Nick Hanauer’s “Controversial” TED talk

So, really, who are the “job creators?” Not those the political class would have you believe… the hallowed 1%. The following TED talk is a simple, though not simplistic, explanation of how the economy really works so far as job creation is concerned, and why building and maintaining a strong middle class is so important. The feedback loop between business and the middle class is what creates jobs, not the incredibly wrongheaded economic ideas that have gained currency today, of an almost deified set of “job creators,” the very wealthy, an idea egged on by self-serving politicos, the corporate media, and economically unenlightened journalism.

Paul Ryan’s draconian and ridiculous budget Congressional Republicans have in lockstep backed, or Maine Governor Paul LePage’s and the Republican legislature’s cruel supplemental budget, both based on thoroughly discredited “trickle down” economic theories of Hayek and the “Chicago boys” channeling Milton Friedman, have been shown over and over to be a drag on the economy, slowing job creation, creating and extending misery for those under-employed or among the long-term unemployed.

Without an enlightened understanding of how our macro-economy works, things will only get worse. The redistribution of wealth and opportunity will continue to flow upwards, the middle class will continue to shrink creating an even larger underclass desperate for relief from those that seem to have no interest or ability in providing relief, their elected representatives. The current obsession with perpetual war, the security state, and a war economy that displaces useful manufacturing with armaments and weaponry serves the elite businesses that dominate the world economy. Governments captured by the elite in this mindset have little choice but to deliver… to the detriment of the masses who must comply in order to survive.

Have a look, and decide for yourself…

The Disingenuous Mr. Romney Comes to Portland

I confess. I was a bad boy at the Romney event last Friday evening at Portland Yacht Services. I openly challenged some of Romney’s disingenuous assertions and after a time the police, at the request of the owner, asked that I leave which I voluntarily did. I have a video clip of my peaceful exchange with the officer. When I inquired who requested my leaving I was given to understand by the police sergeant who escorted me to the exit that it was Phineas Sprague, local business man and host of the event.

I’d like to ask why a campaign event such as this would be publicized as “open to the public” but in fact not be a public event when it comes to the subject of speech. I understood open to the public to mean that anyone from the public was welcomed, regardless of political persuasion. That is what I have always thought “public event” meant. And as a public gathering I naturally thought my speech, particularly my political speech, could arguably be protected. Private ownership of the property on which an advertised “public event” was taking place was used in this case to trump public speech. Had I repeatedly shouted, “fire,” it would have been entirely appropriate for the nearest fifty people to clamor onto my back and shut me up. However, stifling me for challenging Mr. Romney’s thin assertions hardly rises to the level of “fire.”

A fellow that was not even allowed entry into the event and instead stood outside the door listening said nothing whatsoever. His appearance disqualified him. He had the appearance of a fisherman, wore cargo shorts to his mid-calf, had longish hair and a beard, and wore a beret with a non-descript insignia on the front. He described himself as a conservative, actually as an acquaintance of Mr. Sprague. As soon as he entered the event police were signaled by someone inside to remove him. Open to the public, indeed.

I didn’t shout “fire,” at least not in the literal sense. By addressing the platitudes and thin veneer of Mr. Romney’s rhetoric I was calling out the shallowness of the spectacle. A 1%-er put up a private stage for this other 1%-er to shower the crowd with feel good bromides — “When I am President I will create jobs…” “When I am President I will fix the economy…” – saying nothing, really, about how that would be accomplished in any meaningful way. After all it has been over three years since Mr. Romney’s party have openly admitted to on principle opposing every Obama policy and yet the economy improves, albeit slowly but still. It is meaningful that he loves his country, as he offered (I’m sure he does, he has done extremely well here, and in the Caymans…), but the platitude that by bestowing more favors on the 1% he will create jobs and balance the budget is as light as gossamer.

I would have Mr. Romney comment on the fact that one of the last times strong measures were taken to balance the federal budget, by Andrew Jackson, a 75-month depression occurred. These hollow notions are what the 1%-ers — him on the stage and him staging the event — use to whip up support for policies that benefit the 1% more than anyone else. There is a reason why the US Census Bureau citing 2010 census data states one in three Americans is poor or near poor. It is no coincidence major corporations are reporting record profits quarter after quarter, or that a very small minority holds the vast wealth of the country. The wealth of this nation has been systematically redistributed upward through preferential tax treatment and special services that only the wealthiest have access to, among other mechanisms. It’s no coincidence the national conversation shifted to this inequality when Occupiers occupied Wall St, the engine feeding this inequality. The truth of this resonates far and wide.

The Maine Revenue Service recently affirmed that if Maine’s wealthiest citizens were taxed at the same level that most other Mainers are, the 65,000 Maine people threatened to be thrown out of MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program, would not fear for their health, their housing, nor their place in society. The politics of the corporation and the 1% does not make for a government of, by, and for the people.

