It really does seem to be All Spain All the Time, but there is a reason. Unlike Greece, Spain makes a difference to the eurozone. It may be both too big to allow to fail and too big to save. Last week I came across a very informative 50-page PowerPoint on the situation in Spain from Carmel Asset Management. It is too big to send, but I asked Jonathan Carmel to draft a smaller document with some of the key points. I find it compelling. You can access the entire PowerPoint on my website. If you are not … [visit site to read . . . → Read More: The Pain in Spain
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The recent release of the Social Security Trustees Report shows that Social Security is not experiencing the ?crisis? that its conservative critics would have the public believe.
On Monday, the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds (more commonly referred to as the Social Security Trustees) issued its annual report covering 2011 and making projections into the future. The report shows a growth in the Social Security Trust Fund during 2011 of $69 Billion, despite continued high unemployment and the retirement of early ?baby boom? generation retirees. The Trust Fund, which stood at $2.7 Trillion at the end of 2011, is projected to continue its growth throughout the current decade.
Jean Friday, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, had this to say about the report and what it means politically, ?Conservative policymakers from Alan Simpson and his deficit commission, to Pat Toomey and the ?Super Committee?, to Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney this year have been advocating major Social Security cuts that would imperil the quality of life for current and future middle class retirees. Proposals such as the ?Chained-CPI? cost of living calculation would have cut this year?s COLA from 3.6% to 2.8%. The Ryan Budget, passed by Congress on party lines this year and supported by GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, would fast-track unspecified Social Security cuts. However, to make these unpopular proposals to cut our most successful and popular social program politically viable, these conservatives and their friends in the media have sought to convince Americans that Social Security is experiencing a solvency crisis, and therefore must be reformed. This long-standing propaganda assault on Social Security has wrongly convinced many Americans that drastic changes are needed to preserve the program. Worse than that, it has given many young people the impression that they should not expect benefits of their own. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said as much last year. This report disproves what the conservatives have been saying about Social Security.?
The Trustees report did indicate that the trust fund will begin to dwindle during the 2020s, and run out in 2033 if no policy changes are made. After that, Social Security would still pay benefits on the income it collects each year, which would amount to roughly 75% of promised benefits. However, only small changes are needed to increase the solvency of the program far into the future.
?Insolvency 20 or more years from now is no crisis," said President Friday. ?As the economy slowly recovers, that outlook should improve. We certainly do want to make sure that Social Security is solvent forever. Instead of harsh cuts that hurt the poor and working class, while also hurting the economy, we should look to make Social Security taxes more fair. Most Americans will pay Social Security taxes on every dollar they earn for their entire lives. However, many rich Americans stop paying this tax before the spring thaw, because they reach the cap on taxable wages (around $110,000 in 2012) so quickly. The cap was initially intended to capture 90% of wages, but now only captures around 83%. By raising that cap, or lifting it completely, we could help the Social Security Trust Fund while sparing middle class families ? the real drivers of our nation?s economy ? from any tax increases or benefit cuts.?
Read the Trustees Report here: http://www.treasury.gov/
The Alliance for Retired Americans has over 300,000 members and over 140 local affiliates across Pennsylvania. It?s President, Jean Friday, is a retired chemist and steelworker from Westmoreland County. For more information, visit our website at www.pennretiredamericans.org.
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The potential for public banks to rescue and revitalize American cities,
towns and states will be discussed at the first national public banking
conference getting underway in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, April 27th.
Municipal, county and state officials from around the country will discuss a
new strategy that would move public moneys currently managed by Wall Street
banks into banks that are publicly owned and operated in the public
Themed "Public Banking in America - Democratizing Money,"
non-profit, non-partisan Public Banking Institute. Seventeen states are
currently in legislative discussions about adoption of various forms of the
public banking model.
Legislators, municipal officials, bankers, monetary experts, academics and
activists will review a new program called "Move OUR Money"
(www.moveOURmoney.net) in which moneys collected by municipal, county or
state operations are retained by local public banks built on the model of
the highly successful Bank of North Dakota, which has been immune to the
financial crises of recent years while featuring a significant state budget
"Wall Street banks have taken almost complete control of America's economy
and we've given them the money to do it with tax dollars that could be used
for the public interest through local public banks" says Mike Krauss,
chairman of the Pennsylvania Project (www.papublicbankproject.org). "Over a
trillion dollars could be available for Main Street if we stop giving Wall
Street our money."
The "Move OUR Money" campaign will get underway at this week's conference
with legislative leaders discussing the options public banks provide
communities. Public banks are owned by the people rather than private
investors and support community banks by partnering public monies for local
concerns, including lower costs for civic projects and significantly more
credit for local businesses.
The conference's Philadelphia location was inspired by the successful use of
the local "Continental" currency, embraced by the Quakers, which produced a
stable and productive local economy. It was England's demand that this
currency be eliminated as legal tender that Ben Franklin said was a primary
motivator for the American Revolution.
