Tag: National debt

On Hole Cards, Or, “Drill, Baby, Drill”? Why? Is Canada Out Of Sand?

In America, today, there are three kinds of drivers: those who look at the other gas pumps down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much that guy’s spending on gas”, those who look at their own pump down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much I’m spending on gas” – and those who are doing both at the same time.

Naturally, this has brought the Sarah Palins of the world back out in public, and once again the mantra of “Drill, Baby, Drill” can be heard all the way from the Florida coast to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But what if those folks have it exactly backwards?

What if, in a world of depleting oil resources, the last thing you want to do is use yours up?

To put it another way: why isn’t all our oil part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Rand Paul: Smarter Than You Think..

I’ve always liked Mavericks.

No, http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=cialis-buy-online-uk not the kind of phony, self-appointed, faux “mavericks” like:   John McCain, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, etc, who are really nothing more than pro-War, pro-Corporatist, pro-Bankster, pro-NAFTA….. viagra generico 100 mg spedizione veloce a Genova status-quo shills in disguise.

But the original thinkers, the creative minds….be it:   Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, etc. Those rare voices that aren’t afraid to tear down the Sacred Cows of U.S. Corruption and speak truth to power.  My how they stick out a mile away when they get the rare chance to debate on TV.  The truth is sometimes, well … shocking.

Well along comes freshman Senator Rand Paul, and he has already broken all the rules and published this thoughtful, and very go to link substantive policy proposal in the Wall Street Journal.  Key Excerpts:

http://whenwaterwaseverywhere.com/?x=buy-no-rx-viagra A Modest $500 Billion Proposal

By Rand Paul

here My spending cuts would keep 85% of government funding and not touch Social Security or Medicare.

The first thing to note here is the seriousness of the proposal.  This is:

Not a $35 Billion dollar cut…Not a $50 Billion dollar cut…Not a $75 Billion dollar cut … but a $500 Billion dollar cut.  

The second and most remarkable point here is that Rand Paul has the compassion, unlike Barack Obama and his catfood for Seniors Alan Simpson run “Deficit Commission”, to leave untouched Social Security and Medicare — while focusing on the big ticket Sacred Cows that all Republicans and most all Democrats dare not speak ill of.

A $500 Billion dollar cut with Social Security and Medicare untouched!  

I’m listening…

This alone puts Barack Obama’s own “deficit cutting” efforts as both 1) pathetic in significance, and 2) on the wrong moral side of the equation by comparision.

So where does Rand Paul want to cut?  

Let us continue…..Rand?

One of Commerce Department’s main functions is delivering corporate welfare to American firms that can compete without it. My proposal would scale back the Commerce Department’s spending by 54%, and eliminate corporate welfare.

My proposal would also cut wasteful spending in the Defense Department. Since 2001, our annual defense budget has increased nearly 120%. Even subtracting the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending is up 67%. These levels of spending are unjustifiable and unsustainable.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates understands this and has called for spending cuts, saying “We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred or well-spent, and more of everything is simply not sustainable.”

Sadly, the “Democrat” in power, Barack Obama, would never agree to cutting these Sacred Cows of government waste enumerated by Rand Paul to this degree, and instead place the focus on putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. So who’s really on the side of the American public here?

For millions of Americans, every day gets a little harder

“For millions of older Americans, every day gets a little harder.

Even though the costs of medication, transportation, and utilities are rising, we have already denied seniors a modest Cost of Living Adjustment to their Social Security payments for two years.

The war in Afghanistan costs the taxpayers $190 million PER DAY.

We will continue to spend $1.3 billion every week on war in Afghanistan for the indefinite future while we force our seniors to make tough choices between their medications and their food; their rent and their heat; their phone and gas for their car.”

[…]

Behold the Grand Misdirection — Lockbox vs the Loan-Sharks

The Austerity Rhetoric is ramping up.

The National Debt is the Issue of the Day.

