Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Common Man News 4/2009

News for the common man because the elite already know!



Swine flu, pigs and profits

Spanish judge starts Guantanamo torture probe

US to Take Majority GM Stake

Detainees Can Pursue Suit Against CIA

Washington’s concerns grow amid Iraqi anger over US raid

Contract betrayal will give UAW majority ownership in Chrysler

Imagine a World Without Seafood for Supper -- It's Nearer Than You Think

Obama's 100 Days -- The Mad Men Did Well

Waterboarding the Rule of Law

The criminalization of journalism

Involuntary quarantine an option if swine flu explodes into epidemic


Many SOA Grads Become Latin Death Squad Killers

Hungry and Without Options in New York

Further evidence of huge Iraqi death toll

Europe faces ever deepening recession

Wall Street pay back to pre-crash levels

Pentagon Prepared for Flu Outbreak

US military 'posturing itself' to respond to flu outbreak

Hospitals Cutting Services, Staff Amid Recession

Union Activist Appointed to Labor Department

Iraq swimming in blood once again

LA settles May Day clash lawsuits


The Pentagon's Cyber Command: Formidable Infrastructure arrayed against the American People

New York man receives 6-year “terror” sentence for Hezbollah TV broadcasts

US jobless claims soar, home sales decline

4 more banks fail, lifting this year's tally to 29

ACLU: US Attorney used GPS to track cell phones

Obama Rejects Truth Panel

New York makes students pay for budget crisis

As watchdog warns of bailout fraud Obama meets with bank, credit card executives

Chrysler Financial executives refused loans to avoid compensation caps

Chrysler could file for bankruptcy as early as this week

IMF issues grim forecasts for 2009

Right-wing threatens Obama over torture charges

US Cities Increasing Use of Armed Mercenaries to Replace Police

Foreclosures Take Health Along With Homes

Bank of America Pressured to Complete Merger With Merrill Lynch

FEMA: National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09)

US may drop AIPAC staffers espionage case

Nobel laureate accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing'

Norway lawyers to charge Olmert with war crimes

German “bad banks” plan to boost financial profits

BBC bows once again before the pro-Israel lobby

Bush, top cabinet officials monitored torture of detainees

The "New Great Game" in Eurasia is being fought in its "Buffer Zones"

How Bush's Torture Helped al-Qaeda

Obama: Beyond Savior or Trickster


What the New York Times unwittingly reveals about the war in Afghanistan

Torture memos provoke deepening political crisis

Democratic defender of NSA spying was wiretapped in Israeli spy probe

Obama Proposes $100 Billion Loan for IMF

Meltdown losses of '$4 trillion'

UK retail inflation turns negative

Big banks have a big credit problem

The Pulitzer-Winning Investigation That Dare Not Be Uttered on TV

Stock Market Bulls Have Got it Wrong, Warns Nouriel Roubini

The Housing Bust Takes Center-stage

When Fascism Came to America

How Can You Trust the Cowardly BBC?

Obama Stands Nuremberg on Its Head

Thievery Under the TARP

Fort Detrick disease samples may be missing

Strip-Searching Students Illegal? Supreme Court Not So Sure

Bush-Era Rule Grants FBI Unprecedented Investigative

Cable Giants Continue Hoping No One Will Notice Their Attempts to Destroy the Internet

Barack Obama, Torture, and Habeas Corpus: Unsurprised but Shocked

Housing Bubble Smackdown: Bigger Crash Ahead


Chrysler Turned Down Government Loan Over Limits on Executive Pay

Obama's Real Plan in Latin America

General Motors accelerates job cuts as bankruptcy deadline approaches

Obama reassures CIA no prosecutions planned

Obama’s adviser in Trinidad: the real face of ‘change’

