Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tax the super-rich or riots will rage in 2012

Tax the super-rich or riots will rage in 2012

Commentary: 6 reasons we can’t stop coming economic meltdown

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Reuters
Police officers in riot gear drag a man along a street in London Aug. 8, 2011.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — What a year. Rage in London, Egypt, Athens, Damascus. All real. Just a metaphor in the new “Planet of the Apes” film? No, much more. Warning: More rage is dead ahead. Across our planet a new generation is filled with rage. High unemployment. Raging inflation. Dreams lost. Hope gone. While the super -rich get richer and richer.

Listen to that hissing: The fuse is rapidly burning, warning us. Wake up before the rage explodes in your face. This firestorm is endangering America’s future. From forces outside, yes. But far more deadly, from deep within our collective psyche. We have lost our moral compass. We are self-destructing.

Solidarity after riots

Asian communities across the U.K. come together to pay homage to three men killed in the rioting. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Crackpot warning? No. This warning comes from the elite International Monetary Fund. A recent IMF report looked at “the causes of the two major U.S. economic crises over the past 100 years, the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2007,” writes Rana Foroohar, an economics editor at Time magazine.

“There are two remarkable similarities in the eras that preceded these crises. Both saw a sharp increase in income inequality and household-debt-to-income ratios.” And in each case, “as the poor and middle-class were squeezed, they tried to cope by borrowing to maintain their standard of living.”

But the rich “got richer, by lending, and looked for more places to invest, bidding up securities that eventually exploded in everyone’s face. In both eras, financial deregulation and loose monetary policies played roles in creating the bubble. But inequality itself — and the political pressure not to reverse it, but to hide it — was a crucial factor in the meltdown. The shrinking middle isn’t a symptom of the downturn. It’s the source of it.” Today the consequences of the meltdown still haunt us — there’s more to come.

The next bubble

There’s a new bubble blowing. No one can stop it ... soon it will explode.

Get it? There’s enormous “political pressure not to reverse” inequality till it “explodes in our faces.” We deny the inequality between rich and the other 99%. The rich are addicts. More is never enough. They thrive on greed, blind to the needs of others. Worse, they have no commitment to America as a nation. From Forbes billionaires and signers of “no new taxes” pledges, to Mitch McConnell’s un-American willingness to sabotage the economy to deliver on his main promise to make Obama a one-term president. Read about Obama’s support of Warren Buffett’s call to tax the rich.

Yes folks, the new “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” film delivers a powerful warning paralleling the IMF red flags. Listen to reviewer Zaki Hasan in HuffPost. Here’s the scenario. What’s ahead for America as the inequality gap gets bigger, the job market stagnates, inflation rages, a double-dip recession nears. Hasan’s vision goes beyond metaphor. We see a psychological profile of America as an addict lost in an addiction. And like all addicts, we cannot see, nor stop, our self-destructive behavior:

“The Apes series has always been about self-inflicted wounds — the idea that man’s unquenchable hubris inevitably leads to catastrophic consequences both for himself and those around him, whether manifested through cruelty to animals or cruelty to himself.”

In the new film, our world is facing “the twin threats” of genetic engineering and a super-virus. But the central theme remains: “Man’s downfall comes as a result of his own actions.”

The original “Planet of the Apes” went deeper, speaking more to America’s fatally flawed mind: “Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn.” In this early scene, Dr. Cornelius, the anthropologist, an orangutan, is reading aloud from the ancient sacred scrolls of the Apes: “Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed.” Yes, that reminds us of Goldman’s war to dominate the great Wall Street jungle.

He keeps reading from the scrolls: “Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”

Yes, evolution is reversing. Here a prophecy comes true. The Apes knew our brains were saboteurs, destroying our rightful place at the top of the jungle’s food chain: “Man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better.”

Warning: The rage is sweeping London, Damascus, Tripoli, the spreading Sahara desert. Is America next?

Tax the super-rich, or revolution will overrun America next

Yes, tax the super-rich. Tax them now, before the other 99% rise up, trigger a new American Revolution, another meltdown, a new Great Depression. Historically, revolutions build over long periods, bubbles growing to critical mass. Then, “something happens.” Suddenly. Unpredictably. A flashpoint triggers ignition. Nobody saw it coming in Egypt. A suicide in a remote village uploaded on a young Google executive’s Facebook page. Goes viral, raging out of control. Cannot be stopped. So think hard about these six warnings blowing a new mega-bubble that will soon explode in our collective faces:

1. Warning: High unemployment is a global ticking time bomb

An earlier special report in Time, “Poor vs. Rich: A New Global Conflict,” warns that a “conflict between two worlds — one rich, one poor — is developing, and the battlefield is the globe itself.”

Just 25 developed nations with 750 million citizens “consume most of the world’s resources … enjoy history’s highest standard of living.” But now they face 100 poor nations with 2 billion people, many living in poverty, all demanding “an ever larger share of that wealth.” A British leader calls this a “time bomb for the human race.”

2. Warning: Tax cuts for the rich increase youth unemployment

In a New York Times column, Matthew Klein, a 24-year-old Council on Foreign Relations researcher, saw the parallel between the 25% unemployment among Egypt’s young and the 21% for young Americans: “The young will bear the brunt of the pain” as governments rebalance budgets. “Taxes on workers will be raised, spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable.” And more tax cuts for the rich.

3. Warning: Rich get richer on commodity inflation, poor get angrier

USAToday’s John Waggoner warned: “Soaring food prices send millions into poverty, hunger.” The “rise in food prices means a descent into extreme poverty and hunger, warns the World Bank.” One Pimco manager warns that commodity inflation exposes “the underlying inequalities and issues related to the standard of living that boil beneath the surface.”

4. Warning: The super-rich are blinded by their addiction to money

In “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest American Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill),” David Cay Johnston warns that the rich are like addicts, and to “the addicted, money is like cocaine, too much is never enough.” Recent data: 300,000 Americans in “the top tenth of 1% of income had nearly as much income as all 150 million Americans who make up the economic lower half of our population.”

5. Warning: Politicians are corrupted by this super-rich addiction to greed

In “Washington’s Suicide Pact,” Newsweek’s Ezra Klein warns: “Congress is careening toward the worst of all worlds: massive job losses and an exploding deficit.” And the debt-ceiling drama just made things a lot worse. Millions of jobs were lost during Bush years, his wars, tax cuts for the rich. Yet, today the GOP is in total denial of that legacy, blinded by an obsession to destroy Obama’s presidency, no matter the consequences.

6. Warning: Soon the revolutionaries will rage, then dominate ‘Third World America’

Yes, we are ripe for a surprise revolution. In “Third World America” Arianna Huffington warns: “Washington rushed to the rescue of Wall Street but forgot about Main Street.” Now Bernanke’s promise of cheap money through 2013 is just one more “free lunch” to the richest 1%. Meanwhile, “one in five Americans unemployed or underemployed. One in nine families unable to make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans on food stamps. Upward mobility has always been at the center of the American Dream … that promise has been broken… The American Dream is becoming a nightmare.”

