Archive for the ‘Economy & Business’ Category

By JC

Today’s read is an interview by the Saker of Michael Hudson, who the Saker refers to as “the best economist in the West”. We can quibble about politics and the economic fallout designed and approved of by the rentier class as they prepare their August meeting, but how often is it that we look to history and economic theory when trying to understand the present, and plan for the future?

Hudson’s voice in the debate rising about how to structure economies, in the face of the failure of the Soviet-style communism and the failure of “free market” capitalism to meet the needs of any but the elite, is a welcome respite to the usual left-right and neolibertarian-socialist views on economy. Throw in the debates over the so-called “free trade” agreements, and we have a global economy swirling down the drain into a 21st century economic version of the dark ages.

Enjoy!

The missing item in today’s economic reforms is what classical economics focused on, from the French Physiocrats through Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill to Marx and his contemporaries: freeing industrial economies from the rentier carry-overs of European feudalism. The focus of classical value and price theory was to free economies from economic rent, defined as unearned income simply resulting from privilege: absentee land rent, mineral and natural resource rent, monopoly rent, and financial interest. The aim should be to prevent rent-extracting activities – defined as purely predatory transfer payments, an economically unproductive zero-sum activity.

The classical labor theory of value aimed at isolating those forms of income (land rent, monopoly rent and interest) that were socially unnecessary, and simply were legacies of past privilege. The halfway alternative was to tax land rent and monopoly rent (Henry George, et al.). The socialist alternative was to take natural rent-producing sectors into the public domain.

Europe did this with the major public utilities – transportation, communications, the post office, and also education, public health and pensions. The United States privatized these sectors, but created regulatory commissions to keep prices in line with basic cost-value. (To be sure, regulatory capture always was a problem, especially when it came to railroad charges…

Classical economics was a doctrine of how to industrialize and become more competitive – and at the same time, more fair – by bringing prices in line with actual, socially necessary costs of production. The resulting doctrine (with Marx and Thorstein Veblen being the last great classical economists) was largely a guide to what to avoid: special privilege, unearned income, unproductive overhead.

The aim was to create a circular flow model of national income distinguishing real wealth from mere overhead. The idea was to strip away what was unnecessary – what Marx called the “excrescences” of post-feudal society that remained embedded in the industrial economies of his day. When the great classical economists spoke of a “free market,” they meant a market free from rentier classes, free from monopolies and above all free from predatory bank credit.

Of course, we know now that Marx was too optimistic. He described the destiny of industrial capitalism as being to liberate economies from the rentiers. But World War I changed the momentum of Western civilization. The rentiers fought back – the Austrian School, von Mises and Hayek, fascism and the University of Chicago’s ideologues redefined “free markets” to mean markets free for rentiers, free from government taxation of land and natural resources, free from public price regulation and oversight. The Reform Era was called “the road to serfdom” – and in its place, the post-classical neoliberals promoted today’s road to debt peonage.

Today’s Cold War may be viewed in its intellectual aspects as an attempt to prevent countries outside of the United States from realizing that (contra Thatcher) there is an alternative, and acting on it. The struggle is for the economy’s brain and understanding on the part of governments. Only a strong government has the power to achieve the reforms at which 19th century reformers failed to achieve.

The alternative is what happened as Rome collapsed into serfdom and feudalism.

 

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by Pete Talbot

Some of our city’s development leaders are troubled by a lack of a Missoula “economic identity,” according to a story on the Front Page of Sunday’s Missoulian.

This concern is driven, in part, by a report from the Montana Policy Institute ranking Missoula near the bottom of Montana cities for “business friendliness.”

Of course, the Montana Policy Institute won’t be happy with Missoula until the Clark Fork is running thick with pollutants, we have 1960’s tipi-burner air quality and corporate taxes are back to zero, or less.

The Montana Policy Institute is a far-right “think tank” out of Bozeman funded by, well, no one knows who funds it since its donors are kept secret.

I’m not all that sure that the institute is still in existence.  It’s mostly-blank page on the Internet says, “this website is not updated frequently.”  So, if you want more information, forget about it. There is this on the site: the Montana Policy Institute’s noble goal of “free-market think(ing), dedicated solely to providing policy solutions that promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans.” In other words, roll back regulations and taxes.

I applaud Missoula’s economic developers for building partnerships: start ups and entrepreneurs joining with technology resources and government assistance, and linking up with our excellent university and city schools.

We have our economic fits-and-starts here, and it we’d all be happier if our kids could find gainful employment and stay in town. Let’s work on that but not in the way promoted by the Montana Policy Institute.

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy.  Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model.  We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

by jhwygirl

It ended up the do-nothing U.S. House of Representatives passed three kumbaya bills and two not-jobs-creation bills last week. One of those not-jobs-creation bills is the Full Faith and Credit Act that we wrote briefly about the other day – HR807. This bill actually hurts employment by telling the Treasury what order in which to pay bills.

HR807 passed with only Republican votes – while 8 Republicans joined with Dems in NAY to passage. Which tells you what kind of bill this is.

Where was Montana Rep. Steve Daines? He voted yes.

The second non-kumbaya bill and the other real work damage the GOP-led House did last week was the Working Families Flexibility Act – HR1406.

That name sure sounds nice, doesn’t it

The Working Families Flexibility Act repeals a portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 – the portion that requires employers of hourly wage earners to pay time-and-a-half for work hours over 40. Instead of pay, an employer (e.g., not the employee) can opt to pay out those overtime hours as “comp time” – a bank of hours, like vacation or sick time.

And guess what? The employer doesn’t have to pay it out to you when you and your employer part ways. Not only that – imagine the impacts to an employee (i.e., a father or a mother) who turns down overtime?

Where was Montana Rep. Steve Daines on this bill that both destroys job creation and exposes hourly wage earning families to risky and unfair labor practices? Rep. Daines voted yes.

75 years of standing labor law – built on events that brought about its need – and Daines votes to do away with overtime pay.

Now – this bill ties in nicely with the GOP’s never ending quest to damage and roadblock the Affordable Care Act. If employers can’t cut employees back enough to avoid having to provide healthcare, at least then they could force everyone to work 50 hour work weeks, with compensation that only increases what might be nonexistent sick and vacation leave! See how fascism works?

And before you think they’ve given up on this quest to gut-punch the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s bill to repeal said bill – HR45 is schedule for the floor this week.

Used to be “jobs jobs jobs” we heard from the GOP, but that has been quite a while. It’s one thing to myopically focus on other issues (like Benghazigate?) but it’s an entirely different thing when you start taking pot shots at jobs and American hourly wage earners, both already spread thin.

Pay attention here, Montana. Steve Daines is going to be running for something in 2014. Don’t let these votes fade from memory.

by jhwygirl

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take an upteenth attempt at damaging U.S. economic stability and growth tomorrow with a number of bills coming to floor vote, six of which would once again embrace derivatives as a legitimate stable investment for our financial institutions.

