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Social progress can and will be undone by fiscal conservatism, by @DavidOAtkins

Social progress can be undone by fiscal conservatism

by David Atkins

I've noted in the past the harm done by the new ecumenical neoliberalism that attempts wash away the sins of fiscal conservatism in the cleansing salve of social liberalism. I've also noted that social liberalism should be the mere baseline for Democratic politicians, and that the true test of mettle for a progressive politician must be on economic issues.

All of this is true for its own sake, as well as for the future of liberalism. A political party that serves to protect and promote the othered, the destitute and the out groups of society will engender devastating backlashes if it fails to also protect and serve the economic interests of the broad, bourgeois middle class. Conservativism will always try to tell the middle class that their interests would be strengthened by pushing down on the downtrodden. Liberalism must protect the downtrodden while informing the middle class that its interests are best strengthened by taking power away from the wealthy advantage-takers who predate on the society by rent seeking. If liberalism fails to do the latter, it cannot hope to do the former.

Case in point? The austerity-driven uptick racial violence and rightwing sentiments in Greece. Just as in the German Weimar Republican, failure to address middle-class economic concerns leads inevitably to conservative social backlash against the oppressed.

Taking away the supports of labor, social services, pension programs like Social Security, and others while pretending to do well by minority groups does little good. Fiscal conservatism cannot help but do devastating harm to social liberalism in the long run as well. Any fiscal conservative pretending to be socially liberal is either deluding themselves, or deluding the voters.


Today In Conclusion-Jumping

A whole lot of people with vastly greater access to the media than you and me are very concerned about other people jumping to recklessly speculative conclusions in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

 Glenn Greenwald via Bill Moyers:
In this conversation with Bill, The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald describes the manhunt for the perpetrators of the Boston marathon bombings as a “political event” that connects to larger questions about our culture, and explains how, in the wake of the event, people were forming opinions about the world and government based on little information.
Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:
Given all that, the habit of suspending judgment on matters of terrorism, pending a trial or a fuller airing of facts, doesn't seem like "left-liberal self parody" so much as a prudent, disciplined skepticism.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:
Please. Just stop this.

...if there's anything we've learned over the last week, it's that jumping to conclusions on this stuff is foolish. Our natural curiosity isn't a good enough reason to rush to judgment... Just wait. There's no harm in it. We'll find out soon enough.
I wholeheartedly agree and call upon everyone within the sound of this blog to, for goodness sake, please stop with the wild, reckless speculation about the awful things the government might do in the  Tsarnaev case. In Mr. Greenwald's words, "people [are] forming opinions about the world and government based on little information..." and helping to harden those opinions with rampant, fact-free spitballing about every titillatingly fascistic scenario the government might possibly engage in with no facts in-hand whatsoever is deeply irresponsible.

Of course our government does some truly dreadful things, but our government also does some genuinely fine, noble and humane things every day, and it's just so lazy and cynical to immediately assume that in the Tsarnaev case, the government will automatically take the worst and lowest road to authoritari...

What's that?

 Oh, they're not warning us about jumping to wild conclusions about all the dark and dire things our elected representatives might do?

 They're warning us:
...What we know about Tamerlan Tsarnaev is that he was (a) Muslim and (b) enraged about something. Was he enraged, a la Sayyid Qutb, about the sexual libertinism of American culture? Was he enraged about perceived American support for Russia against Chechen rebels? Was he enraged about American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was he acting on orders from a foreign terrorist group?

We don't know yet. Yes, there's plainly evidence of his growing Islamic extremism over the past three years. But if there's anything we've learned over the last week, it's that jumping to conclusions on this stuff is foolish. Our natural curiosity isn't a good enough reason to rush to judgment about Tsarnaev's motivations. Just wait. There's no harm in it. We'll find out soon enough.



Red and blue state Senators come together to stop the Chained-CPI

Red and blue state Senators come together to stop the Chained-CPI

by digby

I've got some good news for you. Some Democrats in the Senate are awake to the fact that voting for the Chained-CPI is a recipe for losing their jobs and making a mockery out of everything the Democratic Party has stood for for the last 60 years:

A resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate today expresses the sense that Congress should not use the Chained Consumer Price Index to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security or benefits to disabled veterans or their families. The resolution was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) with the support of Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D - OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D - HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“There is nothing more unfair or inappropriate than cutting benefits for seniors and veterans who have become disabled as a result of their service to our country,” said Harkin. “Adequate annual Cost of Living Adjustments are critical for the millions of Americans who rely on these benefits to make ends meet. The truth is that the way we currently calculate COLAs is already inadequate to keep up with rising medical costs. The Chained CPI would take us even further in the wrong direction by directly cutting benefits for millions of Americans. This resolution expresses our steadfast opposition to doing so.”

