The Democrats’ war on capitalism

The next time your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs bloviates on how that Kenyan, socialist usurper in the White House and every pinko commie Democrat president (and he will say “Democrat” instead of “Democratic” because that’s the way Tea Baggers speak) are giving away the hard-earned cash of America’s job creators to the moocher class, pull out this chart (via Bloomberg):

2_bloomberg_stocksA couple of things to point out.

1) The “job creators” put their money in the stock market because they have so much of it. There’s no where else to put it. The “moocher class” doesn’t put money in the stock market, because, hey, ya gotta eat. So, really, who do you think is suffering when a president actually talks about raising a minimum wage? That guy with the top hat and the monocle on the Monopoly board?

2) The premise of this chart is flawed, because anyone who knows anything about investing in the stock market will say you don’t pull all your money out of it when there’s a president of a different party in office. Surely, you can’t believe that the minute Bill Clinton and Barack Obama walked in the White House, the billionaires funding the Tea Party called their stock brokers and said “Sell everything. We’ve got to get out of this commie market!” They left their cash where it was, and the billions flowed in.

On the other hand, your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs is the kind of guy who did sell all of his stocks and buried his cash in his backyard bomb shelter when the hated Democrats took power.

That might explain why he’s so pissed off that his retirement fund that “hasn’t done Jack” since he built his portfolio when Dick Nixon took office. (I would have said “began his 401(k),” but those didn’t exist until Jimmy Carter’s administration, and Uncle Muggs would never put his money in anything that was created when that peanut farmer was president.)

Yeah, that chart proves the Democrats hate capitalism. After all, it grows like weeds when they’re in office.

The GOP has a senior moment

Guess what. Republicans are pissing off another segment of the voting population (from the Carville-Greenberg Memo):

There’s something going on with seniors: It is now strikingly clear that they have turned sharply against the GOP. This is apparent in seniors’ party affiliation and vote intention, in their views on the Republican Party and its leaders, and in their surprising positions on jobs, health care, retirement security, investment economics, and the other big issues that will likely define the 2014 midterm elections. …

—In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent). Among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent.)

—When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives at the beginning of 2011, 43 percent of seniors gave the Republican Party a favorable rating.  Last month, just 28 percent of seniors rated the GOP favorably. This is not an equal-opportunity rejection of parties or government — over the same period, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating among seniors has increased 3 points, from 37 percent favorable to 40 percent favorable.

—When the Republican congress took office in early 2011, 45 percent of seniors approved of their job performance. That number has dropped to just 22 percent — with 71 percent disapproving.

—Seniors are now much less likely to identify with the Republican Party. On Election Day in 2010, the Republican Party enjoyed a net 10 point party identification advantage among seniors (29 percent identified as Democrats, 39 percent as Republicans). As of last month, Democrats now had a net 6 point advantage in party identification among seniors (39 percent to 33 percent).

—More than half (55 percent) of seniors say the Republican Party is too extreme, half (52 percent) say it is out of touch, and half (52 percent) say the GOP is dividing the country. Just 10 percent of seniors believe that the Republican Party does not put special interests ahead of ordinary voters.

—On almost every issue we tested — including gay rights, aid to the poor, immigration, and gun control — more than half of seniors believe that the Republican Party is too extreme.

If the GOP has lost the elderly, I don’t see how it can continue to survive.

And we’re at the verge of a government shutdown, where the blame is going to fall squarely on Republicans. Going into the 2014 elections, we could see the total collapse of a major American political party.

Social Security: an explanation

Social Security is going to be in the news a lot in the coming weeks. As one who’s nearly old enough to start collecting benefits, I should start paying attention to its history and who it serves. For example, the program is 77 years old today. That’s means Social Security is more than old enough to collect Social Security.

Here’s an explainer on the program:

Some fly high, others are going to crash

I don’t know if the New York Times publishes these stories to piss people off, if it’s secretly saying the subjects of these kinds of stories are the epitome of greedy capitalists or if it’s making a direct appeal to what it considers its core readership.

I do know that the Times circulation department used to have maps of the New York circulation area that graded neighborhoods by net wealth and would focus their subscription efforts on the regions with the most green.

The bus to camp

Anyway, here’s the latest. You decide:

A turboprop Pilatus PC-12 carrying Melissa Thomas, her daughter, her daughter’s friend and a pile of lacrosse equipment took off for their home in Connecticut, following the girls’ three-week stay at Camp All-Star in nearby Kents Hill, Me. Shortly after, a Cessna Citation Excel arrived, and a mother, a father and their 13-year-old daughter emerged carrying a pink sleeping bag and two large duffel bags, all headed to Camp Vega in Fayette. …

For decades, parents in the Northeast who sent their children to summer camp faced the same arduous logistics of traveling long distances to remote towns in Maine, New Hampshire and upstate New York to pick up their children or to attend parents’ visiting day.

Now, even as the economy limps along, more of the nation’s wealthier families are cutting out the car ride and chartering planes to fly to summer camps. One private jet broker, Todd Rome of Blue Star Jets, said his summer-camp business had jumped 30 percent over the last year.

So at a time of economic crisis, the rich are chartering jets to send their kids to summer camp? We’ve already been told they’re building their kids playhouses that go for $200,000.

Meanwhile, in my world, this is happening:

House Republicans delayed a vote on their bill to lift the debt ceiling as they scrambled Tuesday night to rewrite the measure to ensure that accompanying spending cuts were large enough, according to three senior GOP aides.

The vote, originally scheduled for Wednesday, could now happen Thursday or Friday.

When the GOP refers to spending cuts, that means getting rid of things that help the elderly, the sick and the poor. In effect, the Republican effort is designed to tax these groups. If government revenue isn’t used to help these people, they have to pay more to survive. It’s GOP social engineering at its cruelest. None of these spending cuts are going to have the slightest impact on people who buy their kids playmansions and charter jets to get them to camp.

And while the Republicans dither over addressing the soon to be surpassed debt ceiling, the rest of the world is watching to see if they’re crazy enough to drive that bus over the cliff:

In a speech in New York before the Council on Foreign Relations, meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, the new managing director of the IMF, urged American officials to demonstrate the kind of “political courage” she said was shown by European leaders last week in a summit that agreed on new financing for Greece and gave greater powers to a regional bailout fund.

“On the debt ceiling, the clock is ticking, and clearly the issue needs to be resolved immediately,” Lagarde said. “Indeed, an adverse fiscal shock in the United States could have serious spillovers on the rest of the world.” She said a default or downgrading of U.S. debt “would be a very, very, very serious event, not just for the United States but for the global economy at large.”

The Republicans put the debt ceiling argument in the terms of living within your means. Let’s look at it in terms of an individual’s credit rating. When you get an offer from a bank for a credit card at a zero interest rate, it seems like a great deal. But the second you miss a payment, the interest rate shoots up to an extraordinary amount. That’s today’s American banker, who is now charging rates that loan sharks used to go to jail for.

Naturally, when you have the money, you don’t screw around. You pay your bill. And in this whole argument, no sane person believes America doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills. But the tea baggers in Congress are acting like four year olds and saying “If you don’t do what we say, we’ll hold our breath until we pass out.” But their intention is to take the whole world down with them.

For some reason that I still find unfathomable, President Obama still believes in compromise and a “bipartisan solution.”

Paul Krugman says it best:

The cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

But who’s really to blame?

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

I haven’t the slightest idea of how this is all going to end. I think the GOP will insist on a default. I hope something else will happen that will avoid a financial meltdown, for all our sakes, but as Krugman points out, Obama has met the demands of the fanatic right and they still aren’t satisfied.

In the meantime see if you can hitch a ride for your kid on one of these jets to summer camp. If you can afford to send your kid to summer camp.

Krugman, up close

Paul Krugman, Laureate of the Sveriges Riksban...

Image via Wikipedia

New York magazine has a pretty good profile on Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist and columnist for the New York Times.

