Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ANS -- Nissan Leaf Electric Car Relegates Gas Cars To The Garage, Nissan Says

this is a cute, short article about people's reaction to owning an all-electric car. There's comments at the site.
Find it here:  http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1069965_nissan-leaf-electric-car-relegates-gas-cars-to-the-garage-nissan-says  


Nissan Leaf Electric Car Relegates Gas Cars To The Garage, Nissan Says

By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
9 451 views November 29, 2011

2012 Nissan Leaf, Electric Avenue, 2010 Detroit Auto Show

2012 Nissan Leaf, Electric Avenue, 2010 Detroit Auto Show

It might have an official EPA-approved range of just 73 miles, but the Nissan Leaf,  Nissan�s first production electric car, is quickly becoming the primary car in multi-car households where a Leaf is owned.

According to Nissan North America, many early adopters purchased the Leaf intending it to be the second family car for short trips, but in reality most owners are now using the Leaf as their primary family vehicle.

Using data obtained from the Leaf�s onboard Carwings telematics system, Nissan has been able to analyze the daily driving of many of its customers. Added to anecdotal evidence from customer feedback, Nissan has concluded that most Leaf owners only drive  35 miles a day, preferring to use the electric hatchback rather than their gasoline car.


Firstly, just like everything else that's new, the newest car in a household traditionally gets the most attention. As a consequence, it is often the car that gets driven the most.

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

Secondly, the 'always full' nature of electric cars, combined with low running costs after purchase most likely help encourage Leaf owners to choose it over their other car whenever possible.

Nissan executives have a different take on why the Leaf is proving so popular among its owners.

�They drive it primarily because it is fun to drive,� Brendan Jones, director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy at Nissan North America told MSNBC.

Range anxiety, the fear that a plug-in car will run out of charge before reaching its destination, is often cited in the mainstream media as a reason why many consumers have not made the switch to plug-in cars. It is also the reason why many electric cars were purchased with the expectation that they would perform second-car duties.

According to Jones, the reality of living with an electric car every day has meant that most Leaf owners no-longer experience range anxiety. �Range anxiety is dead,� he said. �That newness needs to be overcome with information.�

Jones also detailed that most owners make three trips between charges, meaning that they aren�t preoccupied with finding somewhere to charge their car at every destination.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

In addition to surprising Nissan and themselves with how much they use their Leaf electric car, Jones said Nissan was surprised that most Leaf owners are choosing to buy their cars outright rather than lease them.

With over 40 percent of all Leaf sales being paid for with cash or outside financing, Jones believes it is an indication that many electric car owners aren�t entirely convinced Nissan won�t execute a u-turn on its electric car program as General Motors did a decade ago with the EV-1.

Do you own a Leaf? What�s your daily drive, and do you use your Leaf as your primary car?

Let us know in the Comments below.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

ANS -- Liberal Media, Conservative Manipulation

This is an article that explains how the media can be slanted to the right even if the journalists don't slant to the right.  He explains it very clearly. 

Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/11/28/liberal-media-conservative-manipulation/  


Liberal Media, Conservative Manipulation

by weeklysift

One of those facts "everybody knows" is that journalists are liberal. It's even true up to a point. (Actually, it's more accurate to say that very few journalists identify as conservatives. 53% call themselves moderates, so the typical journalistic duo is not exactly Marx and Engels.)

But in spite of Sarah Palin's fantasies of persecution by the "lamestream media", coverage often tilts in the opposite direction. When conservatives want something like ClimateGate or the ACORN pimp video to become a national story, it usually does, whether it deserves to or not. When public opinion differs radically from the facts -- believing, say, that climate scientists are more-or-less evenly divided on global warming, that Saddam was involved in 9-11, or that Al Gore claimed he invented the internet -- the error is usually in the direction pushed by conservatives.

It's hard to see how that could happen unless actual coverage slanted to the right.

Just last week, I gave numerous examples of right-slanted coverage: Unprovoked police attacks on nonviolent Occupy protesters have been covered "even-handedly" (police and protesters "clashed" like mismatched colors) or passively ("mayhem broke out").

So how does that work? How do left-leaning journalists regularly produce coverage that leans right? Recently, Grist's David Roberts has written some excellent posts documenting how media bias works against environmentalists. But before we get into that, let's back up a little: What does it even mean for coverage to slant one way or the other?

The Hallin Sphere Model. "Media bias" usually makes liberals think of the everyday trickery on Fox News. (Recently, Fox labelled  would-be Obama-assassin Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez " the Occupy shooter" even after police said he had no connection to the Occupy protests.)

I don't want to minimize the impact of such in-your-face propaganda. (For example, repetition has inured us to hearing President Obama described as "socialist" or even a "Marxist". It doesn't raise the kind of ire conservatives felt when President Bush was called a "fascist".) But the more serious damage is done subtly in mainstream outlets like CNN or the New York Times -- news sources that allegedly form "the liberal media".

A useful way to think about news coverage in general comes from Daniel Hallin's 1986 Vietnam book The Uncensored War. Hallin says that a factual claim can be reported in one of three ways: as the consensus of knowledgable people, as a controversy that reasonable people might disagree about, or as a deviant claim believed only by a lunatic fringe. Schematically, it looks like this:


A claim in the Sphere of Consensus can be reported as a simple fact, in the journalist's own voice, without offering a contrary view. So a news story would say "Water runs downhill", not "According to many scientists, water runs downhill" -- balanced later by a quote from an anti-water-runs-downhill spokesman.

But claims in the Sphere of Controversy call for that kind of balance; the reporter should not take sides. So a news story should not say that Obamacare's individual mandate either is or isn't constitutional. The reporter should describe arguments made on each side and say that the Supreme Court will rule by June.

Finally, claims in the Sphere of Deviance can be rejected outright in the reporter's own voice, or just ignored. So an American news story about Al Qaeda will probably not consider that the jihadists might be the good guys. Some people actually hold that view, but they are deviant; they can be ignored.

The boundaries. Politically, it's very important what claims end up in what spheres.

For example, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is running for the Republican nomination for president. He's the only candidate in either party making a serious attack on the dominance of money in politics. But only true political junkies know that, because Roemer's whole campaign is happening in the Sphere of Deviance. He gets no mainstream coverage and doesn't appear in televised debates. It's self-justifying: He gets no coverage because "he can't win", and he certainly can't win if he gets no coverage.

During the health care debate in Congress, no congressperson had to explain why his/her plan was better than a single-payer system, because single-payer was in the Sphere of Deviance.

On its merits, the claim that the planet is getting hotter should be in the Sphere of Consensus and the claim that it isn't in the Sphere of Deviance. It's a measurement, not an opinion. But somehow both usually wind up in the Sphere of Controversy.

In short, if you want to bias your coverage, outright lying and distortion is a ham-handed way to do it. It's much cleaner and more effective to slot claims into the spheres that serve your interests.

Process. Who makes these decisions and how? Journalism professor Jay Rosen believes that it's an unconscious group process among journalists. They just "know" what is news, what isn't, and what kind of news it is. Sphere placement is

an intrinsic part of what [journalists] do, but not a natural part of how they think or talk about their job. Which means they often do it badly. Their “sphere placement” decisions ... are often invisible to the people making them, and so we cannot argue with those people. It’s like trying to complain to your kid’s teacher about the values the child is learning in school when the teacher insists that the school does not teach values.

No Curia or Politburo holds hearings or announces its rulings. The press makes these decisions collectively, as "an unthinking actor, which is not good".

Manipulation. As advertisers have long known, people who make unconscious decisions are open to outside manipulation. Maybe "we cannot argue with those people", but that doesn't mean that they're beyond influence by other means.

A year and a half ago I told you about a Kennedy School study documenting that the claim "waterboarding is torture" abruptly moved from the Sphere of Consensus to the Sphere of Controversy in 2004. In 2003, a reporter could have blithely written "Waterboarding is torture." But a 2004 reporter could only say "Critics claim waterboarding is torture."

How did that happen? I summarized several sources:

Waterboarding-as-torture didn’t become “contentious” because some new information threw previous judgments into doubt. It became contentious because an interested party — the U.S. government — started contending against it in defiance of all previous objective standards.

In short, journalists didn't change their ideology or even rethink the specific issue of waterboarding. Instead, outside pressure manipulated their unconscious groupthink about what is controversial.

David Roberts vs. the mainstream press. In recent months, Grist's David Roberts has been contrasting mainstream reporting of two environmental stories:
  • The Solyndra bankruptcy, which is being widely covered as a "scandal" in spite of the fact that nothing actually scandalous has yet been uncovered. Also, the loss to the public is purely financial and fairly small by U.S. government standards -- a half billion dollars.
  • The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which promotes the use of tar sands (the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels) and endangers ground water sources in our agricultural heartland. Environmentalists have been using everything from blogs to civil disobedience to get this stor y out, but it hasn't really taken off.

Roberts comments:

Solyndra and Keystone XL are real things in [a real world], not just dueling narratives. And by any conceivable metric -- energy, money, pollution, corruption -- Keystone XL is a much more significant phenomenon. Solyndra was a bum loan that will be forgotten within a year as the solar industry continues its explosive growth. Keys tone XL is a huge, dirty, expensive pipeline that would run down the middle of the country; it's being pushed through via a rigged process; and its consequences for our energy system and our climate will last for decades.

Zeroing in specifically on Politico's handling of the stories, he observed:

Republican talking points are delivered as first-order news. Liberal talking points are wrapped in meta-news about liberals and their talking points.

A few weeks later Roberts isolated a classic example of this pattern from a New York Times story about the EPA's thwarted attempt to implement higher smog standards:

Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.

So the NYT presents the claim that smog endangers human health as something environmental groups say (Sphere of Controversy), and the claim that decreasing smog involves significant costs as a simple fact (Sphere of Consensus).

But the merits of the two claims are exactly reversed: It's a provable fact that smog endangers public health, while the net economic impact of higher smog standards is debatable. (Increased costs at the smokestack are balanced by fewer sick days and higher productivity, not to mention that everything in our cities corrodes more slowly.)

That's media bias in action. But does it happen because Politico and NYT reporters are ideologically anti-green? I suspect not.

