$41.00 donated in past month
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Government & Elections
Fiscal cliff is a hoax, may be bipartisan excuse to kill off U.S. poor people!
The media hype about the so-called fiscal cliff is just another bipartisan excuse to increase the gap between the wealthy and ever increasing number of poor people in the U.S. Notice both parties are advocating large cuts to social safety net programs when people are already struggling with poverty, while U.S. military bases remain operational on foreign soil through the Earth and only Presidential candidate Ron Paul was willing to save money by closing ALL overseas bases.
The so-called fiscal cliff is just another scare tactic by the bipartisan politician theives to take more social programs away from an already struggling population. Sort of like taking a blanket away from a person suffering from hypothermia on a cold night. Just more cruel and evil behavior from the political establishment. Once again Pres. Obama becomes the codependent enabler to the money addicted GOP who are acting in the favor of their wealthy lobbyists by letting CEOs off the hook from their responsibility and placing the burden on the poor.
Sort of like Ms. Marie Antionette and her famous last words, "Let them eat cake!" prior to the removal of her head by the guillotine.
What exactly is this so-called fiscal cliff?
The "Fiscal Cliff"? A Hoax. The Democrats' "Long Game"? A Myth. This Is the Real Budget Battle
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
June 11, 2012 - 7:47pm ET
"Suddenly the headlines are filled with talk of an impending "fiscal cliff," a series of tax and budget changes which the news pages say is an impending catastrophe and which the editorial pages are urging Washington lawmakers to prevent.
How would they do that? Why, with the same "Grand Bargain" we keep hearing about, an economically destructive plan in which Democrats betray their principles by imposing benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare in return for the Republicans' grand concession of raising taxes on - you.
It's a nearly surreal situation: Democrats acting like Republicans, and Republicans acting like Visigoths about to sack every city on the continent. All this surreality raises all sorts of Zen-like questions.
The bottom line is that there has been a determined, thirty-year strategy to co-opt leading Democrats into agreements that would undo or downsize their party's signature achievements while convincing the public that these highly unpopular moves were unavoidable or that the alternative would have been worse.
That's where the "fiscal cliff" comes in.
A lot of Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere have been pushing a package of spending and tax cuts for a long time. The current codename for that package is "Simpson Bowles," but it was being developed long before those two gentlemen failed to guide their Deficit Commission to an agreement and packaged it under their own names instead.
If you're a Washington power player, what's not to like about this kind of deal? Republicans would get 90 percent of what they want, and would score yet another massive rhetorical victory against the idea that government serves a useful social purpose - something Democrats have been decidedly reluctant to defend lately.
Democrats would be able to pursue wealthy campaign contributors and foundation owners (like billionaire Pete Peterson), and would get another talking point for their misguided argument that voters want them to "do something," even if the "something" in question hurts voters.
A a deal like that has got something for everybody - everybody, that is, except you.
Schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure would suffer. There would be fewer police, firefighters, and teachers. It would become harder and harder to find Medicare providers. And the economy would contract, leaving us all worse off - all, that is, except for the extremely wealthy.
How do you pass a program like that? First, create a plausible outside threat. That's the "Fiscal cliff." Second, convince yourselves and your progressive supporters that this is a masterful political strategy. That's the "long game."
it's too bad that neither the "fiscal cliff" or the "long game" actually exist.
The "fiscal cliff" is the Washington term some clever polemicist dreamed up to denote what happens at the end of 2012: That's when the Bush Tax cuts expire. And unless Congress votes otherwise, that's hen the "automatic" across-the-board spending cuts passed during last year's debt ceiling crisis are supposed to take effect.
Newspapers across the country are taking up the cry: Save us from the fiscal cliff! Lawmakers from both parties are pushing for a "Grand Bargain" along the lines of the right-wing Simpson Bowles proposal. That proposal would cut Social Security, encourages caps to Medicare funding, and pushes tax increases that target the middle class while actually lowering tax rates for the highest earners and for corporations.
Politicians in both parties are following their lead. Many of them are citing a Congressional Budget Office report which says that the "fiscal cliff" will have a disastrous impact on our already-wounded economy. They're arguing for deficit reduction, an issue that shouldn't be addressed until we get our economy moving.
House on Fire
(I've used this analogy before, but I'll use it again: Deficit reduction, like water conservation, is a good idea. But if your house is on fire your douse the flames before you start worrying about the water bill. Our economic house is on fire.)
It's bad enough that Democrats aren't pushing back against this misguided focus on deficits. Worse, by using the Simpson Bowles framework they're all making the argument on right-wing terms, since that plan has far more in spending cuts than it does in tax increases (and those increases target the middle class).
Not that any of this is a surprise. Something like this became inevitable when top Democrats, following President Obama's lead, stopped talking about government's important role in the best of times - and its critical role in times like these, which aren't so good at all. Democrats surrendered on the most important political fight of our time: the fight to defend government's role in building and preserving a humane, just, and economically healthy society for everyone.
