February 2010 Archives

Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times today,

To everyone who claims that our wealthiest citizens pay more than their fair share of income taxes and we should cut them a break because they're the ones who, you know, create jobs in our economy, I have four words for you:
Frank and Jamie McCourt.
The McCourts, who own the Los Angeles Dodgers (so she says; he says he's the owner and she's not), jointly pocketed income totaling $108 million from 2004 through 2009, according to documents Jamie McCourt recently filed in the couple's divorce case in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

On that sum, they paid zero federal and state income tax. Jamie suggests that some tax breaks will apply this year too.
The McCourts have eight houses.  Eight.  Houses.

California is laying off teachers, closing parks, etc. -- killing the state -- just to protect the wealthiest and biggest corporations from paying their fair share of taxes.  Millions of dollars in corporate contributions pay for the nasty smear campaigns -- and all the lies about how the wealthy are "hurt" by taxes and will "leave the state" -- all to protect THIS!

California needs to take a cold, hard look at the game-playing and the holes in our tax system that allow the rich to get away with paying less taxes than "the help" while at the same time we're telling teachers we can't afford to keep them teaching our kids.

And please, let's stop all this nonsense about "they'll just leave the state" if we try to make the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.

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Why won't Jerry Brown just announce that he is running for Governor?  Why won't he campaign?  Why is he letting Meg Whitman get so far ahead of things in this campaign?  Does he just assume he has it "in the bag?"


I suspect that is exactly what he assumes.  My take on Brown is that Democrats who were around when he was Governor and later when he ran for President in 1992 are going to support him, many quite strongly, and they regularly let him know this.  I suspect it is hard for him to go anywhere without stopping to shake a hand and hear from someone who tells him what a great Governor he was, that his ideas on energy and the environment were so far ahead of their time, that he should have been elected President, etc.


So he probably feels a wind at his back wherever he goes.  This is for sure: the "moonbeam" things Brown was about like energy and the environment and unions have proven to be the right things.  I wrote about this almost a year ago, 


He was called "Moonbeam" and mocked, but he was right, and we were right, and the country needs to come to terms with this so we can move on and finally DO right.


. . . It is 30 years later and the country needs to get past that mocking of the people who were right. But the mocking and obstruction by entrenched interests are still in the way of letting us move on and do the things we need to do for the economy, the country, and the planet.


The problem with this is that it really is 30 years later now.  This is 2010, and that pool of people just isn't big enough by any means.  You have to be "a certain age" to even care.  He needs to find a way to reach out and be relevant to people who were not around when he was Governor or when he ran for President.


Does he realize this?  If he is not meeting a lot of the people to whom he just isn't relevant and who just don't care, he might not be picking this up at all.  But it just is the case.  He needs to start campaigning and saying things that are relevant to the 21st century of he is going to win this election.

 


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Promoting Ideas

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Danny Goldberg, former CEO of Air America, writes about the demise of the network, and how this contrasts with conservative talk radio. Excerpt,

"Conservatives believe in doing whatever it takes to promote their ideas. ... In 1976 Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post and it has lost money every year since--the total loss estimated to be more than half a billion dollars.

In 1983, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon created the Washington Times, which has also lost money every year. Widely published reports place Moon's losses at over $1 billion on the Times and other political media including a purchase of the venerable wire service UPI. These money-losing properties have put dozens of conservatively slanted stories onto the national radar screen, altered the framing of every important political issue and nurtured virtually every right-wing pundit who now thrives as a TV talking head.

More recently, Phillip Anschutz bought the money-losing Weekly Standard from Murdoch and announced plans to invest in more conservative media. Meanwhile his fellow billionaire and former Republican Treasury Secretary Pete Petersen started a digital news service called the Fiscal Times."

He goes on to talk about the influence of talk radio,

"One-hundred-thirty-eight million people commute to and from work in automobiles, where they have no access to computer or TV screens. For around a third of them, or 48 million, AM talk radio is their entertainment of choice. Of the top 10 AM talk radio shows, nine are hosted by extreme conservatives, giving the right wing a captive audience of around 40 million listeners a week--at least seven times greater than the combined audiences of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC."

Also about how this helps boost the "Tea Party Movement"

"It was not preordained that all of the millions of people who identify with the Tea Party movement would believe the conservative narrative that the economic ills afflicting the middle class are the result of liberalism. But given that tens of millions of them had no alternative explanations or solutions, it is not surprising that conservative ideas and candidates are ascendant."

And finally the key point,

"Instead, most of today's progressives spent the last year talking to themselves while conservatives convinced millions of people that global warming is a hoax, that torture is required to keep America safe, that non-millionaires in Canada and Europe have worse health care than their American counterparts. The right wing could never have convinced 45 percent of Americans that the Democrats wanted "death panels" if their outreach was limited to Sarah Palin's Facebook page and the three million people a night who watch Fox's highest-rated shows."

By and large, Progressives talk to each other, while conservatives talk to the public.  However, Speak Out California's mission is to reach out to the public through the Internet, op-eds, radio and TV interviews, speaking engagements and other means.  Other California progressive organizations have a mission of reaching people as well. Courage Campaign currently works primarily through the Internet.  Others, like Organizing for America/California and Democracy for America, work on voter engagement.

Until we persuade our legislative leaders that we've got their backs, they're going to continue doing things--like capitulating to suspending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other important state environmental laws that protect the public health and the beauty of natural resources.  There will be lots more capitulation this year as well, unfortunately, and from the top down. We're already seeing it in the President's sharp veering to the right after the Massachusetts election and we sense the same fear and uncertainty swelling in Sacramento.

