Michael Maiello's picture

    The Whatever-Partisan Commission On Economic Progress

    The President's fiscal commission has failed to generate a plan that won the support of 14 of 18 of its members, as directed.  Three Republican Senators on the commission voted for it, so the ideas in the commissions report might still egt an airing in the Senate but it won't be some up or down vote without amendments.  Which is fine.  I never understood why this issue should be treated differently than any other, screwy as I think senate rules are.

    But now would be a good time to step back and look at the deficit and the debt in a new way.  The commission was charged with tackling them as problems.  I see them more as symptoms of an economy that is sick in other ways.  If you heal the economy, the deficit and debt will be healed as well.

    An example would the Earned Income Tax Credit, something that contemporary Republicans really hate.  The EITC is paid to wage earning Americans who work, but don't earn very much.  It is a subsidy to the working poor and to my mind it's one very enlightened thing that we do for people who are trying hard but not making economic progress.  Obviously it's a revenue drain since we're giving people back more money than they pay in income taxes and so it's often a deficit cutter's first target.  Well, I agree with the deficit cutters.  We really shouldn't have this.  Working people should make enough money so that they can live without a subsidy.  We should just state that as a moral proposition.  Work should pay a living wage.  Not a minimum wage, a living wage.  If it did, then... wow.  No EITC!  See, the problem isn't that we subsidize the working poor.  The problem is that we have "the working poor."  The working shouldn't be poor.

    That's just a small example that illustrates my larger point -- what we need is a growing economy where the fruits of that growth are distributed broadly.  Not equally, but broadly.  In our current system a very small number of people collect a very large portion of income every year.  This is actually a terrible thing from a tax perspective.  This small group can shelter its income from taxes quite effectively.  Once its paid its taxes it can hoard the rest of the money, effectively keeping it from being taxed in other ways (it's put into sheltered investments, it's nor circulating and generating local revenue through sales taxes, etc.)  If more of that money were out there amongst the poor and middle class, more of it would be taxable both as income and during transactions.  More of it would be active money.  The economy loves activity.  The rich would still be filthy rich, don't worry.  But everyone else would be dirtier too.

    I don't have all the answers.  Well, I do but some of them are batshit insane.  But I suggest this as a simple mission for a new commission that would need some heavyweight economists, sociologists, anthropologists and maybe even some artists in addition to the usual industry and D.C. suspects: The vast inequities and inefficiencies in the U.S. economy and its political system have manifested themselves as an annual budget deficits and a long-term debt problem.  How can we address this while preserving the many good part of the system and the national character?"

    What we heard from the commission was that everybody has to sacrifice so that we can set the national balance sheet right while basically preserving the existing system as it stands today.  That is a very narrow and unambitious message and it's also wrong.  Even if the plan were adopted exactly as written and worked exactly as advertised because a system where the rewards for risk and labor are so unevenly distributed will always be a system where one group or another will face catastrophe and need costly bailouts.

    A consensus has developed that between 2009-2010 the government had to spend tremendous amounts of money to rescue its industry and its people from tumbling over an economic precipice into penury.  Sadly, the lesson learned seems to be that "these things happen, be glad we have our own printing press and can throw money around when we need to."  But the lesson should be that so many of our companies and citizens were weak even when they looked strong and that weakness can be very expensive when things go badly.  If we built strength in place of that weakness you'd see your deficits and debts dissapear.  One strategy for dealing with the budget is to complain about the costs of bailouts and social programs and to restrict and cut them until the need becomes so great that they are expanded again, usually under duress and not with a lot of thought.  A better solution is to look at the underlying need and find ways to address, ameliorate and even eliminate them.  You know what the cheapest welfare program in the world is?  One that nobody has to use.


    One problem with the EITC is that, in a sense, it subsidizes companies that don't want to pay their employees a living wage. I think better than EITC is a higher minimum wage, or maybe combined with it, or something. One problem, I suppose, with the minimum wage is that it treats teenagers on their first job the same as older workers needing to support a family. I think that's probably necessary, however. Any solutions I can think of to that problem lead to bigger problems (such as employers favoring hiring teenagers over those needing the work more - not that I'm anti-teenager).

