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The U.S. national debt has climbed to a stunning $14.3 trillion. Who are our biggest creditors?
1. Federal Reserve and intragovernmental holdings | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $5.656 trillion
The Federal Reserve’s purchase and selling of Treasurys is one way the U.S. central banking regulator helps implement monetary policy. Buy buying bonds from other banks and crediting them with cash, the Fed puts more money into the U.S. banking system – and has also built up a large store of Treasurys, having just completed a $600 billion bond buying program.
2. Investors (U.S. savings bonds and other) | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $1.404 trillion
Individual savings bonds, such as the Treasury’s Series I Savings Bonds, are a low-risk store of value that people use to protect themselves against inflation, supplement retirement incomes, give as gifts and to save for and finance their childrens’ education. The interest is taxable unless it is used to finance education, in which case the interest earnings can be excluded from Federal income tax.
3. China | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $1.16 trillion
Pedestrians walk through a commercial district in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, on Monday, July 25, 2011. China may maintain growth of about 9 percent this year, avoiding a “hard landing,” as spending on low-cost homes and developing inland provinces counter the impact of Europe’s debt crisis and monetary tightening.
4. Japan | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $882.3 billion
Like China, Japan is a major U.S. trade partner with an export-driven economy. Unlike China, Japan has a free-floating currency, though its bank has from time-to-time intervened in the foreign currency market to weaken the yen and keep exports competitive, selling yen and buying dollars as reserves
5. Pension funds | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $801.7 billion
Tax-exempt investors like pension funds typically have little reason to invest in non-taxable investments, which is one reason why many stay away from municipal bonds. Treasury bonds, however, are taxable on the federal level and may offer better yields than their tax-exempt counterparts – one major reason why many pension funds are willing to allocate at least a portion of their fixed income portfolio to Uncle Sam.
7. State and local governments | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $519.8 billion
Many states offer actively managed investment pools that their various government agencies as well as cities and counties can use to safely store their cash while earning a better return than they might get at a local bank. Not surprisingly, these portfolios are steered toward conservative fixed-income investments, with U.S. Treasury securities and other government bonds a common staple.
8. Depository institutions | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $315.7 billion
Banks often keep U.S. government debt on their books for a variety of reasons. Banks that do business with the Federal Reserve System will buy and sell Treasury bonds whenever the central banker takes action to either inject or suck money out of the U.S. economy. They are also actively used by banks as collateral in various transactions with their trading counter parties, giving them plenty of reason to keep a ready supply on their books.
9. United Kingdom | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $271.6 billion
A major ally that does lot of business with U.S.
10. Oil exporters | Estimated ownership of U.S. government debt: $211.9 billion
Countries that export a lot of oil naturally build up large reserves of dollars since petroleum is priced in U.S. dollars all around the world. Buying Treasuries gives them a way to recycle some of those dollars by sending them back to the U.S. in exchange for the safety of the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. This group includes: Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, White House official Cass Sunstein lays out how federal agencies are saving billions by removing red tape and redundancy in their programs and regulations. Sunstein said “significant burden-reducing rules” for the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Transportation will save $4 billion alone by simplifying forms and removing unnecessary regulations.
Some of the country’s best-known multinational corporations closely guard a number they don’t want anyone to know: the breakdown between their jobs here and abroad.
So secretive are these companies that they hand the figure over to government statisticians on the condition that officials will release only an aggregate number. The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.
Some of the same companies that do not report their jobs breakdown, including Apple andPfizer, are pushing lawmakers to cut their tax bills in the name of job creation in the United States.
But experts say that without details on which companies are contributing to job growth and which are not, policymakers risk flying blind as they try to jump-start the hiring of American workers.
“It’s an important piece of information that the American people should have,” said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “Should you listen to the kind of advice these companies have about how to grow the economy when their record and their model indicates they’ve cut jobs? . . . Or should we talk to people who actually do create jobs in the United States?”
As the country faces an unemployment crisis, President Obama, lawmakers and business lobbyists have all touted the country’s biggest companies as critical to creating jobs.
The head of Obama’s jobs council,General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt, said during a tour of a company plant in Greensboro, S.C., that firms should be ready to answer questions from the public.
“If you want to be an admired company, you better know, you better have accountability, and you better think through where the jobs are,” he said.
GE breaks out its employment numbers in company filings to
the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2010, about 46 percent of GE’s 287,000 employees worked in the United States, compared with 54 percent in 2000.
But many firms, including some whose executives have counseled Obama on the economy, do not put their number of U.S. workers in their annual reports.
IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano has met a number of times with the president, most recently in July at a lunch with other executives to talk about jobs and the economy. IBM stopped giving its U.S. head count in 2009.
“We just made a policy that we would only break out global head count,” said company spokesman Doug Shelton.
Data from before 2009 showed IBM rapidly shifting workers to India. Dave Finegold, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, estimates that 2009, when the company stopped sharing its U.S. employment figure, also marked the first time the company had more employees in India than the United States. Finegold based his number on reports from the media, third-party groups and former employees who have tried to track the number.
“IBM can do as it wishes, and the rest of us have to guess,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator for [email protected], a group trying to unionize IBM workers.
You won’t find Procter & Gamble’s U.S. head count in its filings, either. When initially asked for the number, company spokesman Paul Fox wrote in an e-mail: “We do not track nor report U.S.-specific jobs numbers vs. jobs overseas.” After it was pointed out that P&G’s chief executive, Bob McDonald, had cited such figures in a Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed piece, Fox acknowledged the company did track that data. The number of U.S. employees is 35,000 out of 127,000 total, or 28 percent.
