Friday, May 24, 2013

Bite of the rotten Apple

New unemployment claims fell back dramatically after spiking the week before, this suggests jobs do continue to be created. The Federal Reserve Chairman went before Congress this week and berated them for cutting spending at a time when the economy requires stimulus. The headlines that came out on the corporate media said instead that the Fed was going to 'taper off' the QE3 spending of $85b/month, and that gave the markets a bad day. He didn't really say that of course, he just said they would adjust it down or even up higher depending on the economy.

The Fed came out today with inflation projection numbers far below their goal of 2%, in fact even that number is modest given the quagmire the economy is mired in. So don't look for any 'tapering'. I'll say again for the um-teenth time this not the way to build an economy. We need rational Government policies, on things like trade, or maybe a few trillion to fix all the infrastructure that's been neglected over the past 30 years. Then we wouldn't have Interstate bridges collapse, somewhere Dwight Eisenhower is shaking his head. It was Ike spent trillions in today's dollars to build the National Defense Interstate Highway System. He called hard right conservatives "stupid... and nobody listens to them". Ike probably couldn't imagine that a half witted Hollywood actor would front for those same Conservatives and undo everything Eisenhower stood for.

Matt Drudge had a fit today because Obama "neglected to salute a Marine", no mention that the Commander in Chief shook the Marine's hand and spoke with him instead.  BTW it was Reagan who began the practice of the President saluting his Marine guards, it had been considered bad form for a civilian to do that. But Reagan didn't know any better, Reagan also thought he had liberated the Nazi camps, not just that he had watched the Army film footage that came back to where he was an Signal Corps Officer in the Hollywood film office.

In other Congressional testimony this week it was revealed that the $102b in taxes that Apple is dodging by holding money 'overseas' to avoid paying US income taxes on is not only managed by an Apple subsidiary with its only employees in Reno NV, but the actual cash is in NYC banks.

On paper the money is in Ireland where Apple has no employees, but it does add to the Irish GDP, at least on paper. Ireland's 'recovery' through austerity measures is much touted by the right, but is entirely a fiction based on this sort of 'tax free' corporate transaction, especially by Big Pharma. In real terms, Ireland isn't much better off than Greece.

In fact all of the big US corporations have been doing exactly the same as the rotten Apple is doing, making many trillions here in the US and paying no taxes anywhere. Contrary to the made up 'science and history' of the corporate right, this is not the natural order of things that has existed since the world was created in 4000 BC. This used to be (before Reagan revised history and stopped enforcement) called 'tax evasion', and if you or I did it even now, it would land us in a Federal prison.

The corporations and their network talking heads still lobby for a special law to 'repatriate' these offshore profits 'to America' so that they can take them as dividends while paying little or no taxes. Remember that the money is already here, they can throw it around as an economic weapon against anybody smaller than these behemoths, but they can't take these profits as dividends.

The paid call-in trolls are pushing hard on the idea that corporations don't pay any taxes anyway and that they 'just pass it along to consumers'. If that were true, why do they care what tax rate they pay at all? It shouldn't be an issue for them to pay taxes to maintain the infrastructure that they use, since it doesn't really cost them anything, you know because the consumer pays their taxes. Too bad Trolls don't really live under bridges, squashing a few would be Karmic justice.  Twitter @BruceEnberg  Or scrawl your message on a rusty bridge beam, they need the paint.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Any Future History must first be expressed in words

The President made a history defining speech in front of the National Defense University today, this address was I believe on the same level with Eisenhower's 'Cross of Iron' speech that warned us against pointless military spending. Obama called for the end of the 'endless War on Terror'.

Obama, late in the speech, "So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us. We have to be mindful of James Madison’s warning that no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. Neither I nor any president can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings nor stamp out every danger to our open society. But what we can do, what we must do, is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger to us and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all the while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. And to define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear but on hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the current threat that we face."

He had gone on and on like this, for a POTUS known for giving a good speech, this was his best one in terms of addressing actual policy. Cynics will cry out that his speech has an obvious disconnect from his actual policies, Medea Benjamin from Code Pink interrupted Obama three times, and he did let her talk for a long stretch. She was finally removed from the auditorium but Obama went off script to acknowledge her concerns as being very real. There were no chants of 'USA USA' to drown her out from being heard by the military audience. They did like the Commander in Chief's comeback, they liked his acknowledgement of the reality of her protest points even more.

Obama made took several swipes at Bush and the Right, "And so our nation went to war. [after 9-11] We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won’t review the full history. What is clear is that we quickly drove al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. And this carried significant consequences for our fight against al-Qaida, our standing in the world and, to this day, our interests in a vital region."

He addressed the problem of right-wing terrorists in America, "And finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States."

"Whether it’s a [right-wing Christian] shooter at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a plane flying into a [IRS] building in Texas, or the extremists [Christian racist Tim McVeigh] who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, America’s confronted many forms of violent extremism in our history. Deranged or alienated individuals, often U.S. citizens or legal residents, can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. And that pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood and the bombing of the Boston Marathon."

The entire speech bears listening to, there are many more good points. It doesn't even matter if you don't accept that he believes what he said, or that you think that he's young and naive. It doesn't matter if you're a Tea Bag Freak who thinks he read it phonetically from the teleprompter (as if they could use the word 'phonetically' in a sentence. "The phonetical-A-graph played a tune by Ted Nugent"), this speech from the 'Bully Pulpit' was significant in it's potential for affecting history. It is however, up to the rest of us to make that future history happen.

Obama said, "And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF". It's unusual for a President to call for his own sword to be hammered into  a plowshare. We should take him at his word, but Congress almost certainly will not. Twitter @BruceEnberg  Or piggy-back a message through the communications link to the drone circling my bunker.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Freak Storm, or a Storm of Freaks?

One might jump to the conclusion that hard right Republicans oppose disaster relief simply because they are cold heart-ed bastards that like to see the victims suffer. It is the basic tenet of Conservatism that freedom is defined as being able to bully and take advantage of those weaker than you are. The truth is that they are getting orders from the billionaires who control them to fight this sort of spending where ever possible for a very simple reason. Disaster relief and spending on rebuilding stimulates the economy, and they really don't want that. Especially since it mostly goes to the middle-class. 

Bush had it both ways with Katrina, he spent lots of money but funneled it to crony contractors who didn't do anything with it (but put it in their offshore accounts). One blatant example of Bush disaster spending was to hire an Alexandria VA company to haul away Katrina debris for $28/cubic yard. The money went through series of subcontractors until it got to a company that actually had trucks and they received $4/cubic yard. The company used undocumented workers that they fed and housed in Red Cross shelters and never paid them. This achieved the desired goal of keeping the money out of the hands of the middle-class. 

Those were the good old days for the disaster capitalists. Since they can't get away with that anymore, the funding most be blocked as much as possible. Just by slowing the recovery for months like they did with Hurricane Sandy they can compound the economic damage. Increasing the number of unemployed, driving down wages and bankrupting small business. All satisfying the desired goal of eliminating more people from the middle-class.  

A lot of these rancid bastards in Congress are from the south and it's common for them to invest in large scale rice and cotton farming where the bulk of farm subsidies go. Tennessee Bible-thumper Stephen Fincher, who argued against feeding the hungry by quoting Jesus, has received $9 million in farm supports. The maximum food stamp payment for an individual is $155. Divide that into $9m and you get 58,064 hungry people that he could personally pay for, that is if the Congressman actually pulled himself up by his bootstraps like he expects hungry kids to do.  Twitter @BruceEnberg   Or just toss message up in the air and some freak storm will take to to Kansas.