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    • The Class War the Rich Won And the End Of NeoLiberal Capitalism
      Many years ago now, I wrote a post called “There Was a Class War And %he Rich Won.” Ironically, post the financial meltdown of 07/8, and thanks to Bush, Obama, Bernanke and Geithner both bailing them out and immunizing them from their crimes, that victory has accelerated. This chart, from Harvard, tells the story of […]
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Touching the 3rd Rail

It was former U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill who first called Social Security the “third rail of American politics,” and O’Neill did as much as anyone to make Social Security a deadly political issue.

But what happens if both legacy parties touch that rail together? Has it ever happened?

At Hullabaloo, Digby shared this link & story:

One More Nail In The Social Security Coffin

President Obama and the Republicans will say that the payroll tax holiday is all about stimulating the economy. But don’t be fooled. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,extending the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, is a much better, more targeted stimulus. See “Payroll Tax Holiday a Poor Stimulus Idea,” available at this link.

And the Making Work Pay Tax Credit poses no threat to Social Security. The innocent-sounding payroll tax holiday, on the other hand, will lead inexorably to killing Social Security. Let me explain:

Sixty members of the Senate are unwilling to raise taxes by 3 percent on the $250,000 and first dollar (and all those dollars earned above $250.001) of those making over $250,000 and by 1.6 percent more (for a total of 4.6 percent) on the $384,860 and first dollar {and all those dollars earned above $384,861) of those making over $384,860. They are even unwilling to spare everyone making less that one million dollars any increased taxes and simply raise taxes by 4.6 percent on the $1 million and first dollar (and all those dollars earned above $1,000,001 of the nation’s multimillionaires and billionaires. (I say multimillionaires because anyone with a net worth of a few million dollars is not making an annual income of over one million dollars.)

Given that unwillingness to raise taxes by less than a nickel on every dollar earned over $1 million, I find it unfathomable that a more conservative Congress, in two years, in an election year, will increase the payroll tax by 2 percent on the very first dollar, and every other dollar up to the cap, earned by virtually every single worker in the country. Consequently, I think we have to assume that the payroll tax holiday will be extended beyond the two years the president is proposing and quite likely could become permanent.

That means that the federal government will have to continue to transfer $120 billion to the Social Security trust funds each and every year even as it has to transfer more and more interest payments as the trust funds continue to grow and as interest rates return to more normal levels. Unless Congress acts to restore Social Security to solvency, the Treasury bonds held in trust will have to be redeemed, again on top of that new $120 billion transfer from the general fund, starting fifteen years from now, assuming Congress even continues to make the $120 billion every year before that point. These dollars will be competing with dollars for defense, environmental protection, education, school lunches, Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, Pell grants for low income college students, and every other good and service financed by the federal government. (emphasis mine)

And Digby goes on to say,

“Meanwhile, they will argue that Social Security is now showing a much larger shortfall and they will use it to demand cuts in the program. (I realize that the president said that they will use general revenue to make up the shortfall, but I think we can comfortably predict that he will not be very effective at using what they will call an “accounting gimmick” to do that. Judd Gregg on just said on MSNBC right out that it’s coming from the Trust Fund, full stop. That will be their line whether it’s true or not.)

Now, I don’t know why she couldn’t see this coming.  As people in her own comments point out Obama signaled his willingness to mess with Social Security from pretty early in the primary fight.  Still, I’m happy to hear her publicizing this piece of the issue.  I’ve already been fighting over this with Facebook friends.  And the more links I can send them to the better.

So what do you think?  ARE the Democrats going to join hands with their Republican buddies and change the Social Security formula?  And if they do what’s left?  IS there even the cheapest excuse of a Democratic Party at that point.

And where do we go from there?

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Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

The big news of the day is still the big sell-out job Obama did. Well, I say sell-out because that’s what the (until recently) Obama fanclub for idiots call it. Of course we all know Obama is doing what he planned to do and what he wants to do. Giving the ultra rich more money is what he has always done. It’s what he was hired to do. It’s the cost of sexism. Quite expensive as it turns out.

