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What I want to hear from Hillary if she decides to run

1.) That it is immoral for the finance industry or any industry to engage in exploitative profit mining of Americans.

2.) That the definition of success is more than how much money you make. That there is intrinsic value to many occupations that has nothing to do with the ability to exploit one’s neighbors or accumulating a hoard of cash that doesn’t serve the public good.

3.) Infrastructure in the United States requires immediate attention. That means broadband, highways and bridges, and mass transit.

4.) That retirement for most Americans is going to be a crisis situation and she plans to address the 401K ponzi scheme with expanded Social Security.

5.) That we don’t know at what temperature the earth will find its melting point so it is important to evolve away from fossil fuels.

6.) That it is more important to “Have courage and be kind” than invade other countries and cruelly kick people when they’re down.

7.) That truly good Christians do not delight in the misfortunes of others, are not proud, and don’t sound like clanging gongs when they insist on their “religious freedoms” at the expense of others.

Add what you want to hear in the comments below.

Occasionally, even Stiglitz gets it wrong

If you can name these guys (collectively and individually), you might be a Joneser. 

In Saturday’s post, I mentioned briefly that Stiglitz was in Australia recently warning the Aussies not to import American ideas regarding privatization and capitalism.  You can watch the video here.  It’s about an hour and a half long but it’s pretty good.

He also touched on the plight of the over 50 crowd.  Actually, he says that the problems the over 50’s are facing are spreading downward to people in their 30s and 40s.  He says that the guys in charge of the country have written the over 50 crowd off in terms of the market and jobs in general.  Well, that would explain a lot, like why it is so difficult to get an interview.

But where Stiglitz gets it wrong would be when he says that we lack the technical skills to succeed in this environment.  He says that the economy thinks we are a “disposable commodity” and “technologically obsolete”.

I’d just like to set the record straight here.  I am what commenter r u reddy refers to as Generation Jones.  That is the generation that is wedged in between the baby boomers and the millenials.  Most of us were too young to be radicals.  We lived through the Civil Rights Era but were more likely to attend integrated schools.  We were the bussed generation.  We were the generation that didn’t experience the gender divide between wood shop and home ec. We were the ones who faced the first cuts to post secondary school education.  We didn’t get income averaging or interest deductions on our income taxes.  We were the generation that had to pay more for our social security in the surplus fund. (There’s a quiz to see if you belong.  Check it out here.)

And we were also the generation of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  We cut our teeth on Lotus, basic and the original Macs.  In many of our first jobs, we were expected to know how to create macros, run lab equipment with computers with tiny RAM and floppy disks to collect data.  We had to learn VMS to run the VAX, Windows to write reams and reams of reports with Microsoft Office, and Unix, followed by linux, to configure web accessed databases.  Younguns got it easy.  I remember the first days of the web when we had to use ftp at the command line to check the temperature of the cokes in a CMU vending machine, when there weren’t any search engines, and we had to write online tutorials with nothing but HTML tags and we liked it.  But when new technology came along to replace the insufficient, kludgy and tedious, we embraced it and learned it like everybody else.  We’re not the baby boomer managers who wouldn’t know linux if it bit them in the ass.

I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone sometimes when I get interviewed by someone and they say, “Do you really know how to use Microsoft Office and Email?”   I keep thinking that they must be addressing someone standing behind me.  Of course I know Microsoft Office and Email. Do I look Amish to you?  There’s not an office application, database application, web based application, email application, fill in the blank, that I haven’t used regularly, configured, played with until I got bored or haven’t been able to figure out given a few hours and a lot of questions. (never read the manual)  I imagine that the vast majority of my generation is well adapted to technology and hasn’t met a gadget they didn’t want to overpay apple to possess.

So, I’m not sure who Stiglitz is referring when he says the over 50s have a problem with technology  but it sounds like conventional wisdom, that beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.  I really wish Stiglitz wouldn’t perpetuate the myth that Generation Jones isn’t technically able and, therefore, have no prospects.  It is hurting us.

Here’s my beautiful theory: the wealthy do not want to be encumbered with taxes to pay for anyone’s retirement.  They’re owners of equity, not the actual owners who made arrangements or were forced into a government enforced retirement plan back in the day.  If these over 50 year olds spend a decade or more in low level jobs at subsistence wages so they end up taking less in social security payments than they might have otherwise, problem solved!

I’m still collecting data on this.  I might open up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track.

