Saturday, October 30, 2010

The vote you cast may bite you in the ass

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According to the polls and the pundits, Americans are about to cast a vote that will usher the Republican Party including several of their tea party candidates into power. If this election is about job creation, and according to several polls that's the number one issue on voter's minds, people are about to cast a vote that will throw a wrench into the gears of government and create disfunctional gridlock where little will get done to create jobs, establish the reforms needed to deal with the massive immigration problem or much else. For reactionaries like Glenn Beck, who don't want the government doing anything, this will be a great victory. For voters who actually want effective government, many will be casting a vote against the very goal they are most concerned about, i.e., job creation.

People are angry, and rightfully so. However, within just a few months after taking office the President's policies turned the recession (smaller quarter by quarter GNP) around. Although the recovery has been anemic to this point, the United States has had over four straight quarters of growth in GNP. Angry voters are about to reward President Obama for avoiding another depression and turning the economy around by making Congress Republican. Is so, the vote you cast may bite you in the ass. Any voter anger toward this President and his party for economic (job creation) is misplaced. The economy is growing again.

how will locking up government help?

Gridlock is the condition where government is divided. If the Republicans take the House of Representatives next Tuesday, voters will be rewarding the GOP for two years of saying no to job creation and financial reform that was designed to curb the Wall Street gambling with American's money. Once that irony sinks in, consider how little will get done by the federal government for any reason, including job creation, once the two branches of government are at odds with each other. Gridlock is the situation where Republicans will pass bills that the President rejects and the President submits bills that the Republicans will reject. If job creation is what most voters are anxious about, and polls and pundits claim that to be the case, how will rendering the federal government dysfunctional help? It won't. 

Jobs and taxes

There is a relationship between having a vibrant and growing middle class and the amount that people are taxed. During the last 30 years, since the big tax cuts established by Presidents Reagan and George Bush, the middle class has been stagnating, not growing in accordance to the trickle down theory. That theory argued that if rich people have more surplus (not needed for living expenses) money on hand, they will use that to invest in businesses that will create jobs. If that theory worked, by now we'd have more people living the American dream and a larger middle class; but we do not.

Corporations don't need lower taxes to spur them to create jobs. All together, they are sitting on around $837 billion in their accounts, not being used to hire employees. Tax rates for middle income families are lower now, thanks to this President's middle class tax cut that was part of the stimulus bill, than they have been in 55 years! President Obama and the Democrats seek to keep it this way by extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less that $250,000.

taxes are not high

That leaves for discussion taxes on the most wealthy of Americans. Many of these people are pouring money into the campaigns of Republican/tea Party candidates because, apparently, they are not wealthy enough. This is the subject of what is called the marginal tax rate, or more accurately the tax rates on the richest Americans vs. the tax rates on the middle class. Democrats have indicated that they will let the Bush tax cuts for people earning more that $250,000/year, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, to lapse. That would increase the marginal, top tax rates to what they were during the job creation Administration of President Clinton, 40% (see chart below). If lowering top tax rates were the key to job creation, then the middle class would have expanded during the Bush Administration. However, what occurred was the middle class continued its stagnation of the last 30 years until the great recession that Obama's economic team turned around.

History is a guide to voters when deciding on what Party will best serve the interests of job creation and a thriving middle class. During what years was there a robust and growing middle class in the U.S? It was during the years after WWII to the 1970's. The top tax rates for the highest income earners during that time period was from 92% down to 70%. The top tax rate that the Republicans seek to preserve for the wealthiest Americans now is 36%. The following graph shows these rates:

top tax rates for the rich coincided with growth in the middle class

History also shows graphically that increasing the top tax brackets on the highest income earners will not harm job growth and the middle class; just the opposite. Stephan Koepp reported in Time Magazine, "The material rewards that Middle Americans had begun to take for granted -- a house, vacations, college for the children -- have become more difficult to obtain. The heyday of the U.S. middle class, and its high expectations, came in the 1950s and 1960s, when the median U.S. family income -- adjusted to today's price levels -- leaped from $14,832 in 1950 to $27,338 in 1970. But the prosperity spiral was halted by the inflation of the 1970s, which carried prices aloft more rapidly than wages and thus caused real income levels to stagnate for more than a decade. Last year's median [in 2000] was only $27,735, barely an improvement from 1970." 

