Nel's New Day

February 15, 2013

Rubio, Paul Offer No Specifics

The first televised response, or rebuttal, to the president’s State of the Union address was delivered almost 50 years ago by Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI) to the speech given by President Lyndon Johnson. This year two freshmen senators, Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) gave differing GOP positions after President Obama’s SOTU. It was evident that neither one had heard the president’s speech; it was more of the standard narrow small-government, make-the-poor-pay conservative position.

Unfortunately for Rubio, he drew great attention from comedians and progressive programs about his sweating, face-wiping, saliva-cleaning, and bottle-swigging behavior. Until this year, Bobby Jindal and Michele Bachmann had provided the low bar for achievement in the SOTU response endeavor. From now on, the image of Rubio leaning over to pick up his bottle of water and then taking a drink in the middle of a sentence will predominate the 2013 SOTU rebuttal images.

Paul Krugman, however, provided perhaps the most scathing response to Rubio’s speech, writing “that zombie economic ideas have eaten his brain.” Krugman defines zombie ideas as those that have “been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead–but won’t stay dead because it serves a political purpose, appeals to prejudices, or both.” He cites one of the most popular of these zombies as the frequent GOP statement that tax cuts for the wealthy help the country’s economy. As almost everyone knows, deregulated financial markets led to the need for large government bailouts to keep banks from failing. Yet Rubio, in all his ignorance, claimed last Tuesday night that “a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”

Another zombie is that deficit spending destroys jobs: Rubio wants a “balanced budget,” even in a recession. But, as Krugman points out, the economy was depressed because businesses wouldn’t invest. Rubio said, “Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.” Businesses don’t hire because people don’t have money to spend. Bush’s economy clung to life partly because of the 800,000 public jobs that he created during his two terms, about the same number of jobs lost since President Obama took office because of the cuts in government spending.

In complaining about excessive government spending, Rubio failed to admit that the deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since the end of World War II; the country actually had a $3 billion surplus in January.

budget deficit Friday

Part of that is came from the $2.5 reduction that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress already approved. And this isn’t good news: such a rapid decrease in the deficit will likely result in an economic recession, damaging everything from education to food safety to medical research.

The GOP that wants a “balanced budget” voted for big government with deficit-financed Bush’s tax cuts, Bush’s wars, Bush’s Medicare expansion, and Bush’s Wall Street bailout with no regard for the “mountains of debt heaped on our children and grandchildren.” Bush’s first budget began with a federal debt of $5.7 trillion. His last budget ended with a federal debt of $12.9 trillion. Obama is now sitting on a debt of $16.1 trillion. Senator Rubio’s math fails him.

Rubio’s treatment of the sequester matched other post-truth positions. He repeated the GOP myth that the dramatic government cuts to take place in 13 days (while Congress has declared a ten-day recess) is entirely the responsibility of President Obama. Yet it was the GOP House, supported by math whiz-kid Paul Ryan (R-WI) that passed the sequester. After the vote, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) chortled that Republicans got 98 percent of what they wanted.

Even a GOP representative recognized the falsehood of Rubio’s statement. Justin Amash (R-MI called the GOP attempt to blame the president for the sequester “disingenuous.” He said, “The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it. So, you can’t vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law.”

Rubio voted against the sequester, but 28 of his GOP senate colleagues voted in favor of it. In the House, which passed the sequester by 268 to 161, two-thirds of the Republicans voted in favor while one-half of the Democrats opposed it.  Doug Elmendorf, CBO director, told the House Budget Committee that automatic sequestration cuts will cost the American economy 750,000 jobs just this year.

Republicans claim that they have a plan and the opposition has provided none. It’s actually the reverse. Both Senate Dems and the president have a sequester alternative, but they include tax increases on the wealthy instead on the poor and middle-class populations. The House action that Paul Ryan (R-WI) has talked about happened six months ago—in the last Congress. Nothing has been done in the 113rd Congress.