Other companies that do not reveal their job breakdowns includeHewlett-Packard, AT&T, Apple and Pfizer, which stopped reporting the number in its SEC filings in 2000.
There is no law requiring companies to reveal publicly where their employees are based. Companies can choose to include the breakdown of jobs here and abroad in their SEC filings for the benefit of shareholders. But they are required by law to report the numbers to the Commerce Department, which compiles a yearly report on total employment by U.S. multinationals.
Ray Mataloni, a staff researcher at the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, said the government gets the numbers only with the agreement that it will not disclose firm-level data. “I don’t think it’s a question of companies feeling like they’re hiding dirty laundry by not giving this information out,” Mataloni said. “I don’t think they really have anything to hide, but I don’t really know the logic of why that’s something they don’t just putin their annual report.”
A few companies expressed worry about their competitors knowing too much about their operations.
Scott N. Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said it’s because of the politics. “Outsourcing has become a lightning rod, and the media coverage they’re likely to get is unfavorable,” Paul said.
For chief executives of multinational companies who are used to answering only to their shareholders, the country’s jobs crisis has uncomfortably switched the political spotlight onto their decisions about who they employ and where. It has also thrown into relief the fact that when U.S. multinationals chase profits and hire workers anywhere in the world, they become less tied to any one country, including this one.
Immelt acknowledged last month that the health of a company such as GE is now less connected to the U.S. economy, but he added that companies including GE “got carried away” with outsourcing. “I’m a GE leader first and foremost,” he said. “At the same time . . . I work for an American company.”
Felix Salmon sounds the alarm over what he believes to be “arguably the most uncertain outlook, in terms of the global political economy, since World War II ended and the era of the welfare state began… Most fundamentally, what I’m seeing as I look around the world is a massive decrease of trust in the institutions of government.”
“It looks increasingly as though we’re entering Phase 2 of the global crisis, with 2008-9 merely acting as the appetizer. In Phase 1, national and super-national treasuries and central banks managed to come to the rescue and stave off catastrophe. But in doing so, they weakened themselves to the point at which they’re unable to rise to the occasion this time round… And that failure, in turn, is only going to further weaken institutional legitimacy across the US and the world. It’s a vicious cycle, and I can’t see how we’re going to break out of it.”
Richard Posner: “If we were being honest with ourselves, we would call this a depression. That would certainly better convey both the severity of our problems, and the fact that those problems have no evident solutions.”
The Political Carnival:
Center for American Progress:
Conservatives aren’t giving up on their plans to destroy the public school system. Their weapon of choice: Vouchers that would allow parents to use public money to send their kids to private school. The result, as they well know, would be to suck money out of the already underfunded public school system and undercut the system’s ability to provide quality education. That would lead to even more students and money leaving the system, which would further worsen the situation—and so the downward spiral would go.
This conservative policy dream has a serious problem, though: The public can see where vouchers would lead, and they oppose them for that reason. In the latest version of the annual Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa education poll the public opposes “allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense” by almost 2:1 (65-34).
Chris Mooney has an amusing reply tomy piece on conservative white males(CWM) and the politics of climate. In that post, I note that CWM punch above their weight, as it were, because of their intensity and unity on the issue. I suggest that the appropriate response for climate hawks is to marshal even greater intensity and unity, in order to, you know, win. Mooney notes, however, that liberal psychology tends to be the inverse of CWM psychology, in ways that pose considerable political challenges:
… for the most part liberals-slash-environmentalists are not going to be as opinion intense or as unified as conservatives. They are going to disagree and squabble more amongst themselves. They are going to focus not on being the same as one another and being unified, but on being different and unique — disunified, and disorganized. … Just look at the spats that erupt constantly on the center and left over climate policy, and how everybody is balkanized and in a completely different camp from those who are only half a political degree away from them on a 360 degree spectrum.
I admit, I got a chuckle out of this. Anyone who’s been involved in the online discussion of climate over the last decade knows exactly what he’s talking about. Who can forget those fevered months when the differences between cap-and-trade and cap-and-dividend seemed like the most important thing in the world? (Of course, carbon tax advocates know that both are utterly bankrupt and unacceptable. And the innovation folks know that all three are ridiculously misguided. Etc.)[…]
Affluent, educated, white liberal political junkies like Mooney and me, and it’s easy to start projecting those intramural disputes onto the larger political landscape, but if you’re looking for explanations of climate’s political failure, I’d start elsewhere.
A big part of the problem is precisely that climate efforts so far have been almost entirely driven by liberal elites. It’s been an extremely intellectualized, top-down sort of undertaking, and as we saw with painful clarity during the climate bill fiasco, an elite-driven strategy isn’t going to cut it. Part of it is that, as Mooney points out, every online liberal fashions him or herself a precious snowflake. Everyone has their own perfect pony policy solution and disdains all others. A bigger part is simply that the elites devoted to the status quo have far more power, access, and money than elites devoted to change.
So what you need is a renewed left with genuine grassroots muscle, the ability to threaten politicians’ reelections, and lots of money to deploy. You need a left that is greater than the sum of its siloed constituent parts, so that climate is no longer the sole province of “the environmental movement,” gender equality no longer the sole province of “feminism,” worker welfare no longer the sole province of “labor,” etc. — some good old-fashioned solidarity.
