|Progressive Calendar 11.16.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010 15:17:36 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 11.16.10 1. Laura Goodman 11.16 6:30pm 2. Mac activists 11.16 7pm 3. Give max/anti-war 11.16 4. Alliant vigil 11.17 7am 5. Climate change 11.17 11:30am 6. China/food system 11.17 12noon 7. Shop WAMM 11.17 5pm 8. Citizen/MN budget 11.17 6:30pm 9. Oil on ice/film 11.17 6:30pm 10. David Shove - Watching Minnesota's Top Ten in the morning 11. Chris Hedges - The origin of America's intellectual vacuum 12. Michael Hudson - Obama's greatest betrayal --------1 of 12-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Laura Goodman 11.16 6:30pm This Tuesday our guest will be Laura Goodman and her topic will be "What is needed in law enforcement today and Community Policing. During her 28 years working in the criminal justice system, Laura Goodman has lived and worked according to her principles, which includes a keen sense of justice and fairness. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------2 of 12-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Mac activists 11.16 7pm Macalester Alumni Activists Speak Out Tuesday, November 16, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Macalester College, Markim Hall, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul. In the aftermath of the horrifying crimes of September 11, 2001, the United States Congress passed a number of pieces of legislation, including the Patriot Act (I and II) and the Military Commissions Act. The Executive Branch also instituted various and unusual "initiatives," which have been upheld by the Judiciary. These new laws and practices are stripping away protections guaranteed in the US Constitution. What rights have US citizens, immigrants, and others lost in the "war on terror"? How can we maintain and regain our rights? Macalester is on the front line in the battle for our rights, including the right to unionize for a better, more secure life; to demonstrate for vital causes; and to speak truth to power. Come hear what's been going on. Speakers include Meredith (targeted by recent FBI raids on peace and justice activists), Erik (active in fighting for collective bargaining rights for Jimmy Johns workers), Luce (one of the RNC 8.) Endorsed by: WAMM. [When the rich come to strip us of our last crumbs, they will want to be sure we are sitting ducks with no rights, no defense, no fight. -ed] --------3 of 12-------- From: kim defranco <kimdefranco [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Give max/anti-war 11.16 Please consider giving a donation to help with legal expenses for the people that were raided and/or subpoenaed by the FBI because in the long run this repression will effect all who protest, stand up against injustice, and question American foreign policy. This is also a great way for all donations no matter what amount to grow even bigger. NOVEMBER 16: GIVE TO THE MAX TO STOP REPRESSION AGAINST THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT Dear Friends, We need your support to stop FBI and grand jury repression against the anti-war movement. November 16 is Give to the Max Day - a great opportunity to give money to causes you support in Minnesota. On November 16 please visit: http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Campaign-To-Stop-Fbi-Repression to contribute to the campaign to stop FBI repression! You would think it's not a crime to be against war. But in a harrowing development, the FBI and a federal grand jury are harassing and threatening anti-war activists here in Minnesota and around the country. On September 24, the FBI raided seven homes and the Anti-War Committee office. The FBI also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to fourteen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. You can see profiles of the people affected at http://www.stopfbi.net/about/profiles. The activists affected are involved in the Anti-War Committee and many other progressive groups. They have done nothing wrong, and they are taking a principled position standing up against the FBI witch hunt. Now they face the prospect of jail time if they refuse to be part of the grand jury fishing expedition. We see the raids and subpoenas as an attack on anti-war and other progressive movements. It is an attack on our freedom to speak, our freedom to assemble with like-minded people, and our freedom to tell the government that their actions and policies are wrong. It is an attempt to clear the way for more wars and occupations of other countries by the U.S. military Standing up against this will likely be a long process. And the cost will be high - both for legal defense and for the work of educating the public about what's happening. The grand jury, and all repression against the anti-war movement have to stop. We need your help to stop it. November 16 is a great opportunity to support efforts to stop the repression against the anti-war movement. On November 16, please go to http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Campaign-To-Stop-Fbi-Repression to contribute to the campaign to stop FBI repression! To find out more and get involved in the campaign, see stopfbi.net and antiwarcommittee.org. [And many other local organizations are asking re give max. -ed] --------4 of 12-------- From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at] circlevision.org> Subject: Alliant vigil 11.17 7am Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems, 7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie. We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies? directions and lots of info: alliantACTION.org --------5 of 12-------- From: UMN Consortium