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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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I’m voting for “they don’t know what they’re doing”

In case I wasn’t clear yesterday on why Obama is not a people person, allow me to explain by giving an example of how things have worked in the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to picking corporate CEOs.

Jeffrey Kindler was a Harvard educated lawyer who ran McDonald’s partner brands (Boston Market? Chipotle Grill?) before someone recruited him to be a chief council at Pfizer.  He worked his way up to CEO and continued the rampage of buying and merging that his predecessor started.  By 2010, the bloated behemoth that was Pfizer, and all that it had swallowed, had lost 35% of its stock value.  All of my former colleagues at Wyeth were laid off in one fell swoop in 2009 and only a handful were hired back.  That was 19,000 people at Wyeth alone.  It was brutal and indiscriminate.  There were dedicated and excellent scientists who lost their careers in the middle of the Great Recession.  They did nothing wrong.  They were simply in the wrong place when a former McDonald’s executive decided to perform a little exploitative profit mining by absorbing the Wyeth pipeline, but, ehhhh, not all the research people who, you know, did all the work.

The pharmaceutical industry is full of stories like that.  There are many executives who know next to nothing about the industry they are managing. Their minions have the idea that the research staff are like day laborers whose jobs can be broken down into a series of burger flipping tasks, taking all of the curiosity and spontaneity out of the experimental process in order to save money.  It’s short sighted, destructive and shows a profound lack of understanding of the scientific method. But that’s not why the big executives were recruited.  They were recruited to make the shareholders money and right now, monetary incentives are not in the area of investing in science and research, which can be expensive and unpredictable.  Incentives run towards “get rich quick” schemes and extraction of value.

The damage has been done to many pharmas but the extraction will continue to the point of no return because the executives who are running these businesses don’t really understand the nature of the companies they run.  But that’s not why they were hired.  If they were hired to run research organizations, it wouldn’t be done this way. And the people that are hired to be executives are really not that much different than the people who run Wall Street.  They have an academic pedigree. These people are snobs.  It’s like an aristocracy.  There’s a level of ass-kissing but probably not as much as you think.  It’s more cutthroat than that.  More dog-eat-dog.  It’s a lot less glad handing than back room deals and “strike first” maneuvers.  What’s missing in all of the power grabbing is good management.

This is the world that Barack Obama comes from or could fit into easily.  He’s got the right pedigree, the right degree of ruthlessness and he’s more interested in “winning” by striking the right deal than driven by well-crafted policy.  The fact that he was African American was just icing on the cake to his recruiter.  It made for good theater and it gave them a hefty cudgel of racism to bash anyone who dared to criticize him.

This is not a world that values good management.  Day to day management and good stewardship gets in the way of the power game and winning.  Just look at the way Obama’s administration is planning to roll out the PR offensive for 2014.  It’s going to be about issues the administration’s brain trusts think will distract the Republicans.  It’s not about jobs or the economy.  It’s going to be about gun control.  Granted, gun control is important but it’s not going to put food on the table or fix what ails the economy.  And it could be a giant miscalculation.  But mostly, it’s game playing that is disconnected from the boring tasks associated with serving the people and governing well.

This is what the MBA/bonus/corporate lawyer class has been up to.  Given the disaster that the pharmaceutical industry is in, with layoffs a constant feature, a permanently underemployed research sector, perpetual restructuring and concentration of projects in cancer and orphan drugs to the exclusion of almost everything else, I’d have to say that they don’t know what they are doing.    These are not very imaginative people.  They’re not creative.  They follow trends and do what all their friends do just like brainless lemmings and I don’t mean to offend lemmings. Once they get it into their heads to extract a wealth, they have to come up with an excuse for doing it.  Then they decorate that excuse with biz speak and hypnotic memes so that before long, everyone is repeating the same damn things without any clue what it all means.

They can’t be trusted with their own checkbooks much less running big organizations or branches of government.  And in this environment, where crafting deals behind closed doors is where the real work takes place, glad handling and cultivating political relationships is a tedious, boring process done for show.  Pretty soon, we won’t need politicians at all.

