In the Belly of the Beast: 5/22/11: Protest Backroom Deal to Extend Un-Patriot Act til 2015

INDEX (complete stories follow the Democracy Now index)


Happy Rapture Day

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Protest Backroom Deal to Extend Un-Patriot Act til 2015

from Informed Comment by Juan

More reactions from France on DSK

Rape and sexism in France






Why We Need to Rein In Government Contractors That Use Taxpayer Money for Political Advantage

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President Obama is mulling an executive order to force big government contractors to disclose details of their political spending. Big businesses are already telling their political patrons in Congress to oppose it – and the pressure is building.

The President should issue the executive order immediately. And he should go even further – banning all political activity by companies receiving more than half their revenues from the U.S. government.

Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor, has already got more than $19 billion in federal contracts so far this year. But we know very little about Lockheed Martin’s political spending other than its Political Action Committee contributions. We don’t know how much money it gives to the Aerospace Industries Association to lobby for a bigger defense budget.

We don’t even know how much Lockheed is giving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby against Obama’s proposed executive order requiring disclosure of its political activities.

Don’t we have a right to know? After all, you and I and other taxpayers are Lockheed’s biggest customer. As such, we’re financing some of its lobbying and political activities.

Lockheed’s lobbying and political activities are built into its cost structure. So when Lockheed contracts with the federal government for a piece of military equipment, you and I end up paying for a portion of its political costs.

It’s one of the most insidious conflicts of interest in American politics.

Now, in the wake of the grotesque Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, there’s no limit on what Lockheed can spend on politics.

That’s why the President should go the next step and ban Lockheed and all other government contractors that get more than half their revenues from government from engaging in any political activities at all.

Otherwise, you and I and other taxpayers indirectly pay for Lockheed and Northrop Grumman to lobby for a larger military budget and support politicians who will vote for it.

We indirectly pay for Blackwater to lobby for – and support politicians who will demand – more use of contract workers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We indirectly pay for Raytheon and General Dynamics to lobby for, and support politicians who will push for, more high-tech weapons systems.

And so on.

Disclosure is a start. But in this post-Citizens United world, it’s only a beginning of what’s needed.

Happy Rapture Day

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
As you know a certain religious organization announced that today would be the end of the world, that people who were born again and had faith in God would be caught up in the rapture that marks the end of the world.

This widely publicized proclamation reminded me of the following from Karl Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1844:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

With endless war and apparently endless economic crisis for working families it is no wonder that people want a rapture so badly. However, we know that our struggle for freedom from pain, fear, and alienation is in this life. It is real and it won’t go away by believing in the hucksters and carnival barkers.

Charlatans and Cranks

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Politico writes that

In this Republican primary season, no economic or monetary policy is too unorthodox for an electorate hungry for change.

There’s not much new in the story, but it does remind us that Tim Pawlenty — who is supposed to be a non-crazy– has declared his opposition to fiat currencies — i.e., demanded a return to the gold standard (although he may not know that that’s what it means).

What Politico doesn’t include, but should, is the lemming-like rush to endorse the Ryan plan, which, although Very Serious, is also complete crank economics, with its insistence — in the teeth of all the evidence — that privatizing Medicare can somehow provide adequate health care at much lower cost. And then there’s the recent rise of default denialism — hey, let’s signal to everyone that we’re a banana republic, what harm can it do?

In the first edition (but only the first edition) of his textbook, Greg Mankiw famously derided Reagan’s supply-side advisers as charlatans and cranks. It’s pretty clear that when Mankiw wrote that he imagined that this was only a phase, that the GOP would return to more sensible policies. In fact, however, the party is sinking ever further into deep voodoo.

Digby suggests that it’s a kind of Mission Accomplished phenomenon:

I think we’re seeing the decadence and delusion of the end stages of a successful political movement. They pretty much fulfilled the corporate wish list. The only things they haven’t accomplished are the looney wingnut agenda items, which until now they’ve managed to keep at arms length, only giving little bits when necessary to keep the rubes on board. Maybe they just have nothing left to do.

Maybe. But my take is that the hermetic nature of movement conservatism — its loyalty tests, its closed intellectual world where you get all your alleged facts from Fox News and the Heritage Foundation, the “wingnut welfare” that ensures that defeated politicians always have a cushy job waiting at a think tank somewhere, always made it vulnerable to this kind of spin into policy craziness. The Bush debacle undermined the control once exercised by the establishment, which tried to keep up the appearance of reasonableness; and now people like Pawlenty and Romney need to sound crazy even if they (possibly) aren’t.