With my challenges I am taking back my little piece of ground and occupying it. There is a fire in our republic and I will cry fire.

I have a great deal of respect for the Portland Police, or I should really say, police in general. They do an incredibly difficult job policing our cities and towns. They deal with situations most of us would balk at, some of which put their very lives at risk or in danger of severe harm. They are required to make careful sometimes life changing split-second decisions that are expected to be blameless. Not just anyone possesses the courage to face such a job so organic to the proper functioning of our society. I have a great deal of respect for those that aspire to do so. (On the other hand, I have little respect for the militarization of local police under a dubious banner of national security. This is a slippery slope we have slid way too far down already.)

The police, as far as politeness and respect for my person were concerned, carried out Mr. Sprague’s bidding in an entirely appropriate manner. The space was his and I admit he had the prerogative. My speech obviously upset Sprague and by instructing the police to ask me to leave, he obviously did not think my speech was protected speech. I think really, though, we never even approached that question. My challenges to Mr. Romney were not part of the script for the evening and that may have been what upset him.

I respectfully followed the officer’s polite request that I leave Mr. Sprague’s property. The officer is part of the 99% and I respect that his unions are under attack by people like Mitt Romney, and those that provide stages for Mr. Romney to deliver the 1%’s song and dance routine. Think of me as someone throwing a metaphorical rotten tomato at a lousy performer.

For more on the disingenuous Mr. Romney, Brad Delong offers:

Mitt Romney Rises to Amazing Heights of Incoherence in Michigan

AN OPEN LETTER TO MAINE’S SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES

Dear Senators Collins and Snowe and Representatives Michaud and Pingree,

I am writing you to express my concern that big money contributions from special interests such as corporations, political action committees, single-issue groups, lobbyists, lawyers, and unions are destroying our democracy. Our political system no longer relies on the will of “the People Alone,” as the Founding Fathers intended, but on the funders of campaigns. 1% of Americans finance almost 99% of the cost of political campaigns in America, so it’s no surprise that our government responds most to their needs.

You participate in a political system that is deeply corrupt. Your job is to legislate primarily on behalf of Mainers. The job of special interests is to get you to legislate on their behalf. This is a conflict of interest. When a Mainer contributes $25 to you, she wants to elect you to represent her in Congress. When a lobbyist or corporation contributes $50,000 to you, it wants to make sure you win so it can gain special access unavailable to the rest of us. Small contributions from Mainers just get lost in a sea of money.

How much money are we talking about? I researched campaign contribution data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, available on Open Secrets.org. Here are the top 4 out of 13 contributor categories and the amounts you have received over your careers.

For you, Senator Snowe:

Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industries          $2,452,000.

Health related industries                                            $1,117,000.

Ideological/Single Issue groups                         $1,075,000.

Lawyers and Lobbyists                                               $846,000.

Your top contributor, at $300,000, was MBNA, Maryland-based credit card services company.

 

For you, Senator Collins:

Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate Industries             $2,436,000.

Ideological/Single Issue groups                         $1,342,000.

Health related industries                                            $1,199,000.

Lawyers and Lobbyists                                            $1,120,000.

Your top contributor, at $154,000 was also MBNA.

 

For you, Rep. Michaud:

Labor Unions                                                              $1,441,000.

Ideological/Single Issue Groups                                    $502,000.

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate Industries              $410,000.

Lawyers and Lobbyists                                                  $379,000.

Your top contributor, at $61,000 is the National Association of Credit Unions.

 

For you, Rep. Pingree:

Ideological/Single Issue Groups                                    $942,000.

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate industries               $640,000.

Lawyers and Lobbyists                                                  $521,000.

Labor Unions                                                                 $441,000.

Your top contributor, at $145,000 is Paloma Partners, an investment holding company.

None of the top contributors for any of you is headquartered in Maine. In fact, two-thirds of what you raised in your last elections came from out of state (it’s about two-fifths for Congressman Michaud). Washington DC, California, Massachusetts and New York City (Wall St) funneled the most money into Maine. A recent New York Times headline, “Democrats and Republicans Scramble for Wall St. Dollars” sums up how Wall St. money has equally captured both parties. Do you actually believe most Mainers would approve of these sources of your campaign money?

Our common sense tells us these lobbyists, corporations and other special interests intend to influence you. Our gut warns us that corporations don’t hand out free money to politicians – strings are bound to be attached. Because you keep secret the arrangements you and your funders make, it’s reasonable to conclude that their funding does come with strings or “understandings.” How can we trust the assertions you make that special interest funding does not influence you? When you depend on large sums of special interest money in order to win elections, you drive a wedge of corporate cash between yourselves and ordinary Mainers.