First question: Since when has it become a faux pas in the nation's Capital to remind people about all the good things government does for them?
Everybody acts as if the "fiscal cliff" is an unavoidable emergency, like an asteroid heading toward the Earth. That's the kind of thing that always brings humanity together in the movies, as warring nations collaborate on eliminating their common threat.
But the fiscal cliff was created by the very people who are now using it as an excuse for pushing unwise and unpopular ideas. It's an outgrowth of the "trigger" idea that suddenly became popular in Washington a couple of years ago. "Triggers" are policy changes that are passed into law well in advance of when they're scheduled to take effect - and only then if other, equally extravagant and unpopular policy goals aren't met.
Think of them as political IEDs, set to blow up after the perpetrators have left the scene. Or like that scene in Blazing Saddles (with inappropriate language, or I'd link to it) where Cleavon Little takes himself hostage and threatens to kill himself if his own demands aren't met.
The strategy seems to be working. Everybody's saying we have to pass these terrible bills or even more terrible things will happen. But nobody's arguing for right policies, the ones that would get our country back on track.
Somebody got what they paid for. Billions have been spent to convince Americans that austerity - reductions in government's size and spending levels - is good for the economy.
We're told that the "fiscal cliff" would provide dramatic deficit reduction. The CBO says that if the spending portion of the "cliff" takes effect, "the deficit will drop by $560 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2013."
But then it hits the fan. "Under those fiscal conditions," says the CBO, '' ... growth in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP in calendar year 2013 will be just 0.5 percent, CBO expects--with the economy projected to contract at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the first half of the year and expand at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the second half.
The CBO concludes that "such a contraction in output in the first half of 2013 would probably be judged to be a recession."
Second question: If deficit reduction is supposed to be good for the economy, why is the deficit-reducing fiscal cliff so bad?
Over a Barrel
So what happens if nothing is done and, like somebody riding Niagara Falls in a barrel, we go over the "cliff"?
First, taxes go up - for everybody. Even the lower tax brackets would be affected, and the struggling middle class would feel the pinch.
On the spending side, the fiscal restraint deal mandates a number of cuts to non-war-related defense spending. (Quick show of hands: Does anybody really believe that Congress won't pass a law increasing defense spending anyway, or that Democrats won't back it and the President won't sign it? Didn't think so. Me neither.)
There will two percent cuts in Medicare provider payments, which will reduce the number of providers who accept Medicare. That will lead in turn to problems with access to medical care for people with Medicare coverage.Other programs that will be cut include farm prices; other affected programs include student loans, vocational rehabilitation, mineral leasing payments, the Social Services Block Grant, and dozens of smaller programs.
Here are the programs that won't be cut because they've specifically been exempted (thanks to Democrats for at least winning these exemptions): Social Security, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), SNAP (f"food stamps")), child nutrition, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, veterans' compensation and benefits, and federal retirement.
Third question: If Democrats replace a deal that doesn't cut Social Security and these other programs for one that does, why do they think people will celebrate?
The "Long Game" Game
This gets us to what's often called the "long game," that mythical vision of a grand and secret Democratic strategy in which doing a series of bad things will lead to a good outcome.
As the Obama team often does, it's running around these days reinforced the economically misguided rhetoric of the right by boasting that the President has slowed growth more than his Republican and Democratic predecessors did. Take this chart, from the Facebook page of something called the "Obama Truth Team":
That's not something to brag about. Obama increased government spending by an average annual rate of only 1.4 percent, less than the average GDP growth of slightly over 2 percent, during exactly the kind of crisis that calls for more government spending rather than less.
When the President Obama amplifies the anti-government, anti-spending rhetoric of the right, he makes it harder for those around him (and those who will follow him) to press for needed government spending. And he makes urgently-needed government spending much harder to win politically.
The same is true when Dick Gephardt co-authors an editorial with Denny Hastert urging cuts. Or when Sen. Max Baucus talks about his own efforts to craft an austerity deal with Republicans. Or when Bill Clinton attends a misguided "fiscal summit" and parrots the misleading statistics of the Simpson Bowles crowd.
Oh, but don't worry. We've been reassured that all of these Democrats are playing a "long game."
You can't believe in the "long game" unless you're prepared to take several cognitive leaps. They're not easy. First you have to believe that Democrats are powerless, and that they were even powerless when they held the White House, Congress, and a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Or, as Brian Beutler writes in Talking Points Memo, you have to accept what he calls "The simple reality ... that Republicans have agency here."
I call it the "helpless President" syndrome. Democrats may still hold the White House and Senate, but "agency" rests elsewhere. It always does.
Beutler observes that "In the day to day of legislative politics, it's not always apparent that either party believes there's more at stake than simply appeasing interest groups. But if you ask party leaders directly, they're pretty open about their broader visions." To outline that broader vision he links to a December, 2011 interview he conducted with Nancy Pelosi in which she described a strategy that included, in his words, "keeping entitlement programs ring-fenced from the rest of the budget will keep them from becoming susceptible to conservative plans to scale them back or phase them out."