Wake up folks. Super-rich addicts are destroying the American Dream for everyone. They’re destroying the American economy. They don’t care about you. Yes, they hear the ticking time bomb. They’re stockpiling cash. Don’t say you weren’t warned. The IMF sees a new collapse sweeping across the planet. Open your eyes. You’re not watching a film. This is not a metaphor. Plan now for the revolution, class warfare, market crash, economic collapse, plan for another depression.

The Dangerous Reagan Cult

The Dangerous Reagan Cult

Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes for corporate jets. For their part, Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

In the debt-ceiling debate, both Republicans and Democrats wanted Ronald Reagan on their side. Republicans embraced the 40th president’s disdain for government and fondness for tax cuts, while Democrats noted that “even Reagan” raised the debt limit many times and accepted some tax increases.

But Reagan – possibly more than any political leader – deserves the blame for the economic/political mess that the United States now finds itself in. He was the patriarch for virtually every major miscalculation that the country has made over the past three decades.

It was Reagan who slashed taxes on the rich to roughly their current level; he opened the flood gates on deficit spending; he accelerated the decline of the middle class by busting unions and slashing support for local communities; he disparaged the value of government regulations; he squandered money on the Pentagon; he pushed more militaristic strategies abroad; and he rejected any thoughtful criticism of past U.S. foreign policies.

Reagan also created what amounted to a “populist” right-wing cult that targeted the federal government as the source of nearly all evil. In his First Inaugural Address, he famously declared that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

It is that contempt for government that today is driving the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party. Yet, as with many cults, the founder of this one was somewhat more practical in dealing with the world around him, thus explaining some of Reagan’s compromises on the debt ceiling and taxes.

But once the founder is gone, his teachings can become definitive truth to the disciples. Flexibility disappears. No deviation is permitted. No compromise is tolerated.

So, at a time when government intervention is desperately needed to address a host of national problems, members of this Reagan cult apply the teachings of the leader in the most extreme ways. Since “government is the problem,” the only answer is to remove government from the equation and let the corporations, the rich and the magical “market” dictate national solutions.

It is an ironic testament to Ronald Reagan’s enduring influence that America’s most notable “populist” movement, the Tea Party, insists that tax cuts for the wealthy must be protected, even minor ones like tax loopholes for corporate jets. Inside the Tea Party, any suggestion that billionaire hedge-fund managers should pay a tax rate equal to that of their secretaries is anathema.

Possibly never in history has a “populist” movement been as protective of the interests of the rich as the Tea Party is. But that is because it is really a political cult dedicated to the most extreme rendering of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy.

Astro-Turf ‘Populists’

Granted, the Tea Party also can be viewed as an astro-turf outfit financed by billionaires like the Koch brothers and promoted by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But Election 2010 proved that the movement is capable of putting like-minded politicians into office, especially when discouraged elements of the American Left choose to sit on the sidelines.

During the debt-ceiling battle, the GOP’s Tea Party caucus showed it was strong enough to block any compromise that included a revenue increase. The thinking is that the “evil” government must be starved even if that means defending indefensible tax loopholes and shoving the world’s economy to the brink of catastrophe.

The Tea Party’s rabid enforcement of the Reagan orthodoxy instills such fear among top Republicans that every one of the eight presidential hopefuls at a recent Iowa debate vowed to reject a deal that would include just $1 of higher taxes for each $10 in spending cuts. Even supposed moderates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman threw up their hands.

But the Reagan cult reaches far beyond the Republican Party. Last February, a Gallup poll of Americans cited Reagan as the greatest president ever, with a five percentage point lead over Abraham Lincoln.

These days, virtually no one in Washington’s political or media circles dares to engage in a serious critique of Reagan’s very checkered record as president. It’s much easier to align yourself with some position that Reagan took during his long career, much like a pastor selectively picking a Bible passage to support his theological argument.

When negative national trends are cited – such as the decline of the middle class or the widening gap between rich and poor – the self-censorship demands that Reagan’s name not be spoken. Instead, there are references to these problems deepening “over the past three decades,” without mentioning whose presidency got things going big time.

Creating an Icon

And there is a self-interested reason for this hesitancy. The Republicans and the Right have made it a high priority to transform Reagan into an icon and to punish any independent-minded political figure or journalist who resists the group think.

The first step in this process occurred in the late 1980s, with aggressive cover-ups of Reagan’s crimes of state, such as scandals over the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair, Contra-cocaine trafficking, and the Iraq-gate support of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Faced with furious Republican defenses of Reagan and his inner circle, most Democrats and mainstream journalists chose career discretion over valor. By the time Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the refrain from Democrats and Washington pundits was to “leave that for the historians.”

Those who didn’t go along with the cover-ups – like Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh – were subjected to ridicule from both the right-wing and mainstream media, from both the Washington Times and the Washington Post. Journalists who challenged the implausible Reagan cover-ups also found themselves marginalized as “conspiracy theorists.”

Leading Democrats decided it made more sense to look to the future, not dwell on the past. Plus, acquiescing to the cover-ups was a way to show their bipartisanship.

However, Republicans had other ideas. Having pocketed the concessions regarding any serious investigations of Reagan and his cohorts, the Republicans soon went on the offensive by investigating the heck out of President Clinton and his administration.

Then, having stirred up serious public doubts about Clinton’s integrity, the Republicans trounced the Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections. With their new majorities, the Republicans immediately began the process of enshrining Reagan as a national icon.

By and large, the Democrats saw these gestures, like attaching Reagan’s name to National Airport, as another way to demonstrate their bipartisanship.

But Republicans knew better. They understood the strategic value of elevating Reagan’s legacy to the status of an icon. If everyone agreed that Reagan was so great, then it followed that the hated “guv-mint” must be that bad.

More Accommodations

Increasingly, Democrats found themselves arguing on Republican ground, having to apologize for any suggestion that the government could do anything good for the country. Meanwhile, the Clinton-era stock market boom convinced more Americans that the “market” must know best.

Going with that flow, President Clinton signed a Republican-sponsored bill that removed Depression-era regulations in the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banks. With the repeal, the doors were thrown open for Wall Street gambling.

In the short run, lots of money was made, encouraging more Americans to believe that the government and its “safety net” were indeed anachronisms for losers. People with any gumption could simply day-trade their way to riches.

Reagan, it seemed, was right all along: government was the problem; the “free market” was not only the solution but it could “self-regulate.”

That was the political/media environment around Election 2000 when the wonkish Vice President Al Gore ran against the brash Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who came across to many as another version of Ronald Reagan, someone who spoke simply and disdained big government.

Though Gore could point to the economic successes of the Clinton years, including a balanced federal budget and the prospect of the total elimination of the federal debt, the major media mocked him as a know-it-all nerd who wore “earth-toned sweaters.” Meanwhile, mainstream journalists swooned over Bush, the regular guy.

Still, Gore eked out a narrow victory in the national popular vote and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast votes were counted. But Bush relied on his brother’s administration in Florida and his father’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure that didn’t happen. Bush was declared the winner in Florida and thus the new president. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

In retrospect, Election 2000 was a disastrous turning point for the United States, putting into the highest office in the land an unqualified ne’er do well who had lost the election.

But this outrage against democracy was largely accepted because of the muscular right-wing machine, the on-bended-knee mainstream media and the weak-kneed Democrats – a political/media dynamic that Reagan had helped create and had left behind.

