Friday, March 4, 2011

Filmmaker Charles Ferguson Interviewed by Katie Couric Of CBS News


This is a very important extended interview conducted by Katie Couric of CBS News with Charles Ferguson, director of the critically acclaimed and Oscar winning documentary 'Inside Job' which deals with the massive criminal fraud and gigantic Ponzi schemes instituted and carried out by huge "too big to fail" Wall Street investment banks and the resulting meltdown of the American financial system in September 2008 which put the U.S. on the very brink of a complete and total economic collapse before its failing mega corporate institutions were bailed out by American taxpayers to the tune of an outrageous 800 BILLION dollar ransom. Ferguson fully documents in great detail exactly how and why both the Bush and Obama administrations were and are directly responsible for essentially covering up for as well as aiding and abetting the Wall Street debacle directly via Bush and Obama Secretaries of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner as well as Obama's former major economic advisor in the White House Larry Summers (who left the White House in September 2010 to return to teaching at Harvard) who was not coincidentally also Bill Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury in the mid 1990s (I know--it's a very slimy and INCESTUOUS group of in-house government 'fixers', isn't it?)...For the Katie Couric CBS interview with Ferguson watch the video below:

And for further information on how investment banks and corporations on Wall Street continue to steal our money click on this link:


By Charles Ferguson
Director of the Wall Street documentary 'Inside Job'
Posted: November 12, 2010
Huffington Post

The Financial Crisis and America's Political Duopoly

What unites the midterm election results, the Federal Reserve's decision to spend another $600 billion to keep interest rates down, the failure to address the foreclosure crisis, and America's worsening relations with its G-20 partners? And, more generally, what explains the Obama Administration's toothless response to the financial crisis, in particular its reversion to status quo regulatory and economic policies, over the past two years?

In making my documentary on the financial crisis, Inside Job, I obsessed over these questions. Some argue that President Obama, as a matter of individual personality, is averse to confrontation; others say that, lacking financial experience while being forced to confront the most severe crisis since the Great Depression, he was hostage to his campaign advisers, who happened to be Clinton-era insiders who had helped cause the crisis. Gradually, however, I have come to a different conclusion, one based on a more fundamental, structural problem in American politics.

My answer is this: far from being in an era of brutal partisan warfare, as conventional wisdom holds and as watching the nightly television news might suggest, the United States is now in the grip of a political duopoly in which both parties are thoroughly complicit. They play a game: they agree to fight viciously over certain things to retain the allegiance of their respective bases, while agreeing not to fight about anything that seriously endangers the privileges of America's new financial elites. Whether this duopoly will endure, and what to do about it, are perhaps the most important questions facing Americans. The current arrangement all but guarantees the continuing decline of the United States as a nation, and of the welfare of the bottom 90% of its citizens.

First, consider Obama Administration policy. The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates down, which greatly enriches the financial services industry. And while, to its rare credit, the Obama Administration has sought to repeal some of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, it has avoided any serious attempt to tax or control financial sector compensation, to recover any of the massive amounts taken by bankers during the bubble, to penalize or prosecute those who caused it, or to reverse the extraordinary rise in inequality that has transformed America over the last generation. The Republicans go even further in catering to the wealthy and the financial sector, but the differences are relatively minor.

The financial services industry and the most successful American multinational firms now obtain rapidly increasing fractions, often already the majority, of their investment, employees, and revenues from (a) other wealthy individuals and corporations and/or (b) outside the United States. Over the last two decades their political interests, contributions, and lobbying have gradually followed these larger trends. As a result, the political duopoly has overseen a massive disinvestment in the future of the United States and the American people, and a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% of the population to the top 1%. Taxes on dividends, high incomes, capital gains, and estates have sharply declined, while tuition at public universities, hours worked per family, household debt, and government deficits have all increased.

And yet there is, obviously, real political fighting out there. Of what, therefore, do these vicious partisan fights consist? The two parties and their supporters attack each other on vague ideological grounds (big government, being a Washington insider, socialism, whatever), issues of personnel and power (holding up Obama appointments, redistricting, earmarks), or, more excitingly, with regard to social values issues dear to their bases: abortion; gay rights; don't ask - don't tell; sex education versus religion in schools; guaranteed-health-insurance-as-socialism; gun control; welfare; global warming. On these issues, each side can credibly tell its base that defeat would mean real losses. People do care about abortion and gay rights, for excellent reasons, and so many people on both sides grudgingly continue to participate in the charade.