"On a separate table you have entitlements," Beutler quotes Pelosi as saying "If you want to raise the age or this or that, that's always a fight. But whatever it is, the money should stay in Social Security. They want to address Social Security as a way to unravel it."
"We've got to mobilize the 99 percent," Pelosi told Beutler in December. Then in April she reversed herself and endorsed the Simpson Bowles plan. "I felt fully ready to vote for that myself," said Pelosi, "thought it was not even a controversial thing ..."
Good luck mobilizing the 99 percent with that.
Beutler brushes against a more telling point when he says that "there's something deeper going on here, too, and that you can glean most it from the public record. For years and years now, the Democrats have been a much more fiscally responsible party than the Republicans."
That's true, and it's been true since the Clinton Presidency. "Fiscal responsibility" is a euphemism for what used to be called "conservatism" - an ideology which today's conservatives no longer hold. And while there are merits to it as an abstract idea, or as a principle to be applied where appropriate, it's a very bad idea during times of national economic emergency like the ones we're living in now. (See house fire/water analogy, above.)
"Fiscal responsibility" is simply one of several competing values that must be weighed at all times when making public policy.
A better way to describe what's going on with so many Democrats is to say that they've drifted away from their original set of priorities, and have reordered them so that the merits of government expenditure now take a back seat to their "fiscal responsibility." They're not against government programs. In fact, they support many of them. But when push comes to shove, they tend to support "fiscal responsibility" more.
That's a position that's indistinguishable from that of Republicans from Eisenhower to Reagan. But as for the Republicans ...
House of Pain
... They've gone off the deep edge. Their latest gambit says it all: They're refusing to extend lower interest rates for student loans, which will have a devastating impact on young people who are already struggling with enormous college debt and worst job market in recent memory.
Why? Because Republicans say they "need to offset the expense" for it somewhere else.
That's even led to embarrassing puff pieces like this one in Politico, which includes the extraordinary (for its servility) sentence, "Lawmakers want to help. They just don't have the money."
Aw, gosh. Well why don't you borrow it?
The truth is, Republicans are opposed to all government programs. Unlike Eisenhower, Nixon, or Reagan, today's Republicans aren't just reluctant to fund these programs with new taxes. They don't want them to exist at all. That's why they want to cut them so aggressively. The "find the money to pay for it" argument, coupled with a refusal to raise taxes, merely provides a convenient cover for their hostility.
The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire this year, and the Republicans want to give them a new tax cut. That will require a new bill. The Federal deficit will soar if it passes.
Fourth question: Why don't they have to "offset the expense" for that?
Pay Now, Pay Later
But even the Democrats' "fiscal responsibility" is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. The fact that the government is spending less doesn't mean that Americans will be spending less.
We've learned that every time that Federal support to the states has decreased, and state taxes have increased.
We've learned it every time a Federal program like student loans is privatized and the for-profit companies extract more money from Americans' pockets. (To his credit, President Obama fixed that.)
We'll certainly learn it if and when Medicare is capped and seniors have to pay even more out of their own pockets for medical care.
We learned it again just this week, when news stories came out about state plans to make up for lost Federal highway funds, which includes looking for ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they travel.
That's a regressive tax, unlike the progressive Federal taxation system, and it penalizes middle class earners who have to commute to work. (It's also similar to the high-tech system that led to riots in Johannesburg when I was there in March.)
The motorist tax idea is a refresher course in a time-tested principle: Pay now or pay later. In many cases cuts to Federal spending will lead to increased costs for Americans elsewhere. They give Washington politicians the chance to brag, pose for photographs, and please donors. But the public pays the bill in the end.
The fiscal policy these Democrats have embraced is absolute madness, especially at this moment in history. Consider this:
Right now international markets are - literally - paying the United States government for borrowing money. The government is, in effect, receiving interest for its loans instead of paying it.
We'll have to rebuild our infrastructure someday. When everything starts collapsing - even more than it is right now - that kind of deal may not be available.
Build, Cut, Teach
What else should we be doing besides rebuilding our country's crumbling physical plant?
We need to cut the military - not just slow the rate of increased spending, as the Obama budget does, but decrease it in hard-dollar terms. That'a money we really can't afford. We can't afford to lose our young troops to injury and death in unnecessary wars, either.
We need to fix our health care system - really fix it. Because you know what we really can't afford? We can't afford to let our runaway for-profit healthcare system force us to pay so much more than other industrialized countries are paying, for worse outcomes and with a much higher rate of inflation. That means real negotiation on drug prices, eliminating greed in billing and overtreatment, and building a public insurance system that's available to everyone.
We need to teach our kids. We need to fully fund education, preschool through grade twelve, and we need to make college affordable again. That means re-financing the public university system and making sure that low-cost loans are available to every student that needs one.