The progress that the Clinton administration had made toward putting the U.S. financial house in order was quickly undone as Bush pushed through two massive tax cuts benefiting mostly the rich and waged two open-ended wars financed with borrowed money.

Years of Reaganism also had taken its toll on the government’s regulatory structures. Reagan had consistently appointed regulators who were hostile to the very concept of regulating, such as Anne Gorsuch at the Environmental Protection Agency and James Watt at Interior. He also elevated Alan Greenspan, a “free market” admirer of Ayn Rand, to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

In the 1980s, the looting of America was underway in earnest, but the elites of Washington and New York saw little to protest since they were getting a cut of the plunder. The real losers were the average Americans, especially factory workers who saw their unions broken or their jobs shipped overseas under the banner of “free trade.”

Feeling Good

But many Americans were kept entranced by Reagan’s feel-good magic.

Taking office after a difficult decade of the 1970s, when America’s defeat in Vietnam and the Arab oil price hikes had shaken the nation’s confidence, Reagan simply assured everyone that things would work out just fine and that no excessive sacrifice was in order. Nor should there be any feelings of guilt, Reagan made clear.

By the late 1970s, it was widely accepted even among many Republicans that the Vietnam War had been an abomination. But Reagan simply rebranded it a “noble cause,” no reason for any serious self-reflection on America’s imperial role in the world.

Reagan then allied the United States with “death-squad” regimes all over Latin America and across the Third World. His administration treated the resulting carnage as a public-relations problem that could be managed by challenging the patriotism of critics.

At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Reagan’s United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick labeled Americans who dared criticize U.S. foreign policy as those who would “blame America first.”

To continue this sort of verbal pummeling on those who continued to get in the way, Reagan credentialed a bunch of thuggish intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

For the rest of the country, there were happy thoughts about “the shining city on a hill” and “morning in America.”

In reality, however, Reagan had set the stage for the tragedies that would follow. When George W. Bush grabbed power in 2001, he simply extended the foreign and economic policies of the Republican cult leader: more tax cuts, more militarism, less regulation, more media manipulation.

Soon, the gap between rich and poor was widening again. Soon, the United States was at open war in two countries and involved in secret wars in many others. Soon, the nation was confronted with new scandals about torture and deception. Soon, the federal budget was flowing with red ink.

And near the end of Bush’s presidency, the de-regulated excesses of Wall Street pushed the country to the brink of a financial cataclysm. Bush supported a bail-out to save the bankers but didn’t do much for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs or their homes.

Second Thoughts?

One might have thought that the financial crack-up in 2008 (plus the massive federal deficits and the botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) would have confronted the Reagan cult with an existential crisis of faith. It would seem obvious that Reagan’s nostrums just didn’t work.

However, after only a brief interregnum of Barack Obama, the Republicans seem poised to restore the Reagan cult to full power in the United States. The new apparent GOP frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is already being hailed in the Washington Post as “The Texas Gipper.”

The Washington Times (yes, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing propaganda sheet is still around) fairly cooed over Perry’s tough attacks on Obama, depicting America’s first black president as someone who apologizes for America and isn’t deserving of its soldiers in uniform.

“One of the powerful reasons for running for president of the United States is to make sure every man and woman who puts on the uniform respects highly the president of the United States,” Perry said. “We are indignant about a president who apologizes for America.”

As far as Perry is concerned, America has nothing to apologize for.

These are themes right out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. And it appears likely that Election 2012 will be fought over terrain defined by Reagan, even though he left office in 1989 and died in 2004.

It is already clear that President Obama will be on the defensive, trying to justify a role for the federal government in America and explaining why the Reaganesque policy of low taxes on the rich must finally be reversed. Obama also is certain to shy away from any serious examination of how U.S. foreign policy went so wrong, so as not to be labeled “apologist-in-chief.”

Rick Perry or whatever other Republican gets the party’s nomination will hold the high ground of Reagan’s lofty standing among the American people. The GOP nominee can continue blaming “guv-mint” for the nation’s problems and promising another “morning in America” if only the nation further reduces the size of “guv-mint.”

With Democrats also trying to associate themselves with the “greatest president ever,” it appears doubtful that any serious effort will be made to explain to the American people that the charming Reagan was the pied piper who led them to their current demise.

16 Statistics Which Prove That The American People Are Absolutely Seething With Anger

16 Statistics Which Prove That The American People Are Absolutely Seething With Anger

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According to a whole host of polls and surveys, the American people are incredibly angry right now. The American people are hopping mad at the government, the American people are hopping mad about the economy and the American people are hopping mad about the direction that this country is headed. Never before in modern U.S. history have the American people been this angry. There is vast disagreement about what the solutions to our problems actually are, but what everyone can agree on is that the American people are absolutely seething with anger right now. The statistics that you are about to read are mind blowing. We used to be such a happy country. Once upon a time we were one of the happiest places on earth. But as the economy has fallen to pieces anger has been steadily growing. If something is not done to turn the economy around eventually this anger is going to erupt in frightening and unpredictable ways.

The American people are not equipped to handle hard times. We are incredibly spoiled. Most of us have only known good times, and most of us have been taught that we will have endless prosperity all of our lives because we live in the greatest nation on earth.

Well, "the greatest nation on earth" is about to get a massive wake up call. We are up to our eyeballs in debt and we are bleeding jobs, businesses and wealth at an astounding pace. Our economy is dying right in front of our eyes, and most Americans have been so "dumbed-down" that they don't even realize what is happening.

But what most Americans do know is that things are "bad" and they want someone to "fix" things. They know that something is "not right" and they want things to go back to the way things used to be. The longer it takes for things to return to "normal", the angrier they are going to get.

The following are 16 statistics which prove that the American people are absolutely seething with anger right now....

#1 A new Washington Post poll has found that a whopping 78 percent of Americans are dissatisfied "with the way this country’s political system is working".

#2 That same poll found that only 26 percent of Americans believe that the federal government can solve the economic problems that we are now facing.

#3 Gallup says that Barack Obama's job approval rating has hit an all-time low of 39%.

#4 According to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, Congress has a disapproval rating of 82%.

#5 A new Rasmussen survey has found that 85 percent of Americans believe that members of Congress "are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people."

#6 That same survey found that 46 percent of the American people believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. That figure was a new all-time high.

#7 According to a different Rasmussen survey, only 17 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.

#8 A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll discovered that 73 percent of the American people believe that the nation is "on the wrong track".

#9 A recent poll taken by Rasmussen found that 68 percent of Americans believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

#10 According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that lack confidence in U.S. banks is now at an all-time high of 36%.

#11 U.S. consumer confidence is now at its lowest level in 30 years.

#12 According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 90 percent of Americans believe that the economy is performing poorly.

#13 That same poll found that approximately 80 percent of Americans believe that it is "difficult" to find a job these days.

#14 According to one recent poll, 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy has now entered a "permanent decline".

#15 Another recent survey found that 48 percent of Americans believe that it is likely that another great Depression will begin within the next 12 months.

#16 According to a brand new Rasmussen survey, 48% of Americans believe that reductions in government spending are "at least somewhat likely" to result in civil unrest inside the United States.

So why doesn't the government step in and spend a whole bunch of money and make everything all better?