Money buys controversy. Like the waterboarding example, environmental issues become "contentious" not because new information throws them into doubt, but because powerful actors contend against them.

In some sense this is not new: Public relations is the science of manipulating the press, and it is at least a century old. But reporters have long known to take official PR releases with a grain of salt. So when American Tobacco insisted that Lucky Strikes didn't cause cancer, that by itself didn't make the claim controversial.

Tobacco-causes-cancer, though, was the end of one era and the beginning of another. As outlined in the books Doubt Is Their Product and Merchants of Doubt, the Tobacco Institute and the academic research it funded was the beginning of whole new layer of corporate PR infrastructure.

Today, when you read a "balanced" story about climate change, you are probably hearing the voice of Exxon-Mobil, disguised as an "independent" researcher for an "independent" institute at some university. The economics professor quoted in an article about the deficit might have been hired directly by the Koch brothers or the bank holding company BB&T. The article will not tell you this, and the reporter may not even know. (In an era of massive newsroom lay-offs, who has time to trace the funding of everyone he quotes?)

Simultaneously, corporations and the billionaires who own them have been creating a unified pro-capitalist information infrastructure -- Chamber of Commerce, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, etc. -- as envisioned by the famous Powell Memo of 1971. They have also achieved a vastly higher degree of message discipline within the Republican Party's elected officials, and established an ideological media empire around Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other outlets.

The result is what conservative-in-exile David Frum calls "an alternate reality".

Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.

And so blatant absurdities are now "controversial" simply because the conservative power structure chooses to assert them: Tax cuts raise revenue. Budget cuts that lay off teachers and cancel public works projects create jobs. White Christian Americans are the real victims of discrimination. Poor people and government regulators created the economic collapse. The Founders intended the Bill of Rights to apply to corporations.

Conversely, if the threat of unlimited corporate campaign spending and smearing by the conservative media empire can cow Democratic leaders into silence, the Sphere of Consensus can be expanded to include any number of shaky ideas, and their alternatives can be consigned to the Sphere of Deviance: Taxing the rich is politically impossible. Social Security is going bankrupt. The EPA costs jobs. Everyone (except the wealthy) needs to sacrifice. We can't afford a social safety net any more (but we could afford a new war with Iran). And so on.

These ideas move from one sphere to another not because reporters have become more conservative, but because external power has changed their perceptions of which claims will be contested and which won't.

What can liberals do to counter? Although we don't dare abandon any battlefields completely, we can't hope to beat the corporations financially and institutionally. And that's why we have to be in the streets (and conversely why the Powers That Be smear and intimidate the people who are). When reporters are told that "everybody knows" one thing and "nobody really believes" something else, large numbers of ordinary people have to make it obvious that those claims are wrong.
weeklysift | November 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Tags: environment, media, propaganda | Categories: Articles | URL: http://wp.me/p1F9Ho-v1

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

ANS -- When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

This is an interesting article by a Republican who is feeling his party has moved into crazyland and left him behind.  It is the first of five pages -- go to the page to read the rest, and there is also a link to a companion article about liberals. 
Find it all here:   http://nymag.com/news/politics/conservatives-david-frum-2011-11/  

When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

Some of my Republican friends ask if I've gone crazy. I say: Look in the mirror.

"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" 
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It's a very strange experience to have your friends think you've gone crazy. Some will tell you so. Others will indulgently humor you. Still others will avoid you. More than a few will demand that the authorities do something to get you off the streets. During one unpleasant moment after I was fired from the think tank where I'd worked for the previous seven years, I tried to reassure my wife with an old cliché: "The great thing about an experience like this is that you learn who your friends really are." She answered, "I was happier when I didn't know."

It's possible that my friends are right. I don't think so­but then, crazy people never do. So let me put the case to you.

I've been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.


America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration's path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party's economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions­crime, inflation, the Cold War­right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor." By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are "lucky duckies" because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations­or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked "churches, synagogues, and mosques." By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new ­prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed's pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the "greatest central banker in the history of the world," according to Perry's mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to "death panels." A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is "socialism." In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic­-recovery program.

I can't shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else's problem. I belonged to this movement; I helped to make the mess. People may very well say: Hey, wait a minute, didn't you work in the George W. Bush administration that disappointed so many people in so many ways? What qualifies you to dispense advice to anybody else?

Fair question. I am haunted by the Bush experience, although it seems almost presumptuous for someone who played such a minor role to feel so much unease. The people who made the big decisions certainly seem to sleep well enough. Yet there is also the chance for something positive to come out of it all. True, some of my colleagues emerged from those years eager to revenge themselves and escalate political conflict: "They send one of ours to the hospital, we send two of theirs to the morgue." I came out thinking, I want no more part of this cycle of revenge. For the past half-dozen years, I have been arguing that we conservatives need to follow a different course. And it is this argument that has led so many of my friends to demand, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes angrily, "What the hell happened to you?" I could fire the same question back: "Never mind me­what happened to you?"

Next: Are the conservative changes of mind since 2008 a result of cynicism?
1 2 3 4 5 Next

ANS -- Jobless Recoveries are Normal Now

This is about how the last three recessions are different from all previous recessions, and the recoveries are different too. It's very readable and will help you understand what changed.
Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/11/07/jobless-recoveries-are-normal-now/

Jobless Recoveries are Normal Now

This might be the most important graph in American economics, but in the popular media hardly anybody talks about what it means.

It comes from the blog Calculated Risk (which has been updating it for a long while now), and is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Each colored line represents a different recession in the American economy since World War II, starting with the 1948 recession (in blue). The longest and deepest (in red) is the current recession. The curves are scaled according to the percentage of jobs lost, to make the different recessions more comparable. (Otherwise the 1948 recession would look small just because the economy was smaller then.) The horizontal scale is months, and the recessions are lined up so that Month Zero is when employment bottomed out.

For the purposes of the graph, a recession starts when the number of jobs peaks, and it ends when employment returns to that previous high. That's a little different than the definitions most economists use. Typically, economists say a recession is over when GDP starts rising again, which is why the Wikipedia says the current recession ended in June, 2009. But employment is what is known in the trade as a "lagging indicator". In other words, even after the recession is technically over, you've still got a lot of jobless people wandering around.

At its simplest level, this jobs-based graph just verifies something you probably already feel in your bones: This recession is longer and deeper than anything we've seen since the Depression, and it's not over yet.

But that's not what I want to point out. Instead, I want you to notice this: The last three recessions have a different shape from the others. The earlier recessions are short and sharp. Jobs go away fast and come back fast. The job market hits a definite bottom, and 8-10 months later everything is back to normal.

But the recessions of 1990 and 2000 look like smaller versions of the recession we're in. In each of them, the bottom is flat rather than sharp, and employment doesn't come all the way back for a long time after that ­ two years for the 2000 recession and nearly-two-and-counting for the current one.

Therefore: The job market is changing in some long-term way that has little to do with our month-to-month political squabbles. The 1990 recession starts and ends under President Bush the First. The 2000 recession gets started under Clinton and its long, slow recovery happens under Bush II. The worst of the current recession is on Obama's watch, but the shape and depth of the curve was already well established when he took office.

It's hard to find a Republican/Democrat pattern here. About all you can say for or against Obama, for example, is that the deep recession curve that had already developed under Bush II has gone on to have the same shape you'd expect from the previous two recessions.

Other simple explanations similarly fall flat. For example, we had a modest budget surplus and no wars at the beginning of the 2000 recession, but a huge deficit and two wars going into the current recession. But the two curves have the same shape.

I'm going to go on to list some characteristics and possible explanations for the new-style recession, but I don't claim to have answers for it. (There are things I'd like to see done, but ending this article with any policy proposals I can think of would do a disservice to the data. I'm pointing to something solidly real, and my "solutions" would be speculative.) Mainly, I want to offer two principles for critiquing anybody else's proposals:
  • If you're not talking in terms of decades, you're not dealing with the real problem. Whatever the causes are, they've been brewing since at least the late 1980s.
  • You can't fine-tune your way out. Any change in policy that is going to make a dent will have to be big and fundamental. If the pattern is unaffected by the differences between Clinton and Bush, or Bush and Obama, we've either got to think a lot bigger or accept these long slow recessions as fate.

The old recession pattern. OK, now let me try to express the change in words rather than curves. The old-style recessions fit the inventory-correction model of the business cycle in a manufacturing economy.

To say that in English: Good times cause everybody to get too optimistic at the same time. (GM builds too many cars, contractors put up too many new subdivisions, Sears stocks too much merchandise, and so on.) When this over-optimism starts to become apparent, everybody slams on the brakes at the same time.

So orders drop, factories get shut down, and workers get laid off. But it's all temporary. After a few months, retailers manage to sell off their overstocked inventories and need to order new stuff again. Then the workers get called back, the factories re-open, and the recession is over.

The last few recessions haven't looked like that in several ways.

Bubbles. First, financial bubbles play a much bigger role in setting the recession off. The current recession starts with the housing bubble, the 2000 recession with the dot-com bubble, the 1990 recession with the savings-and-loan crisis.

Psychologically, it's the same cause: Good times make people over-optimistic. But in the old model it was producers who became too optimistic about what they could sell, so they produced more than the market could consume.

In a bubble, on the other hand, it's speculators who become too optimistic. So condos are built in Florida not because anybody expects people to live in them, but because speculators think they can flip them to other speculators for a quick profit. Or mortgages are written without any expectation that the payments will be made, because investment bankers have figured out a way to package those mortgages into CDOs that the ratings agencies will stamp AAA.

That's a very different problem than GM building too many Corvettes or Sears stocking too many washing machines.

Bubble-popping recessions are harder to recover from because there is no "normal" to get back to. The NASDAQ stock index peaked over 5000 in March, 2000. That level was justified by visions of limitless future profits that turned out to be imaginary. So even 11 years later, the NASDAQ is still only about half what it was.

Inventory recessions are like taking a wrong turn. Bubble recessions are like dreaming something and then waking up. You can't just go back.

Job destruction. Partly due to changes in the economy and partly due to changes in the social contract, businesses are now actively looking for ways to get rid of their workers. So the old model (where GM laid off some workers until things got better, then hired them back) looks quaint now.

