan­el “will take their views into con­sid­er­a­tion as it reviews com­pen­sa­tion plans.”

    MORE impor­tant, share­hold­er votes often take on com­pa­nies where exec­u­tive pay is out of line with indus­try norms. They don’t address the fact that even com­pa­nies using the norms have raised C.E.O. pay faster than the wages of aver­age employ­ees.

    Charles M. Elson, direc­tor of the Wein­berg Cen­ter for Cor­po­rate Gov­er­nance at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware, said the sharp rise in exec­u­tive pay was a result of the prac­tice of set­ting C.E.O. com­pen­sa­tion by look­ing at what oth­er com­pa­nies in the same indus­try are doing, then adding a bit. The addi­tions are intend­ed to ensure that exec­u­tives stay put. The Simon Prop­er­ty Group said the bonus offered to Mr. Simon “is intend­ed to ensure that one of America’s best C.E.O.’s will lead the com­pa­ny until at least 2019, when Mr. Simon will be 58 years of age, rather than pur­su­ing oth­er employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

    ...

    Mr. Kay, at Pay Gov­er­nance, said crit­ics of cur­rent C.E.O. pay under­es­ti­mate the will­ing­ness of exec­u­tives to leave their posi­tions.

    “Could you pay them a lit­tle less?” he asked. “I think you could.” But he added: “You are deal­ing with board mem­bers that don’t want to lose their C.E.O., and they buy insur­ance by pay­ing at the indus­try stan­dard.”

    I’m pret­ty sure there’s a les­son in this about the direc­tion of the econ­o­my. In the future, if you want a job, you had bet­ter pro­vide a vital ser­vice the pub­lic needs. No more mooching.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2012, 10:46 am
  3. Hmm­mm....I think the cause is clear: Under­com­pe­na­tion. Me thinks some of JC Pen­ny’s over­seas sup­pli­ers are get­ting a lit­tle greedy.

    Seri­ous­ly, for only $44 mil­lion a year who would­n’t go Galt?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2012, 2:04 pm
  4. Hey all you US res­i­dents lucky enough to make too lit­tle to qual­i­fy for income tax­es, the gravy train is approach­ing its final des­ti­na­tion:

    June 19, 2012 8:45 AM

    Mitch McConnell: Tax code already “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pro­gres­sive” and needs to be changed

    UPDATED 12:46 p.m. ET

    (CBS News) The Unit­ed States tax code is already “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pro­gres­sive” and should be restruc­tured, Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell said, not­ing that more than two-thirds of the mon­ey the gov­ern­ment col­lects already comes from the wealth­i­est ten per­cent of tax­pay­ers.

    In an inter­view that aired on “CBS This Morn­ing” Tues­day, the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can said he is ready to sit down with “this pres­i­dent or the next pres­i­dent” and have an ani­mat­ed dis­cus­sion about the tax code to “reach a con­clu­sion” that would bring down the bal­loon­ing U.S. deficit.

    “Almost 70 per­cent of the fed­er­al rev­enue is pro­vid­ed by the top 10 per­cent of tax­pay­ers now. Between 45 per­cent and 50 per­cent of Amer­i­cans pay no income tax at all. We have an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pro­gres­sive tax code already. It is a mess and needs to be revis­it­ed again,” McConnell said in the inter­view, taped Mon­day.

    A “pro­gres­sive” code increase tax rates as income increas­es.

    ...

    Flori­da Repub­li­can Gov. Jeb Bush caused a stir in Repub­li­can cir­cles ear­li­er this month when he told the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee that he would have tak­en the hypo­thet­i­cal offer to increase tax­es for a dol­lar of rev­enue if it came with $10 in spend­ing cuts. Pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney said he would reject that offer in an inter­view with CBS’ “Face the Nation” over the week­end.

    McConnell said he will­ing to make a so-called “grand bar­gain” with the Democ­rats, but he said he “will not make a com­mit­ment in advance about what I will or won’t do.”

    “The issue of rev­enue, from our point of view, is tied to seri­ous enti­tle­ment reform,” McConnell said, refer­ring to changes to such fed­er­al ben­e­fit pro­grams as Medicare, Med­ic­aid and Social Secu­ri­ty.

    ...

    An ear­li­er ver­sion of this arti­cle said, “The Unit­ed States tax code favors low­er income Amer­i­cans too much already and should be restruc­tured to make it fair­er to upper income earn­ers, Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell said.” An aide to Sen. McConnell called to clar­i­fy that the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can has nev­er called for low­er­ing rates only on upper income Amer­i­cans but said the code should be “sim­pli­fied” and tax­es should not increase on any­one.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 20, 2012, 8:45 am
  5. Don’t you just love how our eco­nom­ic sys­tem is set up: US work­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is up, lead­ing to a decline in hir­ing:

    Bloomberg
    Job Growth May Fiz­zle in U.S. as Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Gains: Econ­o­my
    By Alex Kowal­s­ki — Jun 20, 2012 4:10 PM CT

    The U.S. econ­o­my may be on the cusp of a pick­up in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that will make it more dif­fi­cult for Fed­er­al Reserve pol­i­cy mak­ers to reduce unem­ploy­ment.

    After cool­ing through­out last year, work­er out­put per hour will prob­a­bly rise at around 1.5 per­cent, in line with its long- run trend, accord­ing to econ­o­mists like Ellen Zent­ner and Robert Gor­don. That means the low­er-than-fore­cast pay­roll gains in May and April may be clos­er to the norm than the excep­tion for the rest of the year as com­pa­nies redou­ble efforts to improve effi­cien­cy.

    Pay­rolls will grow between 80,000 and 120,000 per month, less than this year’s 165,000 aver­age, even as the econ­o­my expands by about the same 2 per­cent, esti­mates Zent­ner, a senior econ­o­mist at Nomu­ra Secu­ri­ties Inter­na­tion­al Inc. Fed Chair­man Ben S. Bernanke ear­li­er this year aired his con­cern that hir­ing will sub­side with­out faster eco­nom­ic growth.

    “As the rate of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty nor­mal­izes, busi­ness­es won’t need to hire as many work­ers,” said New York-based Zent­ner. “The lev­el of job growth we’ve been get­ting over the past few months is prob­a­bly pret­ty nor­mal.”

    The Fed said today it will expand its pro­gram to replace short-term bonds with longer-term debt by $267 bil­lion through the end of the year in a bid to reduce unem­ploy­ment and pro­tect the expan­sion.

    ...

    Employ­ment Cools

    Employ­ers in the U.S. added 69,000 work­ers to pay­rolls in May, the least in a year, low­er­ing the aver­age pace of job cre­ation in 2012 to about 165,000, fig­ures from the Labor Depart­ment show. Zent­ner pro­ject­ed a 95,000 increase, the sec­ond-low­est in a Bloomberg News sur­vey of 87 econ­o­mists, after tak­ing into account a rebound in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

    The job­less rate last month climbed to 8.2 per­cent from April’s 8.1 per­cent. It has held above 8 per­cent for 40 con­sec­u­tive months, the longest stretch of such ele­vat­ed lev­els in the post-World War II era.

    An uptick in effi­cien­cy would mark a rever­sal from last year and ear­ly 2011, when com­pa­nies expand­ed pay­rolls even as eco­nom­ic growth cooled. Work­er out­put per hour rose 0.4 per­cent in the year to March, com­pared with an aver­age 2.5 per­cent gain in the six-year expan­sion that end­ed in Decem­ber 2007.

    Labor costs adjust­ed for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty rose 1.8 per­cent in 2011, the most in three years.

    The slow­down in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and increase in expens­es occurred as com­pa­nies brought head­counts in line with demand, cor­rect­ing over-aggres­sive fir­ings dur­ing the 2007–2009 reces­sion, Gor­don, a pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty in Evanston, Illi­nois, who’s researched the ebb and flow of U.S. pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, said in an e‑mail.

    Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Trend

    Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty growth will return to a trend of 1.2 per­cent to 1.4 per­cent per year, which means job cre­ation will be slow­er for any giv­en pace of eco­nom­ic growth in the next year or two com­pared with 2010 or 2011, pro­ject­ed Gor­don, also a mem­ber of the Nation­al Bureau of Eco­nom­ic Research com­mit­tee that deter­mines when reces­sions begin and end.

    His view echoes com­ments Bernanke made ear­li­er this year dur­ing a speech that explored the rea­sons behind last year’s drop in unem­ploy­ment. At the time of his speech, aver­age job growth in the six months through Feb­ru­ary had been the strongest in almost six years. Mean­while, gross domes­tic prod­uct had advanced 1.7 per­cent in 2011, almost half the pace of 2010.

    “What we may be see­ing now is the flip side of the fear- dri­ven lay­offs that occurred dur­ing the worst part of the reces­sion, as firms have become suf­fi­cient­ly con­fi­dent to move their work­forces into clos­er align­ment with the expect­ed demand for their prod­ucts,” Bernanke said before the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Busi­ness Eco­nom­ics on March 26.

    ...

    Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Focus

    Ora­cle Corp. (ORCL) wrapped up the bulk of its plans to enlarge its sales force in the past fis­cal year and will focus on mak­ing those new work­ers more pro­duc­tive, Mark Hurd, co-pres­i­dent of the world’s sec­ond-largest soft­ware mak­er, said dur­ing a June 18 earn­ings call.

    “We are work­ing to increase the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty as we assim­i­late those peo­ple into the orga­ni­za­tion this year,” Hurd said. “We will still have adds in fis­cal year 2013, but most of the hard work was done” a year ear­li­er.

    While the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains will reduce the need for labor in the short term, they will help cre­ate jobs in the future by enlarg­ing the economy’s poten­tial for growth, said Dean Maki, New York-based chief U.S. econ­o­mist at Bar­clays Plc and a for­mer Fed econ­o­mist.

    “The old say­ing is a steam shov­el replaces a hun­dred men dig­ging with spoons,” Maki said. “You wouldn’t want to go back to a hun­dred men dig­ging with spoons just to increase job growth.”

    After read­ing an arti­cle like this, I’m almost relieved that we don’t have Star Trek “repli­ca­tors”(just think of the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains all you new­ly unem­ployed peo­ple!). Great.

    Tech­nol­o­gy and the asso­ci­at­ed pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains are great...assuming the mass­es are allowed to par­tic­i­pate in the ben­e­fits. That’s not always the case.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2012, 2:07 pm
  6. What this guy said:

    Return to cap­i­tal­ism ‘red in tooth and claw’ spells eco­nom­ic mad­ness

    Because cap­i­tal­ism fuels an insa­tiable demand for con­sump­tion, the world will soon run up against the nat­ur­al lim­its of growth

    Robert Skidel­sky
    guardian.co.uk, Thurs­day 21 June 2012 12.48 EDT

    As peo­ple in the devel­oped world won­der how their coun­tries will return to full employ­ment after the glob­al reces­sion, it might ben­e­fit us to take a look at a vision­ary essay that John May­nard Keynes wrote in 1930, called Eco­nom­ic Pos­si­bil­i­ties for our Grand­chil­dren (pdf).

    Key­nes’s Gen­er­al The­o­ry of Employ­ment, Inter­est, and Mon­ey, pub­lished in 1936, equipped gov­ern­ments with the intel­lec­tu­al tools to counter the unem­ploy­ment caused by slumps. In this ear­li­er essay, how­ev­er, Keynes dis­tin­guished between unem­ploy­ment caused by tem­po­rary eco­nom­ic break­downs and what he called “tech­no­log­i­cal unem­ploy­ment” — that is, “unem­ploy­ment due to the dis­cov­ery of means of economis­ing the use of labour out­run­ning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour”.

    Keynes reck­oned that we would hear much more about this kind of unem­ploy­ment in the future. But its emer­gence, he thought, was a cause for hope, rather than despair. For it showed that the devel­oped world, at least, was on track to solv­ing the “eco­nom­ic prob­lem” — the prob­lem of scarci­ty that kept mankind teth­ered to a bur­den­some life of toil.

    Machines were rapid­ly replac­ing human labour, hold­ing out the prospect of vast­ly increased pro­duc­tion at a frac­tion of the exist­ing human effort. In fact, Keynes thought that by about now (the ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry) most peo­ple would have to work only 15 hours a week to pro­duce all that they need­ed for sub­sis­tence and com­fort.

    Devel­oped coun­tries are now about as rich as Keynes thought they would be, but most of us work much longer than 15 hours a week, although we do take longer hol­i­days, and work has become less phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing, so we also live longer. But, in broad terms, the prophe­cy of vast­ly increased leisure for all has not been ful­filled. Automa­tion has been pro­ceed­ing apace, but most of us who work still put in an aver­age of 40 hours a week. In fact, work­ing hours have not fall­en since the ear­ly 1980s.

    At the same time, “tech­no­log­i­cal unem­ploy­ment” has risen. Since the 1980s, we have nev­er regained the full employ­ment lev­els of the 1950s and 1960s. If most peo­ple still work a 40-hour week, a sub­stan­tial and grow­ing minor­i­ty have had unwant­ed leisure thrust upon them in the form of unem­ploy­ment, under-employ­ment and forced with­draw­al from the labour mar­ket. And, as we recov­er from the cur­rent reces­sion, most experts expect this group to grow even larg­er.

    What this means is that we have large­ly failed to con­vert grow­ing tech­no­log­i­cal unem­ploy­ment into increased vol­un­tary leisure. The main rea­son for this is that the lion’s share of the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains achieved over the last 30 years has been seized by the well-off.

    ...

    And, beyond a cer­tain point, it is also eco­nom­ic mad­ness. This is not just or main­ly because we will soon enough run up against the nat­ur­al lim­its to growth. It is because we can­not go on for much longer economis­ing on labour faster than we can find new uses for it. That road leads to a divi­sion of soci­ety into a minor­i­ty of pro­duc­ers, pro­fes­sion­als, super­vi­sors, and finan­cial spec­u­la­tors on one side, and a major­i­ty of drones and unem­ploy­ables on the oth­er.

    Apart from its moral impli­ca­tions, such a soci­ety would face a clas­sic dilem­ma: how to rec­on­cile the relent­less pres­sure to con­sume with stag­nant earn­ings. So far, the answer has been to bor­row, lead­ing to today’s mas­sive debt over­hangs in advanced economies. Obvi­ous­ly, this is unsus­tain­able, and thus is no answer at all, for it implies peri­od­ic col­lapse of the wealth-pro­duc­ing machine.

    The truth is that we can­not go on suc­cess­ful­ly automat­ing our pro­duc­tion with­out rethink­ing our atti­tudes toward con­sump­tion, work, leisure, and the dis­tri­b­u­tion of income. With­out such efforts of social imag­i­na­tion, recov­ery from the cur­rent cri­sis will sim­ply be a pre­lude to more shat­ter­ing calami­ties in the future.

    Ah, tech­no-fas­cism: Both an ends AND a means. Now THAT’s some seri­ous pro­duc­tiv­i­ty!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2012, 10:31 pm
  7. A com­pre­hen­sive pre­dic­tive math­e­mat­i­cal mod­el of cap­i­tal­ism is lack­ing ( no mat­ter what the experts say ) because it is impos­si­ble to encode all that hap­pens in a mod­el. There are two major cat­e­gories of prof­it and loss — pri­vate and pub­lic or pri­vate and social, if you pre­fer, in any eco­nom­ic process. Pri­vate prof­it usu­al­ly shows up first and is much more eas­i­ly mea­sur­able than pub­lic prof­it (or loss), which by its nature may be spread across time and the social spec­trum in ways not so easy to mea­sure. In con­trast to count­ing pri­vate gain, dol­lar­iz­ing pub­lic loss or gain involves assign­ing finite val­ue to things we non-sociopaths would wish to be of ines­timable val­ue ( human life and health, envi­ron­ment, etc. ) and so the task nev­er real­ly is done.

    Pub­lic prof­it or loss is just as real-world and con­crete as pri­vate gain but this rel­a­tive dif­fi­cul­ty of mea­sur­ing it allows some to con­sign the con­cept to fan­ta­sy, going so far as to insist that ‘the pub­lic’ is a non-exis­tent abstrac­tion. This is why gestalt eco­nom­ics will nev­er, ever be a sci­ence and must be looked at as an ongo­ing polit­i­cal action.

    Fas­cism could be defined as the ide­o­log­i­cal dri­ve to make pri­vate gain the only mea­sure of pub­lic good, i.e. pri­vate gain is pub­lic gain or ...apples is oranges. Placed in these terms it sounds absurd because it IS absurd but this fuzzy Rand-like think­ing per­sists.

    Posted by Dwight | June 22, 2012, 12:31 pm
  8. @Dwight:
    Yep, our sys­tem is pred­i­cat­ed on putting a price on the price­less and then com­modi­tiz­ing it. If it isn’t mon­e­tized it does­n’t mat­ter. And when the price­less is priced, the low­er the bet­ter because that means more poten­tial for ‘prof­it’ and ‘prof­it’ is ‘good’. Mon­ey paid to employ­ees are a ‘cost’ that must be kept as low as pos­si­ble where­as the mon­ey flow­ing into the cof­fers of the ‘job cre­ators’ in the ‘own­er­ship class’ is seen as a ‘prof­it’ and max­i­miz­ing that ‘prof­it’ is a sys­temic imper­a­tive. Work­ers right, ani­mal rights, a social safe­ty net? Those are ‘lux­u­ries’ only appro­pri­ate for ‘wealthy’ coun­tries and real­ly just an unfor­tu­nate eco­nom­ic nui­sance that must be main­tained to keep the pro­les pla­cat­ed. What­ev­er val­ue is placed on the price­less is viewed as an eco­nom­ic black hole. Well, ok, not always.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 23, 2012, 11:24 pm
  9. Hey dis­abled kids, David Cameron has a mod­est pro­pos­al for you:

    Cameron’s big cut ‘idea’ will only back­fire on the Tories

    Attack­ing the under-25s might help poll rat­ings for now, but the real caus­es of high hous­ing ben­e­fit costs lie else­where

    Pol­ly Toyn­bee
    guardian.co.uk, Mon­day 25 June 2012 16.00 EDT

    Behind in the polls, David Cameron cleaves to his one tru­ly pop­u­lar pol­i­cy: cut­ting wel­fare. Poll­sters say peo­ple want it cut even more. His speech hits every but­ton, stir­ring up those on quite low incomes against those on very low incomes, divid­ing and rul­ing, dis­tract­ing from the lifestyle of the rulers. With the rot­tweil­er ten­den­cy on his back­bench­es grow­ing rest­less, he throws them the vul­ner­a­ble to chew on — all those lux­u­ri­at­ing in the “cul­ture of enti­tle­ment” on £71 a week unem­ploy­ment pay. Polit­i­cal­ly, it works well — for now.

    A red mist of despair poured from chil­dren’s and dis­abil­i­ty char­i­ties, stunned at yet anoth­er assault on those they try to defend. Already the £18bn ben­e­fit cut is “with­out his­tor­i­cal or inter­na­tion­al prece­dent,” accord­ing to the Insti­tute for Fis­cal Studies. Cameron’s 17 “ideas” may not all see the light of day, but anoth­er £10bn will be cut: hous­ing ben­e­fit and US-style ben­e­fit time lim­its yield the big mon­ey.

    Few peo­ple realise that 88% of ben­e­fit cuts are still to come, with two thirds of dis­abled chil­dren to lose large sums. Hous­ing ben­e­fit cuts, dri­ving thou­sands of fam­i­lies miles from their homes and chil­dren from their schools, have only just begun. With­out yet know­ing the per­verse effects of these cuts, with chaos about to engulf the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions on the work pro­gramme and uni­ver­sal cred­it, Cameron shoots from the hip.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 26, 2012, 2:17 pm
  10. Are you sure aus­ter­i­ty is so bad? Ber­tels­mann is high­light­ing the opin­ion of oth­er experts.

    http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/cps/rde/xchg/SID-63C9B450-2EB6226D/bst_engl/hs.xsl/nachrichten_112839.htm

    “Güter­sloh / Kiel, 26/06/2012

    Euro Zone: Debt Reduc­tion Requires Cut­ting Spending.....The coun­tries in the euro zone that are suf­fer­ing from a debt cri­sis need to make it their top pri­or­i­ty to cut pub­lic spend­ing.”