In his formal Republican response, Rubio criticized Obama for proposing tax increases: “The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families,” Rubio said. “It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. So, Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

He described his neighbors as immigrants, working people, and middle class. Yet Rubio’s house is for sale at $675,000. Huffington Post has a very nice slide show of Rubio’s “working-class” home.

rubio house

During his call for smaller government, Rubio  explained that he was able to attend college because of a government loan, and his mother needed her Medicare.

Rubio thinks that minimum wages won’t work, that we just need “good-paying” jobs.  Yet the current minimum wage is worth almost 20 percent less than it did almost a half century ago, showing that just believing in “good-paying” jobs doesn’t work.

minimum-wage

Not having heard the president’s SOTU, Rubio complained that the president failed to present specifics. It was Rubio, however, who talked in generalities. Typical of GOP speeches, he called for spending cuts but couldn’t name anything he wanted to cut. He suggested changes in Medicare but vowed that none of the changes would hurt seniors. He claimed that the president wanted to increase the deficit. He pushed the policy of turning safety net programs over to states when he represents one of the most corrupt state governments in the nation.

Rubio even stated that combating the climate crisis means asking government to “control the weather.” The GOP refuses to accept that people influence climate change, but the chart showing the number of anomalies during the past half century should frighten anyone.

climate anomoliesRubio also neglected a number of subjects that the president addressed, for example, the need to repair the infrastructure would include the interstate highway system, initiated by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that allowed the nation, and particularly Florida, to become a success story in growth of population and economic opportunity. Politicians like Rubio who call for much smaller government ignore the fact that government supports them, in Rubio’s case for most of his working life.

In his Tea Party response, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) used the same zombie ideas, accusing the president of over-spending and over-taxation. He used Ronald Reagan’s claim that “government is the problem,” the same President Reagan who increased government spending, raised taxes seven years of his two terms, and almost tripled the national debt.

Paul said that everyone in the United States is “guaranteed a chance to succeed based not on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.” Paul’s father was a doctor in the U.S. Air Force and National Guard because he became an obstetrician and then served in the U.S. government for 24 years. He, too, is convinced that the job market will flourish as soon as the government gives another big tax cut to corporations.

Paul shared the spending blame between both major political parties, further promoting the division between mainstream GOP and Tea Party members. Rubio’s party wants the sequester to take effect to destroy the president whereas Paul wants to get rid of most defense spending and foreign aid.

Like Rubio, however, Paul had no specifics. And like Rubio, Paul voted against the Violence against Women Act that would help women subjected to domestic abuse and sexual assault. There seems to be no end to the “war on women.”

January 24, 2013

Obama’s Spending Slowest for over a Half Century

The crisis of the debt ceiling has been postponed until May 19 as the GOP kicked the mythical can down the road through a vote in the House. The Senate has yet to vote on it, but it’s very probable that they will. Meanwhile, the GOP is screaming about how much Obama spends. This is how he compares with the two earlier presidents:

govt expenditures

Bloomberg News wrote, “Federal outlays over the past three years grew at their slowest pace since 1953-56, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.” The following chart shows this.

Eisenhower

The GOP keeps pushing the myth that government spending is out of control. Not so. Unfortunately, the lack of government spending is hurting the economy. Now is the time for the government to make investments because of the low interest rates. More investment means lower employment which means better economic recovery which ends up in people paying far more taxes.

Conservatives are wrong on two points: (1) government spending is down, not up, and (2) the GOP is fighting the recovery through making government spending go further down.

Our economic recovery and our deficit problem can’t be solved by taking money from the bottom 99 percent of the people in the country. The less money they have, the less they can spend. The less they spend, the less the economy will recover.

It can be solved by removing “entitlements” from corporations and the wealthy. Lower taxes doesn’t cause them to hire more people. Their history proves that. And they don’t spend the money that improves the economy: they drop it into offshore accounts where they can’t get taxed.

Your Congressional representative may not know this. It’s up to you to tell them.

Another death because of a “responsible, law-abiding gun owner”: Two weeks ago, 4-year-old Trinity Ross was shot in the head by a 6-year-old. Trinity’s stepmother was babysitting four children and had left the room. A loaded revolver was found in the pocket of a coat left by one of the children’s fathers. Trinity died a week later.

