Thursday, May 27, 2010

Random thoughts this morning

*The President's much-loved narrative (delivered personally or via OFA emails) about "the people" being "instruments of change" and "beating back the special interests" needs to be challenged. Let's just analyze it for a moment by using Scott Brown's stated reason for voting yes on the Permanent Bailout bill - oh excuse me, the Financial Regulation bill. He said he received 3,000 phone calls from OFA volunteers and it swayed him.

So let me ask you this: who is the most powerful man in the world? That's right, Barack Obama. What group exists solely to push his policies and ideology? That's right, Organizing for America (formerly known as Organizing for Obama and still uses the URL of So when the most powerful man in the world uses the group formed exclusively to push his own agenda organizes 3,000 people out of the over 300 million in the US, exactly how does that constitute a mass uprising of the grassroots?

On the other hand, the Tea Party Movement started with a few random women in different states and eventually grew only by the efforts of each individual who decided to organize their own tea parties, with their own money and time, and with absolutely no connections to anyone with any power. But remember, in the Democrats' twilight zone world that we are all forced to live in, we are the ones that are astroturfed. Reminds me of when Obama's bestie Valerie Jarrett said she was "speaking truth to power." Honey, you ARE the power now, so you better start listening to the truth.

*While we're on the subject of the President and his woefully phony grassroots, let's not forget about public-sector unions and their cadre of extremely powerful and influential, beltway-insider, highly paid team of crooks and gangsters who thuggishly intimidate and threaten 14 year-old children and families in their own homes in order steal more money from the private sector. Just take a look at how public-sector unions broke California.

PS: will Nancy Pelosi shed some tears about the actual violence and threats from the left? Will she and the other ten thousand Democrats and lefty journalists write and speak about their fears of political upheaval now that the unions are the ones actually being violent? Or will they pretend that nothing has happened and continue to make stuff up about the Tea Partiers? I know which one I'm betting on.

Here's an idea: there are millions and millions of unemployed people in the private-sector. Let's fire all of the current public-sector employees who greedily refuse to take pay freezes, pay cuts, or pay a pittance into their own benefit plans, and replace them with the private-sector unemployed! I'm sure these new employees will no doubt be very grateful for the job and won't mind renegotiating the contracts to a sustainable and fiscally responsible level!

*Looks like a Harvard Business School study on the effects of government spending on private enterprise surprised everyone (except those that actually understand basic economics) including the researchers. They found... drum roll please.... that government spending adversely effects the growth of private business and increases unemployment!! Ta da!! Great job Champ. Is Keynesianism dead yet?

*Speaking of wasted dollars we just don't have. This John Stossel episode does a very good job of pointing out how one of the worst possible results of government spending/stimulus spending is that it allows the government to pick winners and losers. Since when did that become okay for all of you progressives out there? You really want to hand the power over to a few people in the government and allow them to dole out the funds, thereby boosting up their personal favorites and letting others crash and burn? This, by the way, is called crony capitalism. In real capitalism the consumers are free to choose who to give their business to, and therefore it is the consumers that choose the winners and losers. And that is what I call, Power to the People.


  1. Hmmm. If the Government cuts the wages or benefits of its employees, doesn't that reduce their take-home pay? Wouldn't that be exactly the same as an increase in their taxes (the government taking money from them for a government purpose - reducing the debt)? In all fairness, why should this group of citizens have a tax increase when no one else is subjected to it, for a reduction in government debt that benefits everyone? Let's be fair, folks. If taxes are increased, they should be increased for everyone!
    And if you want to talk about sustainable and fiscally responsible levels of wages, let's start with the obscene payments that continue to be made to the Wall Street geniouses who got us into the financial mess that required borrowing nearly a trillion dollars.

  2. Liberty Belle,
    You write: "on the other hand, the Tea Party Movement started with a few random women in different states and eventually grew only by the efforts of each individual who decided to organize their own tea parties, with their own money and time, and with absolutely no connections to anyone with any power." So, are you denying that the Tea Party Movement is receiving financial support from Koch Industries? I was at the Tea Party rally in Boston in April and I saw two large, brand-new custom painted buses that brought many people to the rally. Lots of money in those vehicles -- paid for by bake sales?

  3. hnjchild: that's actually my point. Public-sector salaries have consistently been rising over the last few years, even during the recession - in fact, they are STILL rising in the face of massive state shortfalls. Whereas private-sector salaries (not just overall employment rates) have dropped significantly. Just google it. There are tons of articles out there documenting these trends. So the private-sector has already had their pay cuts/increases in taxes. My point is that now it's time for the public-sector to feel the same squeeze. We have around eight million private-sector workers unemployed due to this recession and at the same time the number of public-sector employees has risen! That's unacceptable. Lay off as many public-sector employees as possible and give the rest of them pay cuts and require them to pay into their benefits as almost EVERYONE in the private-sector must do already.

