Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rinse and Repeat

All and all, it was a pretty good day. Obama and Harry Reid showed a little spine and the Tea Baggers blinked, or at least Speaker Boner did. The Tea Bag caucus could refuse to sign off on unanimous consent, and then the House would need to come back for a vote. This would likely require Democrats to support the Speaker for the Senate bill to pass the House.

Unemployment claims fell again this week and are getting low enough to start seeing serious jobs gains. There were over 2400 Federal workers applying for initial unemployment benefits, about the same as the week before. Considering the right insists Obama is growing government at a fantastic rate, how do they explain the continuous layoffs? Oh, that’s right, we live in different universes. In their universe, facts are just opinion and don‘t matter.

Housing starts were up sharply in November, part of this was from the relocation of workers. They can’t build houses fast enough in Minot North Dakota, but ND’s total population is smaller than any of the top 200 cities. Home values continue to sag and economists that pontificate on the housing market optimistically predict prices will bottom out in a year or so. They do admit now that the fall in market prices has been 14% worse than previously reported.

Also the new housing starts are almost all apartment units. The population continues to grow and fully half of college grads do have jobs in their field. For them ever owning a house is a dim prospect however, so affordable apartments are in demand. For the other half of young college grads who don’t have jobs or are working at Best Buy, the prospects of even affording an apartment are dimming.

A growing trend in college towns is for the banks who own Mc-Mansions to rent to students at bargain prices. Some money is better than none and it keeps the scavengers away. In many rust belt cities the banks are foreclosing on homeowners, but they never going to Sheriffs Sale as this would force the bank to take possession. Instead they simply abandon the property, and since the foreclosures are posted on line, the scavengers are there waiting at the curb.

The bank could have kept the people in the houses and got something, but Bush era laws allow the banks to make more money by foreclosing. Then they simply leave the house to be demolished by the city after it’s stripped. This activity drives down the value of the surrounding property encouraging people to walk away from their underwater mortgage. Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The talking points were ready in advance

It’s inappropriate to characterize the unconscionable behavior of Republicans as simply racism toward the President or even as low ball politics. They don’t really care if Obama is black, white or green, and of course they like being in power, but the billionaires who pay the lobbyists spend even more money on them when they are on the out. Their goals are more basic and well reasoned, Republicans do nothing that isn’t planned out for them.

Yesterday it appeared that House Republicans had really stepped in it by rejecting the bill signed off on by nearly all of the Senate Republicans. But the talking points were all ready, and everyone had them memorized including all the corporate news writers. All of a sudden it was the Senate Democrats who were abusing not only the jobless by making them live month to month, but the Democrats are abusing the job creators as well with all this “uncertainty“. It seems the job creators need to know just exactly how desperate the potential serfs are going to be in the coming year.

It’s incredible that a six figure salary will so easily get people to commit treason. What Republicans are about might not technically be called treason (unless you count transnational corporations as a foreign power), but it is certainly insurrection, or to use a phrase from the Red Scare era, “conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States“. Republicans would say they are the government and represent the people. Capturing the government by fraud doesn’t make you the legitimate government of the people. They do the opposite of what they are saying at every turn to the benefit of a handful of billionaires. These people are bent on making the 99% into serfs and ending democracy forever, and they call themselves patriots. Real patriots spilled their blood to rid us of these same people.

The Tea Party, Ron Paul and the libertarians appeal to the people who grew up in the thirty years since Ron Reagan and his cult ended education in history, civics and critical thinking in general. These young people know something is wrong but they don’t really know what. They’ve been “educated” with an entirely made up version of history, and taught a kind of economics that doesn’t really work.

They think that America was built by rugged individuals, when the reality is that nothing was ever done that way. They believe the myths of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett while the real men with those names depended on the cooperation of all the people around them. Nobody has ever made it on their own, but libertarians are sure if all the rules were done away with, then they can reach their full potential. People will flock to them, shower them with money (gold only please) and finally accept the wisdom they have been delivering from the stool at the end of the bar.

They just don’t grasp that their real enemy has been robbing them of their potential, their wealth and their heritage as an American. Their real enemy is capitalism, they don’t get that capitalism is not the opposite of socialism. Capitalism is just form of totalitarianism based on economic fraud. If a foreign enemy landed in their town, burned every business district for 40 miles in every direction and forced them to work at starvation wages they would be calling for revolution. Walmart does this with every store they open, but the libertarians like the “low” prices and will shop there faithfully, even if it costs him everything.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Everything ancient is new again

Only three states showed increased unemployment in November with 44 showing improvement. Basically the Red State Republicans are running out of teachers, cops and firefighters to lay off. These states have been falling behind the blue states that maintained government jobs, but now even most red states are showing job growth. Partly this is pent up demand, but also stimulus from extended unemployment, and the continued government spending on stimulus projects has had an effect that Republicans have not been able to inhibit completely.

These numbers aren’t all that great, but they are positive and seem to be working to President Obama’s advantage with his approval rating moving up sharply, again approaching 50%. We are really living 1995 over again. Clinton’s numbers were terrible and the Republicans were beating him up in Congress. Then Speaker Newt Gingrich shut the government down over the holidays rather than accept a balanced budget. Clinton was perceived as the adult in the room and easily won re-election. Unfortunately this didn’t extend to Democrats in Congress and Republicans continued to destroy America until 2007.

Newt is back, and again angling to be President (he thought he could impeach his way into the job in the 90s, now he thinks he can do it on arrogance alone). House Republicans are again making the President look good by their repeated attempts to shut down the government if not the nation itself.

Republicans do understand Keynesian economics even if they deny it like global warming, evolution and the Round Earth Theory. They of course use Reverse Keynesian economics, where they slash spending, cut wages and eliminate government jobs to reach their goal of Neo-Feudalism.

Let’s be clear, this little bright spot in jobs numbers could be shut off quicker than an efficient light bulb at tea bag convention. If Republicans are successful in killing Federal unemployment benefits extensions then some 2.2 million people will immediately fall into poverty with another 4 million in the rest of 2012. Ad to this the impact of a 2% tax increase on all working people from Republicans ending the Fica tax holiday and you are looking at a fast slide toward the bottom.

There will be millions more people collecting unemployment benefits who now have jobs so the cost savings are of course just right wing fantasy. You don’t get out of economic trouble by cutting costs, it has never worked anywhere, ever. The grandiose building projects of ancient civilizations weren’t just to stroke the ego of a foolish king. It was the kings who did these things to put their people to work that survived. The ancient equivalent of tea bag governments did not.

The Romans did a lot of this but concentrated on heavily stimulus projects for the public good. They did have their decadent one percent however, and by the time the Roman Empire started to decline they had captured 18% of all wealth. Our decadent one percent have captured 40% of our wealth and have their sights set on 100%.

We have made strides compared to the Romans, we can watch the circus from the comfort of our home (those who have one) and we don’t need to go to the forum, except to shop for bread and trinkets from the east. Christians are no longer fed to the lions, they do the feeding. Nascar provides the thrills and spills of chariot racing. This just in: the Senate wants to invade Persia now that our Legions have left Mesopotamia. There is nothing new under the sun.