Americas Summit ends with no agreement on economic crisis

Fortune 500: Exxon Mobil back on top

'Superweed' explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands

Shortages of ammo and gun accessories cropping up nationwide

Obama Urges C.I.A. Not to Be Discouraged by Torture Memos

The economics, and politics, of auto workers' wages


Predators starve as we plunder oceans

Members of Congress Working to Curtail Powers of Patriot Act

Tons of Released Drugs Taint US Water

White House bars prosecution of Bush officials who authorized torture

San Diego imposes drastic cuts on city workers

New NSA domestic spying exposed as Obama stonewalls court challenges

Head of Obama’s auto task force linked to investment fraud

Torture memos reveal brutality of US imperialism

China buys less U.S. debt as reserve growth slows

The Real Story Behind "Tent City" -- and How the Media Get It Wrong

FBI and States Vastly Expand DNA Databases

CIA fears torture prosecutions

Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care

Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a Global Currency

"More Were Wiretapped Than We've Been Led to Believe": FBI Whistleblower

Employee Free Choice Act: Questions and Answers

Black Liquor Tax Boondoggle May Net Billions for Papermakers

NC unemployment hits new record 10.8%

Calif. unemployment surges to record 11.2%

US regulators close American Sterling Bank, 24th of year

Police delete London tourists' photos 'to prevent terrorism'

Canada: In Service To The Pentagon And NATO At Home And Abroad


Surge in foreclosures, production cuts signal deepening slump in US

Obama at the Americas summit: A bid to revive US hegemony

Obama exonerates CIA torturers

Delusions of Omnipotence

Union wins contract with Wal-Mart

Figures show crisis is global & worsening

Public Outrage Over Bank of America's Practices Heats Up

Making Rainwater Harvesting Illegal

10 Horrifying Excerpts From the Just-Released CIA Torture Memos

Md. Guard Issues Warning to Staff about Local TEA Party Protesters

Low-Path Bird Flu Confirmed in Kentucky

Maryland Inmates Might Become Crab Pickers

Obama Protecting Bush from Spain?

The Year of Cockeyed Optimism

Ethiopia / USA / Somali Pirates' Cover-Up

Officials Say US Wiretaps Exceeded Law

Bush's Hypocrisy on War Crimes


A Fight Rages Over a Tool Called "Cram Down"

Iraq Study: Executions Are Leading Cause of Death

Spanish attorney general: No torture probe of 'Bush 6'

Obama administration likely to redact Bush torture memos

NSA spied on member of Congress; broke new laws, targeted Americans

As Obama pledges more bailouts, US banks step up home foreclosures

Obama and the pirates: the glorification of state violence

The Student Loan Industry Pushes Back

NRC Says It Can't Ban Importation of Nuclear Waste

Administration Debates Release of New Torture Details


The Corporatization of Public Education

US economy goes back to 1955 as deflation returns

New wave of job losses feared across Europe

Obama administration issues warning over right-wing extremists

Aid Rots Outside Gaza

Wall Street Sharks Circle the UAW

US Has Won a Huge Victory

Taxing Matters

State budget cuts in US produce widespread suffering

Obama pledges more bank bailouts, cuts in social programs

More Americans wary of U.S. tax man this year

Stores suffer big drop in March sales

Obama's Windfall Taxes Shift: First Broken Promise

America's 20% Unemployment Rate

911 A Fait Accompli – Pay Attention to Political Science!

9/11 Thermite

It's Back To Colonial Warfare

Differing Views of the "Rule of Law" in Spain and the U.S.

The Bush Six to Be Indicted

Israel’s Racist in Chief

Endgame for Gramm?

Tax Day: You Pay Your Taxes -- Why Don't the Rich Pay Their Share?

Panetta's Defense of CIA Interrogators Undercut by New DoJ Disclosures

S.E.C. to Review Whether Bank of America Broke the Law

Vatican vetoes Barack Obama's nominees for US ambassador

They've got your number

Dream job: $21.5M - to do nothing at all!

US vying to 'hand-pick' Afghan president


Department of Homeland Security Document Predicts Violence in Response to New Gun Restrictions

Homeland Security on guard for 'right-wing extremists'

War, Oil and Gas Pipelines: Turkey is Washington’s Geopolitical Pivot

White House pushing GM toward bankruptcy

Obama moves to block court access for detainees in Afghanistan

Biden And Nixon: A Tale Of Two Latin American Experiences


Fending Off the Mortgage Industry

Indictment of Bush Officials May Come in Days

Russia test-fires intercontinental missile

Colombian Fact-Finding Mission "Shocked"

Banks accused of profiteering as they triple mortgage margins

Bailed-out banks face probe over fee hikes

Obama Administration Endorses Continued Spying on Americans

New York police attack protesting New School students

Pentagon holds war game simulating world financial crisis

Auto workers’ jobs & pensions threatened

Wage-freeze protest shuts Greece down

France: Workers seize bosses to save jobs

A Solar Revolution May Be Coming to Your Town

Fair Elections Now (Or a Donor Strike?)