Tax the Rich, Increase Social Security
The richest people in this country have enjoyed an unprecedented run of income appropriation, capturing more of this nation's income than at any time in modern history.
They've lived like kings, queens, Pharoahs, and pashas. They'll still live that way, even when they're paying Nixon-era rates of fifty to seventy percent on the highest levels of income (in the multi-million dollar range).
And we need to increase Social Security, not cut it. Its benefits have not been keeping up with the real increases in living costs faced by seniors and the disabled. That needs to be rectified. And since Wall Street and other cop orate greed has damaged our destroyed the other two legs of the retirement "stool" - real estate and pensions - Social Security has become even more important.
Social Security's benefits should be increased, the payroll tax cap should immediately be readjusted to cover 95 or 100 percent of income, and additional benefit increases could be subsidized with a financial transaction tax that would also discourage a little bit of that reckless Wall Street gambling.
So now what?
Where are the political leaders who will argue for these things? The Democratic Party's been an uncertain trumpet for a long time, but it has gone almost completely silent.
Who will fight for these simple, popular, and fair ideas? And what do we do about those Democrats in Washington? If the Republicans get into power they'll wreak unthinkable havoc on an already-damaged nation. But merely re-electing the same old Democratic crowd isn't going to be enough. We'll need a strategy - one that thinks beyond merely voting for Democrats, one that envisions a bolder movement that isn't tied to a party or ideology.
In other words, yes: We do need a Tea Party of the left.
The left's strategy is the subject of heated debate right now, of course, which allows me an opportunity to introduce a shameless but entirely appropriate plug for the American Dream conference next week (June 18-20) in Washington DC. I'll be there, on a panel with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Heather McGhee of Demos, and MSNBC's Alex Wagner. Paul Krugman will be there too. And Katrina Vanden Heuvel and ... well, and a lot of folks, debating exactly these sorts of issues.
The debates won't just be on the stages, either. There will be fierce arguments, as well as the kind of exchanges I like to think of as "being in heated agreement," in the hallways and around the snack tables.
We need a lot more meetings like this one. The Occupy movement has been a great shot in the arm for the economic justice movement. But it's time to take it to the next level.
One thing's for sure: We can't depend on the Democrats or anyone else to do it for us. Their "long game" is taking way too long:
It's too long for the Americans who have been out of work for three years. It's too long for the youth of America, another wave of whom are entering the worst job market in recent memory this month. It's too long for the generations, young and old, who are long on debt and short on hope.
The real struggle isn't between the "fiscal cliff" and radical Republicans up against some self-sacrificing (well, you-sacrificing) Democratic leaders (we'll also give a shout out to some of the great Democrats out there, too). The real struggle is between two visions of our country: One is pragmatic, optimistic, and time-tested over the last 75 years. The other was forged in corporate-funded think tanks and is based on the sacrifice of both time-tested principles and sound economic thinking, by those who would surrender to corporate power and the radical Right.
That's the real budget battle, and it's been decades in the making. That's your "long game" for you. You want a better one? Start it yourself."
"The Fiscal Cliff Is an Artificial Crisis"
Monday, 26 November 2012 10:53
By Paul Jay, The Real News Network
Michael Hudson: Fiscal cliff was manufactured to shift more of the burden of the crisis onto ordinary people.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Just before we get started on this segment of our new show, please know we're in the midst of our fundraising campaign for 2012. We have a $100,000 matching grant. Every dollar you donate gets doubled up until we reach $100,000—or I guess it's till we reach $200,000. At any rate, there's a Donate button over here. If you click it, you'll be doubled. That means we can do The Real News in 2013.
Now we are going to begin. And we are told that we're about to go over the cliff, a fiscal cliff, and we need to have massive reform to entitlement programs, Social Security, and others. Now joining us to discuss the crisis (we are told) is Michael Hudson. Michael was a Wall Street financial analyst and is now a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. His new book is The Bubble and Beyond. Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL HUDSON, RESEARCH PROF., UMKC: Thank you very much, Paul.
JAY: So are we going off the cliff?
HUDSON: Well, there isn't any cliff to go off, but for people who believe that a crisis is an opportunity, in order to get the opportunity to shift the taxes more onto the middle class, they have to call it a crisis. Of course, there's no crisis at all.
JAY: Okay. Well, they say there is, 'cause they say there's going to be these automatic massive cuts to the military and there's going to be these massive cuts to social programs and such. And so what is the reality of that?
HUDSON: Well, because of the way that Mr. Obama worked with the Republicans to negotiate a crisis preplanned in advance, yes, indeed, by the end of the year there would be a reversal of the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans. There would be, ostensibly, a cutback. That would last, I think, about one day, from December 31 to the time the new Congress meets. So they'd hardly skip a beat before they then set to making whatever the new deal would be.