Increasing the top tax rate would provide two significant benefits for short and long term job growth. It would help the federal government reduce budget deficits and send a signal to the markets that budgetary discipline is underway. It would also provide the federal government income to invest in the projects that will make the United States an first rate economy again. These necessary investments include education, infrastructure and clean, domestically produced energy. The latter two will boost private employment as the government contracts companies to build new transportation systems (high speed rail) and repair aging systems, from dams to bridges to high speed Internet connections across the country and develop and deploy the technologies that employ alternative energy sources. Dependence upon foreign oil threatens our national security in a manner that only energy independence can resolve. That will require, like all national security initiatives, investment in alternative energy sources. These investments, actions taken by the government, would no more threaten human liberties -- as the extremists of the Glenn Beck endorsed tea party argue -- than government investments in military hardware in the past have threatened liberty.

On the three main issues this election season, jobs, taxes and economic growth, voters are about to punish the Democratic Party for their successes. If voters truly want more job growth, financial discipline and investments needed toward making the 21st Century American economy second to none, establishing gridlock for the federal government  is the last thing they should want to establish politically

The choice

Voters are choosing, on a basic level this November 2nd, between moving forward with investments that will create jobs or moving backward toward waiting for corporations to hire people on their own. If a voter in a given state or Congressional district has a tea party candidate, that option means going backward toward the 19th Century. If a voter does not have a tea party Republican to vote for, then that option means going backward to the policies of the Bush era that helped get this economy in the mess it is in. The choice is progress (moving forward) or regress (moving backward).


   Moving forward                or             moving backward
Reason and science             or              faith and beliefs    
      21st Century economy         or           19th Century economy
        Effective government          or            gridlock and stalemate

People are angry and rightfully so. The tea party, Glenn Beck and the rest of the Obama backlash are angry because a Democrat is in the White House. They made their choice against Democrats decades ago. Other voters, who are not that far to the extreme right, are angry because of the TARP bailouts. These people should reward the President's party for getting almost all of that money back from the banks. After AIG pays what they owe the government, us, we will have actually made money on the bailout that literally prevented the financial sector from dragging the economy into a depression. The Democratic financial reform bill was designed to prevent this from happening again. Some people are angry that the government bailed out General Motors, but that saved a million or so jobs and will not cost the public any money once the publicly held stock is sold back to private investors in the stock market. Why are people angry about successful government actions that saved jobs? People are angry, but their anger is misplaced. Deregulated greed caused this recession, not the government. If the economy is not recovering fast enough now, one reason is the Republican obstruction that has been a roadblock to solutions over the last 19 months. People angry about the deficits and the national debt need to best understand the history of the national debt and put our current debt in its historical perspective. (See especially "We are in danger!...but not from the debt.") Another reason is that the housing bust that initiated the downturn in the economy is still under way. The efforts by the government to stem the tide of foreclosures helped kick off the backlash against President Obama's policies.

People are angry, but the votes they cast may bite us all in the ass. The conservatives and reactionaries misinformed by the FoxPAC Republican/tea Party propaganda will support Republicans, either conservative or tea party reactionary extremists. The liberals and some radicals informed not only by corporate, so-called "lame-stream media" but also but independent sources, will support Democrats, both conservative (blue dogs) and progressive. The people this post is addressed to, moderates, independents and other undecided voters are still making up their minds. Decide carefully, the stakes are high and they transcend the speed of our economic recovery and job creation, even if they are the most important issues. Quoting again Simon Rosenburg, "America faces grave economic and geopolitical challenges. One party is attempting to face these challenges head on, has overcome extraordinary opposition to do big things these past few years, and needs more time to ensure its forward-looking and modern plan for the American economy succeeds. The other party is disappointingly offering nothing more than disproven and discredited political bromides, is retreating further into ideological crazyville, and is simply not ready or capable of doing what is required to ensure our future prosperity."
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Interview with StopBeck activist

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The following is an interview with the operator of, the leader in the effort to get advertisers to boycott the Glenn Beck show on Fox. He explains his reasoning and some of his strategies for getting companies to not have their product name associated with the vitriol and the many, ongoing deceptions of Mr. Beck.

the how and why Beck is boycotted

Many of Beck's supporters refute the idea that Beck is a liar and willfully deceives. An observation from a "skilled liar, " Paul Westlake, provides insight on how he gets away with his false narrative. As follows:

Paul Westlake:   "Beck is so much smarter than a lot of people think. He's a natural communicator and skilled liar. I'm a skilled liar, too, but I chose the honest path as a teenager. But I can still recognize the signs, the slowly, carefully constructed sentences, the false humility that serves as bravado, the thinly self-assured gusto with which he mixes tiny truths with massive lies and persuades his followers that he has a particular insight that all others simply lack. What's amazing is the percentage of Americans that are literally stunted in their social development enough to watch this obvious charlatan and take him for the genuine article. The dismantling of social services, coupled with decades of middle class economic decline, have regressed the American education standards to a point where Glenn Beck and the Tea Party are possible. I knew it was coming twenty years ago, I just didn't realize it was coming this soon and this hard."

