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We want answers from the pols: Why do Americans have to put up with Exploitative Profit Mining?

(This was written in steam of consciousness mode.)

This is an invitation to the politicians out there to answer this question.  Why are Americans expected to tolerate exploitative profit mining by the wealthy and well connected?  Why are we supposed to just sit here like crops to be harvested?  As soon as there is even a teensy bit of disposable income, that we are supposed to sock away for the future, some capitalist on steroids has to find a way of siphoning it off for his own use and profit.

We all know the game is rigged and yet we’re expected to put all of our precious savings in the stock market or in the hands of fund managers or pay a steep tax penalty to cover our living expenses if we have the misfortune to suffer periods of extended unemployment before we turn 59.5.

We’re all expected to get a college degree if we have even a prayer of getting a good job but then we are tied to these monstrous student loan debts or we spend years pursuing a PhD in a difficult subject only to find we have to take a series of $37K/year jobs.

We’re all expected to pony up hundreds and thousands of dollars for lousy health care policies and an ACA that has separated the country’s workers into two classes.  But the minute we ask for a fairer system that imposes cost controls on medical costs and profit limits on insurers, you’d think we were being irreligious.  Same with internet providers who can’t be bothered to improve their infrastructure even while they intend to reduce competition and split the proceeds from mergers amongst their shareholders.  Apparently, there is no one in Congress or the executive branch who thinks it is possible to stop what consumers think of as destructive mergers and loss of net neutrality.  Why are we expected to put up with that?

Every business and industry has figured out how to extract the maximum amount of pain and we rely on Congress to help us have a say in the matter and they do nothing to stop the extraction.

There’s got to be a better reason than the fact that campaign finance reform is broken.  We want answers as to why we are expected to tolerate the intolerable.

It’s one damn thing after another and no one is buying the excuse that nothing can be done because of the Republicans.  We’ve been watching this unfold for more than a decade and we haven’t even seen you Democrats putting up much of a fight.

Why does exploitative profit mining seem so unstoppable among the politicians that we elected to keep the playing field level so that we can all benefit from the fruits of our labors?

We want answers.  Feel free to use the comment thread below to provide them.  I think we have a right to expect a response of some kind.

Come on, Al Franken.  We supported you from the beginning.  What say you?  How about you, Elizabeth Warren?  And you, Hillary Clinton?  Enough of the foreign policy.  We want to hear about domestic issues.  What are you going to do about this?

Danger, Elizabeth Warren!

Here’s how Elizabeth Warren started her Senate career yesterday:

Now, I think these are good questions and she elicited some very uncomfortable responses.  Any of us could have asked those questions because we want to know.  Why are only ordinary people prosecuted and persecuted with the government playing the role of Javert ruining people’s lives for what may be minor infractions, like drug abuse or petty theft, while the bankers get away with murder?

The problem is I think her own party is setting her up.  That’s not to say she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing.  This is the kind of stuff we, the average citizens, like to see.  But because she is so prominent, right out of the gate, and such a threat to the right wing AND to the Democrats’ campaign warchests, she’s going to be put out there with enough rope to hang herself.

It’s hard for me to see exactly what angle Rush Limbaugh and the Glenn Beck types are going to use to neutralize her because there’s really nothing wrong with her line of questioning.  But I guarantee that she will become the next target of ridicule and misogyny before very long.  Both parties’ leadership want her out of the way.  They’ll do a Franken on her.

I hope she’s ready and that there are enough of us out here to push back the tide of nastiness headed her way.

Or at least that Paul Krugman can spare some time from his exhausting job tilting at windmills to put in a good word for her.

By the way, if banks are too big to fail or prosecute then the answer to our problems seems to be pretty simple- break them up first.  Voile!  We could prosecute them to our heart’s content.

*********************************

Matt Taibbi has a review of Neil Barofsky’s book Bailout.  Taibbi focuses on the political gamesmanship and back stabbing aspect of Barofsky’s book while  I was shocked by the sheer amount of money we allowed the banks to have access to without any oversight.  Anyway, it’s all connected with what is about to fall down on Elizabeth Warren.