on Law & Values and Joint Degree Program Subject: Climate change 11.17 11:30am Nov. 17 Lecture by Prof. Daniel Bodansky, JD 2010-11 Lecture Series on Law, Health & the Life Sciences "From Climate Change to the Gulf Oil Spill: Law and Science in Times of Crisis" REGISTER NOW! "The International Climate Change Negotiations: The Road from Copenhagen" Prof. Daniel M. Bodansky, JD Professor, School of Sustainability; Lincoln Professor of Law, Ethics, and Sustainability, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Wednesday, November 17, 2010 11:30am - 1:00pm Mississippi Room, Coffman Memorial Union Prof. Bodansky will discuss the outcomes of last year's Copenhagen climate change conference. Was it a success or failure? And what are Prof. Daniel Bodansky, JD the prospects for the UN climate change regime going forward? Is the upcoming conference in Cancun this December likely to do better than Copenhagen? What are the chances for a new legal agreement on climate change, either to supplement or replace the Kyoto Protocol? In his talk, Professor Bodansky will discuss the past, present, and future of the international climate change negotiations. Prof. Daniel Bodansky, JD, is the Lincoln Professor of Law, Ethics, and Sustainability at Arizona State University. He has also has been named an Affiliated Faculty member in both the College of Law's Center for Law and Global Affairs, and the Global Institute of Sustainability's School of Sustainability at ASU. His scholarship includes two books, 24 scholarly articles and book chapters, five book reviews and more than 40 papers and presentations. He is the recipient of a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship, a Pew Faculty Fellowship in International Affairs, and a Jean Monnet Fellowship from the European University Institute in Florence. Bodansky currently serves on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law and is the U.S.-nominated arbitrator under the Antarctic Environment Protocol. In addition, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Society of International Law. Commentators: Prof. Brad Karkkainen, JD Professor, Law School, University of Minnesota Prof. Katherine Klink, PhD Professor, Department of Geography, University of Minnesota Prof Hari Osofsky, JD Associate Director of Law, Geography & Environment; Associate Professor, Law School, University of Minnesota Intended Audience: students, faculty, attorneys, researchers, policymakers, and community members. This event is free and open to the public. This lecture is intended for students, faculty, attorneys, researchers, scientists, policymakers, and community members. Continuing Education--CLE Application for 1.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for attorneys has been submitted. Registration is required for those requesting continuing education credit. Registration is available online at www.lifesci.consortium.umn.edu, by phone at 612-625-0055, or by email at jointdgr [at] umn.edu. Please provide your name, email address and indicate if continuing education credits are requested. --------6 of 12-------- From: Institute on the Environment <sjszurek [at] umn.edu> Subject: China/food system 11.17 12noon 11/17 - Lester Brown Was Half Right: What We Can Learn from China's Food System Speaker: Jim Harkness, President, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy China faces the challenge of feeding 22% of the world's population on 9% of its arable land. What does this really mean for China's farmers, the environment and the world? And what can we learn from China's experience as we grapple with challenges of development, environment and hunger? Harkness, who lived and worked in China for 16 years before joining the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, examines the challenges of feeding China and explains why, despite two decades of dire warnings, China's growing appetite has not brought famine to the rest of the world...yet. Lectures take place Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m, in IonE Seminar Room 380, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus. All lectures are free, no registration required, and also air live on the Web. Institute on the Environment | 325 VoTech Building, 1954 Buford Ave. | St. Paul | MN | 55108 See the Frontiers page for more details, including links to the live broadcast and archived presentations. --------7 of 12-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Shop WAMM 11.17 5pm WAMM Benefit Shopping Night at Ten Thousand Villages Wednesday, November 17, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Ten Thousand Villages, 867 Grand Avenue, St. Paul. Benefit WAMM by shopping at Ten Thousand Villages in St. Paul. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair-trade retailer of artisan-crafted home decor, personal accessories and gift items from across the globe. As one of the world's oldest and largest fair- trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items. 