The losers, of course, are the American people, and particularly America's younger generation. For at least the bottom half of the population, America's educational system is a disaster, with our high school graduation rate at 78 percent and declining (versus, for example, 96 percent for South Korea and over 90 percent for most developed nations); broadband infrastructure generally rated at about 20th in the world; and gradually deteriorating physical infrastructure. Quietly, as inequality has grown and the financial sector rose to political power, the wealthy in America have constructed increasingly separate, parallel, and private infrastructure systems for themselves - elite private schools and universities, gated communities, private planes, the hedge fund universe.

The political duopoly arrangement, with its emphasis on intense fighting over values issues, serves to divert attention from the financial sector's "quiet coup," to use the economist Simon Johnson's phrase, and to divide potential opposition to it. People who should be aligned in calling for fairer taxes, campaign finance reform, stricter financial regulation, better public education, and investment in America's infrastructure are instead divided by their opposing views on gun control, abortion, and gay marriage. It is a strategy that has worked remarkably well for both parties.

Even so, the American people have begun to sense that the system is rigged, and the recent election results are partially a consequence of this. Fewer people are voting, more people are registering as independents, and voters are more willing to switch parties. Of course, as long as the duopoly holds, there is very little that they can do. The big question is: can it hold?

Forming third parties and social movements in this kind of situation is difficult. The financial sector and the wealthiest 0.1% of the country have the twin advantages of great wealth and great cohesion. America's election districts, campaign finance arrangements, and voting rules discourage populist third parties whose base would be dispersed and, individually, not at all wealthy. At the same time, however, there are many precedents in American history for such a rebellion - the Progressive movement, FDR's post-Depression reforms, and more recently the nonpartisan civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements. In my personal conversations, I sense an emerging consensus based on nothing more complicated than a sense of basic honesty, fairness, and common sense, qualities which the American people still have in abundance. Let us hope that this can be translated into some organized force that can put an end to the present political cartel.

Charles Ferguson is the director the documentary Inside Job, a documentary film about the financial crisis now playing in theaters nationwide. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from MIT.

Author Note: The above is a corrected version of an earlier post. I would like to apologize to the bipartisan deficit reduction commission, and to the readers of the Huffington Post, for misrepresenting the commission's draft recommendations, which are in fact largely progressive in their tax and income effects. The error derived from relying upon an inaccurate secondary source, something I rarely do. Otherwise, the article was factually accurate and represents my views.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker Charles Ferguson On Wall Street, The Financial Crisis, Fraud, Corruption and the Bankrupting of American Democracy


Charles Ferguson is founder and president of Representational Pictures and an acclaimed documentary filmmaker. Trained as a political scientist, he holds a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and has been a consultant to federal agencies and high tech firms. He also co-founded an Internet software company, which created FrontPage, the first visual Web development tool. Ferguson's debut film, 2007's No End in Sight, about the Iraq War. received an Oscar nod, and his latest, Inside Job—on the global financial crisis—won this year's DGA feature documentary award and an Academy Award.




Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

STAFF BLOG: Tavis Smiley on PBS

Charles Ferguson: "What we have now is the new normal..."

Posted by Staff, February 28, 2011

If you watched the Academy Awards Sunday night, then you likely heard "Inside Job" director Charles Ferguson's acceptance speech after his film won for best documentary. Ferguson's acceptance speech began this way:

"Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong."

Tonight, Ferguson sits down with Tavis and explains how it feels to have won the Oscar when the actual issue that his film addresses remains unresolved.

"Inside Job" won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary on Sunday night. The film's director used his acceptance speech to deliver pointed criticism of Wall Street and the financial industry.

The Oscar buildup featured speculation about whether Banksy, a mystery man of the street-art world, might show up for his awards entry, "Exit Through the Gift Shop." If he was at the Oscars, he did not declare himself.

But it was the topic on most people's minds the last two years, the economy, that resonated among Oscar voters.

"Inside Job" director Charles Ferguson subjected Wall Street players, economists and bureaucrats to a fierce cross-examination to depict the economic crisis as a colossal crime perpetrated on the working-class masses by a greedy few.

His film examined the financial crisis of 2008. His speech lamented the lack of accountability three years later.

"Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong," Ferguson said.


Ferguson blogs on The Huffington Post.


Tavis: "If what we witness, so well documented in your piece, "Inside Job," isn't enough to get the American people angry, upset enough to rise up like we see in Egypt and Tunisia, et cetera, et cetera, what's it going to take? I hear the point you're trying to make and I'm trying to be optimistic along with you that we're going to one day wake up and take this situation under control as the American people.

But if this crisis that you document doesn't do it, what's it going to take to get us upset?

Ferguson: Well, it might take another one. It might also take five or 10 years of the American people realizing that what we have now is the new normal. This actually is the first of these financial crises that has made a huge mark on the American people broadly. The first two of them didn't, for various reasons.