It’s the best $9.99 you’ll spend at Amazon this month (for the Kindle edition).

Beat me! Beat me! Make me write bad checks!

Brian Fischer asks why Republicans allow themselves to be branded as stupid:

Why indeed.

Let me think.  No, no, don’t tell me.  Could it be because of something like *this*?:

Senate Republicans on Friday pledged to block President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the consumer finance watchdog until Democrats agree to restructure it, ramping up an expected fight this year over the controversial new bureau.

The group of 43 Republicans, led by minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Mike Crapo, an Idaho senator who is the top Republican on the banking committee, said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lacks congressional oversight.

Yes, the Republicans are threatening to filibuster the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee until the Democrats agree to weaken the agency’s powers.  And what is the CFPB, in case you haven’t been paying attention since, oh, 2008, and the whole reason why Elizabeth Warren ran for the Senate?  The agency is a watchdog for all those vexing problems that get average consumers into trouble.  Like credit card rates and mortgage rates and financial industry “products” that are sold to the little people who don’t know that the financiers have rigged the game.  The CFPB is supposed to be on the side of the average consumer, protecting your right to not be exploited.  What’s not to love?

“As presently organized, the CFPB is insulated from congressional oversight of its actions and its budget,” the Republicans said. “Far too much power is vested in the sole CFPB director without any meaningful checks and balances.”

The consumer bureau, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law to oversee mortgage lending and other sectors that played a role in the 2007-2009 financial crisis, was controversial before it even opened its doors.

Republicans and business groups have criticized the bureau’s broad authority over a wide range of financial products, and they want it to be funded by congressional appropriations rather than through the Federal Reserve.

Oh, dear, it seems that Senator Warren knew what she was doing when she put this agency together and now, it appears to have a bit more bite in it than our financial industry overlords like.    Apparently, the finance version of the FDA, checking things out for us and sticking warning labels on dangerous products, means a little too much transparency for the finance flim-flam guys.  Therefore, it must be defanged.

Of course, the Fox News cohort will swing into action and tell the fanbase that this is just another intrusion of government into their lives and if you want to take risks with your money and lose every penny of it, by golly, that’s your right  living in god fearing America where at least you know you’re free.  If the financial industry so-called “jahb creators” are to continue to be successful, they have to be able to take advantage of people.  That’s how you get the big bucks.  And anyway, if this government agency does its job right, all the other agencies might feel inspired to do good stuff too and we can’t have that.  I mean, it’s bad enough that the Social Security administration is so efficient with such low overhead.  It’s obscene, I tell you.  Speaking of obscene, gay people who aren’t married have sex using various and sundry orifices.  And women are having consensual sex!  Consensually!  Let’s obsess on that for awhile, shall we?

If you are a Republican and you aren’t super rich, you’re as dumb as a doorknob.  I see some of you out there saying, “I’m not a registered Republican.  I’m a registered Democrat. It’s none of your business who I vote for”.  That’s worse than being a conservative Republican because you *know* that there’s something unsavory and stupid about being a conservative Republican and you don’t want the label but you feel entitled to vote stupid. So, not only are you voting stupid, you’re a coward.  I’d feel much more respect for people who at least owned their stupidity instead of hiding behind their false party affiliation. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  Why anyone would want to take pride in today’s definition of the word “conservative” is beyond me.  It just screams stupidity to the rest of us.

What, No Bible??

ElizabethWarren had her ceremonial swearing in ceremony a few minutes ago.  I missed the magic moment to screen capture it but I did manage to capture Maizie Hirono’s pose with Biden.

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 2.27.29 PM

As she was being sworn in, Biden offered Hirono a Bible, which she declined.  She swore on no book.  Maizie is a Buddhist, the first Buddhist Senator we’ve ever had.  So, this is her right to decline a bible.

She’s not the only one breaking new ground today.  Tulsi Gabbard, congressional rep from Hawaii, is the first Hindu elected to Congress.  She took the oath on the Bhagavad Gita.

