Archive for category National Politics

The Millionaire Party

Monopoly Man

Tonight on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show Prof. Dorian Warren of Columbia University (citing the book White Collar Government by Nicholas Carnes) wondered aloud what it would be like if the millionaires formed their own political party, a party representing just 3 percent of Americans.

  • The Millionaire Party would already occupy the White House.
  • They would control the House of Representatives.
  • They would have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
  • And the Millionaires would have a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.

While there is no such thing as the Millionaire Party, does it matter that the wealthiest Americans set the tax rates for the wealthy, that white-collar professionals choose the minimum wage for blue-collar workers, and that people who have always had health insurance decide whether or not to help those without? Could be.

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Cliven Bundy on Faux News


Note: Original video was taken down off YouTube. This is from Cenk Uygur.

Via Media Matters:

Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has been fighting the government over grazing rights on public land for nearly a quarter century. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay government fees required to allow his cattle to exploit public lands. In 1998, the government issued a court order telling Bundy to remove his cows from the land, as part of an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise located there. And in July 2013, a federal court ordered Bundy to get his cattle off public land within 45 days or they would be confiscated. The confiscation began this month, and the cattle will be sold to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.

Night after night on Faux News Channel, Sean Hannity sympathizes with Bundy’s claims against the government and cheerleads for a gun battle. Faux News goes ballistic about “takers” unless it’s a right-winger who’s trying to get something for free, and then suddenly not paying your own way is okay or even downright laudable.

UPDATE:
Nevada ‘range war’ protest growing in size after video of encounter with federal agents

UPDATE:
Armed Right-Wing Militia Members Descend On Nevada To Help Rancher Defy Court Order

This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.

Last October, the federal government returned to court and obtained a new order, providing that “Bundy shall remove his livestock from the former Bunkerville Allotment within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.” A third federal court order issued the same year explains that Bundy did not simply refuse to stop trespassing on federal lands — he actually expanded the range of his trespassing. According to the third order, “Bundy’s cattle have moved beyond the boundaries of the Bunkerville Allotment and are now trespassing on a broad swath of additional federal land (the “New Trespass Lands”), including public lands within the Gold Butte area that are administered by the BLM, and National Park System land within the Overton Arm and Gold Butte areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” The third order also authorizes the federal government to “impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass.”

UPDATE:
Drudge Report Recklessly Hypes Confrontation Between Rancher And Federal Government

Drudge is now promoting an article from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website Infowars.com that suggests BLM and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) are working together to take over the ranch so the Chinese government can turn it into a solar farm.

UPDATE:
Safety Concerns Force Feds To Pull Out In Illegal Cattle Grazing Dispute

UPDATE:
Three Ways That Nevada Rancher And His Right-Wing Militia Supporters Could Wind Up Behind Bars

UPDATE:
Nevada rancher calls on sheriffs to disarm federal agents in cattle dispute

UPDATE:
Militant Former Sheriff Planned To Put Women ‘Up At The Front’ If Violence Erupted In Rancher’s Showdown With Feds

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If Walmart Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up?

Via Slate:

In the series “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark traces how big-box stores make billions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. What’s more, the wages of many workers at these stores are so low that the workers themselves qualify for food stamps—which the employees then often spend at those big-box stores.

This video crunches the numbers on how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker earn a living wage.

Are safety-net programs designed to help struggling Americans padding corporate profits at taxpayer expense? BTW friends don’t let friends shop at Walmart.

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Maine Senators Use The Word “Torture” To Describe CIA Torture

Torture posterWell, this is amazing. Following months of public pressure, the Senate intelligence committee voted 11-3 on Thursday to declassify portions of the lengthy investigation into the CIA’s use of torture at secret black sites around the world. The executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate panel’s 6,300-page report will be released.

Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) supported the release of the Senate Torture Report, using a word that nobody thought Washington politicians have in their vocabulary (emphasis added):

We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.

Our vote to declassify this report does not signal our full endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology. The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel. It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members. We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the Executive Summary, and Additional and Dissenting Views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program.

Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.

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Bill Maher To Democrats: Stand Your Ground, Stop Being Wimps And Embrace Jimmy Carter

Via HuffPo:

Bill Maher points out the obvious- Democrats are mostly political invertebrates, and they are headed for a disaster this November if they don’t find some courage.

“When a Tea Partyer says Obamacare is a government takeover, say ‘I wish!’ Because that would mean Medicare for All. And you know, Medicare is hugely popular in America. So let’s see — getting behind something that’s hugely popular, for all… No, too hard a sell.”

Also, Jimmy Carter was right about energy and so much else. Why are Dems ashamed of him?

UPDATE:
Let’s recall that President Obama dragged his feet for more than four years before putting solar panels back on the White House — because he didn’t want Faux News Channel to compare him to President Carter.