The Public Banking in America conference will be held at the Friends Center
at 15th and Race Street. Live streaming of discussions is available at:
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Sahil Kapur's initial report from this morning's Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality ofArizona's immigration law.[...]
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The Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting, made up almost entirely of Republicans, has passed the House redistricting map drawn by Rep. Bill Denny (R - Jackson). Still no copy of it available online.
Sen. Merle Flowers was overheard saying that the Senate map would be revealed in the next few days.
As I have a lunch meeting, I'm just going to give y'all the link to the homepage of the Joint Redistricting Committee. The Denny map should be released shortly on this site: Joint Redistricting Committee.
Maybe it’s a sign from above that we should all just stop eating beef. For what it’s worth, eating beef is also associated with higher rates of several cancers including pancreatic and breast cancer, and many other of the reproductive cancers. Eating hamburger also may involve eating pink slime. So all in all, I’d say it’s been a bad year for beef, and perhaps it will go on to be a bad decade for beef. Those of us hoping to take steps to improve our health can only hope. From CNN.com: S. Korea curbs U.S. beef sales after confirmation of mad cow disease.
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Willard gave a speech Tuesday night in Manchester, New Hampshire that was more than fact-free than usual.
This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He?s asking us to accept that Washington knows best ? and can provide all.
Reality: government jobs have decreased under Obama more than they did under Reagan. Strange way to "put us on a path" to the government taking over everything, isn't it?
We?ve already seen where this path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it?s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty. Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.
This is just ahistorical. The top marginal tax rate during one of the most prosperous eras in US history -- the three decades after WWII -- was as high as 91 percent. The middle class thrived and the poverty rate declined. And for six years of the Reagan administration, the highest tax rate was 40 percent higher than it is now.
Willard might as well claim that America fought France during the Revolutionary War and that the slaves were freed by Zachary Taylor.
Also, tell Germany higher taxes and more government leads to rampant poverty. Tell Sweden.
I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.
Well, that vision sounds a lot like George W. Bush and the GOP's vision. And during the Bush/Cheney era, income declined and America's job creation was anemic.
Republicans have a serious problem. They don't have actual evidence to support their trickle-down Laffer Curve fantasies any longer -- so they just have to rewrite history and claim up is down. That raising taxes to Reagan-era rates will cause mass poverty. That cutting taxes even more will lead to more jobs and widespread prosperity. That wages go up when government just gets out of the way of the "free market."
None of its true, but then, Republicans haven't been a reality-based party for some time now. The question is, are there enough American voters that are gullible enough to fall for it in November?
Tomorrow our first Rob Zerban vs Paul Ryan billboard goes up. Sunday night I met John Nichols at an event for The Nation and when I told him where we put it, he lit up like a Christmas tree. I-94 is the most heavily trafficked highway in WI-1. Anyone from Kenosha and Racine heading for Milwaukee or the airport-- or out west towards Janesville-- will see the giant board. And for next to no extra money, we were about to get the board at the Ryan Road exit. It costs about $5,000 a month to keep it up-- so we can use some help... and this is the only Blue America page which has no limits to the amount of contributions.
We were inspired, at least in part, by the remote, out of the way DCCC generic billboard that didn't even bother to mention Rob's name-- and at a time in the cycle where almost the only thing, other than contributions and organization, that matters for challengers is name recognition. But for us, like for people all over America, we take getting rid of Paul Ryan very seriously. And we want to reach out and touch. Of course, the plutocrats and oligarchs have a different idea about what to do with Ryan. We see him as the Mr. Destructo of a civil society; they see him as their opportunity for the 1% to cement their dominance over this country once and for all.
In recent years, "rising star" has become a common descriptive phrase in reports that mention Rep. Paul Ryan.
That, political experts say, would largely explain why the Janesville Republican, who chairs the budget committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, has had such striking success in attracting campaign contributions.
Another factor could be a groundswell of support for his controversial budget blueprint that proposes significant changes to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the tax code to address the nation's fiscal crisis.
Ryan's star is bright both inside and outside the Badger State and his appeal is reflected in the campaign finance numbers he has amassed. After collecting $732,218 from January through March, Ryan now has more than $5 million to spend on his re-election campaign in the fall. A Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows 57 percent of the contributions of $200 or more Ryan has collected since January 2011 have come from outside the state.
Ryan received $98,250 from political action committees in the first quarter and $695,300 from PACs so far this election cycle.
The size of Ryan's campaign bank account is formidable given his Democratic challenger, Kenosha County Supervisor Robert Zerban, had just $428,000 to spend at the start of April... He now has more available cash than any of the GOP House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead. A representative example is Harold Simmons, an 80-year-old Texan who dumped some $15 million into the campaign before primary season had ended. Reminiscing about 2008, when he bankrolled an ad blitz to tar the Democrats with the former radical Bill Ayers, Simmons told the Wall Street Journal, ?If we had run more ads, we could have killed Obama.? It is not a mistake he intends to make a second time. The $15 million Simmons had spent by late February dwarfs the $2.8 million he allotted to the Ayers takedown and the $3 million he contributed to the Swift Boat Veterans demolition of John Kerry four years before that. Imagine the cash that will flow now that the GOP sideshows are over and the president is firmly in Simmons?s crosshairs.