20% of the evening's sales will be donated to WAMM. Make an evening of it and visit one of the many restaurants located nearby. Join WAMM members at Café Latte (850 Grand Avenue), following your shopping experience. Sponsored by: Ten Thousand Villages and WAMM. FFI: www.stpaul.tenthousandvillages.com. --------8 of 12-------- From: Diane J. Peterson <birch7 [at] comcast.net> Subject: Citizen/MN budget 11.17 6:30pm Tonight, I went to a citizen input session on the MN budget funded by the Bush Foundation. I learned about it from MUHCC. A policy think tank called Citizens League has put together the project they're calling "Common Cents: Minnesotans Weigh in on Taxes and Spending." http://citizensleague.org/commoncents/ It is a free event to articulate our values as a means to impact the state budget. I went to influence my fellow citizens about the economic magic wand contained within single-payer health care. I took a friend with me. Betsy is going next Wednesday to another session they are putting on. I called one of the organizers, Maya, at 612-859-1515, and she said I should invite as many friends as I can. The plan is to combine the results of these sessions into a presentation to the governor and the Legislature. I'd love for Greens to be on the scene for this. Send your acquaintances to the website (above) to learn about the other opportunities for these sessions. Wednesday, November 17 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Rondo Community Outreach Library 461 Dale St. N We were given a slide presentation on where/what the state spends money, and asked to register our choices with hand-held electronic devices--the choices usually numbered 1 to 9--for our preferences on how to cope with the budget. They were taking written comments, too. We need to be discerning about these sessions since TakeAction is involved. The opportunity for us to exercise some clout through these sessions is, for me, irresistable. --------9 of 12-------- From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at] visi.com> Subject: Oil on ice/film 11.17 6:30pm Movie Night with Alaska Wilderness League and AM950 If you missed 3CTC's showing of Oil On Ice some time ago, here's another opportunity to see the film and defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil & gas drilling. December 6th of this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Minnesota is filled with activities leading up to a large celebration! Here are some ways you can participate locally to protect Wild Alaska. On Wednesday, November 17th, Alaska Wilderness League and radio station AM950 will host Movie Night at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis Alaska Wilderness League and AM950 will be featuring an entertaining and educational film "Oil on Ice." Oil on Ice is a vivid, compelling and comprehensive documentary connecting the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to decisions America makes about energy policy, and transportation choices. Doors will be opening at 6:30p.m. and the film will begin at 6:45p.m. Tickets will be for sale at the door and will be selling for $5.00 each. Cash sales only. Free parking is available. For directions to the parking ramp http://www.stanthonyfallsramp.com/ <https://netcommunity.alaskawild.org/page.redir?target=http%3a%2f%2fwww.stan thonyfallsramp.com%2f&srcid=4009&srctid=1&erid=4056658> Before and after the film, Alaska Wilderness League will be doing a brief Q & A session with attendees and answering questions regarding the movie and the fate of the Arctic Refuge. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we must do everything we can to be sure that this last wild haven remains for generations to come. --------10 of 12-------- Watching Minnesota's Top Ten in the Morning David Shove Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the TV to the MN-Wealth channel - it's right next to one of the weather channels - to find out how the 10 richest Minnesotans are doing. If they are better off today than yesterday - individually and as a group - that makes my whole day, there's a smile on my face and a spring to my step. I glory in how happy must be Herbert, John, Cynthia, Wilbur, Mary, Matthew, Franklin, Jules, Skylar, and Charles. Even though they don't know me or even my name, I think of them as my best friends. I found pictures of each. Even videos of some, which I treasure. Things have been going very well for them the last few months - more every day with only a few temporary declines. Ordinary people may lose, be foreclosed upon, be outsourced, be fired, etc, which is why I don't follow them. What a downer that would be! I love winners! Recently Cynthia replaced Flora. Poor Flora, I thought, but I quickly got over it. I erased all my info on Flora - too bad, and bye bye baby! I replaced it with information I researched on Cynthia. You don't want to dwell on misfortune. The good fortune of one overcomes the misfortune of another, and you'd be surprised how quickly! Other people cover the top 20 - Flora is still there, I hear - but why waste time with second-raters? Others follow only the top 5; this is clearly too narrow; we should all have interest and sympathy for more than just 5 people. However, more than 10 is exhausting. Who wants to be exhausted - especially on waking up in the morning? I follow my 10 the rest of the day, too. MN-Wealth is always on. Each of the 10 has a graph of wealth, hour to hour, even minute to minute. When they're all up, I rejoice! When one dips, I hold my breath. Way more exciting than a soap opera! Every now and then one below goes up and the one above goes down, until they switch! More exciting than any horse race, let me tell you! I can only imagine the agony and the ecstasy! One day I saw ALL of them go down, quite a bit! Horrible! I never what to see that tragedy again! Thank god they got bailed out! Watching the top 10 Minnesotans go up - that spells out for me the inner spiritual meaning of the American Dream. What a great way to start the day! --------11 of 12-------- The Origin of America's Intellectual Vacuum by Chris Hedges Published on Monday, November 15, 2010 by TruthDig.com The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country's intellectual life. "You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent - not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders," he wrote in his 1959 essay "...From an Exile." "You