Archive for October, 2010

October 30, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity — Noon – 3PM (Eastern time)

by Ben Hoffman

Is it possible to restore sanity with a rally? The problem with crazy people is: they don’t know they’re crazy. And the crazy sheep think all media is biased except the ones that spin the news to the right.

You’ve got to hand it to Jon Stewart, though. He’s become one of the most trusted newsmen in America. A comedian is one of the most trusted newsmen. That says something about what has become of our news media.

October 28, 2010

Decision Points – How Bush managed to go eight years without making one good decision

by Ben Hoffman

George W. Bush to describe his decision making techniques in his new memoir: Decision Points. He’s waiting until after the elections to release it so people won’t be reminded of the damage inflicted on our country by Republicans when they controlled Congress and the White House.

Bush tells how he went from a failed businessman who had never held a public office, directly to Governor of Texas, and then to president of what was the most advanced country in the world. “I really didn’t think the people of the United Steaks were that stupid,” Bush writes, “but I guess I was miscalculated.”

Bush tells about his love of reading and how, even though our country was under attack, he couldn’t put down the book My Pet Goat.

We’ll have more on Bush’s memoir in upcoming posts.

October 28, 2010

Denver to vote on Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission! Seriously!

by Ben Hoffman

This is the text of the actual ballot initiative for the upcoming elections:

Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations?

This from their website:

Disclosing truth about UFOs and life-saving and planet-saving extraterrestrial technologies needs to start somewhere. After more than 60 years of lies, there is still no sign that the U.S. Government is starting anywhere to disclose this truth. So “We the People” are starting in Denver!


And over 10,000 people signed the petition to put it on the ballot! We’re doomed! There are too many crazy people in our country!

October 28, 2010

BP and Haliburton guilty of manslaughter!

by Ben Hoffman

When people’s reckless actions result in death, that’s manslaughter. Now that the activist SCOTUS judges have rules that corporations are people, it’s only fair that they should be tried for manslaughter or murder when they kill someone. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe, 11 people were killed and 17 injured.

Now there is proof that BP and Haliburton acted recklessly.

WASHINGTON — Halliburton knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.

“We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner,” he said in his letter to the seven members of the presidential commission. “The cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well.”

The failure of the cement set off a complex and ultimately deadly cascade of events as oil and gas exploded upward from the 18,000-foot-deep well. The blowout preventer, which sits on the ocean floor atop the well and is supposed to contain a well bore blowout, also failed.

In an internal investigation, BP identified the faulty cement job as one of the main factors contributing to the accident and blamed Halliburton, the cementing contractor on the Macondo well, as the responsible party. Halliburton has said in public testimony that it tested and used a proper cement formula on the well and that BP’s flawed well design and poor operations caused the disaster.

Read more…

October 27, 2010

Mike Fallon (Part 2)

by Ben Hoffman

4. The bailouts. Mike’s against the Cash-for-clunkers program that provided some stimulus for the economy and got a lot of high polluting vehicles off the road. Mike’s against the auto industry bailout that saved thousands and thousands of jobs as well as a lot of small businesses that supply parts to the auto manufacturers. And he claims the public was “overwhelmingly against the health care bill which is misleading. About twice as many people think the bill didn’t go far enough compared to those who were against reform.

5. Mike is against the stimulus that helped keep us out of another depression.

6. Mike doesn’t mind the flood of money into our campaigns.

7. Mike thinks the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a “neutral group.” The Chamber of Commerce has been running an aggressive campaign to get Republicans elected and accepted a million dollars over the summer from News Corp., the parent company of Fox “news.” I suppose Fox “news” is actually “fair and balanced.”

8. Mike claims the government has taken over our health care, which is pretty far from the truth. Health insurance has been getting more and more expensive over the past dozen or so years and the reform was an attempt to make it more affordable and stop the abuse. It does that to some extent.

