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Government is Good – A Day in Your Life

Government is Good – A Day in Your Life.

You know, I love this piece, except for one thing. It’s a bit dated–it’s a lovely chronicle of what we’ve lost and what we’re in the process of losing.

For example:

6:35 a.m. Like 17 million other Americans, you have asthma. But as you get out of bed you notice that you are breathing freely this morning. This is thanks in part to government clean air laws that reduce the air pollution that would otherwise greatly worsen your condition.

But Ted Cruz (republican of course) would rather you didn’t have clean air!
Ted Cruz’ war on your clean air

6:45 a.m. You sit down to breakfast with your family. You are having eggs – a food that brings with it the possibility of salmonella poisoning, a serious food-borne illness affecting tens of thousands of Americans every year. But the chance of you getting sick from these eggs has now been greatly reduced by a recently passed series of strict federal rules that apply to egg producers.

However, Republicans are relentless in trying to create pandemics of food poisoning. This is just one sample:
House Republicans vote to cut funds to implement food safety rule
And since they started hacking away at the FDA, food-borne illnesses have begun reaching rather disastrous levels.
Gotta ask why the GOP want us all to die. Seriously.

This is pretty obvious:
Look at all the red states above the national average!

7:00 a.m. You go into your newly renovated bathroom – one of a number of amenities that you enjoy in your house. But the fact that you can legally own your own house is something made possible by government. Think about this: “ownership” and “private property” are not things that exist in nature. These are legal constructs: things created by laws that are passed and enforced by government. You couldn’t even buy your home without a system of commercial laws concerning contracts and a government that ensures that sales contracts are enforced. So the fact that you live in your own home is, in part, a benefit of government and the rule of law.

Well, it was, anyway. Before deregulation allowed banks to buy mortgage companies. Before banks were allowed to evade land-recording rules with MERS. Before we stopped enforcing laws against document fraud, and began turning a blind eye to foreclosure fraud. Now.. not so much.

And on and on and on. Conservatives are destroying our lives, our homes, our incomes, everything that makes living in America worthwhile. Isn’t it time we stopped voting for them?

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Stop Calling the TPP a Trade Agreement – It Isn’t. | BillMoyers.com

This is a message to activists trying to fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Stop calling the TPP a “trade” agreement. TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, not a trade agreement. Trade is a good thing; TPP is not. Every time you use the word trade in association with the TPP, you are helping the other side.

Trade is a propaganda word. It short-circuits thinking. People hear trade and the brain stops working. People think, “Of course, trade is good.” And that ends the discussion.

TPP Is a Corporate/Investor Rights Agreement

TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, and that is the problem.

TPP extends patents, copyrights and other monopolies so investors can collect “rents.”

TPP elevates corporations and corporate profits to and above the level of governments. TPP lets corporations sue governments for laws and regulations that cause them to be less profitable. Enabling tobacco companies to sue governments because anti-smoking campaigns limit profits has nothing to do with trade. Enabling corporations to sue states that try to regulate fracking has nothing to do with trade.

While giving corporations a special channel to sue governments, labor, environmental, consumer and other “stakeholder” organizations do not get a channel for enforcement. This helps enable corporations to break unions, force wages down and pollute without cost. This increases the power of corporations over governments – and us.

Read the rest:
Stop Calling the TPP a Trade Agreement – It Isn’t. | BillMoyers.com.

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22-Year Old Commits Suicide at Capitol to Send Congress a Message

I don’t know what his story is, but it should be getting more attention than it is:

At approximately 1:07 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, April 11, during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrating springtime in the Nation’s Capitol, a 22-year old man took his own life with a gun on the Capitol grounds with a protest sign taped to his hand. According to the Washington Post, the sign read: “Tax the one percent.”

Apparently this is not news:

The message he delivered to his Congress – tax the one percent – has yet to be explored by any major news outlet in America in connection with this tragedy.

22-Year Old Commits Suicide at Capitol to Send Congress a Message.

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Privatization of Medicare: Urgency of the Latest Threat – PNHP’s Official Blog

Privatization of Medicare: Urgency of the Latest Threat – PNHP's Official Blog.

This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37—H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015—threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks.

The timing could not be more ironical. Medicare was passed 50 years ago by overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress—by votes of 302-116 in the House and 70-24 in the Senate. Since 1965, it has provided a set of comprehensive benefits as an earned right without regard to health conditions or income, with all beneficiaries paying into the program through mandatory contributions from individuals and/or employers. (1) For the last 50 years, Medicare has been a solid rock of coverage in a shark-infested sea of unstable and expensive private plans.