Taxpayers beware. There is nothing prohibiting bailouts.

Passing out of House financial services on Tuesday and coming to a vote tomorrow is the Full Faith and Credit Act coming to a vote will prioritize U.S. debt and interest over the priority of running the government. Things like keeping the lights on, paying soldiers, social security & disability payments. You can see how willing to negotiate the House GOP Republicans are going to be for the upcoming debt ceiling discussion, estimated to come to Washington DC sometimes during that oh-so-pleasant month of August.

Six other bills which also passed out of financial services yesterday will weaken derivatives regulations within Dodd-Frank.

Addendum: Democracy Now reports that only six members of the House financial services committee voted NO to weakening the already
weak Dodd-Frank derivative regulations.

This’ll infuriate people who thought Dodd-Frank was weak to begin with. Pretty sure that both Lizard and JC fall into that category. I know I’m there.

HR992, the Swaps (meaning derivatives) Regulatory Improvement Act, will allow FDIC insured and uninsured foreign banking entities supervised by the Federal Reserve to utilize derivatives.

That’s right – one of the base elementary causes of the 2007 economic crash is being welcomed back for taxpayer insured FDIC banks.

As a bonus, the bill continues the bailout prohibition exemption for these banks. Which means in plainer language that FDIC insured banks can continue to be bailed out. Ahhh, the pleasures of Dodd-Frank.

I’ve seen or heard plenty saying that the Full Faith and Credit act isn’t likely to pass filibuster – but I’ve yet to see or hear the same for the nasty derivative porn. I say it’s amazing but it really isn’t anymore – the crap these electeds get away with. Because truth be told, it rests on us who keep elected these fools. But here we are, an already weak bill being weakened again. Embracing derivatives? Geezus.

What will Daines do? I’ll be calling his D.C. office first thing tomorrow morning (202-225-3211) to let his staff know where I stand – and that I’ll be watching.

by jhwygirl

In what is either another misguided attempt or act of malfeasance in search of affordable housing, Missoula City Council approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) for all residential zones.

I’ve written once about this ADU proposal. My main objection is the negative impact it is going to have on affordable housing. Other issues are just as valid, such as the higher taxes it will bring. Enforcement is a huge issue for many, the city notorious for not wanting to enforce stuff (like fireworks?) Council also didn’t provide much for convincing answers to how they could enforce the “owner occupied” portion of the law – especially when questioned about previous legal opinions to the contrary.

So I see this story in the Missoulian from city government reporter Keila Szpaller and I just shake my head. There is a picture of an advocate for ADU’s – Ms. Brown is quoted as saying “ADUs are not the end of the world. They are not the end of Missoula as we know it. They are another affordable housing option, and as an older individual, I’m looking for those.”

BUT – read the caption under the photo which accompanies the article, and the advocate for affordable housing says she wants to build a cottage to rent out the main house.

I ask you: How is that creating affordable housing? Ms. Brown, who owns a house, is going to build a guest cottage to live in and then she’s going to rent out her university district home. Now – I’m sure this has already been all worked out, but let me explain how this is going to work because now we’ve been given such a clear example.

Occupant of said house – who is likely having trouble keeping up with property taxes, in addition to having a need to downsize – is going to go to the bank and present the finance officer with a plan for how much they are going to rent the main house. Estimating taxes, costs and revenues, they’ll then offer their home as collateral.

Bam! Property values have increased for that lot because of the improvements. So the neighbors next door with a family and two working incomes who were able to afford their 3 bedroom home are now faced with a tidy uptick in their property values. And the cycle goes on.

The comments on Ms. Szpaller’s story don’t miss that, either.

A motion was made to have the ADU proposal go to the voters, but that was struck down. No surprise there – the city had previously taken a city-wide survey to prove how everyone like the idea and the results were that a majority was not in support of the proposal.

In the end, Councilors Jason Wiener, Alex Taft, Cynthia Wolken, Bob Jaffe, Ed Childers, Mike O’Herron, and Marilyn Marler voted for the ADU’s – and Jon Wilkins, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Dave Strohmaier and Dick Haines voting no.

So THANK YOU Jon, Adam, Caitlin, Dave and Dick for voting no.

The city’s going to get sued. They pretty much know that. The truth is, they don’t really care. The city has insurance coverage for this type of thing, so their cost is minimal as opposed to the organizing of funds that the opponents are going to have to do to hire an attorney.

Sad. It’s really a nasty thing when government – whether it be town, city, county, state or federal – takes the position that “you can’t sue city hall.” They have their staff and insurance pool of attorneys – any individual or group has to then step up and get the job done. I believe that is the case here, illustrated by the city’s previous survey, and Monday’s night failed vote to take it to the voters.

In this case, I have no doubt. Myra Shults has been out in front of this for a while. I may be wrong, but I believe she used to be a Montana Association of Counties (MACo) staff attorney for land use issues. Ms Shults was also up front and center with the gravel pit issue down near Lolo back several years ago.

Ms Shults was successful in that the gravel pit was halted – and without her involvement, I don’t know that it would have happened.

I may even donate some popcorn money to the cause.

by jhwygirl

I’m going to admit something here that is going to date me quite a bit, so here goes: I remember the recession of the mid-70’s. I remember gas rationing, I remember the calls to eliminate the very new EPA. I remember the Cuyahoga River out in Ohio catching on fire. I remember strong pro-American anti-foreign anything sentiment surrounding the purchase of anything. Honda owners and dealerships were objects of criticism and picket lines.

No where in there – or any of the other 4 recessions since then (which doesn’t include this current one) – do I recall America pimping itself out as much as it is now.

And no – I’m not talking about the Keystone Pipeline or the MSTI line…or Otter Creek coal and the railroad that’s taking the stuff to China.

I’m talking about the idea of speed-tracking citizenship to rich foreigners in exchange for investment here in America.

The program is known as EB-5, or Greencard Through Investment program.

For one million buckaroos and the creation of 10 “permanent” full-time jobs, U.S. citizenship can be yours.

Half a million if you pull it off in a “high unemployment or rural area.”

I don’t begrudge anyone citizenship here in the United States. Our country was founded by immigrants – and more importantly, it was built by immigrants. All but war criminals (we’ve got our own) are welcome in my mind.

It is, though, patently unfair to grant U.S. citizenship to the richest of the poorest and worse of nations. The Missoulian story I link to above cites Missoula developers Ed Wetherbee and Kevin Mytty’s quest for a Chinese investor.

A Chinese investor that likely paid barely living wages to people who (between work and commute) pull 15 hour days in order to make that million. A Chinese investor who likely paid off government party officials in exchange for stolen public lands that resulting in the displacing of whole communities or any other number of beneficial arrangements. The Chinese economic system is not only notoriously corrupt, it’s a shell-game of fake investment.

Of course, that sort of corruption is just par the course for someone seeking U.S. citizenship, isn’t it?