Well, the problem is that we have done this time after time before and now we are broke.

We have been living way, way beyond our means for decades and now the bills are coming due.

David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States, has been warning about our debt problem for years. Walker says that the United States is heading for a "sudden and very painful" economic collapse....

"Here’s the bottom line. If you take the total liabilities of the United States – public debt, unfunded pensions, retiree health care, under funding with regard to social security, with regard to medicare, a range of commitments and contingencies – as of September 30 2010 we would have had to have had $61.6 trillion dollars in the bank in order to be able to defease those obligations."

The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. national debt should have been addressed many years ago when it was still relatively small.

At this point, there is no solution to our national debt problem under our current financial system.

Most state governments are also facing huge financial problems. The state government of Illinois is so broke at this point that it can't even afford to bury the poor people that are dying.

But Illinois is not alone. All over the country, state and local governments have been implementing austerity measures.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state and local governments have slashed more than half a million jobs since August 2008.

That is a whole lot of good jobs that aren't there anymore.

But government debt is not the only debt problem that we are facing. Personal debt is also a raging crisis.

According to USDebtClock.org, the total amount of personal debt in the United States is now over 16 trillion dollars. The exploding levels of personal debt have created a tremendous amount of stress in households from coast to coast.

When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was in the middle class. But today the middle class is shrinking at lightning speed.

According to author David DeGraw, 17.3% of all Americans were living in poverty during 2009. Not only that, DeGraw also says that 9 major U.S. cities have a poverty rate of over 25 percent.

Can you imagine that?

In fact, there are some cities such as Detroit where the poverty rate is over 35 percent.

It is hard to believe what is happening to America. Today, there are over 45 million Americans on food stamps. That number has increased by approximately 12 percent in the last year alone.

There are currently 34 million Americans that need a full-time job. Unemployment is rampant and there is intense competition even for part-time jobs that pay minimum wage.

So where did all of the jobs go?

Well, as I have written about previously, globalism is absolutely devastating our economy. Millions of our jobs have been shipped to countries where labor is far, far cheaper and they aren't coming back.

In addition, millions of Americans that do still have jobs are also deeply struggling right now. There are millions and millions of Americans that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find right now. Millions of other Americans are flat broke and are discovering that their paychecks are "shrinking" due to inflation. Wages have barely risen while prices for food and other necessities are skyrocketing.

Most families are really struggling to get by right now.

According to the Washington Post, the average yearly income of the bottom 90 percent of U.S. income earners is $31,244.

It is really hard to pay a mortgage and feed a family on that income.

The only people that seem to be doing well are at the very top.

The average yearly income of the top 0.1% of U.S. income earners is 5.6 million dollars.

Not that making money is a bad thing, but when an economic system funnels all of the rewards to the very top you know something is deeply broken.

The poorest 50% of all Americans now own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

A lot of poor Americans have literally fallen off the map. The Daily Mail recently did a feature on one tent city that has been constructed deep in a forest in New Jersey....

In scenes reminiscent of the Great Depression these are the ramshackle homes of the desperate and destitute U.S. families who have set up their own 'Tent City' only an hour from Manhattan.

More than 50 homeless people have joined the community within New Jersey's forests as the economic crisis has wrecked their American dream.

You can see shocking pictures of this tent city right here.

So it is no wonder why so many Americans are so angry.

If you lost your job or your home you would probably be angry too.

Most Americans just want to be able to go to work, make a decent living, pay the mortgage and provide for their families.

But in America today that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

Our economy is a giant mess and the American people are becoming very angry.

If the economy gets even worse, they are going to become even angrier.

Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.

Things are about to get very, very interesting.

Can We Have Health Reform Without an Individual Mandate?

Can We Have Health Reform Without an Individual Mandate?

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The essential vote on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel that ruled the individual-coverage mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform is unconstitutional did not come from a reactionary Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

Rather, it came from respected jurist whose two appointments to the federal bench – first as a judge for the Northern District of Georgia in 1994 and then to the 11th Circuit in 1997 – were made by then-President Bill Clinton. No, Judge Frank Mays Hull is not a raging lefty, but nor is she a right-wing judicial activist. A former law clerk for Judge Elbert Parr Tuttle, who as the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from 1960 to 1967 led the court in issuing a series of epic decisions on behalf of civil rights, Judge Hull has a reputation as a moderate defender of the rule of law who has earned reasonable marks for her pragmatic and decidely mainstream interpretations of the Constitution.

So why did Hull join with another member of the appeals court panel (Chief Judge Joel Dubina, an appointee of George H.W. Bush) to form the 2-1 majority that rejected the individual mandate while affirming the rest of the law? Perhaps it was because one can favor sweeping health-care reforms – including an expansion of Medicare – while still believing that it is wrong to require Americans to buy insurance from for-profit insurance companies.

Hull telegraphed her thinking with repeated questions during June oral arguments in Atlanta regarding the case. Noting that “the panel spent a significant amount of time discussing whether the mandate is ‘severable’ from the rest of the law,” Politico pointed out that: “Hull in particular asked the federal government three times where the line should be.”

Ultimately, Hull and Dubina came to the conclusion that the individual mandate could, and should, be removed from an otherwise constitutional plan.

Why? Because, as the judges wrote in their majority decision: "This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives.”

Those of us who favor fundamental health-care reform have always been uncomfortable with the individual mandate. So was candidate Barack Obama, who distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton (a mandate backer) by saying in a February, 2008, interview that: "Both of us want to provide health care to all Americans. There’s a slight difference, and her plan is a good one. But, she mandates that everybody buy health care. She’d have the government force every individual to buy insurance and I don’t have such a mandate because I don’t think the problem is that people don’t want health insurance, it’s that they can’t afford it. So, I focus more on lowering costs. This is a modest difference. But, it’s one that she’s tried to elevate, arguing that because I don’t force people to buy health care that I’m not insuring everybody. Well, if things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn’t."

Candidate Obama was right.

The individual mandate was always a bad idea. Instead of recognizing that health care is a right, the members of Congress and the Obama administration who cobbled together the health-care reform plan created a mandate that maintains the abuses and the expenses of for-profit insurance companies – and actually rewards those insurance companies with a guarantee of federal money.

Those who think that the for-profit (or even not-for-profit) insurance industry has to control any health-care reform initiative have every right to be upset with the 11th Circuit’s ruling – which almost certainly will send the case of the Obama health-care plan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But those of us who have no desire to perpetuate the insurance industry can and should recognize that the proper – and entirely constitutional – reform is an expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans.

There is no question that Medicare is a sound and popular program. (Just ask House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who took an epic political beating when he proposed a scheme to replace the successful single-payer system with a voucher scheme designed to enrich insurance firms.)

While Medicare is exceptionally popular, polling shows that the individual mandate is not – according to recent surveys, roughly 60 percent of Americans oppose it.

It also passes Constitutional muster.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich notes: (No) federal judge has struck down Social Security or Medicare as being an unconstitutional requirement that Americans buy something. Social Security and Medicare aren’t broccoli or asparagus. They’re as American as hot dogs and apple pie.”

“So if the individual mandate to buy private health insurance gets struck down by the Supreme Court or killed off by Congress, “ says Reich, “I’d recommend President Obama immediately propose what he should have proposed in the beginning — universal health care based on Medicare for all, financed by payroll taxes.”

