Saturday, February 12, 2011

US House committee hearing takes aim at public sector pensions

US House committee hearing takes aim at public sector pensions

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A subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing February 9 to prepare the way for attacks on the pension benefits of millions of state and municipal workers across the United States.

The hearing, titled “State and Municipal Debt: the Coming Crisis?” was held the same day as the introduction of a bill by Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California, to prohibit bailouts of states by the federal government.

The House’s Subcommittee on TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), Financial Services & Bailouts of Public and Private Programs questioned a panel of four experts about the potential effects on bond markets of state bankruptcies. But during the first hour of testimony the committee focused its attention on unfunded liabilities in the pension plans of millions of teachers, firefighters, transportation workers and other public employees.

The problem of state budget deficits—estimated to total between $125 billion and $140 billion and exacerbated by the ongoing economic crisis—is very real (See “US state budget deficits could top $140 billion”). However, in his opening remarks to the subcommittee, Chairman Patrick McHenry (Republican, North Carolina) ruled out any new revenues for states and blamed the problem on a “fiscal straitjacket caused primarily by … lucrative public sector union pension and health care benefits.”

These benefits, according to McHenry, will cause people to realize “in the end … that their government has actively hurt them.” This statement ignores the obvious: public sector workers and their hard-won benefits are being been demonized while Wall Street has received untold billions in bailouts from the federal government.

Testimony before the subcommittee established that, depending on the rate of return of invested pension assets, the average percentage of state and municipal budgets devoted to pensions is between 3.8 and 5 percent. To McHenry, this allocation of resources to a basic social right constitutes “reckless spending.”

Some Republicans have suggested that laws prohibiting states from declaring bankruptcy be altered to make it easier for state governments to rip up workers’ contracts and attack pensions.

Democrats at the hearing prefaced their questions with ritualistic promises of bipartisanship and working together. In his opening remarks, ranking Democrat Mike Quigley of Illinois was servile before both McHenry and the bond rating agencies, which, he noted, have rated his home state’s bonds only slightly above those of Iraq.

Arguing against any change in federal law to allow state bankruptcies, Quigley stated his belief that the problem is cyclical, and blamed actuarial practices in six to eight states, which he called “bad apples.” In subsequent testimony, Iris Lav of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—one of four experts who testified—argued on a similar basis against bankruptcy.

In a statement introducing his Public Employee Pension Transparency bill the same day, Nunes said, “Unfortunately, this debt is masked by accounting practices that would never be tolerated in the private sector.” Even putting aside all of the swindles from Enron to collateralized debt obligations, Statement 87 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board—which addresses accounting practices for private sector pensions—allows companies to underfund workers’ pensions if they show a corresponding liability on their balance sheets.

McHenry claimed in his opening statement Wednesday that “government has outgrown our capacity to pay for it.” In fact, the opposite is true: plenty of wealth exists for the provision of benefits and health care, but state and municipal governments have spent decades giving tax breaks to companies that threaten to move elsewhere or to lay off workers.

In 1995, for example, military contractor Raytheon threatened to move 16,000 jobs out of Massachusetts if the state did not give in to its demands for tax cuts. Within two years of receiving the cuts, the company had nonetheless reduced its headcount by 4,100 jobs while paying bigger salaries to executives. General Electric, which is equally reliant on military contracts, threatened this past November to lay off 150 workers at its jet engine factory in Lynn, Massachusetts if the state did not give it $25 million in tax cuts. In reporting that story, the Boston Globe noted that GE paid no federal income tax in 2009 because it “reported losses on its US operations.”

Such bullying is a standard practice across the country. In July 2010, for example, the web site Stateline reported that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had proposed $150 million in tax “incentives” for Ford if the company agreed not to close a Kansas City plant with 3,700 employees.

On Friday, the Seattle Times reported that the Washington state Senate had passed a $300 million tax cut for businesses, prompting state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a Democrat, to comment: “It’s a really good day for businesses because we’re going to be providing a permanent rate reduction to 90 percent of businesses in this state.”

While bonds have traditionally only been used by state and municipal governments for capital projects (construction, roads, etc.), states like Illinois are now borrowing just to pay their operating expenses. One of those testifying before the subcommittee noted that debt service represents on average 4-5 percent of state expenditures.

On January 25, the National Association of Governors issued a statement opposing changes to federal law that would allow states to declare bankruptcy. The association expressed its fear that “the mere existence” of such a law would drive up the cost of borrowing “and create more volatility in [the] financial markets” from which state governments need to borrow, hat in hand.

The governors’ statement expressed no principled opposition to the use of bankruptcy to abrogate existing contracts or attack the pensions of people who have been working—many for decades—with the promise of this benefit. McHenry made no bones during the hearing about asking the panel whether the word “default” could be broadened, legally, to include not paying pensions.

In a “recap” video posted on YouTube afterward, McHenry signaled that the February 9 questioning of “academics” was only an opening salvo, and that the subcommittee’s next hearing will involve representatives of the bond markets and credit rating agencies.