I don’t like it. It isn’t fair. It’s ripe with the stench of corruption. U.S. citizenship should not be beholden to the highest bidder, on the easiest speediest path.

Leaving the poorest behind or at a disadvantage in what the U.S. should consider the most valued is not the right thing to be doing.

by Pete Talbot

Can sustainability reduce crime?

The Bakken oil boom is drawing some less-than-desirable elements to Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.  Of course, crime in boom towns is nothing new: think Henry Plummer, the vigilantes and Alder Gulch.

And apparently we haven’t evolved much from gold camps of the 1800s — environmentally or culturally.  One can still see the mountains of tailings from the dredges that plied Alder Creek over a hundred years ago.  Or visit the Virginia City Museum where Clubfoot George’s clubfoot, looking a bit like a standing rib roast, is on display (apparently he was dug up after being hanged by the vigilantes and his foot was removed for posterity).

And what have we learned, environmentally, since those days? Witness the Berkeley Pit, Colstrip, ASARCO, Basin, the Barker-Hughesville mining district … (and who really knows what all those chemicals pumped deep into the ground in the name of fracking will do to the water tables in the Bakken Play).

But it’s the cultural degradation that’s in the news these days: crime, infrastructure issues, housing shortages, Walmart parking lots filled to capacity with RVs, overcrowded schools and man camps.  And, according to Dennis Portra, the mayor of the metropolis of Bainville, Mont., on the North Dakota border, “Korean prostitutes parking their RV in Bainville for a summer.”

Now I’m pretty sure there’s no way you can sustainably drill for oil or gas but there has to be a more sensible approach.  A permit system that slows development comes to mind, more regulation of where, when and how.  A greater pay-to-play system so that the impacts on schools and neighborhoods and highways and, well, everything is at least somewhat mitigated.  Make sure that there is land, sacred land, that just isn’t touched.  And slow the development way down so that locals get first crack at the jobs to reduce the influx of alleged murderers like these two or this guy.

I realize that we aren’t going to go cold turkey on our oil addiction but really, this cyclical boom and bust is absurd.  How’s this helping to stabilize oil prices or getting us to look at alternatives to an ever dwindling supply of oil? What’s the Williston Basin going to look like when the boom plays out in 20 years?  This is one bad economic model.

And now they’re sinking test wells further west: Choteau, Lewistown, on the lands of the Blackfeet Nation:

“This entire region of the Rockies holds untapped potential that can contribute much needed supplies to help meet U.S. demand,” says Marathon spokesman Paul Weeditz.  The Rockies, apparently, were put here for oil, gas and mineral extraction to meet our never-ending needs.

We really need to get a handle on this, for the sake of a sustainable energy future, for our environment and for our way of life.  It could even put a dent in our homicide rate.

by Pete Talbot

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine

This is in response to the Polish Wolf’s post over at Intelligent Discontent.  While some of his stats are interesting, his premise is flawed.  Basically he says that the 99% are responsible for their economic plight by shopping at WalMart, buying imported clothing and purchasing gasoline.  There’s a grain of truth to this, I suppose, but I’m thinking that the policies of the last few decades have more to do with wealth inequalities: economic policies that favor Wall Street over Main Street, Free Trade agreements that benefit corporations more than workers, and energy policies that promote carbon-based fuels over renewables and conservation.

Montana Supreme Court rules

Or maybe I should say the Montana Supreme Court rocks!  I certainly have more respect for the majority of Montana Supremes than the majority of SCOTUS justices.  In a 5-2 vote, the justices ruled against the kooky triumvirate of Western Tradition Partnership, Champion Painting Inc. and Gary Marbut’s Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc.  Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana justices don’t believe corporations should be able to buy and sell elections.

Look up pompous ass in the dictionary

And you’ll see a picture of George Will.  In his latest column, he promotes the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian tar sands and fracking in general.  He pooh-poohs climate change, the EPA, the National Labor Relations Board and student loans.  He believes “conservatives should stride confidently into 2012” … “because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people … ”  He has that backwards, of course, but because he uses a lot of two-dollar words, people think he’s smart.  He’s not.

And locally

Usually reliable reporter Gwen Florio reports on a woman who’s attempting to disqualify Justice of the Peace John Odlin.  This stems from two misdemeanor charges against the woman for “community decay.”  What the hell does that mean?  Did she beat up on some curbs and gutters?  Forget to paint her porch?  Dump raw sewage into a neighborhood park?  I’m dying to know.  Anyway, the Montana Supremes call her case against Odlin “frivolous.”

by jhwygirl

A little over two weeks ago we wrote about developments at the old Fox Theater site, including the developer’s request to get the city-owned riverfront property – valued at nearly $3 million I believe – for nothing and a grassroots citizen’s group comprised of labor, transportation and natural resource advocates who were seeking a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) from the developer in order to (a) ensure a true community benefit to the project given that it was city-owned land and (b) garner public support for their proposal.

There were some good reads at that last post on CBA’s, including this one from the Federal Reserve and this one from Cornell University.

Since then, this project is looking more like a potential boondoggle (read: O-s-p-r-e-y–S-t-a-d-i-u-m) given that the developers are asking for a right of first refusal agreement on the parcel in exchange for the $40,000 market study they’d need to do.

A right of first refusal for land they’ve already said they need to get for nothing in order to be viable?

The Farren Group & its investors propose a $37.6 million hotel and conference center and now they want to do a market study? And they want an exclusive agreement in exchange for a $40,000 market study that is 1/10th of 1% of the cost of the project they proposed?

In the real world, they’d be paying the owner of the property for such an exclusive deal. A private property owner would laugh at such a proposal.

And according to the Missoulian, last week’s report out of city council’s Administration & Finance committee indicates that council is prepared to hand that over to them, despite the well-attended appearance of the Community Benefits Coalition at the committee meeting, and the unwillingness of the developer to even discuss such an agreement.

If they’re doing a market study, shouldn’t it include all possible knowns and variables? Wouldn’t construction labor be a significant component?

In the previous post, there were three parts to the CBA agreement. So far, Pat Corrick of the Farren Group has been provided the card-check neutrality agreement and the project labor agreement. Given the speed at which this project has moved forward in the last two weeks (why the rush?), the final portion related to design issues such as pathways and parking has yet to be finalized.

Corrick’s response to the requests by the CBC to discuss the proposals? He told the CBC that he ‘wasn’t interested in negotiating on this right now,’ and that he might be ‘when the market study is done.’

Councilperson Bob Jaffe mentioned the CBC on his Missoula.gov listserv after Wednesday’s A&F committee meeting:

The CBC folks really wanted us to withhold the exclusivity agreement until they were able to negotiate with the developers but we weren’t really interested in that. I’m hoping we can come up with something by Monday that gives them some kind of seat at the table during the negotiation period. The development group is asking for a lot of public money in this project so I think it is reasonable for them to make some concessions for our community value and concerns. Based on their presentation I’m pretty sure we are all sharing a mostly common vision for this project. I’m pretty optimistic they can all work together to come up with something we are all happy with.

