30 September 2012
The Republicans (who have always hated unions) have done their best to convince Americans that unions are evil and are hurting productivity in this country. They want Americans to think that doing away with unions would increase productivity and thus create many new high-paying jobs. Sadly they have been pretty successful in this effort. As you can see from the chart above, the union movement has been declining in this country.
But the Republican lies about unions have been exposed. Neither higher wages nor new jobs were created. It turned out that the biggest thing that pulled workers up to middle class status was the union movement, and as unions declined the middle class has started to disappear. The middle class share of aggregate income has dropped and the number of households in the middle class is also dropping.
The only people that have benefitted from the decline of unions are the richest people in this country. This shouldn't surprise anyone. The rich made huge sums before unions were established, and shared almost none of it with their employees. Now that unions have been weakened and are in decline, the rich have just returned to their old greedy ways.
When will American workers learn they have no economic power unless they join together in unions? Individualism may sound nice -- until you are faced with a greedy capitalist boss (and they are all greedy) who doesn't really care if you live or die. As an individual, you have no power (because you can easily be replaced with another warm body, who'll probably work for less). But when all workers organize and create a union, they have the power to negotiate decent wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.
This is not a new concept. Why must we have to relearn this every few generations?
29 September 2012
28 September 2012
27 September 2012
26 September 2012
You could almost hear the desperate groans of right-wingers all across this country as the Labor Department released its unemployment figures for August. They were hoping the report would show a rise in unemployment, so they could crow about how President Obama doesn't know how to create jobs (while ignoring their own efforts to obstruct job creation). The Labor Department report showed that the unemployment rate actually dropped two-tenths of a point in August (from 8.3% in July to 8.1% in August -- equaling the lowest unemployment rate in the last year).
But the Democrats shouldn't do too much celebrating. While the rate did drop, the truth is that the unemployment situation in the United States did not really improve in August (or get any worse), and millions of Americans who would love to work full-time still can't find a job. There were only 90,000 new jobs created in August. That's not even enough jobs to cover the number of new workers entering the job market (which is usually considered to be between 125,000 to 150,000).
So why did the rate fall, if not enough new jobs were created to make it fall? The obvious answer is that a whole lot more Americans gave up on their futile efforts to find a job, and did not look for work during the last four weeks . That would drop them from the people considered unemployed (who are counted in the unemployment rate) to the ranks of those considered "marginally attached" to the work force (who are not counted in the unemployment rate). It does not mean they wouldn't love to have a job -- only that they don't know where else to look and are no longer counted. And this is verified by the Labor Department's own numbers. They listed the number of "marginally attached" in July at 2.5 million, and in August at 2.6 million (a jump of 100,000 people or more).
Here are the hard facts about unemployment in the U.S.:
12.5 million -- the number of people listed by the government as unemployed.
2.6 million -- the number of marginally attached people, who would like to have a job but are no longer counted by the government as unemployed.
15.1 million -- the real number of unemployed people (although even this is probably an undercount).
8.0 million -- the number of people working part-time because they can't find a full-time job.
23.1 million -- the number of full-time jobs that are needed in this country.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP
25 September 2012
24 September 2012
They are being aided by at least 23 billionaire families, led by the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this campaign as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Despite paying the lowest effective tax rate in decades, the billionaires want more tax breaks for the very rich. Despite the fact that the elimination of strong regulations caused the Wall Street meltdown and a terrible recession, the billionaires want more deregulation. Despite outsourcing of millions of good-paying American jobs to China and other low-wage countries, the billionaires want more unfettered free trade.
At this pivotal moment in American history, it's important to note how we got into this deficit crisis, who was responsible and what is the fairest way to address it.
Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion SURPLUS.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and Congress "forgot" to pay for those wars that will end up adding some $3 trillion to our national debt. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when we spent trillions on wars and added to the deficit? They voted for those policies.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we gave huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, which cost $1 trillion over a decade. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent a trillion dollars on tax breaks for the very rich and added to our national debt? They voted for those policies.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow deficit hawks, Congress passed an overly expensive Medicare prescription drug program written by the insurance companies and drug industry. The government was barred from negotiating lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry under the program, which will end up adding $400 billion to our national debt over a 10-year period. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent $400 billion for a much too expensive prescription drug program? They voted for those policies.
Now, having run up huge deficits, our born-again "deficit hawks" want to cut every program in sight to save money. In order to cover the costs they incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to cut Social Security. In order to cover the costs of the tax breaks for the rich, they want to cut Medicare and Medicaid. In order to cover the insurance-company-written Medicare prescription drug program, they want to cut education and food stamps.
This approach - balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor - is not only immoral, it is bad economic policy. It is something that must be vigorously opposed.
The $16 trillion national debt and the current $1 trillion deficit are serious problems, but they must be addressed in a fair way that will not cripple our economy, lead to the loss of jobs and punish people who are already hurting.
At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the richest people in this country have got to be asked to pay their fair share of taxes.