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

I found this while I was searching for more Tony Robinson’s documentaries on youtube.  This sums up 5 years of anger and frustration.  I couldn’t have said it better myself:

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Revising my hypothesis about Democratic messaging

I’ve thought about Ira Glass’s question about Democratic messaging and I’m revising my hypothesis about why Democrats seem to SUCK at it so badly.  Here’s what I’ve been toying with:

1.) Let’s talk about the Republican party.  It’s not really a party anymore.  It’s really a frenzied, irrational mob that is being lead by a small evil group of manipulative conmen who have access to more money than God. That goes for the former Democrats who fled to the Tea Party after 2008 as well.  You’ve been had.

2.) If I were evil geniuses with more money than God, how would I take down my opponents?  Well, there are the obvious ways through traditional media and Fox News and propaganda.  But you’ve got to keep refighting those battles every 2-4 years.  That gets old and there’s a danger that the public will eventually catch on.

3.) Well off people who make a lot of money but aren’t generationally rich are vulnerable. They might not be socially reactionary but greed is a powerful force. Hold that thought.

4.) I might turn the thoughts of the well off but not generationally rich to taking over the party of my enemy.  It’s a good possibility that they’ve already decided to do this independently.

5.) Money pours into the coffers of the enemy.  The enemy bites.  (It hasn’t been fed in several election cycles)  Then, like a retrovirus, that money starts turning the mechanism of the party against itself.

6.) Money is a powerful substance for highjacking the messaging of the party.  The party itself changes.  The party no longer functions as it used to.

Ira’s mistake is in assuming that the messaging sucks unintentionally because the party is incompetent.  This is the wrong way to look at it.  The messaging is supposed to suck.  The people who have taken over the party have made sure that the party itself remains fragmented.  The base is no longer cohesive.  The party infiltrators intentionally broke it apart in 2008 in order to pit African Americans against women, “creative class” {{cough, cough}} against working class, “educated” {{rolling eyes}} against everyone without an ivy league degree.

The new message system keeps getting propagated through a new generation of bought political journalists.  The demographics of this new breed are strikingly similar to the people who bought the party.  We have Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Josh Marshall, people like that.  They’re young, relatively well-educated, white, male.  Are there any women here?  The Democratic infiltrators know what they’re doing.  Why should they give any voice to the powerless, the people who might actually want them to do something?

And every time there is a possibility that the gang will have a “Hey, we’ve been eating grass!” moment and start comparing notes, the infiltrators quickly disseminate poison throughout the system. I think we could prove this with a Lexus-Nexis search.  I’m betting there is a correlation between Obama’s public opinion surveys and negative journalism about more liberal or successful Democrats. If there isn’t one, I’ll eat my blog.  That negative messaging permeates throughout the blogosphere and social networking apparatus.  We know how it’s done because we’ve seen it.   They take the most powerful politician in the party and use him as a target at which every grievance of the activist base can hurl their insults and nurse their injuries.  It’s a three minute hate in neat little packages.  This continues to separate the party into creative class, men with privileged backgrounds and everyone else.

The people who are most hurt by the three minute hate against successful Democratic politicians who aren’t pure are the same people who were most inclined to vote for the hated Democratic politician, that is working and middle class people, the poor, African Americans, women, and immigrants.  The activist base keeps telling them they should be angry with the last successful and powerful Democratic politician but they’re not.  It’s all designed to keep the parts of the party from talking to one another.

Now, you have to wonder how it is that this money retrovirus was able to accomplish so much.  It seems to me that it’s easier to do when the Republicans go to the extreme right.  The more right they go, the more likely that socially moderate rich people will look for alternatives.  Arianna Huffington is poster girl for this kind of movement to the Democrats.  And the crazier the right gets, the more the socially moderate monied class flees to the Democrats, diluting the strength of the 99% with all of that money.  So, it shouldn’t be any wonder that the right is really going for the gusto and becoming as radical as it possibly can.  Don’t expect it to get better before the election.  Republicans are going to push it right as far as it will go so that the Democratic party gets further diluted.  The vast majority of voters feel they have nowhere to go.  They’re trapped because there is a void to the left of the Democrats where they used to feel comfortable.  In the meantime, because the right has pushed sooooo far right, it’s hard to tell what’s the center anymore.  Average Americans get the idea that the most important thing is to cut the legs off of other Americans.  They know there’s something wrong with the picture but all of the solutions that are presented to them are the same.