    Yeah, I ultimately agree that you want to eliminate the EITC by providing living wages.  I kind of thought as you did that you could exempt dependents from the living wage requirement but that would create an incentive not to hire heads of households for living wage jobs.  The good news would be that most heads of household would probably be going for jobs where experience and talents matter so they'd be making more than the living wage anyway.  This is for my fantasy commission to hash out!  Prince is going to be on it!  And Paul Krugman!

    I'd like to suggest Jeff Foxworthy and Stephen Hawking for the commission as well, if I may.

    If space warps around you and geiger counters go nuts when you enter a room... you might be a black hole.

    Another problem with the tax code that I recognize, but have no solution for, are tax credits for children. I'd really like to discourage people from having large families, but I also don't want to punish the children who are born into such families. (In case it's not clear, I recognize that the tax credits do not cover all of the costs of raising children, nor even come close if you're trying to do a half-decent job of raising them.)

    YeeGads, Destor! All this "big picture" talk about using tax policy and guvmint programs to structure the economy so it serves EVERYONE'S interests? What? Are you NUTS or something?

    You sound like a goddammed socialist! You're talking Class War here!

    (This is the point in this discussion where - if you are a good Democrat - you cringe before the epithets like a vampire confronting a crucifix and, like a good little boy, rejoin the debate about what level of tax cuts for the rich are an acceptable compromise to gain unemployment compensation for the 1 in 10 who can't find work.) 

    And BTW: This is an excellent post! It is critical that we take a "big picture" look at our economic system and really consider where we have been, how we got here, and how we might make things better.

    For openers, there are those of us who are old enough to know that Reaganomics is not written in stone as the only "organic" way that an economy is ordered. And Grover Norquist is not an unassailable expert holding the keys to "good governance" and proper tax policy.

    It was about the time that Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers that we jumped "full-in" on an experiement that continues to this day. It involves a heavy faith in "trickle down" economics that promises the enrichment of the ownership class will eventually cause the working class to gain benefit, as well. ("A rising yacht will move all boats," or something like that ;O)

    For all the talk that neither Dems nor Repubs are ever willing to compromise, it is important to note that the Dems have had a big part to play in setting aside their misgivings and playing along with this experiment these last thirty years. (See Clinton & NAFTA, etc.)

    Well, guess what? The reviews are in, and Reaganomics hasn't fared too well. All indicators of wealth distribution show there has been a plug stuck in the drain through which the wealth was supposed to flow downward like a refreshing rain upon us peasants. And, as you so aptly point out here, the whole system has proven to be unsustainable, requiring massive emergency raids on the Treasury just to prop it all up in anticipation of its next catastrophic failure.

    And - as witnessed by this recent squabble over tax cuts for the wealthy being of paramount importance over things like unemployment comp for the desperately needy - it offers little hope for the future as the wealthy become simply more and more rapacious. It pretty effectively shows, after all, that this is what this "experiment" was all about, eh? Just another battlefield maneuver by the rich & wealthy in the perpetual Class War to claim all the riches for themselves.

    You, my friend, have pointed out here very aptly the kind of questions and perspective that must be considered and adopted if we ever hope to again achieve sanity in our economic affairs. The Simpson/Bowles attempt to reorder things within the Reaganomics model is rightly allowed to die without a vote of the Catfood Commission's membership, thus coloring it with all the credibility it deserves.

    Thanks for this blog, destor. You are right on target. 

    Er...EITC is predominantly for lower-income workers with children.  Wiki says some other without children can qualify, but:

    There is a much more modest EIC for persons and couples without children that reaches a maximum of $457.

    There is a diminishing credit for multiple kids: 

    For tax year 2009, a claimant with one qualifying child can receive a maximum credit of $3,043, a claimant with two qualifying children a maximum of $5,028, and a claimant with three or more qualifying children can receive a maximum credit of $5,657.

    So the disincentives are built in, like it or not.  I think the disincentives are too punitive, but that's neither here nor there.

    I was pissed about the mortgage interest for houses being nixed, but I read or heard somewhere that was changed to houses over a quarter mil in value.  Any idea?  That could really be a hardship if one day in the far distant future housing stabilizes, clouded mortgages are straightened out (big if?) and people who really need the deduction to make it affordable to buy a place.

    Here's Jan Schakowsky's alternative, more like yours, Destor, I've read.  The link to the pdf is inside it.


    I think the disincentives are too punitive, but that's neither here nor there.