The 2010 election may, in retrospect, turn out to have been a disaster for the GOP: it empowered the extremists, leading them to believe that they could go the whole way and keep winning elections. I guess we’ll see.

More cracks in UK coalition

This time it’s about shutting down the money grab option that the Tories are trying to introduce to the National Health Service reform, but really, this could pop up anywhere. It is doubtful that this partnership can continue without a lot more infighting like this. The Guardian:

The dispute within the coalition government over NHS reforms has intensified after Nick Clegg demanded the removal of another main part of the proposals designed to encourage competition and private sector involvement.

The deputy prime minister has put himself on a collision course with the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, by proposing that a clause in the bill encouraging “any qualified provider” to take over services from the NHS should be radically rethought or dropped.

Clegg told senior Liberal Democrats that he would scupper Lansley’s bill unless the Tories agreed to the new demand. He has already insisted on scrapping the requirement that Monitor, the NHS regulator, compels hospitals to compete with each other. He wants it to be replaced with a duty to promote collaboration.


Spain: thousands of “indignados” defy protest ban

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the main squares of Spain’s cities for the past week to protest government austerity measures—in defiance of a government ban imposed ahead of municipal and regional elections. Madrid’s central square has been occupied for days by some 30,000 protesters, who have been dubbed “los indignados” (the indignant). Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero admitted he may not enforce the ban. “I have a great respect for the people protesting, which they are doing in a peaceful manner, and I understand it is driven by economic crisis and young people’s hopes for employment,” Zapatero said during a radio interview. (BBC News, May 21; Reuters, May 20)

Spanish protesters tired of politics as usual

While 60,000 people gathering is still relatively small, it’s still large enough. What is even more interesting is that the protesters are fed up with the same old political parties and the same old politicians. That is something everyone can relate to including in the US. How many people really are that excited about either the Democrats or the Republicans? On the right we saw the Teabaggers rise (and now fall) and on the left, there’s a lot of discontent with the Democrats on a number of issues including the failed management of the financial industry, human rights, and the wars. The Guardian:

Cynical and ingenuous by turns, the Madrid protesters and those who refused to budge from the city squares have torn up the rule book of Spanish public politics. The heavyweights of old – political parties, trade unions and media commentators – are not wanted here.

“I was sacked when the Madrid regional government closed down a women’s centre last year when it imposed cuts,” explained Beatriz García as she bashed a small frying pan with a wooden spoon. “The unions didn’t even bother to turn up.”

The political parties were worse still, she said. “There is no renovation. There is nothing new or different, just two parties who take it in turn to govern because our electoral laws favour them.”

Lawsuit alleges Gingrich stole to promote Ten Commandments

From HuffPost Hill:

GINGRICH STOLE TO PROMOTE TEN COMMANDMENTS, LAWSUIT ALLEGES – Jason Cherkis: “In December 2009, D.C. photographer Carrie Devorah filed suit in U.S. District Court against Newt Gingrich and his book publishers citing copyright infringement. The former House speaker allegedly swiped five of Devorah’s photos for his book, Rediscovering God in America. Two pictures were also used without her consent for the book’s DVD version, according to her complaint. The stolen pics, taken from Devorah’s series ‘God in the Temples of Government,’ were as sacred as pictures of Washington architecture and sculpture can get. They included snaps of the Liberty of Worship statute outside the Ronald Reagan Building and several shots of the Ten Commandments found in the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the National Archives. Gingrich and Co. settled the case for an undisclosed cash settlement last spring. When reached by phone this afternoon, Devorah had this to say about her case and the struggling presidential candidate: ‘You don’t steal to promote the Ten Commandments. How can you be a person of faith?'”

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Protest Backroom Deal to Extend Un-Patriot Act til 2015

from Informed Comment by Juan
There’s an action alert by a supporter of Rand Paul over at Firedoglake saying that an attempt will be made at 5 pm on Monday in the Senate to extend the misnamed ‘PATRIOT Act’ for four years. There will be an attempt to get unanimous consent for the extension, with just a motion to which there should be no objections.