But now this has hit a lot of people - the foreclosures, the unemployment rate, and of course average American incomes are actually down. This is the first generation in American history whose children are going to be worse off than their parents, and I think that it's going to take people coming to terms with the fact that that's what has happened as a result of this, and deciding that really, they have to do something about it.

Tavis: So are you hopeful about that?

Ferguson: In the long run, yes. I think that President Obama had a very powerful, unique, historical opportunity when he was elected and he blew it, badly...."


Tavis: Charles Ferguson is a very talented documentary filmmaker who of course won the Academy Award Sunday night for his latest project, "Inside Job." The film is a compelling look at what went wrong on Wall Street and the events that led to the global financial crisis. Beginning March the 8th you can pick up a copy of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray. Here now, though, a scene from "Inside Job."


Tavis: First of all, let the record show that you are wearing jeans today.

Charles Ferguson: Yes, I am.

Tavis: Yeah. For those who saw the show, you'll get the punchline. Congratulations, first of all.

Ferguson: Thank you.

Tavis: Second of all, can I grab this? (the Oscar trophy)

Ferguson: You certainly can.

Tavis: Can I -

Ferguson: Just you've got to give it back.

Tavis: Yeah. Do I have to?

Ferguson: Yup. (Laughter)

Tavis: Whoa. These things are really heavy, and very nice. As I said, congratulations. Let me start by asking how it feels to have done something that is prestigious enough to have claimed this prize. Everybody's been talking about it, who has seen the documentary, and by your own admission and by your own speech the other night, nothing has changed.

What happens when you invest that much of yourself into something and you look up a year later and you claim this prize, but what you really care about, the issue, hasn't been addressed?

Ferguson: Well, it's of course disappointing, but there are many people who are working on these questions and sometimes things take time and you have to take the long view. The world's not a perfect place and democracy sometimes works slowly, but it's better than the alternative.

Tavis: Speaking of "Inside Job," take - I should put this thing down, I'm getting really comfortable here. (Laughter) You might not get this back if I don't set it down.

Speaking of "Inside Job," take me inside and tell me how you came around to the process of knowing how to attack the subject matter. I ask that because this is such a massive issue, and trying to squeeze this into a documentary - how did you know exactly what your route was going to be, the story you wanted to tell?

Ferguson: Well, of course in the beginning I didn't, but I had a lot of help. I am very fortunate in that it turned out that I've known for a long time several of the people who were among those who first warned about the coming of this crisis. Two of the people who are in the film, Nouriel Rabini and Charles Morris are actually people I've known for 10, 20 years.

In 2007 they started talking to me about this, saying something's coming down here. So by the time Lehman Brothers collapsed in September of 2008 and I decided to make the film, I already had been taught a lot about this, and then I just started doing a lot of research.

Tavis: What surprised you most?

Ferguson: There were two big surprises, and both in a pretty negative direction. One was the ineptitude of the Bush administration's response to the crisis in 2008, that people were so completely unprepared for, for example, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and so ignorant about what its consequences would be.

The second surprise was just the incredibly low level of ethical behavior in American investment banking. When I started making the film it was already clear that some bad things had happened, but if somebody had told me that we were going to discover that all the major investment banks had been creating securities and selling them with the intent of profiting by betting against them, betting on their failure, I would have said, no, we don't do that in the United States. But turns out, we do.

Tavis: Just days ago on this program we had Phil Angelides, as you know, the chair of the financial inquiry crisis commission, and their report has a number a conclusions, but two things stand out, one in particular for our conversation.

They discover in their report and share with the American in this now best-selling book that this crisis was avoidable, number one, and number two, that the government was not prepared, as you just mentioned, to really handle it when the crisis came, but it was, in fact, avoidable.

What do you make of the fact that the American people have suffered in the way that they have, and all of this, if we are to believe Mr. Angelides' commission and believe your documentary, all of this was avoidable?

Ferguson: Well, it's horrible, of course, and America went through 40 years without any financial crises when regulation was much tighter and banking wasn't quite so exciting. Banking's gotten very exciting in a very dangerous way, and we have to return to a much more regulated financial sector.

I hope that the American people will become upset enough and angry enough and informed enough and activist enough to do something about this.

Tavis: You mentioned Bush a moment ago, President Bush in your indictment of what went wrong here. This is not, as you obviously know, not just a Republican problem. There's blame for Clinton, there's blame for the Obama administration, the clip we just saw a moment ago. Talk to me about the bipartisan nature of this crisis.

Ferguson: It is a thoroughly bipartisan problem at this point, and many of us, including myself, were deeply disappointed with President Obama's behavior. He said during his campaign things that led us to believe that he would take action about this, and when the American people supported him and voted for him and contributed to his campaign I think that many Americans thought that these issues would be addressed.

