Monday, June 27, 2011

Bachmann's Right-Wing Hypocrisy: Family Took Government Money

By Manifesto Joe

I remember a conversation with a peer who, after being liberal and hippieish as a teenager, was turning conservative in his early twenties. I had been a libertarian for years and was finally seeing all the problems inherent to that ideology, especially from the working-class point of view.

It was not lost on me by then that I was in the middle of attending a good private college on what's called a "full ride," a package combining loans, grants and scholarships that was paying for everything except side expenses. And because my father was a disabled veteran, I was also getting VA and Social Security stipends, as long as I stayed in college, until I turned 22.

I started seeing, at long last, what liberals were really up to, after all. I was a son of a relatively poor family. I had performed well in high school and had high test scores. An alliance of government liberals and private benefactors was making it possible for me to get the same kind of education that a son of an affluent family would be able to take for granted. (It took a while to pay off the loans, but what the hell. ...)

In a libertarian world, or in a conservative one, for that matter, most of this would not have been possible. In fact, college might not have been possible at all, because none of these people were too keen on paying taxes to support public universities, either.

When I pointed all this out to my friend, he did not exhibit any of the same dissonance I was experiencing. To him, he told me, this was just your good luck.

No, it wasn't. It was the culmination of decades of changes in public policy, aimed at mitigating the circumstances of the deserving poor. But it struck me then, and has remained with me since, that the economic ideology of libertarians and conservatives is, at its core, opportunism. They certainly wouldn't turn down a "full ride," or any of those government payments, either. They just wouldn't want to pay the taxes to keep them going for young people 30 years later. Just kick the ladder down after you've ascended it. That's their tough luck.

Now on to Michele Bachmann

With this in mind, now comes the revelation that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's family took lots of government money from a couple of sources. The far-right Republican lawmaker, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination with plenty of Tea Party and other anti-government support, has been on record as wanting to cut the corporate income tax rate to as little as 9%. And here her family is, slopping at the government trough much more lucratively than any welfare loafer ever imagined.

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that:

An examination of her record and finances showed that a counseling clinic run by her husband received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, with part of the money coming from the federal government. And a family farm in Wisconsin, where she is listed as a partner, received some $260,000 in federal subsidies.

Here's a link to the complete story.

When one reads on down, to her denials and such, it seems clear that this "fiscal conservative" is not only a hypocrite, but a liar as well. She's denying things that are explicitly on record. But, hey -- she wouldn't be the first presidential candidate to have done that, nor will she be the last.

Thinking about it, such hypocrisy and opportunism isn't unusual among right-wingers. They'll take government money, and plenty of it, as long as it is for their benefit. They're just against it when it benefits anybody else.

Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, allegedly of this fair state (he was actually born and raised in Georgia) comes to mind.

This piece of pond scum got a Ph.D. with the help of government loans and grants, then spent most of his career on the public payroll, as an economics professor at Texas A&M and as a member of Congress. As a lawmaker, he consistently voted against anything that benefited poor people, and was a driving force behind the financial deregulation that has proved calamitous for America and the world during The Great Recession. How many people have lost jobs and homes because of this contemptible toad? And yet he had the gall to oppose the very kinds of programs that aided his toxic, verminous ascent in life.

So, Michele Bachmann's family slopping at the government trough should be no surprise. Now let's see her lie her way out of this as the campaign heats up.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With Two-Tier System, Credit Bureaus Make Joke Of 'Free Market' -- Again

By Manifesto Joe

There are many things that make a mockery of the notion of "free markets." But a new twist on this, courtesy of our three beloved major credit bureaus, has been made public -- the bureaus operate two systems, one for the rich, powerful and famous, and another for the rest of us.

Economic folklore has it that in a "free" marketplace, there's no room for "politics" or favoritism. Everything is strictly facts and cold, hard cash. That kind of marketplace exists in economics textbooks and nowhere else. Deregulation has never put lobbyists out of their business, which is clearly to influence public policy in a manner favorable to whichever sector they represent.