The insurance companies would, of course, scream.

But let them complain.

Americans don’t need mandates. They need health care.

As America's Economy Collapses, "New Normal" Police State Takes Shape

As America's Economy Collapses, "New Normal" Police State Takes Shape

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Forget your rights.

As corporate overlords position themselves to seize what little remains of a tattered social net (adieu Medicare and Medicaid! Social Security? Au revoir!), the Obama administration is moving at break-neck speed to expand police state programs first stood-up by the Bush government.

After all, with world share prices gyrating wildly, employment and wages in a death spiral, and retirement funds and publicly-owned assets swallowed whole by speculators and rentier scum, the state better dust-off contingency plans lest the Greek, Spanish or British "contagion" spread beyond the fabled shores of "old Europe" and infect God-fearin' folk here in the heimat.

Fear not, they have and the lyrically-titled Civil Disturbances: Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources, otherwise known as Army Regulation 500-50, spells out the "responsibilities, policy, and guidance for the Department of the Army in planning and operations involving the use of Army resources in the control of actual or anticipated civil disturbances." (emphasis added)

With British politicians demanding a clampdown on social media in the wake of London riots, and with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency having done so last week in San Francisco, switching off underground cell phone service to help squelch a protest against police violence, authoritarian control tactics, aping those deployed in Egypt and Tunisia (that worked out well!) are becoming the norm in so-called "Western democracies."

Secret Law, Secret Programs

Meanwhile up on Capitol Hill, Congress did their part to defend us from that pesky Bill of Rights; that is, before 81 of them--nearly a fifth of "our" elected representatives--checked-out for AIPAC-funded junkets to Israel.

Secrecy News reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee "rejected an amendment that would have required the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to confront the problem of 'secret law,' by which government agencies rely on legal authorities that are unknown or misunderstood by the public."

That amendment, proposed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) was rejected by voice vote, further entrenching unprecedented surveillance powers of Executive Branch agencies such as the FBI and NSA.

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department "demanding the release of a secret legal memo used to justify FBI access to Americans' telephone records without any legal process or oversight."

The DOJ refused and it now appears that the Senate has affirmed that "secret law" should be guiding principles of our former republic.

Secrecy News also disclosed that the Committee rejected a second amendment to the authorization bill, one that would have required the Justice Department's Inspector General "to estimate the number of Americans who have had the contents of their communications reviewed in violation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 [FAA]."

As pointed out here many times, FAA is a pernicious piece of Bushist legislative detritus that legalized the previous administration's secret spy programs since embellished by our current "hope and change" president.

During the run-up to FAA's passage, congressional Democrats, including then-Senator Barack Obama and his Republican colleagues across the aisle, claimed that the law would "strike a balance" between Americans' privacy rights and the needs of security agencies to "stop terrorists" attacking the country.

If that's the case, then why can't the American people learn whether their rights have been compromised?

Perhaps, as recent reports in Truthout and other publications suggest, former U.S. counterterrorism "czar" Richard Clarke leveled "explosive allegations against three former top CIA officials--George Tenet, Cofer Black and Richard Blee--accusing them of knowingly withholding intelligence ... about two of the 9/11 hijackers who had entered the United States more than a year before the attacks."

Clarke's allegations follow closely on the heels of an investigation by Truthout journalists Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold.

"Based on on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and an interview with a former high-ranking counterterrorism official," Kaye and Leopold learned that "a little-known military intelligence unit, unbeknownst to the various investigative bodies probing the terrorist attacks, was ordered by senior government officials to stop tracking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's movements prior to 9/11."

As readers are well aware, the 9/11 provocation was the pretext used by the capitalist state to wage aggressive resource wars abroad while ramming through repressive legislation like the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act that targeted the democratic rights of the American people here at home.

But FAA did more then legitimate illegal programs. It also handed retroactive immunity and economic cover to giant telecoms like AT&T and Verizon who profited handily from government surveillance, shielding them from monetary damages which may have resulted from a spate of lawsuits such as Hepting v. AT&T.

This raises the question: are other U.S. firms similarly shielded from scrutiny by secret annexes in FAA or the privacy-killing USA Patriot Act?

Echelon Cubed

Last week, Softpedia revealed that "Google has admitted complying with requests from US intelligence agencies for data stored in its European data centers, most likely in violation of European Union data protection laws."

"At the center of this problem," reporter Lucian Constantin wrote, "is the USA PATRIOT ACT, which states that companies incorporated in the United States must hand over data administered by their foreign subsidiaries if requested."

"Not only that," the publication averred, "they can be forced to keep quiet about it in order to avoid exposing active investigations and alert those targeted by the probes."

In other words, despite strict privacy laws that require companies operating within the EU to protect the personal data of their citizens, reports suggest that U.S. firms, operating under an entirely different legal framework, U.S. spy laws with built-in secrecy clauses and gag orders, trump the laws and legal norms of other nations.

Given the widespread corporate espionage carried out by the National Security Agency's decades-long Echelon communications' intercept program, American firms such as Google, Microsoft, Apple or Amazon may very well have become witting accomplices of U.S. secret state agencies rummaging about for "actionable intelligence" on EU, or U.S., citizens.

Indeed, a decade ago the European Union issued its final report on the Echelon spying machine and concluded that the program was being used for corporate and industrial espionage and that data filched from EU firms was being turned over to American corporations.

In 2000, the BBC reported that according to European investigators "U.S. Department of Commerce 'success stories' could be attributed to the filtering powers of Echelon."

Duncan Campbell, a British journalist and intelligence expert, who along with New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager, helped blow the lid off Echelon, offered two instances of U.S. corporate spying in the 1990s when the newly-elected Clinton administration followed-up on promises of "aggressive advocacy" on behalf of U.S. firms "bidding for foreign contracts."

According to Campbell, NSA "lifted all the faxes and phone-calls between Airbus, the Saudi national airline and the Saudi Government" to gain this information. In a second case which came to light, Campbell documented how "Raytheon used information picked up from NSA snooping to secure a $1.4bn contract to supply a radar system to Brazil instead of France's Thomson-CSF."

As Softpedia reported, U.S.-based cloud computing services operating overseas have placed "European companies and government agencies that are using their services ... in a tough position."

With the advent of fiber optic communication platforms, programs like Echelon have a far greater, and more insidious, reach. AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein noted on the widespread deployment by NSA of fiber optic splitters and secret rooms at American telecommunications' firms:

What screams out at you when examining this physical arrangement is that the NSA was vacuuming up everything flowing in the Internet stream: e-mail, web browsing, Voice-Over-Internet phone calls, pictures, streaming video, you name it. The splitter has no intelligence at all, it just makes a blind copy. There could not possibly be a legal warrant for this, since according to the 4th Amendment warrants have to be specific, "particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." ...

This was a massive blind copying of the communications of millions of people, foreign and domestic, randomly mixed together. From a legal standpoint, it does not matter what they claim to throw away later in their secret rooms, the violation has already occurred at the splitter. (Mark Klein, Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine... And Fighting It, Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge, 2009, pp. 38-39.)

What was Google's response?

