The Audacity of Republican Hope

You really have to wonder about the memories of your everyday Republicans. You almost have to believe they think our memories match their own. That seems to be the audacity of Republican hope these days…They hope we will all forget they were in charge of Congress for most of two decades and of the White House for the last eight years.

I received the regular email from one of my Republican Senators yesterday. Senator John Cornyn has the new talking points down well. Like every other Republican these days he hopes we will forget the debt they ran up for their part of the Bush term. They ignore the fact that the deregulation they have pushed for decades, is the primary reason for the economic crisis we are in. For those of us in Texas, we have had the double whammy of the electrical deregulation approved under Governor Bush which has taken Texas from a regulated state with some of the lowest electrical rates to the new unregulated, market driven, free market electrical system with one of the highest rates in the nation in less than a decade.

But to here Sen. Cornyn tell it it’s all about the President’s budget and the debt it will run upin the next ten years.

In Washington, Congress continues to focus on President Obama’s proposed budget. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released an alarming report indicating that the President’s budget will create deficits averaging nearly $1 trillion a year for the next decade, and it would double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it in 10 years.

Not only does this budget spend too much and tax our nation’s hard-working families and small businesses, it borrows far too much from future generations of Texans. I spoke on the Senate floor about the implications of this budget for students. Under the President’s budget, students who start college this year will see their share of the national debt grow from $19,000 per student to more than $36,000 per student after graduation from a four-year program. That is a tremendous burden to place on college graduates as they enter the workforce and begin their careers.

via email from John Cornyn

So here we have a number that tells us to ignore the fact that these students are already in debt for $19,000 before they even start college. $19,000 run up by these very Republicans that are telling each of us how bad it is that we are mortgaging our children’s future.

Excuse me…Didn’t you guys just screw everything up for eight years?

Students will ultimately end up after they finish their education and go on and enter the workforce, they’ll end up paying those higher taxes under this proposed budget. This proposed budget calls for $1.4 trillion in additional net taxes over the next 10 years. Students are trying to figure out how these higher taxes will actually impact the opportunities they will have as they enter the workforce. And some of them will hit these students at the toughest time, and that is right as they enter their first job.

Because we know the engine of job creation in America is our small businesses and in fact, those small businesses that employ between 10 and 500 employees, which are the principle job creators in our country, 50 percent of them will experience higher tax rates because many of them are not incorporated, they are single sole proprietorships, they are partnerships, they are sub-chapter S corporations, where the income actually flows through and is reported on an individual tax return. So it is just not true to say these will only affect the rich. indeed, it these will affect the very job engine that creates the jobs that we ought to be worried about retaining and, indeed, creating more of.

via United States Senator John Cornyn, Texas : For The Press.

For eight years we have fought wars, worked through a small recession, seen the economy collapse while the administration charge has told us to shop til we drop. Their answer for eight years has been, we need to lower taxes (at least for those at the top of the American food chain)…Oh, and SHOP. We did our part. We shopped until our credit cards were full. We borrowed against our homes to pay the bills and bought more…Were we not all patriotic Americans? Who exactly was it that changed the rules on the mortgage industry? Who was it that let the credit card industry decide to arbitrarily change their rates even when you were current on your debt?

So here we are, trying to buy our way out of a disaster of a free market meltdown being told by the guys who put us here thet we are wrong to do it…Oh, and we should lower taxes…Go figure.

The Myth of the American Dream

Over the centuries, the United States has been most conspicuous for one trait: manic energy. Americans work longer hours than any other people. We switch jobs more frequently, move more often, earn more and consume more.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Commercial Republic – NYTimes.com.

From that opening thought David Brooks spins off in a business centric version of the American Myth. In his version it was the abundance of the frontier that called out to the American myth of success for everyone who tried. It seems to me that when the history of the American people is studied realistically, most people didn’t leave their “home” areas unless they were leaving something behind. For some, it was debts they left behind. Others left whole families, kith and kin.

Studying the history of American business successes leads one to wonder at the love affair we have with the myth of the self made man. Very few of the real success stories in this country have a thread of the moralistic ideals we are led to believe underlie our very national psyche. America prides itself on the ideal that anyone can rise to the top. We calibrate the few examples we are given. Yet most Americans will not rise above the class level to which they were born.

And its not the idealistic who do win up the ladder. No, the majority who manage to pull themselves up the ladder of success, do so at the expense of those around them. They stretch the meaning of the law even if they meet the letter. They use every trick and loophole to get a jump up.

Is there any reason then to be surprised at the excesses of the business and political sector in the last decade. It was only with societal regulation, that the business sector had been kept from allowing greed to run rampant over basic society mandated morality. The deregulation of the past two decades, the consolidation of whole economic sectors into a very few corporate hands, the wholesale bribery of public officials via lobbying firms and the handouts of favors and campaign funds have led us to this economic crisis. It’s not an American crisis, even though we led the way, it’s a worldwide crisis.

We are now in an astonishingly noncommercial moment. Risk is out of favor. The financial world is abashed. Enterprise is suspended. The public culture is dominated by one downbeat story after another as members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.

Mr. Brook’s assertion that risk is out of favor is a bit ingenuous, most Americans are not adverse to risk. We live with it in our daily lives. We could die in our daily commute (if we still have a daily commute). It’s the abrogation of risk onto the taxpayer we have problems with. It’s the disingenuous use of the tax laws that allow bonus payments to be deducted from the corporate tax liability, but not the excessive salaries that those bonuses  actually equate to. Then the audacity of these financial titans to reward themselves for their abuse of the American trust by taking taxpayer money to pay bonuses to the very people who brought down the house…Get real.

If anything comes from this era of American history, I only hope the lessons learned last a bit longer than the last batch. All of this returning to the school of hard knocks isn’t really what I had in mind when I wanted a continuing education that would last a lifetime…

How the Crash Will Reshape America | Richard Florida

An extremely interesting analysis of the state of the economy and where it may lead from here. Thanks to Jason Kottke for the pointer

If anything, our government policies should encourage renting, not buying. Homeownership occupies a central place in the American Dream primarily because decades of policy have put it there. A recent study by Grace Wong, an economist at the Wharton School of Business, shows that, controlling for income and demographics, homeowners are no happier than renters, nor do they report lower levels of stress or higher levels of self-esteem.

And while homeownership has some social benefits—a higher level of civic engagement is one—it is costly to the economy. The economist Andrew Oswald has demonstrated that in both the United States and Europe, those places with higher homeownership rates also suffer from higher unemployment. Homeownership, Oswald found, is a more important predictor of unemployment than rates of unionization or the generosity of welfare benefits. Too often, it ties people to declining or blighted locations, and forces them into work—if they can find it—that is a poor match for their interests and abilities.

As homeownership rates have risen, our society has become less nimble: in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were nearly twice as likely to move in a given year as they are today. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s. This sort of creeping rigidity in the labor market is a bad sign for the economy, particularly in a time when businesses, industries, and regions are rising and falling quickly.

via The Atlantic Online | March 2009 | How the Crash Will Reshape America | Richard Florida.

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Life lessons

What’s wrong with this picture? Texas receives far more federal funding for abstinence education than any other state, yet in the latest government survey, it ranks third highest in the nation in teen birth rates.

Several state legislators are pondering that question and are working to expand the current system that stresses abstinence-only instruction to one that also includes information on contraception and disease prevention.

via Life lessons: Texas lawmakers address urgent need for comprehensive sex education | Editorial | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.

Why did they think teaching abstinence would stop teenagers from experimenting with sex? Are these the same politicians who think that deregulting bussinesses will get you companies that act in a socialy responsible ways?

Unfortunately, Texas has a part-time legislature. What sounds like a good idea in the 19th century begins to look pretty silly in the 21st. I guess you could say we get what we pay for…

It seems Texas is intent on fighting to be the worst on just about every list of social accountability there is…dropout rates…children’s insurance…

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No Way To Run A Retirement

I’ve been wondering why the impact of the financial crisis on the overall retirement “system” hasn’t gotten more attention in the media. We already knew the system was in bad shape before September 2008. According to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, in 2007, only 60.9% of households where the head of household was age 55-64 had retirement accounts . . . and their median retirement balance was $98,000. Given that the stock market has fallen by over 50% from its October 2007 peak – and that, for decades, the standard investment advice has been that stocks do better than any other asset class in the long term – we would be lucky if that median balance were more than $70,000 today.

The Bloomberg article linked to above describes the fragile state of state and local pension systems. These systems suffer from two major problems today. One is that even if they had been managed in a reasonable way, the fall in asset prices over the last year would have blown a huge hole in their long-term solvency.

via The Biggest Story of the Week « The Baseline Scenario.

Over a year ago I began to tell the folks in my office to move their money out of the stock funds and get them into interest accounts…No body listened. For the last year all of the investment advice I have seen has been to stay put in your stock funds…Oh and keep putting your new contributions there also. People get paid well to be so wrong…Thank god I didn’t listen. Thank god the country didn’t listen while George W spent his “political capital” pushing the privatization of social security. Thank god I got out of the market in December of 2007…It wasn’t much, but if I’d stayed put, it’d be a lot less and I wont be adding to it any time soon…

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You only thought you live in the USA…

How is it that Republicans always talk about liberals as the ones who want to reinterpret the Constitution? Change the laws? Ignore the long history of “law and order”?

IMAGINE A PLACE where soldiers are entitled to burst through doors without warrants and citizens can be locked away without trial. Imagine that the leader of this place has the power to silence dissenters and the press and has the right to keep duly elected legislators from having a voice in these matters. Imagine further that he can unilaterally rip up and disregard any treaty he dislikes and that he has been told he is on solid legal ground by a hand-picked circle of advisers.

This is not some lawless Third World country or dusty fictional outback from a sci-fi movie but the United States of America, as described in a series of newly released Justice Department memos from the early years of the Bush administration.

via Frightening Memos From the Office of Legal Counsel – washingtonpost.com.

And so we keep finding out more and more about the nightmare that was the last eight years. Except…When you listen to the ex-Bush Admistration Officials, none oof what you remember, none of what you are reading in the papers today, none of what was in the paper for the last eight years ever happened. It is all a figment of the liberal press and the far left of the blogosphere…I heard Karl Rove on Sunday and Grover Norquest on the News Hour last evening both blaming the Democrats for the failure of the economy and telling everyone that the only way we could turn it around is…Cut taxes, cut taxes, and oh by the way let’s also cut taxes. It all sounded like the McCain energy plan…Drill, Drill, Drill.

It all makes you wonder what is with these guys and failed policies. America has tried their solutions, some on the national level and some at the state level, and the results are what led to the rejection of Republicans in the past two elections.

I know, living in Texas and being subject to so many Republican experiments has left me far from thrilled with the depth of their ideas and the unintentioned consequences (at least we hope they just didn’t think it through ’cause thinking otherwise is really upsetting) of what their proposals lead to…Try living through a Texas summer in an unregulated electric economy…Thank you Phil Gramm and Tom DeLay for all of your service to the American Corporations.

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