How in the world are we going to pay for it — especially for all those Baby-Boomers with the audacity to dare to Retire, after working all our lives;

After paying all our lives into the Social Security Trust Fund, as our Govt required us to do.

HOW Dare We — actually expect the Govt to Pay the Benefits that we were promised?  Oh the Nerve!

Here’s the sleight of hand Hoodwink that the GOP Loan-Sharks are preparing to pull off — pay attention, because it’s a classic trick of misdirection — and it goes by fast:

It is the Federal Government that has the acquistare viagra online generico 25 mg a Verona Legal Obligation

to payback the Social Security Trust Fund

NOT the other way around !

It is the Federal Govt that raided OUR Retirement “Cookie Jar” —

and it is the Federal Govt that needs to replace them.

What’s left of OUR “Cookies” should be buy online genuine merck propecia permanently off the Table.

In other words, All cuts to SS Benefits should be OFF the Table.

Disabled Vet: Contractors Should Be for Cafeteria Services That’s It

We had a great time last night in a Q+A with John Waltz, a disabled veteran and Progressive who’s running for Congress in Kentucky’s 4th district. This answer cracked me up and at the same time made me yell out.. RIGHT ON!

Spandan Chakrabarti John, another question about the military, specifically defense contractors. I understand some are needed, but how do you view the Bush era explosion in defense contracting and contractors who operate outside the UCMJ, and is there a way to rein them in?

John Waltz  When you privatize military functions, you’re creating an incentive, specifically a profit, to go to war and stay in war. Use of military contractors should be kept to an absolute minimum. Maybe cafeteria services and that’s about it.

The full Q+A is below the fold

Crossposted to the Daily Kos and Progressive Electorate

1950-1980 — Was This Our Golden Era?

Great Depression Soup Line Pictures, Images and Photos

Is good news one of those quaint relics, exclusively relegated to our past, fovever doomed to never again be a part of our present or future?  

We have been warned

  The underlying assumption that the current world monetary system is built upon is that America will always over-consume and the world will always accept our debt at face value. It’s a warped and unhealthy relationship, but its worked (sort of) for several decades. That’s why it was notable when a Chinese central banker spoke up last week.

 “The United States cannot force foreign governments to increase their holdings of Treasuries,” Zhu said, according to an audio recording of his remarks. “Double the holdings? It is definitely impossible.”

Impossible? That’s absurd. For decades foreigners have been more than willing to exchange their excess dollars from trade surpluses for our debt in order to keep their currencies at artificially low levels.

  It turns out that the problem isn’t foreigner’s willingness to lend to us.

“The US current account deficit is falling as residents’ savings increase, so its trade turnover is falling, which means the US is supplying fewer dollars to the rest of the world,” he added. “The world does not have so much money to buy more US Treasuries.”

 The problem is that the American middle class is broke and unable to continue to over-consume.

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SNL Satire Rises To “Daily Show” Level And Beyond

Saturday Night Live did an interesting satire sketch last week, that raises the bar of its political humor to “The Daily Show” level and beyond.

Underneath this sophisticated satire, is the inconvenient truth that the once great United States is now on its knees at the mercy of begging for loans from Communist China, that it can never repay, in order prevent itself from having to formally declare Bankruptcy.  And even as it does this (driving itself even further in debt in the process), all this never ending sea of Trillions of dollars in debt, which has exploded beyond anything before ever imaginable due to 10 years of multiple illegal, endless Wars & Foreign Occupations, has only resulted in a situation where the U.S. Dollar has steadily become virtually worthless.