On to the credit bureaus: In a "free" marketplace, treatment is also supposed to be fair -- just the facts, ma'am. Everybody is supposed to be dealt with the same.

The New York Times reported last month that Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all keep a sort of "VIP" list, according to consumer lawyers and legal documents.

Here's a link to the story.

The favorable list includes people such as celebrities, politicians and judges. It's the Orwellian wisdom that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

So, what did the credit bureaus themselves have to say? Transunion and Equifax said all consumers can speak to a live representative. Don't you just love doing business over the phone with Dennis from Bangalore?

Experian was different, denying that they have such a list. According to the story:

David Szwak, a consumer lawyer in Shreveport, La., provided sworn testimony from former Experian employees that the category existed.

At least all the above is consistent with one's experience. It seems like when you call any company or agency nowadays, they either deny the situation or they give you over to some phone jockey who has no firsthand knowledge of anything.

So, what is the practical effect of such a preferred list? Preferential treatment, of course. If there's an error on your credit report, it's much easier to fix it if you're a VIP. As a result, a VIP's credit score is likely to be higher than it is for the rest of us, no matter what the individual has done. And then, it's easier to get loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc. It's the old story of the more you have, the more you get.

A classless society?

That's the toxic and pernicious idea that "free-market" enthusiasts would generally have market participants believe.

Although this idea is a delusion, it has very deep roots in American culture. In 1981, economist Robert Lekachman discussed this phenomenon in simple terms. The United States is a young country that, through most of its history, has had a frontier. "Political" equality, at least for white males, was considered a given, not something that was part of what workers had long been fighting to win.

"A worker seemed to have every opportunity to become independent, to rise from his class rather than with it," Lekachman wrote.

He went on to discuss a 1906 classic by German economist Werner Sombart, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? Lekachman quoted Sombart:

"The economic success of American capitalism has made the average worker into a sober calculating businessman without ideals. ...

"America is famous for its rags-to-riches stories. But how many Carnegies are there? The self-made man is largely a myth. 3 in 10 sons of blue collar workers will make it to white collar status. But only 1 in 10 will achieve longer-range mobility."

Lekachman wrote, "Sombart observed that the United States was 'born Bourgeois.' It didn't inherit any of Europe's pre-capitalist social groupings -- peasants, artisans or aristocrats. The U.S., more than any other country, enshrines the individual aim of owning property. ..."

That is, if you can get a loan or a mortgage. Here, class will tell, and the folklore of American equality of opportunity is rendered nonsense. Being rich and powerful counts, and it always has. If you think you're on a level playing field ... well, I guess you can call up one of the major credit bureaus for a report. They will let you talk to a live representative.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

With Obama Impersonator, Republicans Show Their Usual Ribald Sense Of Humor

By Manifesto Joe

I've looked at this video, and it looked to me like Reggie Brown was just doing Mark Russell type of stuff, knowing that he was playing to a Republican audience.

But apparently that wasn't enough for them (The Republican Leadership Conference). At some point in the performance, the music was turned on and Mr. Brown was ushered off the stage.

Here's some of the performance, courtesy of Huffington Post:

Check it out here.

Yep, that Republican sense of humor just keeps going and going. ...

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

25 Years Ago, I Was Telling People That This Was Happening

By Manifesto Joe

I'm including multiple links to make sure that folks can somehow get this.

I was saying all this 25 years ago. I don't think this necessarily makes me a visionary, because some other people were saying it, too. We just couldn't get very many people to listen, nor can we now. At least now an economist and former Labor secretary is saying it, too.

And, he's being far too nice. Regarding the American middle class, he never uses the word "stupid." I have, and often.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Qaddafi Apparently Thanks Republican Yellowbellies For Their Support

By Manifesto Joe

These are people who are, in essence, ready to put anyone in jail who doesn't support a U.S. military action -- that is, as long as it's a military action being led by Republicans.

