Archive for October, 2010

October 21, 2010

The Republican Swindle About ‘Obamacare and Stimulus’

by Ben Hoffman

The Republicans are trying to tell us that the health-care-reform bill is a hugely expensive trespass against freedom and liberty. This obviously refers to the price tag and the individual mandate. What they don’t mention is that “Obamacare” will actually achieve several very significant goals.

1) The health-care-reform bill will help working and middle class Americans to afford quality health insurance via hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. For example, families of four earning $54,000 will see their insurance premiums reduced by around $10,000 per year. That’s a lot. Who in their right mind would turn down a government check for $10,000? Every year. That’s a full semester of state university tuition, among other things.

2) Contrary to the “Obama-is-spending-too-much” meme, the bill does not increase the deficit. According to the nonpartisan CBO, the bill cuts the deficit by $130 billion over ten years. Put another way, all that scaremongering about the cost of the bill is just that: scaremongering. The bill pays for itself and then some.

3) There are no enforcement mechanisms for the super-duper terrifying individual mandate. If you choose not to buy insurance when the mandate takes effect in 2014, and are consequently fined $695, there is no means of actually enforcing the payment of that penalty. No liens, levies, no jail, no Obamacare Goons swooping into your house like America-hating Kenyan ninjas. Nothing will happen to you. Nothing. So, you know, chill out about the mandate.

Why are Republicans against the stimulus? They really won’t say other than to screech about how expensive it was. But, before we go further, read the paragraph about the deficit again. The Democrats cut the deficit. And then factor into the mix that $288 billion out of the $800 billion cost of the recovery act was composed entirely of tax cuts. Tax cuts! As a matter of history and taken as a lump sum, this was the largest American middle class tax cut ever. So it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Republicans are suddenly against the largest middle-class tax cut in American history.

Despite the attempt to turn a derivation of the positive word “stimulate” into a negative, there’s very little about the stimulus that actually sucked, other than the fact that it wasn’t big enough. Beyond that, Republican voters need to ask themselves if the tax cuts were bad — or maybe was it the new roads and infrastructure that helped to create jobs, or was it the money that was spent to keep the states out of bankruptcy and police, teachers and firemen from losing their jobs? What’s awful about any of that?

Read more

What’s awful about any of that? Nothing. Right-wingers are told to be against it so they’re against it. They’d be against popcorn if those were their marching orders.

October 19, 2010

The 2008 Bush Bailouts — Republican Socialism!

by Ben Hoffman

No, not that stimulus. I’m talking about the Bush 1.632 trillion dollars in bailouts that occurred between March 2008 and October 2008.

March 2008
New York Fed took control of a $30 billion portfolio of assets through a limited liability company formed to manage the assets. J.P. Morgan Chase will bear the first $1 billion of any losses associated with the portfolio, and any gains will accrue to the New York Fed. Source

OMG! That’s socialism!!!

May 2008: Stimulus checks and tax cuts
$178 Billion Stimulus Package
The U.S. Treasury provided an economic stimulus package to American taxpayers in the form of $600 economic stimulus checks for individuals and $1,200 economic stimulus payments for couples. That cost the government $100 billion, and they threw in another $68 billion in tax breaks for businesses, $8 billion to increase unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks, and a $4 billion economic stimulus package to be doled out to states and local municipalities to buy and rehab foreclosed properties.

July 2008: Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008
It authorizes the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee up to $300 billion in new 30-year fixed rate mortgages for sub-prime borrowers if lenders write-down principal loan balances to 90 percent of current appraisal value. It also provided tax credits for first-time home buyers, who could be eligible to receive up to a $7,500 tax credit.

OMG! They’re helping people buy homes they can’t afford!!!