must welcome dissent not in a whisper when alone, but publicly so potential dissenters can hear you. What potential dissenters see now is that you accept an academic world from which we are excluded for our thoughts. This is a manifest signpost over all your arches, telling them: Think at your peril. You must not let it stand. You must (defying outside power; gritting your teeth as we grit ours) take us back." But they did not take Davis back. Davis, whom I met a few days ago in Toronto, could not find a job after his prison sentence and left for Canada. He has spent his career teaching mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was one of the lucky ones. Most of the professors ousted from universities never taught again. Radical and left-wing ideas were effectively stamped out. The purges, most carried out internally and away from public view, announced to everyone inside the universities that dissent was not protected. The confrontation of ideas was killed. "Political discourse has been impoverished since then," Davis said. "In the 1930s it was understood by anyone who thought about it that sales taxes were regressive. They collected more proportionately from the poor than from the rich. Regressive taxation was bad for the economy. If only the rich had money, that decreased economic activity. The poor had to spend what they had and the rich could sit on it. Justice demands that we take more from the rich so as to reduce inequality. This philosophy was not refuted in the 1950s and it was not the target of the purge of the 1950s. But this idea, along with most ideas concerning economic justice and people's control over the economy, was cleansed from the debate. Certain ideas have since become unthinkable, which is in the interest of corporations such as Goldman Sachs. The power to exclude certain ideas serves the power of corporations. It is unfortunate that there is no political party in the United States to run against Goldman Sachs. I am in favor of elections, but there is no way I can vote against Goldman Sachs." The silencing of radicals such as Davis, who had been a member of the Communist Party, although he had left it by the time he was investigated by HUAC, has left academics and intellectuals without the language, vocabulary of class war and analysis to critique the ideology of globalism, the savagery of unfettered capitalism and the ascendancy of the corporate state. And while the turmoil of the 1960s saw discontent sweep through student bodies with some occasional support from faculty, the focus was largely limited to issues of identity politics - feminism, anti-racism - and the anti-war movements. The broader calls for socialism, the detailed Marxist critique of capitalism, the open rejection of the sanctity of markets, remained muted or unheard. Davis argues that not only did socialism and communism become outlaw terms, but once these were tagged as heresies, the right wing tried to make liberal, secular and pluralist outlaw terms as well. The result is an impoverishment of ideas and analysis at a moment when we desperately need radical voices to make sense of the corporate destruction of the global economy and the ecosystem. The "centrist" liberals manage to retain a voice in mainstream society because they pay homage to the marvels of corporate capitalism even as it disembowels the nation and the planet. "Repression does not target original thought," Davis noted. "It targets already established heretical movements, which are not experimental but codified. If it succeeds very well in punishing heresies, it may in the next stage punish originality. And in the population, fear of uttering such a taboo word as communism may in the next stage become general paralysis of social thought." It is this paralysis he watches from Toronto. It is a paralysis he predicted. Opinions and questions regarded as possible in the 1930s are, he mourns, now forgotten and no longer part of intellectual and political debate. And perhaps even more egregiously the fight and struggle of radical communists, socialists and anarchists in the 1930s against lynching, discrimination, segregation and sexism were largely purged from the history books. It was as if the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had no antecedents in the battles of the Wobblies as well as the socialist and communist movements. "Even the protests that were organized entirely by Trotskyists were written out of history," Davis noted acidly. Those who remained in charge of American intellectual thought went on to establish the wider "heresy of leftism" in the name of academic objectivity. And they have succeeded. Universities stand as cowardly, mute and silent accomplices of the corporate state, taking corporate money and doing corporate bidding. And those with a conscience inside the walls of the university understand that tenure and promotion require them to remain silent. "Not only were a number of us driven out of the American academic scene, our questions were driven out," said Davis, who at 84 continues to work as emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. "Ideas which were on the agenda a hundred years ago and sixty years ago have dropped out of memory because they are too far from the new center of discourse." Davis has published science fiction stories, is the editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer and is an innovator in the theory of operators and matrices. He is a director of Science for Peace. He also writes poetry. His nimble mind ranges swiftly in our conversation over numerous disciplines and he speaks with the enthusiasm and passion of a new undergraduate. His commitment to radical politics remains