These days when you lose a job, it's gone. The company has probably closed the factory for good, merged with a competitor, or otherwise re-engineered its process to get along without you. When demand comes back, your former employer will open a new factory in Mexico or subcontract to a supplier in China or buy robots. At best, it might only threaten to do those things so that it can hire you back as a temporary contractor at half your old rate.

[BTW, this week I ran into a joke that is probably from the 50s or 60s. Union leader Walter Reuther and industrialist Henry Ford II are touring a new highly mechanized Ford plant. "Tell me, Walter," Ford says, "How do you plan to get these machines to join your union?" Reuther replies: "The same way you're going to get them to buy your cars."]

Job recovery takes longer now because the economy has to create brand new jobs, not just re-start the old jobs. This means that the experience of being unemployed is completely different. The laid-off GM worker could collect unemployment, fix up the house, coach Little League, and be reasonably certain to go back to work in a few months.

Today the unemployed have to have a plan, and searching for a new job can be harder and more stressful than working. Worse, the new job often pays significantly less than the lost one.

Inequality. A long-term trend in back of the other trends is increasing inequality. As more and more money flows to the 1%, they don't need more goods and services; they need more investment opportunities. That restless cash looking for a home pumps up the bubbles, funds the mergers, and buys the robots. But it doesn't create new markets that need more workers.

What should we do? I'm not sure, but it needs to be much bigger and very, very different from anything currently on the table.


  • []  Kim Cooper On November 27, 2011 at 3:03 am
  • Permalink | Reply What we need to do is: 1) Take our money away from Wall Street: sell all stocks, get our money out of the big banks, stop buying from big corporations whenever possible. 2) Buy from small, local businesses, invest in local businesses, keep your money in local banks or credit unions. 3) Start democratically run worker-owned businesses. Patronize the same. 4) Stop patronizing corporate media. Buy back media into local hands. 5) Work for and elect truly progressive candidates. If you can't, then go ahead and vote for the lesser of two evils: it's still lesser.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ANS -- A Blow to Pinstripe Aspirations

Don't you just feel sooooooooo sorry for the poor laid off workers of Wall St.?   Here's an article about their plight.
Find it here:   http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/wall-st-layoffs-take-heavy-toll-on-younger-workers/?hp    

November 21, 2011, 9:48 pm Investment Banking

A Blow to Pinstripe Aspirations

Steve Ferdman, 28, was laid off twice by Credit Suisse. "P Ruth Fremson/The New York TimesSteve Ferdman, 28, was laid off twice by Credit Suisse. "People shouldn't want to work in this industry anymore," he said.

Earlier this fall, Steve Ferdman celebrated getting a job offer from Credit Suisse in the usual Wall Street fashion. Over expensive oysters and dark rum cocktails at a trendy Manhattan restaurant with his parents, he toasted landing the full-time position after working six months as a consultant without benefits.

A week later, Mr. Ferdman, 28, sat alone at the same place and ordered a gin and tonic to lament getting laid off by the bank, for the second time since 2008. When he told the bartender about his misfortune, his next round was on the house.

"I did everything right. I came into work every day, I put in long hours, and I still got punched in the face," Mr. Ferdman said. "People shouldn't want to work in this industry anymore."

Being young on Wall Street once meant having it all: style, smarts and too much money to spend wisely. Now, twenty-somethings in the finance industry are losing both cash and cachet.
Sam Meek, 27, of Greenwich, Conn., was laid off from his job at Andrew Sullivan for The New York TimesSam Meek, 27, of Greenwich, Conn., was laid off from his job at a hedge fund. "I'm scraping by right now," he said.

Three years after the global financial crisis nearly brought Wall Street firms to the brink, the nation's largest banks are again struggling. As profits wane, layoffs have claimed thousands of jobs and those still employed have watched their compensation shrink. These problems are set against the morale-crushing backdrop of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has made a villain of a once-lionized industry.

Much of the burden of Wall Street's latest retrenchment has fallen on young financiers. The number of investment bank and brokerage firm employees between the ages 20 and 34 fell by 25 percent from the third quarter of 2008 to the same period of 2011, a loss of 110,000 jobs from layoffs, attrition and voluntary departures.

By comparison, industry headcount dropped by 17 percent in the same period, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data for New York City provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of staff members over the age of 55 decreased by only 11 percent.

Young financiers have experienced setbacks in the past. Bankers and traders who rushed wide-eyed to Wall Street in the halcyon days of the 1980s were waylaid by the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, known as Black Monday. Then they got pummeled in 2000 by the dot-com collapse and the recession that followed.

But experts say that today's doldrums, unlike previous downturns, are here to stay.

"A lot of the positions that are being cut right now aren't coming back," said Leslie K. Hild, a vice president with the recruiting firm Right Management. "It's an emotional roller coaster for almost everyone."

The industry's woes have also affected the plans of undergraduate and graduate students at the nation's top colleges.

At Harvard Business School, where a relatively high 39 percent of this year's graduates went into finance, compared to 34 percent last year, there has been a "heck of a lot more anxiety" about next year's hiring season, according to William A. Sahlman, a professor of business administration.

"People used to think of some of these organizations, like a Morgan Stanley or a Goldman Sachs, as safe career bets," Professor Sahlman said. "Those firms are not going away, but they're going to hire half the people they hired before."

Several large firms are not recruiting new entry-level analysts for their investment banking divisions this fall, having filled their entire incoming class with last summer's interns. At the University of Pennsylvania, whose Wharton School is the closest thing that exists to a Wall Street farm team, Goldman Sachs canceled its informational session.

The mood is even darker outside the Ivy League. Matthew Slotnick, a senior economics major at Boston College, said that he had sent more than 100 résumés to contacts on Wall Street and received several interviews. But he has not gotten any offers. Mr. Slotnick, who has wanted to work at an investment bank since entering college, is now applying to smaller banks and firms outside of New York.

"People are saying it's sort of a 2007, 2008-type hiring climate," he said. "I haven't given up, but it's a bit depressing."

Any sympathy for Wall Street's huddled masses yearning to get rich should be tempered by the fact that financial sector recessions often deal a soft blow. Laid-off financial workers typically get large severance packages, including the use of outplacement services. During their job hunt, many can draw on substantial savings built off past bonuses, on top of collecting unemployment.

But for those laid-off Wall Street workers whose golden tickets have vanished, the disillusionment is real.

Sam Meek, 27, who was laid off in September when his Connecticut hedge fund decided to downsize, used to spend $500 on charity dinners and lavish golf outings. Now, it's home-cooked meals and beer on the sofa. Recently, Mr. Meek and his roommate, another unemployed banker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his job search, sat together in the kitchen filing for unemployment and drinking a bottle of Champagne.

"I'm scraping by right now," he said.

Mr. Meek, a former Marine, says he is pursuing several job options, including an opportunity to help develop a social network for the military. But he remains reluctant to commit to a new company.

"I'm doing full due diligence," he said.

Older financiers are having problems, too. Ian C. Horowitz, 40, a former equity researcher at Rafferty Capital Markets, was laid off in June when his firm decided to outsource its research division. Mr. Horowitz currently collects $400 a week in unemployment benefits and has been mowing lawns and doing odd jobs around his New Jersey town to support his wife and two children.

Mr. Horowitz, who lived through the downturn of 2001, said that the latest cuts felt different.

"There have been economic moments where things were bad, but you knew the pendulum would swing the other direction," he said. "This is structural. The playing field has changed."

Wall Street's social scene has also changed, thanks to Occupy Wall Street and the fear of reproach from industry outsiders. Today's young bankers no longer brag about their jobs, especially in public. One twenty-something Goldman Sachs employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak on the record, said he now told new acquaintances he worked at a consulting firm.

The mood has darkened so much that even the young Wall Street workers who still have prestigious jobs are considering letting go of the brass ring.

"It's lost its luster," said a former Goldman analyst who left the financial sector this year. The former analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he signed a confidentiality agreement with the firm, said that in addition to losing some of the monetary benefits of their jobs, his friends who remained in finance were suffering from peer envy. "The new status jobs aren't at Goldman Sachs. They're at Google, Apple and Facebook."

For many of the high-achieving, type-A young professionals who end up on Wall Street, being tossed around by an industry in tumult can amount to the first real failure of their lives. Even if the industry recovers, some may not stick around long enough to see their fortunes improve.

"I'm still scratching my head," said a former employee of Nomura, the large Japanese bank, who was laid off on Oct. 1. "I went to the right schools, I know the right people and I'm very good at what I do. But when you have to cut costs, you have to cut costs."

The ex-Nomura employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because a confidentiality clause is attached to her severance package, said she had recently come across a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters in Lower Manhattan. While she said she did not support all their ideals, she could now sympathize with their frustrations about high unemployment and a growing sense of economic hopelessness.

"I'm in the same boat as these guys," she said of the protesters. "I just want to start working."

Joan Caplin contributed reporting.

Related Links

For Distressed Young Bankers, A Symphony of Small Violins

ANS -- I'm Wantin' Nuthin' for Christmas ...

This is Brad Hicks' latest post.  I am not sending it as a solicitation, so don't take it that way.  But his list of the changes he'd like to see in the world really struck me, and I thought you'd like to see it so succinctly put. 
Find it here:   http://bradhicks.livejournal.com/453351.html?view=8712935#t8712935

Previous Entry

I'm Wantin' Nuthin' for Christmas ...

  • Nov. 23rd, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Hail Santa
Even before I saw the movie In Time, I was leaning in this direction: I don't want any gifts, per se, for Christmas. I have too much stuff. There are things I could stand to have replaced, but none of them are in the appropriate price range for Christmas presents. Everything that any of my friends could afford to give me for Christmas would be one more thing that duplicates something I already have, or that I didn't want in the first place, that I would have to find a place to store and then take care of. With all due respect, and I say this as someone who's fallen back on this lazy shortcut before and felt guilty about it, I've never been crazy about the gift certificate thing. And as someone on a diet, I can't even fall back on my old traditional wish-list item, consumables.