"We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider

"We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider

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Asked what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.”

Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch’s cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.

“It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats,” says the source. “They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.”

And that’s the word from inside Fox News.

Note the story here isn’t that Fox News leans right. Everyone knows the channel pushes a conservative-friendly version of the news. Everyone who’s been paying attention has known that since the channel’s inception more than a decade ago. The real story, and the real danger posed by the cable outlet, is that over time Fox News stopped simply leaning to the right and instead became an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power. And that the operation thrives on fabrications and falsehoods.

“They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this fa├žade, that they’re balanced or that they’re not right-wing extreme propagandist,” says the source. But it’s all a well-orchestrated lie, according this former insider. It’s a lie that permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.

“You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks,” says the source. “And God help you if you don’t because sooner or later you’re going to get burned.”

The source explains:

“Like any news channel there’s lot of room for non-news content. The content that wasn’t ‘news,’ they didn’t care what we did with as long as it was amusing or quirky or entertaining; as along as it brought in eyeballs. But anything—anything--that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There’s a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is.”

What if Fox News staffers aren’t instinctively conservative or don’t have an intuitive feeling for what the spin on a story should be? “My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead,” the source explains. “You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough.”

The source recalls how Fox News changed over time:

“When I first got there back in the day, and I don’t know how they indoctrinate people now, but back in the day when they were “training” you, as it were, they would say, ‘Here’s how we’re different.’ They’d say if there is an execution of a condemned man at midnight and there are all the live truck outside the prison and all the lives shots. CNN would go, ‘Yes, tonight John Jackson, 25 of Mississippi, is going to die by lethal injection for the murder of two girls.’ MSNBC would say the same thing.

“We would come out and say, ‘Tonight, John Jackson who kidnapped an innocent two year old, raped her, sawed her head off and threw it in the school yard, is going to get the punishment that a jury of his peers thought he should get.’ And they say that’s the way we do it here. And you’re going , alright, it’s a bit of an extreme example but it’s something to think about. It’s not unreasonable.

"When you first get in they tell you we’re a bit of a counterpart to the screaming left wing lib media. So automatically you have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don’t even start arguing that or you won’t even last your first day.

For the first few years it was let’s take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it’s not just the conservative take on things, we’re going to take the Republican take on things which is not necessarily in lock step with the conservative point of view.

“And then two, three, five years into that it was, we’re taking the Bush line on things, which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous. Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president.”

It’s worth noting that Fox News employees, either current or former, rarely speak to the press, even anonymously. And it’s even rarer for Fox News sources to bad mouth Murdoch’s channel. That’s partly because of strict non-disclosure agreements that most exiting employees sign and which forbid them from discussing their former employer. But it also stems from a pervasive us-vs.-them attitude that permeates Fox News. It’s a siege mentality that network boss Roger Ailes encourages, and one that colors the coverage his team produces.

“It was a kick ass mentality too,” says the former Fox News insider. “It was relentless and it never went away. If one controversy faded, goddamn it they would find another one. They were in search of these points of friction real or imagined. And most of them were imagined or fabricated. You always have to seem to be under siege. You always have to seem like your values are under attack. The brain trust just knew instinctively which stories to do, like the War on Christmas.”

According to the insider, Ailes is obsessed with presenting a unified Fox News front to the outside world; an obsession that may explain Ailes’ refusal to publically criticize or even critique his own team regardless of how outlandish their on-air behavior. “There may be internal squabbles. But what [Ailes] continually preaches is never piss outside the tent,” says the source. “When he gets really crazy is when stuff leaks out the door. He goes mental on that. He can’t stand that. He says in a dynamic enterprise like a network newsroom there’s going to be in fighting and ego, but he says keep it in the house.”

It’s clear that Fox News has become a misleading, partisan outlet. But here’s what the source stresses: Fox News is designed to mislead its viewers and designed to engage in a purely political enterprise.

In 2010, all sorts of evidence tumbled out to confirm that fact, like the recently leaked emails from inside Fox News, in which a top editor instructed his newsroom staffers (not just the opinion show hosts) to slant the news when reporting on key stories such as climate change and health care reform.

Meanwhile, Media Matters revealed that during the 2009-2010 election cycle, dozens of Fox News personalities endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances. And in terms of free TV airtime that Fox News handed over to GOP hopefuls, Media Matters calculated the channel essentially donated $55 million worth of airtime to Republican presidential hopefuls last year who also collect Fox News paychecks.

And of course, that’s when Murdoch wasn’t writing $1 million checks in the hopes of electing more Republican politicians.

So, Fox News as a legitimate news outlet? The source laughs at the suggestion, and thinks much of the public, along with the Beltway press corps, has been duped by Murdoch’s marketing campaign over the years. “People assume you need a license to call yourself a news channel. You don’t. So because they call themselves Fox News, people probably give them a pass on a lot of things,” says the source.

