Sunday, September 02, 2007

Billionaires For Bush Reveal How Bush Paid Off His Base and Stuck You with the Tab

If you think the astounding rise of income inequities and the rise of the GOP are just coincidental, please email me. I would like to speak with you about the many advantages and pleasures you might derive as the new, proud owner of the Brooklyn Bridge. The GOP sold Ronald Reagan's tax cut of 1982 like George W. Bush sold his war on Iraq. The benefits of both have accrued only to this nation's power elite and, in both cases, everyone else is stuck with the tab. It will be left to sons, daughters, grand-children and great grand children to retire the debt Bush has run up murdering civilians in Iraq. Yet, odds are, many of those same sons, daughters and their offspring will start life pulling up the rear having been denied pole position at the outset.

Bush stuck you in yet another way. His "elite" base got the tax cut that you didn't. Those who did not get a tax cut are considered "poor" but are getting poorer as we live and breath. His "base" was rich at the time Bush cut their taxes. They've gotten richer as a result. Where will Bush's base hide, I wonder, when the bill he has run up in Iraq comes due? They are not worried. Bush has been bought and paid for.

We have grown up with "official myths", Horatio Alger stories of rags-to-riches, stories about how down-and-out boys might achieve an American dream of wealth and success through mere hard work and fair dealing. The US, myths say, is not an aristocracy; it is a "meritocracy". On the other side of the coin is an implicit message that if the deserving poor eventually get rich, those that are not rich deserve to be poor.

The GOP are well-advised not to waste my time and their time denying it. Their progenitur is Scrooge.
"Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons...then let them die and decrease the surplus population."

—Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Still, the GOP is indicted best in their own words. Pat Buchanan is the class example.
One by one, the prophets of doom appeared at the podium. The Reagan decade, they moaned, was a terrible time in America; and the only way to prevent even worse times, they said, is to entrust our nation's fate and future to the party that gave us McGovern, Mondale, Carter and Michael Dukakis.

--Patrick J. Buchanan, 1992 Republican National Convention Speech, Houston, Texas

Buchanan targeted Democrats already tarred with the label "liberal", a GOP code word for anyone opposing GOP robber-baron economics. Any Democrat would have made a better President than any Republican chosen at random. At least one on Buchanan's hit list did. Jimmy Carter, now demonized with a GOP made-up, code word --stagflation. There is, in fact, no real word for an economic condition that only Republicans seemed to have complained about. Certainly, when another Democrat interrupts the GOP diet of government gravy and Pentagon pork, he/she will be accused of stagflation --or whatever word GOP consultants and focus groups can make-up or otherwise "pass".

The critics Buchanan so vociferously publicized were right about Reagan's disastrous presidency. Much of the rest of Buchanan's speech credits Reagan with any number of things which Reagan had nothing whatsoever to do with or things which occurred despite Reagan's worst efforts.
It was under our party that the Berlin Wall came down...
Thus it is implied that Ronald Reagan, who paid tribute to Nazi SS dead at Bitburg, had something to do with bringing down the Berlin Wall. Reagan is more accurately remembered for having "blinked" when Gorbachev put total nuclear disarmament on the table for negotiation at Rekjavik.

Buchanan's next absurdity must be read while remembering Bush v Gore:
We stand with President Bush in favor of federal judges who interpret the law as written, and against Supreme Court justices who think they have a mandate to rewrite our Constitution.
To be fair, Buchanan could not have known in 1992 that in a mere eight years a "conservative" majority on the high court would prove him wrong yet again. For all the right wing bluster about "strict constructionist" interpretations of the US Constitution, it will be forever recalled that it was the Republican majority on the Supreme Court that rewrote the Constitution in order to put into office an imperial "President" who would finish off the venerable document for good!

Wealth "trickling up" is a world wide phenomenon but the effects are stunning. In the year 2000, almost twenty years after the infamous Ronald Reagan tax cut benefiting only the richest Americans, a tiny elite, the richest 1% of adults, owned 40% of the world’s total assets. In 2000, the richest 10% of adults owned 85% of total assets. The bottom half of the world adult population owned a mere 1% of global wealth.

[See: World Institute for Development Economics Research, The World Distribution of Household Wealth, 2006]. It's gotten much worse since then.
It is well known that wealth is shared out unfairly. "People on the whole have normally distributed attributes, talents and motivations, yet we finish up with wealth distributions that are much more unequal than that," says Robin Marris, emeritus professor of economics at Birkbeck, University of London.

In 1897, a Paris-born engineer named Vilfredo Pareto showed that the distribution of wealth in Europe followed a simple power-law pattern, which essentially meant that the extremely rich hogged most of a nation's wealth (New Scientist, 19 August 2000, p22). Economists later realised that this law applied to just the very rich, and not necessarily to how wealth was distributed among the rest.