But I do like opening presents on Christmas. It's been a major disappointment for me, the last couple of years, that there wasn't anything under the tree. As irrational as this sounds, waking up Christmas morning and finding nothing under the tree makes me feel like a bad kid that Santa hates, makes me feel like none of my friends loved me enough to get me anything for Christmas.

Here's how I'm reconciling that this year: what I specifically want for Christmas, from anybody who feels any obligation to give me a gift, is a Christmas card (or any other Winter Holiday card) with a note in it telling me what charity you donated to in my name in the month of December. What I want for Christmas is at least a tiny down payment on a Christmas miracle. Because let's face it, what I want for Christmas, what I really want, you and I both know I'm not going to get: I want America, the country I'm stuck living in, to be a better place.

I want military demobilization and an end to American imperialism. I want an end to dependence on oil and coal. I want an end to the Forbes 400 list's absolute veto over all political candidates. I want an end to the militarized, rights-less police state that the Forbes 400 have insisted on, to defend their veto and to defend the privileges that the politicians they hand-picked for us gave them, and to defend them from occasional bouts of outrage over all of the above. I want an end to permanent high unemployment. I want an end to spousal murder/suicide and infanticide fueled by permanent high unemployment. I want a universal public-funded employer of last resort to replace extended unemployment benefits and SSDI, whether we get to call it the reborn WPA or whether we call it Workfare, I just want it. I want an end to Reaganomics. I want safe, legal, affordable and destigmatized reproductive rights and sexual health in every city and county in the United States, including safe, legal, affordable, and destigmatized abortion. I want either a national health service or universal single-payer health care for all Americans. I want an end to racial profiling in searches, I want an end to the country's centuries-long war on black men, I want an end to black men committing crimes at the same rate as the rest of us but being incarcerated at 7 times the rate. And, not incidentally, I want an end to the for-profit prison-industrial state. I want equal protection under the law; if it's illegal for a poor or powerless person to do it, it should be illegal for a rich or powerful person to do it. And vice versa.

I'm not going to get any of those things. But if you were going to buy me a $1 or a $5 or a $25 Christmas present this year, you can buy me $1 or $5 or $25 worth of it. Pick a charity that's working towards any of those things. Send in a donation, whether in your name or in my name I don't care, but I don't want any of their "thanks for donating" gifts, either.

Christmas is a time to show that you care enough about someone to put some thought into finding or making something that they'd like. But if you don't have time to pick a charity, or don't have the energy, I understand that. So here's an easy fall-back. As a step towards getting me some or all of those things, I also want well-funded independent hard-hitting investigative journalism back, and if the 21st century has taught us anything, it's that we're not going to get that out of any shareholder-owned publicly-traded for-profit company, no matter how noble they claim to be. If you absolutely cannot make up your mind as to what charity would best promote any of the causes I listed above, I would admire and be thankful for any donations you made to ProPublica, or National Public Radio, or the Greg Palast Investigative Fund, or WikiLeaks, or GlobalRevolution.tv, or, if your town has a non-profit investigative journalism fund, like the St. Louis Beacon, donate to that. Or, maybe, I guess, PBS.

Tuck a note into a card that says, "Brad, because you asked, I donated to (whatever)." Mark the envelope "Do Not Open Until Christmas." And either give it to me in person, or send it to J. Brad Hicks, 8708 Crocus Ln Apt 6, St Louis MO 63114, USA. That's what I want for Christmas.
  • Mood: grateful grateful


ANS -- Top 5 FOX Myths To Debunk This Thanksgiving

Here's help when arguing politics with your conservative relatives over Thanksgiving dinner.
Find it here:  http://front.moveon.org/top-5-fox-myths-to-debunk-this-thanksgiving/?rc=fb.pm

Top 5 FOX Myths To Debunk This Thanksgiving

Posted on November 22, 2011 by Angie

Share this now!

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MYTH #1: The congressional Super Committee failed because both sides refuse to compromise.

REALITY: The Super Committee failed because Republicans' number one, non-negotiable priority is to protect millionaires and billionaires from paying even one more penny in taxes.1 Democrats repeatedly offered deep spending cuts (far deeper than most progressives would like) in exchange for raising taxes on the wealthy and closing corporate loopholes, only to be refused again and again.2 So even though the vast majority of Americans say they want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations,3 that won't happen until Republicans put aside their extremist stance.

MYTH #2: Nobody knows what Occupy Wall Street is about.

REALITY: Occupy Wall Street may not have a formal list of demands, but anyone who's been paying attention understands the core problems that occupiers are protesting–that corporations have far too much power in our political system, that Wall Street banks crashed our economy but were never held accountable, and that the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans–156 million people–combined.4

MYTH #3: Occupiers should stop protesting and just get a job.

REALITY: As anybody who's looked for a job in the last few years knows, there just aren't jobs out there. That's a big part of why occupiers are protesting. In September, there were four times as many unemployed people as job openings.5 And for those who are lucky enough to find a job, median wages today are lower than they were a decade ago.6


MYTH #4: Occupy Wall Street is intent on provoking violence, especially against banks and the police.

REALITY: Occupations across the country have committed themselves to nonviolent protest, in the greatest traditions of protest movements. Some of their protests have been met with acts of police violence–tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets7–but in many cases, protesters have reminded police that the police are part of the 99%, too.8 And in the few cases when people have shown up at occupations and committed acts of vandalism, other protesters have even repaired their acts of vandalism.9

MYTH #5: The biggest crisis facing our country is out of control government spending.

REALITY: The two biggest drivers of our deficit–by far–are the economic crash and the Bush tax cuts.10 We have millions of people out of work, corporations hoarding cash, and factories sitting idle. If we put all those people back to work–rebuilding infrastructure, educating our children, and researching new technologies–it'll shrink the deficit and make our economy stronger for the long haul. And we can easily afford it if we make sure the rich–who are taking home a larger percentage of income than any time since 191711–pay their fair share.


1. "No, 'both sides' aren't equally to blame for supercommittee failure," The Washington Post, November 21, 2011


2. "Wonkbook: In supercommittee, Dems moved right and Republicans moved righter," The Washington Post, November 22, 2011


3. "CNN Poll: What The Super Committee Produced Is…Exactly What We Don't Want," Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011


"Medicare, Social Security & The Deficit," National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, September 2011


4. "Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined," Politifact Wisconsin, March 10, 2011


5. "Fact: 4 job seekers per opening in U.S.," CNN, September 12, 2011


6. "Median household income," Wikipedia, Accessed November 22, 2011


7. "Occupy movement: police reaction in pictures," The Guardian, November 21, 2011


8. "Occupy Demonstrators Mark Two Months of Protests," NPR, November 17, 2011


9. "Occupy Oakland protesters assist in cleanup efforts," News 10 ABC, November 3, 2011

http://www.news10.net/news/article/161383/2/Occupy-Oakland-protesters-assist-in-cleanup-efforts -

10. "Economic Downturn and Bush Policies Continue to Drive Large Projected Deficits," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 10, 2011


11. "Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY," The Huffington Post, September 14, 2009


This entry was posted in Eye-Opening, Media, Text and tagged Bush tax cuts, corporate tax rates, debt ceiling, Medicare, OccupyWallStreet, Social Security, The 99%. Bookmark the permalink.

Monday, November 21, 2011

ANS -- How the 99 Percent Won in the Fight for Worker Rights

Here is an overview of the effect of the Occupy Movement.  It's good to hear something positive.  May it continue.
Find it here:  http://www.truth-out.org/how-99-percent-won-fight-worker-rights/1321887844  

How the 99 Percent Won in the Fight for Worker Rights

Monday 21 November 2011
by: Andy Kroll , TomDispatch | News Analysis

Workers' State of the State Response Rally against Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, March 8, 2011. (Photo: Ohio AFL-CIO)

The Unsung Victors in the Hottest Election of 2011

No headlines announced it. No TV pundits called it. But on the evening of November 8th, Occupy Wall Street, the populist uprising built on economic justice and corruption-free politics that's spread like a lit match hitting a trail of gasoline, notched its first major political victory, and in the unlikeliest of places: Ohio.

You might have missed OWS's win amid the recent wave of Occupy crackdowns. Police raided Occupy Denver , Occupy Salt Lake City, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Portland, and Occupy Seattle in a five-day span. Hundreds were arrested. And then, in the early morning hours on Tuesday, New York City police descended on Occupy Wall Street itself, fists flying and riot shields at the ready, with orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to evict the protesters. Later that day, a judge ruled that they couldn't rebuild their young community, dealing a blow to the Occupy protest that inspired them all.

Instead of simply condemning the eviction, many pundits and columnists praised it or highlighted what they considered its bright side. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote that Bloomberg had done Occupy Wall Street a favor. After all, he argued, something dangerous or deadly was bound to happen at OWS sooner or later, especially with winter soon to arrive. Zuccotti Park, Klein added, "was cleared... in a way that will temporarily reinvigorate the protesters and give Occupy Wall Street the best possible chance to become whatever it will become next."

The New York Times' Paul Krugman wrote that OWS "should be grateful" for Bloomberg's eviction decree: "By acting so badly, Bloomberg has made it easy to see who won't be truthful and can't handle open discourse.  He's also saved OWS from what was probably its greatest problem, the prospect that it would just fade away as time went on and the days grew colder."

As the world rises up against economic injustice, Truthout brings you the latest news and analysis, free of corporate influence. Help support this work with a tax-deductible donation today.

Read between the lines and what Klein, Krugman, and others are really saying is: you had your occupation; now, get real. Start organizing, meaningfully connect your many Occupy protests, build a real movement. As these columnists see it, that movement -- whether you call it OccupyUSA, We Are the 99%, or the New Progressive Movement -- should now turn its attention to policy changes like a millionaire's tax, a financial transaction fee, or a constitutional amendment to nullify the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that loosed a torrent of cash into American elections. It should think about supporting political candidates. It should start making a nuts-and-bolts difference in American politics.

But such assessments miss an important truth: Occupy Wall Street has already won its first victory its own way -- in Ohio, when voters repealed Republican governor John Kasich's law to slash bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and gut what remained of organized labor's political power.