...Sugar daddies-- whom I?ll define here as private donors or their privately held companies writing checks totaling $1 million or more (sometimes much more) in this election cycle-- are largely a Republican phenomenon, most of them one degree of separation from Karl Rove and his unofficial partners in erecting a moneyed shadow GOP, David and Charles Koch. At last look, there were 25 known sugar daddies on the right (or more, if you want to count separately the spouses and children who pitch in). You?ve likely heard of Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas tycoon who is Benjamin Netanyahu?s unofficial ambassador to the GOP. But you may be less familiar with Irving Moskowitz, the bingo entrepreneur who funnels his profits into East Jerusalem settlements. Or Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund master of ?flash trading? who poured a clandestine $1 million into ads attacking the ?ground-zero mosque? and nearly another $3 million into a scale-model railroad in his Long Island mansion. Or Steven Lund, the co-founder of Nu Skin, which became ?direct selling? sponsor of the Romney-run 2002 Winter Olympics after having spent much of the nineties settling complaints over false advertising and other unscrupulous practices with the Federal Trade Commission and six different states? attorneys general.
The list of 25 does not include donors whose names we may never know: those who are legally allowed to remain anonymous when giving to patently political ?social welfare? nonprofits like Rove?s Crossroads GPS. That particular Rove money drop reported to the IRS last week that nearly 90 percent of its first $76.8 million haul (from June 2010 through December 2011) had come from two dozen donors giving $1 million or more, including two contributions of $10 million each. While Obama has his own super-PAC??social welfare? nonprofit combo, the proceeds totaled only a pathetic $6.7 million last year. A paltry $100,000 contribution is all it takes for a Democratic donor to get priority access to the White House, according to the New York Times. George Soros is on the sidelines, and Obama so far has claimed only two sugar daddies of his own: Bill Maher and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. ...[J]ust 10 percent of Romney?s donors for 2012 have been from among the hoi polloi (those contributing $200 or less)-- compared with 52 percent for Santorum, 48 percent for Gingrich, and 45 percent for Obama. The only Americans fired up and ready to go for Mitt are those who can and will give to the max, all keenly mindful of the dividends certain to accrue to them in a Romney administration.
...Mitt?s own coterie of Wall Street vulture capitalists is second to none in rapaciousness?starting with the hedge-fund gambler John Paulson, who collaborated with Goldman Sachs on his megabet against the entire American housing industry before the crash. Another Romney hedge-fund patron, Paul Singer, is notorious for slick trafficking in Third World debt, with results that leave the destitute masses of countries like the Congo in a far sadder state than the hapless Goldman clients (those ?muppets? we?ve been hearing about) on the losing end of Paulson?s big score. Romney also has an affinity for fellow Mormons who?ve made sugar-daddy fortunes by peddling dubious ?health products? sold by ?multilevel marketing? schemes (a.k.a. pyramid selling) in which retail sales are secondary to the commissions tied to roping more suckers into the sales force. In addition to Lund of Nu Skin, there?s Frank VanderSloot, the Professor Marvel behind Melaleuca, an Idaho-based company that promises to help ?moms be moms? and ?earn a corporate income from home,? even if they don?t have the financial cushion of, say, Ann Romney. Though a promotional video on its website features women who claim to have earned as much as $500,000 selling goods like dietary supplements (which purport to remedy clogged arteries and arthritis), the average Melaleuca peddler makes just $87 per year. An industry critic, Robert L. FitzPatrick, elucidated for Mother Jones how companies like Melaleuca and Nu Skin are perfect examples of the vulture-capitalist business model: They set ?the average person upon his neighbor to get at his assets, savings, and investments.? Romney, meanwhile, has applauded VanderSloot for having ?vision and sense of social responsibility? that are ?second to none.?
What these sugar daddies specifically want from Mitt and his party, besides the usual conservative bullet points (codified in Paul Ryan?s tax-cutting, government-shredding budget), is clear enough: the widest possible regulation-free berth for any vulture businesses they have a hand in, from nuclear waste to ?health? nostrums, from new houses to financial products created from those homes? subprime mortgages. A particularly large wish list is likely to emanate from the Koch brothers, whose privately held business interests are many. Such has been their zeal to protect their gas and oil holdings that they shoveled nearly $25 million into organizations fueling climate-change denial from 2005 to 2008-- nearly three times what Exxon Mobil spent on such spin during that period, in Greenpeace?s accounting. To preserve another profit center, a Koch subsidiary has also backed the recently disbanded Formaldehyde Council, which argued that formaldehyde is ?a natural part of our world? rather than ?a complete carcinogen,? which is how it is classified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA, of course, is exactly the kind of federal agency that would lose funding and gain Koch apparatchiks as staff members in a Romney administration.