September 2008
$200 Billion Stimulus Package – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bailout
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (privately owned mortgage companies that are backed by the federal government) were about to fail, due to declining house prices and rising foreclosures. The Bush Administration stepped in with a $200 billion economic stimulus package and placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their $5 trillion in home loans in “temporary conservatorship,” to be supervised by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

September 2008
$50 Billion Stimulus Package To Guarantee Money Market Funds
When the economic crisis reached a crescendo, Americans began to pull their money out of money market funds – historically considered to be the safest investment. To stop the bloodshed, the U.S. Treasury agreed to guarantee up to $50 billion, for up to a year.

September 2008
$25 Billion Stimulus Package – Automakers Bailout
In an attempt to stave off bankruptcies for the “Big 3 automakers,” the Bush Administration gave General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler $25 billion in low-interest loans.

September – November 2008
$150 Billion Stimulus Package – AIG Bailout
With the world’s largest insurance company in dire straits and 74 million clients at risk, the American government chipped in and gave AIG (American Insurance Group) $150 billion in a stimulus package that included: loans, purchase of toxic assets, and purchase of preferred shares.

October 2008
$700 Billion Stimulus Package – Banks Bailout
The Bush Administration, under the umbrella of the U.S. Treasury, committed $700 billion in economic stimulus money under TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). By many accounts, if this economic stimulus money hadn’t been injected, credit between banks would have frozen overnight, and not only the American economy, but also the global economy, would have seized up.

Source

At least the Obama stimulus helped our economy and improved our infrastructure. With the exception of the stimulus check gimmick and the bailout of Fannie and Freddie, the Bush bailouts pretty much just helped corporations.

October 18, 2010

U.S. House Candidate Mike Fallon to answer questions on the Drudge Retort!

by Ben Hoffman

Mike Fallon is a candidate for U.S. House of Representative, Colorado District 1, running against Dianna Degette. His campaign manager offered to have Mike explain his stance on issues so I emailed him several questions and am looking forward to his responses. Those who read my blog regularly know there will be no softball questions. We’ll see what we get!

Mike’s website is http://fallon4congress.com

October 18, 2010

A sign of things to come: reporter arested by security guards

by Ben Hoffman

Fascism is coming to America. Say goodbye to free speech and and democracy. During the Bush administration, Americans were arrested for having anti-Bush bumper stickers on their cars. Yesterday, Joe Miller’s private security guards arrested a reporter for asking Miller a question he didn’t like.

Here’s the story:

The editor of the Alaska Dispatch website was arrested by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller’s private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school.

Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by the guards and detained in a hallway at Central Middle School until Anchorage police came and told the guards to release Hopfinger.

[…]

Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.

Hopfinger said that after he shoved the man away, the guards grabbed him, cuffed his hands behind his back with steel handcuffs and sat him in a chair in the school hallway, Hopfinger said.

One of the guards grabbed Hopfinger’s video camera. Later, Hopfinger said that when he got the camera back, the segment covering the span of the arrest was missing. An Anchorage police officer offered to take the camera into custody and have it examined in the crime lab to investigate whether evidence had been destroyed, but Hopfinger declined. He said he needed the camera and the remaining video for his work.

Read more…

[update]

Here is a video. It appears the guards were impersonating police officers.

October 17, 2010

GOP Ideas For Denver and America (or lack thereof)

by Ben Hoffman

Okay, who says Republicans don’t have any ideas?

Joshua Sharf supports seniors! Is against tax increases!
Ken Buck is against the stimulus bill, health care reform, and he’s against the debt! Whoooeeee! There’s a man with ideas!
Mike Fallon opposes the bailouts of irresponsible companies and is for a balanced budget! Hmmmm… how’s he going to balance the budget?

Republicans have no ideas that will make our country better and create jobs. Republicans are for outsourcing of jobs overseas. They’re for tax cuts that exploded the federal debt. They’re against the stimulus bill that has lowered unemployment and increased the GDP. They want to cut government programs but they can’t name one that they would cut if they had the opportunity. They’re against regulating the banks that brought down our economy. They want to repeal the health reform that reduces some of the abuse of the insured when it’s a bill written by Democrats but they want the same things only if they can write the bill (which they never will).