Commandeering the Conversation

Don't believe me? Then think back to this spring and summer, when Occupy Wall Street was just a glimmer in the imagination of a few activists, artists, and students. In Washington, the conversation, such as it was, concerned debt, deficit, and austerity. The discussion wasn't about whether to slash spending, only about how much and how soon. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent called it the "Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop" -- and boy was he right.

A National Journal analysis in May found that the number of news articles in major newspapers mentioning "deficit" was climbing, while mentions of "unemployment" had plummeted. In the last week of July, the liberal blog ThinkProgress tallied 7,583 mentions of the word "debt" on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News alone. "Unemployment"? A measly 427.

This all-deficit, all-the-time debate shaped the final debt-ceiling deal, in which House Speaker John Boehner and his "cut-and-grow"-loving GOP allies got just about everything they wanted. So lopsided was the debate in Washington that President Obama himself hailed the deal's bone-deep cuts to health research, public education, environmental protection, childcare, and infrastructure.

These cuts, the president explained, would bring the country to "the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president." After studying the deal, Ethan Pollock of the Economic Policy Institute told me, "There's no way to square this plan with the president's 'Winning the Future' agenda. That agenda ends." Yet Obama said this as if it were a good thing.

Six weeks after Obama's speech, protesters heard the call of Adbusters, the Canadian anti-capitalist magazine, and followed the lead of a small crew of activists, writers, and students to "occupy Wall Street." A few hundred of them set up camp in Zuccotti Park, a small patch of concrete next door to Ground Zero. No one knew how long the occupation would last, or what its impact would be.

What a game-changing few months it's been. Occupy Wall Street has inspired 750 events around the world, and hundreds of (semi-)permanent encampments around the United States. In so doing, the protests have wrestled the national discussion on the economy away from austerity and toward gaping income inequality ( the 99% versus 1% theme), outsized executive compensation, and the plain buying and selling of American politicians by lobbyists and campaign donors.

Mentions of the phrase "income inequality" in print publications, web stories, and broadcast transcripts spiked from 91 times a week in early September to nearly 500 in late October, according to the website Politico -- an increase of nearly 450%. In the second week of October, according to ThinkProgress, the words most uttered on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News were "jobs" (2,738), "Wall Street" (2,387), and "Occupy" (1,278). (References to "debt" tumbled to 398.)

And here's another sign of the way Occupy Wall Street has forced what it considers the most pressing economic issues for the country into the spotlight: conservatives have lately gone on the defensive by attacking the very existence of income inequality, even if to little effect. As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka put it, "Give credit to the Occupy Wall Street movement (and historic inequality) for redefining the political narrative."

Wall Street in Ohio

The way Occupy Wall Street, with next to no direct access to the mainstream media, commandeered the national political narrative represents something of a stunning triumph. It also laid the groundwork for OWS's first political win.

Just as OWS was grabbing that narrative, labor unions and Democrats headed into the final stretch of one of their biggest fights of 2011: an up-or-down referendum on the fate of Ohio governor John Kasich's anti-union law, also known as SB 5. Passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March, it sought to curb the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers, snowplow drivers, and other public workers. It also gutted the political clout of unions by making it harder for them to collect dues and fund their political action committees. After failing to overturn similar laws in Wisconsin and Michigan, the SB 5 fight was labor's last stand of 2011.

I spent a week in Ohio in early November interviewing dozens of people and reporting on the run-up to the SB 5 referendum. I visited heavily Democratic and Republican parts of the state, talking to liberals and conservatives, union leaders and activists.  What struck me was how dramatically the debate had shifted in Ohio thanks in large part to the energy generated by Occupy Wall Street.

It was as if a great tide had lifted the pro-repeal forces in a way you only fully grasped if you were there. Organizers and volunteers had a spring in their step that hadn't been evident in Wisconsin this summer during the recall elections of nine state senators targeted for their actions during the fight over Governor Scott Walker's own anti-union law. Nearly everywhere I went in Ohio, people could be counted on to mention two things: the 99% -- that is, the gap between the rich and poor -- and the importance of protecting the rights of the cops and firefighters targeted by Kasich's law.

And not just voters or local activists either.  I heard it from union leaders as well. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me that her union had recruited volunteers from 15 different states for the final get-out-the-vote effort in Ohio. That, she assured me, wouldn't have happened without the energy generated by OWS. And when Henry herself went door-to-door in Ohio to drum up support for repealing SB 5, she said that she could feel its influence in home after home. "Every conversation was in the context of the 99% and the 1%, this discussion sparked by Occupy Wall Street."

This isn't to take anything away from labor's own accomplishments in Ohio. We Are Ohio, the labor-funded coalition that led the effort, collected nearly 1.3 million signatures this summer to put the repeal of SB 5 on the November ballot.  (They needed just 230,000.) The group outspent its opponents $30 million to $8 million, a nearly four-to-one margin. And in the final days before the November 8th victory, We Are Ohio volunteers knocked on a million doors and made nearly a million phone calls. In the end, a stunning 2.14 million Ohioans voted to repeal SB 5 and only 1.35 million to keep it, a 61% to 39% margin. There were repeal majorities in 82 of Ohio's 88 counties, support that cut across age, class, race, and political ideologies.

Nonetheless, it's undeniable that a mood change had hit Ohio -- and in a major way. Pro-worker organizers and volunteers benefited from something their peers in Wisconsin lacked: the wind of public opinion at their backs. Polls conducted in the run-up to Ohio's November 8th vote showed large majorities of Ohioans agreeing that income inequality was a problem. What's more, 60% of respondents in a Washington Post-ABC poll said the federal government should act to close that gap. Behind those changing numbers was the influence of Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests.

So, as the debate rages over what will happen to Occupy Wall Street after its eviction from Zuccotti Park, and some "experts" sneer at OWS and tell it to get real, just direct their attention to Ohio. Kasich's anti-union law might still be on the books if not for the force of OWS. And if the Occupy movement survives Mayor Bloomberg's eviction order and the winter season, if it regroups and adapts to life beyond Zuccotti Park, you can bet it will notch more political victories in 2012.

Copyright 2011 Andy Kroll

ANS -- Rep. Deutch Introduces OCCUPIED Constitutional Amendment To Ban Corporate Money In Politics

This is good news.  We must make it pass.  It's a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and corporate donations to political campaigns.
Find it here:  http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/11/18/372361/rep-deutch-introduces-occupied-constitutional-amendment-to-ban-corporate-money-in-politics/  
the link within the article leads you to a copy of the amendment itself.

Rep. Deutch Introduces OCCUPIED Constitutional Amendment To Ban Corporate Money In Politics

By Zaid Jilani on Nov 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm


Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is tackling corporate money in politics head on.
In one of the greatest signs yet that the 99 Percenters are having an impact, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today introduced an amendment that would ban corporate money in politics and end corporate personhood once and for all.

Deutch's amendment, called the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment, would overturn the Citizens United decision, re-establishing the right of Congress and the states to regulate campaign finance laws, and to effectively outlaw the ability of for-profit corporations to contribute to campaign spending.

"No matter how long protesters camp out across America, big banks will continue to pour money into shadow groups promoting candidates more likely to slash Medicaid for poor children than help families facing foreclosure," said Deutch in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. "No matter how strongly Ohio families fight for basic fairness for workers, the Koch Brothers will continue to pour millions into campaigns aimed at protecting the wealthiest 1%. No matter how fed up seniors in South Florida are with an agenda that puts oil subsidies ahead of Social Security and Medicare, corporations will continue to fund massive publicity campaigns and malicious attack ads against the public interest. Americans of all stripes agree that for far too long, corporations have occupied Washington and drowned out the voices of the people. I introduced the OCCUPIED Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy. It is time to return the nation's capital and our democracy to the people."


ANS -- Three Items

Here's some stuff (two articles and a link to a video) on what's happening in the Occupy Movement and what it means. 
Find them here:
http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/olbermann-to-nyc-mayor-bloomberg-resign-for-occupy-wall-street-handling/politics/2011/11/18/30424#.TsqgR3KK5fY   this is a video of Keith Olbermann on Bloomberg's help for Occupy
Keith Olbermann has a rant on Bloomberg's opposition to Occupy Wall Street actually helping the Occupy Movement.  the link is above.  Then, I already sent you Brad Hicks' article about what St. Louis did about their Occupy -- they defused it completely.  And I believe I mentioned that one of the comments on Brad's site thought Obama was telling the cities to oppose Occupy because the opposition is what keeps it strong and in the news.   Interesting to consider all those together....

The 99%'s Deficit Proposal: How to create jobs, reduce the wealth divide and control spending

By Kevin Zeese - Posted on 17 November 2011

Prepared by Occupy Washington DC
Freedom Plaza, November 2011

The disconnect between Congress and the people is vast.  For decades, Congress has been passing laws that benefit the 1%, their campaign donors and big business interests, rather than creating a fair economy that serves all U.S. citizens. With this report Occupy Washington, DC shows that Congress is out of touch with evidence-based solutions, supported by the majority of Americans that can revive the economy, reduce the deficit and wealth divide while create millions of jobs.

 OccupyWashingtonDC.org seeks a major transformation to a participatory democracy in the economy as well as in government. For forty years, concentrated corporate interests have acted with intent to take over government and other institutions. We seek an end to the rule of concentrated wealth and corporate power by shifting control, wealth and ownership to the people.

This report puts forward evidence-based solutions that will re-start the economy and avoid placing financial burdens on future generations.  For the most part these ideas are not new.  They are well accepted by economists and are consistent with the views of super majorities of Americans on key issues. Further, more than three-quarters of U.S. citizens say the country's economic structure is out of balance and "favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country." They are right. The solutions to our economic crisis are evident but they are blocked by those who profit from the status quo and control elected officials through the corrupt U.S. political system and its money-based elections.

The elites in Washington, DC seek to erase deficits that were caused by increases in war and military spending, tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, the increased cost of health care, as well as bank bailouts, and increased costs and lost revenue from the economic collapse. The bi-partisan elites seek to cut $1.2 trillion in deficits even though there is no outcry for such cuts or evidence in the economy that they are urgently needed.  They are proposing cuts in services to seniors, students, the poor and middle-working class households who did not cause the crash but already suffer from its consequences. This report shows that we can get the economy moving, reduce the wealth divide and control government spending while helping the 99%.