A lot of Krugman haters are conservatives who bristled when he constantly tore the Bush administration apart. But he also does a pretty good job of sticking it to Obama. In both cases, both presidents deserved everything Krugman said.

And Krugman has a great blog. It’s worth checking out every day.

The budget fight is on

From E.J. Dionne Jr. at the  Washington Post on the Republican budget proposal:

So far, our nation’s budget debate has been a desultory affair focused on whether a small slice of the federal government’s outlays should be cut by $33 billion or $61 billion, or whatever.

But Americans are about to learn how much is at stake in our larger budget fight, how radical the new conservatives in Washington are, and the extent to which some politicians would transfer even more resources from the have-nots and have-a-littles to the have-a-lots.

And you wonder: Will President Obama welcome the responsibility of engaging the country in this big argument, or will he shrink from it? Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obama’s historic obligation — and opportunity — to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal?

I’ve said numerous times that Obama backs down too much when he needs to stand firm. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not confident he’ll do the right thing.


From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones on the budget proposal released today by Republican Paul Ryan:

Courageous. Serious. Gutsy. I imagine that within a few days this will be the consensus view of the entire Beltway punditocracy. A plan dedicated almost entirely to slashing social spending in a country that’s already the stingiest spender in the developed world, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich in a country with the lowest tax rates in the developed world — well, what could be more serious than that?

I think I’m going to be sick.

Land ho!

I really hate to have the morality of a vulture, but CNN has this up on its Web site:

Nearly 20% of Florida homes are vacant

On Thursday, the Census Bureau revealed that 18% — or 1.6 million — of the Sunshine State’s homes are sitting vacant. That’s a rise of more than 63% over the past 10 years.

Having this amount of oversupply on the market will keep home prices depressed and slow any recovery.

According to this story, you can now get a condo in Florida for the price of a car. That’s a sign of a housing carcass, waiting to be picked apart by scavengers. And if you’re in you’re late 50s or early 60s, and thinking about where you’re going to live when you retire, this might something worth thinking about.

Sure, the state’s economy is shot, and the building trades are going to be hurt for years, but it seems that anyone thinking of retirement should be inspired to head down there and help drive the median age up a few more years. (I’m not going. I lived in the state for three years when I first got out of school. No desire to go back. Anyway, my property buying days are over. This year took care of that.)

Here’s a breakdown of the Sunshine State counties with the highest vacancy rates:

What you don’t know will hurt you

What can you say to people who argue a point passionately and refuse to listen to you when you point out that they haven’t the slightest clue of what they’re talking about?

This from yesterday’s New York Times

In a smart column today, Bruce Bartlett looks at why it will be so hard for politicians to cut government spending: because so many Americans who say they support cutting government programs don’t realize just how much they benefit from them.

Remember, for example, when a town hall attendee famously told his congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”? Apparently that bewilderingly blinkered sentiment is hardly unique.

You have to click to the story to check out a chart that asks people who benefit from a government program if they’ve ever benefited from a government program. The percentages who say “No” are outrageous.

State of the Union

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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President Obama gave his State of the Union speech tonight. Here’s the text.

I listened to it this year. The television was on, but the cutaways bothered me more this year than last, so I just turned my back to the screen.

The applause definitely wasn’t as raucous as in past years. The mixed seating had something to do with that. People restrain themselves when they know they’re sitting next to someone who might disagree with them. They tend to be more obnoxious when they’re with their own pack.

That was good, because Obama did say some things that normally would put one side or the other in a frenzy … let’s get the oil companies … don’t increase domestic spending … the rich need to pay more taxes … get rid of bad teachers … Muslims are Americans … stop frivolous lawsuits … gays in the military=good … no ROTC on campus=bad.

No one yelled out, “You lie!” The opposition was probably surrounding that guy, waiting to pounce.

Took forever for him to say, “The state of the union is strong.” That was almost the penultimate line of the speech. (It now always ends, “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”)

Seating will probably go back to normal next year. Then everyone can pretend they’re at a football match in the U.K. and yell at the other side.