It's been a huge disappointment to see that he's turned out to be in many ways just more of the same. Whether it's because of his personal emotional characteristics or whether it's because of the structural issue that Wall Street gives money in enormous quantities to both parties now, I don't know. Maybe some mixture of the two.

But this is, in a general way, now a dangerously bipartisan problem because America only has two political parties, and they're both so captured now by Wall Street and Wall Street's lobbying and money.

Tavis: In the early days, when President Obama started announcing who his team was going to be, should we have known then that nothing was going to happen? When you stack your administration with a bunch of Clintonites, many of them who helped deregulate back in the Clinton years, which started this process in motion, could we have known then that not a whole lot was going to happen?

Ferguson: It certainly began to look that way pretty early, yes. One could always hope that the president himself would override his advisers and control them and manage them, but yes, the first really bad, disappointing sign was the team that he selected, and you're right, it was many Clintonites, it was many people who contributed to causing the crisis. It was also, in some cases, people who had done very unethical things in banking.

Tavis: What about the fact that nobody has paid a price for this; and for somebody to pay a price it means that under the Obama watch somebody in his Justice Department has to make this a priority, and administrations don't really like going after the previous administration. So here again, nobody pays the price.

Ferguson: Yes, and I think one thing that's important to point out is that it wasn't always this way. After deregulation started in the 1980s and America started having very unethical behavior and financial crises as a result - the first one was the S&L crisis in the 1980s - and as a result of that, several thousand financial executives were put in prison - several thousand people were put in prison. This time, literally zero, and it's I think a devastating, devastating -

Tavis: Why is that, or why is that not, to put it more accurately?

Ferguson: I think unfortunately it's predominately the power that Wall Street has now. Wall Street, the financial sector, at the height of the bubble just before the crisis, was 40 percent of American corporate profits, and now the wealthiest one-tenth of 1 percent of the population have the lowest tax rates and an unprecedented amount of wealth, and these companies employ former government officials and they lobby very heavily, and they've become so ingrained in our political system, in our regulatory system, even in the university and academic system, that it's now very, very difficult to take forceful action against them.

Tavis: So how likely is it that over the course of your career that you may end up doing another piece similar to this because we will find ourselves once again in a situation similar to this?

Ferguson: Unfortunately, I think it's very possible that in another 10 or 15 years we're going to have another financial crisis. Since deregulation began we've had a major financial crisis in America approximately every decade, and each one, by the way, has been worse than the last - more criminal and also more financially and economically serious.

So perhaps we're going to have to have another one, a really bad one, before the American people will force our leaders to change these things.

Tavis: If Wall Street has that kind of power, if we have a president who is elected overwhelmingly with progressive support who thought he was going to do something and he has not done anything, how do the American people take this back, as it were?

Ferguson: Well, it will take time and it will take pressure and anger and the creation of new organizations, but - not that the two situations are identical by any means, but one month ago nobody would have thought that Egypt and Tunisia and Libya had any chance of throwing off their dictators, and now they're all gone.

So in the long run I am very optimistic about the American people and about democracy.

Tavis: If what we witness, so well documented in your piece, "Inside Job," isn't enough to get the American people angry, upset enough to rise up like we see in Egypt and Tunisia, et cetera, et cetera, what's it going to take? I hear the point you're trying to make and I'm trying to be optimistic along with you that we're going to one day wake up and take this situation under control as the American people.

But if this crisis that you document doesn't do it, what's it going to take to get us upset?

Ferguson: Well, it might take another one. It might also take five or 10 years of the American people realizing that what we have now is the new normal. This actually is the first of these financial crises that has made a huge mark on the American people broadly. The first two of them didn't, for various reasons.

But now this has hit a lot of people - the foreclosures, the unemployment rate, and of course average American incomes are actually down. This is the first generation in American history whose children are going to be worse off than their parents, and I think that it's going to take people coming to terms with the fact that that's what has happened as a result of this, and deciding that really, they have to do something about it.

Tavis: So are you hopeful about that?

Ferguson: In the long run, yes. I think that President Obama had a very powerful, unique, historical opportunity when he was elected and he blew it, badly. Now it's going to be a much longer, much more gradual, tougher process to get this changed, so now we're talking about years, maybe even decades, before this has changed, but yes, I do think that eventually, it will change.

Tavis: What conditions are you referring to, right quick, that have so changed that if this president had eight years total - we know he's had two, he's got two more to go, may get another term - what conditions have changed so much that he can't do what we thought he could do or would do in terms of transforming this system? Why can't he do that in the next six years?

Ferguson: Well, he could certainly try, and there are many things that he could, indeed, do, but it'll be much more difficult now that there's a Republican Congress; certainly a Republican House. We'll see what happens in the next election. There could be a Republican Senate, too.

I think that there's also a cynicism in America now about its political leaders. I think that his campaign was perhaps the last time in a while that we're going to have really idealistic people believing that they can do something by electing somebody for president. That, of course, that's perhaps the biggest casualty, is -

Tavis: I think you're right about that. I've said that many times. A lot have said that, actually, lately, because I think you get those moments where people believe that something can be transformed, that idealism is alive, and when that goes away it doesn't come back every two years, every four years - it doesn't quite work that way.

His name, of course, Charles Ferguson; of course you know that - winner of the Academy Award this year for best documentary, called "Inside Job." You can get it now on DVD and on Blu-Ray. Charles, once again, congratulations. Great work.

Ferguson: Thank you, sir.

Tavis: I'm honored to have you on this program.

Ferguson: Thank you very much.

Tavis: That's our show for tonight.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Will We Choose Courage Or Abdication?: Drawing A Line In The Sand Vs. Shutting Down The Government

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Frank Rich


As usual Frank Rich absolutely nails what the true stakes are in this relentless CLASS WAR that the rich and ruling class are currently waging against the poor, working, and middleclass in the United States and the severe and deadly consequences for us all if we don't fight back collectively on a massive national scale (the way heroic public employee workers and their unions are and have been fighting back in Wisconsin and some other states over the past two weeks!). It's especially way past time for the American Left as well as the masses of so-called "ordinary citizens" to DEMAND that the President and the Democrats in Congress actually do the job we elected them to do--which is to aggressively protect, defend, and support our interests as workers above, against, and beyond that of criminally wealthy banks, corporations, and Wall Street gangsters. As we sit shaking in fear and rage wondering whether millions of us will have any kind of job at all in the very near "future"-- with or without any rapidly disappearing or non existent "benefits", including pensions and other retirement funds or "entitlement program" safety nets like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which the Republicans and the Tea Party are now going after with a vengeance)--we see that our extremely powerful and vicious enemies who are mostly multimillionaires and billionaires are absolutely determined to wipe us out in the spurious and fraudulent name of the national "deficit" that THEY are largely /criminally responsible for in the first place. We are at a major turning point in American history and what we do or don't do now as engaged or alienated citizens in response to these crises WILL determine whether we will survive with our democratic and human rights intact or not. Like always it's ultimately up to us to make the hard and necessary choices that are truly required to meet these challenges and to constantly demand that the President and Congress do the same...



Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down?

February 26, 2011
New York Times

NO one remembers anything in America, especially in Washington, so the history of the Great Government Shutdown of 1995 is being rewritten with impunity by Republicans flirting with a Great Government Shutdown of 2011. The bottom line of the revisionist spin is this: that 2011 is no 1995. Should the unthinkable occur on some coming budget D-Day — or perhaps when the deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling arrives this spring — the G.O.P. is cocksure that it can pin the debacle on the Democrats.

In the right’s echo chamber, voters are seen as so fed up with deficits that they’ll put principle over temporary inconveniences — like, say, a halt in processing new Social Security applicants or veterans’ benefit checks. Who needs coddled government workers to deal with those minutiae anyway? As Mike Huckabee has cheerfully pointed out, many more federal services are automated now than in the olden days of the late 20th century. Phone trees don’t demand pensions.

Remarkably (or not) much of the Beltway press has bought the line that comparisons between then and now are superficial. Sure, Bill Clinton, like Barack Obama, was bruised by his first midterms, with his party losing the House to right-wing revolutionaries hawking the Contract With America, a Tea Party ur-text demanding balanced budgets. But after that, we’re instructed, the narratives diverge. John Boehner is no bomb-throwing diva like Newt Gingrich, whose petulant behavior inspired the famous headline “Cry Baby” in The Daily News. A crier — well, yes — but Boehner’s too conventional a conservative to foment a reckless shutdown. Obama, prone to hanging back from Congressional donnybrooks, bears scant resemblance to the hands-on Clinton, who clamored to get into the ring with Newt.

Those propagating the 2011-is-not-1995 line also assume that somehow Boehner will prevent the new G.O.P. insurgents from bringing down the government they want to bring down. But if Gingrich couldn’t control his hard-line freshman class of 73 members in 1995 — he jokingly referred to them then as “a third party” — it’s hard to imagine how the kinder, gentler Boehner will control his 87 freshmen, many of them lacking government or legislative experience, let alone the gene for compromise. In the new Congress’s short history, the new speaker has already had trouble controlling his caucus. On Friday Gingrich made Boehner’s task harder by writing a Washington Post op-ed plea that the G.O.P. stick to its guns.