The source continues: “I don’t think people understand that it’s an organization that’s built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats. People tend think that stuff that’s on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You’d think that people would wise up, but they don’t.”

As for the press, the former Fox News employee gives reporters and pundits low grades for refusing, over the years, to call out Fox News for being the propaganda outlet that it so clearly is. The source suggests there are a variety of reasons for the newsroom timidity.

“They don’t have enough staff or enough balls or don’t have enough money or don’t have enough interest to spend the time it takes to expose Fox News. Or it’s not worth the trouble. If you take on Fox, they’ll kick you in the ass,” says the source. “I’m sure most [journalists] know that. It’s not worth being Swift Boated for your effort,” a reference to how Fox News traditionally attacks journalists who write, or are perceived to have written, anything negative things about the channel.

The former insider admits to being perplexed in late 2009 when the Obama White House called out Murdoch’s operation as not being a legitimate new source, only to have major Beltway media players rush to the aid of Fox News and admonish the White House for daring to criticize the cable channel.

“That blew me away,” says the source, who stresses the White House’s critique of Fox News “happens to be true.”

Egypt Demonstrates for Democracy; Americans Contemplate PATRIOT Act Extensionunte

Egypt Demonstrates for Democracy; Americans Contemplate PATRIOT Act Extension

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In spite of our own interests, Americans and the US government are supplying the boots that rest on the necks of citizens of Egypt and dictatorships around the world. Meanwhile, we remain silent as the impending reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act threatens to speed the momentum of repression in our own country.

The uprisings across the Middle East expose how long America has impeded democracy abroad, rather than supporting it. And the contrast between Arabs mobilizing to obtain freedom, while we in America sit idly by as our elected leaders undermine our rights, is a sobering reminder of our own democracy's faults.

The Boot That Rests on Their Necks ...

The Egyptian uprising has exposed to many Americans for the first time how our taxes have funded dictatorships that oppress people around the world. The fact that tear gas canisters used to bully peaceful crowds in Cairo were famously shown to have been "made in the USA" shouldn't surprise anyone. As I argued shortly after the Obama administration took office two years ago:

The US gives billions of dollars each year to proxy powers across the globe governed by dictators. This "aid" largely takes the form of US taxpayer-funded purchases from US corporate weapons dealers to supply arms ultimately used to oppress freedom-seeking people abroad. Our willingness to place corporate welfare above democracy abroad at once both reveals our nation's hypocrisy and antagonizes the very same populations whose hearts & minds we need to win.

The three countries in which established US foreign policy continues to most undermine our long-term security interests are not Iraq, Afghanistan, or Israel - but rather Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. While the US maintains a more subtle military presence in the latter three countries, our support for authoritarian regimes there has supported militants by undermining US claims to support democracy abroad....

Put simply, while the US claims to its own citizens to support democracy abroad, that claim is a charade transparent to people in other countries. It's not "our freedoms" that "they hate," but rather our weapons - and our longstanding penchant of giving them to regimes that deny freedoms and oppress their own people. Even conservative foreign policy experts have argued that, well before 9-11, the "presence [of US troops in Saudi Arabia wa]s known to contribute to anti-American sentiment."

After Obama's four meetings with Mubarak, the White House has publicly mentioned concerns about "vibrant civil society, open political competition, and credible and transparent elections in Egypt" only once. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post sums up the facts:

"the public message sent by the Obama administration over the past two years was that democracy and human rights in Egypt was not a top priority. When given the opportunity to use the biggest megaphone in the world - the voice of the president of the United States - the words were whispered, if said at all."

The administration thankfully shifted its stance last week, calling for an "orderly transition" while still stopping short of "advocating any specific outcome." But tolerating any continuing role for Mubarak is simply a catastrophic mistake, a futile grasp at a stability that would undermine the revolution, leave its leaders in detention (or worse) and deepen America's regional reputation as a kingmaker less interested in democracy than in ensuring its own patronage. Already, Mubarak has begun rounding up dissidents, journalists, and invoking a dangerous nationalism through a propaganda campaign blaming the uprising on foreign influences - when, in fact, foreign support from the US is the only reason he has held power for so long. Don't forget: this is a regime to which both President Bush and Obama have outsourced torture.

The interests of US defense contractors in supplying a brutal dictatorship have driven our foreign policy long enough. Letting Mubarak fall, in contrast, could help restore America's image in the Arab world by replacing empty rhetoric about supporting freedom with meaningful action. Abandoning the dictator immediately could also undermine violent extremists, by denying militant recruiters their principal talking point: that America prevents self-determination for Arab peoples.

Supporting Egyptian self-determination would also be savvy real politik. A leaked diplomatic cable from February 2010 discussed Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, an Egyptian defense official. According to the cable, Al-Assar "noted that the Egyptian military preferred to purchase its weapons and armaments from the United States, but that ... they could go elsewhere if they had to." Meanwhile, Egyptian officials prompted concerns from American counterparts by violating military agreements and allowing Chinese officers to visit an F-16 base. Mubarak's dictatorship is neither a principled ally, nor one on which its US handlers can rely.