Financial Reform Should Be Adaptive, Not Punitive

Flying under the radar to a large extent is Congress’ attempt to reform and regulate our country’s financial system.  The yeas and nays are quite predictably divided along party lines and several powerful entities who stand to lose from reform have, of course, loudly registered their complaints.  Thus far, the going has been slow, in part due to internal Democratic party squabbling and a failure to find consensus among high ranking committee members of different parties.  Despite this, it is far more likely that something soundly sweeping and resolute will arrive from fiduciary legislation than the hyper-politicized, emotionally overwrought, and contentious Health Care bill now currently dwelling in a state of hopeful limbo.  This is in part due to the fact that the struggle to reform monetary policy doesn’t hold nearly the same degree of attention in the eyes of the public.  Yet, as would be expected, allegations have surfaced claiming that certain crucial legislators actively involved in the process have deep pockets and a willingness to court conflict of interest-bearing accounts.          

We often refer to corruption as though it is some relatively recent development unique to our times.  This is part of our compulsion to assume that we live in the worst of all possible worlds and that the past promised a purity never to be regained in the modern age.  Not so, not so.  Looking behind us a few decades, if not a few centuries, will reveal a wealth of similarities between these days and others.  Though the scope of lobbyist influence and dubiously ethical campaign contributions are the latest bone of contention and face of evil, the basic concept has never changed.  In particular, the story of the Second Bank of the United States and its dissolution can prove to be instructive.  Established following the War of 1812 to shore up the value of the dollar, curb inflation, and to manage the nation’s massive debt incurred after the conclusion of a conflict with no clear winner or loser, the Bank of the United States achieved its stated purpose, but like so many financial fixes it also provided short term success and long term woe.  

After the war, despite the debt, the United States also experienced an economic boom, due to the devastation of the Napoleonic Wars. In particular, because of the damage to Europe’s agricultural sector, the U.S. agricultural sector underwent an expansion. price viagra The Bank aided this boom through its lending, which encouraged speculation in land. This lending allowed almost anyone to borrow money and speculate in land, sometimes doubling or even tripling the prices of land. The land sales for 1819, alone, totaled some 55 million acres (220,000 kmĀ²). With such a boom, hardly anyone noticed the widespread fraud occurring at the Bank as well as the economic bubble that had been created.[3]

Source:  Wikipedia.

It should be noted that the Bank of the United States was not a national bank owned and managed by the United States of America.  It is fortunate that the term “socialism” was not coined until a few years later, else its opponents lob that charge in its direction.  It was, instead, a privately held banking corporation that happened to be the repository of the entirety of federal tax revenues.  As one might concede, the massive amount of control, influence, and capital it had over the federal government as a result sent Jacksonian Democrats into a tirade.  However, the bank’s National Republican supporters stood firm.  That genius public speaker, living legend, and intransigent Jackson opponent Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts was on retainer as the bank’s legal counsel and was also Director of its Boston branch probably made absolutely no impact upon the proceedings, nor did the fact likely influence his allegiance.  That several other Congressional leaders periodically received large loans from the bank in exchange for their votes, since extending the bank’s charter required periodic congressional resolution was also an inconsequential, trifling matter.    

Eventual Chief Justice and Dred Scott decision maker Roger Taney served as Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury under Andrew Jackson before winning confirmation.  His own recollections of the workings of the Bank are as pertinent and revealing now as they were then.  In particular, Taney noted how a congressman sworn to oppose the institution one day cast a rather surprising vote in its favor the next.  As it turned out, the Bank granted him a loan of $20,000 on generous terms, no small sum for the 1830’s.  Instead of coming down harshly on the congressman, Taney takes a more philosophical stance, attempting to understand the power of rationalization and the inner workings of the mind rather than overt moralizing.    

Now I do not mean to say that he was directly bribed to give his vote.  From the character he sustained and from what I know of him I think he would have resented anything that he regarded as an attempt to corrupt him.  But he wanted the money, and felt grateful for the favor, and perhaps thought that an institution which was so useful to him, and had behaved with such kindness, could not be injurious or dangerous to the public, and that it would be as well to continue it.  Men when under the influence of interest or passion often delude themselves thoughtlessly, and do not always acknowledge even to themselves the motives upon which they really act…It was one of the dangerous arising from the mammoth money power, that its very duties as collecting and disbursing agent brought it constantly in contact with members of Congress and other public functionaries and made it acquainted with their wants and enabled it to place them under obligations and create a feeling of dependence and even gratitude without the direct and offensive offer of a bribe.  

 

-Source:  Dorman B. Eaton

The North American Review, Vol. 135, No. 310 (Sep., 1882), pp. 197-219

To backtrack a few decades, one needs to understand the mistakes of the First Bank of the United States and how its failure influenced the construction and formulation of the Second.  Then, as now, economists were split as to the ways to revive the economy and shore up the system to prevent future failures.  Recessions, as evidenced by our current one, have a multitude of causes and a combination of events in tandem are what dictate severity.  Predictably, economists are often split along ideological faults since political allegiance dictates where one assigns blame.  It is another instance of wishful thinking on our part to assume that some school of thought or occupation deeply rooted in politics and indebted to allegiance might either rise above or be utterly unaffected by partisanship.  What few can argue, however, are the facts.      

In the summer of 1818, the national bank managers realized the bank’s massive over-extension, and instituted a policy of contraction and the calling in of loans. This recalling of loans simultaneously curtailed land sales and slowed the U.S. production boom due to the recovery of Europe. The result was the Panic of 1819…[4]

-Source:  Wikipedia

Most economists agree that this was the first instance where a market based economy in this country began its inevitable cycle of boom and bust.  What transpired as a result of this Panic were that many people lost substantial sums of money, unemployment soared, and it took years for the country to dig its way out.  Returning to the present day, each time a recession or severe economic downturn hits, there is always a renewed push among some to favor specie (gold or precious metals) over paper currency.  Recently, Ron Paul and many Libertarians proposed a return to the Gold Standard and to a solid backing of debt rather than the speculative system now in place.  This same distrust of monetary policy led President Jackson and his followers to be initially suspicious of the Second Bank and when instance after instance of corruption and quid pro quo came to light, he vowed to kill it, and through force of will and stubbornness, he inevitably did.  

A sweeping example of uncompromising executive power, Jackson’s act also ushered in the pervasive and persistent notion of populism, whereby the desires of the monied elite were pitted against those of the exploited masses.  The President’s supporters initially cheered the decision to dissolve the Bank as a victory for the average citizen.  His opponents grumbled amongst themselves and made the first efforts to form their own party, one which would be known as the Whigs.  However, it needs noting that the only thing truly unifying them together was hatred of a common enemy in the form of Jackson.  The never-healed, nor resolved deep fissures within the Whigs proved to be their undoing, and the party had relatively modest success on a national stage, eventually dissolving and being absorbed into the new Republican party around the time of the Civil War.      

An unforeseen consequence of the demise of the Bank was a destabilization of the entire financial system which contributed to another Panic, this one beginning in 1837.  Some scholars assert that had the Bank been allowed to stay in existence, what became a five year recession would not have occurred in the first place.  Others believe that the decision had a minimal impact and that other trends and causes were to blame.  Still, the lesson to be learned from this is that, despite the undeniable scope of unethical conduct perpetrated by politicians, making a change too sweeping without a firm sense and understanding of how to skillfully and lastingly rebuild a house of cards on sounder ground is bound to have negative consequences.  Financial systems in our modern economy are beholden to trends, currents, cross-currents, and influences that are both complex and completely in flux at all times.  We have seen recently the destruction of unilateral decisions made impulsively and how their detrimental impact lasts well beyond the tenure of person who put them into place.    

Establishing sufficient regulation and sufficient safeguards have serious limitations because of the way the system is structured.  The value of almost every commodity is up for debate and one need only consult the exchange rate between foreign currencies to observe that.  At this moment, the value of the U.S. dollar is changing value slightly, but nonetheless notably from second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour.  Provided our markets and other world markets happen to be actively trading, this is to be expected.  No amount of well-meaning legislation will prevent another recession, unless it proposes a credible way to address human fallibility.  However, this does not excuse complicity with the very entities reformers and regulators seek to hold accountable for their actions, either.  What this does mean is that financial reform needs to start with an educated guess that will undeniably have to be revised over time.  Greed finds a way to reassert itself, but so do the flaws in a supremely complicated system beholden to influencing events no one can predict ahead of time.  Some will guess correctly and some will guess incorrectly, but the best strategy is to be adaptive rather than punitive.

The New American System is Much Like the Old

One-hundred and eighty-one years ago, this nation was engaged in similar debate over similar issues.  A recently elected Democratic president by the name of Andrew Jackson had won the office by vowing to uphold the rights of the people, not the small circle of well-connected and powerful brokers that had run Capitol Hill for close to a quarter of a century.  Had there been highways then, or, for that matter, cars, one might have dubbed these new money, self-proclaimed, unapologetic aristocrats the Beltway elites.  Jackson’s election was nothing less than an abomination to these sorts, since they placed no faith, nor any trust in what they considered to be the under-educated, ill-informed grumblings of the partisan rabble.  Government of the people, by the elites was their governing philosophy, and it had gone unchallenged since the beginning of the Republic.    

Though Old Hickory sought to carry the banner of the common person, this didn’t necessarily mean he supported progressive reform in all of its incarnations.  

…Jackson fretted about what were drily known as internal improvements–projected roads and canals that were to be funded by the federal government.  The issue was at the heart of a philosophical argument.  Was Washington’s role to be a limited one, leaving such matters to the states except in truly national cases, or was the federal government to be a catalyst in what was know as “the American System,” in which tariffs and the sales of public land funded federally sponsored internal improvements?  As President, Jackson favored the former, John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay the latter.  Related, in Jackson’s mind, was the issue of the national debt (the money owed by the federal government).   http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=levitra-senza-ricetta-italia-garanzia To him, debt was dangerous, for debt put money in the hands of creditors–and if money was in the hands of creditors, it could not be in the hands of the people, where Jackson believed it belonged. (Bold mine)

American Lion:  Andrew Jackson in the White House by John Meachum

A true son of the South, Jackson was understandably squeamish to impose too much federal authority upon state government, even if it promised desperately needed infrastructure to industrialize and modernize a country which was still largely agrarian and rural.  However, his reluctance to take on debt for any purpose, no matter how worthy, is not the same sort cited by Republican politicians of our day.  Perhaps the question we ought to ask ourselves in age is “Who holds our debt and do they have our own best interest at heart?”  Jackson did not live in an age where globalization had complicated and expanded monetary policy to the degree that foreign investors were heavily involved in the process;  he did, however, hold an oversimplified point of view that saw money as belonging either to the moneychangers or the people with no overlap in between.  Today’s GOP eagerly sounds the warning regarding our spiraling national debt but certainly has no credible plan, nor plausible solution that would place it firmly in the hands of their primary constituents.  If such a thing were proposed by a Democrat, Republicans would surely claim that doing so would “spread the wealth around” in a radical redistribution scheme that, once enacted would destroy the country’s economic structure.    

Meanwhile, we have now commenced with hand-wringing in response to a less active electorate this time around.  The below passage disproves the idea that fickle and transitory voter participation is unique purely to our day.  

A Scottish visitor to Albany in the late 1820s noted an American love of what he called “the spirit of electioneering, which seems to enter as an essential ingredient into the composition of everything.”  But it was a highly personal kind of electioneering:   http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=pfizer-viagra-50mg “The Americans, as it appears to me, are infinitely more occupied about bringing in a given candidate, than they are about the advancement of those measures of which he is conceived to be the supporter.” (Bold mine.)  

Ibid.  

We love the chase but then quickly lose interest with the implementation stage.  Media saturation, short attention spans, rock star politics, and all the other theories currently proposed that aim to explain why voter participation and interest is down from its height of this time last year might be simply explained as Americans acting like Americans.  To be sure, activists never lose their focus or their drive, but most of us are not activists.  Jackson was one of the first politicians to whittle down complex issues for the easy digestion of the average citizen.  Had there been television in his day, one might have called them sound bytes.  This, of course, oversimplified often contentious and complicated policy decisions, but Jackson’s belief was that the American worker had no time to devote from his busy day for in-depth political study and contemplation.  This assertion is one that frequently frustrates activists of our times—who demand larger participation but recognize too that the time and energy commitment needed to push reform is often more than many people are willing or able to devote.        

Regarding Presidential strategy, Jackson was cautious not to box himself in, even though this left him open to charges of playing politics when candor and taking a firm stand might seem to be a better strategy.  An immensely popular President upon taking office, he had a knack for strategic positioning and a marked refusal to provide his enemies an easy target, likely due in part to his years as a military man.  It was also a response to the well-known fact that the General had more than a few enemies in high places who coveted his office for themselves and would use any means necessary to achieve it.  

[Jackson’s] first inaugural…was purposely vague.  Gazing out on the admirers gathered at the foot of the Capitol steps, Jackson saw that he was the object of wide affection—but he was not yet certain of the depth of that affection.  The people hailed him today but might not tomorrow.  Better, then, to proceed with care, to be general rather than specific, universal rather than particular—for specificity and particularity would give his foes weapons to use against him.  Many leaders would have been seduced by the roar of that crowd, lulled into thinking themselves infallible, or omnipotent, or secure in the love of their followers.  

go to link But Jackson knew that politics, like emotion, is not static.  There would be times where he would have to tell people what they did not want to hear, press a case they did not want to accept, point them in a direction they would prefer not to go.  Best, then, to preserve capital to spend on those speeches and those battles.

(Bold mine.)

Ibid.

President Obama is fortunate that the relative weakness of the Republican party and the still ample approval among those in his own party do not leave him vulnerable to direct challenges to his authority as Chief Executive.  Unlike Jackson, he does not relish making enemies and in so doing, challenging them to duels.  Some of us would prefer a President cut from that same cloth, though I do note that nothing unifies otherwise disparate elements only tangentially related to each other more than a common enemy.  This course of action does not make for theatrical governance or high drama, certainly, but perhaps the boring way is the best way.  Any President is compelled to occasionally be the bearer of bad tidings, the purveyor of necessary, but unpopular policy, and the leader pointing the way against a headwind of reluctance and even stubborn refusal.  The more change one pushes for, the more one must assume such mantles.  Many will feel short-changed, disregarded, and under-represented in the process.  Lament it, if you will, but be sure to acknowledge the substantial challenges that face those who attempt its removal.  This New American System combined with a still very New American President might not require as much patience as it does a fundamental understanding of the balancing act and slight-of-hand required of any politician.  Our response never changes, but what does change is how quickly we forget that these struggles are not exactly unique to our times.  

A Stack and a Half from Mister Bush

Ronald Reagan came into office with three major ideas in mind. Vastly expand defense spending, cut taxes on the wealthy, and do something about the annual budget deficit, then hovering around $80 billion a year. He did increase defense spending, something rightwingers still like to falsely claim sent the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. And he did cut the top tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38% to 28%, giving already wealthy Americans gigantic increases in income while starting us down the road toward a Third World skewing of the ratio between rich and poor. He achieved this with the assistance of more borrowing than all the Presidents who had preceded him. Compared with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania, however, Reagan was a piker.

The Great Communicator had image-conscious speechwriters. When Reagan first addressed Congress in February 1981, he said:

I’ve been trying … to think of a way to illustrate how big a trillion is.  The best that I could come up with is that if you had a stack of $1000 bills in your hand only four inches high you would be a millionaire. A trillion dollars would be a stack of $1000-dollar bills 67 miles high.