Might be nice if they gave the CBC more than a few days before Monday’s meeting to try and work things out. What’s the rush…or why the rush? Shouldn’t the public fully vet this project? Especially given the recent events surrounding the Osprey stadium site?

What is the “common vision” for this project? Did that all come out in this one public committee meeting and two news articles over the last 2 1/2 weeks?

Missoula economist and all-too-infrequent-4&20 contributor Ross Keogh offers on interesting concession that I’d think should be wholeheartedly considered – with some vetting with the council, the community and the CBC: The leasing of the site to the developer. That would garner quite a monetary incentive to the developer with the reduction in property tax rate which would have the development only taxed on improvements and not the publicly-owned land.

How can Missoula even see a community benefit to this project and why are we considering granting these guys a right of first refusal agreement when they refuse to even discuss the project with the members of the community and the CBC? What exactly are the “obvious benefits” to which city council refers?

Let’s take some time to define those and see that the community is on the same page.

Bozeman has a developer begging on them to sell them a $2.3 million property downtown that would require them to tear down a garage before they build their exclusive hotel…and Missoula’s racing to give away a rivefront parcel already scraped and ready to develop just a few short months after having bought back its own property on the opposite side of the riverbank.

All without even a guarantee of living wage paying jobs.

Conservatives and liberals alike should look very carefully at any development wishing free things – including this exclusive agreemen – when the only thing they’ve dangled out there is a market study that is a drivel of the price of the hotel they’ve somehow convince MRA they are capable of building.

by jhwygirl

This is rich: GMAC mortgage lending exited the mortgage market in Massachusetts today.

GMAC did this is in reaction to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filing suit against 5 banks in the state for “deceptive and unlawful conduct” in foreclosures.

This is the first significant lawsuit to come about for the banks’ robo-signing of foreclosure documents. Currently New York and the federal government are investigating Bank of America for its foreclosures on active duty military.

Foreclosing on soldiers homes while they’re overseas.

The stories go on. They’ve foreclosed on homes that they couldn’t produce the finance paperwork.

Yet we taxpayers have bailed these crooks out and the federal treasury is lending them cash at .25%.

So when a political entity like the State of Massachusetts decides to enforce the law and sue them for their unlawful practices, GMAC just shuts down shop.

Intentionally inflicting economic pain on Massachusetts.

Banking reform did nothing to reign in our banking system. They’re still “too big to fail”. Bank bailouts were not eliminated.

Banks have been making money on money – a shell game economists have been warning against for darn near a decade.

Used to be they made their money on well thought out investments such as real estate and business. Now they make their money by charging what used to be back alley loan shark rates (double-digit credit card rates). They charge ATM and debit card fees to their depositor while doubling up on those charges by strapping businesses with fees to accept these cards.

by jhwygirl

Franke Wilmer has served a respectable 3 terms in the Montana House, surviving 3 sessions up there in Helena. She’s well-qualified to serve as Montana’s next U.S. Representative, her resume including a wide spectrum of employ including waitress, public school teacher, MSU professor and author. Wilmer’s work has spanned a spectrum that is rare for a congressional candidate, with work that has included field research in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war…work so respected that she has been invited to lecture internally on the topics of war, peace and human rights.

Would I trust her with my tax dollar? You bet. Franke Wilmer worked her way through undergraduate and graduate school – and obtained scholarships to help obtain her doctorate in Government & Politics in 1990. So does she know the value of a dollar? I’m betting she knows the value of a nickle and dime.

All that being said, I wondered what she had to say about yesterday’s failure of the super committee. I was never very hopeful about what they would (or wouldn’t) do – but as someone actually applying for a job in congress, I had to wonder what Wilmer – an experienced legislator – had to think about the super committee and the task they had before them.

Ms. Wilmer generously took time out of her 16 hour days to reply:

“It seems like any news you get of Washington these days is either disappointing or crazy. Making pizza a vegetable was crazy, and the Super Committee failing to come to an agreement is disappointing. I think Congress may be the only place in America where you can ask 12 people to take 2 months to come up with a solution to an important problem and end up with nothing. It is unbelievable that 12 people couldn’t find $1.2 trillion in wasteful spending. Ending the Bush tax cuts just to the top 1% would be a good place to start. Or ending the tax breaks to corporations that export our jobs overseas. Don’t forget how much we are spending on wars ($1.2 trillion so far).

Then one of the richest members of Congress, Denny Rehberg, comes out with his “viable” option. In his mind there are really only two options — either cut Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans Benefits or defund programs set up to help people cover outrageous health care costs. In his mind cutting the wasteful spending to defense contractors (the Commission on Wartime Contracting reported to Congress that $60 billion alone has been lost to waste and fraud in war spending) or cutting subsidies to the oil and gas companies would be insane. Insisting on cuts to Social Security is the wrong place for Republicans to draw a line in the sand. Senior citizens didn’t cause this recession. Congressman Rehberg ironically decided people can live without health care and presented his “viable” plan.

There was a time in this country where our elected leaders governed using common sense. There was a time where the issues facing this country were more important than the next election. I am running for Congress to help restore some of those principles in Washington.”

I couldn’t agree more. How many politicans – especially those running for office – are willing to unequivocally call for ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1%? Or cutting tax breaks to corporations that export our jobs overseas.

I also appreciate a candidate like Wilmer who is willing to step up for Veterans and call hypocrisy on our current U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg who is willing to cut Social Security and allow the Pentagon to continue its wasteful (and immoral) spending on defense contractors. Montana’s median income is in the bottom 25% in ranking – and only one state has higher per capita military service than Montana. Protecting Veterans and Social Security should be a priority for the people we Montanan’s elect to congress.

It’s good to know that it’s a priority for Franke Wilmer.

by jhwygirl

Not sure how this is flying under the radar – and maybe there’s a reason, huh? – but Missoula Redevelopment Authority (MRA) has apparently set its sights on the Hotel Fox LLC for redevelopment of the old Fox Theater site.

Back in the spring, MRA put out the call for proposals on the site, proposals being due June 30. Only two applications were considered to be complete, and the favorite which immediately surfaced to the top was the 200 – 250 room hotel with conference center proposal from Hotel Fox LLC.

Hotel Fox LLC is partnered with the Farren Group, a housing developer that’s done projects here in Missoula, Lambros Realty, and the high-end The Lodge at Whitefish Lake LLC.

Dieter Huckestein, former VP and President of the Hilton Hotels..and former president and chief executive officer of Yellowstone Club World, the world’s premier private club, appears to be financially interested in the project. Which certainly gives this proposal credibility (unlike that ridiculous Bitterroot Resort proposal from a few years back.)

Let’s hope the City or MRA doesn’t get a wild hair in their head that starts telling them they need to give the land away. I’m too lazy to go digging for the 2006 or 2007 appraisal that was done down there for that property. MRA did two appraisals as I recall, one was an appraisal for each of the two lots and the other an appraisal for the two lots valued as being sold together. Maybe some astute reader remembers those figures?

I say that knowing that “developers” are involved and this community has placed a certain priority on development of that Fox Theater site. Given the economy, we’ll certainly hear excuses for why they “developers” should get the site and a sale price of $1 because “that’s the only way these projects get done,” and the ‘just think of the economic benefit’ cry.

Didn’t we hear that with the Osprey Stadium deal?

Here in Montana, we can certainly call hog-wash on that sort of argument, it seems to me: The City of Bozeman is getting ready to entertain offers on the sale of its downtown parking garage, valued at $1.5M, for a high-end downtown hotel.

Here in Missoula, extracting that economic and community benefit of any large scale or high profile project has always been a pretty nebulous thing if you ask me. I still ponder whether the Osprey Stadium, with it’s hefty public money influx, has given back that which went into it….and while a lot of people might groan on that, there’s a whole hell of a lot more imo that are with the cynics like me on that project.

And Safeway? Missoula got a great looking grocery story, I think (?) …but wasn’t something supposed to happen with the old Safeway site too? Wasn’t that a part of the discussion? And now it sits?

Who do we trust to extract a real economic and community benefit?

For a few months here in Missoula a group of labor, community, transportation and environmental activists – and concerned citizens – have begun a discussion on how to bring good jobs to Missoula. Jobs that are both clean and living-wage. The proposal for development on the MRA-owned Fox Theater site looks to be an opportunity for these groups to actually coalesce around forming what many communities have been doing for the last decade: a Community Benefits Coalition (CBC).

I’ve done a bit of background reading on this concept, and the cynic in me loves it – what a Community Benefits Coalition does is it forms a contractually binding agreement between the developer and the CBC that ensures completion of a project that meets the definition of what the community defines as a benefit.

Again – given the track record of the city on these deals…..

Here in Missoula, some of those groups discussing a CBC for this project are the Missoula Area Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), UNITE HERE! Local 427, the Western Montana Building Trades and Labor Council, The Clark Fork Coalition and the local Sierra Club chapter. These orgs are meeting with other orgs this week in an effort to build the broadest coalition of partners.

Current goals are for a package of proposals which include a card-check neutrality agreement (which says the employer will be neutral in any union organizing campaign and will accept union representation should a majority of the employees decide to unionize), a project labor agreement (which ensures quality wages, benefits and working conditions for labor on the construction project) and a document which ensures meaningful input into the design, transportation, parking and public spaces that will be affected by the project.

Pretty soon here Hotel Fox LLC is going to want – is going to need – a more firm assurance from MRA and the City of Missoula that the old riverfront theater site will more assuredly be theirs should their project be truly economically viable. Most certainly that economic viability part will come from a marketing study, the cost being somewhere in the $25,000 range.

Hotel Fox and Dieter Huckestein have already told MRA that if they are to put out that $25,000, they need to have exclusive development rights.

Now – it sure seems to me that these guys are asking a whole hell of a lot from the City of Missoula for a $25,000 marketing study. If they want the right to a non-competitive exclusive development right, let’s hope there’s a real community benefit.

In other words, I’d love for someone to be smart about this, and my money is on a CBC.

I’m hopeful that we get a Community Benefits Coalition together here in this project…because I know that developers love to prey on communities in these scared economic times…and Missoula needs to tread carefully on any deal surrounding the Fox Theater site.

The community benefit must be clear, and must be real. It must include good jobs from design to construction to operation.

A Community Benefits Coalition is a more surer way to get there.

~~~~
Some information:
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis paper on Community Benefits Agreements
A handbook on Community Benefits Agreements from The Partnership for Working Families
Good Jobs First, a non-partisan accountability organization for corporations that seek local community subsidies
A Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy paper titled Community Benefits Agreements: Can Private Contracts Replace Public Responsibility?
September 30, 2011 minutes of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency

by Pete Talbot

I shrugged it off the first few times I heard it or saw it in print, “government picking winners and losers.”

Now it’s everywhere: Republican debates, news stories, op-ed columns and even comments here at 4&20.

It’s directed at Democrats, for the most part, from President Obama (health care, Solyndra) to Missoula’s City Council (Play Ball Missoula).

The irony is that all parties, in all areas of government, from city councils to state legislatures to Congress and the President, have picked winners and losers.

They’ve subsidized railroads and airlines, oil and coal, highways and electrical distribution systems, NASA, mining and agriculture, baseball, basketball and football teams … it’s a long list.

Winners and losers are chosen by the powers that be all the time. There are no-bid defense department contracts for Halliburton, Raytheon and Blackwater. There are tax code revisions that pick winners and losers. There are decisions on food stamps, Social Security and Medicaid that have winners and losers.

It’s a cool sounding mantra, this “government picking winners and losers,” no doubt generated at some Karl Rove or libertarian think tank using focus groups and polling, and distributed to key leaders in right-wing politics, whence it trickles down.

There are no doubt abuses in this system. But the idea that every aspect of American life should be subject to the invisible hand of the free market is unrealistic and anachronistic. And the Republican cry of “crony capitalism” is about as hypocritical as it gets. The art of crony capitalism has been a mainstay of the Republican Party.

It’s dishonest to call all government spending “socialist” and lay the blame at the feet of Democrats. Picking winners and losers has been going on since the founding fathers and is as American as apple pie.

It just depends on who’s doing the giving and getting the rewards that gets the teeth gnashing and pundits whining.

By CFS

After more than a year of protests, general strikes, and clashes with authority, the Greek people have been given a chance to decide their own destiny and it looks very likely that voters will reject the debt deal put forward by the EU.  Financial markets reacted very negatively to the news, it would seem that markets aren’t very confident that Greek voters have international banks’ best interests in heart.

Ordinary people given the chance to decide the future of their own democratic country seems almost like a novelty.  I wonder what would have happened had Americans been given the chance to vote on TARP?  We might not have seen the rise of the Tea Party and OWS had it not been the shoveling of trillions of dollars tax payer money down the black hole of Wall Street’s quarterly reports.

Of course, Europe’s and America’s power brokers are just a little displeased, as the Greek PM, George Papandreou, is threatened by the fall of his government for his decision to put this issue in front of voters and will face angry EU leaders who will push for implementation of the plan even in the face of the Greek vote.  I guess he’ll learn his lesson that governing is for technocrats, not people… silly socialist.

The financial deal would force Greece to accept large cuts in public spending and is projected to increase already high unemployment rate partially caused by austerity measures adopted in 2010 in return for another bailout package.  But, as we’ve seen with Wall Street bailouts, such measures aren’t meant to help Greece, but to insure the profits of the bond holders, and of course, the only answer to debt is more debt.  Sound logic if you ask me.  The Naked Capitalist blog has a good post on the success of another country that rejected a financial bailout, even in the face of rising social spending.

I’m personally very interested in how a democratic vote will end up effecting this year’s Christmas bonuses at financial firms.

by jhwygirl

Some good news from out near Hood River.

Yesterday the Condit dam was breeched by PacifiCorp, freeing the river for the famous Pacific Northwest steelhead and chinook fisheries.

There’s some pretty dramatic footage of the breech to be found around the innertubes – I’ll offer this video from The Oregonian:

Pretty impressive, huh?

The University of Montana Geomorphology Lab were there for the scene – but instead of watching the dynamite do its deed, the went to watch the rebirth of the White Salmon River. Here is a 2-hour time lapse of the White Salmon’s rebirth – and the draining of lake:

Somewhere I read this morning that it had been estimated it would take 6 hours to drain.

UM student Josh Epstein was there in the group, and he has 3 videos posted. Here’s One, Two, and Three.

Fascinating. The Condit dam is the second tallest dam to be removed in the U.S. The Seattle Times had a great piece today reporting on some of the history of the dam.

BPA, for its part, had to say goodbye to the Condit, which was able to generate power about 7,000 homes in the northwest.

While hydropower seems to be their predominate source for power, it appears BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) is relying more and more on wind and biomass. This map shows their power generation locations and sources.

I tried to look for a similar resource at Northwestern Energy, but couldn’t find one.