Unless we put some resources into building a competitive messaging machine and create a megaphone that reaches out beyond our own ears, the state of California will continue to veer to the destructive "right" and we'll all be blaming "left" politics for it.

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"But" Watch

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"But" Watch is when you see Republican junior propagandists write letters to the editor, call radio stations, etc. and begin them with, "I'm a Democrat, but..."

Today we have this comment to the post: Senator Reid: Why Should We Help You Win Re-election? | California Progress Report,

I'm a Democrat, but I appreciate that we have an opponent party. It's too bad that both parties cannot work more harmoniously together. Bi-partisan is a funny word the way it's usually interpreted...when one party is in the majority, it says that bi-partisanship is for the other to roll over dead.   

If it were not for the Republicans, we would be in a worse financial mess than we are with "pork" gong hog wild.Of course, they did not to a very good job of balancing the budget when they were in power under Bush.

More and more "pork" comes to the surface everyday. E.g., BART wants billions to build a not-needed train to the Oakland airport. Or, Fremont wants $385,000 federal dollars to study how to use the about-to-be empty NUMMI plant. If the city fathers and city staff are not capable of doing that, then they should be voted out of office or fired.

It's interesting the liberal media don't use the word "pork" anymore; they use the cleaner word: "earmarks;" or , more recently "stimulus." In any case, it's all "pork."

This is from a "Democrat"? Seriously, how many Democrats talk about "the liberal media?"  

And considering that Republican deregulation caused the financial crisis this line is astonishing: "If it were not for the Republicans, we would be in a worse financial mess than we are."

Nice try.  Didn't work.


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This appeared first at Open Left, but I wonder if it applies to California as well? Is it already too late for California?  Have the conservatives done so much damage that the state is just bankrupt and ungovernable?

When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.

Is it already too late for America?  I'm starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it.   To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing.  To satisfy their  hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote.  We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama.  The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover.  Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing.  We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan.  But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government.  They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.

The conservatives killed off, contracted out or sold off - "privatized" - so much of our in-common resources and heritage of public structures.  Water systems, oil and mineral leases, government functions, elements of the military, etc.

The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.

The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed.  And to make matters worse, now the telecoms can argue before Federalist Society judges that their "speech rights" are violated by rules making them carry labor and progressive websites over the internet lines they control.  And forget about the idea of them ever letting anti-corporate-rule candidates raise money on "their" internet.

I hate to reference Friedman but this from last week has been sticking in my mind.  He says the world is looking at the mess in the US and is turning away from democracy as a result.

[Foreigners] look at America and see a president elected by a solid majority, coming into office riding a wave of optimism, controlling both the House and the Senate. Yet, a year later, he can't win passage of his top legislative priority: health care.

"Our two-party political system is broken just when everything needs major repair, not minor repair," said ... who is attending the forum. "I am talking about health care, infrastructure, education, energy. We are the ones who need a Marshall Plan now."

Indeed, speaking of phrases I've never heard here before, another goes like this: "Is the 'Beijing Consensus' replacing the 'Washington Consensus?' " Washington Consensus is a term coined after the cold war for the free-market, pro-trade and globalization policies promoted by America. ... developing countries everywhere are looking "for a recipe for faster growth and greater stability than that offered by the now tattered 'Washington Consensus' of open markets, floating currencies and free elections." And as they do, "there is growing talk about a 'Beijing Consensus.' "

The Beijing Consensus, ... is a "Confucian-Communist-Capitalist" hybrid under the umbrella of a one-party state, with a lot of government guidance, strictly controlled capital markets and an authoritarian decision-making process that is capable of making tough choices and long-term investments, without having to heed daily public polls.


It is too late to recover?  

Accountability is a first step.  If the current administration would hold the corrupt actors accountable, maybe we could begin to restore governance.  And the public would know who to blame for what has happened to us, enabling them to support policies that will get us out of this.  But so far they won't.  If they won't even investigate torture and illegally invading a country why should we expect any accountability for the financial collapse, corrupt government contracts, bribery, embezzlement, corruption and other crimes of the Bush era?

More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step.  Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%.  The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared.  And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities.  Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning.  But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.

So where do we go from here.  Is democracy over?  Is rule of law a thing of the past?  Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be?  Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?

Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?

What are your thoughts?


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Remember last year when the Republicans laid out the price of a budget deal and it was a giant tax cut for the biggest corporations?  So in the middle of a revenue crisis they forced ... less revenue.  Well, imagine that you are a struggling small or medium business in California, and the Republicans gave your nemesis even more power to crush you.

Corporate taxes are on profits. So a tax cut means that the more profitable companies pay back less to the government for their use of the roads, schools, police and fire protection.  The very infrastructure that supports new businesses is weakened.

Meanwhile, smaller businesses that are struggling don't pay corporate taxes, so tax cuts do nothing for them. And small businesses that make modest profits only pay modest taxes, and don't care.

On the other hand, the giant monopolistic corporations that are chewing up small businesses, destroying local and regional retailers, take those tax cuts and use them to turn themselves into even better small-business-destroying machines.

For example, the giant Wal-Marts are destroying local and regional retailers.  But it is the Wal-Marts, not the local and regional retailers that are the beneficiaries of tax cuts.  This is why the "usual suspects" who get their campaign funds from the giant companies, and work with lobbyists for the largest corporations are the same ones who always advocate corporate tax cuts.

Businesses Need Customers Not Tax Cuts.



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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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