In a statement to the German publication WirtschaftsWoche a Google corporate spokesperson said: "As a law abiding company, we comply with valid legal process, and that--as for any U.S. based company--means the data stored outside of the U.S. may be subject to lawful access by the U.S. government. That said, we are committed to protecting user privacy when faced with law enforcement requests. We have a long track record of advocating on behalf of user privacy in the face of such requests and we scrutinize requests carefully to ensure that they adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying." (translation courtesy of Public Intelligence)

Is the Senate Intelligence Committee's steadfast refusal to release documents and secret legal memos that most certainly target American citizens also another blatant example of American exceptionalism meant to protect U.S. firms operating abroad from exposure as corporate spies for the government?

It isn't as if NSA hasn't been busy doing just that here at home.

As The New York Times reported back in 2009, the "National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year."

Chalking up the problem to "overcollection" and "technical difficulties," unnamed intelligence officials and administration lawyers told journalists Eric Lichtblau and James Risen that although the practice was "significant and systemic ... it was believed to have been unintentional."

As "unintentional" as ginned-up intelligence that made the case for waging aggressive war against oil-rich Iraq!

In a follow-up piece, the Times revealed that NSA "appears to have tolerated significant collection and examination of domestic e-mail messages without warrants."

A former NSA analyst "read into" the illegal program told Lichtblau and Risen that he "and other analysts were trained to use a secret database, code-named Pinwale, in 2005 that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages."

Email readily handed over by Google, Microsoft or other firms "subject to lawful access" by the Pentagon spy satrapy?

The Times' anonymous source said "Pinwale allowed N.S.A. analysts to read large volumes of e-mail messages to and from Americans as long as they fell within certain limits--no more than 30 percent of any database search, he recalled being told--and Americans were not explicitly singled out in the searches."

Nor, were they excluded from such illicit practices.

As Jane Mayer revealed in The New Yorker, "privacy controls" and "anonymizing features" of a program called ThinThread, which would have complied with the law if Americans' communications were swept into NSA's giant eavesdropping nets, were rejected in favor of the "$1.2 billion flop" called Trailblazer.

And, as previously reported, when Wyden and Udall sought information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on just how many Americans had their communications monitored, the DNI stonewalled claiming "it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority."

Why? Precisely because such programs act like a giant electronic sponge and soak-up and data mine huge volumes of our communications.

As former NSA manager and ThinThread creator Bill Binney told The New Yorker, that "little program ... got twisted" and was "used to eavesdrop on the whole world."

Three years after Barack Obama promised to curb Bush administration "excesses," illegal surveillance programs continue to expand under his watch.

A Permanent "State of Exception"

Under our current political set-up, "states of exception" and national security "emergencies" have become permanent features of social life.

Entire classes of citizens and non-citizens alike are now suspect; anarchists, communists, immigrants, Muslims, union activists and political dissidents in general are all subject to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and surveillance.

From "enhanced security screenings" at airports to the massive expansion of private and state databases that archive our spending habits, whom we talk to and where we go, increasingly, as the capitalist system implodes and millions face the prospect of economic ruin, the former American republic takes on the characteristics of a corporate police state.

Security researcher and analyst Christopher Soghoian reported on his Slight Paranoia blog, that according to "an official DOJ report, the use of 'emergency', warrantless requests to ISPs for customer communications content has skyrocketed over 400% in a single year."

This is no trifling matter.

As CNET News disclosed last month, "Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers' activities for one year--in case police want to review them in the future--under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today."

Declan McCullagh reported that "the 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall's elections."

Significantly, CNET noted that this is also a "victory" for Democratic appointees of Barack Obama's Justice Department "who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirements."

According to CNET, a "last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses."

However, by "a 7-16 vote, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored."

Consider the troubling implications of this sweeping bill. While ultra-rightist "Tea Party" Republicans vowed to get "the government off our backs," when it comes to illicit snooping by securocrats whose only loyalty is to a self-perpetuating security bureaucracy and the defense grifters they serve (and whom they rely upon for plum positions after government "retirement"), all our private data is now up for grabs.

The bill, according to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who spearheaded opposition to the measure said that if passed, it would create "a data bank of every digital act by every American" that would "let us find out where every single American visited Web sites."

To make the poison pill legislation difficult to oppose, proponents have dubbed it, wait, the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" even though, as CNET noted, "the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well."

Soghoian relates that the 2009 two-page Justice Department report to Congress took 11 months (!) to release under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Why the Justice Department stonewall?

Perhaps, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation disclosed last year, political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security and presumably other secret state satrapies, ordered "an extra layer of review on its FOIA requests."

EFF revealed that a 2009 policy memo from the Department's Chief FOIA Officer and Chief Privacy Officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, that DHS components "were required to report 'significant FOIA activities' in weekly reports to the Privacy Office, which the Privacy Office then integrated into its weekly report to the White House Liaison."

Included amongst designated "significant FOIA activities" were requests "from any members of 'an activist group, watchdog organization, special interest group, etc.' and 'requested documents [that] will garner media attention or [are] receiving media attention'."

Despite the appearance of reporting "emergency" spying requests to congressional committees presumably overseeing secret state activities (a generous assumption at best), "it is quite clear" Soghoian avers, "that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance" and "underreport these disclosures by several orders of magnitude."

As such, "the current law is largely useless." It does not apply to "state and local law enforcement agencies, who make tens of thousands of warrantless requests to ISPs each year," and is inapplicable to "to federal law enforcement agencies outside DOJ."

"Finally," Soghoian relates, "it does not apply to emergency disclosures of non-content information, such as geo-location data, subscriber information (such as name and address), or IP addresses used."

And with Congress poised to pass sweeping data retention legislation, it should be clear that such "requirements" are mere fig leaves covering-up state-sanctioned lawlessness.

War On Terror 2.0.1: Looting the Global Economy

Criminal behavior by domestic security agencies connect America's illegal wars of aggression to capitalism's economic warfare against the working class, who now take their place alongside "Islamic terrorists" as a threat to "national security."

Despite efforts by the Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders to "balance the books" on the backs of the American people through massive budget cuts, as economist Michael Hudson pointed out in Global Research, the manufactured "debt ceiling" crisis is a massive fraud.

The World Socialist Web Site averred that "as concerns over a double-dip recession in the US and the European debt crisis sent global markets plunging--including a 512-point sell-off on the Dow Jones Industrial Average Thursday--financial analysts and media pundits developed a new narrative. Concern that Washington lacked the 'political will' to slash long-standing entitlement programs was exacerbating 'market uncertainty'."

Leftist critic Jerry White noted that "in fact, the new cuts will only intensify the economic crisis, while the slashing of food stamps, unemployment compensation, health care and education will eliminate programs that are more essential for survival than ever."

Indeed, as Marxist economist Richard Wolff pointed out in The Guardian, while the "crisis of the capitalist system in the US that began in 2007," may have "plunged millions into acute economic pain and suffering," the "recovery" that began in 2009 "benefited only the minority that was most responsible for the crisis: banks, large corporations and the rich who own the bulk of stocks. That so-called recovery never 'trickled down' to the US majority: working people dependent on jobs and wages'."