    I think a more important question (IMO) is not whether they're too punitive, but whether who are they punishing? The answer, I believe, is both the parents (who arguably have a choice) and the kids (who inarguably don't). I think it's important for our species to limit population growth. That said, it's not a huge problem in the United States (our population would actually be decreasing if it weren't for immigrants).

    As for mortgage interest, I never understood the rationale for subsidizing them in the first place. Keep in mind that we're not subsidizing home ownership (which I could kinda understand, but wouldn't take to be a sacred cow). Rather were subsidizing debts due to home ownership (or more precisely interest payments on those debts). At the same time, most (if not all) localities tax home ownership itself directly. Sounds kinda schizophrenic to me…

    For the last couple of years part of my job has been working those who are providing free tax services to the lower incomes individuals and families, where we emphasize the EITC.  Whether it was exactly in the minds of the people when they first created the EITC. the rationale behind it is centered on providing an incentive for working families to increase their income.  For example, take some night classes and get a job that boosts your salary from $25.000 to $30,000, and the government will give you a boost to your income on top of that. 

    The local business folks really like the program because we can show how our effort helps brings into the community 100,000s of dollars that would not have otherwise, much of it going into the local economy.  Moreover, it helps their own employees become more financially stable.  I had one business owner talk about the loss productivity due simply to employees dealing with creditors on their cell phones during work hours.  He saw it in his bottom line interest to support the EITC program.  And he is otherwise a rather conservative Republican. 

    Our economic dynamism is being strangled by the superstitious worship of private property rights and private economic transactions.

    People already know how to redistribute wealth and income.  They have thought about these challenges for decades and decades and decades.  There are no end to well thought-out and economically viable technocratic instruments that can be used to direct massive amounts of locked up private wealth into a broader pool of more productive hands, where it will then be put to work creating more jobs and broader prosperity.  We could implement these methods legislatively and start growing dynamically tomorrow.

    So why don't we?  Many people seem to be under the misapprehension that our rulers would be doing such a thing already if it were that easy.  If we already know how to jump-start growth, put the unemployed to work, accelerate wealth production and improve the living standards of 90% of the population, wouldn't the government already be doing it?

    No.  In a severe economic downturn, the hyper-wealthy circle the wagons, and mobilize the government - which they basically own - to protect their wealth.  That's all.  That's their only political goal.  That is what is happening now in our world.  The people who own most of everything are perfectly happy to maintain a world system with sluggish growth - even negative growth - massive permanent unemployment and persistent misery, as long as they don't lose their personal fortunes.   And as the crisis continues, they can leverage their enormous wealth-power to buy and subordinate the rest of us further, and steer even more of the world's stagnant productive output into their own accounts.  Even as the world world grows worse off in the aggregate, they can continue to grow better off.

    After Reagan, Thatcher, two Bushes and two neoliberal Democrats, we are now back in the 19th century.  Private property has never been more sacrosanct in the American ideology at any time in living memory.  We have taken several giant leaps backward and are now back in the self-destructive Dickensian nightmare world of untrammeled capitalism, emasculated and subordinated labor, the ruthless punishment of debt and forced march of austerity.  The very idea that a society has some control over how wealth is distributed, and can choose how to distribute it and redistribute it as a matter of deliberate policy, has been relegated to the category of unspeakable and dangerous blasphemy.   Around the western world the system's major creditors - and that means the relatively small number of people who own the lion's share of everything - are engineering a policy path that is not at all designed to produce growth or broad prosperity.  It is designed to help the grand possessors of wealth hang onto every penny they own.  Rather than shift wealth through political action to relieve debt and reinvigorate economic activity, they have chosen a program of long painful and punitive digging out and austerity for the vast majority, designed to protect, above all else, the credit portfolios of lenders.

    It is of the nature of unregualted private economic activity to tend toward monopolization and growing inequality, in a way that does not just make the majority worse off, but is even destructive in the long run of the foundations of the minority's vast wealth.  This was they key insight of the progressive and New Deal movements that took shape under the Roosevelts: that capitalism is not self-regulating and self-correcting, but requires deliberate public and government action and regulation to preserve itself and preserve the rudimentary equality needed for a sustainable social order.  In the past, these kinds of imbalances have prompted land reform, labor movement and other redistributive programs - and in some cases revolutions when the political order has proved incapable of response.

    Absolutely brilliant! THESE are the discussions that I wish they were having in the Dem Caucus behind closed doors, instead of deciding just how compromised they need to become in order to appeal to Dick Armey and his Tea Party phenomoenon.

    Thanks for this! Now, will you please let us know who you are? ;O)

    Pssssst!  Jeezus; who was that masked (wo)man?  Very familiar....  ;o)

    Oh sorry.   I didn't realize I wasn't logged in before.  That comment was written by me.

    DAN!  Happy holidays, buddy.  Always nice of you to drop in.

    Thanks destor.  Deck the halls.  Great post.

    It's a profound analysis you offer here, Dan. Please consider posting it as a separate blog. It should definitely be given as wide a reading as possible!

    Anon., excellent post. An example of what you describe is my experience running a small business. While banks are borrowing from the Fed at no-interest, loans are then retailed to a business like mine at a cost of at least 8%--that's with lots of good history and credit. Essenially the banks have refunded themselves with bailouts and Fed loans--all the while sticking it to small businesses under the ruse of "tighter loan standards". Large orporations have used historically low interest rates, .5-1%, to borrow money and essentially sit on it, or to gobble up smaller companies or underpriced assets. Wealth concentrators use a period like the one we are in to consolidate their positions while eliminating the weak. Meanwhile weaker players are being restricted in credit and are fighting slow market demand at the same time. I am torn in half wanting the whole structure to fall to pieces so we can start over and at the same time being wary of radical surgery that might go badly wrong and give those who thrive most in chaos, the authoritarian Right, a decisive hand.

    Agree, Anon. rocks.  Visit us more often, Anonymous!

    Oxy's right that the banks and consumers are now subsidizing the banks who are using the spready between the fed rate and other credit to heal themselves.  Heck, most of the banks aren't even lending to small businesses and consumers since it's so much easier to exploit the risk free carry trade with Treasuries.  We're told that these low rates are supposed to make credit available to the broader economy but if the Fed really wanted that it could technically make low and even no interest loans directly to economic participants.  It doesn't because in the end, the Fed doesn't care if your landscaping business or whatever can get a line of credit, it cares about capitalizing Citigroup and Bank of America.  The only way to do that is to let them exploit this spread over time and hope their balance sheets improve faster than their assets deteriorate.

    Oxy -- what kind of business?  Anything we can patronize?

    Thanks for the question. It's an industrial resource recovery business--we reclaim materials otherwise destined for land fills, etc.,which allows the company to reuse the material and reduce purchases. So, not too accessible, but I appreciate the thought. 

    If I can ever get a book store up and running, I will definitely welcome your patronage.  

    By the way, that's a great summary on the banks. (And Tiffany is having a great year while the balance sheets improve) Did you see the entry in the Fed's books about a loan to McDonalds? That was actually a shock. Ole Bernie Sanders is on it, but little other criticism that I've seen. If you listen to CNBC or Bloomberg you can hardley tell the difference between now and several years back before Lehman went under. I think we may have missed the historic opportunity to decentralize the banks, but in terms of stability--that thing Seaton keeps harping on--it was a close call for me and my company. I got called into the bank, had my credit line reduced and "termed out"--great term .I had a great record with the bank and when I complained my account officer said, "Don't take it personally, everyone is getting a haircut" So this was my contribution to the bank getting its ratio back in order. If the bailout and all hadn't happened it could have been much worse.

    Your business sounds like positive capitalism in action.  Hope it's holding up despite limitations!

    Thanks, we're doing well this year. Actually, in lean times companies look to save anywhere they can which is good for us. And we are close to being debt free--which is a first. So that haircut the bank gave me had its merits, we got leaner.

    After Reagan, Thatcher, two Bushes and two neoliberal Democrats, we are now back in the 19th century.  Private property has never been more sacrosanct in the American ideology at any time in living memory.  We have taken several giant leaps backward and are now back in the self-destructive Dickensian nightmare world of untrammeled capitalism, emasculated and subordinated labor, the ruthless punishment of debt and forced march of austerity.

    As if on cue, we start reading THIS as a talking point from the Dick Armey Tea Party Phenomenon. Limiting voting rights to property owners only? Unbelievable regression. At what point does the proletariat understand they're under assault and actually begin fighting back?

    Cripes; look how the WaPo frames it all.  Sigh + sigh.



    Star, you're not going to like this compromise. We got us a stability-minded President. But after this deal the next two years in Congress is going to be a street fight.

    He did not need to compromise!!!  He told us weeks ago what was up; now he will pretend he did it to extend UC for some time.  I am so furious!!!  And he skipped off to Afghanistan, where he could avoid having to fight a potentially winning battle.  He gave cover to all the goddam, soulless, corporate Dems who voted against it in the House!  (Uh-oh!  Stardust twigged; er...we are talking about the middle class tax cuts, aren't we?)

    Arrrggghh!  I'm losing it!  I have pissed away my entire day online collecting factoids on issues, breaking and otherwise, when i just missed a magazine deadline for a piece i had written.  I must need a bloody shrink.

    'Stability-minded President'; well, yes, if you mean banking stability.  Trouble is, this will not hold: without major cleansing of the banks, and figuring out the home mortgage mess (NOT just in aid of the banks), the economy can't possibly right itself.  We're in a depression, and they need to re-write the rules to accomodate the Truth of it.  Oopsie; those 93,000 jobs ended up being 39,000, and that's for the christmas shopping season!  OOps!

    Lord love a duck; I don't even know whose freaking blog I'm on.  I'll go get a glass of water; I'm thristy from all this nutsy-fagin shouting, and help you with videos if i can....tech ain't my strong suit.  Gotta warn ya, i charge for it.  I am a poor person these days, or at least heading there fast.

    Hey, Star, give me that tutorial again on embedding. I found a video on HP and the copy box--but what the hell is a "clipboard"--really showing my ignorance more than usual. I assume I copy it there and paste it into the box provided here.

     I'm out of time right now Oxy.  My embed worked in preview, but not once I posted.  It was from the Onion....I thought it would work once I clicked Disable Rich Text, and entered the code (it's HTML). 

    For youtube (and often you can find them there) you boot up the video, highlight the web page, then click on the little blue film strip above the comment box (still in Rich Text mode), past the page into the file/url box with a right click, then click Insert, and add the text where you want...then Preview. 

    That will be $4.99.  If I can make the embeds work later today or tomorrow, I'll let you know.  Smile  Or more clever people than I might weigh in (hint, hit; clue, clue...)

    Sorry to muck up your diary, Destor.  At least this trial video is on finance, and great besides.

    Oxy: this a youtube video, but I clicked the Embed button below it; the code was already highlighted.  I right clicked it, chose Copy; then came to the comment window (I always keep a couple tabs open anyway), chose to Disable Rich Text, pasted in the code, clicked Rich Text, and a pink box showed up.  Clicked Preview, the video appeared, clicked Save, and here it is. 

    Another $4.99; please pay the cashier.

    I'm a Republican, please put it on my tab.

    And, appreciate it, might get it done before the weekend is out.

    So glad to see you're not falling all over yourself in gratitude.

    Actually I am, grateful, sorry. Cry Embarassed Smile

    Well then, pay the goddam cashier already!  Oy!  ;o)

    What I meant was that even with your fine tutorial my ineptness will inhibit my ability to carry it out.  

    Andy Kroll writing at Tomdispatch presents a slightly different narrative on when the big shift of capital upward began, and quotes a book by Hacker and Pierson, saying it was in the Carter administration

    "The Thirty-Year War"

    How did we get here? How did a middle-class-heavy nation transform itself into an oligarchy? You'll find answers to these questions in Winner-Take-All Politics, a revelatory new book by political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. The authors treat the present figures we have on American wealth and poverty as a crime scene littered with clues and suspects, dead-ends and alibis.

    Unlike so many pundits, politicians, and academics, Hacker and Pierson resist blaming the usual suspects: globalization, the rise of an information-based economy, and the demise of manufacturing. The culprit in their crime drama is American politics itself over the last three decades. The clues to understanding the rise of an American oligarchy, they believe, won’t be found in New York or New Delhi, but on Capitol Hill, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and around K Street, that haven in a heartless world for Washington’s lobbyists.

    "Step by step and debate by debate," they write, "America's public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefitted the few at the expense of the many."

    Most accounts of American income inequality begin in the 1980s with the reign of President Ronald Reagan, the anti-government icon whose "Reaganomics" are commonly fingered as the catalyst for today's problems. Wrong, say Hacker and Pierson. The origins of oligarchy lay in the late 1970s and in the unlikely figure of Jimmy Carter, a Democratic president presiding over a Congress controlled by Democrats. It was Carter's successes and failures, they argue, that kicked off what economist Paul Krugman has labeled “the Great Divergence."

    In 1978, the Carter administration and Congress took a red pen to the tax code, slashing the top rate of the capital gains tax from 48% to 28% -- an enormous boon for wealthy Americans. At the same time, the most ambitious effort in decades to reform American labor law in order to make it easer to unionize died in the Senate, despite a 61-vote Democratic supermajority.  Likewise, a proposed Office of Consumer Representation, a $15 million advocacy agency that was to work on behalf of average Americans, was defeated by an increasingly powerful business lobby.

    Ronald Reagan, you could say, simply took the baton passed to him by Carter. His 1981 Economic Recovery and Tax Act (ERTA) bundled a medley of goodies any oligarch would love, including tax cuts for corporations, ample reductions in the capital gains and estate taxes, and a 10% income tax exclusion for married couples in two-earner families. "ERTA was Ronald Reagan's greatest legislative triumph, a fundamental rewriting of the nation's tax laws in favor of winner-take-all outcomes," Hacker and Pierson conclude.


    Fascinating.  So the Consumer Protection Agency that Elizabeth Warren is building is... 30 years too late and probably way too little.

    30 years and what, 17 trillion dollars too late...  Just in the past two years....

    I've got Hacker and Pierson's book on my list to read. It is interesting to trace the genesis back to the Carter years, and I certainly can't quibble with the explanation.

    As we look to correct this situation, I believe it is important that we get away from pretending that this is a partisan issue; that somehow the Repubs are on "their side" in this Class War whilst the Dems are on "our side." The reality is that there is ultimately only one political party in Washington in regards to fighting the Class War that is set upon us. And guess what? We're on the outside, looking in on this Palooka-Dem theater where the Dems are in the tank for the guys with the expensive suits and fat wallets.

    I would love for the Dem base to start insisting we develop a second political party in Washington. It's time that someone goes toe-to-toe with these guys in honorable - and effective! - opposition. If there's going to be a fight here, we gotta' quit throwing the match in favor of the owners and start landing punches for real. We should expect nothing more from the party of FDR and the New Deal. Or we should simply fold up our tents and go home. 

    I've gotten a bit weary of reminding folks that it's just not a big old yellow stripe down the highway that divides Dems and Republicans.  I know that if there are any in Congress (mainly the House, sadly) for us on some of the issues, they are Dems or Socialists (hey, Bernie S.!)

    But what a great movement: Create a Second Political Party: DEMOCRATS!!!

    That could be the hook for a great blog.  It'd sell at FDL like hotcakes, I'd think.

    Jeezus, you hit the key point, which is that the job of pols of both stripes is to divide and conquer the plebs. The Tea Partiers simply did the best job of it this last election, winning that set. And the myth continues, that the rich provide jobs. I think the only focus that's going to work is a Teddy Roosevelt anti-trust approach to break up the big banks. Since there is historical precedent for trust-busting it could probably be revived in a context that would unite voters of different sides. Seems to me that being against big banks is something different than the tread worn arguments that focus on the "rich".

    Now that I think about it the thing the Democrats ought to fear most is a latent Teddy Roosevelt somewhere out there in the Republican ranks--slouching toward the White House.

    Being from Wisconsin, right now "Fighting Bob" LaFollette could get my vote as the very first Republican I have ever voted for. If the Republicans can somehow spawn such a man in this day and age, he's got my vote! I'd greatly welcome the opportunity!

    From thehill.com

    14 Dems want deficit action despite failed fiscal commission vote

    By Michael O'Brien - 12/03/10 11:08 AM ET

    A group of 14 Democrats pressed for a congressional action to address the deficit despite a failure by President Obama's fiscal commission to achieve enough votes to send its austerity plan to Congress for a vote.

    A group of Senate centrists asked Obama and the top party leaders in both chambers of Congress to push ahead with legislation to address deficits and debt.

    "Prompt action is needed to bring the country’s deficit into balance and stabilize our debt over the long term," the group wrote. "Regardless of whether the Commission’s report receives the support of at least 14 of its 18 members, we urge legislative action to address these problems."

    The group's letter came as the president's 18-member fiscal commission fell short of the 14 vote necessary to approve the report and send it to Capitol Hill, where leaders had guaranteed it an up-or-down vote if it had been approved.