What we have here is the Karl Rovian forces taking over both parties and pushing working people and the 99% out.  The Democrats are not our people anymore.  The activists won’t accept this but unless they have more money than the people who have highjacked the party mechanism, they’re not going to get control of the messaging anymore, until they back the only other center of power left within the party.  They could choose to embrace the last successful Democratic politician who defied both parties’ expectations and who has the support of the working class, women, poor, middle class, immigrants, and *used* to have African Americans until the 2008 character assasination.  But the people who run the Democratic party are going to continue to poison those thoughts the minute they start to bubble up.  The activist base is just too full of themselves and too prone to blame someone else than actually get a fucking clue.  They’d rather go for purity than actual power.

(Odd that they haven’t considered that the other center of power may decide to go left in order to differentiate itself from the highjackers…)

So, there you have it, Ira.  Democratic messaging is working fine.  It’s doing exactly what it’s been paid to do.  If you want a return to left of center politics, you’ve got to be willing to clean out the infection.  So far, I see no indication that the activist base wants to rid themselves of doing it even though much of the base realizes it jumped in bed with someone they didn’t know and caught something nasty.  To do so would mean they have to overcome powerful conditioning and toxicity.

I think the Democrats are heading towards extinction.  If they lose big this fall, and it’s a distinct possibility, the ensuing hardships should shake the activists out of their torpor and make them realize they’ve been had.  I wish I could say this is all unavoidable but sometimes, you have to learn the hard way.

UVa disaster continues: One of the top 13 professors has resigned

Read the resignation letter from University Professor Bill Wulf (Computer Science).  It’s a beauty.  It reminds me of one of those letters that your write in a fever and then debate whether to send or not.

Here’s a snippet:

Dean and Interim President Zeithaml,

By this email I am submitting my resignation, effective immediately. I do not wish to be associated with an institution being as badly run as the current UVa. A BOV that so poorly understands UVa, and academic culture more generally, is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster, and I don’t want to be any part of that. And, frankly, I think you should be ashamed to be party to this debacle!

 [rather impressive bio goes here]

In short we have extensive experience that spans academia, executive positions in the private sector, government, and board memberships. So we deeply understand the proper conduct of academic administration and the proper oversight of that administration by a board, In my opinion the BOV has perpetrated are the worst example of corporate governance I have ever seen.

To repeat_- I resign. I want no part of this ongoing fiasco.

Bill Wulf

Wm. A. Wulf University Professor, Dept. of Computer Science University of Virginia, and President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering

Bill Wulf is not a slacker.  It’s unclear whether his wife intends to follow him.  There are other tweet rumors that the Vice Rector, Mark Kington was also in the process of has resigned. The vice rector is the second ranked member of the Board of Visitors who forced Sullivan to resign.  Governor McDonnell of Virginia,  appears to be cautiously critical of the board’s actions.  But half of the board members are his appointees.

And what of the interim president who was appointed today to take Sullivan’s place?

Zeithaml will take a leave of absence from the McIntire School during his tenure as interim president. In March, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the McIntire School as the No. 2 undergraduate business program in the country, and the No. 1 MBA feeder school.

He specializes in the field of strategic management. He joined the McIntire School in 1997.

It sounds like the university community knows *exactly* what’s going on, who is doing it and why.  This isn’t about change.  It’s a corporate coup of MBA management assholes who are going to restructure the University to be more attentive to their needs.  They know nothing about academia but they have a lot of experience with management techniques.  Gawd help UVa.  They’re going to need it.

If UVa doesn’t have an Occupy group, now’s a good time to start one.  If they were located closer to a major metropolitan area, they’d be getting recruits to help make some noise.  But Charlottesville is kind of isolated.  Nevertheless, I hope the protestors get the attention they deserve.  When it can happen at UVa, no university is safe from the bonus class.

