Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Yes, it was a pretty crappy year.

Our President spent the year sucking up to Wall Street again, except for a couple of days when he tried to sound like the populist he pretended to be pre-election. Bad couple of days, Barack — you got those Wall Street boys all mad at you and they started tossing all the taxpayer money you gave them at the Republicans. With a little help from the Supreme Court, they took the House, and all the ass kissing you've done since has been to no avail.

Now that long-term unemployment lasts longer than ever before — at least since it's been measured, which was roughly when the Great Depression ended — it's nice to have a new statistic that allows people to be unemployed longer than 99 weeks. It's also nice of you to remind us how the private sector keeps adding jobs, even if it's not fast enough to accommodate the young people entering the workforce, and even if the public sector is cutting jobs faster than the private sector is adding them.

Did Larry Summers and Tim Geithner remind you to cash in those municipal bonds before they default? Probably not. They don't work for you, Barack, they work for Wall Street.

Fuck bipartisanship — we really didn't need that tax cut legislation. As for "postpartisanship" — well, that best describes both major parties pole dancing for Wall Street, each hoping for a few more bucks tucked into its g-string than might be tucked into the g-string of the other.


By the way, I turn 65 in January, and I have decided to officially declare myself the very first Baby Boomer ever. It is a serious responsibility, and I intend to fulfill it by being a total pain in the ass.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Burning down health care — the "free rider" principle

By this time, everybody's heard about that incident a few months back when Tennessee firefighters stood by and watched a family's home burn down because the family had neglected to pay its $75 annual subscription fee for fire protection. As reported by the Times, this led to a bit of a dispute in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and an interesting dispute it was!

Mr. Cranick, the owner of the home, offered to pay for his subscription — which he had paid in previous years — if only the firefighters would come over and save his house, but it was too late. The fee was due when it was due, and that was that. They came to protect a fee paying neighbor's house, but Mr. Cranick was on his own.

More recently, Fourth District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled the Obamacare mandate that individuals purchase health insurance unconstitutional — an overbroad interpretation of the Commerce Clause. I am inclined to agree with Judge Hudson. I was unhappy with the mandate when it was first announced. I don't see why, for the sake of my health, I should be required to buy, for example, a gym membership; nor, for the sake of my moral health, a copy of Why Good People Do Bad Things.

The root of the problem, of course, was Obama's typical bargaining strategy — start out by giving the opposition half of what it wants, and then "compromise" by giving it most of the rest. What could be better for private health insurers than forcing young, healthy people to pay them? Since the only way to make private insurance affordable for sick people is to enroll healthy people, the mandate is the linchpin of the whole, complex, schizophrenic policy.

So let's get back to the Tennessee firefighters, who refused to "treat the uninsured." Unlike the vast majority of public hospital emergency rooms, they were allowed to do that. Because of the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), any hospital that accepts Medicare has to provide treatment to every patient, regardless of ability to pay. Offering free treatment to the uninsured guarantees free-ridership — people who take advantage of the "fares" paid by others to benefit themselves.

If the Supreme Court upholds the decision of Judge Hudson, it makes perfect sense to repeal EMTALA. Is your leg broken, otherwise healthy young man? Set it yourself, or pay the hospital, say, $17,000. Need a liver transplant, oh rugged, self-sufficient libertarian? That will be $329,ooo please.

I would hope that children whose parents failed to buy them a heavily subsidized CHIP insurance plan would receive treatment at public expense, but their parents should be charged with gross neglect, lose custody, and spend a little time in jail. I can't see why that would be unconstitutional.

Of course, the real answer is a single payer system funded through taxation. I can't see any court ruling that one need not pay taxes for goods or services one does not want. Hell, I don't want the taxes I pay to fund the war in Afghanistan, farm price supports, faith based initiatives, and scores of other things they pay for now — but I still have to pay.

The truth is, Obamacare won't put nearly as big a dent in our health care spending as is needed, even if the Supreme Court upholds the Administration's point of view. We have to start viewing health care as a public good — something government should provide for everybody — and strip the profit motive out of our health insurance.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Well, we lefties lose again

So what else is new?