Is Gates Channeling Cheney on Iraq with "Last Gasp" Remark?


Nato 60th summit in Strasbourg marred by street battles and arson

The Great Geithner Coverup

Federal Reserve tells banks to not reveal results of 'stress test'

Virginia Fusion Center Releases “Homegrown Terrorism” Document

Inventing the Terrorist Threat

The Economic Crisis: No, this will not be a Normal Cyclical Recovery

Who is behind Moldova's Twitter Revolution?

Israeli Scholar Disputes Founding Myth

Letter to Obama: Revive Lincoln's Monetary Policy

Should Obama Control the Internet?

You are being lied to about pirates

U.S. shipped 989 munitions containers to Israel week before Gaza invasion


Mass layoffs threaten New York state and city employees

Obama seeks $83.4 billion to continue US wars

The Obama administration and torture

Banks aren't reselling many foreclosed homes

Social Security's Surplus Disappearing Fast in Downturn

No credible evidence of Al Qaeda presence in Pakistan, says FO

$75 Billion More in War Spending?

CIA Videos Predated Bush Memo

Food Industry Is Pursuing Big Tobacco's Strategy

How the Toxic Asset Plan Will Magically Make Your Money Disappear

Cape Fear Bank of Wilmington, N.C. fails; 22nd of year

US budget deficit hits one trillion dollars in first half of 2009

Many of the Jobless Get No Unemployment Benefits

Free Clinics Flooded With Newly Uninsured Patients

America's 20 Percent Unemployment Rate

Crimes That Deserve Punishment

Anti-Empire Report by Bill Blum

Appomattox Again


More Squatters Are Calling Foreclosures Home

US Citizens Caught Up in Immigration Sweeps

Getting a Death Grip on Memory

Obama 'absolutely' supports move to dismiss wiretapping suit

The banks are too powerful and they are ruining the rescue plan

Moody's Downgrades The Whole Country

Traces of explosives in 9/11 dust, scientists say

Hijacking of US ship raises threat of intervention in Somalia

Supreme Court limits right of union workers to sue for discrimination

G8 document on world hunger warns of global instability

Economic decline deepens in Europe, with German exports in free fall

The looting of America

U.S. planes with Israeli pilots bombed Sudan

Workers lose jobs

The Time to Protest Is Now! Rally to Break Up the Banks

Lawsuit Alleges Firms Sold Iraq Chemical Weapons

A System From Hell

Living Large and in Charge

'Holy Hell' Over Torture Memos

Halliburton: $150m Bribe 'Traced to Zurich'

Ex-CIA operative tied to Cuba bombings: jury

'Will you open fire on UK citizens' Army personnel being asked

Dutch TV show exonerates Osama bin Laden

Quiet Push to Recognize Suffrage Site

On Anniversary of Saddam's Fall, Iraqi Protesters Vent Against US

The Drugs of Capitalism


Eurasian Crossroads: The Caucasus In US-NATO War Plans

Goodbye GWOT, Hello OCOs

CIA director providing cover for advisers complicit in agency torture: report

Murder Trumps Torture Says Bugliosi

Jury finds Colorado professor was fired for political views, wins wrongful termination suit

Red Cross report details CIA war crimes

Pentagon budget envisions a series of Iraq-style wars

The UAW’s silence

Herbs Declared "Hazardous" in Thailand to Protect Pesticide Profits

Fed sees economy sliding further

"I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD"

Congress Pushing Covert Bailout to Save Big Finance and Screw Homeowners

Congressional Panel Suggests Firing Managers, Liquidating Banks

Picketers hit Bank of America

Youths rally at banks, legislature

Angry protests target Wall Street


Americans Feel 15.6% Unemployment as Underemployment Surges

Cities Collapsing throughout the USA

21st Century Internment Camps: Disaster relief or civil rights disaster?