But all that can go away if Republicans (and many Democrats) recklessly pass H.R. 2 without concern for its long-term implications. There are many problems in this bill, crafted as it is to serve the agenda of politicians waving the false flag of “entitlement reform” and lobbyists for organized medicine, private insurers, the drug industry, and other corporate stakeholders in the medical-industrial complex. As is typical in a large legislative package that is difficult to understand, and many legislators have not read, the devil is in the details.

H.R. 2 does have one useful goal—to replace the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for setting Medicare payment rates for physicians. The SGR formula was set in 1997 in a deficit-reduction law that ties payment rates to economic growth, which since then has led to recurrent last-minute budget crises, known as the “doc fix” over cuts in physician reimbursement. There have been 17 short-term “fixes” over the last ten years, each time kicking the can down the road without resolving how to proceed.

H.R. 2 eliminates the SGR formula, and proposes different ways to pay physicians, including expanded use of capitation, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and various ways to implement “pay for performance” incentives. These are all supposedly aimed to improve quality of care and contain costs through a “merit-based incentive payment system” (MIPS). But are all untested, unproven, and unlikely to either increase quality or contain costs while adding greatly to administrative complexity.

And much more. Definitely go read and then come back and use the handy widget over there —>
to freakin’ oppose the heck out of this monstrosity. And don’t let dems off the hook; both parties are in on it.

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Jim Hightower | The KBParty of plutocratic rule

Shouldn’t America have at least one major party that isn’t beholden to the corporate elite?

Well look here – just such a party has popped up, raring to roar into the 2016 presidential race. Called the KBParty, it has the funding and political punch to bypass the establishment’s control of the election system. But don’t rush to sign-up: KB stands for Koch Brothers.

Yes, Charlie and David – the multibillionaire, right-wing industrial barons who already own several congress critters, governors, think tanks, astroturf campaign machines, front groups, etc. – now have their very own, private political party. And it’s not beholden to the corporate elite, since it is the elite. The Koch boys have rallied roughly 300 like-minded opponents of democracy to their brotherhood of plutocrats, intent on purchasing a president and Congress that will impose their vision of corporate rule over America.

At a secretive retreat in January for KBParty funders, the 300 barons ponied up $900 million for their campaign. That’s nearly $200 million more than the combined expenditures of the Republican and Democratic parties in last year’s elections, and it’s way more than either of those parties will have for 2016.

This means that, in our nation of 350 million people, a cabal of only 300 of the wealthiest will have the wherewithal to narrow the choice of candidates presented to the rest of us, restrict the range of policy ideas that are proposed to voters, imbue the overall campaign with a negative tone, and – most important – shape the governing agenda of those who get elected.

via Jim Hightower | The KBParty of plutocratic rule.

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Investors, Just Say F.U. to Retirees, Citizens and Workers.. – Forbes

Looks to me like some in the investor class have never quite gotten past the emotional age of about 4:

Social media makes a mockery of high profile people who lie and cheat. So why do investors let politicians get away with lying, skirting the truth and spending money the state or city doesn’t have? Certainly, adding to the mountain of unfunded pension and health care liabilities fits this category of untruths.

Do I detect a certain lack of “truthiness” here?

Banks including UBS AG, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have enabled about $3.7 billion of bond issues to cover deficits, pension shortfalls and debt payments since 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Liabilities rose to almost $15 billion, including money owed retirees, according to a state treasurer’s review.

The debt sales cost Detroit $474 million, including underwriting expenses, bond-insurance premiums and fees for wrong-way bets on swaps, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That almost equals the city’s 2013 budget for police and fire protection.

The largest part is $350 million owed for derivatives meant to lower borrowing costs on variable-rate debt.

Extravagant pensions, huh?

So it’s all those evil pensioners and not the “bondholders” that ripped them off for “interest rate swaps” that Wall Street knew well were bogus going in.

And then you, our poor benighted investor, go on to bemoan the high-handed trampling of your “rights!”

Add to this, that courts time and again favor the claims of pensioners over the legal rights of municipal bondholders. Now we have the worst case scenario that few in Muniland ever anticipated. This especially goes for Detroit’s General Obligation bonds.

So the system has run amok. Detroit General Obligation bondholders received only 74 cents on the dollar in bankruptcy reparations. Limited GO bondholders recovered even less from the city’s bankruptcy—just 34 cents on the dollar.

Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Whatever SHALL We Do?

Damn those greedy, selfish pensioners, who should just work until they drop instead of lazing around on the retirement funds they worked hard to save, just so that you, Mr. Whining Investor, doesn’t have to watch his “investment” decline by a few cents on the dollar.

My dear, don’t you know the first rule of investing? “Don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose.” Moaning that the people that worked hard for their pensions deserve to lose them because of your poor judgment and the criminal machinations of your colleagues lacks class, not to mention intelligence and foresight.