Working people, to be sure, will average about a thousand bucks in reduced payroll taxes. It will be more than twice that for those up near the top of the income cap — or above — and it seems inevitable that the new Republican majority in the incoming House will try to extend the 2% discount next year. That will leave Democrats with a choice of stopping it in the Senate and looking like the Grinch who stole Christmas 2011, or helping the Republicans defund Social Security. Great compromise, Barack. Great politics. Brilliant.

Then there are the Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans will want to renew or, more likely, make permanent, just about when you come up for re-election. Why defund just Social Security when they can defund the entire "evil" government? Maybe you were too young to be paying attention in the days of "starve the beast," but I hope you have the guts to let all the cuts expire then, even if it means you won't be Our President anymore. If you honestly think you can redo the whole tax system, even if you have the full six years, you're crazy.

Anyway, the Reagan tax restructuring of 1985 — "simplification," we were told — just accelerated the transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich. I don't think you'd do any better, even if you really want to do better.

Since there's so much underutilized productive capacity these days, there's only one sensible way for businesses to use the tax incentives they're getting for new capital equipment — buying automated tools to replace workers. Isn't that exactly what we need at the moment?

Frankly, I don't give a damn about the change in the inheritance tax, but it's likely to leave a sour taste in a lot of middle class mouths. Now, of course, you're sucking up to business interests even more than before. What happened? Did a smidgen of populist rhetoric hurt their feelings?

You make me sick.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mark Madoff

Unless I've missed it, nobody's been to to Butner — the prison in North Carolina where Bernie Madoff is serving his 150 year term — to get his view on his son's suicide. I'm entirely sure that Mark Madoff's suicide was far more painful to Bernie than anything the legal system could do to him.

My heart goes out to Bernie and his wife. Yes, he was an extreme exploiter of deregulation and underregulation, but losing a son or daughter is the worst thing that ever can happen to a parent — especially if the parent knows it's his own fault.

Somebody send Bernie a dog leash. He can use it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Afghanistan, again

Now that the US has been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union was — which also makes our fumbling around there the longest war in our history — it seems like a good time for a review of what's going on over there. The Obama administration is planning to release a "December Review" shortly, but we already know what it's going to say. According to Petraeus and crew, we'll be "making good progress" — military leaders just hate losing wars, possibly more than even presidents do.

On the ground, though, all we're doing is propping up a corrupt government, lining the pockets of warlords and military contractors, and creating a great deal of misery at very great expense. We already know that whatever remains of the original Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden included, is in Pakistan — probably guests of the Haqqani Network, under the protection of Pakistan's ISI. Yes, it's a shame that so many lives had to be lost so that a pack of rich, sleazy bastards could get even richer, but that's what happened, and throwing more lives and money at an impossible situation won't bring any of them back.

Some are concerned that the Iranians will go into Afghanistan if the US pulls out "too soon." If they do, it will be a damned shame for Iran. Afghanistan is not called "the graveyard of empires" for nothing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let's talk primary

It's only a few of us talking about a primary challenge to Obama in 2012, but maybe if a few more of us engaged in the discussion, Our President just might think a bit more about his base. He thinks it was the so called "independents" who put him in office in 2008, but, really, it was his Democratic base. Democrats were the ones who went out, house to house, to persuade the politically ignorant that the dark complected guy was the candidate of "hope and change."

A lot of Democrats actually believed that. At this time, a lot of those Democrats have figured out they were wrong. Except for a few who put in a lot of work, and, hence, are dealing with a lot of cognitive dissonance, they won't be hitting the streets again in 2012.

So, a primary challenge is a distinct possibility in 2012. Unless some miracle candidate emerges from the manure heaps of the Republican stable, the prospect of Obama's re-election remains a toss-up, and a primary challenge just might persuade the President it's time to firm up his base. As for a primary challenger , there are lots of us who truly admire Dennis Kucinich, but Dennis has just been too "symbolic" for too long. Me, I like Jan Schakowsky, but I'll go with any progressive who can put real pressure on the administration.