The whole idea is to make it appear as if there's a crisis, to make it appear as if Obama has to give in to the Republicans to essentially become what Mitt Romney would have become if he would have been elected. So Obama's playing the role of Romney lite in saying, we've got to cut taxes on the rich, and the only way we can balance the budget if we give it to my campaign contributors, Wall Street, is to shift the taxes much more onto the working class. We have to take more out of their paycheques on the FICA withholding, and we have to raise the retirement age and cut the benefits to Social Security.
So what he's saying is we've given $13 trillion of new debt in giveaway to the banks since September 2008, but we can't create a single penny to reimburse the Social Security contributors for the money that they have actually contributed. We can only create fictitious money for our campaign contributors, not the voters.
JAY: Okay. So explain that a little more, 'cause that's such an important point, that if in fact Social Security is in some kind of mod which some are claiming is unsustainable, a lot of that has to do with the money that was taken out of it not to give people Social Security.
HUDSON: Well, here's the question of what does it mean to be sustainable. How were we able to fight World War II or the $3 trillion Iraq War without taxing? The answer is the Federal Reserve simply creates the money.
Now, right now the Social Security Administration has saved an enormous amount and—of extra, withholding from paycheques over and above what was needed to pay out Social Security. And this money was used, essentially, as tax cuts for the rich. So by taxing the wage earners more, President George Bush was able to slash—and before him Clinton, and before him his father, were able to slash tax rates for the higher tax brackets.
And essentially what people call the Social Security fund is really a tax shift. You don't want to call it a tax on the poor, but it's not for Social Security. Not a penny of that has been spent on Social Security. Every single penny of the Social Security Trust Fund has been collected extra [incompr.] as a tax that falls on wage earners that are higher than the taxes that the wealthiest people paid, higher than the tax that George Romney pays [sic], higher than the tax that Warren Buffett pays. And all this—as George W. Bush said, you know, the Social Security Trust Fund really doesn't exist at all. It's just an IOU. And these funds are nonmarketable Treasury securities.
And as people begin to retire and run down the fund, what happens is the Treasury simply spends down its balance at the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve does exactly what it did when it took on the $13 trillion bailout of Wall Street. It just prints the money. There's no need to tax the money to pay Social Security. The government simply spends it into the economy. That's what central banks do. That's what the Bank of England does. It's what the Federal Reserve does. So why is it that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury can create all this money to pay Wall Street, and they can't create a penny for Social Security?
JAY: So what's the real objective here?
HUDSON: It's almost comical.
JAY: So what's the real objective in Social Security reform? 'Cause there's obvious other ways to be cutting the debt if cutting the debt is such a big deal. But the targeting of Social Security—what's the real objective here?
HUDSON: It's to put the class war back in business. It's to essentially say, well, we only want to spend money on the 1 percent; we don't want to spend any money on the 99 percent. The 99 percent's role is to pay taxes; the 1 percent's role is to get these taxes in the form of bailouts, subsidies, special spending like rebuilding all of the beach homes and rebuilding all of the private beaches in New Jersey—not the public beaches, but the private beaches and the private homes and, essentially, the 1 percent. It's a giveaway.
JAY: But part of the issue here seems to be, from the Republicans, the push to privatize. And there are now some Democrats that are apparently making similar murmurs about sort of privatizing light and that. What's behind this move to privatize?
HUDSON: The idea is the same one that had pension capital—pension fund capitalism in the 1950s. From the time that General Motors started its pension funds, there's been a tidal wave of pension fund contributions into the stock market. That created a stock market boom in the '50s, in the '60s, into the '70s. And I discuss that in my book The Bubble and Beyond.
But now the pension funds are all being downsized. How are you going to create a pension fund, a stock market boom? The idea of privatizing Social Security is to give Wall Street the biggest clientele that it's got in history. It will be the biggest giveaway in history to Wall Street.
And not only will they push this money into the stock market while more people are paying in, pushing into a stock market boom, but at the same time, the Wall Street banks like Citicorp and Bank of America can treat its customers like counterparties. They can gouge them on fees. They can then stick them into stocks that they then all of a sudden—the day will come when more people begin to retire than pay into the plan, and at that point, the stock markets are going to begin to go down. Then all of a sudden the Wall Street speculators can dump the stocks, pull their money out, and leave the Social Security retirees holding an empty bag, and the government'll say, well, that's the madness of crowds.
And it's not the madness of crowds. It's a Wall Street scam. And that scam has been put in place by an enormously well subsidized propaganda campaign to convince people that it's necessary for them to become suckers for the Wall Street money managers.
JAY: Now, is there any sense or evidence that Obama or Biden are going to compromise with this? In the election campaign, I thought they were both pretty clear they're against the voucher system, which is sort of the form or model of privatization that the Republicans are advocating.
HUDSON: I think the voucher system you're talking about is for Medicare and for Medicaid, not Social Security. So what are we talking about now? Social Security [crosstalk]
JAY: Yes, I'm sorry. Not voucher, but to create Social Security as a private fund that people can invest. And I thought Obama and Biden said they would not support that.