    And Ber­tels­mann has been pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy with Angela Merkel in Brazil.

    “News Item
    Gueter­sloh, 17/06/2011

    Rein­hard Mohn Prize Award­ed to Brazil­ian Cit­i­zen Par­tic­i­pa­tion Project
    Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel gives pre­sen­ta­tion speech...”

    http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/cps/rde/xchg/bst_engl/hs.xsl/nachrichten_107768.htm

    Posted by GK | June 28, 2012, 8:07 pm
  11. Bed­times in the future:
    Kid: Mom­my, how did Europe become a fas­cist night­mare?
    Mom: No one went to bed on time and the von Clause­witz mon­ster came and took over. Now go to sleep.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 17, 2012, 10:42 pm
  12. That’s quite an admis­sion:

    NY Times
    Euro’s Med­i­cine May Be Mak­ing Greece’s Symp­toms Worse
    By RACHEL DONADIO and SUZANNE DALEY
    Pub­lished: July 24, 2012

    ATHENS — Only a month after Greece installed a new gov­ern­ment, the coun­try is fac­ing renewed per­il. Its offi­cial lenders are sig­nal­ing a grow­ing reluc­tance to keep pay­ing the bills of the near­ly bank­rupt nation, even as the gov­ern­ment is seek­ing more lenien­cy on the terms of its multi­bil­lion-euro bailout.

    Adding to the woes, there is lit­tle agree­ment with­in either side. The Greek gov­ern­ment is itself a mot­ley coali­tion of con­ser­v­a­tives and Social­ists, and the lead­ers of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund and the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, known as the troi­ka, are increas­ing­ly divid­ed among them­selves. That is cre­at­ing even more uncer­tain­ty as Greece and the rest of Europe head for yet anoth­er show­down, renew­ing doubts about how long Athens can remain with­in the euro zone.

    Even as fears mount in Europe about the rapid­ly wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion in Spain, Greece’s prob­lems are far from solved. The pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, José Manuel Bar­roso, is expect­ed to make his first vis­it to Athens since 2009 on Thurs­day to meet with Prime Min­is­ter Anto­nis Sama­ras as the troi­ka begins yet anoth­er assess­ment of how well the coun­try has com­plied with a spate of harsh aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures imposed as the price for loans. Greece’s lenders say they will not finance the coun­try any fur­ther unless it meets its goals. But many experts say that the tar­gets were nev­er with­in reach and that push­ing three increas­ing­ly weak Greek gov­ern­ments to com­ply has only pro­found­ly dam­aged the econ­o­my.

    We knew at the fund from the very begin­ning that this pro­gram was impos­si­ble to be imple­ment­ed because we didn’t have any — any — suc­cess­ful exam­ple,” said Pana­gi­o­tis Roume­li­o­tis, a vice chair­man at Piraeus Bank and a for­mer finance min­is­ter who until Jan­u­ary was Greece’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund. Because Greece is in the euro zone, he not­ed, the nation can­not deval­ue its cur­ren­cy to help improve its com­pet­i­tive­ness as oth­er coun­tries sub­ject to I.M.F. inter­ven­tions almost always are encour­aged to do.

    At the same time, Mr. Roume­li­o­tis and oth­ers note, the troi­ka under­es­ti­mat­ed the neg­a­tive effect its med­i­cine would have on the Greek econ­o­my.

    ...

    So the guy that was Greece’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the IMF admits that they knew the aus­ter­i­ty regime was impos­si­ble from the very begin­ning but also asserts the troi­ka under­es­ti­mat­ed the neg­a­tive effect it’s “med­i­cine” would have on the Greek econ­o­my. Ok....

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 25, 2012, 10:57 am
  13. They’re baaaack:

    Bloomberg
    The Men in Black Are Back in Athens to Check the Books
    By Ben Vick­ers | July 26, 2012 4:04 AM EDT

    The men in black are back in Athens. Greece is host­ing mem­bers of the so-called Troi­ka, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the euro zone, the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund, who are there to assess how far the coun­try may have strayed from the terms of its bailout pack­age.

    ...

    The gov­ern­ment plans to cut pen­sions, reduce health­care spend­ing and renew the empha­sis on pri­va­ti­za­tions, accord­ing to Kathimeri­ni. The gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day named Takis Athana­sopou­los, a for­mer Toy­ota Motor Corp. exec­u­tive and chair­man and chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Pub­lic Pow­er Corp., as head of the state asset sales unit. He replaces Costas Mitropou­los, who had been in the job a year and resigned on July 20, cit­ing a lack of sup­port from Samaras’s gov­ern­ment and say­ing it’s “unlike­ly” more than 300 mil­lion euros will be raised this year. The tar­get was to raise 3 bil­lion euros in 2012.

    Still, that won’t be the lim­it of the dis­cus­sions. Greece may well be seek­ing some slack to ease the bailout con­di­tions, although the rules gov­ern­ing the pack­age are tight. Any exten­sion to their fis­cal adjust­ment plan would be con­sid­ered debt restruc­tur­ing, gov­ern­ment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said yes­ter­day.

    More aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures in some quar­ters may allow for more eas­ing in oth­ers. The min­i­mum wage was low­ered to 585 euros a month in Feb­ru­ary, and could be cut fur­ther, El Pais reports, although Labor Min­is­ter Ioan­nis Vrout­sis is opposed to this. More like­ly are cuts for those who receive the largest state pay­outs, such as a cap on the high­est pen­sions. And the main issue will be priv­i­leges that have accu­mu­lat­ed over the years and remain in place. Kathimeri­ni list­ed some pro­posed cuts that point again at the com­plex­i­ty of the Greek state ben­e­fits sys­tem:

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 26, 2012, 8:40 am
  14. At least Europe might be about half way through its lost decade. Well, half way through at best:

    Bloomberg
    Euro-Area Eco­nom­ic Adjust­ment Only Half Com­plete, Moody’s Says
    By Ben Sills — Aug 20, 2012 11:00 PM CT

    Euro-area periph­er­al nations are “at best” halfway through cor­rect­ing the eco­nom­ic imbal­ances that helped cause the debt cri­sis and must press on with struc­tur­al reforms, Moody’s Investors Ser­vice said.

    “Adjust­ments, both in the periph­ery and the core, have already tak­en place — in some cas­es, to a sig­nif­i­cant degree,” Moody’s ana­lysts includ­ing by Sov­er­eign Chief Econ­o­mist Lucio Vin­has de Souza in New York said in a report pub­lished today. The process “is at best only half com­plete.”

    Pol­i­cy mak­ers in the strug­gling nations of Europe’s periph­ery are try­ing to rewire their economies to gen­er­ate the growth they need to pay their debts. The Euro­pean Union and the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund have pledged at least 393 bil­lion euros ($485 bil­lion) in aid to Greece, Ire­land, Por­tu­gal and Spain to help them pay their bills while they imple­ment reforms.

    While Moody’s not­ed progress in some coun­tries’ trade bal­ances and labor com­pet­i­tive­ness, it said that gov­ern­ments can­not ease back on the pace of reform. The report didn’t men­tion the cred­it rat­ings of any nations.

    “A com­par­i­son with the crises faced by Swe­den and Fin­land in the 1990s shows that the com­plete unwind­ing of the periph­ery coun­tries’ accu­mu­lat­ed imbal­ances –- which were due to the dis- sav­ing behav­ior in their respec­tive domes­tic pri­vate sec­tors rather than their gov­ern­ments –- may still take sev­er­al years,” Moody’s said. “The com­par­i­son also rein­forces the crit­i­cal impor­tance of struc­tur­al reforms for the achieve­ment of sus­tain­able gains.”
    Adjust­ment Progress

    Among the adjust­ment suc­cess­es so far, Span­ish labor costs have dropped 5.9 per­cent from their peak, while those in Greece and Ire­land have fall­en 7.8 per­cent and 13.7 per­cent, respec­tive­ly, help­ing to sup­port exports and sus­tain eco­nom­ic out­put as their gov­ern­ments cut spend­ing at home, Moody’s said. Italy has so far failed to nar­row its trade deficit, bring down labor costs or boost com­pet­i­tive­ness rel­a­tive to its euro-area part­ners, it said.

    Moody’s said that most of the gains in com­pet­i­tive­ness have been achieved by com­pa­nies sus­tain­ing pro­duc­tion even as they reduce staff num­bers.

    “Com­pet­i­tive­ness gains in the euro area periph­ery seem to have come about as a result of improve­ments in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that relied most­ly on employ­ment falling faster than out­put,” the ana­lysts said.

    ...

    Yes, the “com­pet­i­tive­ness gains” in the ail­ing euro­zone economies seem to have come about most­ly from “employ­ment falling faster than out­put”. In oth­er words, the key strat­e­gy employed by the ail­ing euro­zone coun­tries to make their economies more “com­pet­i­tive” and get their economies back on track has been mass lay­offs. And this is all in order to rebal­ance the “imbal­ances” that caused the debt cri­sis, accord­ing to Moody’s. Huh, I did­n’t real­ize that the solu­tion to the imbal­ances caused by a hous­ing bub­ble was mass pub­lic sec­tor lay­offs and divest­ments in health and edu­ca­tion. That seems like an undou­ble­plus­good solu­tion to the burst­ing hous­ing bub­bles that caused the debt crises but I’m sure our wise elders know bet­ter.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 21, 2012, 9:05 am
  15. The lat­est grand new idea by Greece’s inter­na­tion­al lenders: 6‑day work weeks:

    5 Sep­tem­ber 2012 Last updat­ed at 08:40 ET
    BBC
    Longer work­ing week sug­gest­ed for Greece

    Greece’s inter­na­tion­al lenders have sug­gest­ed mea­sures includ­ing increas­ing the max­i­mum work­ing week to six days.

    It is one of sev­er­al unof­fi­cial pro­pos­als to lib­er­alise the labour mar­ket and increase gov­ern­ment rev­enue, con­tained in a paper seen by the BBC.

    The pro­pos­als were not includ­ed in the orig­i­nal bailout agree­ment signed with the Greek gov­ern­ment.

    Inspec­tors from the EU, IMF and Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, known as the troi­ka, are due in Greece this week.

    They are writ­ing a report, due in Octo­ber, that will decide whether Greece receives its next instal­ment of bailout funds.

    Greece needs the next pay­ment of 31.5bn euros ($39.6bn; £24.9bn) to allow it to con­tin­ue ser­vic­ing its debts.

    Pro­pos­als in the doc­u­ment from the troi­ka includ­ed:

    Set­ting a sin­gle rate statu­to­ry min­i­mum wage
    Reduc­ing reg­u­la­to­ry bur­dens
    Mak­ing work sched­ules more flex­i­ble
    Set­ting a min­i­mum dai­ly rest of 11 hours
    Elim­i­nat­ing restric­tions on the min­i­mum and max­i­mum time between morn­ing and after­noon shifts.

    ...

    Ooo...a min­i­mum dai­ly rest of 11 hours! Sweet! That means work 13-hours a day, 6 days a week! That should fix every­thing in no time at all.

    Of course, one more day of work and one less day of rest might end up putting an addi­tion­al bur­den on Greece’s health­care sys­tem, but there are ways to deal with issues like that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 5, 2012, 10:32 am
  16. “Of course, the idea at this stage isn’t to res­cue Greece. It is to pro­vide an abject les­son to any oth­er coun­try which in the future con­sid­ers flout­ing the country’s per­verse rules. ” Yep:

    The euro zone can still blow up even after unlim­it­ed pur­chas­es
    by Mar­shall Auer­back / on 5 Sep­tem­ber 2012 at 20:51 /

    There appears to be an emerg­ing con­sen­sus that the euro will sur­vive, espe­cial­ly now that Mario Draghi has appar­ent­ly grasped the net­tle and per­suad­ed his col­leagues that the ECB is pre­pared to ini­ti­ate unlim­it­ed pur­chas­es of nation­al gov­ern­ment bonds in order to under­write their sol­ven­cy. Of course, as usu­al with the ECB, there’s a sting in the tail, the sting being addi­tion­al “con­di­tion­al­i­ty” (for which one can read more fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty) as a quid pro quo. It’s like deal­ing with Han­ni­bal Lecter.

    Greece is the implied fate of any­body who dares to flout the rules. Maybe the coun­try isn’t washed down with a Chi­anti and some fava beans, but it’s get­ting pret­ty close. And whilst nobody wants to appear to be the trig­ger­man who final­ly kills off Greek mem­ber­ship in the cur­ren­cy union, the coun­try is increas­ing­ly being placed in an unten­able posi­tion, which will almost cer­tain­ly set it up for future fail­ure.

    The prob­lem is that the cur­ren­cy union is only as strong as its weak­est link. Lop­ping off the weak­est part of the Euro­zone is not akin to remov­ing a can­cer­ous lesion from an oth­er­wise healthy body, but more like the punc­tur­ing of an impor­tant blood ves­sel, which could well destroy the patient. True, Greece has been his­tor­i­cal­ly rid­den with cor­rup­tion and tax eva­sion (a recent report from the organ­i­sa­tion, “Glob­al Finan­cial Integri­ty” – sug­gests that the Greek econ­o­my lost US$261 bil­lion to crime, cor­rup­tion, and tax eva­sion from 2003–2011).

    But the coun­try has more recent made stren­u­ous efforts to cut its deficit is by cut­ting pub­lic sec­tor wages and pen­sions, a step that has exac­er­bat­ed the size of its pub­lic deficits by decreas­ing incomes and employ­ment. Were Greece to leave the Euro­zone, it is almost cer­tain that spec­u­la­tors would move to pick off anoth­er mem­ber country—Portugal, Italy, or Spain— all of which could face the same metaphor­ic fate as Han­ni­bal Lecter’s vic­tims. And so it goes.

    Of course, the idea at this stage isn’t to res­cue Greece. It is to pro­vide an abject les­son to any oth­er coun­try which in the future con­sid­ers flout­ing the country’s per­verse rules. Accord­ing to a recent report in the Guardian, the euro­zone cred­i­tors are now say­ing the Greek gov­ern­ment must tight­en the uni­ver­sal neolib­er­al screws even fur­ther by impos­ing a six day work week and per­haps reduc­ing wages as well, as a con­di­tion for the Greeks get­ting anoth­er “bailout.” Of course, unem­ploy­ment and under­em­ploy­ment in Greece are ris­ing rapid­ly, so it is hard to see how extend­ing the work week for the already employed can be the kind of “tough love” that will cre­ate an increase in the total num­ber of jobs or improve the econ­o­my. In the creditor’s eyes, how­ev­er, that is unim­por­tant; the real prob­lem is Greece’s dys­func­tion­al cul­ture of work and profli­ga­cy.

    So the neolib­er­al pol­i­cy solu­tion for turn­ing around the Greek econ­o­my is to improve the cul­ture of work is to intro­duce a kind of debt peon­age by tak­ing the Greeks back to the 19th Cen­tu­ry. And what hap­pens when the six-day work week and wage reduc­tions do not work, as they inevitably won’t? What comes next? Charles Dick­ens knew the answer — improve the cul­ture of work by relax­ing child labour laws to reduce wages fur­ther and/or pri­va­tize the Aegean islands, Del­phi, and the Acrop­o­lis. No prob­lem.

    ...

    The prob­lem is that the renewed bond buy­ing will be tied to the con­di­tion­al­i­ty of yet more fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty, and Greece is being held up as the poster boy of what hap­pens when you don’t com­ply with the con­di­tions laid out by the ECB, or the Troi­ka. In address­ing the sol­ven­cy issue, the ECB’s con­di­tion­al­i­ty iron­i­cal­ly will make the very “prob­lem” of fis­cal profli­ga­cy and high­er gov­ern­ment deficits much worse, as demand gets crushed by yet more aus­ter­i­ty. In effect, one is left with the Scyl­la of a quick death via exit from the euro zone, or the Charyb­dis of death via slow stran­gu­la­tion of aggre­gate demand via the fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty con­di­tion­al­i­ty laid out by Mario Draghi today. Pick your fate.

    “Pick your fate”. Nice. The euro­zone is now a choose-your-own-adven­ture book with no hap­py end­ings:

    Spain’s Rajoy to seek Ger­man back­ing for a bailout

    Tue Sep 4, 2012 7:57pm IST

    * Spain unwill­ing to ask for help with­out Ger­man sup­port

    * France push­es Spain to request aid by Octo­ber

    * Ger­many wants more details on Span­ish banks, regions

    By Fiona Ortiz

    MADRID, Sept 4 (Reuters) — Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Rajoy’s eight months in pow­er have been tumul­tuous from the start but Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber may be even tougher, with the S p anish leader assailed on all sides.

    Inter­na­tion­al­ly he is caught between diverg­ing pres­sures from Ger­many and France, and at home he faces protests over spend­ing cuts sought by the euro zone’s big pow­ers.

    France wants Rajoy to request an inter­na­tion­al bailout to prop up Span­ish finances and stop the debt cri­sis deep­en­ing.

    But he is unwill­ing to ask for aid until he is sure of sup­port from euro zone pay­mas­ter Ger­many which he will seek on Thurs­day at a meet­ing with Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel.

    “The worst thing that could hap­pen is Spain asks for aid and Ger­many blocks it,” said a senior Euro­pean diplo­mat.

    ...

    NO EXCEPTIONS

    Spain and the euro zone are already in talks over the terms of sov­er­eign aid. But Rajoy told Euro­pean news­pa­pers this week that Spain is doing so many reforms that it should not have to do any more in exchange for new mon­ey.

    Rajoy wants any fresh terms tacked onto the exist­ing Span­ish-EU agree­ment for the bank res­cue and does not want a new mem­o­ra ndum o f under­stand­ing, said the source who was briefed on the meet­ing with Hol­lande last week.

    But his Euro­pean part­ners are tak­ing a tough line.

    “There will be no excep­tion made for Spain,” Michael Meis­ter, vice-chair­man of Merkel’s con­ser­v­a­tives in the Bun­destag low­er house, told Reuters. “If such a request is made... there will need to be an agree­ment on the con­di­tion­al­i­ty of the assis­tance, as in all pre­vi­ous cas­es.”

    With Ger­man Cen­tral Bank Pres­i­dent Jens Wei­d­mann opposed Draghi’s plan to buy Span­ish and Ital­ian bonds, the ECB boss is under pres­sure to attach strong con­di­tions.

    Finnish Prime Min­is­ter Jyr­ki Katainen, one of the most hard­line euro zone voic­es on con­di­tions for bail-outs, is next in line to vis­it Rajoy, on Sept. 11.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2012, 12:23 pm
  17. Heh, I’m pret­ty sure the answer is ‘Yes, he’s already done it’:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    Can ECB Pres­i­dent Mario Draghi reshape Europe?

    By Howard Schnei­der, Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 5

    Euro­pean his­to­ry is marked by geopo­lit­i­cal water­sheds, most­ly involv­ing gen­er­als and kings.

    Are cen­tral bankers about to join the list?

    When Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank Pres­i­dent Mario Draghi holds his month­ly brief­ing Thurs­day, he is expect­ed to announce details of a new effort to tack­le the euro zone’s ongo­ing finan­cial cri­sis — and poten­tial­ly push Europe clos­er toward the eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal union that has been the region’s ambi­tion since World War II.

    ...

    I’m also pret­ty sure an ambi­tion to cre­ate a uni­fied Euro­pean eco­nom­ic union that is effec­tive­ly run out of Berlin pre­dates WWII.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2012, 10:08 pm
  18. ...just a reminder for the eco­nom­i­cal­ly chal­lenged — the free mar­ket log­ic that insists on incre­men­tal destruc­tion of labor rights has no point of arrival where­in it is ‘sat­is­fied’ that labor costs are low enough. This is true for both the­o­ry and in the per­son of the fas­cist employ­er. Both plan­ta­tion slavers and death camp admin­is­tra­tors were well known for their con­stant fret­ting at the pen­nies of ener­gy or resources expend­ed on their inmates.

    The only lim­it­ing fac­tor in this race to the bot­tom is a moral line drawn in the sand which we keep eras­ing and redraw­ing.