Well. that’s the last sign of the apocalypse, surely.

Congratulations to Elizabeth and the Two Tammys!

This goes out to Elizabeth Warren who won her first term as Senator from Massachusetts

Tammy Baldwin, the first lesbian LGBT Senator (that we know of) from the great state of Wisconsin

Tammy Duckworth who kicked the ass of Joe Walsh in Illinois to win her first term as Representative from Illinois.

Going step out, steppin’ out, Ladies Night! Oh what a night!

Go Vote!

Just because you can’t stand the two major party candidates doesn’t mean your vote doesn’t count.  If you’re disgusted, this would be the best time to express that disgust.  If you don’t speak up now, they’re going to get the impression that you approve of their performance.

And don’t forget, there are a lot of downticket candidates who need your support.  Plus, there are third party candidates who you might feel more comfortable with.  Just because you think they can’t win doesn’t mean your vote isn’t important to them.  In some cases, states won’t recognize emergent parties unless their candidates get votes or write in support.  So, if you ever want to have true choice, and not the standard Pete and RePete choices every four years, support your local third party candidates.  Don’t worry about who ultimately wins or loses.  Failures should be assigned to the politician who did not address your concerns and issues.  Now is the time to let your elected officials know what you *do* support.

And this morning, I can confirm at least one vote for Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts from the voter to the left, Number #1 child in Framingham.  (She says she wrote in Steven Colbert for president but I don’t believe her.  There are some things your kids do that you just don’t want to know.)

You have only one vote.  Make it count!

The NYTimes editorial fearmongering women for Obama

Maureen Dowd, one of only two females out of 12 op/ed columnists at the NYTimes

I guess the ladies will have to rescue Obama after all.  Today’s NYTimes editorial is all about those meanie Republicans who want to reinstate the Mexico City Rule and take away all our reproductive rights.

First, it should be noted that if you don’t want to lose your reproductive rights, don’t vote for downticket Republicans.  Oh, sure, there are pain in the ass anti-choice Democrats who should NEVER get another term but there are far, far more Republicans who are adamantly anti-choice.  And anti-labor.  And anti-consumer protections. And pro-neo-feudalism. And pro-war and authoritarianism.  And anti-Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  By the way, did you know that Medicare only got passed in the 60s when the number of Republicans in Congress was decreased to such an extent that they didn’t have the critical mass to obstruct it?  Yep, you can look it up.  Here’s a BBC-4 Witness segment on the birth of medicare and what it took to get it passed.

In short, just about everything Americans like had to be passed when Republicans were down for the count.  Otherwise, their method is obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.  It’s what they do.  So, if you vote for a downticket Republican or a Tea Party Republican, that’s what you’re going to get.  They’re into austerity and redistributing wealth -upwards.

Does that mean you should vote always for the Democrat?  Well, until there are more third party downticket candidates, yeah, probably.  I don’t like it either.  But for sure, voting for a downticket Republican is going to mean more austerity for YOU and not for their rich friends.  You can choose to ignore the evidence and history if you want but them’s the facts.

Second, who is in the White House makes absolutely no difference this year.  I know Democrats say that it does but there’s no evidence of that.  We’ve had 4 years of Obama and he unmasked himself during the first debate.  He doesn’t fight for Americans.  He capitulates to Republicans.  He doesn’t exercise his veto pen enough and he was quite happy to leave the Bush Conscience Rule on the books.  Oh, sure, he tweaked it but he didn’t remove it.  And in my opinion, removing it is significant.  As long as the Bush Conscience Rule is around, women will never be sure that their reproductive decisions can’t be overridden by someone else.

Now, I understand why the NYTimes would be carrying Obama’s water.  It’s not that the Times is particularly liberal.  But the paper of record does tend to put a socially forward face on it’s wealth protection policies.  It doesn’t like to think of itself as backwards like the Republican bible-thumpers and who could blame it?  It’s gauche and stupid and deliberately ignorant to be a Republican supporter these days.  Sorry, Republicans, but that’s the truth.  Of course, none of that matters if you win, right?  Then you can shove your ignorance on everyone else and make them eat it and that will make you feel better.  But it means that you WILL impose austerity on everyone, including yourselves, if you vote for downticket Republicans.

