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Posts Tagged ‘middle class

’08 Obama Voters, Stop the Dispair…and Recognize Who Is Preventing Recovery!

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Ron Brownstein of the National Journal wrote a story about three weeks ago that escaped much attention. In the article, Brownstein explains the disappointment many 2008 Obama supporters now feel with the President. That he’s not done enough to get the country moving again, or that the recovery is too slow.

In 2008, Koplitz backed Obama, and he still sympathizes with his hard road. “I think that guy walked into a [screwed]-up situation,” he said. “At least it didn’t get as bad as it could have been.” But although Koplitz credits Obama for averting disaster, he had expected to see more recovery by now. “It’s not as good as you could have hoped,” he said. Even more important, he sees no signs of acceleration ahead. “It’s just stagnation,” he sighed. “It’s not getting worse, but you are not improving anything right now.” As a result, Koplitz is leaning strongly toward Romney.

But the vast majority of the 2008 Obama supporters I met, both blue- and white-collar, were not prepared to abandon him. A few saw signs of economic improvement. With several women, Obama benefited from unease over Romney’s conservative social views. (“I look forward to maintaining control of my own body,” Jody Rodney, a homemaker and singer told me. “It’s kind of important to me.”) Other 2008 supporters praised Obama’s health care plan. But the most powerful glue for many of the president’s voters was the sense that he has earned a kind of sweat equity in delivering grudging progress against the same economic gales so disruptive in their own lives. “With the situation he came into, he did the best he could,” said McKinney, 33, a single mother who started work recently as a medical technician. “There’s no quick fix. The problems were 12 years in the making.”

Perhaps these people, like most of America, don’t realize the Congressional headwinds Obama has faced since his inauguration. Even Obama and his team were unprepared for the kind of full on, dedicated obstructionism that GOP congressional leadership planned for him, given the condition of the economy after the financial crash.

In his book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Draper recounts an event that occurred the night of Obama’s inauguration.

About 15 Republicans plus a few spouses sat around a gathering of tables at the Caucus Room, an expense-account steakhouse near the Capital, to commiserate over the election loss and perhaps to air some spite over the historically huge crowds that turned out for Obama’s inauguration. At the meeting were Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra and Dan Lungren of the House along with Jim DeMint, Jon Kyle, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker from the Senate. The other three were conservative journalist Fred Barnes, Newt Gingrich and GOP aligned communications specialist, Frank Luntz.

Luntz had organized the dinner, inviting these men specifically because they were among the GOP’s most energetic thinkers, in his estimation, and because they got along with Luntz. Throughout the evening, they shared their thoughts about what had gone wrong and why.

They vowed that night, around those gathered tables, that they would regain their majority as they had between 1994 and 2000. “They would take back the House and would use the House as the Republicans’ spear point to mortally wound President Obama in 2011. Then they would retake the White House and the Senate in 2012.”

But rather than personally attacking the highly popular President, they would attack the President’s policies. They would stick together to deny the President and Democrats as many legislative successes as possible. Frank Luntz could not have been happier.

The dinner lasted nearly four hours by which time they had formulated their plan.

First, they would go after Tim Geithner – which Kyl did the next day.

Second, show a united front in opposition to the president’s economic policies – eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor held House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Third, go after vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves – the first attack ads began running less than two months later.

Fourth, win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and Senate in 2012.

As Draper recounts, what was forgotten – or at least not discussed – that night in the Caucus Room was the depressing state of the economy. The already high and climbing unemployment rate. The massive loss of middle class wealth, estimated to be over a trillion dollars. The unfolding of a housing crisis that would eventually affect nearly one in three homeowners nationally.

Nevertheless, all that counted to these Republicans was winning the game of politics and regaining political control, not repairing the damage caused by the financial meltdown that caused the most severe recession since the Great Depression. A recession caused no less by the same kinds of Wall St. behavior and speculation that caused the Great Depression.

As a consequence of the meeting that night and their decisions, each and every policy Obama put forth to resolve the ongoing economic crisis met with a defiant NO from Republicans in both the House and Senate. Every bill Obama and the Democrats proposed, Senate Republicans filibustered.

Following the election in January 2010, of Scott Brown, R-MA, Democrats in the Senate no longer had a reliable 60-vote majority to override the Republican filibusters – even before January 2010, obtaining 60 votes to end a filibuster was difficult. MN Senator Franken did not take his seat until July 7, 2009 and Ted Kennedy died on August 25, 2009.

After months of putting forth large packages to address the ongoing weakness in the economy only to see them blocked by a defiant GOP, the Obama Administration and Democrats decided to break down big packages into smaller ones in hopes that smaller efforts might gain passage if one or two Republican Senators could be persuaded to join the Democrats in overriding the inevitable filibuster. But even those hopes were dashed, if not in the House then in the Senate.