First, I suppose, we ought to wait and see if some of Obama's current anger at liberal Democrats might be transferred over to the incoming Republican majority in the House — although that doesn't seem too likely. All the Clintonistas around him will be reminding him about how Bill won a second term by moving right after his midterm setback.

(No, Clinton did not move to the "center." He started out in what passes for the center these days and ended up working with Phil Gramm to overturn Glass-Steagle, thereby creating the financial monsters that rampaged through our economy and have been sucking us dry ever since.)

It seems to me that when unemployment is at 9.8% and the people who have jobs (outside of Wall Street) are earning less than they were two years ago, a little left-wing populism is in order. Actually, it was in order two years ago, but "Obambi," as Maureen Dowd calls him, was still trying to frolic with the predators. We can only hope, now that he's had their claws really rake across his ass, he might start listening to his fellow Democrats.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Deal!

The following is a copy of the letter I faxed to each of my Senators this morning:


Barack Obama has to be the most inept negotiator in the history of the Democratic Party. Would somebody please remind him that he is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and that he finally can stop Uncle Tomming his way to the top?

On payroll taxes: If payroll taxes are cut for a year, would anybody in his or her right mind expect Congress not to continue extending those cuts indefinitely, making Social Security less and less viable? How about permanently eliminating the tax on the first $20,000 of income, and entirely removing the upper cap on taxable income?

On the Bush tax cuts: Let them lapse! The higher tax on working and middle class people will not significantly slow the economy, and the rich will have less money to speculate on commodities, thereby holding down gasoline and food prices.

On the Estate Tax: Take no action at all, and let it revert.

On the Alternative Minimum Tax: Permanently key it to inflation, so the charade of “adjusting” it every year no longer is necessary.

On the Tax Code: It really is time to rewrite the tax code, eliminating most deductions (including mortgage interest and charitable bequests to religious institutions) and increasing the number of tax brackets to make income tax more progressive.

On extending Unemployment Insurance: Perhaps the President might try reminding the American people that it is the Republicans who are holding the poorest among us hostage to benefit their fat cat patrons.

Americans admire strength, but we haven’t seen much of that from Barack Obama. If we can’t find any strength in the administration, perhaps we can find some in the Senate. From you, perhaps?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Uncle Tom's White House

Years ago, my ex had a little black girl in her art class who wouldn't share her crayons. When asked why, she said, "Mama says don't share your crayons because they'll just take 'em and they'll still call you nigger." Mama, of course, was right.

So, our President proposed freezing all non-military (and non-legislative, of course) federal workers' salaries for two years. In exchange for what?

As far as anybody can tell, in exchange for nothing. He just pissed off some of the few people left who don't hold him in total contempt on the off chance that he might Tom his way into the good graces of a teabagger or two. Good luck, asshole, but you ought to know they'll just take your crayons and call you nigger anyway. It's a shame your Mama was a white anthropologist instead of a black factory worker. Maybe you'd know better.

In the meanwhile, it seems pretty clear that the Republicans are determined that nothing shall be allowed to improve the employment picture over the next two years. Bernanke's quantitative easing won't do anything but make it cheaper for business to buy the hardware and software that will replace human workers. Mind you, I don't think that's what he's had in mind — I think he just felt he had to do something, and since a Republican House means that fiscal stimulus no longer is remotely possible, he figured that QE2 was worth a shot. Personally, I think it could do more harm than good, but I can't fault him for making the attempt. He strongly suggested that a fiscal rather than a monetary approach was needed, but nobody was listening — including a few turncoat Democrats, among whom is a pathetic wimp who just keeps giving away his crayons.

Some people are starting to talk about a Democratic primary in 2012. Me, I'd be happy to support Jan Schakowsky, figuring that Dennis Kucinich is just a little too well known. If all it did was remind Obama that he'd better suck up to a few progressives — not just conservatives — it might be worth the trouble. Losing the presidency in 2012 would not be too big a deal if all we lost was Obama.