... and Ours

It's not merely that Americans generally remain blind to our role in denying freedom to people in the Middle East and elsewhere (like Latin America, where the US Army has trained torturers for a generation). Equally disturbing is the domestic cost of our support for dictators.

The $1.3 billion in military aid lavished on Egypt in 2010 alone could pay for over 28,000 teachers desperately needed in overcrowded US schools. Taxpayer dollars that we currently squander propping up ailing despots could instead be shifted to supporting the international competitiveness of America's next generation - which the president named as paramount during his State of the Union address.

Our role in denying freedom to others is shameful. But even more shameful is our need in America to look elsewhere for instruction about how to defend our own rights. While Egyptians and Tunisians risk life and limb for democracy, we stand largely silent as we allow our rights to slip through our fingers.

As Congress readies to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, we Americans appear far more sheepish than our counterparts in Egypt. Egypt flirts with democracy today for the first time, while America - after 200 proud years of a tradition that inspired the rest of the world to follow suit - now enters the tenth year of both major parties actively expanding executive power.

The Washington Post revealed a "top secret America" so vast and unaccountable that even its leaders have confessed, on the record, that they do not control it. It drives our national policy debate, enables abuses despite repeated electoral repudiation and has essentially seized control over both major parties. American democracy has descended into a parody of choice, masking an underlying consensus among the governing elite that our Constitution is less important than a race to extend our government's influence into all corners of the globe...and all corners of our lives.

We were warned of precisely this problem, by an American president wielding a worldwide military reputation, twice. President Washington famously declined monarchical power in the interest of building an institutional Republic. And President Eisenhower, who witnessed the early beginnings of the military-industrial complex after WWII, was explicit: "[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

Here in the US, we sing anthems at baseball games about living in "the land of the free." But as the Framers of our Constitution were quick to note, democracy means more than simply waving a flag and praising our leaders. And by most of those measures, the US is much less a democracy than we think.

Beyond the procedural formality of fair elections, democracy also relies on meaningful choices among electoral alternatives, as well as a robust separation of powers among the branches of government, ideally involving an independent judiciary able to protect individual rights.

We have none of those things in the US

All likely major candidates for the presidency, and both major political parties, agree (for instance) on placing the financial interests of defense contractors above both the national security of the United States, as well as the constitutional rights of its people. We have lost the right to speak, advocate or dissent without fear of government retribution, as demonstrated by political surveillance and infiltration by state and federal authorities around the country.

Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act prompted little debate until this week's surprise vote, in which a bipartisan populist coalition managed to derail "fast track" reauthorization, rejecting continued deferrence to the executive branch. Originally billed as an emergency measure so arcane that few members of Congress even read the proposal before voting to approve it, earlier rounds of PATRIOT reauthorization prompted resistance across the country and across the political spectrum by millions of grassroots constitutionalists who mobilized to oppose it. And with good reason:

  • The Justice Department's inspector general has repeatedly identified thousands of FBI abuses, as recently as last year, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation just documented hundreds more (at least).
  • The FBI, whose powers may have been most directly expanded by the PATIOT Act, has endured a recent fusillade of criticism for reviving its political spying operations of the COINTELPRO era, dragging peace activists before secret grand juries and subjecting Muslim Americans to a regime of presumptive suspicion and pervasive infiltration.
  • Since the PATRIOT Act was first enacted, the NSA's warrantless wiretapping scheme was exposed, although parts of the program remain secret and no one knows the full extent of its assault on constitutional rights.
  • Even the secretary of defense and the director of the CIA have said - on the record - that the vast federal intelligence apparatus lies beyond their control and oversight.
  • Expanding upon the federal government's formidable capacity, state and local police departments around the country have begun tracking lawful activities, such as drawing, or taking notes, photos or videos in public. Many, like state police in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York and Washington, have been caught monitoring lawful dissent.
  • Private corporations are deeply intertwined in this enterprise. Monsanto has commissioned domestic intelligence gathering on its critics. Drilling companies have gained access to constitutionally offensive intelligence information from state agencies. And defense contractors have sold every conceivable manner of high-tech surveillance equipment to local police, sometimes after developing it for use in Afghanistan or Iraq.
  • Beyond surveillance, executive power has multiplied in other disturbing ways. The Obama White House asserts the authority to arbitrarily disregard court orders to release detainees found to pose no national security threat. It openly flaunts international human rights treaties that require the investigation of officials complicit in abuses such as torture. And it claims the astounding authority to assassinate US citizens without due process.

Despite campaigning against the PATRIOT Act in 2008, President Obama pushed Congress, in relative secret, to reauthorize it last year, signing the extension bill into law on a Saturday in late February 2010 amid little fanfare. The charade is poised for repetition this week until populists in each party banded together on Tuesday night to defeat the 2/3 vote required to reauthorize the Act without permitting amendments. That victory was temporary and the Constitution remains on the chopping block: the Patriot Act will come back before Congress again next week.