Now it seems that while the rich have Pareto's law to thank, the vast majority of people are governed by a completely different law. Physicist Victor Yakovenko of the University of Maryland in College Park and his colleagues analysed income data from the US Internal Revenue Service from 1983 to 2001. They found that while the income distribution among the super-wealthy- about 3 per cent of the population- does follow Pareto's law, incomes for the remaining 97 per cent fitted a different curve- one that also describes the spread of energies of atoms in a gas.

In the gas model, people exchange money in random interactions, much as atoms exchange energy when they collide. While economists' models traditionally regard humans as rational beings who always make intelligent decisions, econophysicists argue that in large systems the behaviour of each individual is influenced by so many factors that the net result is random, so it makes sense to treat people like atoms in a gas. The analogy also holds because money is like energy, in that it has to be conserved. "It's like a fluid that flows in interactions, it's not created or destroyed, only redistributed," says Yakovenko.

--New Scientist, There's one rule for the rich

Some essential background:
  • In 1979, the top 1 per cent of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20 per cent. In 2000, the multiplier had grown to 88.5. Certainly, since Ronald Reagan's tax cut of 1982, US "inequality" grew steadily but for a brief respite in Clinton's second term. Bush's final record will be even worse.
  • Surveys have also identified a small, but fast-growing global group of 70,000 super rich individuals with more than $30 million in financial assets. This group is growing even faster than "paupers" in the $1 million-plus bracket." [See: World's richest worth $29 trillion in 2003; Survey: Wealthy now back at level before dot-com bust. MSNBC.com, June 15, 2004 ]
  • The top fifth of households saw their income rise 43 percent between 1977 and 1999, while the bottom fifth saw their income fall 9 percent.
  • The top fifth now makes more than the rest of the nation combined
  • Table 2: Share of Total Available Household Net Worth, 2001*



    Wealth GroupShare of Net Worth
    99-100th percentile32.7%
    95-99th percentile25.0%
    90-95th percentile12.1%
    50th-90th percentile27.1%
    0-50th percentile2.8%
    Total100.0%

    [See: Kennickell, 2003. See data from the Federal Reserve Board for details.

The "center" itself would not be so bad were not the centers so far to the "right", in other words, skewed. Imagine a line with a tiny, ruling oligarchy on the right end and a perfectly egalitarian democracy i.e, a group sharing both power and wealth in perfect equity on the left end. The bulging bell curve in the middle of this line is not --in America --the middle at all, but far to the right. In America, the center is not in the center and may never have been.

While a tiny few, like Bill Gates, may indulge acts of philanthropy from time to time, the over all trends have not changed. A more egalitarian society is the preferred remedy to injustice --not isolated acts of charity, however kind. Moreover, with very, very few exceptions, those growing rich at the expense of others are unlikely to become more liberal as they gain riches. With few notable and statistically insignificant exceptions, the nouveau riche will continue to "...dance with the party that brung 'em." Reagan-heads called it the "Reagan Revolution" for good reason. Conditioned to think of "revolution" in terms of the French or Russian revolutions, Americans might not have grasped the significant harm "Reaganomics" have done America. It was for real.

How many people actually rule America by virtue of their great wealth, their ability to finance political campaigns, their ability to open doors with a phone call? The size of this group is variously estimated, but the fact is no one really knows. Surveys don't ask that question and political consultants like Karl Rove or Paul Caprio will most certainly not tell you. It is possible, however, to estimate the size of a group that literally owns some 99 percent of all "wealth" in the US. As this group grows both smaller and richer, the GOP declines in terms of total votes that can be counted on. This is why the GOP must, of necessity, communicate to its core base via "code words". The GOP, in other words, cannot afford to be honest even with its rank and file. It has cut a Faustian bargain with a tiny elite, Bush's base.

This tiny elite, Bush's base, must work behind the scenes. Robber barons have the money and the power to interfere with the electoral process in numerous ways. The most glaring development is the rise of super-conservative "networks" like Fox and talk shows like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. These programs are the Right Wing's propaganda machine, "faux news" programs that make no effort to tell the truth. Gullible people who have nothing in common with Rupert Murdoch will nevertheless fall for the Fox line. In more egalitarian days, opposing voices could demand and get "equal time". The Fairness Doctrine was deliberately targeted by un-American, "monied" interests for whom the open exchange of ideas is a threat.

Even Roman Emperors gave the vox populi lip service with a healthy soupcon of bread and circuses. The most successful oligarchs --real and faux --are those who succeed in tricking the "folk" into thinking them "...of the people". A regular contributor to this blog wrote recently:
Howard Dean, along with the other main stream Dem orgs. and the progressive Dem.orgs had better figure out a way to co-exist and share resources, they are going to need, if they are to over come this corrupt bunch they are about to take the field with.
Certainly, as more voters grow dis-enchanted with George W. Bush and the GOP in general, Democratic prospects will improve. But there is a downside to the political reality that even as they grow smaller in number, the GOP's natural base grows very, very rich.