    Posted by Dwight | September 9, 2012, 3:41 am
  19. And here we go again:

    Finan­cial Times
    Last updat­ed: Sep­tem­ber 20, 2012 10:16 pm
    Italy slash­es growth fore­cast for 2012

    By Giu­lia Seg­reti in Rome and James Fontanel­la-Khan in Brus­sels

    The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment has slashed its eco­nom­ic growth fore­cast for 2012, say­ing the eurozone’s third largest econ­o­my is now head­ing for a con­trac­tion of 2.4 per cent, twice as deep as it pre­vi­ous­ly esti­mat­ed.

    Rome also revised sharply upwards its pre­dict­ed pub­lic deficit for this year from 1.7 per cent of gross domes­tic prod­uct to 2.6 per cent, and from 0.5 per cent to 1.8 per cent in 2013, under­lin­ing how tough aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures have made fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion more dif­fi­cult to achieve.

    It pre­dict­ed the econ­o­my would con­tin­ue to shrink next year, by 0.2 per cent, rather than grow by a mod­est 0.5 per cent.

    ...

    Speak­ing after a meet­ing of his cab­i­net, Mr Mon­ti said he expect­ed the eurozone’s third largest econ­o­my to recov­er in the sec­ond half of 2013 and to pick up speed in 2014, part­ly due to struc­tur­al reforms imple­ment­ed by his tech­no­crat­ic gov­ern­ment.

    Rome still expects to record a zero deficit in 2013 in struc­tur­al terms, once the effects of the eco­nom­ic cycle have been stripped out.

    ...

    The accel­er­at­ed slow­down in the euro­zone was dri­ven by France, the bloc’s sec­ond-largest econ­o­my, which suf­fered the steep­est drop in new busi­ness in 41 months, where­as Ger­many showed signs of recov­ery.

    There were also fur­ther signs of weak­ness in the euro­zone periph­ery. Ire­land record­ed zero growth in gross domes­tic prod­uct in the sec­ond quar­ter as low­er con­sumer, cap­i­tal and gov­ern­ment spend­ing weighed on the econ­o­my.

    The only sign of relief came from Ger­many as the com­pos­ite PMI rose to 49.7 in Sep­tem­ber com­pared with 47 in August. The rise came as the ser­vices sec­tor, an impor­tant indi­ca­tor of eco­nom­ic per­for­mance, expand­ed for the first time since July, off­set­ting a con­trac­tion in man­u­fac­tur­ing out­put.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 20, 2012, 10:40 pm
  20. OMFG:

    Spain braced for fur­ther aus­ter­i­ty as Madrid pre­pares for bailout

    Bud­get and reform pro­gramme to be unveiled on Thurs­day to fea­ture more spend­ing cuts, tax increas­es and pen­sion freezes

    Giles Trem­lett in Madrid
    The Guardian, Sun­day 23 Sep­tem­ber 2012 12.46 EDT

    Reces­sion-hit Spaniards will this week be told to swal­low yet more aus­ter­i­ty as the gov­ern­ment pre­pares a fresh round of reforms and anoth­er bud­get filled with spend­ing cuts and tax increas­es that will allow it to seek a bailout from euro­zone part­ners.

    Pen­sion freezes are also expect­ed to form part of a raft mea­sures to pre­pare the way for the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank (ECB) to give Spain sup­port to con­trol bor­row­ing costs that will eat up a large chunk of next year’s bud­get.

    The bud­get is to be announced on Thurs­day, along­side the reform pro­gramme. Nei­ther seemed like­ly to con­tain mea­sures to imme­di­ate­ly ease Spain’s chron­ic 25% unem­ploy­ment, which some ana­lysts expect will rise to 26.5% next year.

    ...

    Spain’s lead­er­ship has become dis­turbing­ly anal­o­gous to an autoim­mune dis­or­der.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 24, 2012, 7:03 am
  21. When will the world final­ly learn that sim­ple les­son that if you want a tru­ly suc­cess­ful, hap­py, healthy, and — most impor­tant­ly — com­pet­i­tive soci­ety you need to purge it of any and all extrav­a­gant lux­u­ries (for the rab­ble) like like bury­ing the dead:

    Greek pover­ty so bad fam­i­lies ‘can no longer afford to bury their dead’

    Sec­ond gen­er­al strike in less than a month takes place amid lat­est round of dra­con­ian mea­sures

    Hele­na Smith in Athens
    The Guardian, Thurs­day 18 Octo­ber 2012

    Van­na Men­daleni is a mid­dle aged Greek woman who until now has not had vehe­ment feel­ings about the cri­sis that has engulfed her coun­try. But that changed when the soft­ly spo­ken under­tak­er, clos­ing her fam­i­ly-run funer­al par­lour, joined thou­sands of pro­test­ers on Thurs­day in a mass out­pour­ing of fury over aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies that have plunged ever grow­ing num­bers of Greeks into pover­ty and fear.

    “After three years of non-stop tax­es and wage cuts it’s got to the point where noth­ing has been left stand­ing,” she said draw­ing on a cig­a­rette. “It’s so bad fam­i­lies can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bod­ies lie unclaimed at pub­lic hos­pi­tals so that the local munic­i­pal­i­ty can bury them.”

    As Greece was brought to a grind­ing halt by its sec­ond gen­er­al strike in less than a month, Men­daleni want­ed to send a mes­sage to the Greek prime min­is­ter, Anto­nis Sama­ras, and oth­er EU lead­ers meet­ing in Brus­sels.

    “We once had a life that was dig­ni­fied. Now the coun­try has gone back 50 years and these politi­cians have to be made aware that enough is enough.”

    Greek demon­stra­tions are not now marked by the vehe­mence or vio­lence of the mass protests that occurred when Europe’s debt dra­ma erupt­ed in Athens, forc­ing the then social­ist gov­ern­ment to announce pay and pen­sion cuts, tax increas­es and ben­e­fit loss­es that few had antic­i­pat­ed. Anger and bewil­der­ment have been replaced by dis­ap­point­ment and despair.

    ...

    For the vast major­i­ty of those who took to the streets, the tip­ping point could be the lat­est round of aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures being demand­ed of the debt-strick­en coun­try in return for the inter­na­tion­al res­cue funds it so des­per­ate­ly needs to keep bank­rupt­cy at bay.

    Under intense pres­sure from inter­na­tion­al cred­i­tors at the EU and IMF, Sama­ras’ frag­ile coali­tion has been forced to draw up a dra­con­ian pack­age of spend­ing cuts worth €13.5bn – the price of a whop­ping €31.5bn loan instal­ment that is already four months over­due. Offi­cials have sug­gest­ed the bur­den will fall on soci­ety’s most vul­ner­a­ble with pen­sion­ers and low-income Greeks once again hav­ing to make the biggest sac­ri­fices.

    “After near­ly 50 years of work and pay­ing into an expen­sive pen­sion fund, I have been forced to retire on €1,000 a month and if they pass these mea­sures it will be even less,” said 60-year-old Nikos Xeros, who until this year had repaired ships since the age of 16. “It’s like hav­ing a noose about your neck that is get­ting ever tighter. The next time I come out to demon­strate it’s going to be with a gas mask and a big wood­en club.”

    Law enforce­ment offi­cials cut off access to Syn­tag­ma Square – home of the Greek par­lia­ment – before pro­test­ers could reach it, stok­ing wide­spread fury on Thurs­day. For some it was evi­dence of the mount­ing fears that par­lia­ment could be stormed.

    “Greeks are becom­ing increas­ing­ly con­scious … and it was espe­cial­ly notice­able that the main slo­gan today was ‘the time has come to over­throw these polices’,” said Tania Karayian­nis of the union of civ­il ser­vants. As many as 80,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in the protests in Athens alone, she said. “The polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of this coun­try should not under­es­ti­mate that. If they don’t take our oppo­si­tion seri­ous­ly they will bear his­toric respon­si­bil­i­ty for the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Greece’s social fab­ric and the devel­op­ments that will sure­ly fol­low.”

    And speak­ing of “the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Greece’s social fab­ric and the devel­op­ments that will sure­ly fol­low”... oh look, there’s some dis­in­te­grat­ing social fab­ric right over there. Plus some tor­ture. By the police:

    Greek anti-fas­cist pro­test­ers ‘tor­tured by police’ after Gold­en Dawn clash

    Fif­teen peo­ple arrest­ed in Athens says they were sub­ject­ed to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion

    Maria Mar­ga­ro­nis in Athens
    guardian.co.uk, Tues­day 9 Octo­ber 2012 08.08 EDT

    Fif­teen anti-fas­cist pro­test­ers arrest­ed in Athens dur­ing a clash with sup­port­ers of the neo-Nazi par­ty Gold­en Dawn have said they were tor­tured in the Atti­ca Gen­er­al Police Direc­torate (GADA) – the Athens equiv­a­lent of Scot­land Yard – and sub­ject­ed to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion.

    Mem­bers of a sec­ond group of 25 who were arrest­ed after demon­strat­ing in sup­port of their fel­low anti-fas­cists the next day said they were beat­en and made to strip naked and bend over in front of offi­cers and oth­er pro­test­ers inside the same police sta­tion.

    Sev­er­al of the pro­test­ers arrest­ed after the first demon­stra­tion on Sun­day 30 Sep­tem­ber told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police offi­cer while five or six oth­ers watched, were spat on and “used as ash­trays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torch­es and lasers being shone in their eyes.

    Some said they were burned on the arms with a cig­a­rette lighter, and they said police offi­cers videoed them on their mobile phones and threat­ened to post the pic­tures on the inter­net and give their home address­es to Gold­en Dawn, which has a track record of polit­i­cal vio­lence.

    Gold­en Dawn’s pop­u­lar­i­ty has surged since the June elec­tion, when it won 18 seats in par­lia­ment; it recent­ly came third in sev­er­al opin­ion polls, behind the con­ser­v­a­tive New Democ­ra­cy and the left­wing par­ty Syriza.

    Last month the Guardian report­ed that vic­tims of crime have been told by police offi­cers to seek help from Gold­en Dawn, who then felt oblig­ed to make dona­tions to the group.

    One of the two women among them said the offi­cers used crude sex­u­al insults and pulled her head back by the hair when she tried to avoid being filmed. The pro­test­ers said they were denied drink­ing water and access to lawyers for 19 hours. “We were so thirsty we drank water from the toi­lets,” she said.

    One man with a bleed­ing head wound and a bro­ken arm that he said had been sus­tained dur­ing his arrest alleged the police con­tin­ued to beat him in GADA and refused him med­ical treat­ment until the next morn­ing. Anoth­er said the police forced his legs apart and kicked him in the tes­ti­cles dur­ing the arrest.

    “They spat on me and said we would die like our grand­fa­thers in the civ­il war,” he said.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Charis Ladis, a lawyer for anoth­er of the pro­test­ers, the sus­tained mis­treat­ment of Greeks in police cus­tody has been rare until this year: “This case shows that a page has been turned. Until now there was an assump­tion that some­one who was arrest­ed, even vio­lent­ly, would be safe in cus­tody. But these young peo­ple have all said they lived through an inter­minable dark night.

    Dim­itris Kat­saris, a lawyer for four of the pro­test­ers, said his clients had suf­fered Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion, refer­ring to the deten­tion cen­tre where Iraqi detainees were tor­tured by US sol­diers dur­ing the Iraq war. “This is not just a case of police bru­tal­i­ty of the kind you hear about now and then in every Euro­pean coun­try. This is hap­pen­ing dai­ly. We have the pic­tures, we have the evi­dence of what hap­pens to peo­ple get­ting arrest­ed protest­ing against the rise of the neo-Nazi par­ty in Greece. This is the new face of the police, with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the jus­tice sys­tem.”

    One of the arrest­ed pro­test­ers, a qui­et man in his 30s stand­ing by him­self, said: “Jour­nal­ists here don’t report these things. You have to tell them what’s hap­pen­ing here, in this coun­try that suf­fered so much from Nazism. No one will pay atten­tion unless you report these things abroad.”

    You kind of have to won­der why there isn’t more open con­tempt for Merkel & Friends amongst the EU elites. After all, the euro­zone did­n’t have to take the Aus­tri­an-beat­down pol­i­cy regime that threat­ens the entire “Euro­pean Project” that the EU elites pre­sum­ably endorse. But the EU did have to take that approach if the EU was going to have Berlin’s back­ing. So a con­ti­nent of elites that could have sim­ply gone down in his­to­ry as the EU’s ver­sion of our stan­dard awful 21st cen­tu­ry elites are now poised to go down in his­to­ry as the EU’s Vichy-crats. Yeah, sor­ry elites that might be a bit wor­ried about their his­toric lega­cy. There were plen­ty of pol­i­cy options that would have allowed the euro­zone to address this and this with­out this or this. Chil­dren that fol­low the Pied Piper tend to get an awful lessons in har­mo­ny.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 18, 2012, 10:40 pm
  22. When will the world final­ly learn that sim­ple les­son that if you want a tru­ly suc­cess­ful, hap­py, healthy, and — most impor­tant­ly — com­pet­i­tive soci­ety you need to purge it of any and all extrav­a­gant lux­u­ries (for the rab­ble) like like bury­ing the dead:

    Greek pover­ty so bad fam­i­lies ‘can no longer afford to bury their dead’

    Sec­ond gen­er­al strike in less than a month takes place amid lat­est round of dra­con­ian mea­sures

    Hele­na Smith in Athens
    The Guardian, Thurs­day 18 Octo­ber 2012

    Van­na Men­daleni is a mid­dle aged Greek woman who until now has not had vehe­ment feel­ings about the cri­sis that has engulfed her coun­try. But that changed when the soft­ly spo­ken under­tak­er, clos­ing her fam­i­ly-run funer­al par­lour, joined thou­sands of pro­test­ers on Thurs­day in a mass out­pour­ing of fury over aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies that have plunged ever grow­ing num­bers of Greeks into pover­ty and fear.

    “After three years of non-stop tax­es and wage cuts it’s got to the point where noth­ing has been left stand­ing,” she said draw­ing on a cig­a­rette. “It’s so bad fam­i­lies can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bod­ies lie unclaimed at pub­lic hos­pi­tals so that the local munic­i­pal­i­ty can bury them.”

    As Greece was brought to a grind­ing halt by its sec­ond gen­er­al strike in less than a month, Men­daleni want­ed to send a mes­sage to the Greek prime min­is­ter, Anto­nis Sama­ras, and oth­er EU lead­ers meet­ing in Brus­sels.

    “We once had a life that was dig­ni­fied. Now the coun­try has gone back 50 years and these politi­cians have to be made aware that enough is enough.”

    Greek demon­stra­tions are not now marked by the vehe­mence or vio­lence of the mass protests that occurred when Europe’s debt dra­ma erupt­ed in Athens, forc­ing the then social­ist gov­ern­ment to announce pay and pen­sion cuts, tax increas­es and ben­e­fit loss­es that few had antic­i­pat­ed. Anger and bewil­der­ment have been replaced by dis­ap­point­ment and despair.

    ...

    For the vast major­i­ty of those who took to the streets, the tip­ping point could be the lat­est round of aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures being demand­ed of the debt-strick­en coun­try in return for the inter­na­tion­al res­cue funds it so des­per­ate­ly needs to keep bank­rupt­cy at bay.

    Under intense pres­sure from inter­na­tion­al cred­i­tors at the EU and IMF, Sama­ras’ frag­ile coali­tion has been forced to draw up a dra­con­ian pack­age of spend­ing cuts worth €13.5bn – the price of a whop­ping €31.5bn loan instal­ment that is already four months over­due. Offi­cials have sug­gest­ed the bur­den will fall on soci­ety’s most vul­ner­a­ble with pen­sion­ers and low-income Greeks once again hav­ing to make the biggest sac­ri­fices.

    “After near­ly 50 years of work and pay­ing into an expen­sive pen­sion fund, I have been forced to retire on €1,000 a month and if they pass these mea­sures it will be even less,” said 60-year-old Nikos Xeros, who until this year had repaired ships since the age of 16. “It’s like hav­ing a noose about your neck that is get­ting ever tighter. The next time I come out to demon­strate it’s going to be with a gas mask and a big wood­en club.”

    Law enforce­ment offi­cials cut off access to Syn­tag­ma Square – home of the Greek par­lia­ment – before pro­test­ers could reach it, stok­ing wide­spread fury on Thurs­day. For some it was evi­dence of the mount­ing fears that par­lia­ment could be stormed.

    “Greeks are becom­ing increas­ing­ly con­scious … and it was espe­cial­ly notice­able that the main slo­gan today was ‘the time has come to over­throw these polices’,” said Tania Karayian­nis of the union of civ­il ser­vants. As many as 80,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in the protests in Athens alone, she said. “The polit­i­cal lead­er­ship of this coun­try should not under­es­ti­mate that. If they don’t take our oppo­si­tion seri­ous­ly they will bear his­toric respon­si­bil­i­ty for the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Greece’s social fab­ric and the devel­op­ments that will sure­ly fol­low.”

    And speak­ing of “the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Greece’s social fab­ric and the devel­op­ments that will sure­ly fol­low”... oh look, there’s some dis­in­te­grat­ing social fab­ric right over there. Plus some tor­ture. By the police:

    Greek anti-fas­cist pro­test­ers ‘tor­tured by police’ after Gold­en Dawn clash

    Fif­teen peo­ple arrest­ed in Athens says they were sub­ject­ed to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion

    Maria Mar­ga­ro­nis in Athens
    guardian.co.uk, Tues­day 9 Octo­ber 2012 08.08 EDT

    Fif­teen anti-fas­cist pro­test­ers arrest­ed in Athens dur­ing a clash with sup­port­ers of the neo-Nazi par­ty Gold­en Dawn have said they were tor­tured in the Atti­ca Gen­er­al Police Direc­torate (GADA) – the Athens equiv­a­lent of Scot­land Yard – and sub­ject­ed to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion.

    Mem­bers of a sec­ond group of 25 who were arrest­ed after demon­strat­ing in sup­port of their fel­low anti-fas­cists the next day said they were beat­en and made to strip naked and bend over in front of offi­cers and oth­er pro­test­ers inside the same police sta­tion.

    Sev­er­al of the pro­test­ers arrest­ed after the first demon­stra­tion on Sun­day 30 Sep­tem­ber told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police offi­cer while five or six oth­ers watched, were spat on and “used as ash­trays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torch­es and lasers being shone in their eyes.

    Some said they were burned on the arms with a cig­a­rette lighter, and they said police offi­cers videoed them on their mobile phones and threat­ened to post the pic­tures on the inter­net and give their home address­es to Gold­en Dawn, which has a track record of polit­i­cal vio­lence.

    Gold­en Dawn’s pop­u­lar­i­ty has surged since the June elec­tion, when it won 18 seats in par­lia­ment; it recent­ly came third in sev­er­al opin­ion polls, behind the con­ser­v­a­tive New Democ­ra­cy and the left­wing par­ty Syriza.

    Last month the Guardian report­ed that vic­tims of crime have been told by police offi­cers to seek help from Gold­en Dawn, who then felt oblig­ed to make dona­tions to the group.

    One of the two women among them said the offi­cers used crude sex­u­al insults and pulled her head back by the hair when she tried to avoid being filmed. The pro­test­ers said they were denied drink­ing water and access to lawyers for 19 hours. “We were so thirsty we drank water from the toi­lets,” she said.

    One man with a bleed­ing head wound and a bro­ken arm that he said had been sus­tained dur­ing his arrest alleged the police con­tin­ued to beat him in GADA and refused him med­ical treat­ment until the next morn­ing. Anoth­er said the police forced his legs apart and kicked him in the tes­ti­cles dur­ing the arrest.

    “They spat on me and said we would die like our grand­fa­thers in the civ­il war,” he said.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Charis Ladis, a lawyer for anoth­er of the pro­test­ers, the sus­tained mis­treat­ment of Greeks in police cus­tody has been rare until this year: “This case shows that a page has been turned. Until now there was an assump­tion that some­one who was arrest­ed, even vio­lent­ly, would be safe in cus­tody. But these young peo­ple have all said they lived through an inter­minable dark night.