This report should not be considered the demand of the Occupy Movement. It was prepared[1] by one Occupation, Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC and it does not reflect even that Occupation's full demands.  Most of this report provides solutions to the deficit questions the Congressional Super Committee is attempting to address while also re-starting the economy.  The difference between the Occupied Super Committee report and the Congressional Super Committee report will be stark and further demonstrate the corruption and dysfunction of government.  While this report's recommendations would benefit the 99%, the report that will come out of the congressional Super Committee will benefit the 1%. 

Creating a Fair Tax System That Shrinks the Wealth Divide

The United States does not have a lack of financial resources; it has an intentionally unfair distribution of resources. The federal income tax has become less progressive and the rate paid by the wealthiest has been cut dramatically in recent decades.  From 1944 through 1951, the highest marginal tax rate for individuals was 91%, increasing to 92% for 1952 and 1953, and reverting to 91% for tax years 1954 through 1963. In 1964, the top marginal tax rate for individuals was 77%. From 1965 through 1981 the top rate was 70%. The top marginal tax rate was lowered to 50% for tax years 1982 through 1986 and today it is just 35%.

The tax on investment income, capital gains, has also been dramatically reduced.  The maximum statutory rate on long-term capital gains was 28% in 1991, 20% in 1997 and has been merely 15% since 2003.

The wealth divide has become extreme over the past three decades and tax policies have exacerbated this trend; much of the tax code exemplifies policies for the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  The wealth divide is one of the foundational reasons why the economy no longer works and is in steady decline for most people in the United States. The tax code inadequately funds government, but that is the result of unfair tax cuts, not because America is broke (it isn't). As Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute testified "Income per capita has jumped 66% over the past 30 years, and is projected to grow another 60% over the next 30 years." The country needs to put in place policies that reduce the wealth divide and share wealth fairly so that when the economy grows it benefits all citizens, not just the 1%.

The recommendations below begin to correct the unfair policies of the last three decades, but these are only first steps to the transformational changes that are needed.
  • Tax the highest income households: From 1960 to 2004, the top 0.1 percent of U.S. taxpayers ­ the wealthiest one in one thousand ­ have seen the share of their income paid in total federal taxes drop from 60% to 24.3%. America's highest income-earners ­ the top 400 people who have wealth equal to 154 million Americans ­ have seen their federal income tax drop from 51.2% in 1955 to 18.1% in 2008. If the top 400 paid as much of their incomes in personal income tax as the top 400 of 1955, the federal treasury would have collected $50 billion more in revenue from just those 400 taxpayers. If the top 0.1% of taxpayers ­ Americans with incomes that averaged $4.4 million ­ had paid total federal taxes at the same rate as the top 0.1% paid these taxes in 1960, the federal treasury would have collected an additional $250 billion in revenue.
  • Merely not extending the Bush tax cuts would add nearly $500 billion each year in tax revenue.  Thus in just over two years the goal of the deficit committee would be met. This would be insufficient to correct the wealth divide and does not go as far as Occupy Washington, DC advocates.
  • A tax of a half of a percent or less on Wall Street speculation could raise over $800 billion in a decade. The Speculation Tax on the purchase of stocks, bonds and derivatives would be a tiny tax with a big impact.  People in the U.S. pay much higher taxes on purchases of food and clothing; it is only fair that the wealthy pay taxes on purchasing wealth instruments.
  • A fair tax on capital gains, treating it as ordinary income would raise $1 trillion over a decade. Wealth-based income and work-based income should be treated equally under the law as it used to be. Warren Buffet has received a great deal of attention for pointing out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary or anyone who works for him. The reason for this is that investment income is taxed at a much lower rate than income from labor.  The United States needs to tax wealth more and work less.
  • Congress should enact a "pure worldwide" tax system, in which all profits of U.S. corporations, whether they are generated in the U.S. or abroad, would be taxed by the U.S. This would end "deferral," i.e. where taxes are deferred until money is brought back into the United States. U.S. corporations would continue to receive a credit against any taxes they pay to a foreign government (the foreign tax credit) so that profits are not double-taxed. Under a pure worldwide tax system, corporations would have little or no tax incentive to move jobs offshore because the U.S. would tax profits of corporations no matter where they are generated. The Treasury estimates that deferral of U.S. taxes on offshore corporate profits costs close to $50 billion each year, and many experts think this estimate is substantially understated.
  • Ending deferral does not even address the hundreds of billions lost through tax havens. Tax havens should be shut down through the passage of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act.  In fact, the U.S. Treasury estimates this costs $100 billion each year. In 2006 the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that Americans now have more than $1 trillion in assets offshore and illegally evade between $40 and $70 billion in U.S. taxes each year through the use of offshore tax schemes.
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes would return the fair share of taxes paid by corporations to the funding of government. Declining corporate taxation is another prime factor in increasing deficits. Corporate income taxes have fallen from roughly 4.8% of GDP in the 1950s to only 1.8% of GDP over the past decade. Ending just two large breaks, deferral of overseas revenue and accelerated depreciation would raise about $114 billion over a decade. The Treasury Department lists $365 billion in corporate tax breaks being gifted annually ­ that's $3.65 trillion over the next 10 years. Due to tax loopholes, corporations pay record low tax rates ­ they actually pay 21% on average. Indeed, a recent report by Citizens for Tax Justice found that Wells Fargo received $18 billion in tax breaks, while both Verizon and General Electric paid negative taxes.  Earlier Citizens for Tax Justice reported that 12 major companies which together made $171 billion in profits from 2008-2010 paid a negative $2.5 billion in taxes, thanks to $62 billion in tax subsidies.

The taxes described above would generate at least $600 billion annually.  The goal of the Joint Deficit Committee of $1.2 trillion over ten years could be met in two years. The United States has more than enough wealth to meet the needs of its people.

Cutting Spending for Economic Security
  • Military spending, found in the Department of Defense and other departments, has increased dramatically during each year that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been president, roughly doubling during the past decade both as measured in real dollars and as a percentage share of discretionary spending.  Military and related "security" spending is now at over $1 trillion per year and comprises well over half of federal discretionary spending.  It is also very nearly equal to the military spending of all other nations on earth combined. Ending our two most costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before the 2013 fiscal year budget would save $1.8 trillion, as compared with ending those wars on the currently planned schedule, with savings of $108 billion per year.
  • The U.S. should only spend what it needs to defend itself. The military budget can be cut significantly by replacing private contractors, closing some of the more than 1,100 foreign military bases and outposts and eliminating weapons systems many of which the Pentagon says it does not need. 
  • The Sustainable Defense Task Force recommended modest cuts of $1 trillion over the next decade, not counting savings from ending the current wars. U.S. military spending could be cut by 80% and still be comfortably well ahead of any other nation's military spending. See Creating Jobs and Restarting the Economy below on how these funds could be used to create jobs, restart the economy and provide much-needed services and infrastructure to the country.
  • Corporate tax subsidies through tax breaks and giveaways are a form of spending that needs to be cut.[2] The U.S. needs to end corporate tax subsidies and repatriate overseas funds. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the 280 most profitable U.S. corporations received tax subsidies amounting to $222.7 billion from 2008-2010. These companies sheltered half their profit from taxes. The result: 30 companies paid less than 0 taxes despite $160 billion in pre-tax profits; 78 of the 280 companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less; weapons maker's paid a mere 10.6 percent rate in 2010; financial services received the largest share (16.8 percent) of all federal tax subsidies over the last three years.
  • Negotiating better prices with Big Pharma would save more than $200 billion over ten years in pharmaceutical costs. Reforms of Medicare could offer much larger savings. Expanding to an improved Medicare for all system would control the cost of health care spending while covering all in the United States reducing significant financial burdens often resulting in bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Creating Jobs and Restarting the Economy