The left used to have some of that. Why doesn’t it any more? Why does the left seem so much less than the sum of its parts these days? Obviously that’s a complicated question, but just to toss a few thoughts out:
People often seem to overemphasize arguments and ideas (as Mooney does) and underemphasize institutions, but if you ask me, the decline of the left’s power is closely connected to the decline of institutions that used to create leftists and give them a sense of common purpose. I’d put two in particular foremost among them: unions and liberal churches. It’s unions that brought people together — in the real world, not in chat rooms — and trained them to think and act as part of a political force devoted to the welfare of ordinary people against the iniquities of the rich and powerful. And it’s liberal churches that brought people together — in three-dimensional space, not on Twitter — to convince them that there is a genuine moral imperative to fight for the interests of the dispossessed and disadvantaged.
Both institutions are shadows of what they once were. And what has replaced them? What are the institutions that create and empower liberals? The only one left is academia, and that’s mostly for people like Mooney and me, not for working-class factory laborers, low-wage service employees, or marginalized populations.
In parallel with the decline of liberal institutions is the rise of neoliberalism, which emphasizes market mechanisms and post-tax wealth transfers but hasvery little to say about institutional power. (I’ll probably do a separate post on this soon.) Neoliberalism now completely dominates liberal elites, which puts them somewhat at odds with the left grassroots and the demographics for whom they’re allegedly advocating.
Anyway, again, as I said in my CWM post, it’s a mistake to abstract climate away from the larger political situation. Ultimately climate action is about overturning the status quo and defending the powerless (including future generations) against the depredations of the powerful. It’s a liberal undertaking. It relies on the strength of liberalism, in the U.S. and globally, which has proven itself frustratingly weak in recent years, particularly on economic issues (and climate is very much an economic issue). That weakness has many sources and many explanations, but I doubt the propensity of liberal climate policy wonks to squabble plays a leading role.
Another week, another food-safety crisis in China. Several news networks — Associated Press, Australian Press and Xinhua — report that 11 people have died and anywhere from 120 to 140 were sickened by contaminated vinegar. Stoking tensions further is the reason so many were poisoned at once: The victims live in a small village in far-west Xinjiang province and are ethnic Uighurs, the minority group whose desire for political independence from Beijing led to brutally suppressed riots in 2009. Uighurs are overwhelmingly Muslim, and most of the small village, about 150 people, had gathered for an iftar meal to break their Ramadan fast.
The poisoning appears to be due to ethylene glycol; the vinegar had been stored in barrels that previously contained antifreeze. According to the AP, investigators haven’t yet been able to say whether the vinegar was put in the barrels out of ignorance, making it a problem of accidental contamination, or deliberately by an unscrupulous producer seeking to cut corners.
It’s the second vinegar scandal in China this month. Two weeks ago, an official of the association that oversees vinegar production in Shanxi province claimed that 95 percent of its highly regarded “aged” vinegar is dosed with industrial acid in order to cut fermentation time and turn out batches faster.
And those are just the latest. They follow the meat that glowed in the dark; the tainted buns; the exploding watermelons; the 40 tons of bean sprouts containing antibiotics and carcinogens; the rice contaminated with heavy metals; the mushrooms imbued with bleach; and the pork so dosed with banned stimulants that athletes attending an international meet in Shanghai had to be told which restaurants were safe to eat at.
Three years after the melamine-in-milk scandal that made 300,000 children sick, and two years after China passed its first-ever food safety law in response, the country is still struggling to keep its food supply healthy. The Chinese government recently cracked down, closing almost 5,000 food-producing businesses and arresting 2,000 people — but China experts say a needlessly complex bureaucracy and ferocious determination to turn a profit mean the contamination will keep coming. (On forums where expats chat, Westerners living in China wonder whether there is anything safe to eat.)
It’s tempting to view these Chinese food scandals as interesting but remote, the learning curve of a society that pushes unfettered capitalism but never experienced the kind ofprogressive movement that led to food-safety reform in the United States. Except for one small detail: Chinese products don’t stay in China. They are traded around the world, and increasingly they are sold here.
The permeability of the US marketplace to Chinese goods of uncertain origin should have been clear in 2007, when melamine contamination was found not only in milk sold in China but in pet food sold in the US. (Up to 4,000 pets are believed to have died.)
But a report published in June by the Food and Drug Administration makes it clear that imports from China are increasing in the US — and that the FDA is underfunded and under-equipped to deal with it. The unusual “special report,” called Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality, said imports include:
10-15 percent of all food eaten in US households
60 percent of fruits and vegetables
80 percent of seafood
50 percent of medical devices
80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications.
China is the major player in that market growth, with India a close second:
Import lines from emerging markets, including Mexico, India, China, and Thailand, increased faster between 2002 and 2009 than lines from developed markets, and this disparity is likely to continue. China and India are each expected to see a more than 400% increase in their product exports between now and 2020, with China accounting for nearly 20% of all global product exports by that time… China and India are each expected to see 9% annual growth in food exports between 2010 and 2020.
And with surprising frankness, the FDA admitted that it cannot keep up:
FDA does not—nor will it—have the resources to adequately keep pace with the pressures of globalization. In 2008 the Government Accountability Office recommended that FDA increase inspections of foreign drug establishments and improve information it receives to manage overseas inspections. But at current rates, it would take an estimated nine years for FDA to inspect every high- priority pharmaceutical facility just once.
The same holds for food products. [The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act] directs the agency to inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities within the next year and double those inspections every year for the next five. While the goal may be attainable in the first year, it would be impossible for FDA to complete 19,200 foreign food inspections in year six without a substantial increase in resources or a complete overhaul in the way it operates.
(Just to be clear, the FDA is not getting “a substantial increase in resources.” As Food Safety News reported after the budget deal was struck, the agency initially faced deep cuts and now at best will have flat funding.)
The FDA isn’t alone in thinking it isn’t up to the job of policing imported food. The Office of the Inspector General in its parent department, Health and Human Services, said in June that the agency is performing erratically in policing recalls of imported foods. In April, the Government Accountability Office said that, even given its limited resources, the FDA needs to do a better job policing imported seafood specifically.
China, the GAO report said,is the largest single supplier of seafood imported to the US. But in the past 6 years, the FDA has inspected 41 — 1.5 percent — of the 2,744 Chinese seafood processors selling to the US.
Despite a rash of food-related illnesses this summer, the agency charged with monitoring food safety, the Food and Drug Administration, is critically short on funds. The New York Timesreports that despite the FDA’s recently expanded mission and broad regulation responsibilities, Washington budget-slashing has left the agency over-extended and without the resources to implement news laws mandated by Congress.
The call came in the morning to the lawyer representing Manuel Guerra, an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in Florida who had been caught in a tortuous and seemingly failing five-year court fight against deportation.
With the news early Thursday that federal immigrationauthorities had canceled his deportation, Mr. Guerra became one of the first illegal immigrants in the country to see results from a policy the Obama administration unveiled in Washington that day. It could lead to the suspension in coming months of deportation proceedings against tens of thousands of immigrants.
Administration officials and immigrant advocates said Monday that the plan offered the first real possibility since President Obama took office — promising immigrants and Latinos he would overhaul the law to bring illegal immigrants into the system — for large numbers of those immigrants to be spared from detention and deportation.
For Mr. Guerra, who said he wants to remain in the United States to study to become a Roman Catholic priest, the news “was like something from above, from heaven. I don’t want to go back to Mexico,” he said, “and I’ve been fighting this for five years.”
A working group from the Homeland Security and Justice Departments met Friday to initiate a review of about 300,000 deportation cases currently before the immigration courts. Under the policy, immigration authorities will use powers of prosecutorial discretion in existing law to suspend the deportations of most immigrants who, although they have committed immigration violations (which generally are civil offenses), have not been convicted of crimes.
In particular, officials will look to halt deportations of longtime residents with clean police records who came here illegally when they were children, or are close family of military service members, or are parents or spouses of American citizens.
“This is a great first step,” said Hector E. Sanchez, a Hispanic labor leader who oversees immigration policy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of the country’s major Latino groups. “We really need to see action on a common-sense approach to immigration and not just promises.”
Mr. Obama had been facing increasingly vocal protests from disappointed Latino and immigrant groups after he made no progress in Congress on his immigration overhaul agenda, and enforcement authorities set a modern record for deportations, with nearly 800,000 foreigners removed in the past two years.
Homeland Security officials said Monday that their goal is to quickly identify noncriminals on swollen immigration court dockets and close those cases, clearing the way for speedier removals of gang members, drug traffickers or foreigners who repeatedly return after being deported. Wait times for a hearing in immigration courts can now be as long as 18 months.
A senior Homeland Security official said that deportations would be canceled case by case. While many immigrants in those cases will be eligible for work permits, he said, employment authorization will come only after a separate process.
The immigrants will remain in a sort of legal limbo, not vulnerable to deportation but with no positive immigration status, which can be conferred only by Congress.
But White House officials and Congressional Democrats said they expected the measures would lead to relief during the coming year for virtually all young illegal immigrants facing deportation who might have won legal status under a bill called the Dream Act. A proposal to benefit illegal immigrant high school graduates who came to the country before they were 16, it failed in the Senate last year.
Mr. Guerra, now 27 and living in Indiantown, Fla., is one of those immigrants. He said he came to this country to escape a violent gang in Mexico. His lawyer, Richard A. Hujber, said Mr. Guerra’s efforts to straighten out his legal status went wrong because they were originally mishandled by an accountant claiming falsely to be a lawyer.
The administration’s announcement also had an immediate impact on a case in Denver, where an immigration judge on Friday postponed the deportation of Sujey Pando, a lesbian from Mexico legally married in Iowa to an American from Colorado, Violeta Pando. Although federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages, administration officials said they would consider same-sex spouses as “family” in their review of deportation cases. […]
“This is the Barack Obama I have been waiting for, that Latino and immigrant voters helped put in office to fight for sensible immigration policies,” said Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, a Latino leader on immigration issues who has been arrested twice in protests in front of the White House.
However, the announcement appeared to signal an end to efforts by the White House to court some of its Republican opponents, with administration officials acknowledging those efforts have failed and there is little chance for broad immigration legislation to pass before elections next year.
Republican leaders reacted to Mr. Obama’s new policy by stepping up their rejection of his approach. Representative Peter T. King of New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said the president was making “a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country,” which he called “totally unacceptable.”
[…] But, nonetheless it isn’t a major disaster and doesn’t require that the president rush back to Washington and man the FEMA response. And yet the wingnuts are already out in force:
Jim Hoft:The Gateway Pundit.
A 5.8 quake hit Washington DC this afternoon.
The Obama family was biking this afternoon.