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Connecticut Enacts $10.10 Minimum Wage

Chris Rock

Via Think Progress:

This week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed it into law yesterday.

If implemented nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would put it in line with where it would be if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, although far behind the increases in workers’ productivity since then. It would also lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty, close the gender wage gap by 5 percent, and reduce spending on public programs by tens of billions of dollars. There is also real world and academic evidence to suggest that it won’t hurt job growth and could benefit the economy.

Given that the November midterm elections (like 2010) are expected to be dominated by Faux-News-watching senior citizens, it really looks like President Obama will be the only president since FDR whose administration did not enact any increase in the federal minimum wage.

America needs a raise!

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

UPDATE:
Half A Million People With College Degrees Are Working For Minimum Wage

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Half of Americans are Poor or Low-Income

Poverty graph
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

h/t Paul Buchheit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Relative Poverty Measure (see Table 4), which is “most commonly used in developed countries to measure poverty,” 18 percent of Americans are below the poverty threshold and 32 percent are below twice the threshold, putting them in the low-income category. In other words, half of Americans are poor or low-income.

The bottom half of America own just 1.1% of the country’s wealth, or about $793 billion, which is the same amount owned by the 30 richest Americans. ZERO wealth is owned by approximately the bottom 47 percent.

Our politicians can either do something about inequality, or Americans will do something about our political system.

Recommended viewing: Jacob Kornbluth’s film “Inequality for All” with Robert Reich. Now on Netflix.

More info:
Inequality for All

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

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Keeling Curve At 400 ppm Again – Climate Change Denial Continues

Keeling Curve

From Climate Central:

In 1958, Charles David Keeling began making daily measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. These measurements were begun as part of a one-year initiative, the International Geophysical Year, but because of Keeling’s persistence, the daily record has continued through the present, almost without interruption. The Mauna Loa record, now known as the Keeling Curve, continues to be collected under the direction of Keeling’s son, Ralph.

Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.

“We’re already seeing values over 400. Probably we’ll see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever,” said Ralph Keeling in a blog post.

To preserve a livable planet, climate scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.

Right-wing Republicans remain unconcerned. Recently Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the vice chair of the notoriously anti-climate change House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on “Meet the Press”: “Now, you know, when you look at the social cost of carbon, and there is a lot of ambiguity around that, what you also need to be doing is looking at the benefits of carbon and what that has on increased agricultural production.”

“The President should realize that Congress has taken action” on climate change policies, Blackburn said. “We have said no.”

More info:
350.org

UPDATE:

World’s Oldest Direct Measure Of Atmospheric CO2 May Lose Its Funding

71 Comments

Robert Reich: The ‘Paid-What-You’re-Worth’ Myth

Inequality graphs

As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).

“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.

…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.

…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.

…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.

It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.

UPDATE:

Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.

49 Comments

No, Americans Are Not All To Blame for the Financial Crisis

EITB?

Writing in The New Republic, Dean Starkman counters the narrative still being repeated by the PTB and the media. The claim that Everyone-Is-To-Blame (EITB) for crashing the economy is not true. Wall Street financiers and predatory lenders are the guilty parties. Consumers didn’t suddenly start committing fraud on a massive scale in 2004 – that was the mortgage industry.

Why blame the victims? Because six years after the fact, no significant Wall Street figure has been criminally prosecuted. That’s a good enough reason, if you’re one of the crooks who got away with it.

Writes Starkman:

I’m not suggesting that Wall Street has gotten a free pass on its role in the crisis. People get it, sort of. But we also grade on a curve that assumes that banks’ criminal or quasi-criminal conspiracies are par for the course, Wall Street just being Wall Street. …Borrowers who wound up underwater, by contrast, are pitiful at best. Either they were greedy or dumb or both. They really should have been more careful.

…Sorry, everybody was not to blame. “We” didn’t all do it.

UPDATE:
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 65 percent of Americans say the country is “on the wrong track,” and 57 percent say they believe we’re still in a recession. Republicans actively pursue measures to worsen the economy for average Americans (e.g. austerity budgeting, refusing to extend unemployment insurance), in the hope that their sabotage will be rewarded at the polls in November. There’s something really wrong with the two-party system if they can get away with this.

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Media Matters Brings Us Mythopedia, The Dictionary of Right-Wing Lies

With the truth at your fingertips, it’s easy to call out right-wing lies wherever they appear. Try Mythopedia today: http://mythopedia.mediamatters.org/

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Media Has To Stop Giving Climate Deniers Equal Time

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Via Media Matters.

Be sure and watch “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.”

More info:
Why Revive ‘Cosmos?’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson Says Just About Everything We Know Has Changed

UPDATE:
Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Really Starting To Scare Conservatives

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