What will improve the economy? Eliminate the tax cuts companies get when they ship jobs overseas and reward companies that hire domestically. Impose tariffs on imports from countries that don’t abide by free trade agreements and those that impose tariffs on goods from the U.S.A. Improve our transportation infrastructure by building high speed rail lines, among other things. Promote a “buy American” policy. Get out of Afghanistan and Iraq and cut defense spending.

Republicans are for none of those things. They’re only interested in helping large corporations increase profits.

October 17, 2010

What’s wrong with the Democratic Party? Pelosi and Reid.

by Ben Hoffman

When we voted the Democrats into power, we thought we were getting progressive leadership. What we got was watered down bills and spineless leadership. Leadership is as important as intelligence and good policies. To get anything done in Washington requires beating the Republicans and getting the message out, and the Democrats have failed repeatedly to do that. As Anthony Weiner put it, the “Democrats come to a knife fight with library books.”

The fault lies with leadership in both the House and Senate.

When the Democrats took control of the House four years ago, Nancy Pelosi took impeachment of Bush “off the table.” We had a president who lied us into war, spied on American citizens, tortured prisoners, doubled the national debt, and politicized the justice department, yet Pelosi took impeachment off the table. If there ever was a need to impeach a president, it was during the Bush administration.

The Senate is where all good bills go to die. Since Obama took office, the Republicans have filibustered nearly every bill and nomination. The filibuster has become routine and now to get anything done requires 60 votes, which means watering down bills to garner a few Republican votes and to get the conservocrats on board. The result is garbage bills that make almost no one happy.

The answer is new leadership in Congress. It’s not too late to find out why things went so wrong with Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars have cost the lives of over five thousand Americans at a cost of some three trillion dollars, yet the Bush administration has been given a free pass. Right-wingers claim it would set a dangerous precedent to go after previous administrations. A dangerous precedent was set back in the mid-seventies when Ford pardoned Nixon. A decade later, Bush Sr. pardoned everyone involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. And now we have serious crimes where there’s not even a thorough investigation.

With Harry Reid’s leadership in the Senate, the Democrats might just as well not have a majority. Reid was an amateur boxer when he was young but he doesn’t seem to have any fight left in him. You can’t reason with irrational people, yet Reid continues to try to negotiate with those on the other side of the isle.

While the Republicans probably won’t gain control of either houses of Congress in next month’s election, there will definitely be more irrational Republicans to deal with. To get anything done will require strong leadership and we don’t have that with Reid or Pelosi.

October 16, 2010

German people were enablers, colluders, co-criminals in the Holocaust — We’re seeing the same mindset today in the U.S.

by Ben Hoffman

There’s a new Nazi exhibit in Berlin that shows how ordinary citizens accepted and celebrated Hitler. Artifacts include household items that had Nazi logos and colors, and celebrate the union of the church, state, and party.

“This is what we call self-mobilization of society,” said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. “As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.”

[…]

Instead, the show focuses on the society that nurtured and empowered him. It is not the first time historians have argued that Hitler did not corral the Germans as much as the Germans elevated Hitler.

We see the same mindset here in the U.S. It is especially apparent with the way much of the public idolizes Sarah Palin. She’s an extremely ordinary person who’s only skill seems to be her ability to promote fear and hatred.

“The only hope for stopping extremists is to isolate them from society so that they are separated, so they do not have a relationship with the bourgeoisie and the other classes,” Mr. Thamer said. “The Nazis were members of high society. This was the dangerous moment.

It’s the working class who are angry in America. These are the same type of people who elevated Hitler to power. These are the Fox “news” viewers, the “America: love it or leave it” crowd, the people who like to think of themselves as “rugged individualists,” but who are really just sheep in the flock. These are the people who are empowering people like Sarah Palin and the other tea party nobodies.

Germany is slipping back into the mindset that empowered the Nazis…

A best-selling book by a former banker promoted genetic theories of intelligence and said that Muslims were “dumbing down” society. A leading politician condemned “alien cultures.” A new right-wing party recently attracted hundreds to a speech by the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Even government officials say that immigrant children are picking on native Germans. The media is filled daily with reports of conflict between immigrants, especially Muslims, and Germans.