9. Mike wants the free market to take care of the out of control health care costs.

10. Mike: History tells us that when you decrease taxes, our economy grows and jobs are created. Look at the Kennedy response.
Ben: Right-wingers like to site the Kennedy tax cuts as proof that they stimulate the economy. While he did cut taxes, the tax rates were a lot higher back then due to a more fiscally responsible government. The top marginal tax rate was 91%. High taxes were needed to pay for WWII, the rebuilding of Germany and Japan, and the New Deal programs. Kennedy also eliminated a lot of tax loopholes and deductions. Today the top rate is 35% so cutting taxes more isn’t going to have much of an effect. Also, the Bush tax cuts did very little to stimulate the economy. Same with Reagan’s. Clinton raised taxes and the economy soared!

11. I don’t see anything we agree with in Mike’s response. I wanted to change the tax structure and payouts to the wealthy and Mike wants to raise the eligibility age.

12. Mike:Whatever happened to taking the best ideas from both sides of the aisle and coming up with compromises? I don’t see a lot of that happening — on either side.
Ben: 1/3 of the stimulus was tax cuts, which was a huge compromise. The Democrats didn’t push for the public option, which was a huge compromise. The financial reform bill is loaded with compromises. Compromise means watering down legislation in order to garner two or three Republican votes. Even with all the compromise, nearly every Republican votes against all legislation just for political gain.

13. Now Mike has some good ideas here. Last time I checked, almost half of all tuition goes to administration, which is ridiculous. But funding for state colleges has dropped during the past dozen or so years, which is a major cause of tuition increases.

While Mike Fallon comes across as a nice enough guy, he really offers nothing new. His solution to everything is tax cuts and deregulation. Those things have destroyed our economy and put our country deep in debt.

October 27, 2010

The American police state: Don’t mess with corporate America

by Ben Hoffman

This is where our country is heading with the Republican corporate party.

October 27, 2010

Is Mike Fallon a liar? You tell me. (Part 1)

by Ben Hoffman

Yesterday I posted Mike’s responses to some questions I sent his campaign manager. Today I’ll start fact-checking some of his answers.

1. Mike: “My opponent, Diana DeGette, is in a position of leadership in the U.S. House, yet the leadership broke for election recess without voting to extend the Bush era tax cuts for anyone.”
Ben: Republicans want to extend all the tax cuts. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend them for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. The Senate vowed to block any vote that didn’t extend all the tax cuts, including those for the upper 2%. Because of that, Harry Reid decided to delay the vote. Nancy Peloci then filed suit and delayed the vote in the House.

The real issue here is: why are the Republicans blocking tax cuts for the middle class? Their idea of “bipartisanship” is doing it their way or no way. That is hardly the fault of Diana DeGette.

2. Mike: On the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010: “I would have voted against it. I agree that the premise of the bill was a great idea — to free up capital to assist small businesses. But, I don’t believe the government should pick economic winners and losers.”
Ben: Tax cuts and small business loans are “picking economic winners and losers?” Seems like Mike’s ideology is getting in the way of doing something to create jobs and help small businesses.

3. Mike: On outsourcing jobs overseas: “This is a big concern of mine. Over the past few years, our country has become business unfriendly. We have the second highest corporate tax rate among developed countries in the world. […] To bring corporations back to the United States, as I mentioned, we should make corporate taxes fair, which would encourage investment and level the playing field.”
Ben: Corporate tax rates are graduated. The tax rate is 35% where taxable income exceeds $335,000. Below that, it is between 1 and 16%. With deductions, no corporations pay the 35% and many pay nothing. Some even get rebates! So reducing corporate taxes will do nothing to bring jobs back to the U.S.

More this evening…

October 26, 2010

Iraq and Afghanistan third and forth most corrupt countries in the world. Thanks, Bush!

by Ben Hoffman

Yes, the new corruption rankings are in and the U.S. installed governments are just about the most corrupt in the world! That level of ineptitude doesn’t come easy. You have to really be incompetent to take over countries at a cost of some three trillion dollars and have them achieve that level of corruption in less than a decade. Good job, Bush! And no… we don’t miss you yet.


October 26, 2010

My appologies to Mike Fallon. He has responded to my questions!

by Ben Hoffman

Thanks Mike!

Mike is running for U.S. House of Representatives, Colorado District 1. Here are the questions along with his responses.

1.In the first video on your website, you claim that Diana DeGette voted to enable the largest tax increase on small businesses in U.S. history. What are you referring to? She wants to extend the Bush era tax cuts to most small businesses.
My opponent, Diana DeGette, is in a position of leadership in the U.S. House, yet the leadership broke for election recess without voting to extend the Bush era tax cuts for anyone.
According to the Tax Foundation, because Congress didn’t vote to continue the tax cuts most Coloradoans will see an increased tax bill next year of $1,641 and for CD-1 it’s about $1,300 next year. Our families and neighbors are already struggling — I don’t think we should add to the burden. Here are some of the effects of the tax increase — because no matter how you frame it, that’s what it is:
Personal income tax rates will rise — specifically, the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxes will increase from 35 to 39.6 percent. These are the people for which my opponent doesn’t support tax relief.
Even the lowest marginal tax rate increases from 10 to 15 percent.
Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same effect as higher marginal tax rates.
In total the personal income tax rates are as such:
The lowest bracket increases from 10 percent to 15 percent.
The 25 percent bracket rises to 28 percent.
The 28 percent rises to 31 percent.
The 33 percent rises to 36 percent.
Perhaps some of these tax hikes seem trivial to some. For a small business owner who is earning $250,000 per year and would like to hire another employee, that translates to almost $13,000 per year or more that they cannot invest in their business or employees.
But, how does this affect families?
The marriage penalty will return from the first dollar of income.
The child tax credit will be halved from $1,000 to $500 per child.
The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level.
Dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut
And, the biggest one of all is the return of the Death Tax, which disproportionately affects family businesses. This year there is no death tax, but next year estates over $1 million will be charged with a whopping 55 percent top death tax rate. The deceased could be leaving behind two homes and a retirement account, or they could be passing along a capital-intense business, such as a car dealership or a ranch or farm.
Next year, capital gains taxes will increase from 15 percent to 20 percent, and dividends tax will rise from 15 percent to 39.6.
But, beyond the Bush tax cuts, I was referring to the following instances of additional financial burdens on small businesses. While health reform set out to do some noble things like increase access and ensure coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions, the new law also came with a slew of taxes on businesses and families.
Americans will no longer be able to use health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts or health reimbursement pre-tax dollars to purchase the non-prescription, over the counter medicines that many families rely upon.
The $2,500 cap on flex spending accounts affects families with special needs children as they often rely on the flex spending accounts to pay for special education tuition, which can cost as must as college tuition.
Health insurance value will now be added to income that one must pay tax on. For some, this may mean an unexpected tax bill at the end of the year. For others, the insurance value may push them into the next tax bracket, causing their entire income to be taxed at a different rate.
These are just a few examples of some of the new taxes coming the way of Coloradans at a time when unemployment is now at 10 percent nationally. Let’s help our families and small businesses by cutting spending, not asking for more money out their pockets.

2.Only three Republicans in the House and two in the Senate voted for the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010. Would you have voted for or against it and why?
I would have voted against it. I agree that the premise of the bill was a great idea — to free up capital to assist small businesses. But, I don’t believe the government should pick economic winners and losers. The way to pay for this was not to increase taxes for other businesses, but to cut back spending in other ways.
I am also concerned that this legislation will only drive companies overseas. Our country needs to become business-friendly again to keep jobs here to help alleviate unemployment. Unemployment is a major driver of the poor economic numbers we are seeing as well as the housing crisis.

3.Many of what were decent paying manufacturing, engineering, and tech jobs have been outsourced overseas, contributing to our high unemployment. Is that a concern of yours and if so, what would you do to bring jobs back to the U.S.?
This is a big concern of mine. Over the past few years, our country has become business unfriendly. We have the second highest corporate tax rate among developed countries in the world. Let’s make taxation fair again. We should lower the corporate tax rate at the same time that we close special interest loopholes in the tax code. That way, we have more corporations paying a lower tax rate. For example, why does Exxon pay nearly nothing in corporate taxes, but the owner of the coffee shop down the street from my house pays nearly 40 percent? That’s unfair.
To bring corporations back to the United States, as I mentioned, we should make corporate taxes fair, which would encourage investment and level the playing field. Regulation must be responsible to prevent fraud and malfeasance, but not a hindrance to innovation, growth and investment.