One in six people who would like a full-time job are unable to find one.  The unemployment rate of 9% greatly underestimates unemployment.  If the pre-1994 measures were used, e.g. including discouraged workers who want jobs, as well as part-time workers who want full time jobs the underemployment and unemployment rate would be 23%. The measures listed below would effectively create jobs and restart the economy. Job loss means less tax revenue and more expenditure by the government. A critical ingredient to reducing the deficit is job creation.
  • One million jobs could be created annually by writing down all underwater mortgages to market value.  Correcting housing mortgages to the real value of homes would inject $71 billion per year into the economy and save families $6,500 per year on mortgage payments. This would also fix the housing crisis which is an anchor holding back any recovery, according to a new report by The New Bottom Line.  One in five mortgage holders owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth. Banks should not continue to be able to profit from housing bubble prices – a bubble they created with their poor and unethical lending practices. Adjusting mortgages to the real value of homes is a fair way to fix the housing market.
  • Failure to stop the foreclosure crisis will ensure a stalled economy.  It is an essential step to economic repair. This could be done without Congress as Fannie and Freddie together hold $1.5 trillion in housing loans or mortgage-backed securities which could be directed to fix the mortgages.  The Federal Reserve has just under a trillion and could unilaterally correct loans to reflect real value. And, the banks could be pressured. Last year, the nation's top six banks paid out more than twice the cost of re-writing mortgages to make them fair ($71billion per year) in bonuses and compensation alone ($146 billion in 2010). The nation's banks are sitting on a historically high level of cash reserves of $1.64 trillion.
  • A fundamental reason for job stagnation is relying on the private sector to create jobs and refusing to engage in direct government job creation in the public sector. According to Business Week, "Since the end of the recession, government employment--including federal, state, and local jobs--has fallen by roughly 600,000. State and local governments have particularly felt the pain, according to a report released this week by the Census Bureau, which shows that there were over 200,000 fewer state and local government jobs in 2010 than in 2009." The most recent jobs report shows a continued downward trend in government jobs. State deficits and federal inaction ensure these job losses will continue.
  • In addition to our need to rebuild the nation's physical infrastructure, there is an even more urgent need to rebuild its human infrastructure.  The drastic rise in inequality and joblessness has torn apart the social fabric, destroying countless individual lives, families, urban neighborhoods, and rural communities across our country. For more than a generation, the major "growth industry" in impoverished communities has been the illegal drug industry. Persistent, trans-generational poverty is directly responsible for the fact that the U.S. now leads the world in imprisoning its own people: 2.5 million, by the latest count, with more than 5 million more under some form of court supervision. (China, with its 2.5 billion people, runs a poor second.) Although most of the prison population is white, people of color are disproportionately represented, leading many analysts to declare that the mass incarceration of African-Americans and Latinos has created a new caste of unemployable "untouchables." Only a massive public works, community development, and job training program can end the destruction of American communities and stop the shameful criminalization of poverty.
  • As public sector jobs are created, the country must also strengthen the public sector in ways that will require new democratic reforms to put publicly owned or financed enterprises under popular control. A long-term goal should be to democratize the economy so the people of the United States share in wealth and ownership as well as influence over the economy. See below Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all in the United States. There is a desperate need for a mass public works program, not only to create jobs, but also to meet the urgent needs of the country.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that failure to fix the nation's infrastructure has created serious damage so extensive that $2.2 trillion will be required by 2014 just to meet current demands. The ASCE gave the nation's infrastructure an overall grade of "D." Its report cited cracking levees, a quarter of the nation's existing bridges sagging, leaking pipes losing billions of gallons of drinking water per day, aging sewers releasing human waste into rivers and lakes, horrendous traffic congestion and air and water pollution. This is not "make work" but urgently needed work. A public works program modeled after the depression era Works Progress Administration would create 15 million jobs and build the infrastructure needed to create a sustainable economy.
  • Spending on the military is a drag on the economy, not just because it makes up 55% of federal discretionary spending, but because more jobs would be created by spending on education, infrastructure, green energy, or even on tax cuts for non-billionaires.  Converting a fraction of current military spending to other industries and tax cuts could produce 29 million new jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed person in the United States, even after finding new employment for everyone displaced during the conversion.
  • Putting in place improved Medicare for all would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy not only by controlling the cost of health care and reducing deficits but by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.
  • Erasing student loan debt would have an immediate stimulating effect on the economy. As Mychal Smith writes: "[C]onsider the potential impact on the economy if all of a sudden 35 million people were able to add to their monthly budget anywhere between $400 and $1000 that they no longer needed to satisfy exorbitant student loan repayments. . . . Debt free degree holders would allow for more risk taking and innovation." As Robert Applebaum, an advocate of forgiving student loans writes: "the 'educated poor' are not buying homes, not starting businesses or families, not inventing, investing or innovating and otherwise engaging in economically productive activities."  And, as Cryn Johannsen of All Education Matters points out, this would be a long term stimulus because college debts are multi-decade in length. Johannsen describes a "crisis that is affecting millions of educated Americans. We are indebted for life. Most of us will never be able to pay off our loans for college." Education is a critical building block for the economy and going forward the United States must develop a system of higher education that does not require students to go into debt just to receive an education. Rather than a loan-based system the U.S. needs a system based on grants, scholarships and public funding.

These recommendations would create millions of jobs and get the economy moving again.  As the economy develops and expands, programs need to be put in place so that new wealth is shared more fairly; workers have greater control over their work through employee ownership and protections for collective bargaining; and so some of the profits created by public investment (i.e. by tax dollars) are shared among all U.S. taxpayers.  See below Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all U.S. Citizens.

Protecting and Improving Social Security

Saving Social Security is not a traditional left-right battle. Polls consistently show that people across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support Social Security and do not want to see it cut. Even the vast majority of Tea Party Republicans support these programs. Cutting Social Security is a Wall Street agenda of the 1% that opposes the interests of the rest of us. As Dean Baker writes "There is a bipartisan consensus among the elites that these programs should be cut. The guiding philosophy of this drive is that public money that goes to programs for middle income and poor people is money that could be in the pockets of the wealthy."

Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.  Social Security is financed by a designated Social Security tax and there is more than $2.5 trillion in the Social Security trust fund.  The efforts to cut Social Security to fix the deficit are a fraud designed to enrich Wall Street financiers by forcing people into the private retirement market.

The temporary payroll tax cut will create some jobs, but not enough to get the economy moving and is not the most effective tax cut stimulus. Further, it unnecessarily puts Social Security in jeopardy by reducing taxes designated for Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cut will reduce federal revenues by $112 billion over the next two years. The government will have to borrow to fill that hole in the Social Security trust fund, giving opponents of Social Security another argument against the program.

Social Security faces no immediate threat of insolvency. The Congressional Budget Office just released new projections showing that the Social Security trust fund is fully solvent through the year 2038. Even after that date, the program would have enough money to pay 81% of scheduled benefits for the rest of the century. Below are recommendations that would strengthen social security.
  • The funding of Social Security is easy to fix. Currently, the tax on wages subject to the tax is capped at $107,000. The upward redistribution of income over the last three decades has caused a large share of wage income to escape taxation. If all wage income were subject to the tax, then it would leave Social Security fully solvent for its 75-year planning period.
  • The Social Security tax has not kept up with the wealth divide. In 1983, the Social Security tax ceiling was set so the tax would hit 90% of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90% figure was built into the 1983 Greenspan Commission's fix of Social Security. Requiring the ceiling to rise with inflation was expected to result in the Social Security tax continuing to hit 90% of total income. But, in 1983 no one predicted the extreme wealth divide that exists today. The richest 1% of Americans got 11.6% of total income in 1983. Today the top 1% takes in more than 20% of total income and as a result the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 83% of their total income. The tax should go back to covering 90% of income. That would mean the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000.
  • Social Security should be strengthened in ways that increase the retirement security of people in middle-and working-class. Particular attention should be paid to improving the living standards in retirement of workers in poorly compensated jobs, who typically have little or no retirement savings outside of Social Security.  The average Social Security benefit of $14,000 is only about 30% above the poverty line. Indeed, 21% of Social Security beneficiaries receive Social Security benefits that fall below the poverty line. In 2011, the Commission to Modernize Social Security proposed increasing benefits for all retirees by a uniform amount equal to 5% of the average benefit, about a $700 annual increase for beneficiaries today; that workers who have worked at least 30 years should receive benefits equal to 125% of the poverty threshold when they retire at the full retirement; providing at least five years of dependent care credits through Social Security as women (and some men) spend part of their working years caring for children and elderly parents; reinstating the post-secondary student benefit that existed until 1983 and allowed students who were receiving Social Security due to a parent's death, disability, or retirement to continue until they were 22 years old if they were in college; and increasing the survivor's benefit for widowed spouses to ensure that they receive at least 75% of the benefit amount they received when their spouse was still alive.

Improving Medicare and Expanding it to Provide Health Care to All in the United States
  • Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes "Medicare isn't the nation's budgetary problems. It's the solution. The real problem is the soaring costs of health care that lie beneath Medicare. They're costs all of us are bearing in the form of soaring premiums, co-payments, and deductibles. Medicare offers a means of reducing these costs."
  • Medicare bears the burdens of existing within an insurance-based health care that fails to control costs and creates tremendous bureaucracy.  While there are short-term fixes to Medicare, what is needed is an end to the current insurance-based approach. The United States spends the most per capita per year on health care yet a third of the population is either uninsured or underinsured so that they face financial ruin if a serious accident or illness occurs. Health care spending in the U.S. is rising 2.5% faster than GDP.
  • Expanding and improving Medicare so it covers all in the United States is a key component to controlling health care costs and government spending; as well as ending the deficit problem of state and federal budgets. Estimates of how much would be saved on administrative costs alone by extending Medicare to cover the entire population range up to $400 billion a year. This savings plus the inherent cost-controls of a single payer health system would offset the cost of providing everyone in the United States with access to lifelong, comprehensive, quality health care. Controlling health care costs would sharply reduce the long-term budget crisis, as well as foreclosures and bankruptcy.
  • Even without improving and expanding Medicare to cover all, the program is not in crisis. The Medicare Trustees say that the program faces a modest shortfall over its 75-year planning horizon. The projected shortfall is around 0.3% of GDP or less than one-fifth of the amount that annual military spending was increased since September 11th, 2000.
  • Economist Jack Rasmus points out that all it takes to cover the Medicare shortfall is a mere 0.25% increase in the Medicare share of the payroll tax for the next ten years and another 0.25% starting in the eleventh year. The Medicare tax rate is currently 2.9% for the employee and the employer.  These tiny tax increases would make Medicare secure.
  • In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculates that the Medicare system in its current form is far more efficient than the privatized system advocated by a bi-partisan consensus of political elites. CBO's projections show that switching from Medicare to a privatized system would add $34 trillion to the cost of buying Medicare equivalent policies over the program's 75-year planning period.
  • Medicare provides efficiency. Reich reports: "Medicare's administrative costs are in the range of 3%. That's well below the 5% to 10% costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It's even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25% to 27% of premiums). And it's way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40%). It's even far below the 11% costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare."

Democratizing the Economy, Shifting Economic Power, Wealth and Ownership to all Citizens in the United States

Big finance corporate capitalism is failing. It is concentrating ownership and wealth as well as domination of the economy in the wealthiest Americans. New approaches are needed to share wealth, ownership and economic power more fairly. The grass roots protests, whether from the Occupy Movement or the anger from the conservative Tea Party, are based on the same realities: economic insecurity and economic unfairness. A full discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this report but it is time for the people of the United States to be asking critical questions:
  • What is the next evolution of the economy? 
  • What can be done to reduce economic insecurity and economic unfairness?
  • How can it be reshaped so that people gain greater control of their lives and greater influence over the economy?
  • What new forms of ownership can be developed to shift economic power to the people? 

The answers to these questions lie in the conflict of our era – participatory democracy vs. concentrated wealth. There is growing evidence and experience that shows a democratized economy is the fairest, most sustainable and effective approach which results in a shared prosperity.  

