Saturday, November 24, 2012

Republicans Suffer From ‘Taking My Ball And Going Home’ Syndrome

By John Viall   2012/11/19

    THESE ARE BLEAK TIMES FOR OUR FRIENDS ON THE RIGHT as they face up to the horrid reality that they tried to “Take Back America” and failed in ignominious fashion. The only solace they seem to find since Barack Obama won a second term in (to them) a stunning fashion comes from churning out petitions demanding the right to secede from the Union they so badly wanted to take back.

Still, there are embers in the ashes of even the worst defeats. The Nut Job right still rules the radio air waves. Fox News has four more years to convince unbalanced individuals that Obama is a Muslim or maybe a Cylon. And the U. S. House of Representatives is still firmly in their all-taxes-are-poison political grip. Michele Bachmann, the queen of the Nut Jobs, returns for another term, ready to deny that gay people actually exist. Steven King is back, too, prepared to go to his grave denying that President Obama has ever had a valid U. S. birth certificate. In fact, when last heard from on the topic, King was insisting that Obama’s parents might have faked the birth announcements that appeared in two Hawaiian newspapers, which announcements poor Steven King was forced to admit during a town hall meeting that he had personally seen in the Library of Congress records, by sending a telegram from Kenya.

What we’re saying, all boiled down, is there’s a whole lot of denyin’ goin’ on!

Marco Rubio doesn’t exactly deny that he once supported Mitt Romney long ago; but he has been busy this week denying that he agrees with Romney’s post-election statements, which sound suspiciously like Romney’s pre-election statements when you think about it. No, says Rubio. The GOP doesn’t hate people on food stamps. No. The GOP doesn’t think Latinos and women and young voters are stupid and only voted for Obama because he promised lavish “gifts.” No, no, no. Rubio denies that Republicans believe any of this. Indeed, based on answers to questions in an interview he did this week, Rubio seemed to be warming up for a possible Nut Job-backed run at the White House in 2016. Talking to a reporter from GQ magazine, Rubio stood by his party’s basic position of denial on gay rights. That is: gay people should vote with us next time around, even if they don’t exist, and even if the loudest voices on the right insist God sends hurricanes to punish America for giving gay people who don’t really exist something akin to equal rights.

The reporter, apparently realizing that our friends on the right are know at times to deny…well, let’s just say basic science…asked Rubio if he might care to comment on the age of the earth. Rubio answered carefully, knowing that on the Nut Job right the deniers are always ready to explode into anger:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Meanwhile, three GOP experts in climate change denial now stand in line, one of the trio almost certain to become the next head of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology! (Ironically, this committee oversees NASA, the National Weather Service and the National Science Foundation among other entities.) Representative James Sensebrenner from Wisconsin is mildest in his denunciation of scientists, who he believes are twisting the facts to make climate change sound worse than it is. Lamar Smith of Texas sees it in a more sinister light and sniffs out willful bias in reporting on global warming at ABC, CBS and NBC.

Not Fox, of course. Oh no, oh no.

Dana Rohrabacher, goes all-in on the paranoia when he insists there’s an an even bigger conspiracy afoot. As Christine Gorman reported for Scientific American, in a speech on the floor of Congress this past December Rohrabacher warned about an “insidious coalition” of research scientists and politicians:

[A] coalition that has conducted an unrelenting crusade to convince the American people that their health and their safety and–yes–their very survival on this planet is at risk due to manmade global warming. The purpose of this greatest-of-all propaganda campaigns is to enlist public support for, if not just the acquiescence to, a dramatic mandated change in our society and a mandated change to our way of life. This campaign has such momentum and power that it is now a tangible threat to our freedom and to our prosperity as a people.

AT THIS POINT, IT’S GETTING HARD to keep track of all the Nut Job right’s denials and a brief recap is probably in order. As it stands, our friends on the right don’t believe in:

Thermometers–as in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association records that show September 2012 temperatures marked the 331st month in succession during which global temperatures were above the 20th century average.

Photographs–as in NASA satellite cameras that showed the Arctic ice sheet had been reduced by fifty percent this summer compared to historic coverage limits.

The speed of light–which would seem to prove, according to scientists (but not necessarily anyone like Marco Rubio who might want to run for president with support from the Nut Job right) that the universe is a little older than a few thousand years.

Fossils–sure those ancient sea creatures and dinosaur bones embedded in limestone appear to be tens of millions of years old; but who are you gonna’ believe? Scientists, who insist on considering evidence, or Steven King and a book written thousands of years ago to guide the Jews, at a time when no one had heard of light-years or dinosaurs or Bunsen burners.

Sperm–as we all now known, sperm don’t work in cases of rape.