Update: the more I read about the forced resignation of Sullivan, the weirder this story gets.  A couple of sources (Here and here) are reporting that the board of Visitors did not meet to take a vote to get rid of Sullivan, that there was no unanimous vote and that Rector Dargas has been planning this resignation for months in secret without any faculty input.

Sunday: What to do, What to do?

Susie Madrak has her own radio show on BlogTalkRadio.  On January 17, her guests were Eric Boehlert and Nicole Sanders.  They took a call from a woman whose unemployment benefits ran out last March.  MARCH.  Of 2010.  For almost a year, this woman has had zero income.  No unemployment, no little job, nuthin.  She’s spent all of her savings and is now living on a home equity line of credit to pay her bills.  And she called Susie, who’s doing the best she can with what she has too since being out of work for some time now, and asks what she can do to get lawmakers’ attention?

Susie talked about how the Communist party started organizing back in the Great Depression, preventing people from getting evicted and feeding the poor.  And back then, it got a lot of attention.  There were tent cities and Hoovervilles in Washington.  Evidence of poverty was everywhere.  It was the threat of a public uprising the finally got things moving.

Susie gave the standard answers about what can be done.  Show up at a congressman’s office en masse, hang out in front of the restaurant where he/she and friends have lunch, throw a tent city or two and call the local paper or TV station about it.  Butcha know, I don’t think that’s going to work anymore and as one of them said: the right has the biggest megaphones and they simply won’t report it.

The right knows their voters.  They motivate their voters to vote by romanticizing the fetus, by appealing to their religiosity.  If bad things happen to other people, it’s because they weren’t as pious and good as the typical Fox News viewer.  That same religiosity prevents the religious conservative from doing too much to help the poor by contacting their representatives and demanding action.  It’s because there is so much evil and bad and pain in the world that mankind does not have the capacity to clean it up.  Only god does.  So, we need to just wait for Jesus to come back, which should be any day now.  If you’ve ever wondered what the apocalyptic messaging in right wing propaganda has to do with anything, there’s the reason.  It’s to keep the older conservative voter who sees disturbing things from taking any action.

If Susie wants to know what to do, she is going to have to target these viewers to get involved.  One thing that temporarily woke people up was the sight of so many people suffering in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans.  Which means that the news machine will be very careful to never do that again.  So, if you can’t bring the news to the people, maybe you have to bring the people to the news.

Don’t isolate your older, more conservative relatives.  Tell them what’s going on because you’ve seen it personally.  Tell them what is happening to your unemployed friends.  If they ask why they’re not willing to relocate, tell them the truth.  There are no jobs.  Anywhere.  Be harsh with them.  They won’t want to see you.  But they’ll call and ask why you haven’t come to visit.  Tell them you’re trying to help your friends- who are unemployed and that they just don’t get it.  They’ll go on about how God is the only one who can clean this mess up.  Tell them that’s bullshit and Jesus wouldn’t want them to ignore the poor.  If they tell you that you’re friends did something wrong, tell them the only thing they did wrong was being born in the wrong part of the 20th century.  If they say, yes, it’s true, the older generation has it good in comparison, tell them, great!  We’re moving in with you.  With the bird.  And the kid who likes to play Edith Piaf songs all. the. time. and refuses to speak to you in anything but French and eats like there’s no tomorrow.  When they express some hesitation about that, tell them to turn off the fricking TV news.

As for Susie, I think she has a future in broadcasting but she really has to ditch her propensity to glom onto left wing memes.  I’m not saying stop being liberal.  I’m saying stop letting the left do your thinking.  On one broadcast a couple of months ago, I think Athenae was on, they got so frustrated with it all that they want to just ditch everything and go rustic, which is great if you have no dependents.  But in some respects, it reminds me of the older religious person’s decision to just stay in the house away from the evil men and sexual predators until Jesus comes back.  You can’t run away from the world’s problems when they seem insurmountable.  If you do that, the bad guys win.  They want people to feel helpless.  Learned helplessness is their goal.

The only way to win is to get together and fight back.  And if Susie hasn’t figured this out yet, the left’s support of Obama in 2008 has resulted in thousands of sparkling shards of leftiness with the incapacity to reform itself.  I keep appealing to people like Susie to stop blowing us off and join with us and let’s do something together.  But the left hasn’t given up on the stuff that doesn’t resonate with their potential allies who work for the big corporations the left condemns.  It’s incomprehensible to me that for all the intelligence the left claims it has that it hasn’t figured out yet that the corporations are not the ogres here.  It’s the rulemakers they help elect.  If the rules weren’t bent or destroyed, the corporations would go back to playing by the rules and merely scheming like grinches instead of running around causing havoc like Thing 1 and Thing 2.   Then there are people like us who voted for Hillary and are still personas non grata.  We’re always going to think Obama was the wrong guy for the moment.  But why would the left cut off half of its strength if it really want to make a change?  Let me ask you this, Susie, why haven’t you asked any of US on your show yet?   Not that we can’t host our own shows but that’s hardly togetherness, is it?

The left’s obsession with perfection mirrors the right’s eschatological fervor.  Neither one addresses the causes and concerns of people in the middle who still bitterly cling to their FDR era programs with track records of success for those who participate.  Both sides insist that if they can’t have everything their way, no one will get anything at all.  In this respect, the left does as much damage to its cause as the right does with its huge megaphones.

If you want to know why no one hears your cries, it’s because you haven’t joined with other voices.  And the men in charge, and it’s ALWAYS men, like it that way.  Power is the ultimate drug and no one is going to wrest it from them without a fight.  As long as the left remains broken, Susie and her tent cities are no threat to the power brokers.

In other news:

So, about that FICA 2% tax break.  I was just talking to my colleague about this the other day.  She was planning to roll that money into her 401K.  Hold off on that, I said, you never know how they’re going to take it out of your hide.  After all, you’re income tax may go up instead.  Sure enough, Carissa at Corrente discovered what the catch is in Making Work Pay Clawback.  You’re not going to like it.  I probably won’t like it a whole bunch more.  As a single person who only gets to claim Head of Household every other year, while still retaining the blessings of parenthood and a healthcare policy that requires that I am the major source of support for the kid, I pay an outrageous amount in taxes already but I’m well below the top tax bracket that actually gets…

wait for it

a break! Yep, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket, the amount of money you can make before you are taxed has risen.  For everyone else, the amount you have to make before the taxes kick in has dropped. Isn’t that special?  So, hold off on adding to your 401Ks, which only people who have paid off their mortgages can afford to fund adequately.  Not only has Obama managed to not soak the rich, he has given them additional breaks, acquiesced to a plan that underfunds social security, transferring that money to the general fund where it will be spent in Iraq, and raised taxes on our income.  In summary, the 2% FICA tax break does absolutely NOTHING to stimulate the economy. Well done!  Is this really the one we were waiting for?

Les Leopold at AlterNet attempts to answer the perennial question, “Why Do People Who Work in Finance Earn So Much More Than the Rest of Us?” Yes, I would like to know the answer to that question, as well as why it is that people who work in the corporate offices make so much more than the people who do the innovation and the hands on work to produce the products that make all the money?  And why is their gym nicer and their cafeteria food better?  Why is it they can use the mail service to ship personal items to international destinations while the people in the facility down the road can’t?  Shit, did I say that out loud?  Well, why???  What is it about dressing up and sitting behind a desk makes the people who make sometimes incredibly bad decisions so much wealthier than the rest of us?  The answer, as far as I can tell is that if you delegate your authority to other people to keep track of the money so that you can get actual work done, you run the risk that those delegates will reward themselves handsomely at your expense, and at a certain level of wealth, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  It’s extortion.  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Leopold does some calculations:

Let’s try a back-of-the envelope calculation of Wall Street’s net social value. Compare their bonuses and profits for roughly the last five years (about $500 billion) with the economic losses produced in the financial crisis the bankers caused (about $4 trillion in value destroyed, not counting the ongoing travails of the 22 million people who haven’t yet been able to find a full-time job). For every dollar “earned” on Wall Street, about 8 dollars were destroyed. (In case you’re suffering from financial amnesia and forgot how the financial sector single-handedly caused the economic crisis, please see The Looting of America. Chapter One can be found gratis on AlterNet.

I hate to break this to the educators but, it turns out if you really want your students to learn something, testing is one of the best ways to do it.  You know those endless stupid projects you have our kids doing where they have to map everything out on big pieces of expensive poster board with connections to all of the other concepts in the unit?  Turns out that might be a waste of parents time.  What researchers have discovered is that those projects impose an artificial organization and categorization system on students that is more easily and naturally achieved by simply testing them on the material as soon as possible after they learn it.  Go back to the pop quizzes, teachers.  Save yourself and your kids and their families a nights of exhaustion and despair.  From the NYTimes article:

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.

But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

It makes sense.  If you impose a little bit of stress on the student in the form of a quiz or test, they are forced to rapidly organize the information and discover where they are deficient so they can revisit the information later.  If you impose too much stress on them by forcing them to adopt another organization method, you not only screw up their intrinsic method but you create a life long hatred of projects.  JMHO.

Anyway, it’s in the journal Science, which is a stickler for peer review and details and stuff like that so as much as you may dislike the concept of testing for retention, you can’t completely dismiss this paper.  Well, you *could*, but it would be pointless.

Another article from the NYTimes proclaims that Obama is to press a centrist agenda in his SOTU address.  So, it looks like after three years of playing the political philosophical mystery man, Obama has finally found a place to dig in his heels and plant his flag — right down the middle.  Which has moved significantly rightwards since he became president.  Uh-huh.  I see this as a way to head off Bloomberg and his silly No Limits soiree.  Which means, the vast majority of people who are not making $200K a year and have to work for a living without a safety net are still screwed and unrepresented by this President.  Obama has finally found his constituents:

Mr. Obama previewed the themes in a video e-mailed Saturday evening to supporters who had helped in his election campaign. But the video made plain that his speech would be geared more broadly toward the political center, to independent voters and business owners and executives alienated by the expansion of government and the partisan legislative fights of the past two years.

The rest of you scientists and airline pilots and mathematicians turned uber programmers and burger flippers and unemployed journalists and part time morticians can go take a hike.

Lovely.  By the way, NYTimes reporters, the economy is *not* “picking up steam”.  My friends are just as unemployed as ever and the rest of us are in danger of joining them.

I’m so glad that I can say with pride that “I didn’t vote for him”.

About that abortion clinic from hell, Alternet has a followup.  Well, there are a lot of articles on this subject.  The story is very gruesome but just goes to show you that desperate women will overlook unsanitary conditions, illegality and their own health to get abortions when they decide they need them.  There is nothing that a senior citizen mainlining Fox News can do about it.  These women are never going to bond with or have any warm and fuzzy maternal instincts for the fetuses they carry.  There’s no amount of shame or inconvenience you can foist on them that will deter them.  The only thing you accomplish by stigmatizing abortion and forcing poor women to “Chase the Fee” is that you end up risking two deaths instead of one.

This is the first but certainly not the last legal clinic that resembles a back alley abortion mill.  There will have to be a lot more of them before the anti-choice contingent starts feeling the weight of all of the deaths and destruction and infertility it has visited on women.  They will have to feel it and be made to take the blame for it.

VAT is not the same as “soaking the rich”

Barack Obama is suggesting the Value Added Tax (VAT) as a revenue option for those of us just livin’ it up on our stagnant salaries.  Yep, we just have tons and tons of disposable income, what with gas at $3.00/gallon and excise taxes on our frugal health bennies and our kids’ college funds running on empty.