The War on Yugoslavia, 10 Years Later

US expands war into Pakistan

Obama stages surprise visit amid renewed bloodshed in Iraq

American Sovereignty Shredded At G-20 Summit - Health Freedom & All Freedoms Jeopardized

U.S. Muslims Still Under Siege

The Business of War

Suicide Spike for U.S. Soldiers

Bernanke's Financial Rescue Plan: The growing prospect of a U.S. default

Geithner Bank Plan Faces New Wave Of Criticism

Democrats and War Escalation

How Toxic Burn Pits Are Making US Troops Sick

Schwarzenegger Official Tries to "Snow" Public With Drought Claims


House Preparing To Legalize Payday Loans With 391% APRs

Estimated U.S. taxpayer cost for bailout jumps

Russian confirms Korea satellite launch, urges restraint

How Freedom Was Lost

The Glide-path to Destitution

Filling the Skies with Assassins

Report Calls CIA Detainee Treatment "Inhuman"

Obama pursues US strategic interests in Turkey

Supreme Court rejects appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal for new trial

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac executives to receive millions in bonuses

The mass shootings in America

Rapid Economic Contraction May Lead to New Wars and Radicalized Politics

Price Gouging for Internet Use: Coming To a Town Near You?

Spain Investigates What America Should

Another Bush Intelligence Failure

The Geithner-Summers Plan is Even Worse Than We Thought


Resist or Become Serfs

$500K homes now selling for $200,000

Obama moves to block challenge to wiretapping program

The Financial New World Order: Towards a Global Currency and World Government

NATO backs US escalation of war in Central Asia

Obama's Wall Street cabinet

Syria Calling

US watchdog calls for bank executives to be sacked

Geithner Says US Jobless Rate Likely to Climb

Shell in court over alleged role in Nigeria executions

Israeli MANIACS Attack Palestinian Civilians

Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones

Boom Times for Criminal SyndicatesBoom Times for Criminal Syndicates

Cowardice in the Time of Torture

G-20 European Summit Could Trigger ‘Summer of Rage’


Workers occupy car parts factories in England and Northern Ireland

Behind the surge on Wall Street

Procuring Academics for Empire

The Secrets of Obama's Surge

It was Never about Democracy

Barbaric Israel

Mass Protest In Rome Over Financial Crisis

Times threatens to shut down Globe Unless Unions Give $20 Million in Concessions

Banks could bet on toxic assets with taxpayers' money

Administration Seeks an Out On Bailout Rules for Firms

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe

GMO Proliferation Bills in the US Congress

Proof that Geithner's Bank Plan Is a Massive Giveaway

Gitmo Lawyer Facing 6 Months in Prison For Writing Letter to Obama

What About the Billions in off-the-Books Toxic Assets?

Bleak outlook for US workers as jobless rate hits 26-year high

Obama hails the new world order

Phoenix police raid home of blogger who is highly critical of them

Summers Received Hundreds Of Thousands In Speaking Fees From TARP Recipients


US Judge, Foreign Detainees "Have US Right"

FHA Sees Rise in Defaults on Its Mortgages

Commodifying Kids: The Forgotten Crisis

'Torture Memo' May Finally Go Public

Detroit schools plan new round of closings, layoffs

Obama’s “Path to Viability for GM & Chrysler”: The ruthless language of Wall Street

Wall Street celebrates accounting rule changes designed to hide losses

Cheney has moles in Obama Administration, reporter says

Israel's war crimes

U.S. Debtor Meets G20 Creditors at the Dollar's Funeral

G20 Leaders Begin Talks to Bury 'Free' Markets

The Rise and Rise of the Neo-Taliban

Fake Faith and Epic Crimes

A summit that shows the new balance of power

House passes bill giving FDA power over tobacco ads, sales

One in 10 Americans gets help from U.S. to buy food

Credit card charge-offs hit record high in February

Watchdogs: Treasury won't disclose bank bailout details

Army lied about how my son died in Iraq

10,000 More GIs May be Afghanistan-bound

Labor Board Says Republic Windows Violated Laws


Out West, a New Kind of Water War

The Crisis of College Affordability

US property prices down 29% and still falling fast

US Companies cut an estimated 742,000 workers in March

Alarming News: Bank Losses Spreading!

Triple Canopy: Obama's Blackwater

Tasers Are the New Killers: Watch Their Popularity Surge!

Terror as a Tool of Empire

Military Escalation and Obama's "War on Terrorism"

The Quiet Coup

European Workers Rebel as G-20 Looms

Stimulus Dollars to Be Released for Schools

Concerns Raised About Coastal Levels of Flame-Retardant Chemicals

Unions Demand Geithner Fire Bank of America CEO

Obama's Busted Bank Bailout

G20 protests: Rioters loot RBS as demonstrations turn violent

G20 protests: riot police clash with demonstrators


Flint, Michigan: Gov. Considering Abandoning Parts of City, Cutting Off Police and Fire Service

Bush Aides Changed Watchdog Report

DOJ Watchdog "Revising" Critical Report on John Yoo's Legal Work on Torture

Detroit auto workers denounce Obama's concession demands

Media backs Obama’s assault on US auto workers

OECD paints bleak picture of global economy

Government website now offers 'suicide warning signs' for victims of recession

Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Fell by a Record 19%

$296 Billion in Overruns in U.S. Weapons Programs

Pentagon war spending hits $685.7 billion: GAO

US opens route to Afghanistan through Russia's backyard

Cars, Banks and Confusion

Seattle’s Lessons for London

Where’s the Outrage Over Workers Getting the Shaft?

We’re Paying Congress for This?

Obstruction of Justice

In for a Penny, In for $2.98 Trillion

8 Ways to Join the Local Food Movement

Auto Gets Tough Love, While Wall Street Feels the Love

Economic crisis fueling civil unrest in US

Hundreds of French workers take bosses hostage

Calif. Tent City Residents Required to Wear Wristbands

'How to break through police lines'

Tensions High as EPA Reasserts Mining Authority

The Silence Surrounding Sri Lanka

Wars Abroad Continue at Home

Obama declares war on auto workers

Obama demands deeper cuts in auto workers’ jobs, wages, benefits

By Jerry White

Go To Original

At a White House press conference Monday morning, President Barack Obama outlined his administration's plans to drastically downsize the US auto industry and impose more brutal wage and benefit concessions on auto workers as a condition for any further government loans to General Motors and Chrysler.

Obama announced that his auto task force had rejected the turnaround plans submitted by the two Detroit automakers, saying "neither goes far enough" in slashing costs and restoring profitability. He demanded that the companies "fundamentally restructure" their operations, saying this would require, among other things, "workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more."

Obama said GM would be given "adequate capital" and a 60-day deadline to implement a more aggressive plan, involving bigger concessions from the United Auto Workers union, elimination of unprofitable brands and models, more factory closings and a reduction of debt obligations to creditors and suppliers. Without such an agreement, the president made clear, the 101-year-old company would be cut off of additional aid.

The auto task force concluded that Chrysler could not survive without a partner, Obama said. He announced that Chrysler was being given 30 days to finalize a merger agreement with Italian automaker Fiat. In order for Chrysler to qualify for an additional $6 billion in aid, the auto task force press release explained, "Chrysler, Fiat and the UAW need to reach an agreement that entails greater concessions than those outlined in the existing loan agreements."

Obama pointed to the supposedly successful "turnaround" carried out by Fiat management over the last four years—a process that destroyed thousands of jobs at Italy's largest private sector employer. If an agreement was not reached with Fiat in 30 days, the task force statement said, "the government will not invest any additional taxpayer funds in Chrysler"—leading to the liquidation of the company and destruction of more than 30,000 jobs.

The administration is using the threat of bankruptcy to extort the maximum in concessions from auto workers. It has already moved to guarantee the auto companies' warrantees and shore up their suppliers in preparation for pushing GM and/or Chrysler into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where a judge could tear up existing labor agreements and free the companies of their pension and retiree health care obligations.

Claiming he was not talking about a process where a company is "broken up, sold off and no longer exists," Obama said bankruptcy could be used as a tool that would make it easer for the two companies to "quickly clear away old debts weighing them down."

In its summation, the auto task force was more specific about which liabilities should be "extinguished" in a bankruptcy proceeding, pointing to "unsustainable legacy liabilities" of $6 billion a year GM owes for retiree health benefits and pensions. It is likely—though not explicitly stated—that the administration is contemplating a plan similar to that carried out in the steel industry, where the bankruptcy courts relieved steelmakers of their pension obligations, dumping them into the government-backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. This process left hundreds of thousands of retirees and their spouses with sharply reduced benefits.

Last December, GM and Chrysler submitted restructuring plans in order to qualify for $17 billion in loans from the Bush administration. GM said it would eliminate 47,000 jobs worldwide, including 21,000 in the US, and close 14 plants in North America and Europe by 2012, reducing its manufacturing capacity by nearly a half compared to its 2000 level. Chrysler said it would cut production by 1.3 million units, close seven plants and complete plans to eliminate 60 percent of its white-collar workforce.

Both companies said they would cut the wages and benefits of hourly workers and tear up existing work rules in order to reduce labor costs by 2010 to the level of non-union workers at Japanese-owned US plants. GM also said it would pay half of the $20 billion it owed to a union-controlled retiree health care fund in stock, rather than cash, ensuring drastic reductions in medical coverage for hundreds of thousands of retirees.

The Obama administration has concluded this is insufficient. Speaking on behalf Wall Street, Obama is going even further than his Republican predecessor in demanding the imposition of sweat shop conditions.

On the eve of the White House press conference, the administration forced General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner to resign and indicated that it would replace the majority of the company's board of directors. The public humiliation of Wagoner was aimed at making it clear that no institutional concerns will be allowed to divert management from its central task: guaranteeing an "adequate return on capital" for Wall Street—the yardstick used by Obama's auto task force to define the "viability" of a company.

Flanked by members of his task force—including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who just last week announced a new scheme to use taxpayer money to enrich bankers and hedge fund managers—Obama insisted the auto companies would not be allowed to become "wards of the state." Nor would his administration, he said, "excuse poor decisions" by top corporate executives.

The crisis of the auto industry was the product of a "failure of leadership—from Washington to Detroit," Obama said, saying nothing of the role that Wall Street has played in precipitating the worst economic meltdown in 80 years, which has led to a collapse in global auto sales.

In fact, the decline of the US auto industry is bound up with the increasing turn by American capitalism over the past three decades to the most parasitic forms of financial speculation. This process was spearheaded by the Wall Street bankers who, with the support of successive administrations, Democratic as well as Republican, accumulated immense personal fortunes by starving industry of resources and overseeing a ruthless assault on the working class.

In the manic pursuit of "shareholder value," hundreds of thousands of jobs were destroyed and whole cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan were devastated by plant closings.

Even as he announced measures that will throw tens of thousands of auto workers into poverty, Obama feigned sympathy for his victims and cynically declared that he was "fighting" for them.

The attack on American auto workers is being used to set a precedent for rolling back the conditions of the entire working class, in the US and internationally. Within hours of Obama's press conference, the Canadian government ordered the Canadian Auto Workers to give larger concessions to GM than those agreed to earlier this month in exchange for $4 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler.

Obama expands government's role in auto industry

Obama expands government's role in auto industry


Go To Original

President Barack Obama's extraordinary auto industry intervention is assertive and coldly pragmatic, with a dose of caution and a sentimental nod to the automobile's place in the American psyche.

Obama's curt rejection of General Motors' and Chrysler's restructuring plans and his abrupt move to muscle out GM's CEO set the stage for a major realignment of the U.S. auto industry. He bluntly raised the prospect of a "prepackaged bankruptcy" that would reorganize the companies quickly under court protection.

But Obama did not upend Detroit in one single swoop. He gave each company a second chance at a federal bailout — 60 days for GM and 30 for Chrysler — though it was evident that from now on little would remain the same.

"We've reached the end of that road," Obama declared Monday.

The administration's analysis of the viability of the two auto giants was merciless and remarkably specific in its critique of their business practices. It said GM's underperforming dealers were a drag on the company and its car of the future, the plug-in Chevrolet Volt, held promise but was too expensive. As for Chrysler, the president said it could only survive with an international partner, the Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.

All in all, the administration and its auto task force concluded that the automakers' plans to change their mix of products, fix their balance sheets, reduce production capacity and launch new vehicles were simply too slow.