The 2011 rebels are to the right of their 1995 antecedents in any case. That’s why this battle, ostensibly over the deficit, is so much larger than the sum of its line-item parts. The highest priority of America’s current political radicals is not to balance government budgets but to wage ideological warfare in Washington and state capitals alike. The relatively few dollars that would be saved by the proposed slashing of federal spending on Planned Parenthood and Head Start don’t dent the deficit; the cuts merely savage programs the right abhors. In Wisconsin, where state workers capitulated to Gov. Scott Walker’s demands for financial concessions, the radical Republicans’ only remaining task is to destroy labor’s right to collective bargaining.

That’s not to say there is no fiscal mission in the right’s agenda, both nationally and locally — only that the mission has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The real goal is to reward the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations, and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks. The bankrupt moral equation codified in the Bush era — that tax cuts tilted to the highest bracket were a higher priority even than paying for two wars — is now a given. The once-bedrock American values of shared sacrifice and equal economic opportunity have been overrun.

In this bigger picture, the Wisconsin governor’s fawning 20-minute phone conversation with a prankster impersonating the oil billionaire David Koch last week, while entertaining, is merely a footnote. The Koch Industries political action committee did contribute to Walker’s campaign (some $43,000) and did help underwrite Tea Party ads and demonstrations in Madison. But this governor is merely a petty-cash item on the Koch ledger — as befits the limited favors he can offer Koch’s mammoth, sprawling, Kansas-based industrial interests.

Look to Washington for the bigger story. As The Los Angeles Times recently reported, Koch Industries and its employees form the largest bloc of oil and gas industry donors to members of the new House Energy and Commerce Committee, topping even Exxon Mobil. And what do they get for that largess? As a down payment, the House budget bill not only reduces financing for the Environmental Protection Agency but also prohibits its regulation of greenhouse gases.

Here again, the dollars that will be saved are minute in terms of the federal deficit, but the payoff to Koch interests from a weakened E.P.A. is priceless. The same dynamic is at play in the House’s reduced spending for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service. and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (charged with regulation of the esoteric Wall Street derivatives that greased the financial crisis). The reduction in the deficit will be minimal, but the bottom lines for the Kochs and their peers, especially on Wall Street, will swell.

These special interests will stay in the closet next week when the Tea Partiers in the House argue (as the Gingrich cohort once did) that their only agenda is old-fashioned fiscal prudence. The G.O.P. is also banking on the presumption that Obama will bide his time too long, as he did in the protracted health care and tax-cut melees, and allow the Fox News megaphone, not yet in place in ’95, to frame the debate. Listening to the right’s incessant propaganda, you’d never know that the latest Pew survey found that Americans want to increase, not decrease, most areas of federal spending — and by large margins in the cases of health care and education.

The G.O.P. leadership faced those same headwinds from voters in ’95. As Boehner, then on the Gingrich team, told The Times in a January 1996 post-mortem, the G.O.P. had tested the notion of talking about “balancing the budget and Medicare in the same sentence” and discovered it would bring “big trouble.” Gingrich’s solution, he told The Times then, was simple: “We learned that if you talked about ‘preserving’ and ‘protecting’ Medicare, it worked.” Which it did until it didn’t — at which point the Gingrich revolution imploded.

Rather hilariously, the Republicans’ political gurus still believe that Gingrich’s ruse can work. In a manifesto titled “How the G.O.P. Can Win the Budget Battle” published in The Wall Street Journal last week, Fred Barnes of Fox News put it this way: “Bragging about painful but necessary cuts to Medicare scares people. Stressing the goal of saving Medicare won’t.” But the G.O.P. is trotting out one new political strategy this time. Current House leaders, mindful that their ’95 counterparts’ bravado backfired, constantly reiterate that they are “not looking for a government shutdown,” as Paul Ryan puts it. They seem to believe that if they repeat this locution often enough it will inoculate them from blame should a shutdown happen anyway — when, presumably, they are not looking.

Maybe, but no less an authority than Dick Armey, these days a leading Tea Party operative, thinks otherwise. Back in ’95, as a Gingrich deputy, he had been more bellicose than most in threatening a shutdown, as Bill Clinton recounts in his memoirs. But in 2006, Armey told a different story when reminiscing to an interviewer, Ryan Sager: “Newt’s position was, presidents get blamed for shutdowns, and he cited Ronald Reagan. My position was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. I argued that it is counterintuitive to the average American to think that the Democrat wants to shut down the government. They’re the advocates of the government. It is perfectly logical to them that Republicans would shut it down, because we’re seen as antithetical to government.”