highly skill liar

For readers who need specific examples of Beck's deceptions, the contents button above will show a listing of the posts on this blog. The single largest category of posts on this Review is entitled "Beck's false claims." Despite a challenge to his followers, not one has successfully showed where any of these counter claims of Beck's man falsehoods are wrong.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For undecided voters: the various strains of the tea party movement revealed

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Glenn Beck has been promoting the tea party movement ever since it arose upon the America scene, but what are the various elements of the folks who identify themselves as "tea party?" What is the tea party for, and what is it against? Is it a real grass-roots phenomenon, or is it lead by right-wing operatives with their own agenda? It is difficult if not impossible to characterize the tea party as a whole because of it's own diversity.

Some of the people in the tea party are long time Libertarians who should have been as upset with President George Bush's big government programs and huge deficits as they are with President Obama's big government programs and huge deficits. That they were not protesting during the Bush Administration is indicative that there is more to their ire than just spending and deficits. The national debt was $10.626 trillion when Obama took office. Not wanting to increase taxes and needing to stimulate the economy in a severe recession, the President has added over $3 trillion in tax cuts and spending to the national debt. The debt is an all-time high of $13.7 trillion and rising rapidly.
chicken little

Glenn Beck, of course, makes this out to be a national disaster leading someday to "slavery," but as a percentage of U.S. GDP (gross domestic product), the national debt is --despite Beck's claim --  currently less than 100% of GDP and not yet near the 120% of GDP that it was after WWII as shown in the chart below:

The chart by Z-facts also shows what Presidents Reagan and Bush added to the debt ($9.2 trillion). An article on Z-facts, "We are in danger but not from the debt," is well worth reading for anyone alarmed at the rapidly growing national debt. In short, the sky is not falling. We have been through this before, and we will turn this problem around again. Electing candidates that want to keep taxes low for those making over $250,000/year will not help turn the debt around. Libertarians and their wealthy benefactor will be around long after the tea party movement is a footnote in history. A month or two ago, Beck announced that the debt had reached 100% of GDP. That was just one of a long list of fibs, lies, false claims, misleading statements, etc. that Beck uses in his entertainment schtick and 12-step program to yesteryear. Beck's new book, Broke, is nothing new in American history. Since FDR, reactionaries have tried to scare people during downturns in the economy.

Another segment of the tea party are cultural warriors. These are social conservatives who would be active opposing any Democrat that occupies the White House because that's what they do. With Beck's turn this year toward that old time religion and further away from the pro-choice views of his pony tail years, he has become a culture warrior. In short these people want the U.S. to be a Christian nation, not one with a clear division between church and state. The purpose of Beck's and David Barton's Black Robe Republican Regiment is to get out the vote of those fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who place belief above science for solving problems and want to run the country according to the Bible whatever that means. There is nothing new about these folks either. They would be upset about any pro-choice Democrat. Their poster child is the professional candidate Christine, "I am not a witch" O'Donnell. These are people who would gladly tear down the wall of separation that exists between church and state. Reactionary Christians like Barton and O'Donnell will be around long after the tea party is all but forgotten.

A third section of the tea party movement are the people who are angry at how poorly the economy is performing and at the government bailing out Wall St. fat cats but not Main Street folks. It doesn't help that Beck rails against "Obama's" bailouts. However when TARP, the troubled assets relief program, was passed, George Bush was the President. Because of Obama's handling of this program, all but $100 billion of the $700 billion has been paid back to the federal government with interest. AIG, the mega-corporation that owes the remainder of this bailout, will pay what they owe after they recover their footing. This segment of the tea party really began with Rick Santelli's rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19th, 2009. He was upset with a federal program aimed to slow the crashing housing market that is still dragging the economy down to this day. He didn't think it was right to bail out people who bought too much house for their income, but that was not the purpose of the program. The crippled housing market is still a serious drag on economic recovery. Many of these people are angry that the economy was failing, is not bouncing right back and may take a long time. These middle and working class people have misplaced anger. The unregulated mortgage industry and their sub-prime mortgage scam brought this economy to its knees, not the government. The Santelli segment of the tea party will tend to latch on to whatever political movement that seems to be positioned to direct their anger when times get tough and life seems more unfair than it usually is. Unlike the rest of this movement, they are more confused than they are reactionary. These are the folks in greatest need of reminding that the Boston Tea Party was every bit as much a rebellion against the East India Tea Company as is was against our British overlords. In the mandala below, they are displayed above "Reagan" on the right; but the bulk of the tea party and its candidates for national office seem to reside in the lower, right quadrant of this political taxonomy, in the area occupied by extremists Jim DeMint and Glenn Beck. The bottom half of this symbol is out of the American mainstream and the core of the backlash against President Obama.