They couldn't wait to put American troops in harm's way over those mythical "weapons of mass destruction" that were supposed to have existed in Iraq. They were just peeing in their pants to get the U.S. involved over there, just as long as it wasn't them or their kids who were going to do any of the bleeding. And in so doing, they killed something like a million and a half Iraqis.

Now, suddenly, dealing with an oil-rich lunatic in Libya presents a complex issue. Muammar Qaddafi has ruled that country despotically and maniacally for 42 years, but since it's not considered a sure thing to just go in there, knock off the dictator and steal all the country's oil, it's a moral gray area. Suddenly, the U.S. just can't afford to be the policeman of the world.

I'm not sure whether U.S. involvement in the Libyan conflict, via NATO, is a good idea. The U.S. has come to reflexively get involved in the affairs of other countries, in areas regarded as strategic, for far too long. I'm a bit nostalgic for isolationism, and even at my age I don't remember it. At least if you don't get involved, there's no "blowback," as the CIA quaintly phrases it.

But I find it poisonously funny when I see erstwhile superpatriots, the very assholes who would have gladly put my rear in a federal prison if The Bill of Rights didn't forbid it, passing resolutions questioning a military initiative by a Democratic president.

And, it seems like a Democrat can never quite hit the right note with them -- Sen. John McCain, the would-be U.S. president, is on record as saying that he thinks the problem was that the U.S. didn't use enough force in Libya. Meanwhile, for Obama, it's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

I've heard enough bellowing by Republican yellowbellies, for long enough. They just HAD to get us mixed up in a generation-long quagmire in Iraq, ostensibly because of that strutting dictator. Now, when faced with another one, and a Democratic president decides for the U.S. to participate in a NATO campaign, he's usurping the Congress. Anyway, it's too hard to steal their oil because there are too many competitors.

Here's a link to this story, courtesy of TGUAR's nightly news roundup. Of course, House Speaker Boner's office says it can't vouch for the authenticity of the letter from Qaddafi. And I'm sure they never will.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Congressman Weenie And Damage Control

By Manifesto Joe

This kind of thing seems to go full circle in politics. John Edwards. John Ensign. David Vitter, etc., etc. ... And now, Congressman Weenie.

I don't know what it is about politicians that, at some point, makes them think that they are bulletproof, especially in these times. Many used to be able to get away with numerous indiscretions, but the glass house has become much thinner and far less opaque. These people can't do much weirdness, for very long, without having it catch up with them.

As I indicated, right, left and center can point fingers all over the place, endlessly. The problem is that it all diverts attention away from that which needs it the most.

The United States appears to be about 30 years into what could easily be described as a Second Gilded Age. Two-thirds of corporations pay zero income tax, and some big ones even get refunds. Wealthy individuals have seen their tax burden dramatically decrease, even as the national debt skyrockets. I'm just some ordinary schmuck, and I just got through paying the IRS much more tax than ExxonMobil will have to pay for years to come.

And with the Fairness Doctrine on the scrap heap, Americans are continually bombarded in mass media with all manner of lies and obfuscation to keep them from understanding how badly they are being screwed.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all under siege, even as private "health insurers" are raking in record profits and corporate pension plans are being abandoned. It's coming to a time in which a person 55 or 60 with pre-existing health conditions may as well just put a bullet in his or her brain. It's cheaper, and anybody can buy a gun.

With conditions such as this, what's left of the center-left coalition in America doesn't need to have to do damage control over some lawmaker's stupid sex antics. There's a lot more at stake in this country than anything that has to do with some schlemiel sending young women pictures of himself with a hard-on in his shorts.

Whatever needs to be done, such as Congressman Weenie resigning, let's get on with it. This country has problems that are daunting to say the least, and it's going to take generations to solve them. Let's get this in the past ASAP.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.