Private Insecurity

manningPLAYLIST
In the Hall of the mountain king – Silver Fist
Led Zeppelin vs The Beatles Whole Lotta Helter Skelter – SoundHog
Scatterbrain – Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group
Displaced – Amon Tobin
Wheels of Confusion – Black Sabbath
Sort It Out – The Caesars
Torn And Frayed – The Rolling Stones
Undun – The Guess Who
Oscillations – Silver Apples
Confusion – Fela Kuti
Loose Ends – Sergio Mendes
Interruptions – Rogue Wave
Frayed – The Naked And Famous
Entropy – Synaesthesia
Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain – DJ Shadow
chaos – unkle
Da Lata – Distracted Minds – Buddha-Bar (CD Series)
Frazzled Coyote – Carl Stalling
Disorder In The House – Warren Zevon

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-16: Private Insecurity by The Stranger on Mixcloud

I’ll just say it. The sequester is (yet another) excuse for some class war bullshit.

Regardless of who owns up to its inception, the dire consequences are ours. The American people. The sequester’s automatic cuts will hit Republican-governed states hardest, but these small-government clowns don’t seem to care. They don’t seem to care how the impoverished, the middle class, and the barely recovering will be financially challenged or ruined by their unnecessary ‘gamesmanship.’

Via Mother Jones:

  • Public housing subsidies:$1.9 billion in cuts would affect 125,000 low-income people who would lose access to vouchers to help them with their rent.
  • Foreclosure prevention:75,000 fewer people would receive foreclosure prevention, rental, and homeless counseling services.
  • Emergency housing:100,000 formerly homeless people could be removed from their current emergency shelters.
  • Educational programs: Learning programs for poor kids would see a total of $2.7 billion in cuts. The $400 million slashed from Head Start, the preschool program for poor children, would result in reduced services for some 70,000 kids.
  • Title I Funding: The Department of Education’s Title I program, the biggest federal education program in the country, subsidizes schools that serve more than a million disadvantaged students. It would see $725 million in cuts.
  • Rural rental assistance: Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would result in the elimination of rental assistance for 10,000 very low-income rural people, most of whom are single women, elderly, or disabled.
  • Social Security: Although Social Security payments themselves won’t be scaled back, cuts to the program would result in a massive backlogging of disability claims.
  • Unemployment benefits: More than 3.8 million people getting long-term unemployment benefits would see their monthly payments reduced by as much as 9.4 percent, and would lose an average of $400 in benefits over their period of joblessness.
  • Veterans services: The Transition Assistance Program would be forced to cut back some of the job search and career transition services it provides to 150,000 vets a year.
  • Nutritional Assistance for Women & Children: The government’s main food stamp program is exempt from cuts, but other food programs would take a hit. Some 600,000 women and children would be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides nutrition assistance and education.
  • Special education:$978 million* in cuts would affect 30.7 million children. For example, the scaling back of federal grants to states for students with disabilities would mean that cash-strapped states and districts would have to come up with the salaries for thousands of teachers, aides, and staff that serve special needs kids.
  • Job training programs:$37 million would be slashed from a job retraining and placement program called Employment Services, and $83 million would be cut from Job Corps, which provides low-income kids with jobs and education.

Via In These Times:

  • Military Jobs: furloughs 750,000 civilians employed by the Army to ensure that the richest men in the world can continue paying an unconscionably lower tax rate than their secretaries.
  • FBI Jobs: slashes $550 million from the FBI, hindering response to cyber and terrorist attacks after the equivalent of 7,000 workers are furloughed each day just to ensure that corporations can continue to get tax breaks when they offshore jobs?
  • Mental Health Care: ends treatment for 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and severely emotionally disturbed children just to ensure that the 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks for their corporate jets, yachts and golf carts?
  • Air Travel and Safety: cuts back customs agents and Federal Aviation Administration workers, including air traffic controllers, causing airline delays just to accommodate the demand of multi-millionaires like Mitt Romney to pay a 14.1 percent tax rate, a rate lower than many middle-class workers pay?
  • Vital Health Services: $350 million cut from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eliminating, among other crucial health interventions, 540,000 doses of vaccine for flu, hepatitis and measles as well as tens of thousands of cancer screenings for low-income women, just to ensure that 30 highly profitable Fortune 500 companies continue to pay less in taxes than they do for lobbyists?
  • Science: cancels 1,000 National Science Foundation grants for research in areas like cyber security—especially now that it has been revealed that Chinese groups have hacked into the nation’s electrical power grid, gas distribution and waterworks systems—in order to continue massive government subsidies to oil companies, which are among the most profitable corporations in the world?

There will be no end to tax loopholes for the rich, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has asserted. The Republican ruling: The vast middle class, the elderly and the poor must suffer. Republicans chose, once again, to coddle the rich.

Furthermore and deeply concerning, as The American Prospect points out:

  1. The sequester will hurt job growth: The worst component was the non-renewal of the payroll tax cut, which is already dragging substantially on the economy. All told, if the sequester kicks in the economy will likely end the year with roughly 500-600,000 fewer jobs than if it were repealed. These are jobs the economy desperately needs. Further, it’s worth noting that even a full repeal of it with no offset will still result in an economy growing much too slowly to quickly return to full-employment. In a nutshell, arguments over the sequester are roughly about whether we’d like to be $900 billion or a full $1 trillion below economic potential in the coming year.
  2. It’s unnecessary and perverse: The sequester is the perfect illustration of how D.C. policymakers and pundits think that all economic policymaking can be reduced to shrinking the budget deficit, always and everywhere. However, the nation’s budget balance should be seen as a tool, not an invariant target. When the economy is healthy, rising budget deficits could indeed push up interest rates and “crowd-out” private investments. But when the economy is unhealthy and starved for demand, then budget deficits can (and should) be increased to finance job-creating transfers (unemployment insurance and food stamps) and public investments, with the resulting spur to growth actually “crowding-in” private capital. Further, in today’s economy deep spending cuts won’t just harm the economy (though this alone should rule them out), it will depress activity so much that the resulting fall in tax revenue and increased safety net spending will actually make the nation’s debt ratio worse. One doesn’t need to look hard to see this destructive dynamic in play—the United Kingdom’s clearly disastrous austerity programs has seen not just an increase in unemployment, but also a steady increase in the nation’s debt ratio.
  3. Paying for it with other spending cuts is absurd: Far too many in the Beltway have argued that it is the form of the sequester’s spending cuts—across-the-board and indiscriminate—that constitutes the real problem. From the perspective of job-creation this isn’t right. A cut is a cut. So, in terms of supporting economic activity and jobs in the next year, “paying for” a repeal of the sequester in the form of allegedly more-rational cuts of a similar size will do nothing but cause the same pain the sequester promises. The GOP notion that Keynesian economics applies only to defense spending is just as silly as it sounds.
  4. The sequester is worthless even as a commitment device: Nothing in the law prevents Congress from simply de-activating the sequester with nothing to pay for its impact on deficits. Further, nothing in law prevents Congress six, seven or eight years in the future from scrapping it. In short, it is a completely voluntary commitment device.
  5. Entitlements are our future: Replacing the sequester with cuts to these valued programs would be a disaster. We have shown, for example, that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid combined contributed ten times as much to income growth for middle-income households over the last generation than growth in hourly wages. Gutting them in the name of securing a better economic future is perverse indeed.

Because that debt everyone is freaking out about? It doesn’t even exist. We owe trillions to foreign and private creditors, but the debt we have as it stands poses essentially zero threat to the country’s fiscal health, as ongoing growth of the economy would send our debt-to-GDP ratio dropping like a rock. We haven’t yet incurred the debt that the Republicans are worried about. It’s merely a projection by the Congressional Budget Office.

Sure, we use CBO data all the time, and it does its job for good reason, but making such predictions about the future, especially for such long trends about a volatile and erratic thing as the economy, is sketchy at best. So why are we focusing on pretend economic crises, when we have all-too-real crises in the right-here, right-now? In fact, the very same CBO has projected our deficit to be stable for a decade.

Not only that, but the federal deficit is actually falling. It is down about 50 percent as a share of GDP since fiscal year 2009 and is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War IIMedicare cost growth is also down.

There is no deficit problem. There just isn’t. Yet the only “serious” Washington talk is about how to make severe cuts to put us back into a recession.

But only 6 percent of Americans know that the budget deficit is getting smaller. That’s what makes it so easy for disingenuous politicians like Paul Ryan to distort the math for his austerity framework to:

  • Repeal Obamacare (though keep Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare, as well as new taxes).
  • Convert Medicare into a private and corporate voucher system.
  • Big cuts to Medicaid.
  • Big cuts to other domestic programs.
  • Repeal of the sequester cuts in the Pentagon budget only.
  • “Simplified” income tax system with only two brackets, 10 percent and 25 percent, benefiting the highest earners.
  • A reduction in the corporate tax from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and found that Ryan’s proposal would cost roughly $5 trillion over 10 years. On average, his plan would lower taxes on people making more than $1 million per year by a whopping $400,000. From there the benefits plummet.

Incomes between half a million and one million dollars would owe about $50,000 less, on average. People earning between $20,000 and $50,000 would save just hundreds of dollars.

So here’s the real point, if you want to be scientific about this, and we do. We tried austerity already. It didn’t work.

Aside from the disastrous example Europe is going through right now, we’ve seen in recent years as Obama has slashed government and public sector jobs since the recession.

Federal, state and local governments have shed nearly 750,000 jobs since June 2009, according to the Labor Department‘s establishment survey of employers. […] ~The Wall Street Journal

This adds to unemployment, and there are nearly 950,000 fewer people employed by the government than there were when the recovery started in mid-2009. If none of those people were counted as unemployed, the jobless rate would be 7.1%, compared with the 7.7% rate reported on Friday.

So if the pro-corporate politicians who are dismantling our social contract like to convince themselves that government should be run like the hallowed big businesses.

But smart businesses would never act this way. They invest, they don’t cheat their consumers, they listen to financial experts, they learn from experience, encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking, and charge the consumer the right price.

But when you live in an oligarchy, those few wealthy elites get to decide whatever happens, no matter how unpopular with the masses. That’s why neither party is really interested in balancing the budget at all. It’s a redistribution scheme to get more income to the wealthiest one percent.

Not just Republicans, but Democrats are ready, willing and able to put social security on the chopping block.

Our supposedly “liberal” President repeatedly and needlessly tries to cut Social Security. But Social Security cost-of-living increases are already inadequate. And the grotesque implication that old folks need to ‘live below their means’ to serve the system completely ignores the fact that Social Security is not insolvent, cannot add to the deficit by law, and was already paid into by these folks.

The President’s “sequester” offer slashes non-defense spending by $830 billion over the next ten years. That happens to be the precise amount we’re implicitly giving Wall Street’s biggest banks over the same time period.

You see, they do not represent us:

A new study Conducted by the University of California’s David Broockman and University of Michigan’s Christopher Skovron surveyed nearly 2,000 legislators from across America, documenting politicians’ perceptions of their constituents’ views on issues like universal health care and same-sex marriage. It then compares those perceptions with constituents’ actual views.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers hugely overestimate the conservatism of the very people they are supposed to represent. In all, the report finds that “conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20 percentage points, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.” Ultimately, that has resulted in a political system inherently hostile to mainstream proposals and utterly unrepresentative of public opinion.

Broockman and Skovron argue that one answer has to do with the prevalence of right-leaning mythology. Citing “Richard Nixon’s pronouncement that a ‘silent majority’ of Americans backed his policies” and “Sarah Palin’s suggestion that a latent ‘real America’ supported her,” the researchers correctly note that there remains “a folk theory among conservative politicians that the American public is considerably more conservative than it seems at face value.” This theory is undoubtedly fueled by a Fox News-ified media that pushes such inaccurate fables.

Of course, don’t ignore the fact that in a system of legalized bribery and big-money politicking, our lawmakers are so far removed from the commoners that they are wholly unrepresentative of their constituencies.

These conservative sell-out fuck-wads would have us all reading Atlas Shrugged by requirement. They would have us silently accept our metaphorical rape while the rich prosper. The wealthy gett all the rewards while the rest of us get nothing.

Our two-tiered economic recovery is an indication of that Randian Beltway thinking.

  • As of 2010, the top 1 percent of households owned 35 percent of all the stocks in America while the bottom 80 percent of us owned only 8 percent.
  • Increases in the use of advanced technologies allow corporations to produce more with less labor, thereby keeping unemployment high
  • Increased global production creates jobs elsewhere
  • Fiscal austerity leads to job, wage and benefit cuts for public employees
  • Fiscal austerity also prevents the additional stimulus we need to create jobs
  • Attacks on unions further erode workers’ bargaining power and keeps wages low
  • Wall Street is using indirect government support to gamble rather than to rework mortgages and invest in businesses

They would do away with unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, public job creation, teachers and public employees, give as many tax loopholes and subsidies to large corporations and hedge funds as they can.

They would give the corporations the right to fucking vote.

But failing that, they’ll just appoint lapdogs to the CEOs instead of watchdogs over abusive industries. Mary Jo White will be the newest SEC appointee and revolving door beneficiary of Wall Street grievances. She has made millions defending the very companies and banks she is now, supposedly, somehow going to investigate and prosecute. The same is true of the FDIC.

Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly admitted that the Department of Justice considers big banks too big to jail.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., most recently lamented: There is one lax system of justice for wealthy corporations and their shareholders, and another draconian system of justice for everyone else.

Meanwhile, privatization is stealing our public land, our water, our air, patents to life itself. They are assaulting our public education, and they are commodifying our children as products, and eventually churning them out as inmates in the private prison system.

The private enterprisers at the top get to use common corporate tax tricks and insane loopholes to pay for their private security, jets, stock options, vacation homes, yachts, and large SUVs.

They use offshore tax havens to drive their corporate tax rates down into the single digits.

They are essentially legalized organized crime syndicates.

There is no accountability for their crimes; their loan sharking, money laundering for drug cartels, rogue nations and terrorist organizations, fleecing homeowners (often fraudulently and, in one case, to the death), and illegally foreclosing on active-duty service members. We are told, it’s all just too bad. Bend over and take it, because these guys are just too big to jail. (Then you’d think they would also be too big for us to take up the ass).

Why don’t the self-proclaimed free-market individualists allow them to fail of their own deeds, and eschew big taxpayer bailouts? I’m sorry, did I stutter? Because they are filthy fucking liars. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, they allow the loathsome market manipulators to have their way.

The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own half the country’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent own just .5%, half of one percent, of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

This is the same machine that uses Dick Cheney policies and rhetoric to murder wantonly around the globe. The same well-oiled machinery that would happily target you on your own soil, if given the chance. Drone strikes, signature strike assassinations without trial, extrajudicial rendition and torturesecret national security letters… all parts in the complex schematics of the Obama Justice Department.

That same Eric Holder doesn’t think the President can be limited by the Congress, or by the law, apparently.

Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot, and journalists pry into the surveillance and police state, the Watchers don’t like having their privacy invaded.

This is why Bradley Manning, and those like him, are heroes. In that context, their bravery and sacrifice are all the more poignant. Political prisoners to an immoral or morality-bereft system of robots, we now finally have audio of Bradley Manning’s motives, his intentions in revealing U.S. war crimes to an aghast world.

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman was there and reported:

“Wearing his Army dress uniform, a composed, intense and articulate Pfc. Bradley Manning took ‘full responsibility’ Thursday for providing the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks with a trove of classified and sensitive military, diplomatic and intelligence cables, videos and documents. . . .

“Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to ‘spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general’, he said, and ’cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.’

“Manning explain[ed] his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he ‘believed, and still believe . . . are some of the most significant documents of our time’ . . . .

“He came to view much of what the Army told him — and the public — to be false, such as the suggestion the military had destroyed a graphic video of an aerial assault in Iraq that killed civilians, or that WikiLeaks was a nefarious entity. . . .

It is because of the persecution he faced by the very same unjust system he attempted expose that makes this message even more valid. Because it was not easy for him, it was torture in fact, that is why he is the most important human individual as a symbol of morality and a compass in our struggle against madmen who would confuse us, divert us, distract us, make us scatterbrained and insecure in our reality. They will tear and fray our society, bringing chaos and disorder with their greed and near-sighted self-interest. They will attempt to displace altruism with avarice, and undo the very fabric of a just and free society.

Listen to Bradley Manning’s full testimony here.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-16: Private Insecurity by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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