Rand’s alert says,

“The surveillance state’s ability to snoop through your business records, pry into your library book checkouts, monitor so-called “lone wolfs,” and spy on your personal communications through roving wiretaps will be extended until 2015, which “coincidentally” is not an election year.”

Here is a similarly urgent ACLU alert.

The vote is part of a deal between majority leader Harry Reid and his Republican colleagues to sidestep debate and rush the legislation through, which is becoming a worrisomely common procedure as the Democrats continue to abdicate their responsibilities to the Constitution, as Glenn Greenwald has elegantly explained.

The three controversial provisions being extended are the warrantless ‘roving wiretap’, the government’s warrantless access to business and library records, and the ability of the state to monitor non-US citizens at will and in the absence of any probable cause.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has found evidence of FBI abuse of the PATRIOT Act.

The US Bill of Rights says that people have the right to privacy in their personal effects and their communications from government prying except where the police obtain a warrant from a judge. The tendency in the US for the past 40 years has been to chip away at this requirement, giving government agencies more and more unsupervised surveillance authority.

Please let Reid and Mitch McConnell know that we Americans don’t appreciate their gutting the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

See also this diary at Daily Kos.

More reactions from France on DSK

Despite many calls of “guilty” in the DSK scandal, we really don’t know the full details yet. That’s why we have trials. After hearing the French complain about the photos of DSK in handcuffs, I have to agree that it does make one look guilty. As an American, it’s like watching a court case in a foreign land where defendants have to sit behind bars. Of course they look guilty, so how fair is that?

The political class in France has hardly risen to the occasion, as they have often supported DSK without knowing many of the actual facts. It’s as silly as those insisting on his guilt. We don’t know today. What we do know is that many in the political class have made some comments that help clarify woman are so poorly represented in politics and senior management in France.

Last Sunday France awoke to the news that Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and leading light of the Socialist party, had been arrested on board a plane and charged with sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a chambermaid in his room at a Sofitel in New York. He denied the allegations “with the greatest of firmness”. For the world, it was shocking enough; for much of Paris, it was insupportable – especially after pictures emerged of Strauss-Kahn, unshaven and forlorn, handcuffed in court.

In the hours and days that followed the arrest, a string of friends and Socialist allies stepped forward to defend a man they insisted could not have done such a thing. Jean-François Kahn, a well-known journalist, said he was “practically certain” that what had taken place had not been an attempted rape, but “an imprudence… the skirt-lifting of a domestic”. Jack Lang, a former Socialist culture minister, wondered why, when “no man had died”, Strauss-Kahn had not been released on bail immediately. Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, meanwhile, raged against a legal system that had treated DSK like “any other person”. “Everybody,” declared the philosopher, “is not everybody!”

The general population has also supported DSK with many claiming that “it was just a blowjob.” On the other side though, there are quite a few people – women especially – who are not surprised by the reaction of the political class. It’s an issue that has not made much progress in decades and many are fed up with it.

Also interesting has been the response by many that they are glad the DSK event took place in the US rather than in France, where it surely would have been swept under the rug. Even with as many problems as the US justice system has, people do have hope that the truth stands a better chance of emerging in the US than in France where political connections run deep.

Rape and sexism in France

“The groups said that 75,000 women were raped in France every year and that sexist language in public tended to minimise the gravity of crime, turning it into a vague and more or less acceptable act.   The groups referred to specific statements, including one by former culture minister and Strauss-Kahn ally Jack Lang, who said Strauss-Kahn should have been released on bail earlier, considering that “nobody has died”.  Journalist Jean-François Kahn, no relation, denied rape had taken place and dismissed the affair as “troussage de domestique”, a phrase that evokes a master having non-consensual sex with a servant.” (thanks Emily)

They don’t assimilate to French “culture”

“Furthermore, these proponents justified their arguments about the inability of Muslims to assimilate to the French culture by claiming that Muslims did not understand that open erotic play was integral to Frenchness. How ironic, then, that the victim of Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault was a Muslim.” (thanks Nasir)

“Gays will rape your kids” ad used to promote TN Chamber of Commerce’s hate bill

Yes, that’s what was used to promote the anti-gay/trans legislation that Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare’s chamber of commerce in Tennessee lobbied for. A commercial showing a lecherous man stalking a four year old girl, with the intent to rape or murder her.