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This is my last blog for the next week. While I’m gone, check this out! It’s mesmerizing.

October 13, 2012

Good News for President Obama

While Mitt Romney and other Republicans find it vital to point out the fallacies of President Obama’s policies and actions, the conservatives determinedly ignore the way that the current administration is bringing the country out of the disasters that George W. Bush and the other neocons brought onto the United States. Here’s a sampling:

U.S. consumer sentiment rose up from 78.3 to 83.1 this month, its highest in five years, shortly after the U.S. unemployment rate tumbled to its lowest in nearly four years.

During George W. Bush’s rule, the stock market crashed, and trillions of dollars of private wealth were erased with the market bottoming out at 6,547 in early 2009. Now the stocks have rebounded to almost twice that, closing out last week at 13,329.

A boom in oil production within the United States has the country on a course to cut its reliance on imported crude oil to about 42 percent this year, the lowest level in two decades. Republicans claim that the president’s energy policies drive up the prices because of shortages and regulations, but the reason behind inflated prices is speculation. The CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Rex Tillerson, told a Senate hearing last year that this speculation was driving up the price of a barrel of oil by as much as 40%.

For a while Mitt Romney was using the “are you better off than you were four years ago” question to put down what President Obama has accomplished during his term. Here are some differences

When the economy was in a tail spin in early 2009, the auto industry was on pace to sell 9.3 vehicles that year. Now, GM is coming back, Chrysler is solid, and Ford Motors is on a roll; September car sales in the U.S. reached a 14.88-million annual pace.

By the end of the first quarter of 2009, $16 trillion in home equity had been erased through bad bank methods. Now, home prices are heading up, and home equity has rebounded more than $11.5 trillion.

By February 2008, ten days after the current president took his oath of office, the unemployment had shot up from 5 percent the year before to 8.3 percent. In less than nine months, the unemployment rate topped out at 10 percent. Now the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, still high but consistently declining.

Compare the current unemployment situation to that of President Reagan, patron saint of the conservatives. Ten days before he took office, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent; nineteen months later it peaked at 10.8 percent in November 1982. By the time, Reagan started his second term, it had fallen to 7.3 percent, just 0.1 percent of recovery in four years. That’s only 20 percent of what the current president has managed in less time.

Obama inherited a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion from Bush/Cheney the moment he took the oath of office, a deficit that he has dropped $200 billion this year, the smallest deficit in four years, despite the Republican policies that drive the deficit.

Although the conservatives refuse to admit that the 2009 stimulus benefited the country, “facts matter,” to quote VP Joe Biden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Romney campaign constantly likes about how much the government has spent during the past four years, it is actually the Republican presidents that spend far more. As the chart shows, only Bill Clinton spent less during the last half century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above chart also shows how unemployment claims grew during the last part of George W. Bush’s rule, only to start shrinking after President Obama’s inauguration.

When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, the nation had a large surplus and was on track to pay off the entirety of its debt, roughly $5 trillion at the time, by the end of the decade. After their election, Bush/Cheney went on a binge, charging the costs of two wars, two tax cuts, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout with no idea of how to pay for them except to accuse the next Democratic president of having an enormous deficit. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) described the Bush/Cheney era as a time when the GOP decided “it was standard practice not to pay for things.”

It’s against this backdrop that the Romney-Ryan ticket intends to pass trillions in additional tax cuts, increase defense spending, increase entitlement spending, and destroy health care reform, a move that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt. Once again the Republicans want to further bankrupt the United States.

In fact, Ryan has already contributed a grand total of $6.8 trillion to the federal debt during his time in Congress, voting for at least 65 bills that either reduced revenue or increased spending. It’s horrifying to imagine what he would do if he were give more control than he has had as one person out of 435 representatives in the House.

Aside: William Koch is facing a federal lawsuit for allegedly and illegally imprisoning and interrogating an employee. Kirby Martenson, a former executive for a number of Koch subsidiary companies, claims that he was fired, imprisoned, and interrogated for an excessive amount of time at the Old West ghost town replica that Koch built recently. Check out the entire story here.

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