HUDSON: Yeah, I think that's correct. This is a Republican plan. I don't think it's the Democratic plan to support privatization. When the Republicans say look at Chile, that's a wonderful thing to do. Every single pension plan put in by Pinochet's party at gunpoint in the 1970s, every one was looted by the employers and by the banks and went bankrupt by the end of the 1970s. That's why the Chilean voters threw out the party and voted for the socialists, who were against doing this. So all you have to do is look at Chile.
But of course the Republicans are looking at Chile and say, my god, we can put all of the private money into the pension funds to be Social Security funds to be invested, and then we can steal it all, we can steal trillions of dollars, we can get richer than we've ever dreamed of if we can only have the right to steal. And that's what this is. The—what the—talking about Social Security reform is theft, and that's what it should be called, theft.
JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Michael.
HUDSON: Thank you very much.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
It seems that Ms. Marie Antionette was oblivious to the poverty of the people of France prior to the French Revolution as modern day Goldman Sachs CEO LLoyd Blankfein is of the suffering of the U.S. people. He claims that while he is willing to have a small fraction of his massive wealth taxed the people of the U.S. must sacrifice their programs of survival; social security, medicaid, medicare and others.
When it was revealed that his corporation's actions helped create the current near depression, Mr. Blankfein simply shrugged.
"Let them eat cake?"
"Case in point: Lloyd Blankfein. The Cephalopod-In-Chief of Goldman Sachs, sounded off on the fiscal cliff in an entirely reasonable-seeming way, after a meeting with President Obama on Wednesday. Sure, he said, OK, he could accept higher marginal tax rates for wealthy people like himself.
“I would prefer as low of a marginal rate as possible because it’s the marginal rate that provides the incentive to do incremental work by people," he told CNBC, cable TV's go-to channel for fiscal-cliff panic, "but I’m not dogmatic — I wouldn’t go to the end for that."
Unlike some other Wall Street CEOs we could mention, Blankfein seems like a relatively humble and reasonable guy, considering. Which makes it more painful to point out that he, too, is a hypocrite with terrible ideas.
First, the hypocrisy: While nobly calling for shared sacrifice, Blankfein is also a member, with a bunch of other CEOS, of a traveling grifter circus known as "Fix The Debt." This is a group of CEOs, partially bankrolled by eternal deficit scold Pete Peterson, who say the only way to address our grave fiscal crisis is to slash corporate tax rates and encourage poors and olds to get over their irrational aversion to dumpster-diving.
Like most large companies in the U.S., Goldman Sachs already pays far less than the current 35 percent corporate tax rate that it nevertheless wants to lower. Between 2008 and 2010, Goldman received nearly $3.2 billion in tax breaks, making it the ninth-largest recipient of such breaks among 280 companies studied recently by the nonprofit group Citizens for Tax Justice. During that time, Goldman paid an effective tax rate of just 20.8 percent. That is less than the average tax rate paid by individual millionaires in 2010, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Altogether, the 280 companies surveyed by the CTJ paid an average tax rate of 18.5 percent between 2008 and 2010, for a total tax savings of nearly $223 billion over what they would have paid if they had really been taxed at 35 percent.
Blankfein and other "Fix the Debt" CEOs are also asking for another tax break on their foreign profits held offshore. A recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies found the 63 "Fix the Debt" companies stood to save another $134 billion in taxes this way, notes George Zornick at The Nation.
So you can kind of see why Blankfein might be at peace with the idea of his own personal income tax rate going up a little bit. As long as his company's tax rate stays low, or gets lower, it will be more profitable, and he'll get paid more.
As for Blankfein's terrible ideas, he said this to CNBC:
“Look, at the end of the day, the most important value is to get the economy moving forward," Blankfein said. "That’s not going to happen if our budget deficit keeps widening.”
Wrong answer. In fact, the very "fiscal cliff" panic Blankfein, CNBC, etc., have been fomenting lo these many weeks centers around the idea that a sudden narrowing of our budget deficit is going to slam the brakes on the economy.
If Blankfein really cared about the economy, which is still staggering along in the wake of the financial crisis that Goldman Sachs helped create, he would call for us to widen the deficit immediately with more stimulus and worry about narrowing it when things got better. There has almost literally never been a better time for the U.S. government to borrow money, and stronger economic growth will help raise more revenue and close the deficit.
Goldman, or at least its economics department, does get some credit for being one of the few players in this suicidal psychodrama to point out that we desperately need to renew the payroll-tax cuts expiring next year. Too bad the C-suite's not on the same page."
Before anyone loses thier head(s), maybe we should revist the words of our old friend Mr. MAXIMILIEN ROBESPIERRE;
"THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF TERROR
SPEECH TO THE CONVENTION, FEBRUARY 5, 1794
Citizen-representatives of the people.