And whereas Egypt has taken to the streets to demand its rights from an autocratic despot, America remains in a stupor, distracted by reality television as our elected government writes our rights into relics of the past.

We enjoy many of the freedoms for which Egypt clamors, yet we don't mobilize to defend them - even though many of our needs, ironically, are the same. According to 33-year-old Egyptian engineer Farouk Hanafy, "The resources of this country all go to a few businessmen with connections to the government, not to the people....We want justice."

Sound familiar?

Choose Your Own Adventure

Hope springs eternal. Egypt should teach us that, if nothing else.

With parts of the PATRIOT Act set to expire at the end of Black History Month during the tenure of the nation's first African-American president and attorney general, it is an ironic time to witness civil rights in America fading. But although both major parties in Congress are marching in lockstep with the White House to reauthorize unchecked government spying, dissenters have raised their voices among both Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has proposed a bill that would impose some minimal, but wholly inadequate, protections for civil liberties. Meanwhile, members of Congress from both parties - such as Tom McClintock (R-California) and Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) - have announced their opposition to reauthorizing PATRIOT without amendments to address civil liberties. Their agreement across the partisan aisle illustrates how surveillance divides not the left from right, but rather a broad consensus among Americans (about the need for limits on executive authority) from an attitude most visible in China, and before that, the Soviet Union.

This is a time to raise our voices, from every corner and through every channel. We enjoy far broader rights than did our predecessors, whose sacrifices compel us to speak out today. The people of Egypt took on much greater risks in raising their voices, for much less, than we do. Here in America, the least we can do is join our voices to their chorus, and lift our government's boot from our own necks, if not the billions around the world (and 83 million Egyptians) who yearn to share the freedom we so passively resign.

Why I Hated Chrysler’s Super Bowl Ad

Why I Hated Chrysler’s Super Bowl Ad

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19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Make You Weep

19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Make You Weep

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It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II. But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today?

Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us. The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world. If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children?

Any great nation throughout history has been great at making things. So if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode at a staggering pace how in the world can the U.S. continue to consider itself to be a great nation? We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in an effort to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not anywhere close to sustainable. Every single month America does into more debt and every single month America gets poorer.

So what happens when the debt bubble pops?

The deindustrialization of the United States should be a top concern for every man, woman and child in the country. But sadly, most Americans do not have any idea what is going on around them.

For people like that, take this article and print it out and hand it to them. Perhaps what they will read below will shock them badly enough to awaken them from their slumber.


The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001

The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001
About 75 percent of those factories employed over 500 people when they were still in operation.

Source: The American Prospect

Dell Inc. has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.

Dell Inc. has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.

Image: AP

Source: WSJ

Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.

Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.

Image: AP

Source: Statesman

In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States? Zero.

If our trade deficit with China increases at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.

If our trade deficit with China increases at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.

Image: economic policy institute

Source: Economic Policy Institute [PDF]

As of the end of July, the trade deficit with China had risen 18 percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

As of the end of July, the trade deficit with China had risen 18 percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

Image: econbrowser

Source: Economic Policy Institute [PDF]

The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.

The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.

Image: AP

Source: The American Prospect

From 1999 to 2008, employment at the foreign affiliates of US parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million

From 1999 to 2008, employment at the foreign affiliates of US parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million

Image: Tax Analysts

During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.

Source: Tax Analysts [PDF]

In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Image: AP

Approximately 750 good paying middle class jobs are going to be lost because making Ford Rangers in Minnesota does not fit in with Ford's new "global" manufacturing strategy.

Source: Economy In Crisis

As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing. The last time less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.

In America today, consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP. Of this 70 percent, over half is spent on services.

The United States has lost a whopping 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.

In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use.  Today it ranks 15th.
Source: MACLEANS.CA

Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.
Source: Businessweek

Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products. Asia now produces 84 percent of them worldwide.

The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States.

The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States.

Image: AP

Source: The Economic Collapse

One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.

One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.
Source: MarketWatch

The Census Bureau says 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty, which is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.

The Census Bureau says 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty, which is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.

Image: flickr

So how many tens of thousands more factories do we need to lose before we do something about it?

How many millions more Americans are going to become unemployed before we all admit that we have a very, very serious problem on our hands?

How many more trillions of dollars are going to leave the country before we realize that we are losing wealth at a pace that is killing our economy?

How many once great manufacturing cities are going to become rotting war zones like Detroit before we understand that we are committing national economic suicide?

The deindustrialization of America is a national crisis. It needs to be treated like one.

If you disagree with this article, I have a direct challenge for you. If anyone can explain how a deindustrialized America has any kind of viable economic future, please do so below in the comments section.

America is in deep, deep trouble folks. It is time to wake up.

Source: Washington Post

The United States is rapidly becoming the very first "post-industrial" nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing. It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution.

19 Iconic Products That America Doesn't Make Anymore

19 Iconic Products That America Doesn't Make Anymore

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GM is canceling the 84-year-old brand after winding down production over the past few years. Like other American automakers, it is restructuring and rebranding to compete with foreign companies.

Pontiac joins a long list of iconic products that aren't made anywhere in America.


Rawlings baseballs

Rawlings baseballs

Image: By SaCaSeA on flickr

Last production date: 1969

Rawlings is the official supplier of baseballs to Major League Baseball. The St. Louis shop was founded in 1887 by George and Alfred Rawlings. In 1969 the brothers moved the baseball-manufacturing plant from Puerto Rico to Haiti and then later to Costa Rica.

Etch-a-sketch

Last production date: 2000

Etch A Sketch, an iconic American toy since the 1960s, used to be produced in Bryan, Ohio, a small town of 8,000. Then in Dec. 2000, toymaker Ohio Art decided to move production to Shenzhen, China.

Converse shoes

Converse shoes

Image: By MJParadaC on flickr

Last production date: 2001

Marquis M. Converse opened Converse Rubber Show Company in Massachusetts in 1908. Chuck Taylors– named after All American high school basketball player Chuck Taylor– began selling in 1918 as the show eventually produced an industry record of over 550 million pairs by 1997. But in 2001 sales were on the decline and the U.S. factory closed. Now Chuck Taylors are made in Indonesia.

Some types of stainless steel rebar*

Some types of stainless steel rebar*

Image: flickr

Although most forms of rebar are produced domestically, some forms are not. Multiple waivers to the Buy America Act have allowed international purchase of high specified forms of rebar.

Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Dress shirts*

Dress shirts*

Image: By Roberto_Ventre's on flickr

Last production date: Oct. 2002

The last major shirt factory in America closed in October 2002, according to NYT. C.F. Hathaway's Maine factory had been producing shirts since 1837.

*We know there are other shirt manufacturers in America. They do not produce in large quantities or supply major brands.

Mattel toys

Mattel toys

Image: By Loren Javier on flickr

Last production date: 2002

The largest toy company in the world closed their last American factory in 2002. Mattel, headquartered in California, produces 65 percent of their products in China as of August 2007.

Minivans

Minivans

Image: wikimedia commons

Last production date: circa 2003

A waiver to the Buy America Act permitted an American producer of wheel-chair accessible minivans to purchase Canadian chassis for use in government contracts, because no chassis were available from the United States. The waiver specified: "General Motors and Chrysler minivan chassis, including those used on the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana, Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay, Chrysler Town & Country, and Dodge Grand Caravan, are no longer manufactured in the United States."

Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Vending machines

Vending machines

Image: flickr

Last production date: circa 2003

You know that thing you put bills into on a vending machine? It isnt made in America, according to a waiver to the Buy America Act.

Neither is the coin dispenser, according to this federal waiver.

Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Levi jeans

Levi jeans

Image: By .imelda on flickr

Last production date: Dec. 2003

Levi Strauss & Co. shut down all its American operations and outsourced production to Latin America and Asia in Dec. 2003. The company's denim products have been an iconic American product for 150 years.

Radio Flyer's Red Wagon

Radio Flyer's Red Wagon

Image: wikimedia commons

Last production date: March 2004

The little red wagon has been an iconic image of America for years. But once Radio Flyer decided its Chicago plant was too expensive, it began producing most products, including the red wagon, in China.

Televisions

Televisions

Image: By brandon king on flickr

Last production date: Oct. 2004

Five Rivers Electronic Innovations was the last American owned TV color maker in the US. The Tennessee company used LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology to produce televisions for Philips Electronics. But after Philips decided to stop selling TVs with LCoS, Five Rivers eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Oct. 2004. As part of its reorganization plan, the company stopped manufacturing TVs.

Now there are ZERO televisions made in America, according to Business Week.

Cell phones

Last production date: circa 2007

Of the 1.2 billion cell phones sold worldwide in 2008, NOT ONE was made in America, according to Manufacturing & Technology publisher Richard McCormick.

After studying the websites of cell phone companies, we could not identify a single phone that was not manufactured primarily overseas.

Railroads (parts including manganese turnout castings, U69 guard bars, LV braces and weld kits)

Railroads (parts including manganese turnout castings, U69 guard bars, LV braces and weld kits)

Manganese turnouts

Image: wikimedia commons

Last production date: circa 2008

Here's another standout from dozens of waivers to the Buy America Act: railroad turnouts and weld kits.

Manganese turnout castings are used to widen railroad tracks, and they were used to build our once-great railroad system. U69 guard bars, LV braces and Weld Kits, along with 22 mm Industrial steel chain are basic items that were certifiably not available in the US.

Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Dell computers

Dell computers

Image: By Extra Ketchup on flickr

Last production date: Jan. 2010

In January 2010, Dell closed its North Carolina PC factory, its last large U.S. plant. Analysts said Dell would be outsourcing work to Asian manufacturers in an attempt to catch up with the rest of the industry, said analyst Ashok Kumar.

Canned sardines

Canned sardines

Image: By iamos on flickr

Last production date: April 2010

Stinson Seafood plant, the last sardine cannery in Maine and the U.S., shut down in April. The first U.S. sardine cannery opened in Maine in 1875, but since the demand for the small, oily fish declined, more canneries closed shop.

Pontiac cars

Pontiac cars

Image: wikimedia commons

Last production date: May 2010

The last Pontiac was produced last May. The brand was formally killed on Halloween, as GM contracts Pontiac dealerships expired.

The 84-year-old GM brand was famous for muscle cars.

Forks, spoons, and knives

Forks, spoons, and knives

Image: flickr

Last production date: June 2010

The last flatware factory in the US closed last summer. Sherrill Manufacturing bought Oneida Ltd. in 2005, but shut down its fork & knife operations due to the tough economy. CEO Greg Owens says his company may resume production "when the general economic climate improves and as Sherrill Manufacturing is able to put itself back on its feet and recapitalize and regroup."

Incandescent light bulb

Incandescent light bulb

Image: By Chuck “Caveman” Coker on flickr

Last production date: Sept. 2010

The incandescent light bulb (invented by Thomas Edison) has been phased out.

Our last major factory that made incandescent light bulbs closed in September 2010. In 2007, Congress passed a measure that will ban incandescents by 2014, prompting GE to close domestic factory.

Note: A reader pointed out that the Osram/Sylvania Plant in St. Mary's, Penn. is still producing light bulbs to fill old and international contracts. However, the plant has announced plans to wind down incandescent production.

Another American icon has bit the dust: Pontiac.

10 Iconic American Factories That Have Closed In The Past Two Years

10 Iconic American Factories That Have Closed In The Past Two Years

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America is on its way to becoming the world's first truly post-industrial nation. Factory jobs have been shed by the thousands and cities that once relied on industry have been shattered.

Of course this trend has been going on for the past forty years or so. Only recently it has been getting worse.


November 2008: DHL closes its Wilmington, Oh. distribution facility

November 2008: DHL closes its Wilmington, Oh. distribution facility

Image: AP Images

A town with a population of 12,000 loses 3,500 jobs at once as DHL ceases it's entire North American operation. Wilmington becomes a media poster child for small cities in the financial crisis as home foreclosure rates climb to 1 in every 389 homes by the end of 2009.

December 2008: General Motors closes Janesville, Wisc. Plant

December 2008: General Motors closes Janesville, Wisc. Plant

Image: AP Images

GM 's "Largest Facility Under One Roof" shutters as 2008 comes to an end. Roughly 750 jobs (an estimated ten percent of the entire community's jobs in total) are eliminated entirely.

May 2009: Pilgrim's Pride Foods closes Farmerville, Louisiana facility

May 2009: Pilgrim's Pride Foods closes Farmerville, Louisiana facility

Image: AP Images

1,300 jobs lost in small Louisiana community as family food production company files for bankruptcy protection. Overall, corporate re-structuring of Pilgrim's Pride will eliminate more than 3,000 by the end of 2009.

September 2009: General Motors shuts down Pontiac, Mich. plant

September 2009: General Motors shuts down Pontiac, Mich. plant

Image: AP Images

Pontiac, Michigan loses 1,100 jobs as GM ends all production on the town's namesake line of cars. Unemployment rate in Pontiac hits a corresponding all-time high.

November 2009: International Paper closes Franklin, Virginia mill

November 2009: International Paper closes Franklin, Virginia mill

Image: AP Images

Company shuts down paper mill that has been operating for more than a century, terminating 1,100 jobs.

April 2010: Morell & Co. closes Sioux City, Iowa processing plant

April 2010: Morell & Co. closes Sioux City, Iowa processing plant
The Smithfield Foods subsidiary shuts down its pork processing plant and 1,450 jobs are lost at one of Sioux City's largest employers.

April 2010: Toyota closes NUMMI factory in Fremont, CA

April 2010: Toyota closes NUMMI factory in Fremont, CA

Image: flickr

A staggering 4,500 jobs are lost as Toyota cannot withstand internal corporate crisis. A local Business Development Group estimates that the plant closing will adversely effect another 18,800 in the East Bay area either in lost wages of the laid off, or interactions with local suppliers.

June 2010: Whirlpool Closes its Evansville, Ind. factory

June 2010:  Whirlpool Closes its Evansville, Ind. factory

Image: AP

Appliance giant moves entire refrigerator assembly operation to Mexico. 1,100 jobs lost at factory opened in 1956.

July 2010: Chrysler shutters Twinsburg, Oh. plant

July 2010: Chrysler shutters Twinsburg, Oh. plant

Image: AP Images

As part of bankruptcy filing, Chrysler closes Twinsburg Stamping Plant, almost 1,000 jobs lost in town with a population of just over 17,000.

November 2010: Dell shuts down factory in Winston-Salem, NC

November 2010: Dell shuts down factory in Winston-Salem, NC

Image: AP Images

905 jobs will be sacrificed as hardware company responds to struggling stock prices. Dell will pay the city $15,586,000 for any possible further damage caused to the community as a result of the layoffs.