    Dim­itris Kat­saris, a lawyer for four of the pro­test­ers, said his clients had suf­fered Abu Ghraib-style humil­i­a­tion, refer­ring to the deten­tion cen­tre where Iraqi detainees were tor­tured by US sol­diers dur­ing the Iraq war. “This is not just a case of police bru­tal­i­ty of the kind you hear about now and then in every Euro­pean coun­try. This is hap­pen­ing dai­ly. We have the pic­tures, we have the evi­dence of what hap­pens to peo­ple get­ting arrest­ed protest­ing against the rise of the neo-Nazi par­ty in Greece. This is the new face of the police, with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the jus­tice sys­tem.”

    One of the arrest­ed pro­test­ers, a qui­et man in his 30s stand­ing by him­self, said: “Jour­nal­ists here don’t report these things. You have to tell them what’s hap­pen­ing here, in this coun­try that suf­fered so much from Nazism. No one will pay atten­tion unless you report these things abroad.”

    You kind of have to won­der why there isn’t more open con­tempt for Merkel & Friends amongst the EU elites. After all, the euro­zone did­n’t have to take the Aus­tri­an-beat­down pol­i­cy regime that threat­ens the entire “Euro­pean Project” that the EU elites pre­sum­ably endorse. But the EU did have to take that approach if the EU was going to have Berlin’s back­ing. So a con­ti­nent of elites that could have sim­ply gone down in his­to­ry as the EU’s ver­sion of our stan­dard awful 21st cen­tu­ry elites are now poised to go down in his­to­ry as the EU’s Vichy-crats. Yeah, sor­ry elites that might be a bit wor­ried about their his­toric lega­cy. There were plen­ty of pol­i­cy options that would have allowed the euro­zone to address this and this with­out this or this. Chil­dren that fol­low the Pied Piper tend to get an awful les­son in har­mo­ny.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 18, 2012, 10:42 pm
  23. The Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank — the same ones cur­rent­ly demand­ing that Greece gut its health care for the unem­ployed — want you to know that they just could­n’t agree to “take a hair­cut” on Greece’s grow­ing debt prob­lem (which would force Greece’s inter­na­tion­al lenders to reduce Greece’s debt bur­den) because this would con­sti­tute “indi­rect state financ­ing” and “indi­rect state financ­ing”, as we all know, is a moral abom­i­na­tion. For­tu­nate­ly, the alter­na­tive pol­i­cy solu­tions to that moral abom­i­na­tion are total­ly eth­i­cal­ly OK:

    NY Times
    Amid Cut­backs, Greek Doc­tors Offer Mes­sage to Poor: You Are Not Alone

    By LIZ ALDERMAN
    Pub­lished: Octo­ber 24, 2012

    ATHENS — As the head of Greece’s largest oncol­o­gy depart­ment, Dr. Kostas Syri­gos thought he had seen every­thing. But noth­ing pre­pared him for Ele­na, an unem­ployed woman whose breast can­cer had been diag­nosed a year before she came to him.

    By that time, her can­cer had grown to the size of an orange and bro­ken through the skin, leav­ing a wound that she was drain­ing with paper nap­kins. “When we saw her we were speech­less,” said Dr. Syri­gos, the chief of oncol­o­gy at Sotiria Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal in cen­tral Athens. “Every­one was cry­ing. Things like that are described in text­books, but you nev­er see them because until now, any­body who got sick in this coun­try could always get help.”

    Life in Greece has been turned on its head since the debt cri­sis took hold. But in few areas has the change been more strik­ing than in health care. Until recent­ly, Greece had a typ­i­cal Euro­pean health sys­tem, with employ­ers and indi­vid­u­als con­tribut­ing to a fund that with gov­ern­ment assis­tance financed uni­ver­sal care. Peo­ple who lost their jobs received health care and unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits for a year, but were still treat­ed by hos­pi­tals if they could not afford to pay even after the ben­e­fits expired.

    Things changed in July 2011, when Greece signed a sup­ple­men­tal loan agree­ment with inter­na­tion­al lenders to ward off finan­cial col­lapse. Now, as stip­u­lat­ed in the deal, Greeks must pay all costs out of pock­et after their ben­e­fits expire.

    About half of Greece’s 1.2 mil­lion long-term unem­ployed lack health insur­ance, a num­ber that is expect­ed to rise sharply in a coun­try with an unem­ploy­ment rate of 25 per­cent and a mori­bund econ­o­my, said Savas Robo­lis, direc­tor of the Labor Insti­tute of the Gen­er­al Con­fed­er­a­tion of Greek Work­ers. A new $17.5 bil­lion aus­ter­i­ty pack­age of bud­get cuts and tax increas­es, agreed upon Wednes­day with Greece’s inter­na­tion­al lenders, will make mat­ters only worse, most econ­o­mists say.

    The changes are forc­ing increas­ing num­bers of peo­ple to seek help out­side the tra­di­tion­al health care sys­tem. Ele­na, for exam­ple, was referred to Dr. Syri­gos by doc­tors in an under­ground move­ment that has sprung up here to care for the unin­sured. “In Greece right now, to be unem­ployed means death,” said Dr. Syri­gos, an impos­ing man with a stern demeanor that grew soft when dis­cussing the plight of can­cer patients.

    The devel­op­ment is new for Greeks — and per­haps for Europe, too. “We are mov­ing to the same sit­u­a­tion that the Unit­ed States has been in, where when you lose your job and you are unin­sured, you aren’t cov­ered,” Dr. Syri­gos said.

    ...

    It’s worth not­ing that Greece’s social wel­fare costs would drop even faster with a lit­tle more this and a lot less of that. Trick­le-down moral­i­ty requires shared sac­ri­fice at all lev­els.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 29, 2012, 1:39 pm
  24. And the ben­e­fits of expan­sion­ary aus­ter­i­ty con­tin­ue to trick­le down to the pop­u­lace:

    Greeks Can’t Find Euros to Buy Heat­ing Oil in Win­ter Econ­o­my
    By Oliv­er Sta­ley — Dec 19, 2012 4:56 AM CT
    Bloomberg

    In the Greek moun­tain town of Kas­to­ria, less than an hour from the Alban­ian bor­der, Kostas Tsit­skos, 88, can’t afford fuel to heat his home against the winter’s cold. So he and his son live in a sin­gle bed­room, warmed by a small elec­tric heater.

    “One room is enough,” said Tsit­skos, who lives on a 734 euro-a-month ($971) pen­sion and doesn’t have the 1,000 euros a month he needs to buy heat­ing oil.

    Greece is fac­ing a heat­ing-oil cri­sis. With an econ­o­my that has con­tract­ed for five years and an unem­ploy­ment rate at a record 25 per­cent, res­i­dents in north­ern Greece can’t heat their homes. Kas­to­ria hasn’t received funds from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to warm schools and the may­or said he will close all 53 of them rather than let chil­dren freeze, a step already tak­en in a near­by town. Truck­loads of wood are arriv­ing from Bul­gar­ia as fam­i­lies search for alter­na­tive fuels.

    ...

    Aus­ter­i­ty Cuts

    Aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures have cut gov­ern­ment salaries and ben­e­fits, raised the retire­ment age and reduced ser­vices.

    The house­hold price for heat­ing oil in Greece reached 1,266 euros per 1,000 liters (264 gal­lons) in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2012, surg­ing 48 per­cent from a year ear­li­er, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tion­al Ener­gy Agency, a Paris-based orga­ni­za­tion. The same quan­ti­ty cost 700 pounds (861 euros) in the U.K., accord­ing to the IEA, and $1,045 (790 euros) in New York, accord­ing to a state agency.

    Greeks pay both excise and val­ue-added tax­es on heat­ing oil that can make up 42 per­cent of the total cost. The may­ors of the region are peti­tion­ing the gov­ern­ment to be exempt­ed from the tax.

    Greece’s oil prices are high because of laws that pro­tect the country’s two refin­ing com­pa­nies and pre­vent com­pe­ti­tion, said Pav­los Eleft­he­ri­adis, a lec­tur­er in law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford in Eng­land, who stud­ies monop­o­lies.

    “The Greek polit­i­cal sys­tem works for the insid­ers,” said Eleft­he­ri­adis, a native of Greece. “If you’re an insid­er, there will be an attempt to pro­tect you. If you’re a poor per­son in Kas­to­ria, you are on your own.”

    ...

    No Buy­ers

    Chris­tos Tsit­skos, his 43-year-old son, lives with his father. Chris­tos owned a small fur busi­ness before clos­ing it in the cri­sis. He now works at anoth­er com­pa­ny man­u­fac­tur­ing pelts, earn­ing 5 euros an hour. There are no buy­ers, he said.

    “We’ll make 100 pelts and sell two or three,” he said. “We don’t sell any­thing.”

    A vet­er­an of the Greek Civ­il War, which was fought from 1946 to 1949, the elder Tsit­skos worked in the fur indus­try in Mon­tre­al and New York before open­ing his own busi­ness man­u­fac­tur­ing coats in Kas­to­ria, retir­ing at 65. His wife died 15 years ago.

    Tsit­skos has rel­a­tives in Asto­ria, New York, who have con­sid­ered return­ing to Greece to retire and he cau­tions them to stay in the U.S. He would leave if he could afford it, he said.

    “I was expect­ing a dif­fer­ent type of life,” he said. “There’s noth­ing that makes me hap­py. I’m liv­ing just to live.”

    Even after 40 years in the trade, Tsit­skos doesn’t have any furs to keep warm. The one fur coat he owned was sold years ago.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 19, 2012, 10:32 am
  25. OMG, this is too per­fect. Check out Mitch McConnel­l’s big goal for this year now the GOP has tak­en over con­gress: don’t be scary:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    New Sen­ate major­i­ty leader’s main goal for GOP: Don’t be scary

    By Paul Kane Jan­u­ary 4 at 7:26 PM

    Mitch McConnell has an unusu­al admo­ni­tion for the new Repub­li­can major­i­ty as it takes over the Sen­ate this week: Don’t be “scary.”

    The incom­ing Sen­ate major­i­ty leader has set a polit­i­cal goal for the next two years of over­see­ing a func­tion­ing, rea­son­able major­i­ty on Capi­tol Hill that scores some mea­sured con­ser­v­a­tive wins, par­tic­u­lar­ly against envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, but prob­a­bly not big vic­to­ries such as a full repeal of the health-care law. McConnell’s pri­or­i­ty is to set the stage for a poten­tial GOP pres­i­den­tial vic­to­ry in 2016.

    “I don’t want the Amer­i­can peo­ple to think that if they add a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent to a Repub­li­can Con­gress, that’s going to be a scary out­come. I want the Amer­i­can peo­ple to be com­fort­able with the fact that the Repub­li­can House and Sen­ate is a respon­si­ble, right-of-cen­ter, gov­ern­ing major­i­ty,” the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can said in a broad inter­view just before Christ­mas in his Capi­tol office.

    It’s a far cry from his defi­ant dec­la­ra­tion in 2010 that his “sin­gle most impor­tant” goal was to make Pres­i­dent Oba­ma a one-term pres­i­dent, an antag­o­niz­ing oath that Democ­rats fre­quent­ly invoke to embar­rass the GOP leader — Oba­ma won reelec­tion com­fort­ably in 2012, and McConnell’s par­ty lost seats.

    Now in charge at both ends of the Capi­tol, Repub­li­cans aim to avoid the worst excess­es of the past four years and make sure the pub­lic isn’t fear­ful of the GOP’s course.

    “There would be noth­ing fright­en­ing about adding a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent to that gov­ern­ing major­i­ty,” McConnell said, explain­ing how he wants vot­ers to view the par­ty on the eve of the 2016 elec­tion. “I think that’s the sin­gle best thing we can do, is to not mess up the play­ing field, if you will, for who­ev­er the nom­i­nee ulti­mate­ly is.”

    But McConnell, who will become major­i­ty leader Tues­day, is not plan­ning to avoid con­flict alto­geth­er. He wants to use the annu­al spend­ing bills to com­pel Oba­ma to accept con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy rid­ers that will divide Democ­rats, sim­i­lar to the Decem­ber spend­ing bill’s inclu­sion of a pro­vi­sion ben­e­fit­ing Wall Street firms involved in risky deriv­a­tive trades. That rid­er brought a lib­er­al out­cry but did not end up tor­pe­do­ing the bill, which had Obama’s sup­port.

    McConnell has been coach­ing his mem­bers to under­stand that, in the ini­tial rounds, they will have to almost unan­i­mous­ly sup­port the bud­get out­line and the spend­ing bills, because few Democ­rats will sup­port their pol­i­cy rid­ers.

    ...

    But McConnell said those who are “crav­ing some grand deal as a way to mea­sure the next two years” should low­er their expec­ta­tions. He’s very skep­ti­cal of such bar­gains with Democ­rats on tough issues such as immi­gra­tion and enti­tle­ment reform. Instead, he believes three issues have poten­tial com­mon ground: inter­na­tion­al trade deals, an over­haul of the tax code and new rev­enue streams for infra­struc­ture projects.

    “Could the coun­try use a lot more? You bet. But there’s no way you can over­come a reluc­tant pres­i­dent on some­thing real­ly large,” McConnell said. The best he can do on some of those big­ger issues is force Oba­ma to break out his veto pen so there is a clear set of Demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­cy stances Repub­li­cans can cam­paign against in 2016.

    Democ­rats are dubi­ous of McConnell’s pledge to avert edge-of-the-cliff moments. They believe he will run into the same prob­lems that have bedev­iled House Speak­er John A. Boehn­er (R‑Ohio) dur­ing the past four years — includ­ing the inabil­i­ty to cor­ral rab­ble-rousers such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑Tex.) to sup­port an agen­da that con­ser­v­a­tive crit­ics will prob­a­bly view as not bold enough in chal­leng­ing Oba­ma. Appeas­ing those far-right con­ser­v­a­tives will lead to an agen­da that Democ­rats hope to exploit in 2016.

    “What Sen­a­tor McConnell wants peo­ple to think and what they will think when they see the results for them­selves are two very dif­fer­ent things,” said Reid’s spokesman, Adam Jentle­son. “Sen­a­tor McConnell heads a cau­cus that is obsessed with rig­ging the game against work­ing peo­ple in favor of wealthy spe­cial inter­ests. That’s a scary fact indeed, and he won’t be able to hide it.”

    ...

    Awww...the GOP is scary and knows it. This is almost as touch­ing as The Ele­phant man, if the Ele­phant Man hap­pened to be a pack of scary mon­sters.

    But don’t wor­ry GOP. Just stick to your plan of imme­di­ate­ly loos­en­ing pol­lu­tion reg­u­la­tions, push­ing major trade deals that almost no one likes, demand low­er tax­es for multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions and the super-rich, and be sure to come up with plen­ty of mys­tery “con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy rid­ers” you can think of try­ing to “com­pel” Oba­ma to sign while work­ing out the annu­al spend­ing bills. Maybe you could even use grass­roots-inspired leg­is­la­tion to seem extra non-scary, like that recent Dodd-Frank tweak writ­ten by a friend­ly group of cit­i­zens work­ing in the pri­vate finan­cial sec­tor.

    Also, you might want to tell you brethren at the state-lev­el to stop being so scary:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Repub­li­cans in state gov­ern­ments plan jug­ger­naut of con­ser­v­a­tive leg­is­la­tion

    By Reid Wil­son Jan­u­ary 2

    Leg­is­la­tors in the 24 states where Repub­li­cans now hold total con­trol plan to push a series of aggres­sive pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives in the com­ing year aimed at lim­it­ing the pow­er of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and rekin­dling the cul­ture wars.

    The unprece­dent­ed breadth of the Repub­li­can major­i­ty — the par­ty now con­trols 31 gov­er­nor­ships and 68 of 98 par­ti­san leg­isla­tive cham­bers — all but guar­an­tees a new tide of con­ser­v­a­tive laws. Repub­li­cans plan to launch a fresh assault on the Com­mon Core edu­ca­tion stan­dards, press abor­tion reg­u­la­tions, cut per­son­al and cor­po­rate income tax­es and take up dozens of mea­sures chal­leng­ing the pow­er of labor unions and the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

    Before Elec­tion Day, the GOP con­trolled 59 par­ti­san leg­isla­tive cham­bers across the coun­try. The increase to 68 gives Repub­li­cans six more cham­bers than their pre­vi­ous record in the mod­ern era, set after spe­cial elec­tions in 2011 and 2012.

    Repub­li­cans also reduced the num­ber of states where Democ­rats con­trol both the governor’s office and the leg­is­la­tures from 13 to sev­en.

    Repub­li­cans in at least nine states are plan­ning to use their pow­er to pass “right to work” leg­is­la­tion” leg­is­la­tion, which would allow employ­ees to opt out of join­ing a labor union. Twen­ty-four states already have such laws on the books, and new mea­sures have been or will be pro­posed in Wis­con­sin, New Mex­i­co, New Hamp­shire, Ohio, Col­orado, Ken­tucky, Mon­tana, Penn­syl­va­nia and Mis­souri.

    Democ­rats and union offi­cials warn Repub­li­cans against going too far, just a few years after bills tar­get­ing pub­lic-sec­tor employ­ee unions sparked protests in Wis­con­sin and Ohio. “These bills have proven time and time again to decrease wages and safe­ty stan­dards in all work­places,” said Stephanie Bloom­ing­dale, sec­re­tary-trea­sur­er of the Wis­con­sin AFL-CIO.

    Renew­al of cul­ture wars

    A new round of the cul­ture wars is also inevitable in 2015. Mal­lo­ry Quigley, a spokes­woman for the antiabor­tion Susan B. Antho­ny List, said she expects that mea­sures to ban abor­tions after 20 weeks of preg­nan­cy will advance in Wis­con­sin, South Car­oli­na and West Vir­ginia. Mis­souri, too, is like­ly to take up some abor­tion-relat­ed bills.

    In Ten­nessee, vot­ers gave the leg­is­la­ture new pow­ers to reg­u­late abor­tion, and state House Speak­er Beth Har­well ® has said her cham­ber will take up three mea­sures requir­ing manda­to­ry coun­sel­ing, a wait­ing peri­od and stricter inspec­tions of clin­ics.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive activists also are tar­get­ing Com­mon Core, the nation­al edu­ca­tion stan­dards adopt­ed by 46 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia over the past few years. Oppo­si­tion from par­ent and com­mu­ni­ty groups has become a hot polit­i­cal issue on the right over the past year, lead­ing three states — Indi­ana, Okla­homa and South Car­oli­na — to drop out of the pro­gram.

    Some states will attempt to join those three in leav­ing the pro­gram alto­geth­er. Oth­ers will try to change test­ing require­ments or pre­vent the shar­ing of edu­ca­tion data with fed­er­al offi­cials. In recent inter­views, sev­er­al Repub­li­can gov­er­nors who sup­port Com­mon Core say they expect debate in their forth­com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sions.

    “The biggest con­cern and oppo­si­tion you hear from con­ser­v­a­tive leg­is­la­tors is, ‘We don’t want Wash­ing­ton dic­tat­ing cur­ric­u­la,’?” said Utah state Sen. Cur­tis Bram­ble, a Repub­li­can.

    Repub­li­cans also are like­ly to take up mea­sures dilut­ing the pow­er of the EPA, which has pro­posed state-by-state tar­gets for reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions. A dozen states have chal­lenged pro­posed EPA reg­u­la­tions on pow­er plants in fed­er­al court.

    New Repub­li­can gov­er­nors in states such as Arkansas and Ari­zona and leg­is­la­tors in North Car­oli­na, North Dako­ta and else­where will pri­or­i­tize cut­ting per­son­al or cor­po­rate income tax rates. States that have expe­ri­enced a rev­enue boom from ener­gy tax­es will have to con­tend with falling receipts as the price of oil declines. Tax rev­enue in oth­er states is com­ing in slow­er than expect­ed, pre­sent­ing a chal­lenge in many of the 49 states that require bal­anced annu­al bud­gets.

    “With the increas­ing costs of Med­ic­aid and edu­ca­tion, bal­anc­ing the bud­get is going to be a chal­lenge,” said South Dako­ta state Sen. Deb Peters ®, who chairs the Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee.

    But Repub­li­cans also cau­tion that they have to use their new­found polit­i­cal pow­er to gov­ern effec­tive­ly and avoid over­reach.

    “If [Repub­li­cans] go too far, they’re not going to be the speak­er and the major­i­ty leader two years from now,” said Neva­da Gov. Bri­an San­doval ®, whose par­ty took total con­trol of the state leg­is­la­ture in Novem­ber. “There’s a very nar­row win­dow to demon­strate that they can lead, that we can lead.”

    ...

    Mount­ing bud­getary chal­lenges from ear­li­er years will dom­i­nate leg­isla­tive atten­tion in a hand­ful of states. About half of all states are oper­at­ing at or above their max­i­mum prison capac­i­ty, accord­ing to cor­rec­tions experts, putting pres­sure on leg­is­la­tures to alle­vi­ate crowd­ing. Some states will have to deal with increas­ing­ly under­fund­ed pen­sion plans, which could threat­en to swamp state bud­gets over the long term. In Illi­nois, where the state pen­sion is fund­ed at less than 40 per­cent, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner ® made pen­sion reform a cor­ner­stone of his cam­paign this year.

    The Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, a con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tion that helps Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors coor­di­nate mea­sures among states, sup­ports mov­ing pub­lic pen­sions from a defined ben­e­fit sys­tem to a defined con­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. ALEC con­sid­ers Okla­homa, which passed a pen­sion reform bill in 2014, to be the mod­el.

    Oooo...so in addi­tion to a break­out of state-lev­el “cul­ture wars”, there’s also prob­a­bly going to be a wave of ALEC-inspired pen­sion “reform” that turns pub­lic pen­sions into 401k plans. Well, of all the GOP’s plans that’s prob­a­bly going to be the most pop­u­lar since so much of the pub­lic seems to love the idea of hav­ing their laws writ­ten by cor­po­ra­tions but then imple­ment­ed by des­per­ate peo­ple with no rea­son­able hope for the future. Noth­ing scary about that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 5, 2015, 12:29 pm
  26. Here’s a reminder that the worse the US econ­o­my does, the bet­ter the GOP does. At least in 2016. It’s that sim­ple. So there’s real­ly no rea­son to assume the GOP’s Tal­iban offen­sive and plans for end­less aus­ter­i­ty will come to an end. Quite the oppo­site:

    TPM DC
    Why The Repub­li­can Con­gress Has A Big Incen­tive To Keep Up Grid­lock

    By Sahil Kapur Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 6, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

    Repub­li­cans take the reins of Con­gress this week fac­ing a new con­ven­tion­al wis­dom that they now have to prove they can gov­ern.

    But they don’t.

    It may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but polit­i­cal sci­ence research sug­gests that Repub­li­cans have a stronger incen­tive to ensure grid­lock on eco­nom­ic issues ahead of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, rather than pass leg­is­la­tion that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is will­ing to sign into law.

    The rea­son is sim­ple: Amer­i­cans cred­it the pres­i­dent when things are good, and blame the pres­i­dent when things are bad, accord­ing to stud­ies. It hard­ly mat­ters who con­trols Con­gress. In addi­tion, eco­nom­ic growth and pres­i­den­tial approval rat­ings are key pre­dic­tors of the incum­bent par­ty’s per­for­mance in elec­tions. That sug­gests vot­ers would pun­ish Democ­rats in 2016 if the Repub­li­can Con­gress fails to gov­ern and improve the econ­o­my.

    “The pres­i­dent typ­i­cal­ly bears more of the blame [for bad out­comes] under divid­ed gov­ern­ment,” said John Sides, a polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. “If a lack of ini­tia­tive hurts the econ­o­my, the pres­i­dent pays a price. ... So a slug­gish econ­o­my and an unpop­u­lar pres­i­dent is help­ful to Repub­li­cans up and down the bal­lot in 2016.”

    A Quin­nip­i­ac sur­vey after the midterm elec­tion found that a plu­ral­i­ty of Amer­i­can vot­ers — a 44 to 42 per­cent mar­gin — would blame Oba­ma instead of the Repub­li­cans for grid­lock they expect to occur over the next two years.

    “That makes it some­what chal­leng­ing for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and for the Democ­rats more gen­er­al­ly to turn Repub­li­can behav­ior in Con­gress into a polit­i­cal issue that nets them votes,” Sides said. “There’s not much evi­dence of that on the table in 2014, despite all the talk about how they’re gonna pay a price for the shut­down, they’re gonna pay a price for this or that, least pro­duc­tive Con­gress in his­to­ry — all that talk nev­er mate­ri­al­ized into much.”

    A 1999 study by polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Hel­mut Nor­poth found that vot­ers hold the pres­i­den­t’s par­ty account­able for eco­nom­ic out­comes.

    “The fact that con­trol of gov­ern­ment is split between the major par­ties, as it was in dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions in the most recent pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, is not a fact of much sig­nif­i­cance for Amer­i­can vot­ers,” he con­clud­ed. “Regard­less, under both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dents, and with Con­gress in the hands of the oppo­site par­ty each time, vot­ers assign respon­si­bil­i­ty for the econ­o­my to the Pres­i­dent, not Con­gress; at least, they vote as if they fol­lowed that log­ic.”

    ...

    Bob Shrum, a vet­er­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gist, acknowl­edged that Repub­li­cans have a per­verse incen­tive to main­tain grid­lock, but argued that it could back­fire if they’re per­ceived as refus­ing to do any­thing for ordi­nary Amer­i­cans.

    “There is an incen­tive to ruin the econ­o­my as long,” he said, “as you don’t get caught doing it.”

    Of course, there’s no need to engage in polit­i­cal game-the­o­ry to con­clude that the GOP’s scorched earth poli­cies are set to con­tin­ue. You could just look at their plat­form.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 6, 2015, 1:42 pm
  27. One of the obvi­ous ques­tions fac­ing a new GOP-led Con­gress is “which group of peo­ple are going to be held hostage to be used as lever­age for tax cuts or social pro­gram gut­ting?” So who’s going to be held hostage? Almost every­one. And it’s one of the GOP’s very first moves:

    TPM DC
    New GOP Con­gress Fires Shot At Social Secu­ri­ty On Day One

    By Dylan Scott
    Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 6, 2015, 5:34 PM EST

    With a lit­tle-noticed pro­pos­al, Repub­li­cans took aim at Social Secu­ri­ty on the very first day of the 114th Con­gress.

    The incom­ing GOP major­i­ty approved late Tues­day a new rule that experts say could pro­voke an unprece­dent­ed cri­sis that con­ser­v­a­tives could use as lever­age in upcom­ing debates over enti­tle­ment reform.

    The large­ly over­looked change puts a new restric­tion on the rou­tine trans­fer of tax rev­enues between the tra­di­tion­al Social Secu­ri­ty retire­ment trust fund and the Social Secu­ri­ty dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram. The trans­fers, known as real­lo­ca­tion, had his­tor­i­cal­ly been rou­tine; the lib­er­al Cen­ter for Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties said Tues­day that they had been made 11 times. The CBPP added that the dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance pro­gram “isn’t bro­ken,” but the pro­gram has been strained by demo­graph­ic trends that the real­lo­ca­tions are intend­ed to address.

    The House GOP’s rule change would still allow for a real­lo­ca­tion from the retire­ment fund to shore up the dis­abil­i­ty fund — but only if an accom­pa­ny­ing pro­pos­al “improves the over­all finan­cial health of the com­bined Social Secu­ri­ty Trust Funds,” per the rule, expect­ed to be passed on Tues­day. While that lan­guage is vague, experts say it would like­ly mean any real­lo­ca­tion would have to be bal­anced by new rev­enues or ben­e­fit cuts.

    House Democ­rats are sound­ing the alarm. In a memo cir­cu­lat­ed to their allies Tues­day, Demo­c­ra­t­ic staffers said that that would mean “either new rev­enues or ben­e­fit cuts for cur­rent or future ben­e­fi­cia­ries.” New rev­enues are high­ly unlike­ly to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Repub­li­can-led Con­gress, leav­ing ben­e­fit cuts as the obvi­ous alter­na­tive.

    The Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare Boards of Trustees esti­mat­ed last year that the dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance pro­gram would run short of mon­ey to pay all ben­e­fits some time in late 2016. With­out a new real­lo­ca­tion, dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance ben­e­fi­cia­ries could face up to 20 per­cent cuts in their Social Secu­ri­ty pay­ments in late 2016 — a chit that would be of use to Repub­li­cans push­ing for con­ser­v­a­tive enti­tle­ment reforms.

    “The rule change would pro­hib­it a sim­ple real­lo­ca­tion! It will require more sig­nif­i­cant and com­plex changes to Social Secu­ri­ty,” Social Secu­ri­ty Works, an advo­ca­cy group, said in a state­ment Tues­day. “In oth­er words, the Repub­li­can rule will allow Social Secu­ri­ty to be held hostage.”

    Pol­i­cy wonks who fol­low Social Secu­ri­ty saw the GOP rule change as a play for lever­age.

    “Every­body’s been talk­ing about enti­tle­ment reform. Mr. Boehn­er and Pres­i­dent Oba­ma were pret­ty close to com­ing up with some kind of grand bar­gain, which ulti­mate­ly fell apart,” Tom Hunger­ford, senior econ­o­mist at the lib­er­al Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, told TPM. “Maybe this could be used as a hostage to try to get back to some­thing like that.”

    For their part, con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans were fair­ly trans­par­ent about their think­ing. Rep. Tom Reed (R‑NY), who has been out­spo­ken on the dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram, co-spon­sored the rule amend­ment. The dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram has been a favored tar­get for the GOP; mem­bers were warn­ing last month that the pro­gram could be vul­ner­a­ble to fraud.

    “My inten­tion by doing this is to force us to look for a long term solu­tion for SSDI rather than raid­ing Social Secu­ri­ty to bail out a fail­ing fed­er­al pro­gram,” Reed said in a state­ment. “Retired tax­pay­ers who have paid into the sys­tem for years deserve no less.”

    Lib­er­al ana­lysts counter, how­ev­er, that the retire­ment fund, which pays out $672.1 bil­lion in ben­e­fits per year ver­sus $140.1 bil­lion for the dis­abil­i­ty fund, is more than healthy enough to allow for a real­lo­ca­tion, as has his­tor­i­cal­ly been done. CBP­P’s Kathy Ruff­ing wrote that, if a trans­fer was made before the 2016 dead­line, both funds would be sol­vent until 2033.

    ...

    The GOP has clear­ly found a new spon­sor. In fair­ness, the old spon­sors were start­ing to become prob­lem­at­ic, so some sort of rebrand­ing was in order. Still, wow.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 6, 2015, 3:41 pm
  28. Mon­ey can’t buy you hap­pi­ness. Or a con­science:

    Wash­ing­ton Post
    Most of America’s rich think the poor have it easy

    By Rober­to A. Fer­d­man Jan­u­ary 8 at 1:20 PM

    There is lit­tle empa­thy at the top.

    Most of Amer­i­ca’s rich­est think poor peo­ple have it easy in this coun­try, accord­ing to a new report released by the Pew Research Cen­ter. The cen­ter sur­veyed a nation­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive group of peo­ple this past fall, and found that the major­i­ty of the coun­try’s most finan­cial­ly secure cit­i­zens (54 per­cent at the very top, and 57 per­cent just below) believe the “poor have it easy because they can get gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits with­out doing any­thing in return.” Amer­i­ca’s least finan­cial­ly secure, mean­while, vehe­ment­ly dis­agree — near­ly 70 per­cent say the poor have hard lives because the ben­e­fits “don’t go far enough.” Nation­al­ly, the pop­u­la­tion is almost even­ly split.

    ...

    Why the sur­pris­ing lack of com­pas­sion? It’s hard to say. At the very top, the sen­ti­ment is like­ly tied to con­ser­vatism, which tra­di­tion­al­ly bemoans gov­ern­ment pro­grams that redis­trib­ute wealth, call­ing them safe­ty nets. Some 40 per­cent of the finan­cial­ly secure are polit­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, accord­ing to Pew. And con­ser­v­a­tives are even more like­ly to say the “poor have it easy” than the rich — a recent Pew sur­vey found that more than three quar­ters of con­ser­v­a­tives feel that way.

    More broad­ly, the preva­lence of the view might reflect an inabil­i­ty to under­stand the plight of those who have no choice but to seek help from the gov­ern­ment. A quar­ter of the coun­try, after all, feels that the lead­ing rea­son for inequal­i­ty in Amer­i­ca is that the poor don’t work hard enough.

    But as my col­league Christo­pher Ingra­ham point­ed out last year, to say that the poor have it easy is to ignore how seri­ous their strug­gle is in com­par­i­son to the rest of the pop­u­la­tion, and espe­cial­ly those with mon­ey to spare. The poor are much less like­ly to have health insur­ance, much more like­ly to be the vic­tim of a crime. They don’t get the same lev­el of edu­ca­tion or have the same food options. Inequal­i­ty, as my col­league Matt O’Brien wrote, “starts in the crib,” and it plays out even in what babies of dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic back­grounds are fed. And that’s just the tip of the ice­berg.

    Since the poor appar­ent­ly aren’t work­ing hard enough to earn their pover­ty, it begs the ques­tion of how bru­tal life should be for some­one at the top of the income scale. For instance, since being poor is known to be bad for your health, should­n’t being rich be absolute­ly hor­ren­dous for your health because of all the incred­i­bly hard work you did to earn that mon­ey? Aren’t non-suf­fer­ing bil­lion­aires inher­ent­ly ille­git­i­mate accord­ing to this wide­ly held moral par­a­digm?

    So how many torch­es and pitch­forks one should have to dodge on their way to work in the morn­ing in order to legit­i­mate­ly earn, say, over 10 mil­lion dol­lars a year...assum­ing they’re work­ing at all for that income? Is one torch and one pitch­fork a day bru­tal and harm­ful enough? Or would that just be cod­dling for peo­ple that obvi­ous­ly should live hor­ri­ble lives in order to jus­ti­fy mak­ing so much a year? And no, flam­ing pitch­forks don’t count as both a torch and a pitch­fork. That’s being lazy. It’s just a pitch­fork that hap­pens to be on fire. Life isn’t fair.

    In oth­er news, the banks appar­ent­ly have it too hard...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2015, 2:31 pm
  29. It’s time for the next round of one of the longest games in town. It’s a hor­ri­ble life and death game that almost every­one los­es, so it’s real­ly not clear why Amer­i­ca plays it:

    TPM DC
    Inside The GOP’s Long Game To Ignite A New Bat­tle Over Social Secu­ri­ty

    By Dylan Scott
    Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 9, 2015, 12:01 PM EST

    Repub­li­cans are seiz­ing a once-every-20-years oppor­tu­ni­ty to force a cri­sis in the Social Secu­ri­ty dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram and use it as lever­age to push through reforms, a long game that they have been qui­et­ly lay­ing ground­work for since tak­ing con­trol of the House in 2010.

    In less than two years, the Social Social dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance pro­gram will start being unable to pay its full ben­e­fits and House Repub­li­cans said this week that they aren’t going to sim­ply give it more rev­enue from the retire­ment side, as has been done his­tor­i­cal­ly. It’s the lat­est episode in a pro­tract­ed cam­paign over the dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram — and it rais­es the ques­tion of what exact­ly Repub­li­cans plan to do now.

    The last time this hap­pened was 1994, and lib­er­al ana­lysts say that anoth­er sim­ple real­lo­ca­tion between the dis­abil­i­ty and retire­ment funds, as has been done 11 times in the past, would keep both funds sol­vent until 2033. That meant that con­ser­v­a­tives had to act now if they want­ed to squeeze the cri­sis for all it’s worth. For the last few years, they’ve been high­light­ing instances of fraud and oth­er prob­lems with the pro­gram, set­ting the stage for the big move this week.

    Democ­rats are sound­ing the alarm, warn­ing that Repub­li­cans have tak­en a “hostage” and will lever­age it to pur­sue broad changes to Social Secu­ri­ty as a whole. With mem­o­ries still fresh of their failed effort to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty in 2005, con­ser­v­a­tives wonks are less sure that the new GOP Con­gress would have the polit­i­cal will to do that, though they would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mind if it did.

    “I was­n’t sure that they were going to be will­ing to take it up. I’m heart­ened that the rule was put in place. It forces us to start hav­ing a debate on this issue today,” said Jason Ficht­ner, senior research fel­low at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty’s Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter who has been called by House Repub­li­cans to tes­ti­fy on Social Secu­ri­ty. “What I sus­pect is this allows for a con­ver­sa­tion not just on (dis­abil­i­ty), but the whole sys­tem com­bined. But the hur­dle of dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance is high enough. You start adding in try­ing to retire­ment reform at the same time, that just makes it a high­er hur­dle. I’m not sure there’s the polit­i­cal will or the pub­lic will to tack­le both sys­tems at the same time right now.”

    The hostage in this metaphor is the dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance pro­gram and a late 2016 dead­line, at which point it won’t be able to pay its full ben­e­fits to its 11 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The new Repub­li­can House has approved a rule that says Con­gress can’t just trans­fer tax rev­enue from the Social Secu­ri­ty retire­ment fund, as it has been done rou­tine­ly in the past, to cov­er the loom­ing short­fall. If noth­ing is done, ben­e­fi­cia­ries would face an esti­mat­ed 20 per­cent cut.

    Most mem­bers on both sides pre­sum­ably would­n’t want to see that hap­pen, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a crit­i­cal elec­tion cycle, giv­ing Repub­li­cans pow­er­ful lever­age to bring Democ­rats to the nego­ti­at­ing table. One of the co-spon­sors of the rule change, Rep. Tom Reed (R‑NY), said that his inten­tion was to “force us to look for a long-term solu­tion” to the dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram.

    But the rule itself says it will allow a rev­enue trans­fer if the “over­all health” of Social Secu­ri­ty, encom­pass­ing both the retire­ment and dis­abil­i­ty pro­grams, is improved. That’s what Democ­rats are warn­ing about, but some con­ser­v­a­tive ana­lysts who have con­sult­ed with House staffers are also hop­ing that the GOP uses the threat of ben­e­fits cuts to go big.

    “It’s encour­ag­ing that the rule actu­al­ly says we could do real­lo­ca­tion if it’s accom­pa­nied by improve­ments in over­all Social Secu­ri­ty sol­ven­cy. Our pref­er­ence has always been that the deple­tion of the DI trust fund become the impe­tus for com­pre­hen­sive Social Secu­ri­ty reform,” Ed Loren­zen, senior advi­sor to the Com­mit­tee for a Respon­si­ble Fed­er­al Bud­get, told TPM. “For the most part, the prob­lems fac­ing DI are real­ly just a symp­tom of the larg­er prob­lems for Social Secu­ri­ty as a whole.”

    Staff for the House­’s big play­ers on Social Secu­ri­ty — Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R‑WI) and Social Secu­ri­ty Sub­com­mit­tee Chair Sam John­son (R‑TX), who co-spon­sored the new rule with Reed — weren’t ready to reveal their plans for what comes next. But asked if their pro­pos­als would address just the dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance fund or Social Secu­ri­ty in its entire­ty, an aide to Reed told TPM: “Just DI for the moment.”

    Those on the right weren’t sur­prised that the new GOP Con­gress took an aggres­sive stance on Social Secu­ri­ty’s dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram on its very first day. “Over the last year, it start­ed becom­ing clear that there’d be a lot of resis­tance to (a clean real­lo­ca­tion) and a desire to have real­lo­ca­tion tied to some reforms,” Loren­zen said. “We were sort of antic­i­pat­ing that this would hap­pen.”

    ...

    This part right here sym­bol­izes so much of what is wrong with US pol­i­tics:

    ...
    The hostage in this metaphor is the dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance pro­gram and a late 2016 dead­line, at which point it won’t be able to pay its full ben­e­fits to its 11 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The new Repub­li­can House has approved a rule that says Con­gress can’t just trans­fer tax rev­enue from the Social Secu­ri­ty retire­ment fund, as it has been done rou­tine­ly in the past, to cov­er the loom­ing short­fall. If noth­ing is done, ben­e­fi­cia­ries would face an esti­mat­ed 20 per­cent cut.

    Most mem­bers on both sides pre­sum­ably would­n’t want to see that hap­pen, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a crit­i­cal elec­tion cycle, giv­ing Repub­li­cans pow­er­ful lever­age to bring Democ­rats to the nego­ti­at­ing table. One of the co-spon­sors of the rule change, Rep. Tom Reed (R‑NY), said that his inten­tion was to “force us to look for a long-term solu­tion” to the dis­abil­i­ty pro­gram.
    ...

    Yep, in Amer­i­ca a major polit­i­cal par­ty can suc­cess­ful­ly hold the nation hostage using dis­abled peo­ple, make demands impact­ing almost every­one, get those demands met, and the peo­ple you’re hold­ing hostage still might not even know it hap­pened or who did the hostage-tak­ing.

    It’s like tak­ing can­dy from a baby that hap­pens to be younger than a 4 month old (the babies are far more adept at iden­ti­fy­ing their hostage-tak­ers by that age) and then tak­ing the baby’s health­care. It may not be the best anal­o­gy, but it sort of fits.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 9, 2015, 12:39 pm
  30. Run­ning for pres­i­dent has got to be exhaust­ing, and maybe even trau­ma­tiz­ing, so you have to won­der if any of the GOP’s peren­ni­al pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates cur­rent­ly prepar­ing for their next runs have begun exper­i­ment­ing with any of the new­er forms of PTSD treat­ments out there that all the raver kid­dies are excit­ed about . It’s start­ing to seems like it:

    Chica­go Tri­bune
    Let Rom­ney’s rebrand­ing begin: Anti-pover­ty war­rior? Cyborg?

    By Rex W. Hup­p­ke

    Jan­u­ary 19, 2015, 5:44 PM

    Ris­ing like a well-coiffed, but­toned-down phoenix from the ash­es of his wild­ly unsuc­cess­ful 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Mitt Rom­ney has polite­ly expressed inter­est in run­ning again.

    But this time, he and his han­dlers assert, it will not be the same Mitt Rom­ney — this will be Mitt Rom­ney: Anti-Pover­ty War­rior.

    To many, that sounds like a stretch. After all, much of what sank the for­mer Mass­a­chu­setts gov­er­nor in his last pres­i­den­tial run was the per­cep­tion that he is a busi­ness-embrac­ing plu­to­crat who can’t relate to the poor or even the mid­dle class unless a mem­ber of one of them is oper­at­ing his car ele­va­tor.

    Yet there was Rom­ney the oth­er day, speak­ing to a group of Repub­li­cans in San Diego: “It’s a tragedy, a human tragedy, that the mid­dle class in this coun­try by and large does­n’t believe that the future will be bet­ter than the past.”

    He added: “The rich have got­ten rich­er, income inequal­i­ty has got­ten worse and there are more peo­ple in pover­ty than ever before under this pres­i­dent.”

    This is, to put it mild­ly, an inter­est­ing change in tone from 2012. Way back then, the very same Mitt Rom­ney was asked about income inequal­i­ty and about the “dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and pow­er in this coun­try” by the “Today” show’s Matt Lauer. Rom­ney said: “You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class war­fare.”

    Oth­er low­lights from Rom­ney’s los­ing cam­paign include: his infa­mous com­ment about the “47 per­cent” of Amer­i­cans that he does­n’t need to wor­ry about; his state­ment that he’s “not con­cerned about the very poor. We have a safe­ty net there”; and his won­der­ful­ly glib, “Cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple, my friend.”

    Rebrand­ing Rom­ney as “sym­pa­thet­ic to the poor” sounds trick­i­er than rebrand­ing Hillary Clin­ton as “not a Clin­ton,” or rebrand­ing a steak­house as a veg­an restau­rant even though every­thing on the menu is still made of meat.

    But just because it’s tricky does­n’t mean it’s impos­si­ble. We live in an age of rebrand­ing, often aid­ed by social media and the ever-hun­gry and oft-ide­o­log­i­cal 24-hour news net­works.

    ...

    So who’s to say that Rom­ney can’t reshape his image and make some “I Love The Poors!” noise in the GOP pres­i­den­tial pri­maries?

    To that end, I have a few rebrand­ing sug­ges­tions for Mr. Rom­ney.

    1) Con­sid­er chang­ing the name “Mitt” to “Matt.” Mitt Rom­ney sounds like a close per­son­al friend of Gor­don Gekko, the ruth­less cor­po­rate raider from the movie “Wall Street.” Matt Rom­ney sounds like the neigh­bor who let you bor­row his lawn mow­er.

    2) When asked about your cal­lous-sound­ing state­ment about “the 47 per­cent,” respond by say­ing: “I nev­er said that.” Do this for­ev­er, and it will even­tu­al­ly go away. Also, make “I Nev­er Said That” the theme of your entire cam­paign. #INev­er­SaidThat

    3) Aim to alien­ate only 37 per­cent of vot­ers this time around.

    4) Taste Mex­i­can food, but don’t make that awk­ward “Mmmm … so good” face that rich peo­ple make when they taste food they don’t like.

    5) Don’t talk. That real­ly seemed to hurt you last time.

    Using these steps and a few oth­ers, Rom­ney can cer­tain­ly cast him­self as an anti-pover­ty war­rior. And if that rebrand­ing does­n’t take, there are always oth­er options.

    Like Molten Mitt Rom­ney, the sexy can­di­date. Or Cyborg Mitt Rom­ney, equipped with “empa­thy can­nons” and “pre­vi­ous-impres­sion blasters.”

    The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Because Mitt Rom­ney can be who­ev­er Mitt Rom­ney tells us he wants to be. We just have to believe!

    That was cer­tain­ly some fab­u­lous advice for Mit­tens, espe­cial­ly the Cyborg Mitt option. Amer­i­ca just might be ready for Cyborg Mitt. But this new anti-pover­ty cru­sad­er Mitt?! Wow, now THAT is the future of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

    So let’s hope Mitt stays on the meds or what­ev­er it is that’s trig­ger­ing this pro­found rethink­ing of his life and pri­or­i­ties. This is clear­ly a new and improved Mitt. He’s still awful, but a bet­ter form of awful.

    And it’s not just Mitt that’s sud­den­ly all new and improved. Rick San­to­rum has clear­ly been deal­ing with his own case of post-cam­paign­ing PTSD. It’s the only expla­na­tion:

    Talk­ing Points Memo Livewire
    Rick San­to­rum: ‘Crazy Stuff’ Com­ments On Con­tra­cep­tion Hurt Cam­paign

    By Daniel Strauss
    Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 20, 2015, 11:04 AM EST

    Dur­ing his 2012 pres­i­den­tial run, for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum (R‑PA) focused his cam­paign on social con­ser­v­a­tive issues, includ­ng his anti-abor­tion stance. But in a recent inter­view with MSNBC, San­to­rum, who seems to be gear­ing up for anoth­er run in 2016, sug­gest­ed that was all “crazy stuff.”

    In an inter­view with NBC San­to­rum said that his last pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was defined by states on con­tra­cep­tion and anti-abor­tion stances and sim­i­lar “crazy stuff that doesn’t have any­thing to do with any­thing.” San­to­rum him­self also said that his cam­paign suf­fered for some “dumb things” he said.

    ...

    Wait, what?! Did Rick San­to­rum just refer to his 2012 cam­paign themes as “crazy stuff that doesn’t have any­thing to do with any­thing” dur­ing an inter­view about his 2016 ambi­tions? Woah. That is some strong stuff you must have slipped him, Mitt, because that does­n’t sound like Rick San­to­rum at all. At the same time, it cer­tain­ly seems to be help­ing both Rick and Mitt, and clear­ly does­n’t impact moti­va­tion or dri­ve at all so it does­n’t seem to be too strong.

    Hope­ful­ly one day they’ll share their secret, because the whole GOP could use a good strong dose of it. It’s bound to be bet­ter than what the GOP is nor­mal­ly ingest­ing. That stuff will destroy your mind. It ain’t pret­ty

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 20, 2015, 12:33 pm
  31. With GOP 2016 hope­fuls Rand Paul and Chris Christie rais­ing eye­brows after decid­ing to share their views on the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy of vac­cines (fol­low­ing a US measles out­break), it’s worth point­ing out that at least one of the GOP’s Sen­a­tors is actu­al­ly try­ing to do some­thing about the explo­sion of autoim­mune dis­or­ders of the last few decades. Yes, North Car­oli­na’s new Sen­a­tor, Thom Tillis, has a bril­liant plan:

    TPM Livewire
    GOP Sen­a­tor: Don’t Force Employ­ees To Wash Their Hands After Using Toi­let
    By Bren­dan James Pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 3, 2015, 11:18 AM EST

    In a week packed with news over con­cerns for pub­lic health, Sen. Thom Tillis (R‑NC) described his own his­to­ry of oppos­ing cer­tain health and hygiene reg­u­la­tions, includ­ing those that require employ­ees to wash their hands after using the bath­room.

    Dur­ing a Q&A at the Bipar­ti­san Pol­i­cy Cen­ter on Mon­day, Tillis relat­ed a sto­ry from his time in the state leg­is­la­ture in 2010, com­plain­ing that the U.S. is “one of the most reg­u­lat­ed nations in the his­to­ry of the plan­et,” video via C‑SPAN shows.

    “I was hav­ing a dis­cus­sion with some­one, and we were at a Star­bucks in my dis­trict, and we were talk­ing about cer­tain reg­u­la­tions where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow busi­ness­es to opt out,’ ” the sen­a­tor said.

    Tillis said his inter­locu­tor was in dis­be­lief, and asked whether he thought busi­ness­es should be allowed to “opt out” of requir­ing employ­ees to wash their hands after using the restroom.

    The sen­a­tor said he’d be fine with it, so long as busi­ness­es made this clear in “adver­tis­ing” and “employ­ment lit­er­a­ture.”

    “I said: ‘I don’t have any prob­lem with Star­bucks if they choose to opt out of this pol­i­cy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employ­ees to wash their hands after leav­ing the restroom,” Tillis said.

    “The mar­ket will take care of that,” he added, to laugh­ter from the audi­ence.

    ...

    See that? Now THAT is cre­ative leg­is­la­tion. Thom Tillis is obvi­ous­ly fol­low­ing the “hygiene hypoth­e­sis”, the the­o­ry that the rapid rise in dis­eases like asth­ma and pos­si­ble even autism is relat­ed a reduc­tion in the amount of germs and oth­er filth chil­dren get exposed to in the mod­ern world. And he just wants to save some kids from a fate of too much clean­li­ness. And what bet­ter way to do that than ensur­ing steady diet of fecal mat­ter with your restau­rant food.

    And don’t for­get Tillis’s calls for elim­i­nat­ing the min­i­mum wage entire­ly which would undoubt­ed­ly impact a num­ber of restau­rant employ­ees. Just think of how much more ben­e­fi­cial and diverse their germs will be when restau­rant employ­ees are chron­i­cal­ly stressed out an unable to afford even basic neces­si­ties.

    Thom Tillis may have gained noto­ri­ety for talk­ing about the need to “divide and con­quer­ing the poor” by turn­ing the dis­abled against the poor. But as we can see, what he was actu­al­ly fight­ing for was a sys­tem where poor, sick employ­ees will become vec­tors for health­i­er chil­dren and a bet­ter tomor­row! Thom Tillis does­n’t want you to eat sh#t and die. He wants you to eat sh#t and thrive. Unless you’re poor, of course. In that case feel free to eat sh#t and die.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 3, 2015, 3:50 pm
  32. Chris Christie appears to be try­ing to shake up his belea­guered Pres­i­den­tial ambi­tions with a pub­lic pledge guar­an­teed to please a key GOP demo­graph­ic: big mon­ey donors. The pledge? Over­haul­ing (gut­ting) enti­tle­ments. He knows his audi­ence:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Chris Christie will make enti­tle­ment reform cen­tral to a White House bid

    By Robert Cos­ta
    March 13 at 4:15 PM

    New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie ® address­es a gath­er­ing at a town-hall meet­ing on March 10 in Somerville, N.J. (Mit­su Yasukawa/AP)
    By Robert Cos­ta March 13 at 4:15 PM

    New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie ® told lead­ing GOP pol­i­cy ana­lysts this week that he will make over­haul­ing Medicare, Social Secu­ri­ty and oth­er long-term enti­tle­ment pro­grams a cen­ter­piece of his like­ly pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, accord­ing to par­tic­i­pants in the talks.

    Christie’s deci­sion to embrace a polit­i­cal­ly risky cam­paign theme is cen­tral to an attempt to revive his wilt­ing nation­al prospects, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his plans.

    By cast­ing him­self in the com­ing months as a blunt truth-teller on issues that some in his par­ty have resist­ed tack­ling, Christie hopes to win sup­port among con­ser­v­a­tives who have been reluc­tant to back him and are unsure of his ratio­nale for run­ning.

    But vot­ers have long been wary of attempts by politi­cians in both par­ties to cut pop­u­lar enti­tle­ment pro­grams, which account for about half of all fed­er­al spend­ing. Christie him­self has expand­ed Med­ic­aid as gov­er­nor, call­ing it “the right deci­sion for New Jer­sey.”

    Christie made his inten­tions clear Mon­day in a con­fer­ence call with for­mer Repub­li­can admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and a for­mer senior advis­er to House GOP lead­ers. Over the course of near­ly two hours, Christie indi­cat­ed that he is plan­ning to run a cam­paign focused on the nation’s fis­cal health and rec­om­mend­ing sweep­ing struc­tur­al reforms.

    Accord­ing to Repub­li­cans briefed on the call, Christie said he is in the midst of final­iz­ing his 2016 plat­form, which is aimed at carv­ing out space for him in the ear­ly Repub­li­can field as a bud­get hawk from a blue state. The strat­e­gy would put him in com­pe­ti­tion with Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er and oth­er Repub­li­can rivals who have put fis­cal mat­ters at the fore­front of their mes­sages.

    Those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ses­sion includ­ed James C. Capret­ta, an asso­ciate direc­tor of the White House Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion; Todd G. Buch­holz, a direc­tor of eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy in George H.W. Bush’s White House; Neil Bradley, a for­mer pol­i­cy guru for House Repub­li­cans; and Lan­hee Chen, Mitt Romney’s pol­i­cy direc­tor dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign. Robert E. Grady, a long­time Christie strate­gist, mod­er­at­ed the exchange.

    Maria Comel­la, a Christie aide, declined to com­ment.

    But sev­er­al Christie allies — who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to freely dis­cuss Christie’s delib­er­a­tions — said the brash Gar­den State gov­er­nor is eager to return to the polit­i­cal issues and per­sona that made him a nation­al star in 2010, when he bat­tled with pub­lic employ­ees over pen­sions and ben­e­fits at town-hall meet­ings. By tar­get­ing fed­er­al enti­tle­ments, he believes he can remind skep­ti­cal Repub­li­cans why many of them cheered him five years ago, the allies said.

    Christie has acknowl­edged to friends that he needs to do more to make it back to the top tier of the GOP field, espe­cial­ly if a large group of Repub­li­can donors remains wary. Dam­aged by an ongo­ing con­tro­ver­sy over the polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed clo­sure of traf­fic lanes on a major New Jer­sey bridge, Christie has watched as Walk­er and for­mer Flori­da gov­er­nor Jeb Bush have gained sup­port from donors and surged in the polls.

    Christie’s con­fi­dants have been pass­ing around copies of a 2011 speech the gov­er­nor deliv­ered at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton as a primer of where Christie wants to go, accord­ing to Repub­li­cans in touch with his camp. In that speech, Christie urged Con­gress to “raise the age for Social Secu­ri­ty” and warned that he would cam­paign against Repub­li­cans who did not call for dras­tic changes to Medicare.

    “If peo­ple who I cam­paigned for don’t stand up and do the right thing, the next time they will see me in their dis­trict is with my arm around their pri­ma­ry oppo­nent,” he said.

    David Win­ston, a Repub­li­can poll­ster, said Christie could be cred­i­ble “if he could define a suc­cess at the state lev­el and talk about how it’s poten­tial­ly applic­a­ble” to the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

    But he cau­tioned that most vot­ers are more con­cerned with jobs than with revamp­ing Medicare and Social Secu­ri­ty. “Those are impor­tant issues, but the elec­torate is look­ing at how to get the econ­o­my mov­ing,” Win­ston said.

    Christie’s fis­cal record has been mixed in New Jer­sey, where unions con­tin­ue to con­test his poli­cies in court and Moody’s Investors Ser­vice says the state faces $83 bil­lion in unfund­ed pen­sion lia­bil­i­ties.

    His stum­bles also have cre­at­ed sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties for Christie with GOP pri­ma­ry vot­ers, accord­ing to recent polls. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News sur­vey released this week showed 57 per­cent of Repub­li­cans nation­al­ly said they would not be able to sup­port him. “He is no longer a viable can­di­date,” wrote Peter D. Hart, one of the poll’s direc­tors.

    ...

    But Rick Shaf­tan, a con­ser­v­a­tive polit­i­cal con­sul­tant based in New Jer­sey, said tea par­ty activists are unlike­ly to warm to Christie, regard­less of how he frames his record. “It’s a lit­tle late now,” Shaf­tan said in an inter­view Fri­day. “His state is broke. If he’s going to tell the truth about some­thing, he should file for Chap­ter 11.”

    It sounds like Chris Christie has a mas­ter plan! A plan designed to dis­tin­guish him from the rest of the pack by recap­tur­ing his images as arch-neme­sis of pub­lic employ­ees (and there­fore qual­i­ty gov­ern­ment) with bold, dras­tic cuts to Medicare and social secu­ri­ty.

    And while this prob­a­bly won’t hurt his chances with the GOP’s mega-donors or the Tea Par­ty base, as we also saw with com­ments from Tea Par­ty activists like “It’s a lit­tle late now...His state is broke. If he’s going to tell the truth about some­thing, he should file for Chap­ter 11,” it’s not as if sud­den­ly com­ing out as a enti­tle­ment-slash­ing “truth teller” is going to dis­tin­guish you from the rest of the GOP pack. After all, sim­ply cur­tail­ing the New Deal is one thing, but if you want to real­ly impress the GOP these days you need to be the kind of guy that seems like they’re going to roll the New Deal back entire­ly. This is 2015. You need to think pre-New Deal which means you need to exude ‘Coolidge’-league cool­ness, which is what the GOP’s cur­rent union-bus­ing heart­throb already exudes:

    Reuters
    What makes Wisconsin’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er a good choice for 2016
    By Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Glea­son
    Novem­ber 20, 2014

    After the GOP’s midterm-elec­tions sweep, the Repub­li­can Par­ty holds more U.S. House seats and con­trols more state hous­es than at any time since 1928. Hav­ing reached this goal, the GOP now needs to look for a 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee to match this suc­cess.

    Pres­i­dent Calvin Coolidge, who sat in the Oval Office from 1923 to 1929, would be a smart mod­el for the par­ty. He reined in spend­ing and reduced tax rates at a time when it was as need­ed as it is today. Pres­i­dent Rea­gan admired Coolidge so much that he hung a por­trait of the 30th pres­i­dent in his Cab­i­net Room.

    One talked-about pos­si­ble 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who shares many of Coolidge’s pol­i­cy bona fides is Wis­con­sin Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er, who won his third statewide race in four years on Nov. 4. The two men have so much in com­mon that it is worth see­ing what Coolidge’s expe­ri­ence can tell us about a poten­tial Pres­i­dent Walk­er.

    Coolidge took office at an extra­or­di­nary peri­od in U.S. his­to­ry. Dur­ing his pres­i­den­cy, Amer­i­ca advanced from a nation in which the horse and bug­gy was one of the most effi­cient meth­ods of trav­el in many places to one filled with Mod­el T dri­vers honk­ing at one anoth­er to move it. The advent and pop­u­lar­iza­tion of mod­ern appli­ances like elec­tric wash­ing machines allowed women of the 1920s to get out of the house.

    Coolidge rose to nation­al promi­nence large­ly because of his actions dur­ing the 1919 Boston Police Strike. Coolidge was gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts, and he stood down police union boss­es to put an end to the strike. He offered a sharp con­trast to then-Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son, silent and timid on an issue of nation­al impor­tance.