Some time ago we set forth the principles of our foreign policy; today we come to expound the principles of our internal policy.
After having proceeded haphazardly for a long time, swept along by the movement of opposing factions, the representatives of the French people have finally demonstrated a character and a government. A sudden change in the nation's fortune announced to Europe the regeneration that had been effected in the national representation. But up to the very moment when I am speaking, it must be agreed that we have been guided, amid such stormy circumstances, by the love of good and by the awareness of our country's needs rather than by an exact theory and by precise rules of conduct, which we did not have even leisure enough to lay out
It is time to mark clearly the goal of the revolution, and the end we want to reach; it is time for us to take account both of the obstacles that still keep us from it, and of the means we ought to adopt to attain it: a simple and important idea which seems never to have been noticed. . . .
For ourselves, we come today to make the world privy to your political secrets, so that all our country's friends can rally to the voice of reason and the public interest; so that the French nation and its representatives will be respected in all the countries of the world where the knowledge of their real principles can penetrate; so that the intriguers who seek always to replace other intriguers will be judged by sure and easy rules.
We must take far-sighted precautions to return the destiny of liberty into the hands of the truth, which is eternal, rather than into those of men, who are transitory, so that if the government forgets the interests of the people, or if it lapses into the hands of the corrupt individuals, according to the natural course of things, the light of recognized principles will illuminate their treachery, and so that every new faction will discover death in the mere thought of crime. . . .
What is the goal toward which we are heading? The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice whose laws have been inscribed, not in marble and stone, but in the hearts of all men, even in that of the slave who forgets them and in that of the tyrant who denies them.
We seek an order of things in which all the base and cruel passions are enchained, all the beneficent and generous passions are awakened by the laws; where ambition becomes the desire to merit glory and to serve our country; where distinctions are born only of equality itself; where the citizen is subject to the magistrate, the magistrate to the people, and the people to justice; where our country assures the well-being of each individual, and where each individual proudly enjoys our country's prosperity and glory; where every soul grows greater through the continual flow of republican sentiments, and by the need of deserving the esteem of a great people; where the arts are the adornments of the liberty which ennobles them and commerce the source of public wealth rather than solely the monstrous opulence of a few families.
In our land we want to substitute morality for egotism, integrity for formal codes of honor, principles for customs, a sense of duty for one of mere propriety, the rule of reason for the tyranny of fashion, scorn of vice of scorn of the unlucky, self-respect for insolence, grandeur of soul over vanity, love of glory for the love of money, good people in place of good society. We wish to substitute merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glamour, the charm of happiness for sensuous boredom, the greatness of man for the pettiness of the great, a people who are magnanimous, powerful, and happy, in place of a kindly, frivolous, and miserable people - which is to say all the virtues and all the miracles of the republic in place of all the vices and all the absurdities of the monarchy.
We want, in a word, to fulfill natures's desires, accomplish the destiny of humanity, keep the promises of philosophy, absolve providence from the long reign of crime and tyranny. Let France, formerly illustrious among the enslaved lands, eclipsing the glory of all the free peoples who have existed, become the model for the nations, the terror of oppressors, the consolation of the oppressed the ornament of the world - and let us, in sealing our work with our blood, see at least the early dawn of the universal bliss -that is our ambition, that is our goal.
What kind of government can realize these wonders? Only a democratic or republican government - these two words are synonyms, despite the abuses in common speech, because an aristocracy is no closer than a monarchy to being a republic. . . .
Democracy is a state in which the sovereign people, guided by laws which are of their own making, do for themselves all that they can do well, and by their delegates do all that they cannot do for themselves. . . .
Now, what is the fundamental principle of popular or democratic government, that is to say, the essential mainspring which sustains it and makes it move? It is virtue. I speak of the public virtue which worked so many wonders in Greece and Rome and which ought to produce even more astonishing things in republican France - that virtue which is nothing other than the love of the nation and its law.
But as the essence of the republic or of democracy is equality, it follows that love of country necessarily embraces the love of equality. . . .
But the French are the first people of the world who have established real democracy, by calling all men to equality and full rights of citizenship; and there, in my judgment, is the true reason why all the tyrants in league against the Republic will be vanquished.
There are important consequences to be drawn immediately from the principles we have just explained.
Since the soul of the Republic is virtue, equality, and since your goal is to found, to consolidate the Republic, it follows that the first rule of your political conduct ought to be to relate all your efforts to maintaining equality and developing virtue; because the first care of the legislator ought to be to fortify the principle of the government. This everything that tends to excite love of country, to purify morals, to elevate souls, to direct the passions of the human heart toward the public interest, ought to be adopted or established by you. Everything which tends to concentrate them in the abjection of selfishness, to awaken enjoyment for petty things and scorn for great ones, ought to be rejected or curbed by you. Within the scheme of the French revolution, that which is immoral is impolitic, that which is corrupting is counter-revolutionary. Weakness, vice, and prejudices are the road to royalty. . . .