~~~~~
Free the sturgeon of the Kootanai

by Pete Talbot

“I shouldn’t say this …” Conrad Burns said. It was the only accurate statement he made all day.

He then went on to insult Indians, Wall Street occupiers and the President.

He was talking to a small tea party crowd in Billings, an event organized by Americans for Prosperity and underwritten by the billionaire Koch brothers.

I’ve been waiting for another Montana blogger to write about this (Montana Cowgirl, Pogie?) but haven’t seen a thing. Maybe Conrad’s speech was so obtuse it didn’t deserve notice. I, however, think it might because it mirrors the far-right’s rhetoric of ignorance, intolerance and racism.

Ignorance: “Burns was there to ‘expose the Obama administration’s $40 billion energy tax grab that will destroy jobs, decrease government revenues at a time of exploding national debt and make America less competitive.'”

In reality, the idea is to eliminate taxpayer-financed oil subsidies and tax breaks, and reinvest the $40 billion into social programs, green energy and job creation, according to Forcechange.com. C’mon Conrad, continued subsidies for oil companies with record-breaking profits are going to reduce the deficit, destroy jobs and make America less competitive? Well, it might give the oil companies slightly less money to employ corporate mouthpieces such as yourself.

Intolerance: On the Wall Street/Missoula/Helena/etc. occupiers, Burns said: “I feel sorry for these kids. They’re kind of spoiled. They’re down there having a hissy fit. They don’t know who they’re mad at.”

Oh, they know who they’re mad at, these spoiled kids, it’s the likes of you: politicians who push economic inequality, and advance the financial institutions responsible for a recession that’s crippling middle-class Montanans and devastating the poor.

Racism: “We got a guy in the White House (who) believes all of us should be dependent on the government,” Burns said. “I shouldn’t say this, but he wants this whole country to become like an Indian reservation.”

Conrad is on the record as a bigot: Arabs, African-Americans and now, Native Americans. Those damn Indians … and after all that the government has done for them. (R.I.P. Elouise Cobell. Please ignore Burns’ spiteful comments.)

So Conrad is still out there. He’s working for GAGE, a Leo Giacometto/Son-of-Rehberg Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, and spewing far-right rhetoric.

In these troubled times, do we really need the former Senator sowing seeds of hate, divisiveness and malice. I think not.

by Pete Talbot

So utility companies can claim eminent domain over private property but citizens (i.e.: our local government) can’t claim eminent domain over utilities.

I’m talking about our water.  The stuff we drink, cook with, bath in and use to water our gardens.

This is a screwy deal.  Missoula’s privately-owned Mountain Water Company can sell our resource — the aquifer that sits beneath us and the streams that flow from our mountains — to a multi-billion dollar private equity firm.

Meanwhile, our vaunted state legislature passes a bill that allows utility companies to exert eminent domain on private property owners so these corporations can build pipe and power lines anywhere they please.

Our legislature didn’t see fit to grant these same powers to citizens so they could control their own resource destiny.

I know it’s more complicated than that.  A city can invoke eminent domain but it costs many thousands of dollars, takes years and the outcome is uncertain.  From the Missoulian:

It took the town of Felton, Calif., population 6,000, five years to gain public ownership of its water. Felton’s water had always been privately owned, bouncing from company to company. The final straw came when owner American Water requested a huge rate increase.

So the City, with assistance from the Clark Fork Coalition, has entered into negotiations to have the right of first refusal if and when the Carlyle Group sells.  I call this a fallback position.  I applaud the coalition’s and the city’s efforts, but it seems so after-the-fact because the sale to the city hinges on the “if and when,” and, of course, what sort of mark up Carlyle will want in the sale.  Carlyle isn’t known for its philanthropy.

Now the Montana Public Service Commission has a role in all this but it’s not clear how many legal teeth the PSC has for mitigating the sale — what sort of caveats in can impose — or could it, indeed, stop the sale (which is doubtful).

The Missoulian is doing a good job giving us background and following the story.  Start here and also take a look at the related stories.  I’m waiting for that hard-hitting editorial demanding public ownership of our water, though.

In the meantime, be thankful that air isn’t for sale.  If so, the Carlyle Group would be buying it up and under current statutes, there’d be little we could do about it.

It’s enough to make a mellow guy like me into a radical.


 
When the history is finally written, though, it’s likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. — Dave Graeber in The Guardian

By JC

One has to look overseas to get some perspective on the movement that is growing in Liberty Plaza just a few blocks away from Wall Street and the World Trade Center. Mainstream American media has turned a jaundiced eye away from the true happenings in NY City. Instead, we will get a few sound bites and scenes of arrests, as the media always looks to the confrontation, instead of the substance of any protest movements on the left. Some of the media will attack them for who they are, posing them as juveniles in nothing more than an extension of their culture wars.

#OccupyWallSt and its rapidly expanding national movement Occupy Together, with occupations in over 52 locations across the country, are truly an organic grassroots organization. They are not faux grassroots pretenders like the Koch brothers’ funded rebranding of the activist right wing GOP and conservative movement as tea partiers. There is little doubt remaining that the tea party only serves as cover for corporatist America and a distraction for the media, so they can ignore the real revolution that is growing in America.

The UK’s Guardian News and Al Jazeera have done vastly better jobs covering the emerging movement as it grows from the ideas of a few organizations like Adbusters, Anonymous and the U.S. Day of Rage.

The following quote from an article in The Guardian clearly examines the birth of the #OccupyWallSt movement as a generational movement built out of other similar movements of the last 40 years. So we undoubtedly will get a bunch of pejorative statements about how they protesters are all young, or unemployed, or college kids, or lgbt, or dress funny, or homeless… And that is exactly why they are protesting. Because our society no longer takes their concerns or needs seriously

Why are people occupying Wall Street? …

There are obvious reasons. We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

This movement springs directly out of the anti-globalisation, global justice, and anti-transnational/WTO corporate rallies and protests of the last few decades. Take a look at the protests and accompanying police brutality, and it all begins to look familiar.

