Saturday, March 24, 2012

If pollen grains were bricks, they still wouldn't catch on

Mike Luckovich cartoon - Man says, “If global warming caused a mild winter, why is it snowing?”  Woman says, “That’s pollen, you idiot”.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rubber Stamp before lunch

Initial jobless claims dropped again last week to a four year low, taking us back to the early days of Bush meltdown. We really can’t begin sing “Happy days are here again” until claims drop from the current 348,000/week to under 300,000, but we are moving in the right direction. The survey of economists had predicted a sharp rise in claims, but these are the same economists that are almost always wrong. Why do reporters quote them? You would get a better prediction by flipping a coin.

Monthly home sales numbers are up 9% over last year, but down one percent from the previous month. The number of houses currently on the market is actually down to four month supply, which is good news for the economy. This allows people who want to move, or build their dream house sell their current home, and this should build a reinforcing cycle.

The bad news is that 22% of home owners are still underwater on their mortgage. The number of foreclosures is also expected to pickup sharply now that Obama has given the banks a pass on Robo-signing. A plethora of investor lawsuits, and an assortment of state criminal probes continue against the big zombie banks however. A new banking crisis is almost a certainty because any sort of bad news will drive the already bad credit ratings of these big banks down triggering trillions in derivative payouts.

Bank of America alone has $75 trillion in derivative contracts on the books with more than half transferred to its deposit banking division from Merrill Lynch last Fall. This was done over the objection of the FDIC, but with approval of the Federal Reserve. It was the only thing that kept BoA from dragging down the entire banking system last October. It’s not true that this makes the government responsible for paying these derivatives. It does make it likely that the FDIC will have to make good the insured portion of deposit accounts.

Under Republican passed legislation in 2005 under the guise of bankruptcy reform that made it difficult for the middle class to cancel debts, they also put derivative contracts at the top of the list to be paid and not depositors or creditors. BoA had roughly 9% of all US bank deposits, considerably less now, since big depositors have been fleeing the potential collapse. The occupy movement has also been encouraging small depositors to move to credit unions, however small depositors would be covered by insurance while the big guys would lose everything in excess of $250,000.

Obama is trying to counter Republican propaganda that he has no energy policy by “fast tracking” a new pipeline from Okalahoma to the Gulf shore refineries. While this does have in the long run the potential to make our energy situation worse and not better since it drains oil from existing refineries in the north, this isn‘t something you can blame Obama for. As Republicans gleefully pointed out, this section of pipeline doesn’t require his approval, since it doesn‘t extend to Canada. He is merely “fast tracking” it, which probably means it will be rubber stamped before lunch instead of after.

Obama doesn’t really have an energy policy, he’s stuck with the laissez faire policies put in place by corporatist Republicans, and the not too bright Democrats starting with Jimmy Carter all those years ago. Carter thought Maggie Thatcher was on to something with deregulation, he was wrong. Carter thought he could give oil companies more freedom to produce oil and at the same time they would let him have an energy policy based on solar. Reagan killed solar and deregulated the corporations even more. And here we are now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life under The Holy American Emperor Santorum

What to do with all the extra babies that banning birth control will produce? They have that covered. A lack of modern medical care, no regulation of working conditions, rampant pollution, massive storms and wild swings in temperature from planetary heating, periodic famines, mass poisoning from an un-inspected food supply, and don't forget war conducted with modern weapons. (possibly with East Asia, that area is heating up) With these factors worked into the equation, the birthrate probably cannot be high enough to maintain the population.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grab your pitch fork and light the torches

With a crash of thunder, a bolt of lightning in the night has caused Paul Ryan’s budget monster to rise from the operating table to begin its reign of terror across the land. But, don’t give up hope, the brave villagers of the Senate have vowed to not let the monster get past them and into the world.

Meanwhile back at the Castle, things are not going so well for Doctor Franken-Ryan and Count Boner (only his orange SPF-500 allows him out in the daylight). A crowd of tea bag Igors have them cornered and are demanding the evil creation be rebuilt to their liking. It seems the monster is not vile enough, not cruel enough, and not sufficiently mad enough for their liking. They believe they control the Castle and know what terror is best for the village.

Even though the proposed budget will totally screw the middleclass, taking an axe to food stamps, college education, Medicaid and Medicare, this is not enough for the hard right. You didn’t think there could be a right more hard-hearted than Ryan, did you?

The current plan features a 35% tax cut for the rich and is “revenue neutral” by cutting deductions. Deductions that favor the middle-class whose tax rate won’t go down. Medicaid will be under-funded via block grants to the states who will be cut loose to provide for their poor, or let them die in the streets. The majority of Medicaid now goes to nursing home residents who will find their Medicare drying up as well. Medicare will be converted to a voucher system with fixed government payments to pay toward private insurance. This will simply make it unavailable to seniors without the means to make up the difference.

The very elderly or the very sick simply won’t be able to afford the premiums of private insurance. The phrase “being afraid of outliving your retirement savings” that so-called investment advisors throw around will take on a whole new meaning. You won’t outlive your savings by all that much. Supposedly this draconian measure will be put off for ten years, it seems people under 55 don’t realize they will need to retire, or believe that they will surely win the lottery by then.

This budget will immediately bring back the corporatization of Medicare with billions and billions of giveaways to Medicare Advantage, where the advantage goes to private insurance companies, and not seniors who get screwed when it comes time to use it.

The good news is that none of this will happen, for now. Our fate now depends on whether or not Karl Rove and his howling super-pack of wolves, financed by the billionaires, are able to steal the Congressional election. We are being lulled into a false sense of security by the clowns running against Obama. Rove has been able to pull off an eighteen point swing in the Elizabeth Warren poll numbers putting her way behind in a Senate race she should be able to win easily.

Rove and his super-pack could also swing state and local races. Our only advantage is that the tea baggers continue to assert their control of the Republican Party on a local level, and it could simply fall apart. But, if the billionaires own enough of the candidates, do parties matter?