Sadly, our electoral system seems designed to weed out dissent deviating past a certain "norm", a norm acceded to by a tiny, exceedingly rich, ruling cabal, a "norm" established by the Democratic and Republican wings of a single party.

An update.

Americans Now Resemble Pre-War Nazi Germans

You see them at the supermarket aggressively pushing their shopping carts around, and you get this feeling that if you do not move fast enough they might just run into you. You detect an undercurrent of suppressed rage, hostility, and detachment as if they are on some other planet.

You feel the same thing when you are driving down the road, and you see them driving with one hand on the wheel, the other hand holding up a cell phone to their ear, wheeling their SUVs around just as aggressively and at the same time detached, like those people in the supermarket pushing their shopping carts around.

No-one smiles any more. No-one wants to talk about things that matter. If you want to discuss anything other than sports, sex, or Dancing with the Stars, no-one seems interested.

What is happening? Is it something in the water, or is Invasion of the Body Snatchers actually happening for real?

I do not remember people being like this. They are hostile, impatient, full of suppressed anger, abrupt, suspicious, and some even threatening.

Not so many years ago, you couldn't walk down the street without running into your friends and neighbors wanting to talk about anything and everything, and have a good laugh. People, I remember, used to communicate -- now they just glare at you, or completely ignore you.

No-one wants to complain about anything. No-one seems to be bothered by high taxes or inflation. They just look at you and roll their eyes like you are crazy if you dare to express your dissatisfaction with the status quo. And God forbid, do not mention the wars, that topic really gets people uncomfortable. It is as if you are asking some personal question. ...
Just how much debt will Bush leave to your children to pay back --unless, your children somehow become billionaires?


As percentage of GDP, "deficit is twice as large as it's ever been"


Billionaires for Bush

Bush Restricting Travel Rights Of More Than 100,000 Americans

Monday, September 3rd, 2007 by RLR
From True Blue Liberal
By Sherwood Ross

Citizens who have done no more than criticize the president are being banned from airline flights, harassed at airports’, strip searched, roughed up and even imprisoned, feminist author and political activist Naomi Wolf reports in her new book, “The End of America.”(Chelsea Green Publishing)

“Making it more difficult for people out of favor with the state to travel back and forth across borders is a classic part of the fascist playbook,” Wolf says. She noticed starting in 2002 that “almost every time I sought to board a domestic airline flight, I was called aside by the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) and given a more thorough search.”During one preboarding search, a TSA agent told her “You’re on the list” and Wolf learned it is not a list of suspected terrorists but of journalists, academics, activists, and politicians “who have criticized the White House.”Some of this hassling has made headlines, such as when Senator Edward Kennedy was detained five times in East Coast airports in March, 2004, suggesting no person, however prominent, is safe from Bush nastiness. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia has also been mistreated. And it can be nasty. Robert Johnson, an American citizen, described the “humiliation factor” he endured:“I had to take off my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal,” Wolf quotes him as saying. And it gets worse than that. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s foreign minister, said he was detained at Kennedy airport by officers who “threatened and shoved” him. And that was mild. Maher Arar, a Canadian software consultant was detained at Kennedy and “rendered” to Syria where he was imprisoned for more than a year by goons that beat him with a heavy metal cable. Read the rest of this entry »
From an Amazon reader review of John Perkins' "The Secret History of the American Empire.
In his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins lifted the veil on a world rarely seen by most people. He took us on a tour of the costs and consequences of American corporate hegemony, dispelling myths of the `free market', and forcing us to peer deep into our own souls. As Perkins states in his earlier works, "The world is as you dream it," so the question is, what will you dream?

Picking up where he left off, Perkins continues down the path of redemption. Once serving the masters of modern slavery, Perkins now works tirelessly to free those who have been oppressed by the corpratocracy. His thesis? Our planet cannot survive ruthless consumerism at the expense of the world and its people. When all the trees are gone, and all the oil is tapped, what will be left? Does your shirt still feel nice when you understand the suffering involved in its production?

The world John Perkins envisions is one in which personal participation is crucial, and power does not rest in the hands of the few. We have everything we need to create a sustainable global society. We have the resources, the technology, and viable social models. What we need now is a vision, and the inspiration to create such a world. In 329 pages, Perkins provides us with the inspiration to fearlessly question ourselves, and the power structures that exist around us.

Traveling through countries like Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, Iraq, and Iran, Perkins paints a picture so vivid its life-altering. This is an amazing follow-up to Confessions, and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who still believes the `free market' benefits all, or anyone who is still waving a flag. This story is brutal, harsh, and real. But the good news is: life can change. We can change. Deep down we all share common values. We all want to live peacefully, we all want to prosper, and we all want to feel love.

If you wish to understand the world for how it really exists, and you seek the tools to help create positive changes, then you have to read this book.

As John says, "Today is the day for us to begin to truly change the world."
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