The response from the police, and lack of interest from mainstream corporate media and the corporations they are protecting will only serve to amplify the call out to people to join this movement.

When the history is finally written, though, it’s likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. Thirty years of relentless prioritising of propaganda over substance, and snuffing out anything that might look like a political basis for opposition, might make the prospects for the young protesters look bleak; and it’s clear that the rich are determined to seize as large a share of the spoils as remain, tossing a whole generation of young people to the wolves in order to do so. But history is not on their side.

We might do well to consider the collapse of the European colonial empires. It certainly did not lead to the rich successfully grabbing all the cookies, but to the creation of the modern welfare state. We don’t know precisely what will come out of this round. But if the occupiers finally manage to break the 30-year stranglehold that has been placed on the human imagination, as in those first weeks after September 2008, everything will once again be on the table – and the occupiers of Wall Street and other cities around the US will have done us the greatest favour anyone possibly can.

Is there any question as to why a whole generation is coalescing together to rise up against an establishment that seeks to disempower and repress them? “Grown-ups” will dismiss all of this as idealist leftist propaganda and poo-poo it, and attempt to ridicule and cast it aside. Remember the “don’t trust anyone over 30” mantra of the 60’s protest movement? Payback is a mo-fo. But this movement will not wither in the night, nor will hundreds or thousands of arrests deter it. The only thing that will assuage this movement will be when their voices are heard, and America changes.

Yes, Wall Street is our street. And that point will be hammered home until its ivory tower denizens and police protecters are brought back down to earth.

Feel free to post your favorite article or resource about #OccupyWallSt. We’ll keep posts like this going for the duration of the occupation, so that we can keep abreast of what is going on.

By JC

A hot saturday afternoon of playing tunes and guitar, and a slew of photos arriving in my Google+ inbox reminded my of an old John Hartford elegy, “Going to Work in Tall Buildings.” For those who may not remember, John was the accompanist to Glen Campbell in the Goodtime Hour about 40 years ago, during my “formative” days. This is a mild exhibit of Hartford’s subtle subversive nature.

A person (a recently discharged marine) I met a few weeks ago in Missoula as he was hitchhiking across America to the Occupy Wall Street demos, finally arrived and will be feeding some live updates back. His photos as he entered the Wall Street district were foreboding. I hope he sends me more good stuff, so I can give folks a street-level view of the happenings.

These are the the tall buildings where the raveling and unraveling of our financial system’s catastrophes takes place. This is where the people that control the fate of our country’s political and economic future might clash. But just maybe it won’t be those that live and work in tall buildings that get to make the final determinations on our future. Maybe it will be those who take to the streets, and eschew working in tall buildings.

Here’s what Nathan Scheider at Truthout had to say about the fledgling movement yesterday:

A lot of what you’ve probably seen or read about the #occupywallstreet action is wrong, especially if you’re getting it on the Internet. The action started as an idea posted online and word about it then spread and is still spreading, online. But what makes it really matter now is precisely that it is happening offline, in a physical, public space, live and in person. That’s where the occupiers are assembling the rudiments of a movement…

What’s actually underway at Liberty Plaza [at Wall Street] is both simpler and more complicated: music making, sign drawing, talking, organizing, eating, marching, standoffs with police and (not enough) sleeping. It’s a movement in formation…

Ted Actie, who lives in Brooklyn and works for On the Spot, a minority-owned talk-show production company, called on the protesters to speak more directly to the communities around them. “You do so much social networking,” he said, “you forget how to socialize.”

Those barons of finance might do well to come down out of their gilded towers and do some socializing with the rabble down below. Otherwise, they may find that their president–and maybe their next president–can no longer stand between the pitchforks and the doors barring entry to tall buildings.

Lyrics after the jump:
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Reagan Proved Deficits Don’t Matter”
VP Dick Cheney to Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in 2002

By JC

Big Ingy, in my previous blog post on the rise of a liberal movement to primary Obama was being coy about the nature of tax increases under Reagan. Actually, coy is a nice word. He was being lazy and didn’t want to pony up any real facts. So being the inquisitive blogger that I am, had to do his homework for him.

Well, now I know why he and every other right winger doesn’t want to talk about the actual Reagan record. Ronnie raised taxes by signing into law $132.7 billion worth of tax increases. During the same period he also cut taxes by signing legislation worth $275.3 billion, for a net decrease of $142.6 billion dollars. But, coupled with his deficit spending, the national debt soared $1.873 trillion during his reign of trickle down economic terror, a tripling of the debt.

The obvious conclusion is that tax cuts don’t prevent deficits (as if we need to be reminded of that after Bush the Second’s raiding of the public coffers for tax breaks for the rich), and grossly inflate the national debt. Trickle down does not work.

Reagan’s Budget Director, David Stockman called trickle down, supply side economics a “trojan horse:”

“Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront?’ Stockman asked with wonder. ‘The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control.”

Greedy hogs indeed!

Furthermore, unemployment went from 7.6% to 5.5% (with a peak of 9.7% inbetween, higher than anything under Obama) in Reagan’s eight years.

My question to conservatives is this: if you are willing to let a republican president triple the national debt to gain 2.1% points of employment, why not let a democrat do it?

Well, the answer is easy: hypocrisy and politics. Compassionate conservatism is dead.

It is clear that republicans are using economic terrorism to hold the unemployed as a hostage in order to aggregate political power in the next election, and collect the tithes of their overlords. Conservative economist and neomonetarist Scott Sumner called these sorts of political actions “treason”.

I’ve included Reagan’s tax increases and some other info and citations below the fold.
Continue Reading »

By JC

Ok, if you pay attention to politics at all, you know that: 1) anything Obama supports publicly will be met with a big “NO” from the right; 2) the economy is in the tank, and there is no meaningful job growth happening; and 3) next week the President is giving another speech on jobs. And there’s a web full of speculation and commentary about it (276,000 search returns for “obama jobs speech” as of this writing!).

So let the armchair politickin’ begin. Consider this an open thread. Here are the rules:

  • What should Obama say?
  • What do you think he will say?
  • What do you see as politicly viable jobs proposals?
  • Do presidential speeches have any value, and if so, what ?
  • Place no blame and no personal attacks. It gets this debate nowhere.

If this feels like a PoliSci 101 first day of class essay/debate exercise, it sort of is — it is very similar to one I heard of this week, as college opened. Have fun!

By JC

In a dark opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Senators Max Baucus, Patty Murray and John Kerry invoked the specter of a failing America in their opening salvo as the next chapter of right wing hostage taking shapes up:

“…No one has ever gone into a debate pledging that China and India should own this economic century because we can’t make our democracy work here at home.”