We see the same kind of thing here. Christians complain that they are “oppressed.” Muslims are scapegoated, as seen with the proposed community center near the World Trade Center site in New York. Right-wing candidates spew hate and fear filled rhetoric and attract large crowds. Immigrants are blamed for problems with the economy and crime.

As he walked through the exhibit on Friday, Eric Pignolet, a Belgian who has lived in Berlin for 22 years, said he was pleased that Germans were no longer saying, “I didn’t know.” But he said he was troubled by parallels between then and now.

“I think if you had someone like him today, it could be very dangerous,” he said halfway through his walk through the displays about Hitler. ““There are a lot of people out there who want jobs, who are not happy with the political leadership, who would vote for someone like him if he came along.”

[…]

But over and over, the point was spelled out clearly in the exhibit’s plaques like one, near letters written by children who were sent off to concentration camps, that said: “Hitler was able to implement his military and extermination objectives because the military and economic elites were willing to carry out his war.”

These Tea Party candidates are being enabled by the modern day economic elites who’s only concern is expanding their wealth and power. People like Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and others are financed by the wealthy and powerful because these candidates want to block things that will slow the outsourcing of jobs overseas, tariffs, tax increases on the wealthy, and regulations that might hurt profits.

The exhibit, with all its photographs of young and old adoring Hitler, also sought to dispel the notion that the Nazi spirit was simply impossible to resist. It held up Johann Georg Elser as proof that “it was possible for an individual to develop into a resistance fighter.”

Mr. Elser was a carpenter who tried to kill Hitler at the outset of the war and was hanged for his actions.

His story, however, left some viewers to wonder why their parents and grandparents had not rejected Hitler. Why everyone went mad.

Twenty years from now, we’re going to be wondering the same thing about how we allowed the radical right-wing fringe to take over our country.

Read more about the Nazi exhibit here

October 15, 2010

Insanity

by Ben Hoffman

Democrats: We can do A to fix the economy.
Republicans: We won’t let you do A.
Democrats: We can do B to fix the economy.
Republicans: We won’t let you do B.
Democrats: We can do C to fix the economy.
Republicans: We won’t let you do C.

American public: Fix the economy!
Republicans: Elect us because the Democrat’s policies aren’t working.
American public: Yeah, Obama’s policies aren’t working! Lower our taxes! Keep government out of our lives!

October 14, 2010

Quote of the day: Chris Matthews on the Chilean rescue

by Ben Hoffman

Tea Party movement’s philosophy of every man for himself, no more taxes, and no government services prompted Chris Matthews to make this comment:

“These people, if they were every man for himself down that mine, they wouldn’t have gotten out. They would have been killing each other after about two days. This is a story of how people can work together.”

Read more…

October 13, 2010

Quote of the day: “The Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth”

by Ben Hoffman

The President “wants to be liked by everybody, and he thought all he had to do was talk reason. But remember – the Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth. It’s full of hatred. You’re not going to get them aboard. Don’t even try. The only way to handle them is to terrify them. He’s too delicate for that.”
~ Gore Vidal

October 12, 2010

The Catholic Church: As Bad As The Taliban

by Ben Hoffman

More than half of Chicago’s Roman Catholic parishes have had a priest accused of sexually abusing a child working there at some point, according to a study released today that was quickly questioned by the Chicago Archdiocese.

In some cases, multiple priests accused of misconduct worked at the same church, according to the study, conducted by reform groups Voice of the Faithful, African American Advocates for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“In almost 60 percent of the parishes, an accused predator worked there,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP.

For example, from 1980 to 1990, 57.7% of Chicago parishes had an accused priest working there, said Bob Kopp, one of the study’s researchers and vice president of Chicagoland Voice of the Faithful. Other decades examined in the study had similar percentages of affected parishes, he said.