Lamestream media–everyone except Megyn Kelly at Fox News and Glenn Beck, in whatever bunker he’s currently hiding, hates the right-wing with implacable resolve.

Percentages–as in percentages in any opinion poll that might have shown that President Obama might actually win a second term in office. Which of course, the Nut Job right absolutely knew was mathematically and politically and morally impossible.

Liberal pollsters– people like Nathan Silver and their lamestream math, with their liberal bias, insisting that President Obama would win all the battleground states except North Carolina, win the popular vote, and pile up more than 300 electoral votes. Which all the real news people at Fox said was impossible, and Rush Limbaugh said it, too. And who are you gonna’ believe, real patriots with tea-bag hats or these fossil-loving commie freaks?

Actual voters–in 2010 the Nut Job right scored a huge victory in the mid-term elections; but actual American voters vanished two years later and idiots and members of the “entitlement class” showed up like herds of sheeple and voted for Obama.

American women–who sometimes lived under the same roofs as American men who tended to go for Romney; but somehow these females went for Obama by a sizable margin, perhaps in part because they fell for lamestream reports about the powers of sperm.

Colleges–Americans with advanced degrees voted in favor of Mr. Obama by a sizable margin. This has something to do with the fact that college students are all brain-washed by professors, and maybe the fact that the educated people prefer actual facts and tangible evidence with their political discussions. Like fossils or birth certificates or the speed-of-light.

Finally, our friends on the seem ready to deny the unique place in history of the United States of America, which is, despite various imperfections, still a land of surpassing freedoms. They say they love freedom more than liberals do. They say they believe in the Founding Fathers more than liberals do. They say they believe in the Bill of Rights more, too. They used to say, if you criticized this country, that you ought to move to Russia or some other communist country.

NOW, THEY LOSE ONE ELECTION and they’re ready to bail out to furl the red, white and blue.

They’re ready to give up on the country they say they love. They reveal themselves as great babies. But if you point that out, they’ll deny that, too.    

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Studies On Both Sides Agree, Say To Increase The Minimum Wage

   By Nathaniel Downes  2012/11/19    

It is a red-letter day when think tanks and pundits from both sides of the debate agree on something. Today is that day, when groups as diverse as the American Conservative magazine and the progressive think tank Demos stand in agreement on one very important topic – raising the minimum wage.

In comparison to historic highs, the minimum wage today is at a near record low, you need to go back to the 1950s to find a lower effective minimum wage, as you can see here with this chart generated by the date provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
However, the productivity of the US worker has never been higher, with the average GDP “worth” of the average worker coming to approximately $70,000 per year, a value to the companies which hire them of $33.65 per hour, making the US worker the most productive in the world, ahead of Germany, Japan, and leaving China in the dust.

In both studies, they find that the minimum wage in the US needs to be increased, and both make a solid argument as to why. Lower minimum wages do not translate to lower unemployment rates. In fact, the inverse is true, with countries such as Australia having some of the lowest unemployment rates (5%) while also having one of the highest minimum wages ($16.50 USD). An increase in the minimum wage effects not those in high-paying fields, but those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Wage increases down at that end ripple faster because, simply, the people at the bottom have little room for luxuries, so added wages immediately generates added revenue into the economy without adding more than a minor blip to inflation.

Both groups studied the issue, and hit the same conclusion, that the minimum wage needs to be at, or above, $12/hour, in order to create a real benefit to society. They both found that increasing the minimum wage to $12/hour, the increase to the economy would translate to a true shot in the arm stimulus. For those arguing that this would increase costs, they are correct. The two papers do differ on how much of an increase in cost this would be, with one finding a total increase of 3% while the other finding a total increase of 0.5%. The difference between these two on the average retail purchase price change varies from $17.73/year to $106.34/year. But it would be a wage increase of 27% for your average minimum or low-wage worker, adding an estimated $11.8-$15.2 billion per year in extra spending, many times the amount paid.

This move would also reduce the number of people on programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, and Medicaid as well by raising their standards of living to the point they no longer needed the programs. This would reduce the federal budget by several billion per year without painful cuts to programs which hurt people directly. As it is right now, these programs effectively subsidize lower wages, an unintended consequence of the stagnation of the minimum wage for decades.

Those supporting the increased minimum wage will surprise many as well. The Beast from Bentonville, Walmart itself, has lobbied congress for a significant increase in the minimum wage. Walmart, by virtue of its position as the low-cost king, finds itself in a hard place. It cannot raise its workers paychecks without raising its prices slightly, but then its competition can undercut their pricing by virtue of their refusal to raise wages. As a result, Walmart cannot raise its wages without hurting itself. By a minimum wage increase, however, all of its competition would be forced to match as its wages rose, preventing someone from undercutting them. For Walmart, a minimum wage increase would be the best thing to happen to them, as their employees can be raised to the point of being strong customers, with brand-loyalty, bringing in an estimated $1.3 billion in revenue per year, while increasing their costs less than half of that. A huge windfall for the Arkansas megacorporation.

For those thinking it would hurt the competitiveness of the United States abroad, you should think again. Minimum wage jobs are not manufacturing, but service and support roles, and cannot be outsourced. You cannot have someone in the Philipines tend bar, or flip burgers at your local sports club, or handle retail sales in the mall up the street. Those jobs are what is called “non-tradable service sector jobs” because they are tied to a physical location. They are immune from outsourcing. As for manufacturing jobs, the average factory worker would likely not see any wage increase at all, as their average wage is already many times the minimum wage. The benefit for an increase of the minimum wage grossly outweighs the problems.

One thing both discussed is that the United States simply has too many people with higher educations. While 30% of our workforce has a higher education degree, less than 20% of our jobs require such skill. This creates wage competition, and a personal debt crisis as one in three post-secondary educated people has to settle for a job unable to pay for their education, leaving them unable to particpate in the economy properly. But people go for this not because of an aptitude, or to fill the job market, but because it is the only way in which for many of them to have a livable wage, due to the floor, the minimum wage, having been stagnant for so long. They try to get ahead, to make enough to make a living, and find themselves further behind unless they have a stroke of luck.

Another thing which increased wages would do is eliminate one of the incentives for businesses hiring undocumented workers for lower end work. As it is right now, many jobs simply are too demanding for the amount of money one can make from them. Working 10 hour days of hard labor to bring home $77.50, just does not add up. However, with those wages increased from $77.50/day to $122.50/day, now you suddenly change the situation. It becomes large enough to be worth the labor associated with it for many people. And it would not hurt people at the retail level either. For example, the agricultural industry is one with a heavy immigrant force. The total cost for a years grocery bill would on average increase by just $15 per year. And unlike the illegals, the citizen-workers would be spending their money locally, not sending money back home. Eliminate the jobs for illegal immigrants, and the problem effectively solves itself. And some sectors, like food service, have not had a wage increase since 1991. Who on Capitol Hill believes that anyone can live while having the same paycheck today as they did in 1991?

It is not often when a left-wing think tank, and a right-wing magazine are in full agreement. When they are, it is a sign which we should take seriously. An increase of the federal minimum wage to $12/hour is the solution to many of the problems facing the United States today.       Creative Commons License

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hostess And Senior Management

Hostess management awarded company execs absurdly large raises around the same time as filing for bankruptcy in January 2012 - including a 300% pay raise for then-CEO Brian Driscoll.

According to the the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union:

"As the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256."

I know this 300% pay raise has been mentioned within other diaries (e.g. Mark E Anderson's), but I wanted to add a diary highlighting just this one data point, because it's such a striking piece of evidence undermining the myth that organized labor killed Hostess.

Originally posted to marianevans on Sat Nov 17, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Satire:Election, Fiscal Cliffs, Educated Tea Party Pics

David Letterman: "James Bond beat Abraham Lincoln at the box office. Boy, it's really been a lousy week for Republicans, hasn't it?"

"Two-term presidents is a pretty small club in the history of the United States. The only club smaller is Latinos for Romney. And then the only club smaller than that it Latino women for Romney"

"Republicans are talking about being open to compromise when it comes to the fiscal cliff. And I'm saying, 'What the hell have you done with the real Republicans? Where are the real Republicans? That's not the Republicans I know."


"Republicans still will not admit that they underestimated the power of the Hispanic vote. As a matter of fact, Latinos are calling this Cinco Denio."

Craig Ferguson: "The CIA director, David Petraeus, resigned. The FBI caught him having an affair with his biographer. Hey general, you work for the CIA, not the TSA."

"There's a double standard here. The head of the CIA gets caught having sex and has to resign. Meanwhile, a British special agent, James Bond, has sex with tons of women and makes $90 million at the box office. Where's the justice?"


Jimmy Fallon: "Get this. After all the confusion at the polls in Florida last week, Governor Rick Scott said he will review ways to improve his state's voting procedures. It'll be the biggest thing Scott's done since he won that raffle to become governor."


Jay Leno: "Florida has finally finished counting the votes. What is wrong with Florida? Why is it so hard for the people down there to count votes? We're talking about a state where half the population can play 10 bingo cards at the same time."

"The big story here in Los Angeles is the Lakers have fired their coach, Mike Brown. They are playing so bad that President Obama and Chris Christie toured the Staples Center today."

"According to the real estate Web site Zillow, the White House is worth $283 million. When Mitt Romney heard that, he said, "You mean I could have just bought it?'"