    Coolidge’s lim­it­ed-gov­ern­ment approach made for both good pol­i­cy and good pol­i­tics — it fueled a stun­ning pros­per­i­ty. Eco­nom­ic expan­sion under Coolidge was rapid, with the gross nation­al prod­uct ris­ing rough­ly 4.2 per­cent a year from 1920 to 1929, as Mar­quette University’s Gene Smi­ley explained in an Eco­nom­ic His­to­ry Asso­ci­a­tion report. This is impres­sive growth by 19th‑, 20th-and 21st-cen­tu­ry stan­dards.

    A stand­off with pow­er­ful boss­es of gov­ern­ment-employ­ee unions is also what thrust Walk­er onto the nation­al stage. The 2011 labor reforms that Walk­er cham­pi­oned and even­tu­al­ly signed into law sparked riotous protests in Madi­son. It cost $11 mil­lion to repair the dam­age done by union pro­test­ers at Wisconsin’s capi­tol build­ing, con­sid­ered to have one of the most aes­thet­i­cal­ly beau­ti­ful domes in the Unit­ed States.

    ...

    Veronique de Rugy of the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty laid out the suc­cess of these Coolidge tax cuts. From a high of 73 per­cent, the top rate was reduced to 46 per­cent in 1924, and then was brought down to 24 per­cent by the time Coolidge left office.

    Walk­er has adopt­ed the Coolidge tax mod­el, chip­ping away at his state income-tax rates. He talks about elim­i­nat­ing Wisconsin’s income tax dur­ing his sec­ond term. He has asked his lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, Rebec­ca Kleefisch, to hold tax-reform round­ta­bles across the state. Giv­en that tax reform is usu­al­ly the most polit­i­cal­ly dif­fi­cult under­tak­ing for law­mak­ers, Walk­er is astute in get­ting con­stituent buy-in ahead of time

    The day after the 2014 midterms, the nation­al pun­dit­ry was ready to focus on the 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­test. Coolidge’s record and how it com­pares to what Walk­er has done in Wis­con­sin make a strong case for his name to be on the short list of GOP con­tenders.

    Union bust­ing and tax cuts for the rich: now that’s what the GOP mega donors and Tea Par­ty rad­i­cals want. And Scott Walk­er has already shown that he’s more than pre­pared to deliv­er exact­ly that. Uh oh!

    So just how crazy is Chris Christie going to need to get to out-Coolidge Scott Walk­er? That’s unclear, since it’s not just Scott Walk­er that’s been embrac­ing the Coolidge mod­el. Embrac­ing Coolidge has been the entire GOP’s mod­el for years:

    The New York Times

    Ludi­crous and Cru­el

    Paul Krug­man
    APRIL 7, 2011

    Many com­men­ta­tors swooned ear­li­er this week after House Repub­li­cans, led by the Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man, Paul Ryan, unveiled their bud­get pro­pos­als. They lav­ished praise on Mr. Ryan, assert­ing that his plan set a new stan­dard of fis­cal seri­ous­ness.

    Well, they should have wait­ed until peo­ple who know how to read bud­get num­bers had a chance to study the pro­pos­al. For the G.O.P. plan turns out not to be seri­ous at all. Instead, it’s simul­ta­ne­ous­ly ridicu­lous and heart­less.

    How ridicu­lous is it? Let me count the ways — or rather a few of the ways, because there are more howlers in the plan than I can cov­er in one col­umn.

    First, Repub­li­cans have once again gone all in for voodoo eco­nom­ics — the claim, refut­ed by expe­ri­ence, that tax cuts pay for them­selves.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, the Ryan pro­pos­al trum­pets the results of an eco­nom­ic pro­jec­tion from the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, which claims that the plan’s tax cuts would set off a gigan­tic boom. Indeed, the foun­da­tion ini­tial­ly pre­dict­ed that the G.O.P. plan would bring the unem­ploy­ment rate down to 2.8 per­cent — a num­ber we haven’t achieved since the Kore­an War. After wide­spread jeer­ing, the unem­ploy­ment pro­jec­tion van­ished from the Her­itage Foundation’s Web site, but voodoo still per­me­ates the rest of the analy­sis.

    In par­tic­u­lar, the orig­i­nal voodoo propo­si­tion — the claim that low­er tax­es mean high­er rev­enue — is still very much there. The Her­itage Foun­da­tion pro­jec­tion has large tax cuts actu­al­ly increas­ing rev­enue by almost $600 bil­lion over the next 10 years.

    A more sober assess­ment from the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. It finds that a large part of the sup­posed sav­ings from spend­ing cuts would go, not to reduce the deficit, but to pay for tax cuts. In fact, the bud­get office finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to big­ger deficits and more debt than cur­rent law.

    And about those spend­ing cuts: leave health care on one side for a moment and focus on the rest of the pro­pos­al. It turns out that Mr. Ryan and his col­leagues are assum­ing dras­tic cuts in non­health spend­ing with­out explain­ing how that is sup­posed to hap­pen.

    How dras­tic? Accord­ing to the bud­get office, which ana­lyzed the plan using assump­tions dic­tat­ed by House Repub­li­cans, the pro­pos­al calls for spend­ing on items oth­er than Social Secu­ri­ty, Medicare and Med­ic­aid — but includ­ing defense — to fall from 12 per­cent of G.D.P. last year to 6 per­cent of G.D.P. in 2022, and just 3.5 per­cent of G.D.P. in the long run.

    That last num­ber is less than we cur­rent­ly spend on defense alone; it’s not much big­ger than fed­er­al spend­ing when Calvin Coolidge was pres­i­dent, and the Unit­ed States, among oth­er things, had only a tiny mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment. How could such a dras­tic shrink­ing of gov­ern­ment take place with­out crip­pling essen­tial pub­lic func­tions? The plan doesn’t say.

    And then there’s the much-bal­ly­hooed pro­pos­al to abol­ish Medicare and replace it with vouch­ers that can be used to buy pri­vate health insur­ance.

    The point here is that pri­va­tiz­ing Medicare does noth­ing, in itself, to lim­it health-care costs. In fact, it almost sure­ly rais­es them by adding a lay­er of mid­dle­men. Yet the House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spend­ing as a per­cent­age of G.D.P. despite an aging pop­u­la­tion and ris­ing health care costs.

    The only way that can hap­pen is if those vouch­ers are worth much less than the cost of health insur­ance. In fact, the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office esti­mates that by 2030 the val­ue of a vouch­er would cov­er only a third of the cost of a pri­vate insur­ance pol­i­cy equiv­a­lent to Medicare as we know it. So the plan would deprive many and prob­a­bly most seniors of ade­quate health care.

    And that nei­ther should nor will hap­pen. Mr. Ryan and his col­leagues can write down what­ev­er num­bers they like, but seniors vote. And when they find that their health-care vouch­ers are gross­ly inad­e­quate, they’ll demand and get big­ger vouch­ers — wip­ing out the plan’s sup­posed sav­ings.

    In short, this plan isn’t remote­ly seri­ous; on the con­trary, it’s ludi­crous.

    And it’s also cru­el.

    ...

    Yep! “Ludi­crous and cru­el” Coolidge-style bud­gets are already the GOP stan­dard. So you have to won­der if there’s any­thing Chris Christie can do to out-Coolidge Scott Walk­er or, real­ly, any of the rest of his GOP com­peti­tors.

    Mim­ic­k­ing Coolidge clear­ly isn’t going to be enough. That niche is filled. He’s going to need to try­ing hard­er, but hard­er in a dif­fer­ent way. A New “Hard Way” Deal that tran­scends Coolidge’s cool­ness and com­bines ludi­crous cru­el­ty for the mass­es with the kind of overt, pub­lic syco­phan­tic defer­rals to the oli­garchs that they can’t pos­si­bly resists. A “New ‘Harding’-er Way Deal”, per­haps.

    So there are options for Chris Christie. They may not be the obvi­ous options but they’re there. Don’t give up, Chris. You’re so close to find­ing that win­ning com­bi­na­tion you can smell it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 14, 2015, 4:55 pm
  33. You see, unlike many oth­er rodents, Guinea pigs don’t actu­al­ly eat their young very often. That’s why “right-wing ham­sters” is prob­a­bly or bet­ter anal­o­gy. “Right-wing sand gob­ies” would also work. It just has to be some­thing that eats its young:

    Think Progress
    Schools Plan Mas­sive Lay­offs After Scott Walk­er Guts Fund­ing

    by Alice Oll­stein Post­ed on March 18, 2015 at 8:00 am Updat­ed: March 18, 2015 at 9:17 am

    This week, Wis­con­sin kicked off a series of hear­ings on Gov­er­nor Scott Walker’s pro­posed bud­get, which would slash about $300 mil­lion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin sys­tem over two years, fun­nel hun­dreds of mil­lions to build a pro-bas­ket­ball sta­di­um, and cut deeply from funds for health care, food stamps and pub­lic media.

    Col­lege cam­pus­es across the state are already prepar­ing for the worst.

    Fund­ing at UW-Rock Coun­ty would be stripped back to lev­els not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said fac­ul­ty lay­offs are almost cer­tain. The sit­u­a­tion appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where admin­is­tra­tors have offered buy­outs to a record 325 fac­ul­ty and staff mem­bers — about a quar­ter of the cam­pus’ employ­ees. These so-called “go away pack­ages” have been offered to near­ly half of the school’s polit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment. UW-Stevens Point reports they will elim­i­nate sev­er­al entire majors, even for stu­dents cur­rent­ly enrolled in them.

    And it’s not just high­er edu­ca­tion feel­ing the pain.

    Pub­lic pri­ma­ry schools across Wis­con­sin will lose about $127 mil­lion in edu­ca­tion aid next year, large­ly by scrap­ping a spe­cial $150 per-stu­dent fund that Wis­con­sin school dis­tricts received over the past two years.

    The strug­gling Mil­wau­kee pub­lic schools are set to lose more than $12 mil­lion.

    Bob Peter­son, who taught 5th grade in the Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Schools for near­ly three decades, told ThinkProgress that not only are the cuts “breath­tak­ing,” they come as the schools are still reel­ing from the lost fund­ing in the Governor’s 2011 bud­get.

    “Over the last sev­er­al years we’ve seen more kids in each class­room, less indi­vid­ual atten­tion for chil­dren, and cuts to music, art, and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion pro­grams,” he said. “There are also way few­er guid­ance coun­cilors and social work­ers, and giv­en the Depres­sion-like eco­nom­ic con­di­tions that are in the com­mu­ni­ty here, that’s a real seri­ous prob­lem. They now don’t have time to give kids guid­ance around post-high school pos­si­bil­i­ties like tech­ni­cal schools, appren­tice­ships or col­lege.”

    The mon­ey saved from the edu­ca­tion cuts is specif­i­cal­ly slat­ed for prop­er­ty tax relief, which large­ly ben­e­fits the wealth­i­est in the state.

    “Walk­er keeps brag­ging that he’s reduced prop­er­ty tax­es each year, but most peo­ple don’t see any real dif­fer­ence, and it has cost the state hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars,” said Peter­son, who works now with the Mil­wau­kee Teach­ers’ Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion. “You can see it’s a talk­ing point he’s using in his very self-inter­est­ed polit­i­cal cam­paign.”

    As Wis­con­sin stu­dents and teach­ers pre­pare to push back against the promised cuts at the pub­lic hear­ings this week, Repub­li­can gov­er­nors around the coun­try are sim­i­lar­ly raid­ing their states’ high­er edu­ca­tion bud­gets.

    Res­i­dents of Illi­nois are orga­niz­ing against Gov­er­nor Bruce Rauner’s pro­pos­al to cut cut near­ly $400 mil­lion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois — tak­ing the col­leges back to the fund­ing lev­els they had in the 1950s even though the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion is three times big­ger today.

    ...

    Mean­while, stu­dents in Louisiana will hold a bud­get forum on Wednes­day to voice con­cerns about Gov­er­nor Bob­by Jindal’s pro­posed $200 mil­lion in cuts to Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty.

    The deep cuts are part of the Governor’s attempt to fill a more than $1.6 bil­lion bud­get hole. Though law­mak­ers on both sides in the aisle in the state have plead­ed with the Gov­er­nor to con­sid­er end­ing some of the state’s mas­sive tax breaks for cor­po­ra­tions and the wealthy, he has large­ly refused to do so.

    At a speech in DC on Mon­day, Gov­er­nor Bob­by Jin­dal reit­er­at­ed his stance. “I’ll veto any tax increase. I’ll veto any bud­get that includes a tax increase,” he said.

    Sor­ry Wis­con­sin, Illi­nois, and Louisiana, that was­n’t a din­go that ate your baby’s future. A giant ham­ster did it and that giant ham­ster was you! It was­n’t even due to some­thing under­stand­able like ambi­en ‘oop­sy’. You ate your chil­dren’s futures for prop­er­ty tax cuts!

    And while their edu­ca­tions were no doubt deli­cious, keep in mind that this was­n’t the nor­mal feast­ing on the poor and under­priv­i­leged. Wis­con­sin is din­ing on its kids from the well-to-do sub­urbs too. It’s an all you can eat buf­fet with an unusu­al­ly wide selec­tion:

    Mil­wau­kee Sen­tinel Jour­nal
    Scott Walk­er’s bud­get forc­ing school dis­tricts to trim fur­ther

    By Patrick Leary of the Jour­nal Sen­tinel
    March 16, 2015

    Wis­con­sin school dis­tricts are scram­bling to revise their bud­get esti­mates after Gov. Scott Walk­er’s bien­ni­al state bud­get pro­posed effec­tive­ly cut­ting $127 mil­lion in edu­ca­tion aid next year.

    Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Schools is fac­ing a loss of at least $12 mil­lion next year as a result of that move, but plen­ty of well-to-do sub­ur­ban dis­tricts — in areas that are over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ive of the gov­er­nor polit­i­cal­ly — are acknowl­edg­ing gap­ing bud­get holes, as well.

    The aid removal “def­i­nite­ly com­pounds the already mas­sive fis­cal chal­lenges that Cedar­burg and most oth­er dis­tricts are already fac­ing for next year,” Cedar­burg Super­in­ten­dent Jonathan Lam­ber­son said. The Ozau­kee Coun­ty dis­trict would lose about $430,000 next year if the pro­pos­al pass­es.

    The state bud­get is in the hands of the Leg­is­la­ture’s pow­er­ful Joint Finance Com­mit­tee, and mem­bers will be in Mil­wau­kee on Fri­day to hold a pub­lic hear­ing at Alver­no Col­lege, start­ing at 9 a.m. Edu­ca­tion advo­cates and school offi­cials are like­ly to turn out in large num­bers.

    “What I real­ly hope for at the end of all this is that peo­ple under­stand that edu­ca­tion is not an expense, it’s an invest­ment,” MPS Super­in­ten­dent Dari­enne Dri­ver said in a tele­phone inter­view from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Mon­day after she and oth­er edu­ca­tion lead­ers met with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to dis­cuss urban edu­ca­tion issues.

    She added that Mil­wau­kee would be lob­by­ing for a restora­tion of funds in the gov­er­nor’s bud­get.

    The gov­er­nor’s bud­get has a far-reach­ing impact on school dis­tricts. Beyond urban and sub­ur­ban areas, rur­al school lead­ers say the extra aid the gov­er­nor pro­posed for their dis­tricts is trumped by the loss in per-pupil aid.

    In gen­er­al, the gov­er­nor’s bud­get pro­pos­es keep­ing school rev­enue flat. Gen­er­al aid increas­es would go straight to prop­er­ty tax relief because the bud­get includes no increase to the rev­enue lim­it, or the total amount dis­tricts can raise in state aid and prop­er­ty tax­es com­bined.

    On top of that, the bud­get elim­i­nates a spe­cial $150 per pupil aid pay­ment that Wis­con­sin school dis­tricts received over the past two years. That appro­pri­a­tion was added by the Leg­is­la­ture in the last bud­get as a way to give a bump to schools with­out rais­ing prop­er­ty tax­es.

    Walk­er has pro­posed return­ing the aid pay­ment in 2016-’17 at $165 per pupil, but over the two years, the net effect is $135 less per pupil than what schools received in the last bud­get.

    “We are very con­cerned about the lost aid,” Wauwatosa Super­in­ten­dent Phil Ertl said. “We are look­ing at approx­i­mate­ly $900,000 in lost aid this year.”

    The Wauke­sha School Dis­trict is pro­ject­ing near­ly $2 mil­lion in lost aid, which would result in a pro­ject­ed $3.7 mil­lion deficit for the com­ing year, offi­cials said. The Oconomowoc Area School Dis­trict would lose near­ly $800,000. Menomonee Falls projects a loss of almost $600,000.
    ...

    “Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Schools is fac­ing a loss of at least $12 mil­lion next year as a result of that move, but plen­ty of well-to-do sub­ur­ban dis­tricts — in areas that are over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ive of the gov­er­nor polit­i­cal­ly — are acknowl­edg­ing gap­ing bud­get holes, as well.
    It was always kind of inevitable that the phrase “eat the rich” was going to make a come­back giv­en the way things are going, but Scott Walk­er isn’t exact­ly the politi­cian one would have expect­ed to lead the “eat the rich kid’s futures” charge. And yet, if you think about it, the more the super-rich eat up every­thing for the poor, the more tempt­ed they’re going to be to start going after the mere­ly kin­da rich. So here were are, with one state after anoth­er con­sum­ing its own young. Even the oh so pre­cious non-poor youths.

    Strange times. What’s next?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 18, 2015, 12:10 pm
  34. Aww, isn’t that con­ve­nient: After effec­tive­ly cut­ting the wages of Wis­con­sin work­ers by gut­ting the state’s unions, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­cans are now try­ing to add Wis­con­sin to the list of states that don’t man­date a day of rest of work­ers in jobs where fatigue could lead to increased acci­dents or deaths. Yep, Wis­con­sin is open for busi­ness and dead­ly, acci­dent-prone busi­ness­es are strong­ly encour­aged to apply:

    The Nation
    These Repub­li­cans Want to Take Away Your Week­end

    In Wis­con­sin, a new bill is threat­en­ing to kill work­ers’ one day of rest.
    Moshe Z. Mar­vit
    March 19, 2015

    As Wis­con­sin Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er signed the so-called “right to work” bill on March 9, mak­ing Wis­con­sin the twen­ty-fifth right-to-work state in the coun­try, labor advo­cates braced them­selves for the stream of anti-work­er bills that were almost cer­tain to fol­low. Many assumed the first tar­get would be Wisconsin’s 1930s pre­vail­ing wage laws, which require that work­ers on pub­lic works projects be paid the estab­lished going rate for their labor, rather than allow­ing con­trac­tors to try to out­bid each oth­er by low­er­ing work­ers’ wages. Few, how­ev­er, expect­ed the leg­isla­tive clus­ter bomb that is cur­rent­ly being referred to com­mit­tee by a pair of Repub­li­cans: a bill to repeal the week­end.

    Though labor often boasts that it helped cod­i­fy the two-day work break—witness the pop­u­lar pro-labor bumper stick­er, “Unions: the folks that brought you the weekend”—a day of rest is pro­tect­ed by law in only a frac­tion of the states. Accord­ing to the Soci­ety for Human Resource Man­age­ment, thir­teen states have laws man­dat­ing a day of rest for some or all work­ers. In states that man­date a day of rest only for cer­tain cat­e­gories of work­ers, those work­ers are often in jobs where fatigue could lead to increased acci­dents or deaths.

    Now that might be about to come to an end in Wis­con­sin.

    Cur­rent­ly, the law in Wis­con­sin requires that work­ers employed in a “fac­to­ry or mer­can­tile estab­lish­ment” must receive “at least 24 con­sec­u­tive hours of rest in every 7 con­sec­u­tive days.” If an employ­er would like a work­er to work sev­en days in a row for a lim­it­ed peri­od of time, then the two can joint­ly peti­tion the Depart­ment of Work­force Devel­op­ment for a waiv­er. Accord­ing to the office of Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Born, who is intro­duc­ing this bill in the State Assem­bly, there were 169 waivers request­ed in 2013 and 232 in 2014, and all of them were grant­ed. Under the cur­rent sys­tem, the waiv­er requests must state the neces­si­ty for the waiv­er, and they are grant­ed only for a lim­it­ed peri­od of time.