We deduce from all this a great truth - that the characteristic of popular government is to be trustful towards the people and severe towards itself.
Here the development of our theory would reach its limit, if you had only to steer the ship of the Republic through calm waters. But the tempest rages, and the state of the revolution in which you find yourselves imposes upon you another task. . . .
We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with them. Now, in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by terror.
If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, amid revolution it is at the same time [both] virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue. It is less a special principle than a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most pressing needs.
It has been said that terror was the mainspring of despotic government. Does your government, then, resemble a despotism? Yes, as the sword which glitters in the hands of liberty's heroes resembles the one with which tyranny's lackeys are armed. Let the despot govern his brutalized subjects by terror; he is right to do this, as a despot. Subdue liberty's enemies by terror, and you will be right, as founders of the Republic. The government of the revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny. Is force made only to protect crime? And is it not to strike the heads of the proud that lightning is destined? . . .
To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to pardon them is barbarity. The rigor of tyrants has only rigor for a principle; the rigor of the republican government comes from charity.
Therefore, woe to those who would dare to turn against the people the terror which ought to be felt only by its enemies! Woe to those who, confusing the inevitable errors of civic conduct with the calculated errors of perfidy, or with conspirators' criminal attempts, leave the dangerous schemer to pursue the peaceful citizen! Perish the scoundrel who ventures to abuse the sacred name of liberty, or the redoubtable arms which liberty has entrusted to him, in order to bring mourning or death into patriots' hearts! This abuse has existed, one cannot doubt it. It has been exaggerated, no doubt, by the aristocracy. But if in all the Republic there existed only one virtuous man persecuted by the enemies of liberty, the government's duty would be to seek him out vigorously and give him a dazzling revenge. . . .
How frivolous it would be to regard a few victories achieved by patriotism as the end of all our dangers. Glance over our true situation. You will become aware that vigilance and energy are more necessary for you than ever. An unresponding ill-will everywhere opposes the operations of the government. The inevitable influence of foreign courts is no less active for being more hidden, and no less baneful. One senses that crime, frightened, has only covered its tracks with greater skill. . . .
You could never have imagined some of the excesses committed by hypocritical counter-revolutionaries in order to blight the cause of the revolution. Would you believe that in the regions where superstition has held the greatest sway, the counter-revolutionaries are not content with burdening religious observances under all the forms that could render them odious, but have spread terror among the people by sowing the rumor that all children under ten and all old men over seventy are going to be killed? This rumor was spread particularly through the former province of Brittany and in the departements of the Rhine and the Moselle. It is one of the crimes imputed to [Schneider] the former public prosecutor of the criminal court of Strasbourg. That man's tyrannical follies make everything that has been said of Caligula and Heliogabalus [cruel Roman emperors] credible; one can scarcely believe it, despite the evidence. He pushed his delirium to the point of commandeering women for his own use - we are told that he even employed that method in selecting a wife. Whence came this sudden swarm of foreigners, priests, noble, intriguer of all kinds, which at the same instant spread over the length and breadth of the Republic, seeking to execute, in the name of philosophy, a plan of counter-revolution which has only been stopped by the force of public reason? Execrable conception, worthy of the genius of foreign courts leagued against liberty, and of the corruption of all the internal enemies of the Republic! . . .
In deceitful hands all the remedies for our ills turn into poisons. Everything you can do, everything you can say, they will turn against you, even the truths which we come here to present this very day. . . .
Such an internal situation ought to seem to you worthy of all your attention, above all if you reflect that at the same time you have the tyrants of Europe to combat, a million and two hundred thousand men under arms to maintain, and that the government is obliged continually to repair, with energy and vigilance, all the injuries which the innumerable multitude of our enemies has prepared for us during the course of five years.
What is the remedy for all these evils? We know no other than the development of that general motive force of the Republic - virtue.
Democracy perishes by two kinds of excess: either the aristocracy of those who govern, or else the popular scorn for the authorities whom the people themselves have established, scorn which makes each clique, each individual take unto himself the public power and bring the people through excessive disorders, to annihilation or to the power of one man.
The double task of the moderates and the false revolutionaries is to toss us back and forth perpetually between these two perils.
But the people's representatives can avoid them both, because government is always the master at being just and wise; and, when it has that character, it is sure of the confidence of the people.
It is indeed true that the goal of all our enemies is to dissolve the Convention. It is true that the tyrant of Great Britain and his allies promise their parliament and subjects that they will deprive you of your energy and of the public confidence which you have merited; that is the fist instruction for all their agents. . . .
We are beginning a solemn debate upon all the objects of its [the Convention's] anxiety, and everything that can influence the progress of the revolution. We adjure it not to permit any particular hidden interest to usurp ascendancy here over the general will of the assembly and the indestructible power of reason."
Certainly there is room for Mr. Lloyd Blankfein at our upcoming basement party where he can eat as much cake as he can handle until his ransom shows up!!