Thinking like a Republican…

(I don’t mean the Eisenhower-Lincoln-Teddy Roosevelt kind, I mean the hardass Ted Cruz, Grover Norquist, Eric Cantor kind)

… if I were a Republican who was really ambitious and had adopted the values and attitudes of my sponsors, I would see this debt ceiling battle as possibly my party’s last stand.  With the gullible generation dying off, my party is going to start losing seats gradually.  It’s going to get harder and harder to do what I was elected to do, that is, kill the New Deal and that pesky Social Security.

I don’t have to kill it all by myself.  All I have to do is cripple it enough that people start seeing it as welfare.  I just have to drive a wedge between generations and make sure that younger people start seeing seniors as spoiled, bigoted, whiney, freeloaders.  They’ve gotten a pass up to this point because my party has made sure that they feel  that their own benefits are not under attack.

But if I don’t hold out for “entitlement reform”, which unsophisticated seniors who watch Fox think is medicaid, food stamps and student loans or something for younger people who haven’t had to “build character”, then I haven’t done my job.  And if that means that the US has to default on its loans to generate enough of a crisis that cutting social security and sending it on its way towards oblivion is presented as the ONLY option for saving all of us from catastrophe, then I will have fulfilled my mission and my sponsors will reward me generously even if my party loses in the next mid-term election.  In fact, sacrificing my party is Ok.  We’ll just become like the House of Lords or something for awhile and let the rifts in the Democratic party deal with our new normal.

So, bring on the default.  What do I care?  This is what I was brought up and indoctrinated to do for the past 80 years.  There is nothing more insidious than Social Security and Medicare.  They’ve got to go even if we have to sacrifice our political careers and bring the world’s economy to a screeching halt.  The general public still doesn’t really get what we are up to.  It thinks this is about the deficit.  That’s fine.  They won’t know what hit them.  Time is fleeting but it’s still on our side and nothing will deter us or deflect us from our goal.

Now, if I were a Democrat, I’d stop calling Republicans crazy.

The only thing Obama’s budget’s got going for it…

…is that the chained CPI cuts will apply to current seniors as well as future ones.

I realize that sounds counterintuitive but it’s not.

Think about it.

(Hint: “Do it to Julia!”

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Do we Democrats in Exile get our “Get out of jail free” card now that Obama does what he was recruited to do?

He doesn’t have to worry about reelection anymore.

There are two options, as I see it. Take over the party (this may take awhile) or leave the party altogether and start our own.

Choose swiftly. You’ve already wasted 5 years.

Let’s call the VSPs!

Atrios says that if the Grand Bargain comes we should get on the horn and call our reps, senators and White House.  But why stop there?

If the people who really count are the Very Serious People like David Gregory, Thomas Friedman and David Gergen, then shouldn’t they find out just how much the Average American doesn’t want cuts to their pre-paid social insurance benefits?

These VSPs don’t mingle with the rest of us but maybe it’s time they found out how many of us there are and that we’re not putting up with any bullshit.  We worked for our social insurance benefits, we paid through the nose for them and we’re demanding every penny back, with no cuts.  In fact, we’ve put up with a lot in our working lives including crazy hours, expensive daycare and reduced pensions, if we’re lucky.  I think we deserve a raise.  Raise the Social Security benefit so we can retire with the same lifestyle as our parents.

The last thing we need is a bunch of patrician thumbsuckers telling us to make more sacrifices so they don’t have to pay more in taxes. I don’t know who these VSPs think they are but I’m sick of their shit.

They ought to know that there is life beyond the Beltway cocktail circuit and we are not amused.

Here’s what I want to know

Here’s the Dow over the past year:

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 1.34.50 PM

What I want to know: Is the recent surge above 14000 due to the prospect that the cuts to the social insurance programs was a fait accompli?  Or is it just because the financiers have free and unfettered access to the treasury in the form of trillions of dollars of our money?

What would happen if the sequester continues for a period of time but the social insurance cuts, specifically to Social Security, are off the table?  Will The Market sink like a stone?  I want to know who is really in charge here.

So, let the sequester happen and let’s not rush to negotiate an end to it.

Let’s see what happens.

Obama wants to screw us out of our Social Insurance accounts. Also, water is wet.

No shit, Digby.

Do you remember how you spent the last year of your life making a big f^&*ing deal about Mitt Romney’s hijinks in prep school?  How about how mean he was to the family dog?