Armey’s logic is perfect indeed, but logic is not the rage among his ideological compatriots this year. Otherwise, the Tea Party radicals might have figured out the single biggest difference between 1995 and 2011 — the state of the economy. Last time around, America was more or less humming along with an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent. This time we are still digging out of the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, with an unemployment rate of 9 percent and oil prices on the rise. To even toy with shutting down the government in this uncertain climate is to risk destabilizing the nascent recovery, with those in need of the government safety net (including 43 million Americans on food stamps) doing most of the suffering.

Not that the gravity of this moment will necessarily stop the right from using the same playbook as last time. Still heady with hubris from the midterms — and having persuaded themselves that Gingrich’s 1995 history can’t possibly repeat itself — radical Republicans are convinced that deficit-addled voters are on their side no matter what. The president, meanwhile, is playing his cards close to his vest. Let’s hope he knows that he, not the speaker, is the player holding a full house, and that he will tell the country in no uncertain terms that much more than money is on the table.


If we, President Obama, and the Democratic Party in Congress don't collectively draw a deep crimson line in the sand and emphatically tell the Republicans and Tea Party to Go Fuck Themselves and the ragged horse(s) they rode in on, the thugs of the U.S. rightwing both in and outside of government WILL continue to hold us ALL hostage forever to their oppressive agenda and eliminate any hope of anyone maintaining and extending even a tiny semblance of democratic/progressive reform. This is no joke and if these maniacs insist on shutting down the government in the process we must let them know that we will not be bullied by them for even one second longer. It's time to call these psychotics bluff and demand that they piss or get off the pot. If that means these rightwing assholes taking full and complete responsibility for suicidally shutting the government down in the midst of a massively destructive economic recession then so be it. Don't let these muthafuckas off the hook Mr. President! ENOUGH godammit!!


February 27, 2011

New York Times

Keep the Government Open

With only four days left to head off a crippling government shutdown, Senate Democrats have been receptive to a new proposal from House Republicans to keep the government going with only a modest round of cuts from President Obama’s own reduction plan.

The offer sounds as if it contains the germ of a good compromise, except for one big problem: it only extends government funding for two weeks.

In a matter of days, the two chambers would be right back where they are now, with House leaders demanding ruinous cuts and threatening to close the government’s doors if they did not get their way. Rather than take this deal, the Senate should build on the idea of advancing some of President Obama’s cuts but in exchange for paying for the government’s functions through the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30.

The threat of a shutdown is a serious one. Once the stopgap measure now supplying money to the federal government expires, hundreds of thousands of workers would be furloughed, halting vital services like veterans’ health care and passport processing, and possibly slowing the distribution of benefit checks. Essential services would continue, but the impact on a fragile recovery could be devastating.

None of that has in the slightest deterred House Republicans — the fire-breathing freshmen and the older members who are afraid of them — from pursuing their single-minded goal of disemboweling the government.

They took advantage of the Democrats’ failure to pass a budget last year and approved a bill that makes nearly $62 billion in cuts just over the next seven months. Much of the effort pursued longstanding partisan goals like eliminating programs for disadvantaged minorities, rather than real deficit reduction.

The impact of these reckless, largely ideologically targeted cuts could be even more devastating for the recovery than a brief government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of people would lose their jobs, and not just for a few days or weeks. Those at the bottom of the economic ladder would be hurt the most.

No one would have paid much attention if the stopgap spending resolution from last year did not run out on March 4. The House Republicans have exploited that leverage to the fullest, saying they won’t even consider a temporary spending resolution from the Senate that does not contain substantial cuts.

The latest offer from the House, drawing on an idea that has been discussed in the Senate, would buy two weeks of government operations in exchange for $4 billion in cuts. To make the offer palatable, the House is willing to make about $2.7 billion of those cuts from earmarks, and the rest from programs that the president has already proposed cutting in next year’s budget, including highway and education spending.

The House is essentially asking the Democrats to agree to all the easy cuts up front, while continuing to dangle a sword over the process that could drop again as early as March 18. The war of words would quickly begin again, as would the Republicans’ demands for their more damaging cuts. That would create ever more uncertainty in the markets and in the lives of many thousands of people who could be affected by a shutdown.

Repeatedly negotiating under threat is no way to run a government. The real battle should be over next year’s budget. Accelerating some 2012 cuts to get through this year makes sense, but only in exchange for a resolution that carries the government through Sept. 30. Democrats should insist on it, and if Republicans instead choose to close the government’s doors, at least the public will know the full price of their extremism.

The National Rightwing Assault On the Human and Civil Rights of Women

"The most deadly, dangerous, and powerful enemy of African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans in general, Women in general, the poor in general, the working class in general, children in general, freedom in general and Democracy in general in American society today is the truly heinous Republican Party and their endless number of severely bigoted and demagogic minions, mentors, sponsors, and supporters. Anyone who doesn't know or believes this blatantly obvious fact is not only a hopeless FOOL but ultimately deserves their "fate."
--Kofi Natambu, July 15, 2009


One of the most insidious and openly destructive aspects of the Republican rightwing's intense, ongoing, and relentless attack on the basic democratic and human rights of all American citizens is their fiercely sexist and misogynist assault on women in general and poor and working class women in particular (especially women of color). In everything from abortion rights and major healthcare issues to education, the right is currently engaged in the most heinous national campaign in both Congress and in community grassroots settings of trying to literally destroy women's access to birth control, prenatal care, cancer screenings, and HIV/Aids/STD testing, adversely affecting literally millions of women and children in this country. There is a very urgent wakeup call for us all to seriously combat and defeat the Republican and Tea Party legislators and activists who are rapidly spreading their deadly anti-women poison and brazenly inhumane propaganda nationwide in a clear attempt to turn the clock back a hundred years in this country's treatment of its female citizens. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THESE VICIOUS MALE SUPREMACISTS TO GET AWAY WITH IT...


February 25, 2011

New York Times

The War on Women

Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning.

The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.

The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.

An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.

The House resolution would slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. And it would reimpose the odious global “gag” rule, which forbids giving federal money to any group that even talks about abortions. That rule badly hampered family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths before President Obama lifted it.

(Mr. Obama has tried to act responsibly. He has rescinded President George W. Bush’s wildly overreaching decision to grant new protections to health providers who not only will not perform abortions, but also will not offer emergency contraception to rape victims or fill routine prescriptions for contraceptives.)

In negotiations over the health care bill last year, Democrats agreed to a scheme intended to stop insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortions. Two bills in the Republican House would go even further in denying coverage to the 30 percent or so of women who have an abortion during child-bearing years.

One of the bills, offered by Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, has a provision that would allow hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to terminate a pregnancy even when necessary to save a woman’s life.

Beyond the familiar terrain of abortion or even contraception, House Republicans would inflict harm on low-income women trying to have children or who are already mothers.

Their continuing resolution would cut by 10 percent the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month, and has been linked in studies to higher birth weight and lower infant mortality.

The G.O.P. bill also slices $50 million from the block grant supporting programs providing prenatal health care to 2.5 million low-income women and health care to 31 million children annually. President Obama’s budget plan for next year calls for a much more modest cut.

These are treacherous times for women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health care. House Republicans mistakenly believe they have a mandate to drastically scale back both even as abortion warfare is accelerating in the states. To stop them, President Obama’s firm leadership will be crucial. So will the rising voices of alarmed Americans.

Sacrificing Our Children In the Name of Budget Cuts

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman


Paul Krugman properly warns us of what's coming in the vicious class war being waged against us by the reactionary rich and powerful right wing and how severe the consequences are especially going to be for the most vulnerable and abused of us all--our children...


Leaving Children Behind

New York Times

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it’s still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don’t yet know how far they’re willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there’s no doubt about it: big spending cuts are coming.

And who will bear the brunt of these cuts? America’s children.

Now, politicians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children. Back during the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush, touting the “Texas miracle” of dramatically lower dropout rates, declared that he wanted to be the “education president.” Today, advocates of big spending cuts often claim that their greatest concern is the burden of debt our children will face.

In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

Consider, as a case in point, what’s happening in Texas, which more and more seems to be where America’s political future happens first.

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

But things are about to get much worse.

A few months ago another Texas miracle went the way of that education miracle of the 1990s. For months, Gov. Rick Perry had boasted that his “tough conservative decisions” had kept the budget in surplus while allowing the state to weather the recession unscathed. But after Mr. Perry’s re-election, reality intruded — funny how that happens — and the state is now scrambling to close a huge budget gap. (By the way, given the current efforts to blame public-sector unions for state fiscal problems, it’s worth noting that the mess in Texas was achieved with an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.)

So how will that gap be closed? Given the already dire condition of Texas children, you might have expected the state’s leaders to focus the pain elsewhere. In particular, you might have expected high-income Texans, who pay much less in state and local taxes than the national average, to be asked to bear at least some of the burden.

But you’d be wrong. Tax increases have been ruled out of consideration; the gap will be closed solely through spending cuts. Medicaid, a program that is crucial to many of the state’s children, will take the biggest hit, with the Legislature proposing a funding cut of no less than 29 percent, including a reduction in the state’s already low payments to providers — raising fears that doctors will start refusing to see Medicaid patients. And education will also face steep cuts, with school administrators talking about as many as 100,000 layoffs.

The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”