4.You claim you watched thoughtfully as our Congress spent recklessly and answered to no one. What are you referring to?
I’m referring to the stimulus programs, which I don’t believe were beneficial (we’ll have to agree to disagree on this), in particular, I found the Cash for Clunkers and the bailout of the auto industry to be a huge waste of money and a payout to a failing industry, which rewarded bad corporate management at the expense of more responsible corporations and industries. And, what I mean about answering to no one the public was overwhelmingly against these bailouts as well as health care legislation, yet our Congressional representatives shoved these through Congress anyway.

5.The stimulus bill is a five year program. So far, about $289 billion has been spent and $223 in tax cuts have been issued. Driving around Colorado, you can see those dollars at work on things like highway repaving and other infrastructure improvement. It has gone towards renewable energy research and development — an industry in which Colorado is a leader. Our electric grid is being upgraded, transportation improved, and many jobs have been created. Many economists claim the stimulus boosted GDP by some 2.7% and unemployment would have been 11% without it. Those things seem to be good for our country and Colorado, yet you oppose the stimulus bill. Why is that? Also, a recent Gallup poll showed that 60% of Americans favor more government spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
I don’t mind spending on infrastructure, but the harsh reality is that only seven percent was spent on infrastructure. One-third went to bailing out state and local government, which only temporarily supported jobs and alleviated budget short falls. That same investment in the private sector would have created long-term sustainable jobs that would bring in tax revenue and thus, support the firefighters, teachers and police upon which our communities rely. To give you an example, with $500,000 (the amount spent per claimed job saved), I was able to create a health care company, which created 50 jobs (and 50 additional taxpayers), who are still paying taxes today. And, I did that in three years.
The issue is that we’re spending money that only provides temporary gains, whereas private sector job creation provides long-term sustainable jobs and tax base. Any such future spending must be considered carefully against the negatives of increased public debt.

6.The majority of Americans disagree with the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case that ruled, in effect, that corporations are people and have the same rights. How do you feel about that ruling?
I don’t mind if corporations give money (and just for the record, we have received no PAC dollars or money from corporations), but I believe there should be 100% transparency in campaign finance donations and no exceptions to the laws. For example, the DISCLOSE Act exempted the NRA and unions from disclosing who their funders are. As a society, we must stop allowing the government to pick winners and losers.

7.Are you concerned that foreign entities may be funneling money into our elections because of the Citizens United ruling?
Of course I’m concerned, but I think what you’re getting at here is the Chamber of Commerce issue. The money coming from foreign entities is less than one percent of the funds they receive, which they’ve vowed to keep separate from political funds. And, of course, the Chamber is a neutral group that gives to both Republicans and Democrats. They give money to pro-business candidates who the Chamber believes will be better for business interests.

8.You ask the question: Are we to become a people beholden to our government, or are we to continue as a self-determined people who crave freedom and independence? What are you referring to?
I am referring to the fact that the government is taking over more and more of our lives. Government programs, such as welfare and social security, were meant to act as a safety net in case of economic hardship, but were not meant to carry us for decades. The government has now taken over our health care and several other areas of our economy. We, not a government 1,600 miles away, know best what our families need.

9.How do you feel about the The Affordable Care Act recently signed into law? The Patient’s Bill of Rights will end much of the abuse by insurance companies. The bill also takes aim at some of the inefficiencies in health care such as redundant testing.
I think the health care reform set out to accomplish noble ideas — increase access and provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. These should have been addressed many years ago. But, the government didn’t include significant cost containment measures, which would help address the issue of access. We need free market principles to help bring down the cost of care delivery. For additional information on what I think the solution should have been, please visit my web site at I have posted several videos there explaining my solution.