fierce and undiminished. And he believes that the loss of his voice and the voices of thousands like him, many of whom were never members of the Communist Party but had the courage to challenge the orthodoxy of the Cold War and corporate capitalism, deadened intellectual and political discourse in the United States. During World War II Davis joined the Navy and worked on the minesweeping research program. But by the end of the war, with the saturation bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, as well as the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he came to regret his service in the military. He has spent most of his life working in a variety of anti-war and anti-nuclear movements. "In retrospect I am sorry I didn't declare myself as a conscientious objector," he said. "Not at the beginning of the war, because if you are ever going to use military force for anything, that was a situation in which I would be happy to do it. I was wholehearted about that. But once I knew about the destruction of Dresden and the other massacres of civilian populations by the Allies, I think the ethical thing to do would have been to declare myself a CO." He was a "Red diaper baby." His father was a professor, union agitator and member of the old Communist Party who was hauled in front of HUAC shortly before his son. Davis grew up reading New Masses and moved from one city to the next because of his father's frequent firings. "I was raised in the movement," he said. "It wasn't a cinch I would be in the Communist Party, but in fact I was, starting in 1943 and then resigning soon after on instructions from the party because I was in the military service. This was part of the coexistence of the Communist Party with Roosevelt and the military. It would not disrupt things during the war. When I got out of the Navy I rejoined the Communist Party, but that lapsed in June of 1953. I never got back in touch with them. At the time I was subpoenaed I was technically an ex-Communist, but I did not feel I had left the movement and in some sense I never did." Davis got his doctorate from Harvard in mathematics and seemed in the 1950s destined for a life as a professor. But the witch hunts directed against "Reds" swiftly ended his career on the University of Michigan faculty. He mounted a challenge to the Committee on Un-American Activities that went to the Supreme Court. The court, ruling in 1960, three years after Joseph McCarthy was dead, denied Davis' assertion that the committee had violated the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. He was sent to prison. Davis, while incarcerated, authored a research paper that had an acknowledgement reading: "Research supported in part by the Federal Prison System. Opinions expressed in this paper are the author's and are not necessarily those of the Bureau of Prisons." Davis, who has lived in Canada longer than he lived in the United States, said that his experience of marginalization was "good for the soul and better for the intellect." "Though you see the remnants of the former academic left still, though some of us were never fired, though I return to the United States from my exile frequently, we are gone," he said. "We did not survive as we were. Some of us saved our skins without betraying others or ourselves. But almost all of the targets either did crumble or were fired and blacklisted. David Bohm and Moses Finley and Jules Dassin and many less celebrated people were forced into exile. Most of the rest had to leave the academic world. A few suffered suicide or other premature death. There weren't the sort of wholesale casualties you saw in Argentina or El Salvador, but the Red-hunt did succeed in axing a lot of those it went after, and cowing most of the rest. We were out, and we were kept out." "I was a scientist four years past my Ph.D. and the regents' decision was to extinguish, it seemed, my professional career," he said. "What could they do now to restore to me 35 years of that life? If it could be done, I would refuse. The life I had is my life. It's not that I'm all that pleased with what I've made of my life, yet I sincerely rejoice that I lived it, that I don't have to be Professor X who rode out the 1950s and 1960s in his academic tenure and his virtuously anti-Communist centrism." 2010 TruthDig.com Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. --------12 of 12-------- November 15, 2010 Obama's Greatest Betrayal The Coming Sell-Out to the Super Rich and What It Means for the Rest of Us By MICHAEL HUDSON Now that President Obama is almost celebrating his bipartisan willingness to renew the tax cuts for the super-rich enacted under George Bush ten years ago, it is time for Democrats to ask themselves how strongly they are willing to oppose an administration that looks like Bush-Cheney III. Is this what they expected by Obama's promise to rise above partisan politics - by ruling on behalf of Wall Street, now that it is the major campaign backer of both parties? It is a reflection of how one-sided today's class war has become that Warren Buffet has quipped that "his" side is winning without a real fight being waged. No gauntlet has been thrown down over the trial balloon that the president and his advisor David Axelrod have sent up over the past two weeks to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 per cent for "just" two more years. For all practical purposes the euphemism "two years" means forever - at least, long enough to let the super-rich siphon off enough more money to bankroll enough more Republicans to be elected to make the tax cuts permanent. Obama seems to be campaigning for his own defeat! Thanks largely to the $13 trillion Wall Street bailout - while keeping the debt overhead in place for America's "bottom 98 per cent" - this happy 2 per cent of the population now receives an estimated three quarters (~75 per cent) of the returns to wealth (interest, dividends, rent and capital gains). This is nearly double what it received a generation ago. The rest of the population is being squeezed, and foreclosures are rising. Baudelaire quipped that the devil wins at the point where he manages convince the world that he doesn't exist. Today's financial elites will win the class war at the point where voters believe it doesn't exist - and believe that Obama is trying to help them rather than shepherd them into debt peonage as the economy settles into debt deflation. We are dealing with shameless demagogy. The financial End Time has arrived, but Obama's happy-talk pretends that "two years" will get us through the current debt-induced depression. The Republican plan is to make more Congressional and Senate gains in 2012 as Obama's former supporters "vote with their backsides" and stay home, as they did earlier this month. So "two years" means forever in politician-talk. Why vote for a politician who promises "change" but is merely an exclamation mark for the Bush-Cheney policies from Afghanistan and Iraq to Wall Street's Democratic Leadership Council on the party's right wing? One of its leaders, after all, was Obama's Senate mentor, Joe Lieberman. The second pretense is that cutting taxes for the super-rich is necessary to win Republican support for including the middle class in the tax cuts. It is as if the Democrats never won a plurality in Congress. (One remembers George W. Bush with his mere 50+ per cent, pushing forward his extremist policies on the logic that: "I've got capital, and I'm using it". What he had, of course, was Democratic Leadership Committee support.) It's all "to create jobs," headed by employment of shipyard workers building yachts for the nouveau riches and foreclosing on the ten million Americans whose mortgage payments have fallen into arrears. It sounds Keynesian - or at least, reminiscent of Thomas Robert Malthus's claim (as lobbyist for Britain's landed aristocracy) that landlords would use their rent income to hire footmen, carriage-makers and butlers to keep the economy going. It gets worse. Obama's "Bush" tax cut is only Part I of a one-two punch to shift taxes onto wage earners. Congressional economists estimate that extending the tax cuts to the top 2 per cent will cost $700 to $750 billion over the next decade or so. "How are we going to go out and borrow $700 billion?" Obama asked Steve Kroft in his Sixty Minutes interview on CBS last week. It was a rhetorical question. The President has appointed a bipartisan commission (right-wingers on both sides of the aisle) to "cure" the federal budget deficit by cutting back social spending - to pay yet more bailouts to the economy's financial wreckers. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform might better be called the New Class War Commission to Scale Back Social Security and Medicare Payments to Labor in Order to Leave more Tax Revenue Available to Give Away to the Super-Rich. A longer title than the Deficit-Reduction Commission used by media friendlies, but sometimes it takes more words to get to the heart of matters. The political axiom at work is "Big fish eat little fish". There's not enough tax money to continue swelling the fortunes of the super-rich pretending to save enough to pay the pensions and related social support that North American and European employees have been promised. Something must give - and the rich have shown themselves sufficiently foresighted to seize the initiative. For a preview of what's in line for the United States, watch neoliberal Europe's fight against the middle and working class in Greece, Ireland and Latvia; or better yet, Pinochet's Chile, whose privatized Social Security accounts were quickly wiped out in the late 1970s by the kleptocracy advised by the Chicago Boys, to whose monetarist double-think Obama's appointee Ben Bernanke has just re-pledged his loyalty. What is needed to put Obama's sell-out in perspective is the pro-Wall Street advisors he has chosen - not only Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke, but by stacking his Deficit Reduction Commission with outspoken advocates of cutting back Social Security, Medicare and other social spending. Their ploy is to frighten the public with a nightmare of $1 trillion deficit to pay retirement income over the next half century - as if the Treasury and Fed have not just given Wall Street $13 trillion in bailouts without blinking an eye. President Obama's $750 billion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 2 per cent is mere icing on the cake that the rich will be eating when the bread lines get too long. To put matters in perspective, bear in mind that interest on the public debt (that Reagan-Bush quadrupled and Bush-Obama redoubled) soon will amount to $1 trillion annually. This is tribute levied on labor - increasing the economy's cost of living and doing business - paid for losing the fight for economic reform and replacing progressive taxation with regressive neoliberal tax policy. As for military spending in the Near East, Asia and other regions responsible for much of the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit, Congress will always rise to the occasion and defer to whatever foreign threat is conjured up requiring new armed force. It's all junk economics. Running a budget deficit is how modern governments inject the credit and purchasing power needed by economies to grow. When governments run surpluses, as they did under Bill Clinton (1993-2000), credit must be created by banks. And the problem with bank credit is that most is lent, at interest, against collateral already in place. The effect is to inflate real estate and stock market prices. This creates capital gains - which the "original" 1913 U.S. income tax treated as normal income, but which today are taxed at only 15 per cent (when they are collected at all, which is rarely in the case of commercial real estate). So today's tax system subsidizes the inflation of debt-leveraged financial and real estate bubbles. The giveaway: the Commission's position on tax deductibility for mortgage interest The Obama "Regressive Tax" commission spills the beans with its proposal to remove the tax subsidy for high housing prices financed by mortgage debt. The proposal moves only against homeowners - "the middle class" - not absentee owners, commercial real estate investors, corporate raiders or other prime bank customers. The IRS permits mortgage interest to be tax-deductible on the pretense that it is a necessary cost of doing business. In reality it is a subsidy for debt leveraging. This tax bias for debt rather than equity investment (using one's own money) is largely responsible for loading down the U.S. economy with debt. It encourages corporate raiding with junk bonds, thereby adding interest to the cost of doing business. This subsidy for debt leveraging also is the government's largest giveaway to the banks, while causing the debt deflation that is locking the economy into depression - violating every precept of the classical drive for "free markets" in the 19th-century. (A "free market" meant freedom from extractive rentier income, leading toward what Keynes gently called "euthanasia of the rentier". The Obama Commission endows rentiers atop the economy with a tax system to bolster their power, not check it - while shrinking the economy below them.) Table 7.11 of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) reports that total monetary interest paid in the U.S. economy amounted to $3,240 billion in 2009. Homeowners paid just under a sixth of this amount ($572 billion) on the homes they occupied. Obama's commission estimates that removing the tax credit on this interest would yield the Treasury $131 billion in 2012. There is in fact a good logic for stopping this tax credit. The mortgage-interest tax deduction does not really save homeowners money. It is a shortsighted illusion. What the government gives to "the homeowner" on one hand is passed on to the mortgage banker by "the market" process that leads bidders for property to pledge the net available rental value to the banks in order to obtain a loan to buy the home (or an office building, or an entire industrial company, for that matter.) "Equilibrium" is achieved at the point where whatever rental value the tax collector relinquishes becomes available to be capitalized into bank loans. This means that what appears at first as "helping homeowners" afford to pay mortgages turns out merely to enable them to afford to pay more interest to their bankers. The tax giveaway uses homebuyers as "throughputs" to transfer tax favoritism to the banks. It gets worse. By removing the traditional tax on real estate, state, local and federal governments need to tax labor and industry more, by transforming the property tax onto income and sales taxes. For banks, this is transmuting tax revenue into gold - into interest. And as for the home-owning middle class, it now has to pay the former property tax to the banker as interest, and also to pay the new taxes on income and sales that are levied to make up for the tax shift. I support removing the tax favoritism for debt leveraging. The problem with the Deficit Commission is that it does not extend this reform to the rest of the economy - to the commercial real estate sector, and to the corporate sector. The argument is made that "The rich create jobs". After all, somebody has to build the yachts. What is missing is the more general principle: Wealth and income inequality destroy job creation. This is because beyond the wealthy soon reach a limit on how much they can consume. They spend their money buying financial securities - mainly bonds, which end up indebting the economy. And the debt overhead is what is pushing today's economy into deepening depression. Since the 1980s, corporate raiders have borrowed high-interest "junk bond" credit to take over companies and make money by stripping assets, cutting back long-term investment, research and development, and paying out depreciation credit to their financiers. Financially parasitized companies use corporate income to buy back their stock to support its price - and hence, the value of stock options that financial managers give themselves - and borrow yet more money for stock buybacks or simply to pay out as dividends. When the process has run its course, they threaten their work force with bankruptcy that will wipe out its pension benefits if employees do not agree to "downsize" their claims and replace defined-benefit plans with defined-contribution plans (in which all that employees know is how much they pay in each month, not what they will get in the end). By the time this point has been reached, the financial managers have paid themselves outsized salaries and bonuses, and cashed in their stock options - all subsidized by the government's favorable tax treatment of debt leveraging. The attempted raids on McDonalds and other companies in recent years provide object lessons in this destructive financial policy of "shareholder activists". Yet Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission is restricting its removal of tax favoritism for debt leveraging