Such economy of phrasing. Such powerful, direct language. Hemingway would have been jealous.
He also quotes a commenter:
To bad that all, ALL the liberals weren’t in that tunnel going out into Virginia from the Capital and our representatives buildings, and it caved in taking them all out! Then that way the largest majority in Washington would be the conservative Republican’s. Then when Obama came back from Martha’s Vineyard he’d have no one to support his crazy ideas that are destroying this nation. You know that Obama is good friends with Maurice Strong who thinks he runs the world with all his bogus organizations and even more bogus NGO’s. Our conservative Republican’s could defund all the U.N. agreements where we don’t know where the money goes. America could begin returning back to where it ought to be. And if all the liberals were dead, Obama couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it. I would like to see him in a situation like that, and I would like to see America in a situation like that, where we would have a small conservative government that got the things done that it is supposed to do and that’s all.
It’s very hard to keep up with the right wing conspiracies these days. And with all I’ve read, I hadn’t heard that Maurice Strong was the root of all evil. But apparently, he is:
As recently as 2006, speaking from an air conditioned boardroom somewhere in Communist China, Maurice Strong—the same man who would deny air conditioning for you to save the environment—was hatching his latest anti-American initiative.
“Having cashed in his Kyoto credits and having launched his ManyOne Internet project from afar, Strong is back on the international scene, ready or not. With his latest comeback, the elusive Strong is stepping back into the limelight after his alleged links to the UN Oil-forFood scandal took him off the radar screen for more than a year. This comeback sees Strong teaming up in the biz world with George Soros. The deadly duo aims to flood the American market with cheap Chinese-made cars.“Strong’s public predictions that China would replace the United States, as world superpower is not happening fast enough. So Strong and President George W. Bush malcontent George Soros are contemplating pouring hundreds of millions into a Communist China automaker that manufactures the “Chery”.”
So Strong and Soros were working on anti-American schemes as far back as 2006.
They had hoped to decimate Ford, Chrysler and GM by flooding the U.S. market with cheapo Cherys on a 2007 deadline.
Well, we now know what happened to the American auto industry in 2009.
But it doesn’t even begin or stop there.
Maurice Strong has almost as much impact on average Americans as the air that they breathe.
All that President Barack Obama is doing to transform America and the Free World over to One World Government begins and ends with one Maurice Strong. Soros is merely the financier.
And if only all the liberals had been killed in the earthquake, this evil genius could have been stopped.
By the way, you won’t be surprised to learn that the Maurice Strong conspiracy was unraveled by Glenn Beck.
A growing chorus of Republicans are questioning the wisdom of Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy of maintaining a lower profile and being less effervescent than the former Massachusetts governor had been in his 2008 campaign.
Romney’s effort to set a more lax pace in launching the Republican presidential cycle, and his deliberate game plan of picking and choosing his public availabilities, left the door open to other Republicans — namely, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — to enter the race and wage a credible challenge to Romney.
If Romney had been more aggressive, some Republicans say, he might have discouraged Perry and dispelled the continuous murmurs of additional candidates who might enter the race.
“Maybe it will work, but I’ve never thought you win the presidency by being cautious,” said veteran GOP strategist Mark McKinnon. “Given all the challenges we face today, people today want bold leadership more than ever. Playing prevent defense may keep the opponents from scoring much, but it doesn’t do much to excite the crowd.”
“I’ve always been a great admirer of his. But he’s really made, sadly, a limited effort in South Carolina,” said South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R), who had supported former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R) presidential bid. “He really has been absent.”
The campaign’s logic has been transparent from the outset: it has always believed that by setting a later start day and by having a more relaxed schedule, it would minimize public fatigue of Romney, and limit the rate at which the staff would burn through its fundraising, allowing Romney to stockpile cash instead.
AP: GOP using redistricting to shore up House majority
The odds of getting re-elected have gotten better for Rep. Renee Ellmers and other Republican freshmen in the House – thanks to GOP calculations in redrawing congressional maps. […]
The GOP is capitalizing on its across-the-board control in 26 states – governorship plus legislature – in the census-based drawing of a new political map that will be a decisive factor in the 2012 elections and beyond.
“Republican freshmen are finding the ground harden beneath them as their current swing districts become less competitive for Democrats,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee. “Even seemingly small changes in district political leanings can mean big returns at the ballot box.”
Nearly half of the states have finished redrawing House lines based on population changes, although lawsuits and Justice Department reviews loom. The immediate post-election claims that the GOP could add 15 to 30 seats in the U.S. House through redistricting have proven unfounded, in large part because Republicans captured so many seats last November. Instead, the GOP has used the redistricting process to shore up its most vulnerable lawmakers, people like Ellmers and Farenthold.
“Redistricting starts with Republicans at a peak,” said Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “They hold a solid majority of seats in the House. It’s hard to gain much more.”
In the last election, Republicans took control of the governorships and legislatures in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. That grip on power is reflected in the latest congressional lines. The GOP improved the political landscape for freshman Rep. Todd Young in southern Indiana, for example. And two of Michigan’s newest members, Dan Benishek in the north and Tim Walberg in the south, got a boost, as did Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, who’s also running for president. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan and Sean Duffy also are looking at districts with more Republicans.
Republican optimism aside, Democrats are making the most of their opportunities. They’ve drawn favorable district lines in Illinois. And they’re hoping several political realities will help the party pick up the 25 net seats needed to recapture the House. Next year is a presidential election year, with the promise of higher turnout and an electorate with a greater number of Democratic-leaning younger voters and Hispanics. President Barack Obama will head the party ticket against a still to-be-determined Republican, who could either win over independents or send them running toward the Democrats.
Candidate recruitment and financial resources also will be factors in 2012.
Want a textbook example of Washington spin at its fiercest? Check out this press release from House Speaker John Boehner’s office this week, proclaiming: “Majority of economists say spending cuts needed to reduce deficit, not tax hikes.”
Punchy headline. Convenient harmony with Republicans’ anti-tax message. Also, not true.
In fact, the survey of economists in question suggests something quite different: A wide majority of respondents believe the federal government should reduce its budget deficit with a combination of spending cuts and, at least in small part, tax increases.
Only 12 percent said the deficit should be reduced “only with spending cuts.”
The results come from a semiannual poll of the members of the National Association of Business Economists, a group of working economists from companies and trade groups; the committee overseeing the survey includes economists for the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and DuPont.
The survey, which was taken in late July and early August, asked respondents how Congress should attempt to reduce the budget deficit. A 44 percent plurality answered “mostly with spending cuts.” Just over 37 percent said “equally with spending cuts and tax increases.”
“Only with spending cuts” came in third, at 12 percent, followed by “mostly with tax increases” (nearly 6 percent) and “only with tax increases” (1 percent).
So, in total, nearly 88 percent of working business economists disagreed with the House GOP mantra that, as Boehner’s office put it in Monday’s press release, “spending cuts are the key to reducing the federal deficit – not job-crushing tax hikes.”
NABE made that clear in its press release announcing the survey on Monday. It was headlined “NABE economists concerned about rising deficits, favor a ‘balanced’ approach that mixes spending cuts with revenue increases.”
The press release from Boehner’s office even quotes directly – and links to – an Associated Press story that reads: “The majority of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics believe that the federal deficit should be reduced only or primarily through spending cuts.”
The key words in that sentence are “or primarily.”
It’s interesting that Boehner’s office calls attention to the NABE survey, because aside from the tax increase question, it included several other instances where economists broke overwhelmingly against the major economic talking points of congressional Republican leaders.
Three-quarters of respondents bucked the GOP’s widespread insistence that any major revamp of the tax code should not result in more money flowing into the U.S. Treasury. Half of respondents said tax reform should slightly increase revenues. A quarter said it should significantly increase them. A quarter said reform should reduce revenues or hold them neutral.
Later, the survey asked: “Is the current regulatory environment good or bad for American businesses and the overall economy?” On this point, congressional Republicans are clear: Government regulation, they say, is hurting growth and hiring.
NABE economists were clear, too: More than 80 percent of respondents said today’s regulatory environment is good for the economy.
None of those results made Boehner’s press release.
Jonathan Chait, The New Republic:
Greg Sargent wants to know more about Rick Perry’s hatred for the 16th Amendment, which allows the federal income tax:
In [his book], Perry declares that the 16th Amendment represents “the great milestone on the road to serfdom” because it represented “the birth of wealth redistribution in the United States.”
Perry clearly states that “we should restrict the unlimited source of revenue that the federal government has used to grow beyond its constitutionally prescribed powers.” How? Here’s what Perry suggests, in addition to scrapping the current tax code:
“Another option would be to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution (providing the power for the income tax) altogether, and then pursue an alternative model of taxation such as a national sales tax or the Fair Tax.”
Perry, of course, wants to devolve virtually all the functions of the federal government to the state level. That would, among other things, result in a far more regressive tax code. Consider the Texas tax system:
Texas relies heavily on its sales tax, through which poorer families pay a larger share of their income, though the state does exempt groceries, medications and some other items.
The poorest 20% of Texans paid an average of 6% of their income in sales tax, while the top fifth—households with an income of roughly more than $126,000—paid 1.3%, according to an analysis from the office of the Texas Comptroller, the independently elected steward of the state’s finances.
Perry’s hatred of redistribution puts him perfectly in step with the current Republican Party, for whom opposition to the (downward) redistribution of wealth is the lodestar.
rootless_e, The People’s View:
In 1967, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a hugely successful political organization – with chapters in even some of the most conservative universities and a key role in a multi-racial diverse movement against the Vietnam war that united pacifists and veterans, labor unions, civil rights organizers, students, and teachers. Within two years the SDS had ceased to exist except as an often violent debate among tiny, widely hated, Marxist factions. Critics at the time said these groups had adopted the political program of Fight the People because of their attacks on everyone who didn’t sign up to their “revolutionary” ideology – almost everyone in America. Bill Ayers (yes that same one) told a meeting of the Weather Underground (WU) faction in 1969 that Fight the People was a good strategy, that polarization would clarify the ideological differences between real revolutionaries and unprincipled compromising middle class reformers. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the multi-racial diverse movement that elected a Democratic House in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008 is now under siege by our own era’s purists and jargon theorists. One of the founders of the Weather Underground looked back in 2009 and wrote:
By allowing our frustration and revolutionary airs to trump our political common sense, we disowned one of the ’60s-era organizers’ greatest contributions to leftist politics—the revival of what has been termed the “organizing tradition.” This was the tradition, focused on long-term change and bottom-up politics that animated the Civil Rights, Black Freedom, Women’s Liberation and antiwar movements. This organizing tradition, which the WU abandoned, has a developmental, long-haul perspective and an emphasis on building relationships that endure.[..] This conception of organizing goes beyond mobilizing, disdains vanguardism, requires patience and emphasizes the centrality of building new leadership. The organizing tradition was most fully embodied in the practice of early Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers, but also revivified in Women’s Liberation groups and even some SDS chapters. Out of sheer impatience and an inflated sense of vanguardism, the WU rejected this empowering tradition.