There is a fourth "corner" of the tea party movement that people in positions of authority, to their credit, are purging from their ranks. These are the racists. It is a hopeful sign for progress in race relations and national unity when the far right political movement and their media cheerleader, Glenn Beck, are overtly and strongly against racism and willing to embrace the few members of minorities who think, for whatever reason, that the Tea Party is something to participate in. In Beck's case, his anti-racist rhetoric would go a lot further toward healing racial divides if he would stop using the President's race as another reason to oppose him.

These four categories are not rigid divides. There may by racists in any of the first three categories of tea party types, but there is reason to suspect that there are fewest racists in the Libertarian corner of the movement. With his un-Christian race-baiting, Mr. Beck stirs fears nervous middle class whites may have about a changing America demographic. This brings up a fifth section of the tea party which is most racist, the anti-immigration nativists. Despite the facts of reduced illegal immigration, fewer crimes committed by illegal immigrants in recent years and increased deportation efforts on the part of the federal government under Obama, these nativists are behind and/or supportive of AZ's "papers please" law. Nativists have been around since early in this Republic and will likely be around long after the tea party is forgotten.

The following is a list of articles about the tea party movement. If you take the time to read them all, you will have an excellent grasp of this interesting and diverse movement aiming to "take the country back" to some point in the past. How much the tea party candidates want to reverse the protections enacted by the federal government for the people that have been established by progressive politicians over the last 100 years is probably as diverse a range as is their movement. Clearly, if Glenn Beck, their inspiration and number one guide, has his way, the United States would look like a contemporary hell scape of the corporate monopoly controlled government that we had in the later half of the 19th Century. (For an entertaining video that describes this possibility, click on this sentence. Attaching to Facebook makes it awesome.) This is straight forward: Beck is a shill for the corporate fat cats. The tea party itself is backed by the far right, pro-corporate, anti-environment oligarchs. Their primary funders seek a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich; and the tea party would lead the country to full blown, unopposed plutocracyThe stakes in this election are very high: vote wisely.

There's little doubt that the reactionary and conservative audiences of FoxPAC, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage will be supporting these reactionary, pro-corporate tea party candidates. They have great enthusiasm in wanting to stop the President from dealing effectively with national issues like immigration reform and energy independence, both national security imperatives. Crazy-Con Glenn Beck's 9-12ers are, no doubt, very active getting his reactionary message out, and all of America's militia families will be sure to vote for these politicians of yesteryear.

If the reader has gotten this far still undecided about whether or not to vote for a tea party candidate, then check out "One Possible Closing Argument" by Simon Rosenburg. In it he conveys the perspective of this Review"The stakes this fall are high. America faces grave economic and geopolitical challenges. One party is attempting to face these challenges head on, has overcome extraordinary opposition to do big things these past few years, and needs more time to ensure its forward-looking and modern plan for the American economy succeeds. The other party is disappointingly offering nothing more than disproven and discredited political bromides, is retreating further into ideological crazyville, and is simply not ready or capable of doing what is required to ensure our future prosperity."
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Milbank explains the "strange man," Glenn Beck, on The Last Word

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The final guest on The Last Word, hosted by Lawrence O'Donnell last Wednesday, Oct. 20th, was WaPo reporter and author of Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America, Dana MilbankO'Donnell asked Milbank if Beck posed for him to get the cover photo of the unauthorized biography. Milbank conveyed what is in his book, that Beck had Vick's vapor rub put under his eyes to chemically induce the tears for a photo shoot for GQ.

GQ?!? Isn't their slogan "look sharp; live smart?"  This looks real sharp! Maybe it should be QG: Questionable Gall.

   fake tears of a clown

The interview continued:

Lawrence O'Donnell: What is the most disturbing thing you learned about this very strange man?

Dana Milbank: It's a very difficult thing to say because one chapter after another presents you with things more disturbing than you can imagine. You mentioned a couple, the notion that our government is operating a concentration camp in Wyoming. Calling the President a racist...Perhaps the most damaging thing that Beck is doing is his Hitler "tick" as I call it. I did a updated tally for each night. 640 mentions on his show since the beginning of the last year of Hitler, of Nazis, fascists.  This on average twice per episode...Bringing Hitler and Nazis into the debate is a way of labeling your opponent is something that is done in the most extreme of situations because it essentially shuts down the debate. You can't have any reasonable discussion. So it speaks volumes that Beck does this on average at least twice a night. 