And these companies are saying they had no idea the legislation was intended to be anti-gay and anti-trans. It was only legislation intended to repeal a gay/trans civil rights ordinance, and to ban cities in the state from every passing another civil rights ordinance ever again. It was only legislation written by the religious right, and the chief lobbyist was from the religious right. And the ads showed men trying to rape small children. Yes, nothing intended to demean gays or transgender people there.

In other news, over 7,000 people have signed our open letter to to these companies in under 48 hours. The open letter demands that they publicly oppose the legislation and ask the governor to veto it. They all site on the board of the local chamber of commerce – Nissan heads the board – and their chamber of commerce supported and lobbied for this hateful legislation. Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare own this bill now. If it becomes law, it’s on their head.

So far, AT&T, Nissan, FedEx and Alcoa have issued statements. Three of them have been pretty weak, and don’t even say whether they support the legislation or not. HRC issued a press release claiming the companies are now publicly opposing the legislation, but it’s simply not true. Read their statements for yourself. They’re intended to sound supportive without actually committing the companies to anything. Joe and I are contacting the companies now to ask them directly whether they oppose the legislation and whether they’d like to see it vetoed. Stay tuned for their responses.

Can you imagine if those were Muslims?

“”George W. Bush’s Yale fraternity has been suspended for 5 years by the university for threatening and sexist behavior. Officials ruled that the Yale DKE chapter had violated undergraduate regulations concerning “harassment, coercion and intimidation” earlier this year when pledges were instructed to chant phrases such as: “No means yes” and “Yes means anal.” “” (thanks “Ibn Rushd”)

Immigration reform groups tell Obama to stop campaigning on DREAM Act

There seems to be a lack of understanding within the Obama team that people expect action more than words. We’ve seen a lot of talk about reforming Wall Street but they keep making more money. We hear that the wars are going to end but they keep fighting and spending tax dollars. It’s great to hear the administration talk about important issues but ultimately, supporters expect results. When fund raising is based on support of a specific issue, people want to see real results, oddly enough. Hand-wringing just doesn’t work after a point. Huffington Post:

Immigration advocacy groups have a message for President Barack Obama: Stop using the DREAM Act to ask for campaign money unless you can deliver relief from deportation for undocumented youth.

United We DREAM, a group of young people pushing for the bill, started a petition last week asking the president to remove discussions of the bill in campaign literature and fundraising emails unless he is willing to use his executive power to block deportations for DREAM Act-eligible students.

The DREAM Act would grant legal status to some undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children and are now looking to attend college or join the military.

Why won’t the President use his executive power to block those deportations?

Obviously, these ads show the President is courting Latino voters. They helped elect him in 2008. But, there are problems now. Obama didn’t delivered on his promise to enact immigration reform during his first year. Even worse, Obama is deporting more immigrants than Bush did — including DREAM-eligible students (not just criminals, as claimed.) Polling from Latino Decisions shows that Obama’s approval rating with Latino voters is 73%, but only 41% are planning to vote for his reelection. As the pollsters note, “This 32 point gap could spell trouble down the road.” Sure could. And, that probably explains why Obama is reaching out and doing ads now. But, as the actions speak louder than words. Obama has the power to stop the deportations, but won’t (like “we have to defend DOMA” — even though they didn’t have to.) More from Huffington:

As the deportations continue, DREAM Act supporters say it is disingenuous for Obama to use his support for the bill to drum up support for his reelection.

“Every time I talk to folks, people are really angry about it,” Saavedra said. “Knowing he can do something about it is frustrating people the most.”

Salaita: Dressing like a Terrorist

from Informed Comment by Juan
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Steven Salaita writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

Dressing Like a Terrorist

Like many others, I was dismayed to learn of the two imams wearing traditional Muslim garb who were forcibly removed a couple of weeks ago from an airplane that was to carry them to a conference on Islamophobia (the irrational fear of Islam!). The clothing of the passengers who were removed from a Delta/ASA flight in Memphis, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, apparently frightened other passengers and upset one of the pilots, who refused to fly with them on board. This act of bigotry was condemned in some quarters, but not everywhere. The Delta/ASA pilot and the frightened passengers have received support from numerous voices among the American commentariat.

The situation was a clear-cut case of ethnic profiling. On this everybody has to agree if they are being honest with themselves. I have been reading commentaries about the case with much interest. One argument in particular keeps arising: the notion that Rahman and Zaghloul deserve what happened to them because they dressed like terrorists. The reasoning goes like this: Muslims commit terrorism; Muslims look a certain way; a certain look thus portends the possibility of terrorism. In short, those who appear to be Muslim are worthy of extra scrutiny because they are more likely to be terrorists than other people.