And despite mendacious claims by political officials and the media alike, the Pentagon will be sitting pretty even as Americans are forced to shoulder the financial burden of U.S. imperial adventures long into an increasingly bleak future.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "warned Thursday of dire consequences if the Pentagon is forced to make cuts to its budget beyond the $400 billion in savings planned for the next decade," The Washington Post reported.

The Post noted that "senior Pentagon officials have launched an offensive over the past two days to convince lawmakers that further reductions in Pentagon spending would imperil the country's security."

"Instead of slashing defense," Panetta urged lawmakers to "rely on tax increases and cuts to nondiscretionary spending, such as Medicare and Social Security, to provide the necessary savings."

But as Hudson points out, "war has been the major cause of a rising national debt." After all, it was none other than bourgeois icon Adam Smith who argued that "parliamentary checks on government spending were designed to prevent ambitious rulers from waging war."

Hudson writes that "if people felt the economic impact of war immediately--rather than postponing it by borrowing--they would be less likely to support military adventurism."

But therein lies the rub. Since "military adventurism" is the only "growth sector" of an imploding capitalist economy, the public spigot which finances everything from cost-overrun-plagued stealth fighter jets to multibillion dollar spy satellites, along with an out-of-control National Surveillance State, will be kept open indefinitely.

On this score, the hypocrisy of our rulers abound, especially when it comes to the mantra that "we" must "live within our means."

As Wolff avers, "where was that phrase heard when Washington decided to spend on an immense military (even after becoming the world's only nuclear superpower) or to spend on very expensive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya (now all going on at the same time)? No, then the talk was only about national security needed to save us from attacks."

"Attacks," it should be duly noted, that may very well have been allowed to happen as the World Socialist Web Site recently reported.

Driving home the point that war, and not social- and infrastructure investment fuel deficits, Hudson averred that "the present rise in in U.S. Treasury debt results from two forms of warfare. First is the overtly military Oil War in the Near East, from Iraq to Afghanistan (Pipelinistan) to oil-rich Libya. These adventures will end up costing between $3 and $5 trillion."

"Second and even more expensive," the economist observed, "is the more covert yet more costly economic war of Wall Street against the rest of the economy, demanding that losses by banks and financial institutions be passed onto the government balance sheet ('taxpayers'). The bailouts and 'free lunch' for Wall Street--by no coincidence, Congress's number one political campaign contributor--cost $13 trillion."

"Now that finance is the new form of warfare," Hudson wrote, "where is the power to constrain Treasury and Federal Reserve power to commit taxpayers to bail out financial interests at the top of the economic pyramid?"

And since "cutbacks in federal revenue sharing will hit cities and states hard, forcing them to sell off yet more land, roads and other assets in the public domain to cover their budget deficit as the U.S. economy sinks further into depression," Hudson wrote that "Congress has just added fiscal deflation to debt deflation, slowing employment even further."

While the global economy circles the drain, with ever more painful cuts in so-called "entitlement" programs meant to cushion the crash now on the chopping block, the corporate and political masters who rule the roost are sharpening their knives, fashioning administrative and bureaucratic surveillance tools, the better to conceal the "invisible hand" of that bitch-slaps us all.

And they call it "freedom."

BIG Plunge In Empire State Manufacturing Report

BIG Plunge In Empire State Manufacturing Report

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Oof: The empire manufacturing survey continues to be ugly, plunging from -3.76 to -7.72.

Analysts had expected a flat 0.0 report, so this a "surprise."

This initially knocked the futures a little bit, but the pre-market is holding up well.

You can read the full release here.

Here's the summary:

The August Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that conditions for New York manufacturers continued to worsen. The general business conditions index fell four points to -7.7, its third consecutive negative reading. The new orders index also remained below zero, at -7.8, while the shipments index was positive at 3.0. The unfilled orders and inventories indexes dropped further into negative territory. Price indexes continued to retreat, with the prices paid index falling fifteen points to 28.3 and the prices received index falling three points to 2.2. The index for number of employees was slightly positive, while the average workweek index was slightly negative. Future indexes weakened significantly. The future general business conditions index plummeted twenty-four points to 8.7, its lowest level since February 2009, and the future new orders and shipments indexes, while positive, fell to near-record lows, exceeded only by their September 2001 readings. The capital expenditures index was also down sharply.

In a series of supplementary questions, respondents were queried about difficulties in finding workers proficient in certain types of skills; they were also asked to estimate training costs to bring new hires up to speed. Manufacturers’ responses to the August survey were not substantially different from those recorded in March 2007, when these questions were last asked. The workers seen as most difficult to find were those with advanced computer skills, followed by those who were punctual and reliable. Training costs to bring a typical new hire up to speed were estimated at 6½ percent of annual compensation, on average. Firms also reported that the wage or salary of a typical worker was expected to rise by about 2½ percent, on average, over the next twelve months.

This chart shows the unmistakable direction.

chart

Original post: The #1 big economic release of the day: The Empire Manufacturing report.

Analysts expect a big fat 0.00, which is actually an improvement from the -3.76 reading last month.

But these kinds of regional surveys are pretty hard to predict, so who knows.

This should provide relatively fresh look at the state of (one small slice of) the economy during a period of turmoil.

Obama: Warren Buffett Is Right On Taxes

Obama: Warren Buffett Is Right On Taxes

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President Barack Obama just endorsed Warren Buffett's op-ed in the New York Times today calling on higher taxes on the wealthy.

“He said we’ve got to stop coddling billionaires like me,” Obama said at a town hall event in Cannon Falls, MN, a stop on his three-day bus tour. “That’s what Warren Buffett said.”

“He pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than anybody in his office, including the secretary,” he added. “He figured out that his tax bill, he paid about 17 percent. And the reason is because most of his wealth comes from capital gains.”

“You don’t get those tax breaks, you’re paying more than that,” Obama said.

The president also called for the new Super Committee tasked with $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts to embrace Buffett's proposals for more substantial savings.

Buffett defended increasing taxes from claims that doing so would hurt the economy, writing: "I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation."

Obama will hold another town hall in Decorah, Iowa this afternoon.

Social Security Didn't Create the Deficit

Illegal Foreclosure Epidemic

The Illegal Foreclosure Epidemic

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Two-year-olds often go running around the house too wildly and crash into something. They get an "ouchie" and fall down crying, but they learn from it.

That's the virtue of the "ouchie" that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and other big financiers got last year when they ran into the law after racing wildly through home foreclosure paperwork. They were caught falsifying thousands of documents and taking illegal shortcuts that were causing innocent families to lose their homes. They had to pay fines, make restitution, suspend foreclosures, and pledge to clean up their act. But at least they learned their lesson.

Oh, wait — these aren't two-year-olds. They are wily bankers, and the only lesson they ever seem to learn is that shortcuts can be profitable — as long as you don't get caught. But, once again, they've been caught rushing through foreclosures, using the same old scam called "robo-signing."

To foreclose on someone's home, an authorized bank employee must sign the foreclosure document, swearing that the facts in it are true. But that requires hiring people to review each case. To avoid that cost, they take an illegal shortcut by signing the name of someone who has not read the document and might not even exist.

