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First, the Bad News…

First the bad news — the ultra conservative Tea Party faction has effectively manipulated the Republican majority in the House of Representative. Now for the really, really bad news — policies espoused by Republicans and Tea Party reactionaries are going to make matters worse, much worse.

Hand points to textHere are two ugly facts.  One: We are in a recessionary period caused by the near collapse of our financial system. Two: Financial recessions generally take a long while to resolve themselves  (think five or ten years)  and employment tends to improve even more slowly than the economy.  A lot of economists have pointed this out. Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, along with Carmen Reinhart, published a big thick book back in 2009, This Time Is Different, surveying eight centuries of financial crises. Century after century the story has been about the same, but each generation of fools thought their own financial recession was different.

Now Tea Party people and other reactionaries apparently don’t know this. Rogoff’s book is heavy with statistics, which may explain why no one in the Republican party seems to have read it. On the other hand, they may understand economics, but want to make sure that things stay bad enough to assure a Republican candidate wins the next election for President.

If you haven’t been driven mad by endless shouting about the deficit, you may recall that most of the new Republican House members swept into Congress with cries of, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” But after taking their oath of office, those same new congressmen and congresswomen cried, “Cut the deficit!” They claimed “the people” had sent them to Washington “to put our fiscal house in order.” No poll ever found that “the people” believed cutting the deficit was more important and creating jobs. But Republicans got their way.scissors

Cutting the deficit does absolutely nothing for creating jobs now. On the contrary, cutting the deficit cuts jobs.

Our last-minute Budget Control Act of 2011 requires $917 billion in initial deficit reductions over 10 years, including $350 billion from the base defense budget.  The slicing is spread all around for a decade, but it starts right away. Fiscal 2012 begins in less than two months, which means that agencies of government from the Pentagon to the Environmental Protection Agency are now scrambling to find where they can cut.

Here’s a gruesomely relevant page from history. In 1937, as the United States began to emerge from the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s advisors convinced him to cut spending and balance the budget. So the government cut workers from the Works Progress Administration, and Public Works Administration projects were brought to a halt. Republicans rejoiced that the nation was putting its fiscal house in order. Manufacturing collapsed 37 percent, and from 1937 to 1938 unemployment rocketed from 14 percent to 19 percent. Consumers cut back on their spending and in response production fell even further. (more…)

HarperCollins vs. Libraries

Speaking of libraries, as we were in the post below this, we report the sad fact that the publishers HaperCollins has decided not to sell e-books to libraries but to rent them out. The publisher allows libraries to let an e-book circulate only 26 times before the library must again pay to rent it for another 26 times. E-book Reader If it were a conventional book, the library would buy it and allow it to circulate among library patrons until it needed to be replaced, at which point the library would buy a fresh copy. Now HaperCollins wants to sell a lot of copies to libraries, so it has decided, arbitrarily and whimsically, that the e-book wears out after it’s been read 26 times. Libraries, which are publically funded and never rich, have complained about this. One example —the Upper Hudson Library System, a consortium of libraries in New York State —  has sent a public letter to HaperCollins protesting this whacky arrangement and “will no longer purchase any e-content published by HarperCollins or any of its subsidiary publishers.” You can check out the letter sent to HarperCollins by clicking  on this link http://www.uhls.org/new/open_letter_HarperCollins.pdf

Whatever happened to “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”?

The US recovery from the recession has stalled and Congress seems not to have noticed. Maybe you noticed, because you’re one of the unemployed. If so, it’s doubtless cold comfort for you to know there are more than 13.9 million other men and women in the same dump.

Unemployed workers

Unemployed Workers

Almost half the unemployed have been looking for a job for more than six
months, and about a third have been looking for work for more than a year. And if you’ve been looking for more than a year, the chances are you’ll be among the last to be hired. That’s the way it goes in today’s cruel labor market. Because so many workers are idle, employers can pick an choose and they prefer workers whose skills haven’t gotten rusty.

Meanwhile, the Republican dominated House of Representatives is calling loudly for cuts in government spending and in taxes. This is the same Republican party that took over the House a few months ago, saying that “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” were their top priority. It’s strange that lawmakers who say they want to provide jobs should be crying to amputate the federal budget and slash taxes. In fact, it’s bizarre, because doing that will bring not jobs but more unemployment while at the same time reducing the ability of the government to provide for the unemployed.

Municipalities and states cannot perform the kind of deficit spending carried out by the federal government. As a consequence, the recession has compelled cities and states to lay off workers – clerks, firemen, policemen, engineers, school teachers, and so forth. To immediately slash federal spending means that the US would reduce the already reduced flow of money to the already impoverished states, and at the same time fire US government workers, adding even more to the number of unemployed. (more…)

Class Warfare

The little sourball of American politics, Ralph Nader, likes to say that there’s no basic difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, they just look different on the surface. He has it backwards, of course. The parties have superficial similarities, but the differences between Democrats and Republicans are profound and basic.

Last year you could see one of these differences playing out as Republicans waged guerilla warfare in Congress against the Democrats’ health plan. The skirmishes dragged on for months, the details were abundant and confusing. So it’s no surprise that a lot of spectators came away thinking that Republicans and Democrats were merely wrangling over how the government plan should work. But Republicans are against ANY government health plan, no matter how it’s constructed, no matter how it works.

Republicans have been waging class warfare for years, attacking social programs that benefit the poor and marginal in our society. They opposed Medicare from the day it started in 1966 and have tried to put it to death with “improvements” ever since. They have opposed Social Security from it’s beginning and have tried to “reform” it out of existence for the past 74 years. Despite these vampire kisses by conservatives, Social Security and Medicare remain vibrantly alive as the two most popular government programs we have.

But that doesn’t matter to Republican thinkers. In the ideal Technicolor world of conservatives, Social Security would be replaced by each free citizen prudently saving money and wisely investing the savings to insure years of comfortable retirement. And, of course, Medicare would be replaced by free citizens freely buying their own health insurance. Healthy Americans, typical Americans in their Golden Years (thick white hair but springy steps), could go scuba diving in the Caribbean or take a cruise to Greek islands.

Alas, in the real world, Social Security and Medicare were created because most people weren’t able to save for a cushioned retirement. For a great, great many, the years between leaving work and getting completely dead were years of poverty made worse by unpayable bills from relentless doctors and hospitals. The fortunate stayed out of debt by working until they dropped; the less fortunate moved into the back room of the family home, which was now headed by one of their children. The really bad off went to the poor house. (more…)

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.