Democratizing the economy would move the United States away from concentrated corporate capitalism and create an economy in which wealth is more equitably shared.  This change is already happening under the radar of U.S. media coverage. A democratized economy already has a foothold in the United States. There is a lot of experimentation going on regarding worker ownership, democracy in the work place and sharing in the profits of corporations; with communities working together to control development through non-profit land trusts; with public banking, democratizing money and community banks; with public utilities and democratizing energy; and with participatory budgeting. These are a few examples of the democratization of the economy that is building a new economic model of more widespread ownership of assets and participation and wealth.  As one of the witnesses of the Occupied Super Committee, Gar Alperovitz writes:

"Over the last three decades, for instance, more workers have become owners of their own companies than are members of unions in the private sector; indeed, 5 million more. Simultaneously, there has been increasing experimentation with unions within such firms, and with new ways to increase participation and control. There are also more than 4,500 nonprofit community development corporations that operate affordable housing and other neighborhood programs. Approximately 130 million Americans are members of co-ops.  In Cleveland, an innovative group of linked cooperatives has set new standards for community-building economic change. 'Social enterprises' are developing in communities throughout the nation that transform the ownership of capital into businesses, the sole purpose of which is to provide community services.

One form of new ownership is cooperatives. There are 130 million Americans who are members of some types of co-ops, most commonly credit unions.  Another widely shared experience is joint-ownership is Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) which give employees ownership of companies through stocks, while these do not usually include management by employees they do provide a share of the profit.  There are more than 13 million people who are part of ESOPs – meaning there are more employee stock owners than there are members of private unions.  Worker-owned co-ops go further and give workers a say in the management of the company. Worker owned co-ops are at the cutting edge of democratizing the economy and provide some of what we need to transform the economy."

At a national level, despite comments of some in the corporate media and some elected officials who speak for big business interests, the truth is that national programs like Social Security and Medicare have worked well.  As described in previous sections of this report, these programs can be improved and expanded but they are also models on which to create programs that respond to national needs.  Further, the bail out of the automobile industry, which included some public ownership, has succeeded in saving that industry and returning it to profit.  However, more could have been done to serve the public good by continuing public representation on the boards of automobile companies, requiring taxpayers share in the profit as investors and directing those industries to build mass transit and create jobs.

The Occupy Movement seeks a radical transformation to a new economy and political system.  A close examination of what is happening in the United States shows that this transformation is already underway.

The Lessons of the Super Committee: Corruption Rules Dysfunctional Government

The proposals in this report show that it would not be difficult for the so-called "Super Committee" to achieve the requirement of at least $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade. And, that it can be done in a way that corrects wealth disparity and re-starts the economy. But, in many ways, the super committee is "occupied" by corporate interests and cannot act for the people.  The make-up of the committee and the tens of millions of dollars members have received from entrenched corporate interests ensure that the committee will exemplify the corruption in Congress – which is why people are occupying public spaces across the country.

The Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza expects the commission's recommendations, if they are able to make recommendations, to reflect the interests of their donors.  We urge the public and the media to review their recommendations with these political donations in mind.

The twelve Members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have received $41 million from the financial sector during their time in Congress, according to a report by Public Campaign and National People's Action, " Wall Street and the Supercommittee: The $41 Million Question." At least 27 current or former aides for the "super committee" members have lobbied on behalf of financial firms.
  • The 12 members of the super committee have received at least $41 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector during their time in Congress.
  • They have received nearly $900,000 from three of the top U.S. banks­JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo
  • Since 2000, the industry has spent over $4 billion lobbying elected officials.
  • Nearly 30 former aides to the 12 members work as lobbyists for financial industry interests.

The ten biggest contributors to the super committee members include:

Club for Growth $990,066
Microsoft Corp. $810,100
University of California $629,495
Goldman Sachs $592,684
EMILY's List $586,835
Citigroup Inc. $561,081
JPMorgan Chase & Co. $494,316
Bank of America $349,566
Skadden, Arps, et al. $347,356
General Electric $340,935

The largest donor, the Club for Growth, opposes any new taxes on the wealthiest in the United States.  As a result, despite the abhorrent wealth divide, the committee is unlikely to recommend the obvious, fair taxes on the wealthiest people who fund their campaigns.

The members of the committee received more than $3 million total during the past five years in donations from political committees with ties to weapons contractors, health care providers and labor unions. They received more than $1 million overall in contributions from the health care industry and at least $700,000 from weapons companies. This presents a problem for the super committee because if they fail to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade it will result to mandatory cuts that will impact health care and weapons makers.  This means the committee is likely to make a bad deal for the United States, in order to avoid cuts to their major donors.

Throughout the time when the committee has been meeting they have been holding fundraisers across the country.  This open money-taking while making decisions that affect those who are giving money is the kind of open corruption that has led to a loss of faith in government.

It is not only donations that will impact the committee, but a major lobbying onslaught by 400 groups who report lobbying the Super Committee.  About 30% of these organizations ­ 118 groups in total – were from the health sector. The finance insurance and real estate sector ranked third, with 40 companies within that sector reporting lobbying activity during the third quarter that targeted the super committee. And 39 groups in the energy sector reported lobbying the super committee. Both the communications and electronics sector and the general business sector saw 26 companies and organizations explicitly mention the super committee in their third-quarter lobbying reports. These are many of the same concentrated corporate interests that have funded the campaigns of super committee members.

Conclusion: Revolt against Economics for the 1%

Once again, the people of the United States will see corruption reign supreme.  Despite evident solutions to the deficit and the economic collapse, the Congress will show its corruption and dysfunction and be unable to put forward real solutions.

We issue this report to alert everyone – the political system is broken.  It is corrupted by the power of concentrated wealth, campaign donations and corporate power.  The job of the occupations across the country is to build an independent nonviolent movement that replaces this corrupt system with one in which the people rule.  The battle between concentrated wealth and participatory democracy will be heightened by the evident corruption of the Super Committee which will not challenge the unfair policies of the 1% while requiring austerity for the 99%. 

The economic and political elite should expect protests to grow. We are at the beginning of what will be seen as a historic revolt against status quo elites that will transform this economy as well as how the United States is governed.

[1] The evidence-based solutions in this report come from people who are experts in the fields addressed as well as the views of people affected by the policies.  We relied on a range of sources and have provided links to those sources in the on-line version of this report.  In addition, Occupy Washington, DC held a public hearing on Wednesday, November 9th.  You can see the public hearing at: CSPAN Coverage of Occupied Super Committee Hearings.  Participants included: Kevin Zeese an organizer of Occupy Washington, DC and co-director of It's Our Economy and co-chair of Come Home America; Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute; Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives; Kenneth Peres is an economist with the Communications Workers of America; Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Margaret Flowers an organizer of Occupy Washington DC and congressional fellow for Physicians for National Health Program; Gar Alperovitz is a founding principal of the Democracy Collaborative and with the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives.

[2] This is commonly known as corporate welfare.  All corporate welfare should be stopped until the Congress passes laws transforming corporate welfare into taxpayer investment.  There are reasons for government to invest in building the economy, for example there is a need to invest in a new energy economy, but the profits from these investments should not only go to the 1% who own energy companies, they should be treated as taxpayer investment and all taxpayers should share in the profit from the investment.  Such a system could be modeled after the Alaska Permanent Trust which has existed for oil exploration on state lands in Alaska since 1980.  Such a system could develop into a guaranteed national income that would lift people out of poverty and provide a safety net to all.  This is a critical part of a democratized economy.  See: Agenda for a Democratized Economy, http://itsoureconomy.us/issues/.

Published on Sunday, November 13, 2011 by the New York Times

The New Progressive Movement

by Jeffrey D. Sachs

OCCUPY WALL STREET and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.

[] Thirty years ago, a newly elected Ronald Reagan made a fateful judgment: "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." Taxes for the rich were slashed, as were outlays on public services and investments as a share of national income. Only the military and a few big transfer programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' benefits were exempted from the squeeze.

Reagan's was a fateful misdiagnosis. He completely overlooked the real issue ­ the rise of global competition in the information age ­ and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time.

Washington still channels Reaganomics. The federal budget for nonsecurity discretionary outlays ­ categories like highways and rail, education, job training, research and development, the judiciary, NASA, environmental protection, energy, the I.R.S. and more ­ was cut from more than 5 percent of gross domestic product at the end of the 1970s to around half of that today. With the budget caps enacted in the August agreement, domestic discretionary spending would decline to less than 2 percent of G.D.P. by the end of the decade, according to the White House. Government would die by fiscal asphyxiation.

Both parties have joined in crippling the government in response to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors, who above all else insist on keeping low tax rates on capital gains, top incomes, estates and corporate profits. Corporate taxes as a share of national income are at the lowest levels in recent history. Rich households take home the greatest share of income since the Great Depression. Twice before in American history, powerful corporate interests dominated Washington and brought America to a state of unacceptable inequality, instability and corruption. Both times a social and political movement arose to restore democracy and shared prosperity.

The first age of inequality was the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, an era quite like today, when both political parties served the interests of the corporate robber barons. The progressive movement arose after the financial crisis of 1893. In the following decades Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson came to power, and the movement pushed through a remarkable era of reform: trust busting, federal income taxation, fair labor standards, the direct election of senators and women's suffrage.

The second gilded age was the Roaring Twenties. The pro-business administrations of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover once again opened up the floodgates of corruption and financial excess, this time culminating in the Great Depression. And once again the pendulum swung. F.D.R.'s New Deal marked the start of several decades of reduced income inequality, strong trade unions, steep top tax rates and strict financial regulation. After 1981, Reagan began to dismantle each of these core features of the New Deal.

Following our recent financial calamity, a third progressive era is likely to be in the making. This one should aim for three things. The first is a revival of crucial public services, especially education, training, public investment and environmental protection. The second is the end of a climate of impunity that encouraged nearly every Wall Street firm to commit financial fraud. The third is to re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington.

None of this will be easy. Vested interests are deeply entrenched, even as Wall Street titans are jailed and their firms pay megafines for fraud. The progressive era took 20 years to correct abuses of the Gilded Age. The New Deal struggled for a decade to overcome the Great Depression, and the expansion of economic justice lasted through the 1960s. The new wave of reform is but a few months old.

The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days, will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power. The whole range of other actions ­ shareholder and consumer activism, policy formulation, and running of candidates ­ will not happen in the park.

The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all.

Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.
© 2011 Jeffrey D. Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of " The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity."