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- The Boat Race by ek hornbeck
- Election 2012: Let the Games Begin by TheMomCat
- Hi, I’m a Lefty by Rubberarmedlefty
This is an Open Thread
Apr 11 2012
Apr 11 2012
After Media Challenge Closure of Guantanamo Hearing, Government Proposes Remedy
By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
Wednesday April 11, 2012 3:16 pm
A “war court judge” allowed a First Amendment attorney to represent a “consortium” of media organizations and argue against closing a hearing expected to feature testimony from an accused USS Cole bomber on how he was treated during CIA interrogations. The testimony, according to the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, was to be given as part of an argument by the defense that he should not be shackled to the floor during interviews because it would remind him of how he was inhumanely treated or tortured by CIA interrogators.
The judge then asked Schulz to leave the courtroom and proposed a “non-shackling” option that made testimony from Al-Nashiri unnecessary. The defense could be locked in a room with Al-Nashiri unshackled. Since the testimony was to be given to prevent shackling that could cause “retraumatization,” this essentially solved the problem.
Faced with objections from the media, the government was put in a position where they had to comply with the defense’s effort to win the right to interview or speak to Al-Nashiri without detention center guards shackling him to the floor. Granting Al-Nashiri this privilege was better than risking the possibility of more attention being brought to how the CIA had tortured Al-Nashiri.
The agreed remedy is also politically convenient because, for now, the Obama Administration can claim they are upholding increased transparency in the Guantanamo military commissions by keeping the hearings open to the press.
Apr 11 2012
Growth of Income Inequality Is Worse Under Obama than Bush
Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Yesterday, the President gave a speech in which he demanded that Congress raise taxes on millionaires, as a way to somewhat recalibrate the nation’s wealth distribution. … A common question in DC is whether this populist pose will help him win the election.
A better puzzle to wrestle with is why President Obama is able to continue to speak as if his administration has not presided over a significant expansion of income redistribution upward. The data on inequality shows that his policies are not incrementally better than those of his predecessor, or that we’re making progress too slowly, as liberal Democrats like to argue. It doesn’t even show that the outcome is the same as Bush’s. No, look at this…
Yup, under Bush, the 1% captured a disproportionate share of the income gains from the Bush boom of 2002-2007. They got 65 cents of every dollar created in that boom, up 20 cents from when Clinton was President. Under Obama, the 1% got 93 cents of every dollar created in that boom. That’s not only more than under Bush, up 28 cents. In the transition from Bush to Obama, inequality got worse, faster, than under the transition from Clinton to Bush. Obama accelerated the growth of inequality.
Despite his recent speech, President Obama knows that his income tax proposal is going nowhere. So let’s look at three recent policy choices that are going somewhere.
- President Obama is on the verge of approving a Free Trade deal with Colombia, despite the murder of union organizers in that country. Not content with establishing similar deals with Panama (which has to do with enlarging tax havens) and South Korea, the administration is now embarking on a much vaster Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with countries all over Asia. And it’s being negotiated entirely in secret, with corporate and government officials the only ones allow to be in the room. Trade is a significant driver of lower wages.
- President Obama just pushed for and signed the JOBS Act, which is a substantial relaxation of regulations and accounting requirements on corporations seeking to go public. Bill Black has many four letter words to describe this bill, but it’s basically a license for Wall Street to commit fraud in the equity markets. The SEC is beginning to promulgate instructions on how this will work.
- President Obama just refused to issue an executive order forcing campaign spending disclosure by government contractors. President Obama actually criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United at a State of the Union address, but as with yesterday’s speech on raising taxes on millionaires, there was actually no there there.
Mitt Romney might be easy to jeer at for his wealth and arrogance, but Saez’s data suggests that Barack Obama is just as much the candidate of inequality.
Apr 11 2012
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
April 11 is the 101st day of the year (102nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 264 days remaining until the end of the year.
There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812-13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.
Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide; Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.
When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favour of his son; however, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.
The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.
Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.
-Act of abdication of Napoleon
In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.
Apr 11 2012
Paul Krugman summed it up best:
Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker are both mad, understandably, at Robert Samuelson, who pulls out, for the 7 millionth time, the old Social Security bait and switch. Here’s how it works: to make the quite mild financial shortfall of Social Security seem apocalyptic, the writer starts out by talking about Social Security, then starts using numbers that combine SS with the health care programs – programs that are very different in conception, financing, and solutions.