For example, the American Jobs Act would have raised gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.3% to over 2% according to numerous analysts, from Goldman-Sachs to Macroeconomic Advisors. Raising GDP by that amount would have created thousands, if not millions, of jobs. Instead Republicans voted against it and filibustered it, crying out that it would increase the deficit (or increase taxes on the wealthy) even while borrowing rates were effectively at zero. Can anyone imagine, if they could borrow at zero percent interest, not borrowing to take care of needed repairs, especially when they know they can repay the loan? But that is exactly what the GOP blocked. Plus, the economic growth from raising GDP, and lowering unemployment, easily would have paid for the Act.

GDP growth prior to and since Obama took office

Shortly after Obama’s policies took effect, GDP ad economic confidence grew. After GOP obstruction took effect GDP, along with economic confidence, began to falter and become sporadic. The effects of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and BRIC slowdown harms US domestic growth, but if the GOP worked with, rather than against the President and Democrats, the US could lead the world out of Depression as it has before.

But Republicans chose defeating Obama and the Democrats over putting people back to work and helping small businesses grow. Under normal economic conditions, I’d say that’s just politics; that’s the way the game is played. But given the deep and ongoing economic crisis, exacerbated by the on-going sovereign (bank caused) debt crisis in the Eurozone and the slow down in the BRIC countries, especially China, the obstructionism and filibusters of Republicans is unconscionable. They are specifically keeping the economy slow to fulfill their political ends. The political ends to which they agreed on the very night of Obama’s inauguration.

Those people who supported and voted for Obama in 2008 but feel let down and disillusioned now need to understand the political game that’s been played by Republicans over the last four years. If Obama has not met their expectations or hopes, it was because the Republican put up a huge roadblock that prevented progress. Republicans have deliberately sidetracked economic recovery, using one excuse after another to kill economic recovery bills, in order to cause the American people to blame Obama and Democrats for the lack of recovery.

Unfortunately, they’ve been winning that political communications battle, knowing full well that most people are not tuned in to what occurs in Congress. The GOP has counted on the American people to blame the President for not making everything better, regardless of how Congress behaves…as though any President can force a determined obstructionist party bent on defeating that President at all costs to bend to his will or negotiate in good faith. It would take another President Johnson who knew all the skeletons in everyone’s closets to blackmail these intractable Republicans into voting his way.

So, when I hear or read of Democrats or Obama supporters having lost their faith in him or maybe staying home on November 2, I want to yell: “Hey, you’re not paying attention. If anything, you should be voting out all those Republicans who, because of politics alone, are standing in the way of recovery. They are the ones preventing jobs as well as small and new businesses from growing.”

Instead of voting in more Republicans and Romney, who will only increase middle class taxes and decrease everyone’s consumer and product protections, vote out all the Republicans! Send them all home now so recovery can occur…rather than continue to wallow in despair and helplessness. If you’re not registered, get someone to help you get registered. If you don’t have the right voter ID, get someone to help you obtain it.

If you really care about your family, your children’s futures, your communities and your neighborhood businesses, then vote out every Republican possible. Send a message that the middle class counts…that the nation requires a strong, well educated, economically viable middle class to grow the nation, create new businesses, and to compete in a global economy. Together we can renew the nation, while protecting the most vulnerable, if we have the will and desire to send that message clearly and definitively through our voting.

Remember, the President has not let you down, the Republicans have, because of their self-serving drive for power and a belief that you, the middle class, don’t count.

Democrats, Progressives, and friends, send this message to everyone you know. Accurate information can defeat those who, for self seeking political gains, hold the economy down. Plus, if the GOP and Romney win, their lives will be so much worse as the GOP is dedicated to ending the TR’s Fair Deal, FDR’s New Deal, and Johnson’s Great Society. The GOP want the 1890s again and will stop at nothing to return to it.
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Something to Ponder….

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MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, whose new book, Why Nations Fail (co-written by James Robinson), looks at the effect politics and policy have on economic growth and prosperity. Acemoglu said that he believes the most “pernicious” effect of income inequality is that it drains political power from lower- and middle-class Americans and allows the richest to then begin “changing the rules in their favor”

Written by Valerie Curl

March 24, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Micheal Medved, Like So Many of His GOP Bretheran, Fails on Economics

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Michael MedvedMicheal Medved, a conservative editorial writer for the Daily Beast, has decided that the tax system is unfair to wealthy people and argues that the federal government is taking too much from them, regardless of statistical information. I don’t know Medved’s motives, but it’s more than obvious that his assertions are incorrect. Here’s is my response to his editorial on the Daily Beast.