But here we are with exactly that scenario. America is in decline as the international economic juggernaut after having ruled most of the last century. Yet there are three emerging economies–China, India and Brazil–that are ascendant, and together will outcompete America for strategic resources like oil, minerals and intellectual competence.

Yet three democrat senators invoke rhetoric intended to harken back to the good ole Clinton days that “allow us to continue shining bright in the world.” This is all so eerily similar to Baucus’ irrelevant call for bipartisanship in the health care fights two years ago, where he irrationally thought he could get 80 votes for his health care plan. Today’s political landscape is even more polarized, yet Max and his two dem cohorts think that they will succeed this time around? It’s delusional thinking.

Continue Reading »

By JC

Max Baucus, after  his recently appointed role to the super committee saddled with finding 1.2 to 1.5 trillion dollars in deficit reduction, conducted an interview with the Helena IR (Google cache) editorial board and revealed some thoughts about how he’s likely to proceed:

[Baucus] noted that the Bush tax cuts also are set to expire at the end of 2012, and if Congress wants to prevent that from happening, it would need to reach some sort of bargain – hopefully one that reforms the tax code to make it simpler, better for the economy, and able to generate the revenue needed to put the country’s fiscal house in order.

“Part of the solution here is reforming the tax code,” he said.

So Baucus is willing to “prevent” the Bush/Obama tax cuts from expiring if the tax code is reformed. Ok, so he’s waffling on his talk last year about letting the tax cuts for the rich expire. Well, what do you expect from a gumby? Here’s what Max had to say then about an amendment he was offering to extend middle income tax breaks:

Our amendment says:  Let’s make the middle-class tax cuts permanent.

And our amendment says:  Let’s not allow tax cuts for middle-class Americans to be held hostage to tax cuts for those who make the very most.

Anybody on the left here think that reforming the tax code during another economic hostage “crisis” (like the debt ceiling hike) is a good thing? Yes the tax code needs to be reformed, but it should be done in the light of day in the regular order, and not done behind closed doors by a 12 member “super committee,” a committee that now presents itself as a large target to lobbyists and campaign dollars from the oligarchs.
Continue Reading »

By JC

by jhwygirl

I’ve not read even a portion of it, but here’s the entire enchilada of the deficit ceiling bill (or whatever the cool kids are calling it today).

What I did pass by today in my quick reads was this story which has $21.6 billion in savings for the taxpayers, but will cost students dearly. From the story:

This change would shift some $125 billion in loan volume over to unsubsidized loans and would cost students $18.1 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The student loan cuts start on page 71.

The whole student loan program is screwed up. The federal government guarantees student loans. They pay the interest on these loans while students are in school. Students get loans from banks. Banks get the money from the feds and charge students interest. Tell me that isn’t screwed up.

Why can’t the federal government back these loans? They can back Canadian-built transmission lines but they can’t back the higher education of its citizens? Student loans are a guaranteed steady source of income. You can’t default on them. Why does the federal government loan money at treasury rates to banks that will charge 7% or more in interest on loans that they know they will be able to collect? That’s just plain stupid.

We’ve handed the Class of 2011 one hell of a mess. They aren’t going to find jobs in this economy – and now we’re gonna make ’em fund the banks should they choose to further their education while the economy recovers?

We didn’t just push this stuff off on the middle class – we directly billed a bunch of 20-somethings.

“Recession” Economy lost $400 billion more than first thought in 2007-2009

By JC

Here’s the takeaway, it’s quiet simple: Revised figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis were released today, showing that the amount of economic contraction (recession) as reflected by a lowering Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was far greater than had been known at the time and during the last three years’ efforts to ameliorate the “Great Recession”.

Recession is basically measured by an economy’s contraction in GDP over a period of quarters. The BEA revisions released today reflected that GDP contraction from 4th quarter 2007 to 2nd quarter 2009 (right after Obama took office) was a cumulative (negative) 5.1%, not 4.1%. In other words the economy lost about $400 billion more in GDP than was previously realized.

To put that in perspective, the “stimulus” only included about $350 billion in direct spending (the rest was tax breaks and aid to local and state governments).

So there you have it: the stimulus spending was less than the margin of error (as shown by its revisions) of BEA. How could the stimulus have worked? It was far inadequate to meet the task of taking up the slack in the $14 trillion/year economy, which was its “purpose”.

Here’s a graph of the revised GDP figures on which I’ve overlaid the 3 year average loss in productivity, and revised cumulative recession figures.

BEA excerpts after the jump.
Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

First a brief recap: Boehner submitted a budget proposal after he walked away – very publicly – Monday night after President Obama’s speech. His said his bill would save $1.2 trillion, but yesterday, CBO came back with it scored as saving only about $850 billion. So Boehner – who had scheduled the thing for a floor vote Wednesday night – had to pull it due to the disappointing results.

Dems, for their part, had submitted a plan that they said would save “almost $3 trillion.” CBO scored it and – just like the Republican plan – it came back shy of its touted amount: only $2.2 trillion.

For all the tough-talking Boehner and Cantor and Paul have done on the budget, and for the dismissive review they’ve given of anything coming from the other side of the aisle, I’da thought those Einstein’s would have been a little closer. I mean – they didn’t even hit the the $1 trillion point.

Beyond that, Boehner’s bill relied largely on caps on discretionary spending and the interests savings that would have resulted. Boehner tells the nation Monday night that he’ll save the budget crisis – that government is too big – and by Wednesday he’s handed over some sophmoric bill that doesn’t (a) meet the numbers he put out and (b) – more importantly so given all his caucus’ tough talk – doesn’t do any shrinking of government. Doesn’t offer any real reform. Liar. Hypocrite.

But getting back to the topic at hand…

The GOP had a little coaching session last night due to the disappointing review the CBO gave to Boehner’s budget bill. The highlight of the session was a clip from the movie The Town when one thug (played by Ben Affleck) says to another “we’re gonna hurt some people,” and then they proceed to bludgeon two men and then shoot one. In hockey masks.

This link will take you to the full clip – it can not be embedded.

After viewing the clip, Florida Republican and outspoken freshman Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. stood up and said, “I’m ready to drive the car,” surprising even many Republicans.

Ben Affleck was asked what he though – here it is, directly from Huffington Post:

(I)n a statement his spokesperson provided to The Huffington Post, he suggested that Republicans use a different one of his movies next time they need to whip votes.

“I don’t know if this is a compliment or the ultimate repudiation,” said the actor, who is currently in Turkey directing and starring in “Argo,” an adaptation of the Tehran hostage crisis. “But if they’re going to be watching movies, I think “The Company Men” is more appropriate.”

That latter Affleck flick focuses on the plight of middle age men who have been laid off during the recession. (One of them, depressed about being unemployed, later kills himself.)

I wrote yesterday about corporate America thumbing their nose at us unwashed masses?

Last night, the GOP did the exact same thing. Then they beat the crap out of us with baseball bats.

And cheered.




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