"There seems to be a major difference of opinion between the auto task force and GM not about what's desirable, but what's realistic over some undefined business cycle," Malcolm Salter, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School who has advised Ford and GM, said in an e-mail.

Yet Obama also conceded the intangible nature of the auto industry as a national symbol, and made it clear he would not let it succumb under his watch. He called the industry an emblem of the American spirit and a pillar of the economy.

"We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish," he said.

The forced ouster of GM CEO Richard Wagoner, the detailed review of the companies' business models and the overt threat of bankruptcy represented an increasingly hands-on approach by the government to institutions receiving federal assistance in the midst of the economic crisis.

But the White House on Monday downplayed the difference between Obama's treatment of the automakers and the less stringent conditions it has placed on the financial industry in return for financial infusions worth billions of dollars.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said each institution has distinct effects on the economy and, as a result, the government's response to each would be specific to their circumstances.

The president was hardly ambiguous about his desire to use the beleaguered state of the industry to press one of his top policy agendas — an energy policy that emphasizes the manufacture of fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars.

"The United States will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars," he said.

Obama's restructuring conditions include concessions from bondholders, the investors who hold GM and Chrysler debt, as well as from the United Auto Workers, which represents the industry work force. "It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to do more," Obama said.

A committee of GM bondholders issued a statement Monday saying bondholders were willing to exchange "a substantial part" of their debt for stock in the company. But the statement said the committee was "very disappointed that the government and company have had virtually no real dialogue with bondholders while designing the proposed restructuring plan."

Though administration officials insisted Monday that bankruptcy was not a preferred option, the president went out of his way to explain what a court-overseen restructuring would entail. He stressed that bankruptcy would help Chrysler and GM clear old debts and place them on a sustainable path. "What I'm not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off and no longer exists," he said.

The idea of using a speeded-up bankruptcy process for the auto industry circulated in Congress last November. But both executives and labor leaders objected to the idea even with the backing of federal guarantees, saying it would taint the companies with consumers and risk retiree health benefits.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company to stay alive and retain control of its assets while paying off creditors and reorganizing. In the process, they raise capital, downsize and renegotiate contracts. The companies would still need billions in government assistance, however, because the companies would not find easy access to financing in the currently frozen credit markets.

To encourage consumers to buy new cars, Obama announced that the government will now back new car warranties issued by GM and Chrysler, assuring car owners that their purchases will be protected. The administration also was pursuing other measures that were not tied directly to GM or Chrysler, and would also help their competitors.

The Internal Revenue Service announced a new plan to allow taxpayers to deduct the sales tax and excise tax on any new car they purchase, whether foreign or domestic. Obama said he also was working with Congress on "cash for clunker" legislation that would reimburse car owners who turn in an older car for a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

A senior Obama administration official said GM and Chrysler would put together the revised plans with help and advice from the Treasury Department and the auto task force. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

"They're taking significant responsibility now here for the future of the industry and there's upside and downside to that," Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has been active in helping the industry survive, said of the administration's role. "Hopefully there's enough people who know enough about the industry who understand the risks of one course or another."

Obama's Attack on the Middle Class

Obama’s Attack on the Middle Class

By Paul Craig Roberts

Go To Original

Obama and his public relations team have made it appear that his trillion dollars in higher taxes will fall only on “the rich.” Obama stresses that his tax increase is only for the richest 5 percent of Americans while the other 95 percent receive a tax cut.

The fact of the matter is that the income differences within the top
5% are far wider than the differences between the lower tax brackets and the “rich” American in the 96th percentile.

For Obama, being “rich” begins with $250,000 in annual income, the bottom rung of the top 5 percent. Compare this “rich” income to that of, for example, Hank Paulson, President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary when he was the head of Goldman Sachs.

In 2005 Paulson was paid $38.3 million in salary, stock and options. That is 153 times the annual income of the “rich” $250,000 person.

Despite his massive income, Paulson himself was not among the super rich of that year, when a dozen hedge fund operators made $1,000 million. The hedge fund honchos incomes were 26 times greater than Paulson’s and 4,000 times greater than the “rich” man’s or family’s $250,000.