So let’s see what people have to say about that event. Oh my, there seems to be some yelling and gnashing of teeth. That’s what they always do, at least until they get “the visit” or the “air force 1 ride”. And sadly for some idiots, it doesn’t even take that as they’ll suck up and say it’s all good. Mark my words. Give it another week and all the usual suspects will say how this was genius all along. Firstly we get reports of some shouting and Obama’s testy reaction:

A testy President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed frustration at his own Democrats for attacking him over his tax-cut deal with Republicans, who he called uncompromising “hostage takers.”

Obama found himself in an unusual position a day after sealing a major tax-cut agreement — praised by Republican opponents and denounced by liberal Democrats who felt he violated a pledge that helped get him elected in 2008.

Liberals accused him of caving to Republican demands by agreeing to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, even those for wealthier Americans, instead of their preference for limiting the tax cuts to families making less than $250,000 a year.

Obama leveled some of his toughest criticism to date at the left wing of the Democratic Party, saying his critics were taking a “sanctimonious” position that would not have helped solve problems.

His voice rose and he sounded exasperated when he said if he had refused to compromise, “People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people.”

The country was founded on the principle of compromise, Obama said, and he singled out one leading critic, The New York Times editorial page, saying “The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America. Neither does the Wall Street Journal editorial page.”

Did Obama just call Democrats “sanctimonious”? I believe he did. Poor babies. I hope they didn’t cry. Others have a similar story about the struggle with Democrats to get this passed:

In a 35-minute news conference, Obama chastised liberals for seeking ideological purity that would cause legislative logjams on vital issues. He didn’t spare Republicans, either, likening them to “hostage takers” willing to hurt the great majority of Americans for the “holy grail” of extending tax cuts for millionaires.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was noncommittal before and after Obama’s afternoon appearance, saying she would discuss the matter with fellow Democrats. “So far the response has not been very good,” she said after meeting with other Democratic leaders.

[…]

If Democrats kill the tax plan, it would mark a stunning defeat for Obama and a huge political bet that voters will blame Republicans as much as Democrats for an impasse that leads to higher taxes starting Jan. 1. Few on Capitol Hill believe Democrats will take that gamble. But liberal lawmakers’ discontent is hard to measure in the wake of last month’s big election setbacks.

Despite their minority status, Senate Republicans managed last week to block Obama’s long-promised bid to end Bush-era tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000. They insisted that all the tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, scheduled to expire in three weeks, be extended, for rich and poor alike.

But Politico comes to the rescue saying don’t worry about those Democrats because this can be passed without them:

Don’t be fooled by all the shouting. President Barack Obama’s tax-cut deal likely will squeak through the Senate, according to congressional aides, propelled by a coalition of Republicans, moderate Democrats and members won over by last-minute tax sweeteners.

The House, however, is more difficult to call – but there is a path to success there as well, and it likely includes wooing some wavering members by adding a few more specialized tax breaks, aides said.

House Republicans expect nearly all of their 179 members on board and could make up a roughly 40-vote shortfall with the help of Blue Dog fiscal conservatives in the Democratic party.

House Democrats, clearly miffed, say if Obama wants the bill, he’s got to find the votes, which isn’t assured.

“Making the case for this falls on the shoulders of the administration, not House leaders,” said one House Democratic aide. “The White House cut this deal so they gotta defend it.”

[…]

Still, some Blue Dogs could break from the bill, as could moderate Democrats and even some recently defeated Democrats who accuse the GOP of hypocrisy – for attacking the high price tag the health care and stimulus bills but signing on to this $900 billion or so plan.

New Democrats, the pro-business wing led by New York Rep. Joe Crowley, signaled openness to the bill, but only if bonus depreciation and research and development tax credits are included in the final product.

Who needs these Democrats anyway? Looks like Obama doesn’t. Having said that, not all is united on the Republican side either. The Hill reports on crazy Michele Bachmann and her distaste for the unemployed:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Monday — before the White House deal was unveiled — that congressional Republicans could balk at voting to extend all the tax cuts for two years if it’s tied to a long-term extension of jobless benefits. Bachmann is the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus.

“I don’t know that Republicans would necessarily go along with that vote. That would be a very hard vote to take,” Bachmann said on conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s radio show.