20 Facts That Will Make You Really Mad If You Stop And Think About Them For A While

20 Facts That Will Make You Really Mad If You Stop And Think About Them For A While

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Sad trader

Image: AP

The more you read the news today the more likely you are to get really mad. The world is becoming an incredibly crazy place, and at times the amount of bad news that is coming out can seem almost overwhelming.

Click here to see the facts >

Everywhere you look, the poor are being oppressed, our politicians are making stupid decisions and evil is on the march.

The America that so many of us grew up deeply loving is literally being ripped to shreds in a thousand different ways. Unfortunately, those in power have not had any real answers for us in decades. The Democrats don't have any real answers, the Republicans don't have any real answers and the Federal Reserve sure as heck does not have any real answers.

In fact, it seems like almost everything that our leaders actually do "accomplish" only makes things worse. The vast majority of Americans are quite busy being entertained by "bread and circuses", but meanwhile our country is literally falling apart.


Since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, the U.S. dollar has declined in value by over 95 percent

The difference between the budget that the "big spending Democrats" are proposing and the budget that the "big spending Republicans" are proposing is only about 32 billion dollars

The difference between the budget that the "big spending Democrats" are proposing and the budget that the "big spending Republicans" are proposing is only about 32 billion dollars

Image: AP

Considering the fact that our national budget deficit is going to run about 1.5 trillion dollars this year, 32 billion dollars is not a whole heck of a lot to cut.

Source: 1787 Radio News

Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does

Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does

Image: Jalopnik

Source: Economy in Crisis

China has now become the world's largest exporter of high technology products

The U.S. government currently owes China 895 billion dollars and we are constantly sending government officials over there to beg them to lend us even more money

The U.S. government currently owes China 895 billion dollars and we are constantly sending government officials over there to beg them to lend us even more money
Source: CNBC.com

The President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Dennis Lockhart, says that the Federal Reserve is not responsible for the rising cost of living....

"The Fed, like every other central bank, is powerless to prevent fluctuations in the cost of living and increases of individual prices. We do not produce oil. Nor do we grow food or provide health care. We cannot prevent the next oil shock, or drought, or a strike somewhere —events that cause prices of certain goods to rise and change your cost of living."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

The price of food is going up, the price of gasoline is going up, but home values continue to go down

The price of food is going up, the price of gasoline is going up, but home values continue to go down

Image: TheTruthAbout

According to CoreLogic, national home prices were 5.46 percent lower in December 2010 than they were in December 2009.

In Osceola County, Florida 66.5% of all home mortgages are underwater. In Clark Country, Nevada 71.1% of all home mortgages are underwater

In Osceola County, Florida 66.5% of all home mortgages are underwater.  In Clark Country, Nevada 71.1% of all home mortgages are underwater
Source: USA Today

There are approximately 28 million Americans that would like full-time jobs but that don't have full-time jobs

There are approximately 28 million Americans that would like full-time jobs but that don't have full-time jobs

Image: hometownboy

Source: The Economic Collapse

Guantanamo Bay still exists

In a recent interview, Donald Rumsfeld said that he takes "great pride in the structures that the Bush administration put in place that this Obama administration criticized and ran against and now have retained: military commissions and indefinite detention and (the prison at) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Source: USA Today

The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was less than during any other decade since World War 2

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are both declaring that the U.S. economy is in recovery mode, and yet an all-time record of 43.6 million Americans were on food stamps during the month of November

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are both declaring that the U.S. economy is in recovery mode, and yet an all-time record of 43.6 million Americans were on food stamps during the month of November

Image: Flickr User Clementine Gallot (www.flickr.com

Source: The Wall Street Journal

According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States

According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States

Image: flickr

Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.

Source: CNN

A Super Bowl television ad that encouraged people to look up John 3:16 was rejected by Fox Sports because they felt that it was "too offensive"

A Super Bowl television ad that encouraged people to look up John 3:16 was rejected by Fox Sports because they felt that it was "too offensive"

Image: AP

Source: The Christian Post

In Houston, Texas a couple named Bobby and Amanda Herring that had been feeding homeless people for over a year has been banned by the city from doing so

In Houston, Texas a couple named Bobby and Amanda Herring that had been feeding homeless people for over a year has been banned by the city from doing so
They were told that they needed a permit to feed the homeless and city officials say that they are not going to get one.

Source: Chron.com

A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research found that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth

A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research found that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth

Image: Flickr User Itzafineday (www.flickr.com

Source: Wikipedia

Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry each night

During Barack Obama's first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined

During Barack Obama's first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined
Source: CNSnews.com

An increasing number of investors are betting that the U.S. government will default on its debt

An increasing number of investors are betting that the U.S. government will default on its debt

Image: meddygarnet via Flickr

In fact, trading of U.S. credit default swap contracts has more than doubled over the last several weeks.

Source: CNN Money

The fastest growing portion of the federal budget is interest on the national debt