Mr. Medved, your editorial is a perfect example of the GOP pedagogical arguments of today. However, your and the current GOP rhetoric would be antithetical to the GOP presidents of the past, from GHW Bush back to Teddy Roosevelt. Even Pres. Reagan, who grew up as a small town kid in rural Illinois during the Depression and headed the largest actors union in Hollywood, recognized the need to pay our national bills and that government is the size that it is because that size, for any number of reasons, is what a plurality of Americans want. As a result, Reagan raised taxes three separate times. As Reagan’s Senior Domestic Policy Adviser Bruce Bartlett wrote, after Reagan failed to get a clean tax reduction bill – one not laden with exemptions, credits, and special interest deductions – through Congress, he chose to raise taxes because, he said, America had to pay her bills and reduce the deficit.

Reagan did not lay the burden of increased taxes at the feet of middle income, working families alone. It went across the board. Most responsible Democrats and Independents today feel the same. However, we have a tax code that discriminates against those who have not become wealthy and powerful.

Certainly, the wealthy pay in dollar denominated amounts a larger share of overall revenues, but their actual AGI tax rate is the lowest since the 1920s. Of the top 400 highest income earners today, the actual average tax rate is around 17%. Compare this rate to middle income earners who pay a tax rate of 25 to 30%. Moreover, due to the Wall St. caused financial market crash and ensuing Great Recession, a much larger percentage of middle income working families are living in poverty (estimated at 25%) or near poverty levels. Thus, these approximate 20 million families’ AGI has dropped so significantly that their incomes put them into the low or no tax brackets. Would you ask those who are barely surviving to forego food for their children to pay more in taxes so the uber wealthy, who have done extremely well over the last decade, pay a lower dollar amount?

Your argument smacks of the real class warfare, pitting your poor, abused uber wealthy against the real financial needs of hard pressed working families. What happened to old man J.D. Rockefeller’s religiously inspired statement, “to those whom God has given so much, so much is owed”? By the way, he was talking about taxes, not just giving to charities.

As for your preening public workers, I’d like you to tell my brother and late mother that their sacrifice of holidays, vacations, earned days off, overtime pay, etc. was irrelevant. As a budget analyst, my brother put in 60 hours a week or more, every week of the year, foregoing vacations, holidays, and family time to meet his work obligations. My mother did the same. Your broad bush stroke of every civil servant as lazy or irresponsible smacks of ignorance – or worse. While I can agree that the civil service system needs reform, the very idea that those who work hard and dedicate their time and intelligence beyond all reasonable measure and for much less than private industry pays should be considered leeches and denigrated reeks of partisan employment class warfare.

Moreover, your criticism of increased governmental expenditures for favored priorities like high-speed rail, wind farms, educational boondoggles, and other aspects of the “Winning the Future” (WTF) agenda connotes your partisan inability, or unwillingness, to look into the future, even though the markers are clear. As the CEOs of IBM, Siemens, Google, PepsiCo, and others have stated, if the U.S. does not make the investments necessary to compete in education, technology, infrastructure (including high speed rail and broadband), the United States will be left behind in global competition. Our closest competitors in China, India, and Germany are making these investments because they are looking to the future.

You, on the other hand, appear to look into the long dead past. For example, oil subsidies were needed to finance the development of this important new resource at the beginning of the 20th Century. But with rising global competition for limited supplies and increased unrest in oil producing nations, it makes economic and national security sense to wean ourselves off oil. Thus, eliminating subsidies to this highly profitable legacy industry and temporarily transferring those payments to new developing industries and technologies make economic sense. Just as the oil industry and railroad subsidies did in the latter 19th and early 20th Centuries. As Conservative David Frum wrote, subsidies should be used to foster new technology and growth industries, rather than supporting old industries.

The same goes for education. We need a highly skilled workforce, capable of understanding and using the latest technology if the nation is to compete globally. Yet, we have far too many students who either drop out of school before high school graduation or fail to pass minimum college entrance exams. I know; I used to teach these freshman college students many long years ago. They didn’t know a noun from a verb…and things have only become worse, in terms of global competition, in the ensuing years. Of course, if you really want a low third world educated workforce in the U.S., then improving education standards to compete with Singapore, China, Germany or India really doesn’t matter. However, if you really care about the U.S. and it’s competitive position in the world, then as most CEOs state, education is a big, important investment.