    The new bill, which is being spon­sored by Repub­li­can Van Wang­gaard in the State Sen­ate along­side Born in the Assem­bly, would add a pro­vi­sion to the “day of rest” law that could effec­tive­ly nul­li­fy it. The bill would cre­ate an exemp­tion that would allow employ­ees to “vol­un­tar­i­ly choose” to slave away for sev­en days in a row with­out at least twen­ty-four hours of rest.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Born’s office played down the mag­ni­tude of the bill, argu­ing that it mere­ly “cod­i­fied into law the waiv­er sys­tem and made it eas­i­er for employ­ers and employ­ees to make work sched­ules.” But this new law cuts the reg­u­la­to­ry body out of the equa­tion, rely­ing instead on the trou­bled notion that employ­ers would allow employ­ees to choose “vol­un­tar­i­ly” to give up any day of rest. As Mar­quette Uni­ver­si­ty law pro­fes­sor Paul Secun­da explained, the idea “com­plete­ly ignores the pow­er dynam­ic in the work­place, where work­ers often have a prover­bial gun to the head.” Indeed, the rea­son Wis­con­sin had passed a “day of rest” law in the first place was because employ­ers had been abus­ing employ­ees by press­ing them to work too many days with­out break. “Now this bill will force many work­ers to strike a bar­gain with the dev­il,” Secun­da said.

    ...

    A sim­i­lar ver­sion of this bill was intro­duced last year at the urg­ing of Wis­con­sin Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Com­merce, the state’s largest busi­ness orga­ni­za­tion. But the leg­is­la­ture was not able to vote on it before the end of the ses­sion. How­ev­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Born’s office was “opti­mistic” of the bill’s chances in this ses­sion.

    Mike Browne, the deputy direc­tor of the pro­gres­sive group One Wis­con­sin Now, explained that the tim­ing of the bill, so soon after the pas­sage of right-to-work, was fit­ting. “After rush­ing to pass a wrong-for-Wis­con­sin right-to-work law that could low­er fam­i­ly wages by over $5,000 a year it makes sense Repub­li­cans would intro­duce a law to repeal the week­end. After all, with low­er wages work­ers will see they’re going to have to work that much more to try to get ahead.”

    Oh well, at least all those endan­gered, exhaust­ed work­ers will no doubt be rack­ing up some “time and a half” over­time pay even more time off that they’ll nev­er actu­al­ly get to use once the GOP guts the over­time rules. Churn and burn for­ev­er! It’s the march of progress.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 19, 2015, 2:04 pm
  35. Oh look, anoth­er right-wing socioe­co­nom­ic mass cat­a­stro­phe in the mak­ing:

    NBC News
    Retire­ment Cri­sis: The Great 401(k) Exper­i­ment Has Failed for Many Amer­i­cans

    By Kel­ley Hol­land

    You need to know this num­ber: $18,433. That’s the medi­an amount in a 401(k) sav­ings account, accord­ing to a recent report by the Employ­ee Ben­e­fit Research Insti­tute. Almost 40 per­cent of employ­ees have less than $10,000, even as the pro­por­tion of com­pa­nies offer­ing alter­na­tives like defined ben­e­fit pen­sions con­tin­ues to drop.

    Old­er work­ers do tend to have more sav­ings. At Van­guard, for exam­ple, the medi­an for savers aged 55 to 64 in 2013 was $76,381. But even at that lev­el, mil­lions of work­ers near­ing retire­ment are on track to leave the work­force with sav­ings that do not even approach what they will need for health care, let alone dai­ly liv­ing. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, retire­ment is now Amer­i­cans’ top finan­cial wor­ry, accord­ing to a recent Gallup poll.

    To be sure, tax-advan­taged 401(k) plans have pro­vid­ed a means for mil­lions of retire­ment savers to build a nest egg. More than three-quar­ters of employ­ers use such defined con­tri­bu­tion plans as the main retire­ment income plan option for employ­ees, and the vast major­i­ty of them offer match­ing con­tri­bu­tion pro­grams, which fur­ther enhance employ­ees’ abil­i­ty to accu­mu­late wealth.

    But shift­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ty for grow­ing retire­ment income from employ­ers to indi­vid­u­als has proved prob­lem­at­ic for many Amer­i­can work­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the face of wage stag­na­tion and a lack of invest­ment exper­tise. For them, the grand 401(k) exper­i­ment has been a fail­ure.

    “In Amer­i­ca, when we had dis­abil­i­ty and defined ben­e­fit plans, you actu­al­ly had an equal­i­ty of retire­ment peri­od. Now the rich can retire and work­ers have to work until they die,” said Tere­sa Ghi­lar­duc­ci, a labor econ­o­mist at the New School for Social Research who has pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing the tax breaks for 401(k)s and using the mon­ey saved to cre­ate gov­ern­ment-run retire­ment plans.

    A his­tor­i­cal acci­dent?

    It was­n’t sup­posed to work out this way.

    The 401(k) account came into being qui­et­ly, as a clause in the Rev­enue Act of 1978. The clause said employ­ees could choose to defer some com­pen­sa­tion until retire­ment, and they would not be taxed until that time. (Com­pa­nies had long offered deferred com­pen­sa­tion arrange­ments, but employ­ers and the IRS had been going back and forth about their tax treat­ment.)

    “401(k)s were nev­er designed as the nation’s pri­ma­ry retire­ment sys­tem,” said Antho­ny Webb, a research econ­o­mist at the Cen­ter for Retire­ment Research. “They came to be that as a his­tor­i­cal acci­dent.”

    His­to­ry has it that a ben­e­fits con­sul­tant named Ted Ben­na real­ized the pro­vi­sion could be used as a retire­ment sav­ings vehi­cle for all employ­ees. In 1981, the IRS clar­i­fied that 401(k) plan par­tic­i­pants could defer reg­u­lar wages, not just bonus­es, and the plans began to pro­lif­er­ate.

    By 1985, there were 30,000 401(k) plans in exis­tence, and 10 years lat­er that fig­ure topped 200,000. As of 2013, there were 638,000 plansin place with 89 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants, accord­ing to the Invest­ment Com­pa­ny Insti­tute. And assets in defined con­tri­bu­tion plans totaled $6.6 tril­lion as of the third quar­ter of 2014, $4.5 tril­lion of which was held in 401(k) plans.

    “Nobody thought they were going to take over the world,” said Daniel Halperin, a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Law School, who was a senior offi­cial at the Trea­sury Depart­ment when 401(k) accounts came into being.

    Rise of defined con­tri­bu­tions

    But a fun­ny thing hap­pened as 401(k) plans began to mul­ti­ply: defined ben­e­fit plans start­ed dis­ap­pear­ing. In 1985, the year there were 30,000 401(k) plans, defined ben­e­fit plans num­bered 170,000, accord­ing to the Invest­ment Com­pa­ny Insti­tute. By 2005, there were just 41,000 defined ben­e­fit plans-and 417,000 401(k) plans.

    The rea­sons for the shift are com­plex, but Ghi­lar­duc­ci argued that in the ear­ly years, “work­ers over­val­ued the promise of a 401(k)” and the prospect of amass­ing invest­ment wealth, so they accept­ed the change. Mean­while, com­pa­nies found that pro­vid­ing a defined con­tri­bu­tion, or DC, plan cost them less. (Ghi­lar­duc­ci stud­ied 700 com­pa­nies’ plans over 17 years and found that when employ­ers allo­cat­ed a larg­er share of their pen­sion expen­di­tures to defined con­tri­bu­tion plans, their over­all spend­ing on pen­sion plans went down.)

    ...

    “I’m not say­ing defined ben­e­fit plans are flaw­less, but they cer­tain­ly did­n’t put as much of the risk and respon­si­bil­i­ty on the indi­vid­ual,” said Ter­rance Odean, a pro­fes­sor of finance at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley’s Haas School of Busi­ness.

    Ear­ly signs of trou­ble

    That con­cept may not have been in the fore­front of employ­ees’ minds at the start, but prob­lems with 401(k)s sur­faced ear­ly.

    For one thing, employ­ee par­tic­i­pa­tion in 401(k) plans nev­er became any­where near uni­ver­sal, despite aggres­sive mar­ket­ing by invest­ment firms and exhor­ta­tions by employ­ers and con­sumer asso­ci­a­tions to save more. A 2011 report by the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office found that “the per­cent­age of work­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in employ­er-spon­sored plans has peaked at about 50 per­cent of the pri­vate sec­tor work­force for most of the past two decades.”

    The employ­ees who did par­tic­i­pate tend­ed to be bet­ter paid, since those peo­ple could defer income more eas­i­ly. The GAO report found that most of the peo­ple con­tribut­ing as much as they were allowed tend­ed to have incomes of $126,000 or more.

    In part, that is because the ascent of 401(k) plans came as col­lege costs start­ed their steep rise, hit­ting many employ­ees in their prime earn­ing years. Stag­nat­ing mid­dle-class wages also made it hard for peo­ple to save.

    Fees have been anoth­er prob­lem. Webb has stud­ied 401(k) fees, and he con­clud­ed that “as a result of high fees, fund bal­ances in defined con­tri­bu­tion plans are about 20 per­cent less than they need oth­er­wise be.”

    The Depart­ment of Labor in 2012 estab­lished new rules requir­ing more dis­clo­sure of fees, but it faced strong indus­try oppo­si­tion, includ­ing a 17-page com­ment from the Invest­ment Com­pa­ny Insti­tute.

    Fail­ure of choice

    Most employ­ees also turned out to be less than ter­rif­ic investors, mak­ing mis­takes like sell­ing low and buy­ing high or shy­ing away from opti­mal asset class­es at the wrong time.

    Berke­ley’s Odean and oth­ers have stud­ied the effect of invest­ment choice on 401(k) savers, and found that when investors choose their asset class allo­ca­tion, a retire­ment income short­fall is more like­ly. If they can also choose their stock invest­ments, the odds of a short­fall rise fur­ther.

    “401(k)‘s changed two things: you could choose not to par­tic­i­pate, and you chose your own invest­ments, which a lot of peo­ple, I think, screw up,” Halperin said.

    ...

    The result of all these short­com­ings? Some 52 per­cent of Amer­i­can house­holds were at risk of being unable to main­tain their stan­dard of liv­ing as of 2013, a fig­ure bare­ly changed from a year earlier—even though a strong bull mar­ket should have pushed sav­ings high­er and the gov­ern­ment gives up bil­lions in tax rev­enue to sub­si­dize the plans.

    In a hear­ing last Sep­tem­ber on retire­ment secu­ri­ty, Sen. Ron Wyden, D‑Ore., declared that “some­thing is out of whack. The Amer­i­can tax­pay­er deliv­ers $140 bil­lion each year to sub­si­dize retire­ment accounts, but still mil­lions of Amer­i­cans near­ing retire­ment have lit­tle or noth­ing saved.”

    Retire­ment wor­ries rise

    As prob­lems mount with 401(k)s, Amer­i­cans’ wor­ries about retire­ment secu­ri­ty are inten­si­fy­ing.

    A 2014 Har­ris poll found that 74 per­cent of Amer­i­cans were wor­ried about hav­ing enough income in retire­ment, and in a sur­vey pub­lished recent­ly by the Nation­al Insti­tute on Retire­ment Secu­ri­ty, 86 per­cent of respon­dents agree that the coun­try is fac­ing a retire­ment cri­sis, with that opin­ion strongest among high earn­ers.

    Changes may come, but for now, 401(k) plans and their ilk remain Amer­i­cans’ pre­dom­i­nant work­place retire­ment sav­ings vehi­cle. They may be a his­tor­i­cal acci­dent, but for the mil­lions of peo­ple now fac­ing a poten­tial­ly impov­er­ished retire­ment, the fall­out is grave indeed.

    As a for­mer Trea­sury offi­cial, Halperin wit­nessed the cre­ation of 401(k) accounts, But, “on bal­ance, I don’t think it was a big plus” that the accounts were cre­at­ed, he said. “I don’t take cred­it for it. I try to avoid the blame.”

    Don’t you love how the 401ks that made Wall Street bil­lions and allowed com­pa­nies to sub­stan­tial­ly reduce their long-term pen­sion costs just sort of “acci­den­tal­ly” became the norm while pen­sions were phased out. LOL!

    Still, it’s going to be incred­i­bly inter­est­ing to see how the loom­ing non-retire­ment cat­a­stro­phe impacts the US soci­ety because if there’s one thing that spells doom for an entire soci­ety is it’s see­ing your par­ents and grand­par­ents lose all their sav­ing and end up work­ing in pover­ty until the day they drop dead on the job.

    And don’t for­get that this also means a lot of par­ents are going to be mov­ing back in with their kids just to sur­vive. How’s that going to work out?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 24, 2015, 2:59 pm
  36. You know how we’re always told that we should just rely on char­i­ty to help the needy. Well, if true, we’re going to need a lot more boy bands:

    Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor
    Boyz II Men singer rais­es thou­sands for home­less Sen­ate work­er: Is it enough?

    The cam­paign has already raised more than $7,000 for Charles Glad­den. But instead of celebri­ty atten­tion, experts say pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to put their heads togeth­er to find long-term solu­tions to pover­ty.

    By Cristi­na Maza, Staff writer April 27, 2015

    The heart­break­ing sto­ry of Charles Glad­den, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., res­i­dent who works as a cus­to­di­an in the the Dirk­sen Sen­ate Office by day and sleeps on the city streets at night, brought nation­al atten­tion to the plight of low-income work­ers.

    Mr. Glad­den makes $11 an hour sweep­ing floors and clean­ing bath­rooms in the Sen­ate build­ing in the nation’s Capi­tol. He says he spends much of his wages help­ing his daugh­ters and grand­chil­dren, who also strug­gle eco­nom­i­cal­ly. His efforts to help his fam­i­ly, com­pound­ed by chron­ic health prob­lems, have left Glad­den unable to afford hous­ing.

    After news broke about Glad­den’s lack of shel­ter last week, a celebri­ty turned to social media to find a solu­tion to his prob­lems. On Sat­ur­day, Nathan Mor­ris, co-founder of the musi­cal group Boyz II Men, launched an online crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to find Glad­den a place to live. The campaign’s goal is $20,000, toward which the singer will donate $10,000.

    Sim­i­lar cam­paigns have helped oth­er indi­vid­u­als in need and the gen­eros­i­ty of those involved is laud­able, experts say. But ques­tions remain over how sus­tain­able such a solu­tion is, and whether assist­ing one man will help address the country’s prob­lem of home­less­ness and pover­ty. Instead of celebri­ty atten­tion, pol­i­cy mak­ers need to put their heads togeth­er to find long-term solu­tions to pover­ty, experts say.

    The cam­paign “might be help­ful for Mr. Glad­den, and God help any­one who wants to help those in need, but obvi­ous­ly the prob­lem of home­less­ness is a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar prob­lem,” says Ken Stern, author of the book “With Char­i­ties For All.” “This man is work­ing in the Sen­ate, and the Sen­ate has the pow­er to help mil­lions of peo­ple. Those are the sus­tain­able solu­tions that we need. There are thou­sands of peo­ple out there who need this type of help.”

    Glad­den first spoke with the Wash­ing­ton Post about his hous­ing sit­u­a­tion after choos­ing to join oth­er Sen­ate staff mem­bers on a one-day strike to protest low-wages and dif­fi­cult work­ing con­di­tions. The pro­test­ers, part of the nation­al Fight for $15 move­ment, are request­ing that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma sup­port the demands for a liv­ing wage for all work­ers.

    ...

    By mid­day Mon­day, the cam­paign had raised more than $7,300 from more than 130 peo­ple through the crowd-fund­ing site.

    In Feb­ru­ary, a sim­i­lar crowd-fund­ing cam­paign also raised more than $300,000 for a Detroit man who walked 21 miles to work every­day. The cam­paign, which orig­i­nal­ly aimed to raise enough mon­ey for the man to pur­chase a car, far exceed­ed its orig­i­nal fund­ing goal.

    But Mr. Stern points out that celebri­ty atten­tion to an issue and suc­cess­ful crowd-fund­ing cam­paigns do not always bring long-term results.

    “This hap­pens with some fre­quen­cy, when a celebri­ty takes on an issue. Celebri­ties have a huge mega­phone in soci­ety. But these prob­lems beg for long-term solu­tions and com­mit­ment, and celebri­ty cam­paigns can often be tran­si­to­ry,” he says.

    “Is a one-off crowd fund­ing cam­paign a solu­tion when you have large scale prob­lems?”

    Well it’s cer­tain­ly good to hear that not only is this poor guy get­ting some help from a celebri­ty per­for­mance but that every­one involved with this effort rec­og­nizes that celebri­ty fund rais­ers aren’t going to be enough to bring about any mean­ing­ful help for the mil­lions of peo­ple in Mr. Glad­den’s posi­tion. Whether or not the Sen­ate can be shamed into giv­ing this guy and oth­er poor­ly paid work­ers a rea­son­able raise remains to be seen, but as far as expo­sure for the endem­ic planned pover­ty in the US econ­o­my (which is exact­ly what poor wages are...systemically planned pover­ty) it would be hard to do bet­ter than a home­less employ­ee work­ing for the US Sen­ate.

    But part of what makes his sto­ry so rel­e­vant for the larg­er US econ­o­my is the fact that his home­less­ness is caused, in part, by his deci­sion to sup­port his daugh­ters and grand­chil­dren who are also suf­fer­ing eco­nom­i­cal­ly. This is inevitably going prompt the clue­less­ly heart­less to respond, “See, he did­n’t have to be home­less. He chose it by help­ing his daugh­ters and grand­chil­dren.” Seri­ous­ly, just read the com­ments to the orig­i­nal Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle and that’s one of the dom­i­nant sen­ti­ments. And since mass pover­ty for the elder­ly is one of the mega-cat­a­stro­phes the US has basi­cal­ly guar­an­teed for itself in the com­ing decades, it’s going to be more and more impor­tant for the sto­ries about how inter­gen­er­a­tional assis­tance with­in fam­i­lies is poised to col­lapsed as the planned mass pover­ty of the US econ­o­my takes hold.

    The tran­si­tion away from pen­sions in favor of 401ks along with the cumu­la­tive impact of decades long right-wing assault on any­thing that assists the poor and mid­dle class basi­cal­ly ensures much high­er rates of pover­ty amongst the elder­ly going for­ward, but we have yet to see the full impact of that trend because so many of the exist­ing retirees entered the work­force before ben­e­fits like pen­sions were phased out and the gen­er­al struc­ture of the work­force was­n’t so pun­ish­ing to those with­out a col­lege degree. But that post-pen­sion dooms­day is com­ing. You can only have so many decades of sto­ries about “Amer­i­ca’s retire­ment cri­sis” before it becomes “Amer­i­ca’s elder­ly pover­ty cri­sis” which, in turn, becomes “Amer­i­ca’s fam­i­lies strug­gle to care for elder­ly out of work rel­a­tives with no where to go cri­sis”.

    Now com­bine all that with decades of stag­nant wages and a gen­er­a­tion of Mil­lenials that with lim­it­ed job prospect and mas­sive stu­dent loans and you have the stage set where par­ents can’t afford to help their kids and the kids can’t afford to help their par­ents. And at that point, the unof­fi­cial safe­ty net of fam­i­lies help­ing each oth­er break­downs too. That’s just what hap­pens when a soci­ety goes through the kind of sys­tem­at­ic dis­man­tling of so many of the poli­cies and norms that helped cre­ate the mid­dle class in the first place. That’s basi­cal­ly guar­an­teed at this point.

    Ok, maybe mass trans­gen­er­a­tional pover­ty isn’t actu­al­ly guar­an­teed for the US since there are plen­ty of rel­a­tive­ly easy and pain free pol­i­cy fix­es that could erad­i­cate pover­ty AND stim­u­late the econ­o­my, if only Con­gress would con­sid­er them. And who knows, maybe some of those easy and effec­tive solu­tions will become part of the nation­al con­ver­sa­tion some­day. It’s pos­si­ble.

    But that would also require a rather dra­mat­ic cul­tur­al change in Amer­i­ca away from the cur­rent wide­ly held assump­tions that pover­ty is just some­thing that’s too big to erad­i­cate and if you’re poor it’s some­how your fault. Good luck with that!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2015, 2:46 pm

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