There are more signing on every day. So it's probably a good time to make a call to your Senators and if they've signed on, offer your thanks. If they haven't, tell them you'd really, really appreciate it if they'd sign on too. (Even Republicans. I have no doubt that making this a bipartisan resolution would be very helpful.)

This is important. Boehner can't pass this in the House with Republicans. In fact, he would need  Democrats to be in the majority. And if recent history is any guide, he absolutely needs for the Senate to pass this thing with a bipartisan majority before he can even bring it to the floor.

I didn't know if we had a hope of stopping this in the Senate but from the looks of that list --- not all liberals, by any means --- we might be able to get it done. And that will probably kill this beast.


QOTD: nameless White House official

QOTD: nameless White House official

by digby

Via Politico:

“The president has made clear that he wants to work with both sides to see if we can find a caucus of common sense to find a solution to our deficit challenges,” the official told POLITICO.

About those deficit challenges:

John Makin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, looks at the Congressional Budget Office’s projections and argues that “American fiscal austerity has been moderate and probably . . . has proceeded far enough for now.” A budget deficit that was more than 10 percent of GDP in 2009 is on track to be about half that this year. “The federal budget deficit is shrinking rapidly,” writes Jan Hatzius, the chief economist of Goldman Sachs, in an April 10 report. Goldman estimates that in the first three months of 2013 the deficit was running at 4.5 percent of GDP, and they forecast a deficit of 3 percent of GDP or less in the 2015 fiscal year. Hatzius adds that “there is still a great deal of room for the economic recovery to reduce the deficit for cyclical reasons.”
Great! Maybe we can have a bit of a breather. We've had years of hardship and it would be really great if at the very least, the government could stop with the counter-productive blood-letting and let the economy and our society heal.

Oh crap:

Makin sums it up this way: “Moving forward, it is important for the US Congress to take yes for an answer to the question of whether it has already achieved substantial deficit reduction. Perhaps by accident, Congress has in fact reduced the US budget deficit by enough to enable working at long-term fiscal reform, including the aforementioned reform of the tax and entitlement systems over the next year.”

This fight will never end. We killed the confidence fairy and bond vigilantes turned out to be phantoms. The "90% Debt to GDP" vampires are jokes. Has it changed the elite's desire to cut the meager social insurance programs and enact bogus "tax reform"? Nope. They simply refuse to cry uncle.

If I thought it was possible in any way that by "reform" they meant to make life easier for the old, the sick and the disabled (or even just didn't make things worse)it might make sense to let down our guard. But we know from the president's Grand Bargain budget that he means to cut Social Security, Medicare and medicaid (aka destroying the programs in order to save them) and his opening bid on corporate tax reform is "revenue neutral."

So, we're not out of the woods. Now that austerity has been discredited, they've decided it's good news because it means we can focus on cutting government.


The spectre of “welfare jihadists” have the right wing in a simultaneous orgasm. It’s not pretty.

The spectre of "welfare jihadists" have the right wing in a simultaneous orgasm. It's not pretty.

by digby


Fueled by a report from the conservative Boston Herald, right wing media outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, and the Washington Times, are demonizing government assistance programs by tying them to the heinous terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon. Conservative blogs used sensationalized headlines and rhetoric to make their attacks, like RedState's "Does The US Welfare System Benefit Jihadists?" and Monica Crowley's "Nice Return on Our Investment, Huh?"

On April 24, 2013, the Boston Herald published a report that claimed, "Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism."

In addition to the Drudge Report, RedState, and Monica Crowley, the story was also picked up by Fox Nation,, The Daily Caller, the New York Post, the Washington Times, and others.

Like Limbaugh:
LIMBAUGH: Now we hear that the entire Tsarnaev family was on welfare. How could he not be an Obama supporter?


So we have another great example of your tax dollars at work. Your tax money helped to pay for the explosives, as well as Tamerlan's at least two trips back to Dagestan, his late model Mercedes, his $900 shoes. No wonder this guy hated America.

If liberals were as shameless as wingnuts, they'd be screaming about how the right wing is "politicizing" the attack for their own aims. Which they are.