  4. Anonymous: I held the very first tea party in the nation and I paid for everything out of my own pockets. Every other tea party event I've organized and hosted has been paid for by me and my co-organizer, another Seattle woman. I know that some tea party groups have formed PACs so they can donate to candidates and they rely on donations for funding. I also happen to know, personally, of many tea partiers on the east coast who organize buses themselves and every single passenger pays for their seat.

    Might there be some donations from some rich people? Sure, just as rich people donate to causes they believe in. There is nothing wrong with that on either side. But the vast, vast majority of tea partiers are self-funded. I know this for a fact. Also, you are ignoring the main thrust of my argument, which is that OFA is an arm of the President of the United States, the most powerful person in the entire world. They manage to organize a few thousand people out of 300 million and then pretend they are totally grassroots. They're not and they should just admit it.

  5. And I might add, George Soros has donated 100's of millions of dollars to bring European socialism here to America.
    What is the big deal about capitilists wanting to fight back?
    The left wants America and the right to fight with one hand tied behind their back while they bring a gun to a knife fight.

  6. All, I was just pointing out that the Tea Party movement cannot be said to have "no connections to anyone in power" as Liberty Belle wrote. The movement has received millions of dollars worth of support from the Sarah Mellon Scaife foundation, from Koch industries, from Americans for Prosperity, and other conservative foundations and think tanks. The buses that I saw at the rally on Boston Common were new and top of the line -- very expensive transportation. The Tea Party will hurt itself if it continues to deny its connection to, and dependence on, the support of corporate America.

  7. Liberty Belle,

    I read your link to the "permanent bailout bill" -- about the Dodd bill -- and it doesn't strike me as providing for future bailouts at all. It does provide a fund that would insure investors against losses when certain large institutions must be "liquidated". This is not a bailout, which aims to prevent the failing institution from having to be liquidated. Instead, this provision attempts to protect the economy at large from potentially grave consequences when a large financial institution must be liquidated.

    The article pointed to by this link also says: "Applying such ill-designed blanket regulation would make financial derivatives more costly, more difficult to customize, and, consequently, less widely used—which would increase overall risk in the economy." I wonder if the author of this article lives on the same planet that I do. On my planet, "widely used" and highly "customized" derivatives were recently at the heart of a speculative bubble whose bursting very nearly precipitated an economic depression. Such writers call to mind the old jingle: "The dog returns to its vomit/The sow returns to the mire/And the burnt fool's bandaged finger/Keeps wabbling back to the fire." Please, do not take the rest of us back to the fire with you!

  8. I agree that things can get really out of whack in the public sector - see (note that even the WP is critical of excesses). I blame this, however, as much or more on the weakness of the vote-seeking elected officials as on the greed of the unions.

    The problem in a general disparagement of all government employees as being overpaid or greedy, though, is that the person disparaging them sounds uninformed and vindictive since not all public employees are overpaid and greedy. Some are actually underpaid if you compare them with private-sector employees in the same career fields with equivalent education. In many cases, people take government jobs for lower pay because of the relative security of employment and retirement.

    And most government health and retirement systems I am familiar with do require employee contributions. The Federal systems, for instance, require about 30% of the health cost from employees (about the level for employees in most Fortune 500 companies). Remember that the healthcare payment system we now have was created as an employee benefit which was designed to be paid for mostly by the employer.

    Federal retirement (again, similar to the retirement systems of many large companies) is a combination of Social Security, a 401K-equivalent element, and a relatively small defined-benefit element to which employees contribute a percentage of their pay (I think it's somewhere between 2% and 3%). This is also about the contribution level in large companies which offer defined-benefit retirements.

    The problem with large-scale layoffs of public-sector employees is that reducing the "business" of government is difficult. While businesses lay off employees when their sales decrease and they can't afford to pay people whose efforts aren't needed, the need for many government services actually increases when commercial activities are in a recession.

    Even if you do lay off government employees, whose services do you cut? Crime certainly doesn't decrease in hard times, and schools can't reduce the number of kids they teach in hard times. Someone has to approve applications for unemployment benefits, keep the records, and send the checks. We actually need more people to do this when unemployment is high. Road maintenance can be deferred, but at increased risk to those who use the roads. Potholes and dangerous bridges must be fixed. Reducing the Dept of Agriculture would affect farmers adversely. Etc, etc. The reality of the politics and the real needs involved makes government service cuts (which is the direct result of employee cuts) difficult for the most determined reformer.