Finally, let me remind you that historically tax revenues average between 18 to 22% of GDP. Currently, tax revenues are at approximately 14% of GDP as a result of this recession. Moreover, with the retirement – often age induced – of the Boomer generation, tax receipts will lessen and expenditures grow. Thus, even conservative economists estimate tax revenues will need to grow to 22 to 24% of GDP for the next 20 years until the population age levels off. While it’s easy to say let’s drop the promises to people who have paid into the retirement system all their working lives to lower the taxes paid by the uber wealthy, these are the same people who saw their defined benefit company pensions ended mid-career for 401(k)s and who have not had the opportunity to save enough over the interim – or ensuing- years for their future needs. Ryan’s Ayn Rand-induced plan would throw these seniors onto the support of their children and grandchildren or onto the failing economic support of the states. As you should know from your previous career as a film critic, the pre-1930s lives of seniors without family support was pretty gruesome. In my own family, my great-grandparents had to move into my grandparents home in order to survive. Do single family households today want their parents living with them?

Social Security and Medicare made possible the single family household. As a nation are we ready to change this dynamic and return to extended family households, with grandparents, parents, and children all living together under one roof? Are adult children ready to shoulder the financial responsibility of their parents, especially medical responsibility? Because that is what the GOP plan requires. Currently uncovered medical expenses of a parent legally falls onto the children. Would you have it become even worse for struggling working families? Would you really have the nation return to the 19th Century?

Your ideas…and those of the majority of the currently elected GOP…are regressive to say the least. Their adherents, like you, would turn the nation back to a mythologically glorified time that never existed and against a future they adamantly refuse to acknowledge.

Your ideology fails for the Untied States as a whole. It serves only those who have no allegiance to the U.S., only to those who Chrystia Freeland, in an Atlantic Monthly article described as residents of the world: those whose lifestyles, homes, and politically national allegiance belongs only to their financial gain regardless of whether that gain is in Moscow, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Mumbai. To them, the relative importance of the U.S. and its citizens holds little to no value. Their only concern is their own financial worth, like some giant Monopoly game wherein a person’s value as a human being is based solely upon his financial balance sheet and how much he earns, rather than upon his moral and ethical character.

So, to you I say in the words of the great social writer of the 19th Century Charles Dickens, “humbug!”

Written by Valerie Curl

May 7, 2011 at 9:36 AM

The Race to the Bottom

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After learning of the Senate’s failure to provide a bridge loan to the Big 3 because Senate Republicans insisted the UAW accept even lower wages, I wondered what the comparative wages were between unionized and non-union workers in the U.S.

Previous posts enumerate the concessions on wages and benefits the UAW has made as well as the probable wage and benefit costs at Toyota and Honda plants.

Both skilled union and non-union workers make a fairly good income. However, new UAW workers will have trouble living on a gross income of approximately $29,000/yr.

Nevertheless, it appears that this country is on a race to the bottom when it comes to salaries for the average American. Meanwhile, executives at major corporations continue to rake in 7 or 8-digit salaries, plus 6 or 7-digit bonuses. The disparity between average worker incomes and executive incomes currently rests at over 500%.

The failed Big 3 Bridge Loan negotiations and recent UAW concessions amplify the continuing regression of average worker wages. Instead of trade policies that push the wages of foreign workers up, this Country continues to push the wages of American workers down in order for companies to compete globally.

Unions have protected American workers from predatory business practices and raised both worker safety and income levels across the board, for both union and non-union workers.

For Congress to throw unions under the bus, it is both appalling and disgusting.

Regardless of what the Republican Senators think, unions are not anathema. American history proves unions have raised worker safety and incomes to a level that created the entire middle class. Without the worker protections and ability to unionize institutionalized by Teddy Roosevelt and the programs set in place by FDR, most modern American industries would not exist.

There has to be a better way to conduct trade policies…and a Congress that works for average people rather than just for the huge multi-nationals. The duty of Congress is “to serve and protect the people,” meaning all of the people. I’ve not seen much of that service over the last thirty years.

It’s definitely time the American public demanded a change!

Written by Valerie Curl

December 13, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Google CEO and Martha Stewart endorse Obama

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Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, and Martha Stewart endorsed Sen. Obama for President.

Schmidt has joined the Obama campaign in Florida, campaigning for him because he believes Obama will be better for technology, business, and the economy.

Martha Stewart endorsed Obama on Fox News this week, stating that his economic policies are better for the Middle Class than Sen. McCain’s. She added that she doesn’t mind paying more in taxes if the Middle Class gets a tax break because the Middle Class needs the tax break more than she does.

Obviously, the Republican Party (and Fox News) is highly upset and is trying to discredit these two highly successful business executives. But, I for one, am having a hard time believing the Republicans since these two individuals have created enormous business empires. I figure they must know a thing or two about economics and business to have achieved what they have.

Rumor exists that many more Silicon Valley CEOs support Obama over McCain. They can’t all be wrong on business and the economy!

Written by Valerie Curl

October 31, 2008 at 7:27 PM

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