For most Americans, a $250,000 income would be a godsend, but envy can make us blind. A $250,000 income is not one that will support a rich lifestyle. Moreover, many people prefer lesser incomes to the years of education, long work hours and stress of personal liability that are associated with many $250,000 incomes. In truth, those with $250,000 gross incomes have more in common with those at the lower end of the income distribution than with the rich. A $250,000 income is ten times greater than a $25,000 income, not hundreds or thousands of times greater. On an after-tax basis, the difference shrinks to about
6 times.

The American tax code taxes the $250,000 income at the same rate as it taxes a $100,000,000 or higher income. On an after tax basis, after the federal government grabs 30% in income taxes and state government grabs 6%, the “rich” man or woman or family earning $250,000 has $160,000. In New York City, where there is a city income tax in addition to state and federal, this sum diminishes further. State sales taxes take another 6 or more percent of most consumption expenditures.

When all is said and done, the after-tax value of a $250,000 income in New York City is about $140,000.

Is this rich? It might be in a small town in Alabama, but not in New York City. The “rich” person or family won’t be purchasing a Manhattan apartment, much less a brownstone. They won’t be driving a luxury car. Indeed, they won’t be able to afford a parking garage for an economy car. If they fly anywhere, it won’t be in a first class seat.

For the most part, $250,000 incomes are located in large cities where the cost of living is high. For example, a husband and wife who are associates at major law firms, each of whom works 60 hour weeks and has no job security, earn $125,000 each. They might both have student loans to pay down. For the Obama administration to lump these people in with Hank Paulson or billionaire hedge fund operators is propagandistic.

What is the difference between the $250,000 “rich” income and the $245,000 “non-rich” income? After Obama’s tax scheme goes into effect, the $245,000 income will benefit from a tax cut, and the $250,000 will have a tax increase. Will people in the 96th percentile ask for pay cuts that will drop them into the 95th percentile?

In America, the truly rich are those in the top 0.5% of the income distribution. These are the people with yachts, private airplanes, and who are still rich after they lose half their wealth in a stock market collapse caused by government policy that accommodated financial gangsters.

“Oh well, I was worth $600,000,000 last year and only $300,000,000 this year. Perhaps we should stop drinking $1,000 bottles of rare vintages and move down to $100 a bottle wines. Probably shouldn’t buy that new yacht or that villa in the south of France.”

The upper middle class with $250,000 gross incomes are major losers of the financial collapse. Many of the people in this income class are leveraged to the hilt in order to maintain appearances and can be swept away as easily as the very poor. But those who were frugal and invested for their future have lost 50% of their savings. These wiped out people are the ones who will bear the brunt of Obama’s tax increase.

If the tax rate on a multi-million dollar annual income goes up by 5 percentage points, the cutbacks won’t really affect the lifestyle. But for the $250,000 gross income group, it means no prospect of private schools and Ivy League education for the children, who will be attending state colleges with the rest of the non-rich.

Obama is attacking the only income class that has any independence-- the upper middle class professionals. The real rich are few in number and seldom present any opposition to government. Recently, the New York Times reported (March 23, 2009) that the 400 richest Americans’ “share of the nation’s total wealth has nearly doubled to more than 22 percent.” The average income of the 400 richest Americans is $263 million annually. That is 1,052 times the income of the “rich” $250,000 income.

What the Obama administration is really doing is taxing ordinary people in order to bail out the super rich. The 95% of Americans who get the tax cut will find that it is offset many times by the depreciation in the dollar and the raging inflation that will result from monetizing the multi-trillion dollar budget deficits made necessary by the bailouts of the banksters.

In the United States, government has become expert at manipulating both left-wing and right-wing ideologies. It keeps those on both ends of the spectrum set at each other’s throats in order to ensure the government’s continuing independence from accountability.

Historically, the definition of a free person is a person who owns his own labor. Serfs were not free, because they owed their feudal lords, the government of that time, a maximum of one-third of their labor. Nineteenth century slaves were not free, because their owners could expropriate 50% of their labor.

Today, no American is a free person. The lowest tax rate, not counting state income, property tax and sales tax, is 15% Social Security tax and 15% federal income tax. The “free American” starts off with a 30% tax rate, the position of a medieval serf.

In medieval Europe, when tax rates reached beyond 30%, serfs rebelled and killed their masters.