At the heart of the political dishonesty we see across the country today is the claim made by nearly all politicians that special interest funding influences neither their views nor their votes. This is the Big Lie used to justify and protect a system of politics run by money.

Modern history shows that once a member of Congress wins several terms in Maine, he becomes a Senator or Representative for life. The more terms you serve, the more likely it is that you will win the next election too, as you keep building connections with deep-pocketed funders. We lose our chance to fully participate in democracy when your strategy is to accumulate so much special interest money that you deter anyone wanting to make a serious run against you from even trying, much less winning. With the big funders on your side, who actually chooses you: Wall St. or Maine voters?

Only this political system could embrace the pretense that corporations are persons who have free speech rights. You have already raised far more special interest money early on in your campaigns than ever before. It looks like you are preparing to defend yourselves from an onslaught of corporate free speech attack ads by potent new Super PACs. Big money politics wants no limits. Soon, special interests will likely fund nearly 100% of campaigns and ordinary voters will realize it’s become pointless for them to continue contributing.

A barrage of attack ads aired in our living rooms is the face of politics we’re most likely to see in the months ahead. The corporate creators of these ads do not view us as citizens to be persuaded, but as “marks” to be set up by exploiting our fears. Your use of these tactics to win elections is likely to cause even more of us to turn away from politics in disgust.

Those corporations and other special interests that contribute to your campaigns are among an elite group that has emerged as the winners in our society and economy today. As long as big money controls Congress members and Presidents, the rest of us will never gain a seat at the table of power where the real decisions get made.

Much is rightly made of partisan gridlock in Congress. Corporations and lobbyists help achieve gridlock by disproportionately funding members of Congress who are the most partisan. Their power to block legislation further solidifies their hold on government.

I’ve heard you complain about how partisan Congress is. But you seem to act as if there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, there’s a great deal you can do. For an inspiring example, consider Margaret Chase Smith, Maine’s greatest Senator. She knew a threat to democracy when she saw it. In 1952 she exposed Senator Joseph McCarthy as a liar. Nearly all politicians were afraid to stand up to him. He had ruined the careers of hundreds of army officers, government officials, writers and movie actors by accusing them of being Communists. Senator Smith stood up to him even though his people smeared her by calling her “Moscow Maggie.” She risked losing her career when he ran someone against her. But her own integrity and courage, as well as the wisdom of Maine voters, enabled her to survive this challenge. McCarthy and his tactics of intimidation were discredited.

Today, corruption of our political system by special interest money is an even bigger threat to democracy. You have the same choices about how to respond that Senator Margaret Chase Smith did back then. I ask you to show the same wisdom and courage she did and break big money’s hold on politics in Maine and the nation.

How? Refuse all special interest money. Accept only contributions from individual Mainers limited to a maximum of several hundred dollars. Let’s make it an election by Mainers, not a selection by outsiders. Also, support constitutional amendments that will end corporate personhood and put in place a publicly financed election system without loopholes. I’m well aware that people in positions of power rarely relinquish any aspect of their power voluntarily. However, you do have a choice.

This is a good time politically for you to risk taking this history making action. You all won last time by good margins. You are respected by many Mainers, who will embrace you all the more for standing up against special interest domination of politics. Try working together (bipartisanship) to make it happen.

If you don’t act, we will. Thomas Jefferson warned us long ago that corporations would try to use their financial power to gain control of government. It is our job now to abolish their hold on government and return to the Founding Fathers’ intent: a government of, by, and for the People.

Doug Bowen, Porter, Maine   diannes.dougb@gmail.com

 

From a full page ad to be published in the Portland Press Herald on friday, February 3, 2012, paid for by members and friends of Occupy Wall Street/Maine. For more information about Occupy Maine and its goal of freeing democracy from the corruption of money, contact them at 221-5899.

Governor LePage Is Not Helping

The drag that state and local budget problems are contributing to the economic recovery looks dismal, as in depression economics dismal. The contribution to real GDP from states and local economies is in negative territory with the pain of cutbacks being shouldered by real people in the form of cuts to education and lay-offs of police, fire fighters, teachers, draconian cuts to the elderly, the disabled, the poor. This policy of focusing on cuts rather than raising revenues to balance state and local budgets is being done under the baseless notion that austerity and tax cuts to business will grow the economy, but the numbers, over and over and over, tell a story diametrically opposite to that “business-friendly” narrative.