only for middle class homeowners, not for the financial sector across the board. What makes this particularly absurd is that two thirds of homeowners do not even itemize their deductions. The fiscal loss resulting from tax deductibility of interest stems mainly from commercial investors. If the argument is correct (and I think it is) that permitting interest to be tax deductible merely "frees" more revenue to pay interest to banks - to capitalize into yet higher loans - then why isn't this principle even more applicable to the Donald Trumps and other absentee owners who seek always to use "other peoples' money" rather than their own? In practice, the "money" turns out to be bank credit whose cost to the banks is now under 1 per cent. The financial-fiscal system is siphoning off rental value from commercial real estate investment, increasing the price of rental properties, commercial real estate, and indeed, industry and agriculture. Alas, the Obama administration has backed the Geithner-Bernanke policy that "the economy" cannot recover without saving the debt overhead. The reality is that it is the debt overhead that is destroying the economy. So we are dealing with the irreconcilable fact that the Obama position threatens to lower living standards from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the coming few years - making the United States look more like Greece, Ireland and Latvia than what was promised in the last presidential election. Something has to give politically if the economy is to change course. More to the point, what has to give is favoritism for Wall Street at the expense of the economy at large. What has made the U.S. economy uncompetitive is primarily the degree to which debt service has been built into the cost of living and doing business. Post-classical "junk economics" treats interest and fees as payment for the "service" for providing credit. But interest (like economic rent and monopoly price extraction) is a transfer payment to bankers with the privilege of credit creation. The beneficiaries of providing tax favoritism for debt are the super-rich at the top of the economic pyramid - the 2 per cent whom Obama's tax giveaway will benefit by over $700 billion. If the present direction of tax "reform" is not reversed, Obama will shed crocodile tears for the middle class as he sponsors the Deficit Reduction Commission's program of cutting back Social Security and revenue sharing to save states and cities from defaulting on their pensions. One third of U.S. real estate already is reported to have sunk into negative equity, squeezing state and local tax collection, forcing a choice to be made between bankruptcy, debt default, or shifting the losses onto the shoulders of labor, off those of the wealthy creditor layer of the economy responsible for loading it down with debt. Critics of the Obama-Bush agenda recall how America's Gilded Age of the late 19th century was an era of economic polarization and class war. At that time the Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan accused Wall Street and Eastern creditors of crucifying the American economy on a cross of gold. Restoration of gold at its pre-Civil War price led to a financial war in the form of debt deflation as falling prices and incomes received by farmers and wage labor made the burden of paying their mortgage debts heavier. The Income Tax law of 1913 sought to rectify this by only falling on the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population - the only ones obliged to file tax returns. Capital gains were taxed at normal rates. Most of the tax burden therefore fell on finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector. The vested interests have spent a century fighting back. They now see victory within reach, by perpetuating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 per cent, phasing out of the estate tax on wealth, the tax shift off property onto labor income and consumer sales, and slashing public spending on anything except more bailouts and subsidies for the emerging financial oligarchy that has become Obama's "bipartisan" constituency. What we need is a Futures Commission to forecast just what will the rich do with the victory they have won. As administered by President Obama and his designated appointees Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke, their policy is financially and fiscally unsustainable. Providing tax incentives for debt leveraging - for most of the population to go into debt to the rich, whose taxes are all but abolished - is shrinking the economy. This will lead to even deeper financial crises, employer defaults and fiscal insolvency at the state, local and federal levels. Future presidents will call for new bailouts, using a strategy much like going to military war. A financial war requires an emergency to rush through Congress, as occurred in 2008-09. Obama's appointees are turning the U.S. economy into a Permanent Emergency, a Perpetual Ponzi Scheme requiring injections of more and more Quantitative Easing to to rescue "the economy" (Obama's euphemism for creditors at the top of the economic pyramid) from being pushed into insolvency. Bernanke's helicopter flies only over Wall Street. It does not drop monetary relief on the population at large. Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002) and Trade, Development and Foreign Debt: A History of Theories of Polarization v. Convergence in the World Economy. He can be reached via his website, mh [at] michael-hudson.com -------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress for governor now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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