But at the top of the ticket?  Makes not a damn bit of difference.  And the reason it particularly makes no difference to women is because no one has to take women seriously.  They can scream about reproductive rights until their blue in the face.  Without someone taking you seriously, you get nowhere. And in the past four years, no one has been taking women seriously.  And a lot of the blame for that can be attributed to the Democratic leadership.  They allowed a pattern of sexism to develop since 2008 that has been unprecedented.

Let’s just put aside the 2008 primaries where Obama routinely attempted to diminish his opponent by saying things like,” periodically when she’s feeling blue“* Hillary goes negative, it was Obama’s intention when he took office to make sure the jobs programs were tailored for men because he was concerned that they would feel bad if they were encouraged to go into pink professions like nursing (It’s in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men).  And he also made the White House a “hostile working environment for women” (Anita Dunn said this in Suskind’s book)  He also ignored the advice of Christine Romer, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren, each one of whom had to go through Tim Geithner to get anything done.  Tim Geithner, if I recall correctly, was one of the guys who piled on Brooksley Born, the head of the CFTC back at the end of the Clinton years who wanted to regulate derivatives.

Obama was the guy who hired Larry Summers who once famously said that women didn’t have the same intellectual capacity in math and science as men. (guys, don’t try to sugar coat this.  I’ve read the transcript and he sure as hell said that and meant exactly what he said.)

The whole atmosphere in the past four years has changed towards women.  Tell me, ladies, am I just imagining that?  Are men more likely to act like you don’t have a brain, treat you dismissively and cut you off in conversations?  I’m talking about just conversations on the phone not in person where they can’t see whether you are too old to pay attention to.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m already prepared to battle when I place a phone call.  I’ve seen it happen to women at work and just casually.  We have lost whatever mojo we fought so hard to get over the past 50 years.  No wonder the Republicans think they can run over our reproductive rights.  We don’t count anymore and there are very few champions in the Democratic party who are powerful or interested enough to stick up for us.  It would be nice if we had more women running for Congress this year as Democrats but even that is hard to find.  The Democratic leadership in Maine decided it would put their money behind a guy who wasn’t even in their party rather than run a woman from their side for the Senate seat that Olympia Snowe is vacating.

We can’t even get above 17% representation in Congress, which is one of the lowest female government representations in the developed world.  It shouldn’t be any wonder why nothing that is important to us gets passed.  We can’t get economic reforms we like, the jobs programs we like, the wars we hate to stop or protection of our social insurance programs.  No one takes anything we want seriously because we don’t have the critical mass in Congress to change anything.

We have fewer women in government than Pakistan

Voting for Obama isn’t going to change that.  In fact, the only thing that will change that is running more women for office and in order to do that, we need to get more authority. And in order to do that we need to have a greater voice in the opinion pages of the countries papers and online news sources.

And if that’s going to happen, maybe it should start with the New York Times, which has a male to female ratio of op/ed writers of 10:2.  That means that men are 5 times more likely to have their concerns represented on the New York Times editorial page every week than women.  And one of those women is Maureen Dowd whose schtick has been to pile on the women that the guys hate.  That seems to be a survival strategy. (And how did that work out, Maureen?)  I can’t think of one unambiguously feminist voice on the pages of the Washington Post or New York Times on a regular basis nor do I see any parity at all when it comes to representation.

So, if the New York Times feels so strongly about the fate of women’s reproductive rights, now would be a good time to add more women to its editorial lineup.  May I suggest dumping Douthat or Brooks?  Or both?  Then, hire someone like Digby. I’m a little tired of the Ezra Kleins, Kevin Drums and Matt Yglesias types getting all the peach positions.  It’s time for the New York Times to practice what it preaches and hire some women.

Otherwise, I can’t take it seriously.

*You know the level of sexism is bad when Andrea Mitchell notices.

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