And what did you do to make Obama feel uncomfortable?  Nothing.  That’s right.  You did nothing.  No, that’s not quite right.  You did WORSE than nothing because you wouldn’t even entertain challenging the party hierarchy.

So, now you’re mad that the dude is in the White House and he’s ready to cut the net out from under you after all those decades of Social Security, Medicare and surplus payments all we tail end babyboomers made “because we are too menny”.  NOW, you’re livid.

I hope you finally understand what has been pissing ME off since 2008 when it was perfectly clear that the Democrats were electing an MBA Bonus Class Corporate Ladder Climbing Stooge as a president.

There was no talking to you people but now, now that the actuality is upon you, now, you’re mad.  Not only are you mad but you actually seem surprised that they are using the sequester as an excuse to cut our social insurance policies.  It’s like they LIED to you and you didn’t even realize it.

Really, Digby?  Did you really not see this coming? At all??  I find that hard to believe but maybe it’s because I’ve actually worked in a ruthless, cutthroat corporate environment and I’ve seen that there’s nothing they won’t do to enhance shareholder value at your expense.  They’ll ruin their own brand and productivity just to make sure they have no obligation to you.  Obama reeks of that environment.

You carried his water and now he’s going to screw you and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it unless you get on the horn with your congressperson (count yourself lucky if you don’t live in a gerrymandered district like I do) and complain.  It’s got to be loud and vociferous and constant until he/she gets the point.

Then, you need to get the band back together on the left and stop looking down your noses at those of us who saw this coming five years ago.  There needs to be a solid voting bloc to push back against this either in Tea Party format or as a separate entity.

You can get mad or you can get even.

I’d get even.

I got your tone right here for ya

I’m so glad I don’t have cable.  The last thing I want to see today is a bunch of civility bullies taking to the fainting couches because the demographics are swinging against the nitwit religious right who were duped for 30 years into selling our birthright for a mess of social issue pottage.

Oh, so now we’re not supposed to raise our voices as the forces of meanness, inequality and exploitation double down on the “compromise” and “bipartisanship” crap.  Hey, I don’t know if you guys know what it’s like to be formerly middle class, a college graduate in a highly technical field with years of experience who can’t find a job without taking a steep pay cut but that would include everyone I know.  Frankly, I’m fed up with the lies about how the wealthy just can’t find good help anymore and if you guys think I’m going to let the decades of surplus social security payroll taxes I PREPAID go without a fight, you’ve got another thing coming to you.

We’re not going to quietly and obediently eat our poisoned mushrooms just because we are getting in the way of the job exploiters’ desires to be free of any responsibility to behave like decent Americans and human beings.  We’re going to ask loud and clear:

“Why do the rich hate America?”

People who tut-tut us about our “tone” might find their asses defenestrated.

Earth to DC pundits: we’re sick of the “fiscal cliff” crap

In case you were wondering, I’ve been in Pittsburgh visiting relatives and doing things that I’ll fill you in on later. I’ve been staying with a favorite aunt who doesn’t have time for the Internet and whose neighbors have put passwords on all their modems since the last time I was here.

Anyway, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the urgency of the fiscal cliff is not resonating here. People are bored with it. It’s not like Iraq where the Bushies scared everyone into thinking Saddam Hussein had WMDs that he could drop on us in 40 minutes. No, it’s like they really want mute the next TV pundit who is hyperventilating about his taxes going up in January.

Oh, and that whole messing around with social security or any social insurance program? It’s a no go. Don’t even think about it. These relatives live in a different reality than I do. By that I mean, they watch TV news. And this “fiscal cliff” campaign has been a waste of time. Go over it already. No one here gives a flying f#^*. It’s just a bunch of rich people whining to them. Of course, if working people’s taxes go up in January and benefits get cut, they’re going to be pissed. But no one here is fooled into believing that legislators are twisting themselves into knots on their behalf.

They’re just tired of the incessant droning on and on about the fiscal cliff and, surprisingly, they have very little sympathy for whiny rich peoples’ immiment loss of their Bush tax cuts.

So, there you go, TV pundits. You have created a crisis that instantly triggers bathroom breaks. Suck up the new tax levels and stuff a sock in it.

Gun control is another matter. They’re not opposed to that. And they’ve made the connection with the shooters being primarily “white males”. So, verily I say unto you congress persons and senators brutally ripped from your eggnog and ski vacations, your time would be better spent legislating some way to make it inconvenient for white men to intimidate the rest of the country with their god given right to bear arms.