    One commission member, former SEIU President Andy Stern, an opponent of the plan, has urged a vote on the proposal anyway.

    The 11 commissioners who did vote for the plan includes a mixture of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. The bipartisan vote has spurred hopes that a plan in the mold of the fiscal commission's recommendations might come up before Congress, especially with a GOP-held House eager to enact spending cuts.

    The 14 senators hailed the commission's recommendations on Social Security, healthcare, and tax reforms — three cornerstones of the plan on which support for a plan could hinge.

    "There is no easy way out, and Washington must lead the way," they said. "The strong bipartisan support its recommendations have already received demonstrates we can, and must, come together to solve this impending fiscal crisis. Every day that we fail to act the choices become more difficult."

    The signatories were Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo,), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).


    And: The Korean Free Trade Deal may be a go after all...




    Well, Claire McCaskill needs every bit of ammunition she can muster down in Missouri. As for the trade deal,  I once sold a machine to a firm in Korea................fax...........fax............fax...........fax.............fax.............fax, my damned plant filled up with fax paper.  

    You know what? I am a lifelong Democrat. A Yellow Dog who never voted for a Republican in my lifetime. I've spent my lifetime working hard on behalf of the Democratic Party and the New Deal principles that have formed much of its foundation throughout my lifetime. The principles remain with me stronger than ever.

    All that being said, I'm really beginning to think I'd prefer the Repubs in charge right now rather than continue this agonizing struggle with this iteration of Dems, including Obama.

    Make no mistake about it, I am well aware of just how irresponsible the Repubs would be in power and I carry no misunderstanding of the damage they would visit upon this country.

    But these Dems offer virtually nothing in opposition, really. We head in the same direction toward the establishment and consolidation of the oligarchy and the disappearance of the middle class. It is death by a thousand cuts. 14 Dems?!?! YeeGads! 10% unemployment, and they choose to scream about the deficit as our legislative priority. As a party, we've moved to the right of Herbert Hoover himself, despite his failed record of progress when confronted with circumstances as dire and similar as those we face today. Unbelievable!

    The opportunity cost of putting in place these Palooka-Dems who will not stand and fight on our behalf is simply too agonizing to support any longer. Far better to simply take our drubbing at the hands of the owners with a hope that the Dem Party will thus be motivated at last to put in place REAL Democrats who will actually come out and fight.

    It's time to create a second political party. Let the Republicans maintain their position as the prizefighter with the men in fancy suits and fat wallets as their corner men. But let's reinvent the Democrats as the party of FDR and the New DEAL, ready to land a few roundhouse blows right in the kisser of the opponent. Given what life on the street is like today for hundreds of millions of Americans, my money is on the fighter in the ring who has the working man in his corner and who refuses - passionately! - to pull any punches.

    And in anticipation of those who would chide me that the polls show no electoral support for any such action, I ask you to  show me where anyone has received opportunity to register support for any such leadership as I suggest. FDR won in blue states, red states, even paisley states, I reckon. Indeed, in 1936 it was said of his opponent, "If Alf Landon would have only given a couple more speeches, FDR would have taken Canada, as well!"

    People would respond to strong leadership in opposition to the oligarchs. I know this in my bones, because I live with those who suffer daily at the oligarch's excessively repressive rule and ownership of Washington. Offer the people a legitimate opponent who will stand tall on heir righteous behalf, and we Dems can at last kick some ass.

    The alternative? 14 Dems, fer chrissakes.

    "14 Dems, fer chrissakes"; yeppers, and not all Big Tent ones at that!  You may take note that both Colorado Senators are signatories...asshats. [snip: phone call]

    I keep hearing Talking Heads, completely bumfuzzled by some of this; questions about the all-over-the-map incoherence of Obama's moves, signals, deals, for instance.  they'll ask each other: Is he captive to the R's?  Is he captive to 'bipartisanship'?  They never, ever ask, "Does he subscribe to that form of policy, driving capital upward and inflating the deficit long-term, and ruining the economy for the rest of us, and destroying the economic future of the nation?"

    The same for the many Dems in the same ideological camp or making decisions based on the wrong political moves.  Simply stunning by now.

    Got an email from a friend saying that "Even Daily Kos is becoming a bit less enamored of the President and Dems".  Whoa, Nellie!


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