And then the writer ends by demanding that we cut Social Security, as opposed to addressing health care costs. [..]
Let us reason together*: the dire fate we’re supposed to fear is that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled; and in order to avert that fate we must, um, guarantee through immediate action that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled. Yay! Wait, what?
Dean Baker slices and dices the factless Mr. Samuelson who apparently hates anything that helps keep people out of poverty which both Social Security and Medicare have done. Mr. Baker gives us the straight facts:
Mr. Samuelson’s first point was to tell the readers that Social Security is “welfare” and that payroll taxes are not segregated into a special fund. And as usual he is complexly wrong, from Mr. Baker:
Payroll taxes have been segregated. That is the point of the Social Security trust fund and the Social Security trustees report. These institutions would make no sense if the funds were not segregated.
Samuelson is welcome to not like the way in which the funds were segregated, in the same way that I don’t like the Yankees, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees have a very good baseball team. Since its beginnings, the government has maintained a separate Social Security account. Under the law, no money can be paid out in Social Security benefits unless the Trust Fund has the money to pay for them.
Another falsehood from Mr. Samuelson that was highlighted by Mr. Baker was this gem:
In 1960, there were five workers per recipient; today, there are three, and by 2025 the ratio will approach two. Roosevelt’s fear has materialized. Paying all benefits requires higher taxes, cuts in other programs or large deficits.
But as Mr. Baker says:
On average we were much richer in the 90s than in the sixties, in spite of the fall in the ratio of workers to retirees. The same will be true in 2030, even assuming that we see the projected decline in the ratio of workers to retirees.
A small fact that Samuelson never mentions in this piece is that the Congressional Budget Office projects the program to be fully funded through 2038, with no changes whatsoever (i.e. no new taxes, contra Samuelson). If we want to make the program fully solvent for the rest of the century, a tax increase that is equal to 5 percent of projected wage growth over the next three decades should be roughly sufficient to do the trick. Are you scared yet?
Finally Mr. Samuels ends with this nonsense:
Although new recipients have paid payroll taxes higher and longer than their predecessors, their benefits still exceed taxes paid even assuming (again, fictitiously) that they had been invested. A two-earner couple with average wages retiring in 2010 would receive lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits worth $906,000 compared with taxes of $704,000, estimate Steuerle and Rennane.
Sounds serious, but it isn’t. From Mr. Baker:
Remember we were talking about Social Security? Note that Samuelson refers to “lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits.” It wasn’t an accident that he brought Medicare into this discussion. That is because Steuerle and Rennane’s calculations show that this average earning couple would get back less in Social Security benefits than what they paid in taxes. That would not fit well with Samuelson’s story, so he brings in Medicare (remember this is the Washington Post).
Mr. Baker points out that the reason Medicare costs are so high “is due to the fact that we pay our doctors, our drug companies, and our medical equipment suppliers way more than do people in any other country, and we have no better outcomes.”
And Jared Bernstein further debunks Mr. Samuel’s falsehoods with facts from the CBPP (pdf):
– The trustees estimate that the combined Social Security trust funds will be exhausted in 2036 -a year earlier than they forecast in last year’s report.
– After 2036, Social Security could pay three-fourths of scheduled benefits using its annual tax income [Samuelson implies all benefits expire in three years!]. Those who fear that Social Security won’t be around when today’s young workers retire misunderstand the trustees’ projections.
– The program’s shortfall is relatively modest, amounting to 0.8 percent of GDP over the next 75 years (and 1.45 percent of GDP in 2085). A mix of tax increases and benefit modifications – carefully crafted to shield recipients of limited means and to give ample notice to all participants – could put the program on a sound footing indefinitely.
– The 75-year Social Security shortfall is only slightly larger than the cost, over that period, of extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans (those with incomes above $250,000 a year).
And Mr. Baker has noted that the projected shortfall for the Medicare program “over the program’s 75-year planning horizon is less than 0.4 percent of GDP. This is less than one quarter of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Strange country this USA that elects politicians who want to fund wars and cut taxes for the wealthy but not provide health care or the pension (Social Security) that has been fully funded by the recipients. Very strange