10.You claim to want to balance the budget. The huge deficits we’re now experiencing are a combination of decreased revenues due to high unemployment, increased payouts for unemployment benefits, the Bush era tax cuts, the two wars, increased payouts for entitlement benefits, and a few hundred billion dollars a year for the stimulus. How would you balance the budget? Cutting government programs during the recession will create even more unemployment.
We need to return all spending to a historical average of 19% of GDP, which looks at discretionary, mandatory and military spending — it’s all on the table. I agree with your premise that we have had decreased revenues due to high unemployment, but I disagree with your claim that the Bush-era tax cuts. History tells us that when you decrease taxes, our economy grows and jobs are created. Look at the Kennedy response.
Just to give you an example, one of my volunteers has a small company in which she would like to hire another person, but the difference between her hiring another person and not is about $5,000 in revenue. When her taxes go up the scheduled 4-5%, she will no longer be able to hire someone. That’s a job loss.

11.Many wealthy people (including John McCain) collect Social Security, even though they don’t need it. The lower and middle class have their entire income taxed at a rate of 6.2% for Social Security but for the wealthy, only the first $102,000 is taxed. Eliminating the cutoff point for taxation and eliminating payouts to the wealthy would solve the upcoming Social Security balance problem. How do you feel about that or what is your solution?
I agree — partially. I think we must keep the promises to people who are currently retired or very close to retirement because they’ve made life decisions with the guarantee of these funds. But, we do have to increase the retirement age for the next wave of retirees who have time to adjust to the change. Because I just turned 46, I will volunteer to be the first group whose age is increased. I also believe we have to means test on the back-end, not the front end. There is no guarantee that the wealthy will continue to be financially solvent into their retirement, and social security, afterall, is meant to be a safety net program.

12.The Republicans in the Senate filibuster nearly every bill and nomination. While the House doesn’t have that problem, how do you feel about the behavior in the Senate at a time when we need action — not obstruction.
This is one of the reasons why I say that the process is broken. No bill is so good that every Democrat should vote for it and no bill is so bad that every Republican should oppose it. But, that goes both ways. Whatever happened to taking the best ideas from both sides of the aisle and coming up with compromises? I don’t see a lot of that happening — on either side. I am not beholden to anyone, so I plan to rely on my life experience, my business acumen and, most importantly, the opinions of the people of Colorado’s First Congressional District.

13.How would you make higher education more affordable?
We should start treating higher education as we do our businesses. We should eliminate redundancy of product, eliminate outdated programs, and reduce administrative costs, just like we would in any other business or service industry whose costs have become too high.

October 26, 2010

Rand Paul stormtroopers stomp woman’s head

by Ben Hoffman

Actually it looks like he stomped her shoulder, but these people are nuts. The woman is holding a sign that reads “RAND PAUL, RepubliCorp Employee of the Month,” which is extremely appropriate. Fascism is the merging of corporations and government and that’s exactly what we get with Republicans.

October 25, 2010

World’s biggest solar power plant being developed in California! … by a German company? WTF?

by Ben Hoffman

The Obama administration is set to announce approval of a thousand-megawatt solar project on federal land in southern California, the largest in a series of solar projects given the go-ahead in recent weeks.

The Interior Department has approved a permit for what will be the world’s biggest solar power plant, on federal land in the desert near Blythe, Calif., 225 miles east of Los Angeles, according to Obama administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

The $6 billion project is being developed by Solar Millennium, a German solar developer. At peak output, the solar farm could generate enough clean electricity to power more than 300,000 homes, according to project developers.


That shows how far we’ve fallen behind in technology. We don’t have companies advanced enough to build a project this large. Thanks, Republicans, for causing the U.S. to fall behind nearly every other advanced country in the world!

October 25, 2010

Republican goals for the next two years: Create jobs? Not hardly.

by Ben Hoffman

In an interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett, Mitch McConnell candidly acknowledged that he feels his “single most important” job is to defeat President Obama in 2012:

MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”

NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

Read more…

It’s been obvious to a lot of us that destroying the Obama administration has been the Republicans’ goal for two years now. And now they actually admit it!

October 22, 2010

Right-wing morons threaten to stop watching the radio!

by Ben Hoffman

Of the thousands of complaints that have saturated NPR in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing earlier this week, some of the most telling have been from callers describing themselves as long-time “viewers” of NPR who warn that they are going to “stop watching.”