How many times do we have to go through this with our cowardly and craven politicians?  We want you to SOAK THE RICH. That is what you were elected to do in 2008.  We are sick of squabbling over the shrinking slice of pie that the bonus class is throwing us.  The day after Goldman-Sachs announced it’s whopping $3+ billion quarterly profit using money that we, the taxpayers, gave it through TARP, is not a good time to bring up the idea of a VAT.  If the country is broke, Mr. Obama, perhaps you should stop asking the vast majority of rules playing and responsible taxpayers to pony up.  Stop looking down the food chain at the plankton.  Look upwards towards the sharks if you need to recover the money.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about countries that actually have VATs, like some European countries.  In those countries, health care doesn’t mean that only consumers need to cut costs; doctors, insurance companies and hospitals share that burden too.  In those countries, the trains run on time and there are plenty of them.  In those countries, the gifted student doesn’t have to pray for a scholarship because higher education costs are a tiny fraction of what we pay here.

Listen up, Barry,  I’m not a gullible TeaPartier who is against government spending and reflexively anti-tax.  I am a middle class, well paid (but not TOO well paid), well educated, FDR Democrat in the burbs.  You know, one of the voters your party is losing at an accelerated pace these days?  I have no desire to live in GlennBeckistan where we stomp all over the poor and newly unemployed for being a burden on us.  But enough is enough with the taxes.  I’ve got a kid to put through college if I can keep her from losing her mind in a regular classroom after the devastating budget cuts New Jersey is going through right now. (Have you seen what a private school costs these days?  Of course you have, but to those of us NOT making a $400K salary every year, our gifted girls are stuck in public school)  Your job is to make government work for me, not make it worse and then take more of my money to cover your backers’ gambling debts.  Don’t piss us off.

I’m getting really sick and tired of hearing the rich whine about things like how bad our internet security is because they pay taxes and dammit, they deserve better treatment!  No, *I* pay taxes and I deserve better treatment.  I pay enough in taxes every year to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Now, I don’t mind doing it because *someone’s* got to do it.  But my patience is wearing thin.  I can’t afford to pay for everything myself and I make too much money to qualify for any benefits.  Maybe that’s how it should be.  But if I am expected to have a social conscience, I think it’s only right to expect the same from the people pulling in millions of dollars in bonuses every year. Morality is not just for the average Joe.  If noblesse oblige doesn’t come naturally, it should be compulsory.  If I were a Democrat right now, I’d tax the living daylights out of any banker who received a bonus from Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs.  That right there will get you two more years.

So, before Obama even thinks about a VAT, he’d better go away and think harder about SOAKING THE RICH.  And don’t come back until you have a plan to do it.

Nope, don’t even go there.  Talk to the hand.

Krugman says, “We’re doomed”

Behind the Goldrush Sacks building facade

H/T  to Dhyana on the Beautiful Theories thread for this reference to a post from Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal blog.  Here’s what Obama said recently (yesterday?) during an interview to be published Friday:

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.

Ya know, I’m a liberal and I don’t begrudge people making money either, as long as they don’t do it by electing politicians that will get rid of the rules for them so they can speculate recklessly with other peoples’ money, get in over their heads, ruin innocent citizens’ retirement plans, jobs and livelihoods and then give some of the “bonus” money they made with taxpayer bailout funds to the “Mashie Niblick Widows and Orphans Fund” of their choice so they can look like they’re being good guys while they’re applying for a tax deduction for charitable contributions.  Now, *that’s* chutzpah!  How is it that Barack Obama admires these “savvy businessmen”?  Obama is one of them.

Some of us are seeing our industries decimated and our  friends’ careers irretrievably gone to Asia, our lives ruined by these insensitive, “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is mine” bizspeaking, short sighted, greedy, testosterone poisoned adolescents posing as men (and it’s almost exclusively men) and Obama wants us to “cut’em a break”? Compare them to a talented ballplayer who sells his body parts to wealthy men for sport?  At least major league ballplayers are ENTERTAINING!

By the way, tea partiers, this should prove to you once and for all that Obama is NOT a socialist.

As Krugman says, “Oh. My. God.”

(Didja finally wake up and smell the sulfur, Paul?)

Another take on Obama’s Gigantic Faux Pas:

The aliens are setting the terms:

“Don’t you want to elevate your career?”