The irony here is that there is nothing “business friendly” about it. Small businesses are suffering through the lack of consumer demand these policies contribute to. Laid-off workers don’t buy goods and services. Small businesses feel the brunt of this stifling of demand, laying off their workers, foregoing new investment to grow their business, purchasing less inventory. Those that benefit from the tax cuts already enacted add little to growth as the wealthy to whom these cuts go either save their windfall or invest for their own benefit. Again, the numbers show state and local contributions to real GDP are negative – putting the brakes on the economic recovery. These mythological “job-creators” are not creating jobs, and to consider this the only way to grow Maine’s economy is wrongheaded.

st_locgdp

                                                          Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

As a vocal proponent of this austerity in the face of budget shortfalls Governor LePage is more the problem than the answer. Selling our future short for the temporary gain to the wealthiest in Maine is not in the interest of the long term prosperity of our State. Repeating the meme that it is so does nothing to make it so. But the Governor seems completely innoculated against that logic. As noted previously, even the Maine Revenue Services acknowledges that fairer taxation that brings the wealthiest Mainers into line with other taxpayers would cover the DHHS shortfall.

And the infection of this idea is not just a disease confined to the Blaine House. Senator Snowe has been a vocal proponent of a federal balanced budget amendment, the very thing that has hog-tied state governments creating this scenario of cutting benefits that serve the interest of all people, the 100%, although primarily the middle and lower income families while cutting the taxes on the wealthiest, not because it is good policy but because it is what they demand and have the resources to get. This Congress is, after all, the best that money can buy…

Paul Krugman puts this problem of destructive austerity from state and local budget cuts while failing to raise sufficient revenues more starkly:

It’s hard to overstate just how wrong all this is. We have a situation in which resources are sitting idle looking for uses — massive unemployment of workers, especially construction workers, capital so bereft of good investment opportunities that it’s available to the federal government at negative real interest rates. Never mind multipliers and all that (although they exist too); this is a time when government investment should be pushed very hard. Instead, it’s being slashed.

What an utter disaster.

The #1 Source of US Oil: Alberta Tar Sands, and They May Be Coming to Maine

A new posting to the Video page, Dirty Oil, is the story of the Alberta, Canada tar sands project, currently the largest industrial project on the planet, strip-mining boreal forest for bitumen at an unprecedented scale. An area the size of Florida holds what is being advertised as the world’s largest potential oil reserve. This land area will potentially be clear cut, the top soil removed, the bitumen (oil sands) extracted by strip mining techniques, the oil extracted from the sands emitting three times the CO2 into the atmosphere as conventional oil extraction, requiring many barrels of water per one barrel of oil to harvest the crude. The title of the film, Dirty Oil, understates the problem. The Canadian government stands to make $70 bil by 2020, the Province of Alberta about $40 bil.

Some of the Alberta tar sands oil is planned to be diverted to eastern Canada, flowing into the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, reversing the current direction of flow in the pipeline, to be shipped to markets. Opposition to the XL pipeline has temporarily been halted, but the shovels and trucks pulling the bitumen out of the ground has only increased over the past decade… This oil will go somewhere…

Dirty Oil, and a companion film, H2Oil, tell the story of this gargantuan project, the people directly affected, the costs to our global environment, the lax regulation, dishonesty, professional assassinations occurring along the way.

Another Manufactured Budget Crisis; And the Fix…

Maine Governor Paul LePage’s proposal to drop 65,000 needy Mainers from MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program, to close a supposed budget deficit has even seasoned legislators looking hard at which programs to trim and which belts can be tightened, even more than they have already been over the past decade. After granting roughly 600 of Maine’s wealthiest a tax cut that totals about $122 million over the next few years, it is hard to understand what exactly the Governor has in mind. It certainly isn’t raising revenues from the most likely source of revenue that even Congress is contemplating at the Federal level… taxes on the wealthiest, who currently enjoy the lowest tax rates they have enjoyed in decades (see below). But here in Maine, even the Governor’s own staff at the Maine Revenue Services* agrees, making the tax code in Maine fairer would alleviate the budget “crisis.” As Representative Seth Berry puts it: “simply requiring the wealthiest 1% to pay the average effective state and local rate would balance the budget.” He goes on to say that if federal tax offsets were included the revenue generated would cover the budget shortfall and protect those MaineCare recipients the Governor is threatening to close schools over if the budget funding their care is not slashed.

Read Rep. Berry’s entire post here on his blog, BerryBlog.

*”According to MRS, Maine’s wealthiest 1% now pays an average effective state and local tax rate that is 14% lower than the statewide average. Accounting for federal offsets, the gap grows to 22%.  The wealthiest 1% includes only 6700 tax filers, each making an annual average of $750,786 AGI.
Restoring tax fairness does not mean Maine’s wealthiest 1% can’t use existing deductions, credits, and other loopholes to bring down their tax liability.  They can do so, just so long as they don’t go below what the rest of us pay.”
%d bloggers like this: