Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bernie Sanders goes after fossil-fuel subsidies again. Maybe somebody will listen someday

... but, as you and I all know, nobody in either the House or the Senate will tackle this problem as long as those communist Republicans such as Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are still alive and in government.

  By Meteor Blades 

Despite two recent attempts, Congress has not yet been willing to deep-six subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry even though the oil industry is generating record profits and, together with the centuries-old coal industry, continuing to burden the atmosphere with carbon emissions and kill thousands of Americans a year by pumping their lungs full of toxic pollution.

These past failures aside, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, joined Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) Thursday to introduce legislation that would chop more than $113 billion out of subsidies for the oil and coal industries over the next 10 years. Here's the announcement:

As the sponsors point out, whatever else can be said about it, the fossil-fuel energy industry has no need of taxpayer subsidies. Last year, the five largest oil
companies—BP, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips and Shell—alone made $137 billion in profit. In the first quarter this year, their total was $33.5 billion. That's $4143 every second. Together, they spent $13.9 million lobbying Congress in that same quarter.

Although it's not included in the Sanders-Ellison bill, there is a perfect place to spend some or all of that saved money: subsidies for solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources that don't add to the atmospheric carbon load and don't create pulmonary and other health hazards. Shifting $100 billion of fossil-fuel subsidies over the next 10 years into backing for renewables would go far toward building an alternative energy infrastructure by leveraging hundreds of billions in private investment. Indeed, such subsidies have already helped Iowa to generate 19 percent of its electricity from wind turbines.

The loudest complainers about subsidies for renewable energy sources are the mouthpieces of the beneficiaries of fossil-fuel subsidies. And, as noted in Right-wing memo urges creation of bogus grassroots effort to undermine support for wind energy, while lobbying to maintain their own subsidies, the fossil-fuel industry is willing to do whatever it takes to obliterate subsidies for renewables. The claim is made that subsidies for renewables are somehow of a different order, an unfair arrangement that goes way beyond those accorded the fossil-fuel industry. On the contrary, you can read here how solar and wind subsidies follow a path well known to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.

As noted, the Sanders-Ellison bill won't be approved by the Senate and certainly not the House. There's a pretty fair chance it won't even get out of committee. But that doesn't make it mere shadow-boxing. One thing that should have been learned long ago from the right wing, whether it's attacking reproductive rights or backing industries that are killing us and the environment, is that persistence, the relentless pursuit of one's goals, is crucial to reaching the desired destination.

So, despite the inevitable cries of we've-heard-this-all-before and this-isn't-going-anywhere-so-why-bother, it needs to keep being brought up until it is heard and actually gets where we need it to go. Which is the in-box on that desk in the Oval Office.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu May 10

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JPMorgan losses show further financial reform is needed, says AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka

By  Laura Clawson    Sat May 12, 2012

With the Securities and Exchange Commission launching an investigation into JPMorgan's accounting practices, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that the nation's biggest bank's $2 billion in trading losses, show "that financial regulation is more needed now than it ever was."  

Trumka continued:

And [Jamie Dimon] been one of the chief opponents trying to lobby against it, dilute all the stuff in the Dodd-Frank bill, to try to dilute it, but I think every American knows that we need Wall Street reform. The lack of Wall Street regulation is what got us to the mess that we came to, when almost totally disrupted our economy.

So I think him losing money shows, one, he isn't infallible, two, that he doesn't really understand the market and no one else does, either, because it's so fickle about stuff, and, three, that without regulations, they will lead us off a cliff, just like they tried to the last time, that we must have Wall Street in check to restore the balance between the financial economy and the real economy

Financial reform has been a key labor movement priority, prominently mentioned in Trumka's statement when the AFL-CIO endorsed Barack Obama for reelection. Trumka has lots of company in pointing out that JPMorgan's massive losses "surely [don't] help" the credibility of CEO Jamie Dimon. But, according to the New York Times, Dimon "refused to concede that the losses necessitated a stronger regulatory framework." While the SEC investigation won't create stronger regulations, it may show the value of some of the regulations Dimon has fought against in the past.

Also in his appearance on Bloomberg TV's Political Capital with Al Hunt, Trumka addressed questions about whether unions will contribute financially to the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, saying, "I think labor will do some help. I think it won't be as much as it was in the past."

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Saturday Satire:Barack Obama,Romney,bin Laden,Gay Marriage

Copyright © 2012 Creators Syndicate


Copyright © 2012 Universal Press Syndicate


Copyright © 2012 Universal Press Syndicate

Jimmy Kimmel: "President Obama came out with approval of same-sex marriage. He said that over the years, he has been going through an evolution on the issue. That makes opponents on the far right doubly angry. They don't believe in gay marriage OR evolution."

Jay Leno: "The women know what this means. Now all the good ones will be married AND gay."

"Police in Fort Wayne, Indiana, arrested a man for allegedly driving three blocks with four young children strapped to the hood of his car. Good to see Mitt Romney spending some time with the family, huh?"

"Michele Bachamnn has announced she is now also a citizen of Switzerland. What better way to protest a president you think is socialist than become a citizen of a country with a socialist philosophy and a mandated health care plan."

Conan O'Brien: "Today President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage. He said he hoped his support would make it easier for gay people to get married and for John Travolta to get a massage."

"Apparently Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney last night very late via email. That just makes Santorum one of the 10 million guys ashamed of what he did late last night on his computer."

David Letterman: "It's come down to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. And Mitt Romney is fighting this image that he has no personality, and the reason for this, of course, is that he has no personality."

"Let's just say you put on the exploding underpants and you detonate. When they bring in the 72 virgins, then what?"

No Mercy for Romney’s Political “Slip-ups”!

By VĂ©ronique Saint-Geours
Translated By Hughie Coogan 3 May 2012 @Watching America

Edited by Lydia Dallett

Obama's surprisingly successful operation in Kabul on May 1st must have left a bitter taste in the Romney camp, after having already been exposed to failures in its own campaign.
Away from the squabbling in the electoral kitchen, a visit to Karzai and speech to the troops enabled the 44th president to reinforce his image as Commander in Chief, which the anniversary of bin Laden's elimination and a clumsiness of communication have attempted to distort.
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is learning about campaigning, the hard way. A Swiss bank account. An employee fired because of his sexuality. Even Ann, his wife will have to change her sweater choice...
Mitt Romney has more than one of those world-renowned bank accounts in Switzerland. The Obama campaign has broadcast an advertisement since May 1st in three key states — Iowa, Ohio and Virginia — that highlights the gap between the preaching of the Republican candidate and the reality of his behavior. Romney talks a lot about restoring "jobs" in the U.S. but sends his own money to Switzerland and therefore the jobs that go with it. The clip shows a laughing Mitt Romney and the voice over urges him to bring his offshore accounts home to the U.S. In order to drive the point home, a map of the countries where the Romney family accounts are to be found helps us understand that Mitt is a bad American. The unemployed and homeless American heartland will enjoy this.
Romney lets go "his" gay. The recent arrival of Richard Grenell, an openly gay international expert, to the Romney team was seen as openness on the Republican's part. Grenell’s inclusion in the team caused tensions from the start and conservative Christian voices made sure that his life would be difficult. His position in favor of gay marriage, his bitter tweets regarding Callista Gingrich and his extremely critical mind only contributed to his departure, while professionally he is highly appreciated. Grenell was the associate of John R. Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Does this mean that caring for homosexuals is off the political agenda?
Finally, Ann and her $1,000 dollar sweater. Even if the eagle is symbolically American, it does not fit every situation. Designed by Reed Krakoff, the bird of misfortune has befallen Ann Romney's campaign and that of her husband. It is strange that we have this beloved big bird in a context of crisis juxtaposed with an image of very rich Romneys. If Bill Burton, former associate of Obama, wanted to defend Ann Romney he could have asked if she wanted to be left out of all the commotion. However, the damage had already been done and her choice of sweater could bring down Romney's image for a long time to come. While she is the nice one in the couple, she chose to be exposed in the campaign and is beginning to understand all the tricks. When it comes to communication, she is either the mole or the target.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roller Coaster Ride Awaits as US Economy Continues to Recuperate

By Zheng LianSheng Translated By Edmond Lau
24 April 2012     Edited by Lau­rie Henneman @
Watching America

After the fourth quarter in 2011 the U.S. economy's resurgence exceeded the expectations of policy makers and the markets, especially the labor market. Faith was restored to many again as they looked forward to more growth in 2012 but the first quarter's numbers suggest that recovery can be tortuous. The heat is once again on the world's "central bank," the Federal Reserve, yet the Fed has no tricks left in dealing with the economy's turbulent recovery. Chairman Ben Bernanke is known for his honesty but even he has been evasive when asked about the situation. In truth the Fed is anxious that its policies are hanging by a thread, and fears the economy might meet its Waterloo soon.
Back in September 2011, Bernanke admitted that the U.S. economy was due to face another recession but this had little effect on the market's optimism about the economy's resuscitation. Ever since the fourth quarter in 2011 the economy has performed far better than predicted, especially the nation's employment situation. By the end of January 2012 an extra 275,000 non-agricultural jobs were created (the highest point in the last nine months) and this decreased the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent (the lowest in the last three years). The manufacturing sector has shown some serious recovery progress and this gave a huge boost to the stock market. The Nasdaq even reached a record high at one point. Americans had all the right reasons to be positive in regard to the recovery.
The revival in manufacturing and consumption sectors, as well as increased inventory investments, were the driving forces behind America's improved economic situation. The sharp increase of 4.3 percent in consumer credit in January 2012 was much higher than last January 2011's 3.6 percent. Retail performance also increased 0.8 percent, a superior rate comparing with the same month last year.
Industrial production in February also enjoyed an increase of 0.03 basis points, but new orders were still below the previous quarter. The manufacturing index also plummeted from 20.21 to 6.56, a much lower figure than Reuter's initial forecast of 18. Moreover the housing market has shown little signs of life during the last few months.
The U.S. economy's road to recovery won't be too risky, but do expect a bumpy ride. The International Monetary Fund believes there will be drags on the process such as the deadlock in fiscal consolidation policy, a weakened housing market, household saving rate fluctuations and possibility of a worsened economy. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde is positive about U.S. economy's chances of recovery, but its fragile foundation would affect the global economy's overall stability.
At present, there are three major risks that may disrupt America's healing progress.
The housing market has not seen its worst and better days are definitely not arriving soon. Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that only 313,000 new housing units were sold during February, a 1.6 percent decrease in comparison to numbers from the previous month. New construction projects and current housing sales also dropped by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent respectively. According to the Standard & Poor's home price index, housing prices in 10 major cities have dropped since January and the downward trend is expected to carry on for the rest of the quarter. The 2.8 million foreclosure cases is also a new high in years. Poor performance from the housing market and high foreclosure rate indicate that the U.S. mortgage market is still deleveraging.
Despite satisfying recovery progress the economy is still vulnerable to possible impacts from a high unemployment rate. As a result, the U.S. government has come up with a revival plan to ease job shortages in manufacturing. The market assumed an improved employment situation would eventually lead to better consumption rate. The forecast did not materialize however, when February's unemployment rate was an unconvincing 8.3 percent. It was once expected that by the end of the first quarter there should be 180,000 new non-agricultural positions created but the actual 120,000 figure was quite far behind. Former Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz believes the country's current unemployed population is 15 million and it hasn't recovered to the point when the global economic crisis occurred in December 2008.
Massive public debt can be a sword of Damocles. The current deficit ratio and public debt ratio have hit an alarming 10 percent and 100 percent respectively, both exceeding the international safety standard of 3 percent and 60 percent respectively. The U.S. government has been making serious efforts trying to rebuild the economy after the global financial crisis broke out. It transformed private sector risks to public by taking on the private debts. It implemented quantitative easing to monetize public debt, but also risked inflation at the same time. The U.S. government is under immense debt pressure and it isn't too different from the catastrophe in Europe. Its credibility is on the line since the government's ability to free its debt is uncertain. Failure to repay may result in another insurmountable economic disaster.
A slow recovery and high unemployment rate forced the Fed to execute a second quantitative easing. Deflation in goods also gave the Fed the justification needed to carry out the policy. Hence at the start of this year the second quantitative easing experienced changes in its foundations. First, re-leveraging has been common within the private sector, and consumer credit may reach 4.3 percent within the first quarter. Secondly, America's consumer price index has been rising, with increases of 2.9 percent, 2.9 percent and 2.7 percent during the first three months of 2012. Instead of deflation these alarming numbers present possibilities for a troublesome inflation scenario, not in tune with the Fed's initial intention to sustain a 2 percent inflation rate. Finally, if anything, quantitative easing has shown its limitations as the boost is not enough to improve the job market situation and economic growth.
Under the current difficult circumstances the Fed will encounter a policy dilemma. America's weakened economy and high unemployment rate probably created a welcoming scenario for quantitative easing, especially during a counter-cyclical economic period. The Fed indicated earlier that they aimed to maintain low interest rates for another two years, until the end of 2014. Nevertheless, the general consensus in Wall Street is to expect a third round of quantitative easing due to unimpressive results in the first quarter.
The Feds are worried about the policy's side effects too. The policy's flexibility can be ineffectual considering that aggregate demand's continued slump could lead to a surplus of bills. Moreover, another factor that contributes to America's sluggish recovery relates to over-virtualization of finance and mortgages. The Fed has been applying monetary instruments to address the economic structural problems but the lack of effectiveness has not been encouraging. Thirdly, since the second quantitative easing mainly focused on long-term government bonds with the purpose of financing the budget deficit, this also means turning a blind eye on deficit ratio and allowing it to get out of control. Finally, running the same policy twice creates the U.S. economy's biggest "debtor" in the Fed. This would mean that the central bank has
accumulated the financial risk and the nation's debt has fallen on their shoulders. The Fed itself has its own debt problem and the aggregate financial risk only assures an even more difficult path in the future.
The author has worked for the China Scholarship Council, Division of Planning and Development.



Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Another Mitt Romney Lie : "I started Staples, for gosh sakes."

Romney Lies: He Did Not Start Staples

by Dave9000         Sun May 06, 2012

When running for governor, senator, and president, Romney has endlessly repeated the same claim with differing nuances. Sometimes it's "I helped start Staples" while other times it is "I started Staples" or even "I started Staples, for gosh sakes." On occasion it's the more modest "When I was at Bain, we helped start Staples."

The reality is that Romney didn't start Staples at all. He thought Staples was a bad idea. He even tried to prevent Bain from investing in the company.

Here's the truth:

Two men named Leo Kahn and Thomas Stemberg started Staples.

As they grew their business, Stemberg approached Bessemer Venture Partners, a competitor of Romney's Bain. Stemberg wanted to borrow money from Bessemer to open more Staples stores. Bessemer then approached Bain about joining in the venture to spread the risk.

But Romney didn't like the idea at all. He thought Staples was a bad investment and turned Bessemer down. Not once, not twice, but three times.

Only after other people at Bain pushed did Romney reluctantly reconsider. He still expressed strong opposition to the deal, but would not stand in the way of providing some backing. The proposed investment in Staples was tiny compared to other Bain deals.

Bain then made a modest $650,000 investment in Staples. Because he headed Bain, Romney was offered a seat on the Staples board. While on the board, Romney had no direct involvement in the company nor any management control. He simply showed up at a board meeting every few months. He was absent from meetings more times than he was present.

Bain made additional modest investments in Staples, for a total of $2.5 million. As soon as the company went public, Romney dumped Bain's share and was out of the investment.

When Bain got rid of its stake, Staples was still a small chain, with only 24 stores in New England and barely a thousand part-time jobs. It was nowhere near the mega-giant it would become. With time, Staples grew to more than 2,200 stores with 89,000 employees.

All of that growth occured long after Romney had left Bain and long after he had any connection whatsoever with the company.

A company Romney thought was a bad investment. Which he demonstrated by pulling out as quickly as he could.

What's troubling most about this is how the lie "Romney started Staples" is endlessly repeated by his supporters and even some of his opponents.

Romney no more started Staples than he started Apple or Microsoft. He made a small investment in the company, pulled out early and that's it. His investment was barely anything more than buying stock in the company.

Romney's claim that he started Staples is no more valid than an investor who bought Apple stock in 1990 claiming, "I started Apple."

To learn more about Romney's real record, read The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, the primary source for the information in this piece.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Senator Marco Rubio: Another Republican Thief

 From the Atlantic:

“Rubio's political committee has also "spent more than $40,000 for investigators to research for negative attacks that could surface against him." This month, he asked the Florida State Ethics Committee to "closeout a complaint that he misused Republican Party and campaign money" to run up excessive food and travel bills on GOP credit cards”
From  Politico :
“In a negotiated settlement finalized last month but only publicly released now, Marco Rubio for Senate acknowledged taking in more than $210,000 in “prohibited, excessive and other impermissible contributions” during his Senate campaign and failing to refund or “redesignate” the funds within the allowed time frame.

Even after an internal audit, the Rubio campaign failed to identify more than $83,000 in improper or incorrectly characterized contributions, according to a March 19 agreement between the campaign and the FEC.

…A spokesman for Rubio could not be immediately reached for comment.”

More issues from CREW and the Tampa Bay Times:

1.  Rubio and his staff charged personal expenses unauthorized party credit cards including car repairs, and grocery purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.

2. Rubio also admitted he double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007.

3. While preparing to leave his position in the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio accepted an “unadvertised” part-time gig at FIU that paid $69,000 per year. Maybe that’s because of the $29 million he steered their way which led to FIU”S president saying that Rubio was “worth every penny.

4. He was hired as a consultant for Jackson Memorial Hospital after he earmarked $20 million for them. They paid his firm $8,000 per month and hired his former aid.

5. Rubio’s wife was listed and paid as treasurer over a committee that paid $51,000 in unidentified travel expenses. Another Rubio political committee listed $14,000 in payments to family members, at least one of whom had a non-existent address.

6. Rubio, routinely charged personal expenses to his party-issued credit card from 2006 to 2008.

7. He billed the Republican Party of Florida 4k for a rental car in Miami and repairs to his family minivan, which he said was damaged by a valet at a political event.

8. As a Florida House Rep, Rubio started two political committees and raised nearly $600,000. He failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and concealed others by lumping them in credit card charges, the Times/Herald reported.

In one of the complaints filed against Rubio, this is how he was described:

"It appears that Mr. Rubio believes that PAC stands for 'personal access to cash,' " Ryan said in the complaint, calling it a "fraud upon his donors whose donations were solicited for political purposes, not to subsidize his lifestyle."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Tax Lie # 1: U.S. Taxes to High…

… if you ask those people in the top of the income bracket ( 1% ) or their Republican butt kissers.  But is it true? No. In fact the United States was ranked the 26th out of 28 OECD  countries in total federal, state, and local taxes as a percent of GDP. The countries with the lower rates where Mexico and Chile.

    As far as those taxpayers in the 1% are concerned, the tax burden has dropped dramatically over the years, which is no surprise to you, is it?

   When a corporation can make billions of dollars, or an individual can make hundreds of millions of dollars and then live with paying little or no taxes, then the claim that taxes are to high goes right out the window.

   So what about the middle-income taxpayers?

Income taxes:  A family of four in the exact middle of the income spectrum will pay only 5.6 percent of its 2011 income in federal income taxes, according to a new analysis by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. [3]  Average income tax rates for these typical families have been lower during the Bush and Obama Administrations than at any time since the 1950s, as Figure 1 shows ( Center on Budget and Policy Priorities )

   Oh hell, it gets worse.

Most stunning is the shift in taxpaying responsibility from corporations to workers over the years. For every dollar of workers' payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.       Common Dreams

   What is really pathetic is that many of those Republican voters who make less than even middle income ( hourly workers ) will still go out and vote for con men like Mittens Romney, thus cutting their own throats once again if this chump is elected. If you are going to be stupid, at least don’t do it on a national stage.

   I believe that it will take much voter-fraud for that to happen at the current time. Remember though that is how George Bush was elected. Republican’s still cannot win a fair election.