“I think we’re back in a conundrum. I think the compromise would be extending the rates for two years and not permanently, but not tying it to massive spending,” she said. “We cannot add on something like a year of unemployment benefits.”

Isn’t she special. Isn’t it so difficult for her. She has to contemplate the unseemly act of lending a hand to the unemployed while shoveling mega millions to the richest 1%. I think she’s worried she might catch something from the peasants. Funny thing is, I don’t think she and Obama are that different.

For your reading pleasure, WaPo has more details about what Congress will be trying to accomplish in their last week before their holiday break.

In some sad news, as we found out yesterday, Elizabeth Edwards died. Good wishes and prayers to her family.

Where do you go from that sort of news. Well, beer of course. Here are the top ten home brew beer recipes:

To home brew a great beer—whether it’s all-grain or extract—requires, first and foremost, an understanding of the process and mastery of brewing technique. That’s not to say creative, well-balanced recipes with all the right ingredients don’t help with the final product. We scoured brewing books, listened to beer podcasts, and talked to brewmasters to find ten of the best homebrew recipes out there, representing a range of beer styles. The recipes we found come from some of the best professional brewers in the country as well as absurdly dedicated homebrewers.

Read on for those recipes and beer discussions.

Finland had the highest literacy rates for quite a while, but alas, no more. Recent student test results puts them behind three asian areas:

The tri-annual Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey of 15-year-olds ranked China’s Shanghai region in first place.

With Finland coming third, its education minister blamed a decline in reading, especially among boys.

Pupils in Sweden and Ireland also performed worse than in 2006.

And speaking of the writing on the wall, Bank of America just can’t get a break (boo hoo):

Bank of America Corp.’s agreement to pay $137 million in restitution for taking part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy for municipal-investment contracts may soon be followed by more settlements to repay the scheme’s victims, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division head said.

“Stay tuned to this channel — I think you will see a lot more activity in the coming weeks and months,” Christine Varney, the antitrust chief, told reporters yesterday. “We are committed to getting restitution, full restitution, to all the municipalities that were victims of this scheme.”

[…]

Bank of America’s settlement is “likely the tip of the iceberg,” Andrew Gavil, a law professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said in an e-mail. He said other conspirators may pay much higher penalties.

The government has identified more than a dozen firms, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, and Societe Generale as unindicted co-conspirators in a criminal case brought by the Justice Department against a Los Angeles investment broker.

Read on for much more detail on various cases and issues, and where the government will likely be lenient.

Some exciting news from space, a private rocket is sitting on a launch pad, ready to lift off, from Cape Canaveral in what should mark a new phase in the worlds efforts to explore:

The rocket, a Falcon 9 built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, for short, is unassuming — a runt compared to NASA’s space shuttles. It is scheduled to lift off on Wednesday morning and place into orbit an empty capsule, designed to carry cargo and eventually astronauts, which will circle the Earth twice before splashing down in the Pacific. The mission is to last less than three and a half hours.

Although the flight lacks in theatrics, it marks a major shift in the space program toward private industry. It is the first demonstration flight under a National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract that is to lead to SpaceX’s ferrying supplies to the International Space Station.

NASA, under a new space exploration blueprint signed into law in October, will now embark on a similar strategy for sending astronauts to orbit — buying rides from commercial companies rather than operating its own rocket.

The LA Times also has some coverage:

In half a century of spaceflight, only a few countries have been able to send a capsule into space and have it return to Earth intact, a technological and financial feat reserved for the wealthiest of nations.

That may all change as early as Wednesday, when a Hawthorne-based rocket venture plans to send an Apollo-like capsule into space and have it splash down in the Pacific, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to orbit the globe and survive the fiery reentry back to Earth.

If the mission is successful, it would mark a major turning point for private spaceflight and a key milestone for SpaceX, a venture started by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk.

“When Dragon returns, whether on this mission or a future one, it will herald the dawn of an incredibly exciting new era in space travel,” said Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Well, I think it’s exciting anyway. There are some amazing things to do, even in near space, and great opportunities just out of our reach. I’m very happy to see such private enterprise efforts.

That’s a bit of what’s going on. Chime in with what you’re finding or with what’s on your mind.