LO: And you've found some connections between Beck's on-air rhetoric and the language of his Mormon faith. What did you find there?

DM: It's a controversial area because certainly some of the fundamentalist Christian followers that Beck has, they find appealing his end-times philosophy, but they don't necessarily agree with his Mormon theology. He speaks in what I think you call a coded language, so that people who subscribe to these Mormon theories, they're pretty obscure Mormon theories...One is called The White Horse Prophesy that's been kicking about for 150 years or so, and it says that there will be a time when the Constitution is hanging by a thread. The leaders of the Mormon church will step in and save the Constitution. Beck, of course, doesn't say that the Mormons will step in and save the Constitution and doesn't mention the White Horse Prophesy, but frequently brings up this reference in a sort of a coded way to his viewers on the air and ... occasionally to Mormon guests who repeat the phrase back to him.

LO: How did Glenn Beck become Glenn Beck? His resume, which I've kind of glanced at in different forms over time, includes stand-up comedian, radio shock jock, alcoholic, reformed alcoholic ... he rattles this stuff off. I'm just trying to remember things he has said about himself.  How does that biography take shape over time?

DM: Well, he's very much used it to his advantage. It's a compelling story, even if you hate Glenn Beck. He turned his life around maybe about a dozen years ago and gave up the cocaine, gave up the alcohol, got himself a new wife and found religion. Now he's proposing a sort-of 12 step program for America. That's part of his success is that he can speak in the language of this 12 step program. I think what's interesting to note is that before all this, Beck was a self-described liberal, had a pony tail, supported abortion rights. It seems that he got out in front of what he saw was this growing conservative movement. You can't know exactly what's in the guy's head, but we do know that he has changed his views when it is convenient.

LO: Well, none of us knows more about what's in his head than Dana Milbank.

This is one point where Lawrence O'Donnell may well be wrong. Milbank learned a lot about Mr. Beck, but combining his book with Alex Zaitchik's Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance and the wide range of essays and blog posts that have been written about Mr. Beck has lead to tremendous insight into the yellow propagandist, hypocrite, reactionary media star, rabble rouser, fake "populist" and hero to the backlash movement against President Obama. This close examination is just getting underway. Beck has helped create a different way of understanding the world, and that warrants scrutiny and analysis. People actually believe that Obama is a socialist surrounded by "radicals."  As indicated previously, his supporters will reject the facts about Beck and his absurd narratives, but the bifurcated world of radically differing understandings about our world is just beginning to be understood. These different world views present readers with an opportunity to pick one (Beck's or the real world's) and help expose the one that Beck creates as based upon fiction, some facts sprinkled in with his recovery from a mental disease: alcoholism.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beck's fake populism exposed: he sides with corporations, not people, to buy elections

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Previously on the Review, it was pointed out how Glenn Beck sides against the people in his audience in favor or corporations that seek to exploit his viewers and everyone else in America. Now, Beck has been directly tied to a meeting with the very people behind the corporate takeover of the American Republic that we're witnessing in this first, post-Citizens United v. FEC election. This was covered on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night:

The following organizational chart was assembled by to show how "RepubliCorpTM combines the ethics-free campaigning savvy of the GOP with the limit-free spending power of Corporate AmericaTM."

Least the reader considers this an exaggeration by a left-wing, Democratic organization, the following was just released by the NY Times: "Top Corporations Helping U.S. Chamber of Commerce Influence Campaigns:"
Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year
as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a national
advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the
nation's financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year
as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting
proposed new rules to tighten security requirements on
chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational
insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than
$8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation seeking to
limit the ability of trial lawyers to sue businesses.

These large donations -- none of which were publicly
disclosed by the chamber -- offer a glimpse of the chamber's
money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an
orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed
critics of the Obama administration and an influential player
in this fall's Congressional elections.
The United States is at serious risk of being high jacked by large corporations that seek to outsource American jobs, depress salaries, keep unemployment high and run rough-shod over the public interests of clean water, non-toxic foods, clean air, etc. The true goal for the Koch brothers is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Glenn Beck is in the thick of this effort, and his minions will be working hard at the grass roots level to aid with this effort in the name of "small government." 

Be afraid; be very afraid. Don't just sit there: take a stand. Get the word out. Our democratic order hangs in the balance. 
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