James Petras recently published “Looking Backward, Looking Forward: 2014-2015”. What follows are my distillations of his positive and negative lists of events of 2014 and his 2015 speculations.
Positive Developments in 2014 Read more about James Petras on the Good, Bad & Ugly of 2014
Gary Leupp has written an enlightening and enraging article entitled “Not Behind Bars, Friends Still in Power, Iraq Destroyed: The Gloating of the Neocons” underscoring how the realpolitik motivation for what he calls “the greatest crime of the twenty-first century so far”, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, was primarily committed for the benefit of Israel. Read more about Kiss Iraq Goodbye ... What We Did for Israel!
Who’s your Daddy? “ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.” Glen Ford
1.Terrorism is the symptom. US imperialism is the cancer. The war on terror is TERRORISM! (Garikai Chengu) Read more about Why is the US Waging War on Humanity? (20 Considerations)
Robbie Couch in an article on HuffPo recently asserted:
The $400 billion program to create a fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, which, as The Hill points out, is seven years behind schedule and chronically plagued with misfortunes and incompetencies, could have housed every homeless person in the U.S. with a $600,000 home.
James Petras has written an enraging article entitled “The Soaring Profits of the Military-Industrial Complex And the Soaring Costs of Military Casualties”.
Petras contends that there are two major beneficiaries of the major wars launched by the US government: one is domestic and the other is foreign.
The first is the US arms manufacturers. Their investors have been overwhelmed with profits during the past "warring" decade and a half!
Recently, I've been writing about oligarchs advocating for entitlement cuts and austerity. I've discussed attacks on entitlement benefits for the elderly from Abby Huntsman (of MSNBC's The Cycle) and Catherine Rampell (a Washington Post columnist), both the children of well-off individuals. These posts have come in the context of the English language release of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and the more recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page using quantitative methods and empirical data to explore the question of whether the US is an oligarchy or a majoritarian democracy. They conclude:
”What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
With this as a backdrop, today I want to de-construct a recent statement by Michael A. Peterson, President and COO, of one of the centers of American oligarchy, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF), and the son of the multi-billionaire Peter G. Peterson, commenting on the CBO's Report earlier this month, on its updated budget projections for 2014 - 2024. Read more about Peterson/CBO Beat for Austerity Goes On!
In my last post, I took issue with a recent column by Catherine Rampell, who tries to make the case that seniors haven't paid for their Social Security and Medicare because they “generally receive” more in benefits out of these programs than they pay into them. Rampell relies on an Urban Institute study to make her case. Since that post, she's offered another that replies to some of the questions raised by commenters on her earlier effort. I'll reply to that new post shortly, but first I want to present key points emerging from my analysis of Federal monetary operations in my reply to her earlier post. See that post for the full argument.
First, once Congress mandates spending, there is no way that the Treasury can be forced into insolvency or an inability to pay its obligations as long as it is willing to make use of all the ways it can cause the Fed to create reserve credits in Treasury spending accounts which can then be used for its reserve keystroking into private sector account activities that today represent most of the reality of Federal spending. Read more about More Misdirection from Rampell in the Service of Generational War
Some of the favored children of the economic elite who have a public presence, work hard in their writing and speaking to divert attention from inequality and oligarchy issues by raising the issue of competition between seniors and millennials for “scarce” Federal funds. That's understandable. If millennials develop full consciousness of who, exactly, has been flushing their prospects for a decent life down the toilet, their anger and activism might bring down the system of wealth and economic and social privilege that benefits both their families and the favored themselves in the new America of oligarchy and plutocracy.
Here and here, I evaluated Abby Huntsman's arguments for entitlement “reform,” and, of course, Pete Peterson's son, Michael fights a continuing generational war against seniors in pushing the austerian line of the Peterson Foundation. Now comes Catherine Rampell, who, in a recent column, sets forth the position that seniors haven't paid for their Social Security and Medicare because they “generally receive” more in benefits out of these programs than they pay into them.
I'll reply to all of the main points in Rampell's argument, by quoting liberally and then replying to the points she makes in each quote. She says: Read more about Misdirection: Rampell Views Entitlements Through the Generational War Lens
In recent posts I reviewed two commentaries by Abby Huntsman on Social Security and other entitlements, also noting points made in other critiques of her narratives. Abby's commentaries are here, and here, and my critiques are here and here. The most important point I emphasized in my two rebuttals is that there are no fiscal solvency or sustainability issues related to Social Security, or other parts of the safety net, but that the issues involve only the willingness of Congress to appropriate entitlement spending, and either the removal of current constraints on Treasury to spend appropriations such as the debt limit, or the willingness of the Executive Branch to use its current legislative authority either to a) generate sufficient seigniorage from platinum coins to spend such appropriations; or b) use a type of debt instrument, such as consols, which aren't counted toward the debt limit.
The day before I posted my second reply to Abby Huntsman, Richard J. Eskow and WeActRadio posted this video clip from Eskow's radio broadcast. In his critique, Richard shows that Abby Huntsman's treatment of Social Security and entitlements is full of misleading information and hews closely to the narrative offered by Alan Simpson, Pete Peterson, and organizations supported by Peterson funding, and he calls for the MSNBC producers of “The Cycle” to issue statements correcting the facts, and to give Abby's co-hosts on The Cycle a chance to reply to her about social security. Read more about The Village Still Ignores the Most Important Point
A couple of weeks ago, I posted on a simple solution to the problem of getting money out of politics. I said then:
If the election you're voting in is virtually a two candidate contest, then vote for the candidate, who, in combination with her/his supporters spends the least amount of money. In a virtual multi-candidate contest, do the same thing.
That's the proposal, in its simplest form. Its objective is to reverse the current race to the bottom in buying elections by ensuring that there would be a powerful incentive to start a race to the top to raise and spend as little money as possible in campaigns. That incentive is that if you spend too much you lose, pure and simple.
The other rationale for the rule is that the person who raises and spends the least amount of money for a campaign, will generally be the person who is “less bought” by wealthy people, financial interests, and large corporations. Eventually, if the rule took hold it would no longer be said of the Congress that “the banks own the place.”
I came across an article by William Rivers Pitt entitled “The Sugar Makes the Poison Taste Sweet”. I am posting a powerful excerpt from it in which Pitt lets his anger rip about the shameless exploitation of a 10-deployment, maimed vet by Obama at the end of his 2014 State of the Union Address. Read more about William Rivers Pitt: Obama/Congress & a 10-Deployment, Maimed Vet
I didn’t watch Obama’s State of the Union address on television tonight. My stomach was not strong enough. (Reminiscent of how Bush’s TV appearances also induced nausea in me.)
Just a little while ago I abandoned the balance of my cappuccino in an upper East Side diner because Obama’s voice from a wall TV screen in the back ambushed me. The manager/owner hustled over to the front cash register to process my check.
“I came out tonight to ESCAPE Obama!” I scolded
He wagged a finger in my face angrily. “Hey, I’m just watching to see his nose grow!” Read more about Obama, the Liar, Spins the SOTU
Nicole Sandler: I find this fascinating, yet it is very – wonky is not the word, but it’s so in the weeds. I know, Marcy Wheeler, you’re so good at reading through this stuff, but to the average person – and I’d say I’m not even the average person, I’m probably more informed than most, I know I’m intelligent, but a lot of this stuff, I mean, you know, my eyes sort of roll back in my head and ...
I'm still playing podcast catch-up. After Obama's speech last Friday and Marcy's review on The Scott Horton Show (my prior transcript), Marcy did The Nicole Sandler Show on Monday. Way wonky, but kinda wonderful too, or wonderlandful, if you follow:
Marcy Wheeler: And so they’re trying to kind of develop this Panopticon within U.S. networks. And that’s the solution they want to come up with to defend our networks, rather than, by the way, increasing encryption and security and everything like that. And the reason they don’t want to do that is because it makes their spying harder. So it’s this circular issue, and I think it’s a dangerous circular issue because basically the NSA is making us less safe with what it’s doing with encryption, and then having made us less safe, it’s insisting that it needs to be able to police U.S. networks in a more intrusive fashion because it’s made us less safe.
Got that? Or, cutting to the chase:
Marcy Wheeler: We're not done learning... President Obama tried to end it, tried to close down discussion on Friday; we’re not done yet.
Nicole Sandler: No. I don’t think discussion will be closed as long as they, you know, can’t silence people like you... Information really is power, isn’t it?
Marcy Wheeler: Yep, it is.
Podcast here -- Marcy's segment, about a half an hour, starts at around 32:00. Transcript below the fold. Read more about In the wonky weeds with Marcy - more on Obama's spy speech, three days later