The belief that Muslims are more likely than others to commit terrorism, however, is a myth. Europol reports that in 2010, out of 249 acts of terrorist violence in Europe, only 3 were attributable to Muslim extremists. Then there is the issue of what constitutes “Muslim” dress. Since the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world live everywhere from Sao Paolo to Djakarta and Johannesburg to Tashkent, they do not exactly have a prescribed uniform. Then, some of what Americans think is “Muslim” fashion isn’t. Bigots bother the poor Sikhs all the time for wearing a turban and tunic. Even Rahman and Zaghloul wore different types of clothing on the day they were profiled.

Here I’d like to focus on this notion of “dressing like a terrorist,” a phrase that has the peculiar intimation of a fashion statement. There is no quantifiable evidence to show that dress is a predictor of any sort of behavior, especially the behavior of terrorism. What we’re dealing with in the Rahman and Zaghloul case is an overwrought imagination that associates political violence what I call the terrorist costume.

The terrorist costume is a simulated reality, circulated in Hollywood and countless news broadcasts, that evokes a causal relation between appearance and action. The terrorist costume is familiar to nearly all Americans: a thick beard, an ashen robe, brown skin, sandals holding dirty feet, and some sort of headgear, usually a turban (Sikh style, of course). The terrorist wearing this costume often sports a Qu’ran, so the audience can be certain that he is a Muslim.

Yet the acts of terrorism that have been committed by radicals of Muslim heritage involved perpetrators, like Mohamed Atta, who didn’t at all resemble the image of the Hollywood terrorist. Rahman and Zaghloul dressed in a way that set off alarms in some of their American co-passengers because the latter entertained Orientalist fantasies. Ironically, Muslim-American clerics are among the more law-abiding people in the country.

To impugn Rahman and Zaghloul for their dress, then, not only robs them of their Constitutional rights but also violates the rules of basic logic. Perhaps because the United States is a country of immigrants and inherently multi-cultural, its people have a tradition of judging a book by its cover. Many Americans think that appearance (skin color, clothes, physiognomy, ethnic typology, gender, sexuality, possessions, and so forth) predicts attitude or behavior. But making judgments by stereotype is recognized by decent Americans as unethical, and there is a reason for which civil rights legislation has made it illegal in some circumstances.

Those who believe that Rahman and Zaghloul brought their unjust treatment on themselves ought to think about what their lives would be like if their own logic were applied to them. In the end, if we are to let fanciful stereotypes dictate access to basic rights of citizenship, then none of us will ever live up to the promise of our own worth, or to that of our nation.

Steven Salaita is associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. His two latest books are Israel’s Dead Souland Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide. His website is here.


Connecting the Dots: Doomsday & Education Cuts

from Informed Comment by Juan
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Can you connect the dots?

Right wing prophet convinces clueless Americans that May 21 is the end of the world.

Kentucky legislature offers $42 mn. in tax breaks to fundamentalist Bible theme park scheme, after having deeply cut social services.

Qualcomm co-founder decries ‘suicidal’ cuts in education funding in the US. Irwin Jacobs said that he had difficulty building up Qualcomm because he could not find well-educated workers. Former head of Intel, Craig Barrett, has also said that the education level in the US has declined and continues to spiral down.

Electronics Weekly adds: “Raising tax levels in the US is difficult because a lot of US industry is owned by private equity companies which, by using debt capital rather than equity capital, avoid paying tax on their profits.” It points out that tax rates for the wealthiest American individuals have also been reduced in the past ten years, ” while half the population lives on some form of federal hand-out.”

Comcast hires FCC’s Meredith Attwell Baker for NBC

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Your corporate retainers and handmaidens at work (h/t Sam Seder, my emphasis):

Cable giant Comcast Corp. has hired Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker as senior vice president of government affairs for its NBCUniversal unit.

Baker, who will leave the FCC when her term expires in June, is the latest hire for Comcast, which has been beefing up its already formidable lobbying team since taking over NBCUniversal. Earlier this year, Comcast wooed National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. President Kyle McSlarrow away from the association to be president of Comcast/NBCUniversal Washington.