At a time when corporate profits are soaring and when about one in four major profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, we must end corporate loopholes and demand that corporate America starts paying its fair share of taxes.
At a time when this country loses $100 billion every single year because wealthy people and corporations stash money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, we must crack down on abusive tax cheats.
The United States military budget has virtually tripled since 1997, and we now spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. It is time to take a hard look at military spending.
There are serious and responsible ways to move this country toward deficit reduction. Unfortunately, that's not what Romney and Ryan are talking about. For them, it's the same old Republican saga: more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and more austerity and pain for the most vulnerable people in this country.
23 September 2012
22 September 2012
21 September 2012
20 September 2012
19 September 2012
18 September 2012
17 September 2012
Reposted from Jobsanger
There are already serious questions about Willard Mitt Romney evading U.S. taxes by keeping a good portion of his money in foreign bank accounts. Are these just good investments, or are they an attempt to evade taxes? We simply don't know, because Romney refuses to release any full tax returns. But now it looks like there is another problem with tax evasion -- one done by Romney's old company, Bain Capital, and that's right here in the United States.
It seems that Bain Capital is one of a number of equity fund companies that is having their financial dealings investigated by the New York State Attorney General. He has issued subpoenas to look at their financial records. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman believes these companies have been intentionally listing management fees as capital gains.
Why would that matter? Because management fees should be considered earned income, and taxed as such. But capital gains are taxed at the much lower rate of 15%. By declaring these management fees to be capital gains instead of earned income, Bain Capital could be evading millions of dollars in taxes -- and it would be an intentional and very illegal act.
Was the company doing this while headed by Romney? Nobody knows yet just how far back this illegal evasion has been going on. Hopefully, the Attorney General can figure that out when he gets the financial records. We do know though that Romney still gets a great deal of his income from Bain Capital, and if the company is illegally evading taxes then Romney is benefitting from that.
Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to learn this is a practice imposed while Romney was still the Bain CEO. After all the lies he has told on the campaign trail, it is quite clear that honesty is not something he values much.
16 September 2012
15 September 2012
14 September 2012
13 September 2012
When I was but a young penguin, I worked in a facility for mentally ill youngsters. I’m not talking troubled youngsters, I’m talking about crazyyoungsters, kids with serious reality problems, a few bulbs shy of a few chandelier, a few screws loose, babbling to imaginary friends and responding to normal events in quite abnormal ways requiring anti-psychotics to even barely function crazy youngsters.
Now, the staff, we were all sane. To start with. But here’s the deal. After spending forty hours a week with crazy people, staffers started acting crazy. And none of us really noticed, because when you’re with crazy people so much, crazy just starts to seem normal. A supervisor who didn’t normally work with the clients had to notice and send a staffer home for a week’s decompression once said staffer started leaving the reservation, so to speak, because none of the people who worked the floor would ever notice that, yo, Joe Orderly is acting, like, pure-dee cuh-RAY-zee.
What brings this to mind is the past couple of days of just balls to the wall crazy, and the question, how could so many people have so little connection to reality? Then it hit me: We are so bombarded with crazy from the right wing, day after day, week after week, year after year, that we’re like the staff in that facility. A sizable percentage are just gonna start acting crazy after a while of being exposed to so much crazy, and they aren’t going to notice it because they are exposed to so much crazy that crazy starts to seem normal.
And that, folks, is why the spewing of so much crazy has been so toxic to American democracy. You get folks like Lush Limpdingy and Man Colter spewing crazy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it makes crazy seem normal. If we somehow could remove all that crazy, people would decompress and say, “whoa, I did WHAT? I said WHAT?” and realize just how crazy they sounded and go back to normal. But with all this crazy spewing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from the right wing noise machine… how can they? You can’t get away from it! Well, unless you live like a hermit, which is pretty much my solution, but … (shrug).
– Badtux the Crazification Penguin
12 September 2012
… he can start by re-flagging his gigantic yacht in the United States rather than in the Cayman Islands, and hiring Americans to man it rather than the Filipinos that are currently manning it.
Of course, that would go against Mitt Romney’s basic business model at Baen Capital, which was to find a business that had money in the bank and plenty of assets, buy it up using borrowed money, use the company’s assets to borrow lots of money and pay back Baen Capital’s loans to the bank, then sell off all of the company’s physical assets to Chinese companies and force the company to declare bankruptcy due to lack of assets to meet the debt burden, leaving banks on the hook for pennies on the dollar — and of course the banks simply raised their rates on *you* (lowered their interest paid on savings, raised their interest charged on loans) to make up for their losses on Baen-backed companies.
In short, Mitt Romney didn’t build it. *You* built it. Mitt Romney’s entire business plan was built around transferring wealth from your pocket into his then transferring your job to China (or the Philippines in this case). It was never about doing what was good for America and Americans — and it still isn’t. Just sayin’.
– Badtux the Business Penguin
11 September 2012
"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed."