It's hard to understand what they think the meaning of this is. They are reporting it as a state program (obviously, since federal "welfare" has been drastically cut back.) Do they think that being on government assistance caused this guy to become a jihadist so we should get rid of all welfare programs because they make people terrorists? (At least that's original --- usually they are obsessing about "dependency.") Or would they just they just like to prohibit all Muslims from collecting government benefits just in case they might be extremist or nuts with a grievance?

It's hard to know exactly what they've extrapolated from this random fact and none of it makes much sense. So I think it's safe to assume that it's just their usual lizard brain bigotry has been activated and it's making them scream incoherently. And as usual, all their pleasure receptors are going crazy as well --- the orgasmic feeling of a wingnut being able to link "welfare" and "terrorism" is vividly on display. I'm buying brain bleach futures as we speak.


Austerian laughing stocks

Austerian laughing stocks

by digby

Pass this around to everyone you know. They'll enjoy it and they'll learn something very important:

I wish I was as sure that this idea is now a laughing matter as Weisenthal is. It's hard for me to imagine Ruth Marcus and David Brooks ever finding the idea of human sacrifice amusing. They just "know in their bones" that the social safety net is unnecessary. After all, they don't know a single person who really needs it.

And unfortunately, our political leaders don't seem to have gotten the memo either:

President Barack Obama is reaching out to Republican senators — the most receptive participants from his recent “charm-offensive” dinners — to jump-start talks to reach a “grand bargain” on entitlements, spending and taxes, according to White House and Congressional officials.Obama — fighting against steep odds to reach a big legacy deal on deficits and debts — has personally pressed Congressional leaders for another shot at reaching an agreement similar to one that fell apart during negotiations with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2011.Republicans Obama considers to be committed to another round of negotiations in good faith.

But a senior White House official told POLITICO any speculation about specific participants would be “wrong,” and refused to confirm any names because none of the potential attendees had yet been contacted or even briefed on the new process.

The official did say the group of probably no more than eight would be largely “self-selecting” — GOP senators who had previously expressed interest in a budget working group.Obama’s team has kept Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the loop, according to leadership sources, but so far the effort has been spearheaded by the West Wing.

I'm going to guess the White House feels more strongly about this than ever: the second term domestic agenda is in trouble what with sensible gun safety being sabotage by the NRA and the immigration bill in danger from the right wing terrorism pants-wetters. This may be all that's left.


Why the job creators hate progressive programs

Why the job creators hate progressive programs

by digby

The CEPR reports:

A series of earlier CEPR reports documented a substantial decline over the last three decades in the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy. This fall-off in job quality took place despite a large increase in the educational attainment and age of the workforce, as well as the productivity of the average U.S. worker. 
This report evaluates the likely impact of several policies that seek to address job quality, including universal health insurance, a universal retirement system (over and above Social Security), a large increase in college attainment, a large increase in unionization, and gender pay equity.

Guess what? Well,  it turns out that jobs in general have been getting worse over the past few decades, (although women have improved their lot while men have not, for obvious reasons.) The report does some modeling on what might make things better and I'm sure you won't be surprised to see what might help:

And not having these things?

It would appear that a whole lot government initiatives and progressive priorities would result in better jobs.

I'm going to guess we know why the "job creators" are so against it, don't we? This is the sort of thing that makes workers feel empowered. And we can't have that. The more desperate they are, the better.


On That Day The Whole Free World Will Begin to Crumble!

Some straw men are old enough to have grandchildren.

Concerned citizens, start your engines: it’s time to do something

Concerned citizens, start your engines

by digby

This is just the beginning of activity planned to protest the proposed Grand Bargain cuts. Let's hope it's not the last. This one's sponsored by Move-On:

Stop Social Security cuts petition delivery

On Thursday, April 25, as part of our "emergency mobilization to protect Social Security," we're delivering hundreds of individual petitions that MoveOn members created to protect Social Security. We'll show up at congressional offices at noon local time, deliver petitions and send a strong message: "We won't support Social Security cuts or any politician who votes for them."

Click here for more information about how to find an action in your area. I put in mine and found half a dozen of them so they're definitely happening. If there isn't one, you can put it together yourself.

This is happening tomorrow and I know that many of you work and won't be able to attend. But if you're a student and can get away, you should do it. These cuts will hit you hard in any number of ways and believe me it may not sound like much at the moment, but when you get older you'll regret not fighting harder to keep this program strong. Also too, your parents and grandparents.

If you're retired, obviously you should do this. It will affect you, regardless of what they say. The Chained-CPI will be scheduled to kick in right away. It may not make much of a difference in your checks in the near term, but before long you'll notice it. (And unlike the kids, you are very attuned to how fast time flies, amirite?)

Any of the rest of you who can get away to do this, please do it. I know it seems like a long shot that they'll get away with it, but it's extremely important to exert pressure right now and keep it up as long as this hideous offer from the president remains out there.

Keep in mind that everyone says the gun bill died at least partially because of the intensity gap --- the gun nuts just mustered more energy to defeat it. It matters.

Click here to find your local Move-On action.

Oh, and do this too, if you can.


Al Haig ‘88: For A Shinier Tomorrow

Al Haig's promises to lead America through "...crucial decade of the 1990's":


Alexander Haig understands the promise of America to each of its citizens.

Raised solely by his mother from the age of ten after his father passed away, Al Haig worked hard to see the fulfillment of the American dream. Toward the end of World War II and after a year at Notre Dame University, he moved on to West Point where he was commissioned a lieutenant in 1947.

His service as an aide in General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters early in his career and combat duty both in the Korean War and Vietnam gave Al Haig special insights into the sacrifices of armed conflict. Because of that experience, he knows the importance of maintaining the peace, through strength and enlightened diplomacy.

Al Haig has served seven American presidents in a variety of key positions vital to the nation's well-being. As a leader in the military, government, and industry, Al Haig has been sustained by the creativity, inventiveness and resourcefulness of his fellow Americans, which have bolstered his optimism about the nation's future.

He seeks for all Americans what he wishes for each of his children and grandchildren -- a nation with a healthy economy, strong defense, and high ideals born of traditional family values.

Only Al Haig can provide the energetic, experienced, and courageous leadership that can address the tough economic, social, and foreign policy questions facing each of us in the next decade. Join him in achieving a better tomorrow.

Alexander Haig -- statesman, soldier, business leader, public servant.

Through 40 years of service to his country, Al Haig has been a leader of men and women, with a solid record of executive experience and a keen insight into solving the nation's problems.

Al Haig possesses a clear vision of where our country should be moving as we head into the next century on the issues that matter most to the American people -- jobs and the economy, quality education, combating the menace of drugs and crime, preserving the social compact between government and citizens, and maintaining peace in the nuclear age.

To each of these issues, Al Haig brings a wealth of experience.

As White House Chief of Staff in two administrations, Haig brought both fiscal realism and compassion to the nation's domestic agenda, including housing, health care, drug abuse, farmers, youth, and senior citizens.

As NATO military commander, he worked closely with our European allies in strengthening that coalition of democratic states.

As President and Chief Operating Officer of one of the nation's most successful companies with met 200,000 employees, he dealt with the core issues of American industrial competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy.

As Secretary of State, Haig was a voice of strength and reason in enunciating our country's foreign policy. He advocated the need for the world community, especially the Soviet Union, to accept a code of international conduct based upon the rule of law and peaceful change rather than bloodshed, terrorism and so-called wars of liberation.

"The American people deserve and will only support a government that is compassionate toward its citizens, open in its dealings with them and guided by a deep sense of fairness for all"
-Alexander M. Haig, Jr

The cause of peace and continued economic development depends on enlightened leadership. Al Haig will bring to the nation's highest office those special qualities of Presidential leadership to move our nation into the crucial decade of the 1990's.

Al Haig believes in the promise of better times, of an even greater America. He believes we have the intent, and that we have the resources. And with the renaissance of the American spirit, we have the will.

Alexander Haig Believes In...

Leadership and discipline in managing the nation's fiscal practices and reducing the national debt. Clarity in economic planning that takes into account our commitment to free trade and relations with our trading partners in the age of the global economy.

A coalition of free nations which speaks out and acts on behalf of democratic ideals and human rights for all peoples.

A positive realism in our dealings with the Soviet Union that addresses the issues of arms control, international terrorism and so called "wars of national liberation."

A return to fundamentals in education, focusing on preparing the nation's young people for the age of high-tech to keep America's leadership in industry pre-eminent.

A commitment to family values and moral principles in addressing social issues.

Creative initiatives to encourage a partnership with private enterprise in addressing the problems of urban and rural America including housing, health care, drug abuse, and the elderly.

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