“Commissioner Baker is one of the nation’s leading authorities on communications policy and we’re thrilled she’s agreed to head the government relations operations for NBCUniversal,” McSlarrow said in a statement.

She voted on the Comcast-NBC merger, and this is her reward. She’s prevented from lobbying for a while; I’ll bet she doesn’t even have to show up for work on any schedule but her own.

Michael Powell got the same kind of sweet deal, by the way:

It is not uncommon for government officials to end up working for companies that they used to regulate. Former FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell, for example, recently succeeded McSlarrow as head of the national cable association.

That “national cable association” is the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. Powell becomes president, replacing the guy Comcast hired to be president of “president of Comcast/NBCUniversal Washington,” as noted above. President of the cable association is a multi-million-dollar job.

Commissioner Baker is a Republican and married to the son of James Baker (yep, the daughter-in-law). And of course, Michael Powell is Colin Powell’s son.

The AP called Ms. Baker “a reliable pro-business voice who frequently expressed concern that the agency was imposing unnecessary and onerous regulations on phone and cable companies.” She also opposed network neutrality and in March 2011 (note: two months ago) stated that the review of the Comcast NBC merger “took too long.” Now we know why she seemed to be on a schedule.

Baker was an Obama appointment, just so you know.

Welcome to Thank You Street, Ms. Baker; your carriage awaits.

Seniors, Students, and Who “Creates Jobs”

from Dollars & Sense Blog by Chris Sturr
Get the HintGet the Hint

(1)  Seniors: Hat-tip to regular blog reader TM for alerting us to an op-ed by WashPo economics blah-blah-er Robert Samuelson (no relation to Nobel prize winning economist Paul Samuelson), who seems to have it in for Social Security.  Samuelson tells us that The Elderly Are Better Off Than Advertised. See, I knew that someone besides union public servants like teachers and social workers was responsible for budget deficits!  It turns out it’s the greedy, wealthy elderly.

As part of his argument for means-testing Social Security and Medicare, Samuelson claims that “many Americans still accept the outdated and propagandistic notion that old age automatically impoverishes people.”  As evidence that the elderly are well off, he points to a study that concludes overall that “Most older people are enjoying greater prosperity than any previous generation.”  But the reason that most older people are better off is because of Social Security and Medicare!  Consider this statistic from the study:  “The proportion of elderly living in the ‘high income’ group–defined as four times the poverty line, or almost $52,000 for a couple in 2009–rose from 18.4 percent in 1980 to 30.6 percent in 2007.”  I wonder what Samuelson makes that he thinks it’s a great achievement that just over 30% of the elderly live on $52K for a couple.  Put it another way:  almost 70% of the elderly live on less than $52K for a couple (and I’m guessing a lot of them live on considerably less than that).

Of course the reason that defenders of Social Security and Medicare want to keep it from being means-tested is to keep it universalistic, and keep it from being the kind of welfare-style program that leads “taxpayers” to resent paying for other people’s benefits.  But maybe that’s exactly why people like Samuelson want means-testing–to prepare for the further erosion of these programs.

(2) Students: Catherine Rampell is becoming one of our favorite Times reporters.  Today’s paper has a nice piece by her, Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling, about the bad situation for recent college graduates (nice of the Times to cover this right as they are celebrating their graduation).  The data are disturbing; on top of 22.4% of members of the class of 2009 who are unemployed, 22% are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.  And members of that latter group are displacing workers without college degrees who would otherwise be able to hold those positions. Add to this the huge burden of student-loan debt, and the fact that crappy jobs and low pay at the beginning reverberate throughout one’s career, and it’s a rough situation.  This provides a nice follow-up to an article that D&S intern Katherine Faherty wrote for our Jan/Feb 2010 issue, “A Dismal Time to Graduate: What the recession means to the class of 2009, including me.” (Sorry, the article is not online–drop us a line and we’ll send you a pdf.) I’m happy to report that last I heard Katherine was among the 55.6% of the class of 2009 who are employed at jobs requiring a college degree.

(3) Who “Creates Jobs”: One of the right-wing arguments that irks me most is the notion that we shouldn’t overburden the rich with taxes (or otherwise dislike the rich or blame them for social ills) because the rich “create jobs.”  Dave Johnson has a nice response to this at the Campaign for America’s Future:  Actually, the Rich Don’t Create Jobs, We Do. Hat-tip to blog reader and D&S subscriber Barry B.



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