-Mitt Romney, Acceptance speech
-Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
10 September 2012
Moving away from an ambiguous position on climate change and its causes, the American Meteorological Society published a new statement on August 20, 2012 asserting that climate change is “unequivocal” and that its primary causes are human actions – the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The AMS position now mirrors that of the National Academies of Sciences and numerous other scientific authorities, stating that,
“It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. The most important of these over the long term is CO2, whose concentration in the atmosphere is rising principally as a result of fossil-fuel combustion and deforestation. While large amounts of CO2 enter and leave the atmosphere through natural processes, these human activities are increasing the total amount in the air and the oceans. Approximately half of the CO2 put into the atmosphere through human activity in the past 250 years has been taken up by the ocean and terrestrial biosphere, with the other half remaining in the atmosphere. Since long-term measurements began in the 1950s, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has been increasing at a rate much faster than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Having been introduced into the atmosphere it will take a thousand years for the majority of the added atmospheric CO2 to be removed by natural processes, and some will remain for thousands of subsequent years.”
09 September 2012
by Ivy Main
Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. Solar PV installations grew 109% in 2011, and the industry now employs over 100,000 Americans. Yet it is almost invisible in Virginia. The installed total in the commonwealth is about 5 megawatts (MW), a pittance compared to the 1,200 MW in California and over 800 in New Jersey. Maryland and North Carolina each have more than ten times as much solar PV as we do.
Part of the reason is our lack of incentives. Unlike many other states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, Virginia offers no tax credits or rebates on solar systems to supplement the federal tax credit. And our voluntary renewable portfolio standard is so flabby that our utilities will never need solar to meet it.
Virginia also isn’t known for getting out ahead of the curve on energy. Instead of embracing the promise of clean power, the state clings to an old energy model dominated by fossil fuels. Just this year, the General Assembly renewed a subsidy that takes about $45 million every year out of the pockets of taxpayers to support coal mining.
But as a recent article in the New York Times Magazine described, the future has come knocking. With the price of solar energy tumbling, solar now makes economic sense across much of the country. New financing models make it possible to install solar with no upfront capital cost to the customer, who may see immediate savings over grid-delivered “brown” energy.
Among these new models, leases have become especially popular for homeowners and businesses, but only power purchase agreements (PPAs) allow non-profits to take advantage of tax credits. Under a PPA, the solar installer retains ownership of the solar system and uses the tax credits to offset profits, passing along the savings as it sells the power to the nonprofit.
PPAs could permit the solar market in Virginia to blossom in a big way. Colleges and universities, private schools, churches, charities and local governments are now looking at solar systems as a way to meet carbon-reduction targets and reduce energy costs over the long haul.
Unfortunately, this new enthusiasm has run headlong into the immovable force known as Dominion Power. Dominion blocked a PPA at Washington & Lee University last fall, and its threat of legal action has kept other non-profits from moving forward with plans for solar installations.
Dominion is a regulated monopoly in Virginia, a status that gives it the sole right to sell power in its territory, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions gives sellers of 100% renewable electricity the right to sell to Dominion’s customers if the company itself doesn’t offer that option—which, indisputably, it does not. (Its Green Power Program relies on certificates, not actual green electricity.)
So Dominion’s interpretation of the statute appears to be wrong on its face, but one of the nice things about being a giant monopoly is that you have more lawyers and more money than the people you threaten.
Unable to fund a lawsuit, the solar industry tried last year to get relief from the General Assembly in the form of HB 129, a bill that would have made explicit the right of renewable energy companies to sell power to their customers through PPAs. Delegate Jerry Kilgore (R-Gate City) shepherded the bill through the House, where it passed without a single dissenting vote. Once in the Senate, though, it was “carried over” (effectively, killed) by a Senate committee stacked with Dominion allies like Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Chairman John Watkins (R-Midlothian).
Quick quiz, but not a toughie: according to the Virginia Public Access Project, www.vpap.org, who is the top donor to the campaign chests of Dick Saslaw and John Watkins?
The failure of HB 129 leaves a lot of would-be solar and wind customers in limbo, keeps Virginia companies from growing and adding jobs, and prevents churches, colleges and universities from benefiting from the federal tax credits that are available to residents of other states where PPAs are common.
It has also given Dominion a black eye with the public and local officials. Critics say the heavy-handed effort to squash small solar companies shows the utility giant has grown overly complacent about its status as the most powerful force in Richmond.
Dominion should back down from its unreasonable opposition to PPAs. It has little to lose by allowing private companies the space to compete and innovate in a market Dominion itself doesn’t serve. And if it won’t back off, then the public needs to remind its legislators who they serve. Hint: it’s not supposed to be Dominion.
08 September 2012
06 September 2012
05 September 2012
04 September 2012
The Republicans have been very vocal about wanting to prevent voter fraud in American elections. The really odd thing about this though, is that all of the most recent incidents of voter fraud have been committed by Republicans (including their own presidential candidate).
02 September 2012
From What would Jack Do