NPR, of course, does not have viewers, it has listeners. But the public radio organization has come under severe criticism — largely from people who are not listeners, it believes — for having fired Mr. Williams, an analyst who was employed by both NPR and Fox News when he said on Fox that he felt fearful when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane.


His contract was terminated, she said, because “he had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air.”

On one such occasion last year, Mr. Williams said on Fox that Michelle Obama has “got this ‘Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress’ thing going,” an allusion to a leader of the black power movement of the 1960s.

In each instance, Ms. Schiller said, “We called him on it, we had a discussion, we asked him not to do it again.” NPR’s ethics code states that journalists “should not express views” in other outlets, like TV shows, that “they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

People deserve second chances, Ms. Schiller said, but “we made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that’s what we did.”

“And that is the sole reason,” she added. “This is not a First Amendment issue.”


October 22, 2010

Pervert on the Supreme Court

by Ben Hoffman

Lillian McEwen breaks her 19-year silence about Justice Clarence Thomas

For nearly two decades, Lillian McEwen has been silent — a part of history, yet absent from it.

When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill’s allegations.

Lillian McEwen was that woman.

“He was obsessed with porn,” she said of Thomas, who is now 63. “He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting.”


Angela Wright, who in 1984 worked as public affairs director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which polices sexual harassment claims — during Thomas’s long tenure as chairman, shared similar accounts with Senate investigators.

Once, when walking into an EEOC seminar with Thomas, he asked her, “What size are your breasts?” according to the transcript of her Senate interview.

Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter, who told investigators that Wright had become increasingly uneasy around Thomas because of his comments about her appearance.

Read more…

There’s a computer science term “garbage in, garbage out” which can now be applied to the SCOTUS. If you put garbage in there to act as the highest justice in the land, all you’re going to get is garbage out in his rulings. And that’s what we have with Clarence Thomas.

October 21, 2010

How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us Into the Economic Mess of the Century

by Ben Hoffman

AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland’s new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland’s research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won’t read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It’s one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It’s a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.


The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

Yet the meltdown was global in nature, and it’s worth noting that citizens of other wealthy countries weren’t so complacent. As the Telegraph, a British tabloid, reported, “A depression triggered in America is being played out in Europe with increasing violence, and other forms of social unrest are spreading. In Iceland, a government has fallen. Workers have marched in Zaragoza, as Spanish unemployment heads toward 20 percent. There have been riots and bloodshed in Greece, protests in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The police have suppressed public discontent in Russia.” Another British paper, the Guardian, reported scenes of “Burned-out cars, masked youths, smashed shop windows and more than a million striking workers” in France. French officials went so far as to delay the release of unemployment data, “apparently for fear of inflaming the protests.”

You might wonder why Americans are so docile compared to others in the face of such a brutal economic onslaught by a small and entitled elite. Any number of theories have been offered to explain the apparent disconnect. Thomas Frank argued eloquently in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? that wedge social issues—“God, guns and gays”—that the American Right nurtures with such care, obscure the fundamental differences between rich and poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised. Class consciousness, common to other liberal democracies, has been trumped by social anxieties, according to Frank.

I would offer two additional explanations. First, the 90 percent of Americans who haven’t seen a raise in 35 years compensated for their stagnant incomes and kept on consuming, buying televisions and going out to dinner. How did they do it? First, by bringing women into the workforce in huge numbers, transforming the “typical” single-breadwinner family into a two-earner household. Between 1955 and 2002, the percentage of married women who had jobs outside the home almost doubled. Workers’ salaries stayed pretty much the same, but the average family now had two paychecks instead of one.

After that, we started to finance our lifestyles through debt—mounds of it. Consumer debt blossomed; trade deficits (which are ultimately financed by debt) exploded, and the government started to run big budget deficits, year in and year out. In the period after World War II, while wages were still rising along with the overall economy, Americans socked away 7 to 12 percent of the nation’s income in savings annually (the data only go back as far as 1959). But in the 1980s, that began to decline—the savings rate fell from around 10 percent in the 1960s and the 1970s to about 7 percent in the 1980s, and by 2005, it stood at less than 1 percent (it’s rebounded somewhat since the crash—to 3.3 percent at the beginning of 2010).

Read full summary