In one Massachusetts county, for example, the signature of "Linda Green" has recently appeared on some 1,300 foreclosures. Curiously, her signature was written in many different styles, and she had many different titles. Also, there's no Linda Green presently working in the mortgage banking company involved. Meanwhile, state officials say that robo-signing is, once again, "an epidemic" all across the country.

It's a federal crime to do this, yet no bank or banker has even been charged. Until we put a CEO in jail, the banking barons will never learn their lesson.

10 Signs That Economic Riots And Civil Unrest Inside The United States Are Now More Likely Than Ever

10 Signs That Economic Riots And Civil Unrest Inside The United States Are Now More Likely Than Ever

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You should let the video footage of the wild violence that just took place in London burn into your memory because the same things are going to be happening all over the United States as the economy continues to crumble. We have raised an entire generation of young people with an "entitlement mentality", but now the economy is producing very few good jobs that will actually enable our young people to work for what they feel they are entitled to. If you are under 30 in America today, things look really bleak. The vast majority of the good jobs are held by people that are older, and they aren't about to give them up if they can help it. It is easy for the rest of us to tell young Americans to "take whatever they can", but the reality is that there is intense competition for even the most basic jobs. For instance, McDonald's recently held a "National Hiring Day" during which a million Americans applied for jobs. Only 6.2% of the applicants were hired. In the old days you could walk down to McDonald's and get a job whenever you wanted to, but now any job is precious. The frustration among our young people is palpable. Most of them feel entitled to "the American Dream" and they feel like the system has failed them. Unfortunately, many of them are already turning to violence. But the economic riots and the civil unrest that we have already seen are nothing compared to what is coming. Americans are angry, and as the economy continues to collapse that anger is going to reach unprecedented heights.

In recent days, even many in the mainstream media have been openly wondering if the riots that happened in London could happen here too. There is a growing acknowledgement that this country is headed down a very dark path.

The sad thing is that these riots accomplish absolutely nothing. The recent London riots did not create any jobs and they certainly did not solve any economic problems. Instead, they actually hurt the economy even more because a huge am0unt of property was destroyed and people are even more afraid to continue with business as usual.

But when people get to the end of their ropes, most of the time they are not thinking rationally. When frustration erupts, the results can be very, very messy.

All over the United States we are already seeing some very troubling signs of the violence that is coming. The following are 10 signs that economic riots and civil unrest inside United States are now more likely then ever....

#1 Going to the state fair used to be such a fun thing for American families to do. But now no place is safe. The following is how one local ABC News affiliate described the "flash mob" attacks that took place at the Wisconsin state fair recently....

Milwaukee police said that around 11:10 p.m., squads were sent to the area for reports of battery, fighting and property damage being caused by an unruly crowd of "hundreds" of people. One officer described it as a "mob beating."

Police said the group of young people attacked fair goers who were leaving the fair grounds. Police said that some victims were attacked while walking. They said others were pulled out of cars and off of motorcycles before being beaten.

One eyewitness said that the flash mob attacks at the Wisconsin state fair absolutely overwhelmed the limited police presence that was there....

When I saw the amount of kids coming down the road, all I kept thinking was, 'There's not enough cops to handle this.' There's no way. It would have taken the National Guard to control the number of kids that were coming off the road. They were knocking people off their motorcycles.

#2 According to a new Rasmussen survey, 48% of Americans believe that reductions in government spending are "at least somewhat likely" to result in civil unrest inside the United States. Unfortunately, perception often greatly influences reality.

#3 U.S. consumer confidence is now at its lowest level in 30 years.

#4 Joblessness among young Americans is at an epidemic level, and when rioting does break out it is usually young people that are leading the way. That is why the following statistics from an article in The Atlantic are so troubling....

One in five Americans are between 15 and 29-years old. And one in five of those Americans are unemployed. For minorities and the under-educated, the picture is much worse. Black teenagers have an unemployment rate of 44 percent, twice the rate for white teens.

#5 We are starting to see mindless violence in a lot of areas that used to be considered safe. In Kansas City on Saturday night, three young people were hit with bullets as they walked the streets of the Country Club Plaza. Mayor Sly James was about 50 yards away when the gunfire erupted. Authorities in Kansas City are considering a stricter curfew for that area.

#6 "Flash mobs" have become such a problem in Philadelphia that the mayor has imposed a strict curfew on young people. Now all teens between the ages of 13 and 18 must be indoors by 9 o'clock at night. The mayor also says that teens need to start pulling up their pants....

"Pull your pants up and buy a belt ’cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt."

#7 All over the United States we are seeing that many struggling Americans will do just about anything for money. For example, in Detroit recently three masked men crashed a vehicle through the entrance of a gas station and took off with an entire ATM machine.

#8 Desperate people do desperate things. Many of America's "forgotten poor" are trying to survive any way that they can. For instance, a group of vagrants recently set up "a makeshift camp" near Prospect Park lake in Brooklyn. According to the New York Post, many nearby residents have been disturbed by what these "drifters" are doing to survive....

The drifters have been illegally trapping and cooking up the critters that call the park home, including squirrels, ducks and swan-like cygnets.

They used crude tactics to hunt their prey, including barbed fishing hooks that ripped off the top half of one poor gosling's beak. They then cooked the meat over illegal fires. Some of the animals were eaten raw.

#9 According to CNN, sales of safes and vaults are absolutely soaring right now. One store owner told CNN that she believes that she is selling a lot more safes now because people are scared that civil unrest could be coming....

"Folks are worried about the decreasing value of the dollar, burglaries on the rise in their neighborhoods ... and even the possibility that the unrest we are seeing in other parts of the world slipping over to our country."

#10 Over the past 100 years, the American population has moved steadily into our big cities and the surrounding suburbs. This has created virtual "ghost towns" in our rural areas from coast to coast. Back in 1910, 72 percent of Americans lived in rural areas. Today, only 16 percent of Americans live in rural areas. But when you crowd huge masses of people close together that makes riots and civil unrest much more likely.

Most Americans are already fed up, and the economy is not even that bad yet. One recent survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe that the nation is "on the wrong track". Another recent poll found that only 17 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.

Millions of very frustrated young people believe that the economic system has failed them and that the political system no longer holds any answers.

America is rapidly approaching a breaking point. I have written previously about the collapse of society that we are already witnessing all over the United States. When the economy totally breaks down, most Americans are not going to be able to handle it.

Sadly, instead of coming together and trying to do something productive, many Americans will resort to rioting, looting and civil unrest. We have already seen this during local emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

But mindless violence accomplishes absolutely nothing positive. It just always makes things worse.

Unfortunately, logic and reason are not going to be enough to stop the gigantic wave of frustration that is coming. For most of the rest of us, it will be hard enough to get out of the way and protect our own families from the economic riots and the civil unrest that are coming.

The thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is starting to disappear. Hatred and anger are growing by the day. The United States is becoming a very frightening place.

So get ready. Our politicians certainly don't have any answers for us. The debt ceiling deal was a complete and total joke, and corruption is absolutely rampant in Washington right now. Barack Obama is getting ready to leave for yet another vacation, and most of our politicians are only focused on the next election.

So don't expect a "miracle" from those that are supposed to be leading us.

They don't care about you.

You need to take care of yourself and your family and your friends.

A massive economic collapse is coming, and most Americans are going to be totally blindsided by it.

Don't let that happen to you.