I believe that Detroit will become the template for future municipal bankruptcies and restructurings. The call to action for these floundering entities will be, “Screw the bondholders.”

Indeed. Better the bondholders than the workers that trustingly committed their money, time and effort to save, believing that a good faith contract would be good insurance. But of course, the sanctity of contract is only for rich, high-powered investors and not the average working stiff, right?

They did their jobs. You either did not do yours, or you “invested” in Wall Street’s fraudulent schemes with full knowledge (I believe process of acquiring it is called “due diligence”) in greedy expectation of profiting from their inexperience. I’m sure you’re well aware that Wall Street has the advantage over municipal governments. They have all the high-powered lawyers and accountants who are well-trained in Wall Street’s many control fraud schemes. Mere governments cannot afford the talent to defend themselves from these schemes, nor was it ever necessary before the financial coup that was deregulation in the 90’s.

This is *not* the pensioners fault. It’s yours.

So become a refusenick.

Excellent idea! Local and state governments should, by now, be popping to what a terrible idea it is to have anything to do with Wall Street. They do have other options, such as starting their own banks, conserving their tax revenue, and refusing to share any of it with ungrateful investors who are ever more desperate for yield.

via Investors, Just Say No To Illinois, NJ And PR Muni Bonds – Forbes.

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Signs of Intelligent Life in Economics Profession | Al Jazeera America

Unemployment is a policy choice.

“The core problem is that there aren’t enough jobs,” said the former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton and top economics adviser to Barack Obama. “If you help some people, you could help them get the jobs, but then someone else won’t get the jobs. Unless you’re doing things that have things that are affecting the demand for jobs, you’re helping people win a race to get a finite number of jobs.”

The standard education story puts the blame for stagnant wages on workers. The key to getting ahead is education. On the contrary, Summers argued at Brookings: The blame for the economic malaise goes to the people who design economic policy. It is their fault that workers aren’t able to secure decent-paying jobs.

When will Congress stop destroying the middle class?

via Signs of Intelligent Life in Economics Profession | Al Jazeera America.

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Dems Hang Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso Out to Dry

WTF Dems???

House Republicans, at the behest of the oil and chemical industry, have launched an all out assault on the Chemical Safety Board and its chairman, Rafael Moure-Eraso.

Industry lobbyists are coming after Moure-Eraso because he has been a high profile campaigner for implementing a European-style precautionary principle regulatory regime — known within the industry as “the safety case” — on oil and chemical companies in the United States.

Democrats, at the behest of the United Steelworkers Union, which represents the vast majority of chemical industry workers in the United States, will not defend Moure-Eraso and are hanging the CSB and its chairman out to dry.

This is too important an issue for Dems to cave on.

Dems Hang Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso Out to Dry.

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Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged | naked capitalism

There are so many, too:

I’m surprised, but perhaps I shouldn’t be, that a recent study hasn’t gotten the attention it warrants. It points to a direct connection between the impact of the crisis and a marked increase in suicide rates among the middle aged. This link seems entirely logical, given how many citizens found themselves whacked by a one-two punch of job loss or hours cutbacks combined with the sudden plunge in home prices. Normally, a last ditch course of action for most middle and upper middle class income members in the pre-crisis days, when things got desperate, was to sell you house and cut costs radically by moving into a much more modest rental. But that option vanished in all but the most stable markets (as in some flyover states that the subprime merchants ignored) due to home price declines trashing equity for all but those with small or no mortgages.

And you have the further psychological toll of the difficulty of re-inventing yourself if you are over 35. I can point to people who had enough in the way of resources and took steps that seemed entirely logical, taking courses to prepare them for a new career in fields with good underlying demand (see this post for one example; I can cite others) and got either poor returns on their expenditure of time and effort or had no success at all.

And the ones with enough options (bigger savings buffers or relatives who were willing and able to help) are the lucky ones. For all too many middle to upper middle income workers in America, when you fall off the corporate/big firm meal ticket, the fall is far indeed. As readers know all too well, the prejudice against older candidates as well as the unemployed is substantial, even if the reason for the job loss in no way reflected on employee performance (as in business failure or working for an acquired company when, in typical practice, the buyer went through the ranks of the purchased business with a howitzer). People who thought that having a college degree and a steady history of good performance at white collar jobs gave them a measure of security had that illusion ripped from them.

Having been underpaid for what I did my entire life (engineering – female), I always assumed I would just keep working and never retire. It never dawned on me that there would be a time when no one would hire no matter what I knew or could do. It used to be that workplaces had plenty of 70-year-olds still working, and all the managers were 60 and were who you went to to find out how things were done.

But of course, in a financialized world – we don’t actually do anything anymore, either. Neoliberalism kills.

via Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged | naked capitalism.