“Fight the people” has never gone out of style and “compromise” and “coalition”, not to mention “organizing” are still dirty words among people who think that they can lay down opinions that must be obeyed simply, well – because. Because much of this is not about theories of how the world works, but about theories of who gets to be in charge. That’s why we see the self-proclaimed revolutionary Marxist Cornel West nominate the free-trade champion Paul Krugman as his choice of who the President should have picked to advise on economics. For those who see themselves as the ideological leaders, the most important thing is who gets to pick the adviser, more than what is advised. That’s why “access” is so often brought up as a criticism of President Obama – he’s failing to accept his role as an obedient pupil of the ideological masters ofimpatience. Fortunately for us, the far right is in the grips of its own “vanguardism” – it is not for nothing that Right Wing Leader and Super Lobbyist Grover Norquist has a bust of Lenin in his office. As it becomes heresy on the right to dissent from the party line even when scienceproves otherwise or out of basic human decency the coalition that was built on the right fractures and we have a chance to build a coalition of Americans who want to live in a more humane, more prosperous, more democratic society where all people have opportunity. We have a chance to unite a majority of Americans around a very old political program that goes like this:
Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow.
Oligarchs, Plutocrats and Neoliberals
The magic words of the zombie left are about exclusion. We’re supposed to dislike and distrust our neighbors who don’t fully sign up to the left’s agenda. The big three keywords – oligarchs, plutocrats, and neoliberal – define us versus them. I can give you examples of each of people who fit each of these definitions, who are not simply “the enemy” despite differences. Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of General Electric is a definitely an oligarch. He’s been responsible for a lot of terrible things: GE pays no taxes, it has shipped tens or even hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas, and GE Capital is a symptom of how corporate America went from making things to playing around with finance. But since 2008, Immelt has had a change of heart – or at least of strategy about outsourcing and the value of making things. There’s noneed to get dewy eyed about it – Immelt is not anywhere near ready to make GE a responsible member of society, but Immelt is part of a coalition of people who want to see US manufacturing recover, something that will bring good jobs back to the US. I don’t need to agree with him on anything else to welcome his efforts – efforts that will bring other people into our coalition. Same with “plutocrat”. Barton Biggs is like a plutocrat character out of a cartoon – down to his name ( does he have a friend named Richie Rich, I wonder?). He’s a hedge fund manager, born rich, grossly wealthy, a guy whose whole career has been profiting from financial hocus-pocus and helping other grossly rich people get even more grossly rich. He thinks Ayn Rand was a genius and if you read his book you learn how down and out it is to ride commercial planes instead of at least a Gulf-Stream on a Net-Jets contract. But Biggs dismissed Bush’s social-security “privatization” as a scam and has now strongly come out in support of increasing taxes on the wealthy, closing corporate tax loopholes, and making a huge publicinvestment in fixing our infrastructure. Many Republicans and Independents who are reluctant to abandon long-held beliefs and be convinced by what the President says are finding it harder to reject the same message when Biggs brings it to them. The same goes for Larry Summers, the “neoliberal” that the left loves to hate. Summers is famous for being an arrogant jerk. He supported policiesduring the Clinton administration that I think were terrible – but since 2000, Summers has been calling wealth-inequality the number one problem in the US economy. Summers identifies failure to ensure shared prosperity as a threat to the social contract. For the left, it is sacrilege not to hiss when Summers name is mentioned – but Summers is impossible to dismiss for the people who run economics departments and business schools and who are teaching the next generation of managers. When Summers says that the orthodox economic theory fails to help assure minimal fairness it has an impact on a world that is not going to listen to Al Sharpton (although they should).
Max Sawicky, who is despite it all a pretty decent economist, told me on twitter that the President needs to explain what must be done and then “hammer” the Republicans for not doing it. How many times have we heard that “Obama must” take a path of confrontation. That’s the counsel of impatience and vanguardism, not the counsel of organizing and democracy. Forty years of right wing organizing and media control have convinced many Americans that the policies of the New Deal were harmful to prosperity and freedom. And thirty years of shouting from the left have only served to reinforce that belief. If we are going to change America, we can’t “hammer” our way there- we have to organize, and organizing means respecting coalitions, respecting difference, listening as well as talking, and embracing inclusion. The New Deal was not a perfect solution to America’s social problems and the cut-and-paste programs of the “Left” are not either. Despite the complaints from the left, being pragmatic about means, being willing to listen, does not make someone unprincipled. And being dogmatic and ideologically purist doesn’t make someone principled or effective – except possibly at self-promotion.
Paging Grover Norquist: Over the weekend, the Associated Press published a much-discussed piece arguing that by the GOP’s own lights, Republican opposition to Obama’s demand for a payroll tax cut extension constitutes support for a tax hike:
Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different “temporary” tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.
The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a “payroll tax” on practically every dime they earn.
There are other differences as well, and Republicans say their stand is consistent with their goal of long-term tax policies that will spur employment and lend greater certainty to the economy.
“It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”
So according to Hensarling, it would be a “net positive” to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn — which is what a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut would do. Yet Republicans seem to oppose the temporary extension anyway, on the grounds that permanent tax cuts are necessary and better policy.