    If you think you have some workable method to identify and reduce unnecessary government services, I suggest you contact your elected representatives and volunteer to help them. Or get elected yourself. If you were in my Congressional district and could make a good case with some details (no slogans, please!), I'd vote for you myself.

  9. Liberty Belle,
    Thank you for this well thought out post.
    The links and your own words have been helpful to me.
    I hope people take the time to read the whole post and the links before they comment.
    Thank you for all you do.

  10. I love you Scoop Jackson.

  11. hnj, I am a local gov't employee. I pay nothing into my health care. I have a VAST array of fully funded counseling services at my disposal should I require them. Please don't even bring up the ridiculous canard that there's no fat in government budgets. My department alone has four -- FOUR! managers for a staff of less than twenty people. I know of one employee who is a longtime abuser of sick leave/disability who has cost my agency over $20,000 the last three or four years on various softwares, chairs claiming that she cannot type or that her workstation is not ergonomically safe. She has had at least six ergonomic evaluations in the past two years at something like $75 an hour. She has purchased four different types of chairs for her cubicle over the last two years at agency expense.

    Of course if she is sending personal emails she has no problem typing.

    Before you challenge others to show cuts how about taking a look at State and local budgets and finding the fat yourself ... this is not difficult information to find. Does the State really need tens of thousands of dollars for chicken coops?

    The government always, ALWAYS threatens to cut critical services because it is the only way they have to get people's attention. When tax increases are denied, strangely nobody ever seems to get laid off, just shuffled around.

  12. You wrote: "..the Tea Party Movement started with a few random women in different states and eventually grew only by the efforts of each individual who decided to organize their own tea parties, with their own money and time, and with absolutely no connections to anyone with any power."

    I have to disagree with this also. While I agree that the tea party movement is not a single organization with a single leader and a single power broker pulling the strings, there are many powerful connections behind some tea party groups, and others parties that exploit it for their own ends. This includes Richard Army's Freedomworks group, the health insurance lobby (when it was about the healthcare bill), and of course the Republican Party which for years worked on gathering support on the "Family Values" theme without getting quite enough support to control government. They are now cozying up to tea party themes to gain the support of fiscal conservatives who were turned off by the religious right.

    I feel there are very few true grass roots movements. The public discussion is guided and prodded by various special interests across the spectrum. For better or worse, that's how things are done.


    Crony capitalism is a problem, but that doesn't discredit the whole concept of stimulus. How many businesses out there are saying "I want to hire a bunch of people, but I can't afford to because of taxes." Get real. Business can and will hire more people when more customers want to buy more products and services. I've been laid off twice in my career and it was never because taxes were too high, it was because customers stopped buying.

    Even conservatives who don't believe in in stimulus admit the Great Depression was ended by World War II. How was the war different (in economic terms) than a massive stimulus program. Maybe our solution now is to build millions of bombs, but instead of dropping them on foreign cities, we can drop them all in Nevada artillery ranges. Or better yet, instead of bombs, hire people to do things that will actually make our lives better.

  13. Midnight Rider, the feeling is mutual.
    Thank you.
    And thank you Liberty Belle for pushing back against these educated buffons.
    So what if the left got their way?
    Do they ever, ever think of the absolute disaster that their ideas would bring if they were left unchecked.
    Already you can see that we are on the brink of disaster in several cities and states that the left has run.
    This goes to prove that they cannot handle reality. They live in a delusional world that must be defeated. Check mate!

  14. The discussion here seems to have become mired in a false opposition of ideas: either government waste is bad, or the stimulus package is good. I call this a false opposition because both of these statements strike me as true. Many state and municipal governments have padded payrolls -- something that they could sustain when the economy was healthy, but not now. Something has to be done.
    Still, we need the stimulus package. The near collapse of the nation's banking system in 2008 brought us -- and the world -- to the brink of a downward deflationary spiral, that left usually cautious economists talking about the real possibility of another depression. We appear to have averted depression, although we will likely have to live through years of sluggish growth.
    2008 left us between a rock and a hard place. Let the banks fail, and it's time for Mulligan Stew. Bail them out, and stimulate the economy with increased spending, and we credit deficits that will have to be dealt with sooner or later. The latter choice was the lesser evil, IMHO, but still an evil.
    The irresponsibility and heedlessness of the leverage-loving investors on Wall Street left us NO good choices; I don't see how we can begin to think about where we are now, without taking that unfortunate circumstance into account.

  15. To Anonymous,
    No, I agree that there's fat in government budgets and organizations. My point is that identifying and cutting them is not easy and that people who have a good way to do it (or, in your case, specific knowledge of bad spots that need to be cleaned up) need to come forward to get it done. Generic "reduce da gov't" statements don't accomplish anything.

    I understand your problem, too. Whistleblowers put themselves at risk. I hope you find a way to get the problem fixed.


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