Read more…

October 11, 2010

MIT economist wins Nobel prize – Republicans block his confirmation to Federal Reserve Board of Governors

by Ben Hoffman

Republicans are doing everything they can to deride the Obama presidency, including blocking the best and the brightest from helping our economy recover. Here is the latest…

For months now, Sen. Richard Shelby has been blocking the nomination of economist Peter Diamond to join the board of the Federal Reserve. “I do not believe he’s ready to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board,” Shelby said, “I do not believe that the current environment of uncertainty would benefit from monetary policy decisions made by board members who are learning on the job.”

Today, Diamond won the Nobel Prize in economics. Of course, Shelby never said he wasn’t a “skilled economist.” He said he didn’t know monetary economics. But that’s foolish: Before serving on the Federal Reserve Board, Elizabeth Duke worked at a bank. Kevin Warsh worked for George W. Bush. Sarah Bloom Raskin was a financial regulator in Maryland. Ben Bernanke was an economist, and prior to that, one of Diamond’s students. They all learned on the job.

And there’s really no other choice. You can’t serve on the Federal Reserve Board before you serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Shelby’s argument against Diamond is cover for his actual objections against Diamond. One of those objections is simple partisan politics. But another, I’ve heard, is odder: Shelby hates behavioral economics.

This White House, as has been endlessly well-known”>pointed out, is big on behavioral economics. See Peter Orszag, Jeff Liebman and Cass Sunstein for more on that. But the administration’s embrace of the discipline has provoked a response that the White House never anticipated. Republicans have grown suspicious of behavioral economics. And Diamond, it turns out, has done a fair amount of work in the field (for instance, here). Insofar as Shelby’s got an actual objection to DIamond, that’s it, and one of the things he wants is another hearing focusing on Diamond’s behavioral work.

Read more…

October 10, 2010

The New American Dream — Corporate Style!

by Ben Hoffman

The American dream used to be that if you worked hard, you could get ahead and buy a house, a decent car, and provide a nice life for your family. That dream is pretty much dead for many.

But enough of that… There’s a new American dream! Now, if you’re born into wealth and become a CEO of a big corporation, you can buy yourself a politician! Yes, America is now the place where you can buy influence in our government. If you don’t like regulations, buy a politician to repeal them! If you want to use workers in third world nations, buy a politician who will block any attempt at repealing the tax credit you get for doing so. If you don’t want to spend money on stupid environmental safety procedures, buy a politician who won’t enforce the regulations!

Who says you can’t achieve the American dream? It’s everywhere you look, if you were born wealthy.

October 10, 2010

And now for a Sunday religious quote…

by Ben Hoffman

If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.
~ Woody Allen

And an extra bonus quote:

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
~ Robert A Heinlein

October 10, 2010

Take Back Our Country, America

by Ben Hoffman

Several drastic events have caused our once strong foundation, laid down by our founding fathers, to crumple. What happened and why?

In recent decades, we had the Nixon cronies breaking into the DNC in an attempt to gain political advantage. Our system worked and Nixon was forced out of office. Where it failed was the pardoning of Nixon by Ford. From that point on, it was anything goes and reached its recent peak with Bush lying us into war in Iraq. Where are the prosecutions? We are supposed to be a nation of laws and no one is above the law, so where is the law enforcement? Nowhere to be found.

Our Supreme Court went from interpreting law to making law. That has never been more true than with the Roberts court. They took a precedent from some eighty years ago that was barely related to a case they were hearing and reversed it! Talk about judicial activism! Both Roberts and Alito swore they would respect precedents and immediately overturned long standing rulings. We’re seeing the results of that in our current election. Where are the impeachments?

November 2010 could be our last chance for restoring our Constitution and making our government, of the people, by the people and for the people. If Republicans regain power, it will be a government of, by, and for corporations. That is, unless you believe that corporations are people, as was recently ruled by the activist judges on the Supreme Court.

With our government being run by corporations, we’ll slowly see our freedoms erode. We’ll see wages decline. Only the wealthy will be able to go to college. Small businesses and the American dream will be things of the past.

This is the end of America.