Which prompted a question from Chuck Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon: “Surely @GroverNorquist wld say that letting President’s payroll tax cut lapse is a violation of ATR pledge, right?”
It’s a fair question. Virtually every Republican in Congress has signed Norquist’s and Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge not to raise taxes. What’s more, even Norquist himself has referred to the refusal to extend temporary tax cuts as a tax hike — and a violation of the pledge. Recall that back when there was some controversy over whether Norquist had let slip that not extending the Bush tax cuts would not violate his pledge, Norquist clarified that failure to extend them absolutely would violate it:
Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people.
In other words, in the eyes of the fearsome Norquist and his Almighty Pledge, even a failure to extend tax cuts temporarily amounts to a tax increase.
I’ve asked a spokesman for Norquist where he stands on GOP opposition to the payroll tax cut extension, and I’ll update you when I get a response.
[…] On Monday, former congressman Chris Shays (R) announced he would run for an open seat in Connecticut in 2012, while Reps. Jason Chaffetz(R-Utah) and Allen B. West (R-Fla.) both announced they would not run.
Those three decisions came just days after former Obama administration adviser Elizabeth Warren announced that she wasforming an exploratory committeeto face Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), possibly giving Democrats their first top-tier challenger in that race.
The four decisions are all major announcements in key Senate races that could go a long way toward determining the balance of power in the chamber after the 2012 election.
Republicans need to gain four seats to win control of the chamber — a very attainable goal given that 23 of the 33 seats up for election are currently under Democratic control.
The GOP is currently favored by many experts to take Democratic seats in North Dakota and Nebraska. Beyond that, there are seats in 10 or 12 states that are in play. The high stakes involved will make 2012 the fourth straight election cycle in which enough seats are in play to potentially switch control of the majority.
The biggest surprise on Monday is not likely to affect the balance of power, however: It came from Chaffetz, a two-term House member who was expected to challenge incumbent Sen. Orrin G. Hatch for the nomination. Polling has shown Hatch with serious vulnerabilities to a more conservative challenger like Chaffetz, but the congressman said he is more interested in enlarging his role and growing his profile in the House. […]
Like Chaffetz, conservatives and tea party supporters looked to West as a potential hero in the increasingly crowded GOP primary to face Sen.Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
But West, after announcing last week that he wouldn’t rule out a Senate run, said Monday that he was again closing the door on the idea. The freshman — one of two black Republicans in the freshman class — said he wanted to remain in the House.
Shays, meanwhile, will attempt to resurrect his political career, which ended with a 2008 reelection loss in a Democratic-leaning district that he had represented for two decades.
He is likely to face a primary with former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon, who was the GOP nominee for another open seat in Connecticut last year.
Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, which belongs currently to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is retiring. But Shays’s entry provides Republicans with an interesting choice.
Just as in 2010, McMahon is likely to face a more moderate Republican who may be a better fit for the state’s Democratic-leaning politics. Last year McMahon vastly outspent her moderate opponent, former congressman Rob Simmons, and rallied the support of the establishment as she won the primary.
The party establishment again looks as though it may face a choice between a candidate whose politics fit the state and one who has tens of millions of dollars to spend on the race.
There is some precedent in recent years for a moderate Republican winning in the Northeast, with Brown’s special election victory early last year serving as the best example. Warren’s possible entry into the race, though, means he will likely have to fight for a full term next November.
“Twelve states constitute the likely battlegrounds for the 2012 election, based on Gallup’s state-by-state ratings of President Obama’s approval level. The ratings, which aggregate Gallup polling done from January through June, came out just as Gallup was releasing its latest tracking poll showing Obama’s approval nationwide at 39 percent, the lowest in his presidency. If Obama’s national approval remains stuck at that level – or even in the low 40s – then state-by-state assessments probably won’t matter much. Historically, presidents don’t win re-election with that sort of approval rating. But assuming Obama can move his national numbers back upward, then the 16 states plus the District of Columbia in which he had approval of 50 percent or better this spring can reasonably be considered his electoral base. They have 215 electoral votes.” [LA Times]
When disaster strikes, the online commentariate…shows the worst of itself. Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft has already made the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast a dumb partisan issue, writing:
A 5.8 quake hit Washington DC this afternoon.
The Obama family was biking.
Judging by the comments below Hoft’s post and the buzz he’s getting on some big aggregators, apparently there’s an audience for this. Hoft, too, seems to have an acute preoccupation with the fairly limited amounts of leisure time Obama takes, particularly when bad things happen that the president didn’t cause and can’t control. He attacked Obama last year for playing golf while oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Which it did for months.
But any disaster, it seems, is an opportunity for cheap commentary. I’m a little surprised that Glenn Beck hasn’t already speculated that God is punishing Obama for raising the debt ceiling, or something.
Hoft’s jab, anyway, magnifies two of the worst problems with political debate in America. First is pundits’ tendency to make literally everything into a partisan matter. If people are reading about it, they need to read about how the other guy is somehow implicated. Second is that, so often, the president’s critics — on left and right — commentate as though Obama has some sort of magic button available for use at his sole discretion that can fix the economy, lower gas prices, instantly vaporize Moammar Gaddafi, rig congressional votes and, perhaps, prevent earthquakes — if only the president weren’t too busy doing other things to use it! Hoft’s latest post is, sadly, only the most ridiculous play on this logic, which Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and others have also recently exploited.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt