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Feds gorge themselves on lobster as part of $97bn end-of-fiscal year spending spree –...

Federal agencies splurged on lobster tail and other gratuitous frills in just one month in a...

Unelected Fiscal Board Pushes Austerity as Island Continues Slow Recovery

It's been almost eight months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and at least 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack power. As anti-austerity...
video

Video: Puerto Rico Needs Help: Unelected Fiscal Board Pushes Austerity as Island Continues Slow...

https://democracynow.org - It's been almost eight months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and at least 30000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack ... Via...

The Irresponsibility of Fiscal Responsibility

(Photo: Michael Zwahlen / EyeEm / Getty Images) It's official: New York Times columnist David Leonhardt pronounced the Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility....

Fear the Fiscal Future, WSJ Warns in New Version of Old Scare Story

Wall Street Journal (3/28/18) advises you to say goodbye to your carefree fiscal ways. Will interest payments take up the entire federal budget? Greg Ip gave...

Puerto Rico banks on medical marijuana to counter fiscal crisis

Puerto Rico is pinning its future on medical marijuana production to lift it out of its...

US growth forecasts slide, IMF cites uncertainty in Trump’s fiscal plan

Published time: 28 Jun, 2017 00:51 The International Monetary Fund has released its US economic growth...

Financial Auguries Predict Impending Fiscal Doom

Jun 27, 2017 By Mundilfury | Financial auguries predict impending fiscal doom on the horizon. Two recent articles have cited a...

The Federal Fiscal Joke

Donald Trump wants to cut the tax/confiscation rate.  Ok, but maybe it would be a good idea to look at the monetary and fiscal...
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Video: Italy Needs Expansionary Fiscal Policy to Escape Six-Year Recession

Further cuts in government expenditure to compensate for the bailout will worsen the situation, says economist Heiner Flassbeck Help support The Real News ... Via...
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Video: How Will Elizabeth Warren Vote on Setting Up Fiscal Control Board in Puerto...

http://democracynow.org - Part 2 of a discussion about the upcoming U.S. Senate vote to to set up a federally appointed control board with sweeping...

Trumped! Washington’s Fiscal Hypocrisy

You have to love it when one of Donald Trump’s wild pitches sends the beltway hypocrites into high dudgeon. But his rumination about negotiating...

Pentagon wants $582bn in funding as part of fiscal year 2017 budget

President Obama will request $582.7 billion in funding for the Pentagon as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter...

Labour will oppose Osborne’s fiscal charter setting budget surplus into law

Shadow Cabinet Minister Diane Abbot has defended Labour’s volte-face on whether to support Chancellor George Osborne’s fiscal charter which seeks to force future government...
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Video: Keiser Report: Monetary Nuclear Option meets Fiscal Policy (E815)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-axxfAIKwAA&w=580&h=385] In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the nuclear option in monetary meets fiscal policy as QE...

Cry for Argentina: Fiscal Mismanagement, Odious Debt or Pillage?

Ellen Brown RINF Alternative News Argentina has now taken the US to The Hague for blocking the country’s 2005 settlement with the bulk of its creditors....

Fiscal-Policy Obstruction to Economic Recovery

Seymour Patterson  RINF Alternative News Janet Yellen, the new chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Banking system (Fed)--she replaces Ben Bernanke, said the Fed will taper quantitative...

Obama€’s Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America’€™s Fiscal Sanity

Harvey Wasserman  RINF Alternative News So the "all the above" energy strategy now deems we dump another $6.5 billion in bogus loan guarantees down the atomic...

Desert Hot Springs, California, declares “fiscal emergency”

Juan Verala Luz  RINF Alternative News At a public meeting, the city council of Desert Hot Springs, California, declared that the small resort town is in...

French Left Front’s “Fiscal Revolution” aims to block anti-austerity movement

By Antoine Lerougetel9 December 2013 Amid rising popular opposition to the reactionary wars and austerity policies of France's Socialist Party (PS) government, the Left...

France: The fraud of Mélenchon’s “Fiscal Revolution”

By Antoine Lerougetel26 November 2013 On November 12, Jean-Luc Mélenchon called for a “Fiscal Revolution” amid rising mass anger with France's Socialist Party (PS)...

France: The fraud of Mélenchon’s “Fiscal Revolution”

By Antoine Lerougetel26 November 2013 On November 12, Jean-Luc Mélenchon called for a “Fiscal Revolution” amid rising mass anger with France's Socialist Party (PS)...

The Contradictions of Global Fiscal-Monetary Policy

“QEs, near zero central bank interest rates, and token initial fiscal stimulus policies followed soon by austerity fiscal stimulus withdrawals, represent the economic recovery...

Lew: US economy bruised by fiscal fight

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the recent fiscal fight between Republicans and Democrats which resulted in a 16-day federal government shutdown has had...

Obama: Ignore Bloggers, Activists and Radio Talk Show Hosts Demanding Fiscal Sanity

Says opposition profits from attempt to save America from economic ruin

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars.com
October 17, 2013

Following the deal to end the government non-shutdown, Obama took to the podium and teleprompter to excoriate Americans opposed to the staggering bankster and Federal Reserve debt destroying the country.

Obama makes his comments at 5 minutes, 40 seconds into the above video.

He specifically targeted bloggers and radio talk show hosts, including Alex Jones.

“All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do,” Obama pontificated.

In other words, Obama demands that the American people stop reading sites like Infowars.com and flock over to the corporate Mockingbird media where they can consume a standard fare of government propaganda and lies.

This article was posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

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Obama: Ignore Bloggers, Activists and Radio Talk Show Hosts Demanding Fiscal Sanity

Says opposition profits from attempt to save America from economic ruin Kurt NimmoInfowars.comOctober 17, 2013 Following...

On the News With Thom Hartmann: House Republicans and President Obama Stalemate in Fiscal...

In today's On the News segment: Over the weekend, House Republicans and President Obama hit a stalemate in fiscal negotiations, and the Senate moved...

World leaders press US on fiscal crisis

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde said a œlack of certainty” threatened the global economy.Global economic partners of the United States have warned the country against...

Politicians Filling Coffers as Fiscal Battles Rage

Democrats, Republicans alike use Obamacare defunding, budget clash to raise political cash Defunding Obamacare. Shuttering the government. Defaulting on federal obligations. No matter that most every...

Seven Things You Should Know About the Wackiest “Fiscal Crisis” Yet

Sometime in the next week, Congress will either get it together to pass a new budget resolution or the government will shut down (all...

GOP to attach Obamacare to fiscal deal

House Republicans may attach a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate to a continuing budget resolution that would keep the government...

The Debt Ceiling Debate: It’s Not a Fiscal Cliff … It’s the Breakdown of...

The blood pressure of the patient in the emergency room drops precipitously. The ER docs have already given 15 pints of blood over the course...

California pensions remain underfunded despite fiscal gains

California state employee pension systems posted large gains in their portfolios, however, they remain massively underfunded. Republished from: World Socialist Web Site

‘Greece must not relax fiscal effort’

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde speaks to reporters in Paris on May 24, 2013.International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief has said Greece must not relax a...

‘Left, Right & Center’: Fiscal Cliff Forever, Saucy Scalia and Double Pope

‘Left, Right & Center’: Fiscal Cliff Forever, Saucy Scalia and Double Pope

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Posted on Mar 1, 2013
kcrw.com

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, economist Robert Reich and the other “Left, Right & Center” panelists discuss President Obama’s criticism of the sequester cuts. Has Capitol Hill devolved into a state of perpetual dysfunction or is this disagreement finally proof that there’s something worth fighting for?

Also, Supreme Court conservatives take a hard line on the Voting Rights Act while the White House and a coalition of Republicans ask the justices to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. Scheer decries the government’s role in squashing whistle-blower rights in its prosecution of Pfc. Bradley Manning, and Weekly Standard writer Jonathan Last (who provides the perspective from the right) looks at what it means to have a new pope before the pope emeritus has shaken his mortal coil.

—Adapted from KCRW by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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US Fiscal Debate Could Learn From Norway

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If Washington sincerely wants to reduce the budget deficit and national debt while protecting the broader economy, it should learn from other nations which have succeeded. One country stands out: Norway.

Norway has the largest budget surpluses in the developed world, no net national debt, citizens enjoy a robust safety net, and unemployment is below 3%. (1) (2)

What is Norway’s secret, other than refusing to join the European Union?

Before the discovery of off-shore oil in the late 60s, Norway’s lackluster economy earned the nickname ‘Europe’s ugly duckling’. But Norway’s subsequent success has as much to do with public policy as their fortuitous location near petroleum reserves.

Norway’s overall tax as a share of GDP is among the highest in the OECD–for corporations, it is the highest. Norway’s corporate tax revenue as a share of GDP is above eight percent—the highest in the world and four times higher than the US. (3) By comparison, the US is the third lowest taxed country and the second lowest for corporations. (4) In other words, if a US company sought lower tax rates by relocating to another country, as they regularly threaten, there is only one country in the world they could go: Iceland. (5) Contrary to the myth of job creators, high rates have not crippled Norwegian entrepreneurs. In fact, Norway produces more successful business start-ups than the US. (6)

By far the largest source of Norway’s tax revenues is from off-shore oil and gas development. In addition to the 28 percent corporate rate, the government collects 50 percent surtax on oil and gas profits for a combined tax of 78 percent. (7) The majority of oil revenue is saved in a sovereign wealth account estimated at $640 billion—the largest in the world. (8) Norway limits the amount of oil revenue that can be spent on the annual budget to no more than 4 percent of the fund’s returns, although the government broke the rule during the global recession to prevent a collapse in spending.

The US also possesses one of the largest oil and gas deposits in the world, but profits from its development accrue in the accounts of Exxon and BP rather than the public ledger.

Numerous polls show Americans want their representatives to focus on jobs and the economy. Americans strongly oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Two of the most popular proposals for reducing the debt, aside from deep cuts in military spending, are raising taxes on corporations, as well as a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Fortunately, the solutions which are the most politically popular are also the most economically effective and morally defensible.

Norway’s economic miracle proves that responsible fiscal management starts with protecting the safety net and asking the people who have benefited the most to pay their fair share—the opposite of what the apostles of austerity tell us.

  1. Norway’s budget surplus largest in OECD
  2. Norway’s net national surplus
  3. Norway: highest corporate taxes
  4. US third lowest tax rate in OECD
  5. US corporate tax, second lowest
  6. Norway’s entrepreneurs love socialism
  7. Norway’s 78% oil tax
  8. Sovereign wealth fund

Harry Reid Picking Winners In Fiscal Cliff Deal

Buried deep in the bowels of the much-heralded last-minute fiscal-cliff deal, that saved us from a fate worse than death and raised taxes on 77% of Americans, was a quiet little provision, inserted at the last minute, that sharply slashed Medicare pay...

Japan’s Fiscal Stimulus: Yes, There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media at a press conference at the Liberal Democratic Party's headquarters in Tokyo, July 29, 2007. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media at a press conference at the Liberal Democratic Party's headquarters in Tokyo, July 29, 2007. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times) Economists like to say there’s no such thing as a free lunch – this was even the title of a 1975 book by Milton Friedman. But sometimes there is a free lunch – in a vitally important sense – and now is one of those times for a lot of countries suffering from unnecessary unemployment and in some cases, recession.

Adam Posen doesn’t want to recognize that this is the case for Japan at present.  Posen is president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which is probably Washington’s most influential think tank on international economics.  Posen is not an “austerian” economist – in the second half of the 1990s he supported expansionary fiscal policy in Japan; and more recently, as a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee from 2009-2012, he supported expansionary monetary policy, including quantitative easing and very low interest rates.

So it is worth looking at his argument, because it may help us understand how the mainstream of the economics profession can sometimes be an obstacle to global economic recovery, as well as to important social goals such as reducing unemployment and poverty.

The Japanese government of Shinzo Abe recently announced a large stimulus program; the exact size is not clear but the government is seeking to boost GDP growth by 2 percentage points.  That would seem to be a good idea, since the Japanese economy is currently in recession, and the world economy to which it exports is not doing so well either.  Japanese inflation is currently negative, which means that the government can create money to pay for the stimulus without having to worry about increasing inflation.  In fact, deflation is the much greater worry, and the government wants the central bank to target a 2 percent inflation rate. (Deflation tends to discourage consumption, because purchases will be cheaper in the future; and investment, because investors are looking at shaky demand in the future, especially with the economy already in recession).

This is what I mean by a free lunch.  In fact, it’s a free lunch and a five-course dinner plus dessert.  It costs the central bank nothing to create this money for the government to spend; and any resulting increase in inflation actually helps get the Japanese economy out of its slump.  It also means that the government doesn’t have to add anything to its net debt – so, no increase in the public debt burden for the future.

But Posen argues that it’s an idea whose time has past.  Here is the crux of his argument:

Stuffing bank balance sheets with JGBs [Japanese government bonds] has constrained commercial lending by those banks – even during the recovery of 2003-08 – which harmed small and new business development. The persistently low returns on Japanese savings have further squandered investment opportunities, thereby creating a negative feedback loop with deflation and older savers’ risk aversion. The absence of external pressure has fed the combined long-term appreciation of the yen and stagnation of Japanese stock market returns, both severely distorting the economy. Needed public investment and funds for adequate healthcare and disaster recovery have been crowded out by debt payments …

I find it difficult to believe that Japanese government debt payments are crowding out public spending, much less private investment.  Net interest payments on Japan’s public debt are less than 1 percent of GDP. (This is also true for the U.S., incidentally, for those who have debt-phobia here.) This is quite small. I am also skeptical about the other problems that he attributes to Japan’s debt accumulation, such as the long-term appreciation of the yen and low stock market returns.  These have multiple causes, as does the amount of commercial lending by banks – which is more likely to be constrained by a weak economy than by government spending.

In any case, it’s difficult to see how a new stimulus program, financed by money creation, would worsen any of these problems – even if the potential for such an effect were possible -- since it doesn’t add to the country’s net debt burden or reduce banks’ lending capacity. 

And a big chunk of the stimulus is targeted toward “needed public investment” and disaster reconstruction that Posen is worried about being crowded out by public debt.

From a public interest perspective, the only worries about a stimulus program like this one would be if the money were poorly spent, e.g. on environmentally destructive rather than constructive activities; and – to a much lesser extent, if the government were to finance it through borrowing from the public, rather than the central bank (i.e. the free lunch).

Posen also argues that the stimulus won’t fix Japan’s “real problem” which is “a return to deflation and an overvalued currency.”  But it’s more likely to reduce these problems than to make them worse. Indeed press reports have noted:

The expectation of aggressive monetary easing and a much bolder BOJ [Bank of Japan] since Abe, who was prime minister in 2006-2007, returned to power has sparked a bull run in Japanese markets.

Tokyo's benchmark stock index, the Nikkei 225, has soared more than 20 percent since mid-November, while the yen has fallen roughly 11 percent in anticipation of aggressive monetary easing. The Nikkei hit a fresh 23-month high on Friday following the release of the stimulus package.

I would also take issue with a certain “false equivalence” regarding the alleged dangers of fiscal stimulus (in this case involving an economy with actual deflation) versus austerity, at a time when not only Japan but Europe is in recession, and much of the global economy is weak and facing downside risks. Posen writes:

Persistent fiscal policies that fail to adapt to changing cyclical conditions result in long-term damage. This holds true whether a government errs on the side of excessive austerity, as in Europe of late, or on the side of unjustified indiscipline, as in Japan since its recovery a decade ago . . . Italy, the UK and the US should fear the structural damage of following Japan’s example if fiscal expansion is not timed to end with recovery.

But the U.S. recovery is too weak; at the current pace it will take more than a decade to get back to full employment.  This is unacceptable. The world economy is projected to grow at 3.6 percent this year, as compared with 5.1 percent in 2010. Japan’s example should be followed anywhere that there is the economic capacity to do so, including in the United States and the eurozone.

Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker

The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicareprice restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysispatients.

The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

Amgen, which has a small army of 74 lobbyists in the capital, was the only company to argue aggressively for the delay, according to several Congressional aides of both parties.

Supporters of the delay, primarily leaders of the Senate Finance Committee who have long benefited from Amgen’s political largess, said it was necessary to allow regulators to prepare properly for the pricing change.

But critics, including several Congressional aides who were stunned to find the measure in the final bill, pointed out that Amgen had already won a previous two-year delay, and they depicted a second one as an unnecessary giveaway.

“That is why we are in the trouble we are in,” said Dennis J. Cotter, a health policy researcher who studies the cost and efficacy of dialysis drugs. “Everybody is carving out their own turf and getting it protected, and we pass the bill on to the taxpayer.”

The provision’s inclusion in the legislation to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that made up the so-called fiscal cliff shows the enduring power of special interests in Washington, even as Congress faces a critical test of its ability to balance the budget.

Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.

It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.

Aides to Mr. Hatch and Mr. Baucus, and a spokeswoman for Amgen, said the delay would give the Medicare system and medical providers the time they needed to accommodate other complicated changes in how federal reimbursements for kidney care were determined.

“Sometimes when you try to do too much and too quickly, you screw up,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Mr. Hatch. The goal, an Amgen spokeswoman said in a written statement, is “to ensure that quality of care is not compromised for dialysis patients.”

But the measure runs counter to a five-year effort in Washington to control the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to overprescribe medication.

Amgen’s success also shows that even a significant federal criminal investigation may pose little threat to a company’s influence on Capitol Hill. On Dec. 19, as Congressional negotiations over the fiscal bill reached a frenzy, Amgen pleaded guilty to marketing one of its anti-anemia drugs, Aranesp, illegally. It agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties totaling $762 million, a record settlement for a biotechnology company, according to the Justice Department.

Amgen, whose headquarters is near Los Angeles and which had $15.6 billion in revenuein 2011, has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus; Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to the White House.

Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.

What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like theCongressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.

Amgen has sent large donations to Glacier PAC, sponsored by Mr. Baucus in Montana, and OrrinPAC, a political action committee controlled by Mr. Hatch in Utah.

And when Mr. Hatch faced a rare primary challenge last year, a nonprofit group calling itself Freedom Path sponsored advertisements in Utah that attacked his opponent, an effort that tax records released in November show was financed in large part by thePharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group that includes Amgen.

In some cases, the company’s former employees have found important posts inside the Capitol. They include Dan Todd, one of Mr. Hatch’s top Finance Committee staff members on health and Medicare policy, who worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen’s government affairs office from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Todd, who joined Mr. Hatch’s staff in 2011, was directly involved in negotiating the dialysis components of the fiscal bill, and he met with “all the stakeholders,” Mr. Hatch’s spokeswoman said, not disputing when asked that this included Amgen lobbyists.

For years, Amgen used its clout in Washington to lobby for generous Medicare payments for its blockbuster drug, Epogen, which fends off anemia in dialysis patients.

The Medicare program covers most costs associated with treating severe renal disease, regardless of a patient’s age, and the dialysis market continues to grow steadily. In 2010, the government’s kidney program was spending $1.9 billion on injectable anti-anemia drugs like Epogen.

But nearly a decade ago, evidence started to surface that questioned the effectiveness and safety of Epogen at the levels being used.

Researchers found that Medicare’s practice of reimbursing providers with separate payments for the drugs and for dialysis treatments encouraged overprescription because the providers made healthy profits with each dose. They also found that high doses posed cardiovascular risks to patients.

Congress reversed the incentive in 2008 by requiring Medicare to pay a single, bundled rate for a dialysis treatment and related medications starting in 2011. With providers potentially profiting more by prescribing less Epogen, use of dialysis drugs dropped by nearly 25 percent.

But the blow was softened for Amgen and other kidney care companies with a few favors from Congress. Among them was a two-year delay in the inclusion of certain oral drugs, Sensipar among them, in the new bundled payment system. That meant demand for Sensipar would not decline and Amgen would maintain control over pricing.

With that two-year exclusion set to expire in 2014, Amgen’s lobbyists began making rounds again on Capitol Hill last fall. In private meetings with staff members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, they argued for another two-year delay, several Congressional aides said.

Committee staff members had been meeting regularly in Room S-124 of the Capitol to negotiate a package of Medicare cuts needed to prevent a large scheduled reduction in doctors’ fees. The kidney program was on the table because a new report by the Government Accountability Office had found that Medicare had overpaid for dialysis by up to $880 million in 2011.

The discussions about cutting dialysis reimbursement began late last fall with little focus on a delay for oral drugs, but it was eventually endorsed by leading staff members for Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch, Congressional aides said.

Aides to the senators said the delay made sense because the Government Accountability Office had warned in early 2011 that federal regulators should take care in setting compensation levels for the drugs.

But others on Capitol Hill saw no justification for further delay.

“It is disappointing,” said a Democratic Congressional aide who declined to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity, “since the status quo encourages prescribing of oral drugs based on financial incentives rather than on best clinical practices.”

Mr. Hatch’s spokeswoman, Ms. Ferrier, said the involvement of Mr. Todd, the former Amgen employee, had not been inappropriate and that dozens of staff members on Capitol Hill handled matters that might benefit former employers.

“They have to leave their previous lives behind,” Ms. Ferrier said. “And Dan has done just that.”

After the House was sidelined late in the fiscal negotiations, the Senate gained control of the final bill-writing process, and the provision requested by Amgen was inserted into the legislation by Senate staff members.

Aides to Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch emphasized that the White House and Senate leadership, including Mr. McConnell, had the final word on the bill.

A spokesman for Mr. McConnell praised the parts of the legislation related to Medicare, while a White House spokesman declined to comment, saying the matter was decided by players on Capitol Hill.

Many lobbyists and Congressional aides said they first learned of the language when the final bill was posted publicly, only hours before being approved. It called for cutting $4.9 billion over 10 years by lowering Medicare payments for dialysis, but left hundreds of millions on the table by extending the oral drug delay.

At this point, opponents had no way to challenge the provision, as there was a single vote on the entire fiscal package. Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch voted in favor.

Aides to the senators said some heavy donors had won and others had lost in the Medicare negotiations — proof that the legislative outcome was based on the merits. “What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes,” said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. “It’s as simple as that.”

Guest Post: Fiscal Farce, Failure, Fantasy, & Fornication

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog,

I’ve put off writing an article about what is likely to happen in 2013 so I could peruse the thousands of other articles by reputable bloggers, paid pundits, Wall Street shills and captured charlatans to gather their wisdom. It’s essential that I make predictions for 2013 so I can write another article in December rationalizing why 90% of my predictions failed to materialize. Reading all of these 2013 prediction articles made things much clearer for me. I now know for sure:

  • The stock market will reach an all-time high.
  • The stock market will fall 42%.
  • The economy will strengthen as the year progresses.
  • The economy will descend into a depression.
  • The USD will strengthen.
  • The USD will collapse.
  • Gas prices will set new highs.
  • Gas prices will fall below 2012 levels.
  • Gold will rise to $10,000 per ounce.
  • Gold will drop below $1,000 per ounce.
  • We will experience hyperinflation.
  • We will experience horrific deflation.
  • Obama will compromise with the Republicans and put the country on a path to prosperity.
  • Obama will create a debt ceiling crisis and assume dictatorial powers as a result.
  • Snooki will be a better mother than Kim Kardashian.
  • Honey Boo Boo will beat I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant in the Neilson ratings.

The majority of 2013 prediction articles are written to support the agenda of the writer. Many are trying to sell newsletter subscriptions or investment services. Their predictions will match the theme of their newsletter. Others are Wall Street paid shills who will predict what they are paid to predict by their owners. Then there are the political hacks who tow the party line with their predictions. But no one can top the predictive powers of the CBO. They just put out their ten year updated forecast reflecting the fabulous fiscal cliff deal that saved the country. According to the CBO, the “compromise” to reduce our deficits will add a mere $4 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years. I’m sure this will prove to be accurate. Just take a look at their 2002 projection, after passage of the Bush tax cuts:

The CBO predicted the FY2012 surplus would be $641 billion, the national debt would total $3.5 trillion, the debt held by the public would total $1.273 trillion, and GDP would total $17.2 trillion. They missed by that much.

 

The actual FY12 results were:

  • The true deficit was $1.37 trillion (amount national debt increased – not the phony deficit number reported by the mainstream media).
  • The national debt was $16.1 trillion.
  • The debt held by the public was $11.3 trillion.
  • GDP was $15.8 trillion.

Based on these results, I won’t be asking the CBO for help with my Super Bowl bet. Making ten year predictions is beyond worthless, but public policy in Washington DC is based on these useless CBO projections. The entire fiscal cliff kabuki theater fictitious crisis reveals the politicians and mainstream media pundits to be liars, fools and frauds. The tax the rich to cut the deficit storyline was sold to the public and won the day. Of course, the highly accurate CBO immediately revealed that the Orwellian named American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 adds $4 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years. Based on the accuracy of their previous predictions, it’s a guarantee the national debt goes up by $8 trillion, as the rich take advantage of the thousands of loopholes in the IRS code they paid for to avoid paying the taxes expected by the CBO.

Hypocrisy abounds on both sides of the aisle in Washington DC and on the media company propaganda channels. As the national debt soared from $10.6 trillion on the day Obama took office to $16.4 trillion today, I heard shrieking liberal talking heads on MSNBC, CNN, and the rest of the liberal media blame the debt on the Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars. If the Bush tax cuts were so horrific, why did Obama and his minions just make 98% of these tax cuts permanent? Liberals held protest marches across the country against Bush’s wars and burned him in effigy. Obama’s defense budgets have been larger than Bush’s and he doubled down on our miserable failure in Afghanistan. You don’t hear a peep from the liberals about the warmongering Barack Obama who has kill lists and unleashes predator drones, killing women and children across the globe. Liberals pretend to be concerned about the welfare of the citizens, but continue to support a President that uses executive orders to imprison citizens indefinitely without charges, has expanded surveillance on citizens, has kept Guantanamo open, signs the continuation of the Patriot Act, and proposes overturning the Second Amendment by executive order. Liberals shriek about the evils of an unregulated Wall Street, while remaining silent as Obama hasn’t prosecuted a single banker for the greatest financial fraud in world history. You don’t hear a peep about Jon Corzine, who stole $1.2 billion from the accounts of farmers and ranchers. Liberals talk about regulation and then stand idly by while Wall Street lobbyists wrote the Dodd Frank law and insurance and drug company lobbyists wrote the Obamacare law. Liberal hypocrisy knows no bounds and is only matched by Neo-Con hypocrisy.

The Neo-Con controlled Republican Party is a pathetic joke. They have the guts to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility, after Bush’s eight year reign of error. He and his fiscally responsible party were handed a budget in surplus and managed to add $4.9 trillion to the national debt by waging undeclared wars, encouraging Wall Street to create the biggest fraudulent financial bubble in history, creating a new $16 trillion unfunded entitlement (Medicare Part D), cutting taxes without paying for them, and creating a massive new government agency (DHS) to take away our liberties and freedom. Federal government spending grew from $1.9 trillion to $3.0 trillion under Bush and the Republicans. Does that sound fiscally responsible?

Does anyone believe the Republican Party is serious about cutting anything? Tough guy Republicans like Big Chris Christie preach fiscal responsibility when going to war with teachers’ unions, but he squeals  like a stuck pig when a $60 billion pork filled, unpaid for, Sandy Relief bill is held up in Congress. The courageous fiscally responsible Congress critters passed the entire pork filled, unfunded, bloated, vote buying joke. It included $28 billion to mitigate future disasters, $3 billion to repair or replace Federal assets, and $6 billion for transportation projects completely unrelated to Sandy damage.   The hypocrisy of politicians who proclaim the $50 billion of 2013 fiscal cliff tax revenue as deficit cutting, and then immediately piss it away by paying people to rebuild their houses yards from the Atlantic Ocean while funding billions of non-disaster related projects is disgusting to behold. There is nothing like compromise to add another $60 billion to the national debt.

Our entire economic and political system is a farce. The American people are being played by the powerful interests that provide them with an illusion of choice. Both parties serve the interests of their masters and the fiscal cliff show and debt ceiling show are a form of reality TV to keep the masses alarmed, fearful, and believing there is actually a difference between the policies of the ruling class. The charade has played out in its full glory in the last few weeks with Obama convincing the masses he had stuck it to the rich, while in reality the working middle class got it good and hard when they got their January paychecks. This chart details the tax changes that went into effect on January 1.          

 taxbill

The funniest part this fiscal fiasco farce is watching the reaction of the sheep who believed Obama and the mainstream media storyline. Obama was able to raise the published top rate on people making over $400,000. The newly defined “rich” laughed heartily as they know only fools pay anywhere near the top rate. The rich just call their tax advisor and instruct them to use one of the thousands of tax loopholes in the 75,000 page IRS tax code to “legally” avoid the new Obama rates. Meanwhile, both parties and their mainstream media mouthpieces downplayed the 2% payroll tax increase on every working American. This tax increase has been a complete surprise to the reality TV zombies and Facebook aficionados. Even college educated professionals in my office had no idea their next monthly paycheck was going to be $150 to $200 lighter. This will wipe out most, or all, of the annual raise they received. The tax will fall heavily on the 75% of households that make less than the $113,700 Social Security cutoff. For a struggling family of four earning the median income of $50,000, the $1,000 less in their paychecks will mean less food, putting off trips to the doctor, driving on bald tires, or not taking the family on a vacation to the Jersey shore. The $2,274 increase in taxes (.57%) for the Wall Street banker making $400,000 probably won’t put too much of a crimp in his Hamptons lifestyle.

The joke is on the American people as the rich will ante up maybe $50 billion of taxes in 2013, while the working middle class will be skewered for $125 billion. How’s that “Tax the Rich” slogan working out for you?     

 

Only in the Orwellian capital of Washington DC would a bill that was supposed to provide tax relief to the middle class and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, actually increase the tax burden of a median household by $1,000 and perpetuate the pork spending payoffs to campaign contributors and friends of the slimy politicians that slither through the halls of Congress. The list of pork and bribes should be nauseating to hard working Americans across the country:

$30 billion extension of the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, even though we are supposedly in the 3rd year of economic recovery. Continuing to pay people to not work for two years will surely boost employment.

$14.3 billion for a two-year extension of the corporate research credit benefiting large technology companies like IBM and Hewlett Packard.

$12.2 billion one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind power.

$11.2 billion two- year extension of the active financing exception, which lets GE, Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) and Citigroup Inc. (C), among others, defer taxes on financing income they earn outside the U.S.

$1.9 billion extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring workers from disadvantaged groups, benefitting mega-restaurant chains like McDonalds.

$1.8 billion extension of the New Markets Tax Credit for investments in low- income areas, benefitting JP Morgan and other Wall Street shyster banks.

$650 million tax credit for manufacturing energy-efficient appliances, benefitting mega-corps like Whirlpool.

$430 million for Hollywood through “special expensing rules” to encourage TV and film production in the United States. Producers can expense up to $15 million of costs for their projects. NBC thanks you.

$331 million for railroads by allowing short-line and regional operators to claim a tax credit up to 50% of the cost to maintain tracks that they own or lease.

$248 million in special expensing rules for films and television programs.

$222 million for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through returned excise taxes collected by the federal government on rum produced in the islands and imported to the mainland.

$78 million for NASCAR by extending a “7-year cost recovery period for certain motorsports racing track facilities.”

$59 million for algae growers through tax credits to encourage production of “cellulosic biofuel” at up to $1.01 per gallon.

$4 million for electric motorcycle makers by expanding an existing green-energy tax credit for buyers of plug-in vehicles to include electric motorbikes.

So when you see the cut in your take home pay, just comfort yourself knowing that JP Morgan, Citigroup, GE and hundreds of mega-corporations were able to retain their tax breaks. As they have done for decades, Congress and the President agreed to address spending cuts at a future date. Of course, a government spending cut isn’t actually a cut. It’s a lower increase than their previous projection. Nothing is ever cut in Washington DC. The austerity storyline is a lie. Not a dime has been cut from the Federal budget. Intellectually dishonest ideologues try to peddle the wind down of the Obama $800 billion porkulus program as a cut in Federal spending. They sold this Keynesian “shovel ready” crap to a gullible public as stimulus to jumpstart the economy. Federal spending was $3.0 trillion before the Obama stimulus. After the two year stimulus was pissed away without helping the economy one iota, the baseline should have been back in the $3.2 trillion range. Instead, FY13 Federal spending will be $3.8 trillion. This hasn’t kept liberal ideologues like Krugman and his minions in the mainstream media from blaming crazy Tea Party Republicans for inflicting horrendous austerity measures on the poor and disadvantaged.

 

The chart above reveals a few truths:

  • The country has been blessed with two of the worst presidents in U.S. history over the last twelve years.
  • When Federal spending as a percentage of GDP is beyond two standard deviations over the normal range during the last sixty years, your problem is not lack of tax revenue.
  • Obama and the current Congress are spending at a level of 24% of GDP versus the 18% of GDP when Clinton left office. This amounts to a nose bleed altitude $950 billion higher than the level Clinton was spending in his final year in office.

The Op-eds in liberal rags across the land decry the lack of civility in Washington DC and plead for politicians on both sides of the aisle to come together and compromise for the good of the country. This line of bullshit would be laughable if it wasn’t so wretched in its falsity. Compromise is what has left this country with a $16.4 trillion national debt, $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities, and $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see. Democrats have compromised and let the Republicans create a warfare state. Republicans have compromised and let Democrats create a welfare state. The two headed monster living in the swamps of Washington DC just voted to increase taxes on all Americans. They voted to hand criminal Wall Street banks $700 billion. They voted to pass the Patriot Act. They voted to pass the NDAA. They’ve allowed the President to wage undeclared wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Iran. They voted for a $663 billion Defense bill that includes tens of billions the Secretary of Defense doesn’t even want. They will vote to raise the debt ceiling in the next two months. The last thing this country needs is more compromise. We can’t afford any more compromise. The chart above proves what can happen when gridlock ensues, spending restrictions are enforced, and confrontation displaces compromise. After the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, gridlock ensued for the next six years. PAYGO restrictions in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 didn’t allow unfettered spending increases. The result was Federal spending falling from 22% of GDP to 18% of GDP and a budget surplus. The Pay-Go restrictions expired in 2002 and Democrats and Republicans have compromised to the tune of a $10.2 trillion increase in the national debt in ten years. The hypocrisy of pandering deceitful politicians is boundless and shows utter contempt for the intelligence of the American populace.  

“Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to. If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money – Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire. We are not a deadbeat nation.

It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession. And ironically it would probably increase our deficit. So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.” – President Barack Obama – January 14, 2013

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. The Senate continues to reject a return to the common sense Pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously, Pay-go rules applied both to increases in mandatory spending and to tax cuts.

The Senate had to abide by the common sense budgeting principle of balancing expenses and revenues. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.” – Senator Barack Obama – March 16, 2006

I could have shown quotes from George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential campaign talking about a non-interventionist foreign policy and no need for the U.S. to get involved in nation building and then proceeding to pre-emptively attack sovereign countries while wasting trillions and impoverishing unborn generations trying to create “democracy” in the Middle East at the point of a gun as a cover to protect “our” oil. The point is that we are being given the illusion of choice. Everyone knows the debt ceiling will be raised after another episode of Washington DC Kabuki Theater, presented by the corporate mainstream media in breathtaking detail, because the politicians are beholden to their owners and those owners want more of our money. That is why spending will never be willingly cut by the spineless puppet congressmen, as their strings are pulled by the corporate puppet masters and they dance to the tune of the banking oligarchs that own this country.

After witnessing the fighting of undeclared never ending wars, passage of freedom destroying legislation like the Patriot Act & NDAA, approval of pork barrel spending to the tune of hundreds of billions, rule by Executive Order, using ZIRP to extract hundreds of billions from senior citizen savers and give it to criminal Wall Street banks, forcing the American people at gunpoint to replenish the Wall Street banks with $700 billion after they had committed the greatest financial fraud in history, and a continuing trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the American people continue to remain willfully ignorant of the truth. The American Dream is dead. We’ve allowed a rich, privileged, elite few to achieve hegemony over our economic and political system with their control of the media and manipulation of our financial markets. They will collapse the country because they will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth and power they’ve accumulated. Their voracious greed will be their downfall. The sooner we can channel the anger of George Carlin, the sooner we can put an end to this corporate fascist reign of terror.         

“Politicians are put there to give you that idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, and they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, and the City Halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They’ve got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. You know something, they don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around their kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago.

It’s a big club and you ain’t in it! You and I are not in the Big Club. By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you in the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table is tilted folks, the game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on, the fact that Americans are and will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white, and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth, it’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin

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A Modest Proposal for Jacob Lew: Acknowledge Three Simple Facts about U.S. Fiscal Reality

In a reasonable world, in which we recognized the culpability of big-time D.C. politicians and bureaucrats who allowed Wall Street hyper-speculation to run wild and eventually cause the 2008-09 crash and Great Recession, Jacob Lew would be understood as a terrible choice as President Obama’s second-term Treasury Secretary, replacing Timothy Geithner. The outstanding journalist Robert Sheer gives us the basic background in a recent Nation article. Sheer writes:

I suppose that he can’t be much worse than Timothy Geithner, but that should be scant cause for cheer over the news that the president has nominated Jack Lew as Treasury secretary. Both championed the financial deregulation craze of the Clinton administration, and both are acolytes of Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who unfettered Wall Street greed and then took his own considerable cut of the action.

But because we are not living in a reasonable world, at least in terms of D.C.-insider debates on economic policy, Lew’s nomination apparently faces opposition from Republicans because he appears insufficiently committed to an austerity budget that could push the economy back into recession while also devastating spending for Social Security, education, health care, family support, and unemployment insurance.

It is clear that debate over the fiscal deficit and austerity will dominate Lew’s confirmation hearings and at least his initial period in office, if he ends up getting confirmed. But without pursuing any deep explorations about who should be taxed more or less, or whether 47 percent of U.S. citizens are indeed freeloaders, I would just propose that Lew be willing to recognize three sets of very simple, irrefutable facts about the current U.S. fiscal condition. Here they are:

Fact #1: The U.S. government is not facing a fiscal crisis.

In any common sense meaning of the term “fiscal crisis,” we would be referring to the government’s inability to make its forthcoming payments to its creditors. By that common sense definition, the U.S. federal government is in just about the best shape it has ever been. Figure 1 below tells the story.

According to the most recent data from the third quarter of 2012 (which we term “2012.3”), the federal government spent 7.7 percent of its total expenditures on interest to its creditors. As the figure shows, that figure is less than half of the average figure under the full 12 years of Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush, when the government paid, on average, 16.8 percent of the total budget to cover interest payments. Right now, as we see, government interest payments are at near historic lows, not highs. As Treasury Secretary-designate, Lew needs to just state this obvious, and highly relevant point. To my knowledge, it has been heretofore completely left out of the insider-D.C. fiscal cliff debates, by Lew, Obama, and Geithner, to say nothing of the Republicans.

Fact #2: Interest rates on government bonds are at historic lows.

Figure 2 tells this story, which is well-known, but is not being given proper recognition in the deficit debates. As the figure shows, at the end of 2012, the U.S. government was borrowing at 0.7 percent on its 5-year Treasury Bonds.

It is precisely because the federal government can borrow so cheaply that our interest payments are corresponding low. Deficit hawks—economists and politicians alike—have been insisting for years that the rates are about to spike back up. Of course, interest rates will rise back up, at some point. We need to be vigilant about that. But this hasn’t happened over the full four year period since the onset of the Great Recession. This enables the U.S. government to maintain stimulus levels of spending, to get the economy onto a healthy growth trajectory. In other words, we have no reason to submit to an austerity agenda now. We should expect Jacob Lew to at least state the obvious here: that the deficit hawks have been wrong about an impending interest rate spike for four years running.

Fact #3: Current large government deficits are due to the recession, not out-of-control spending.

This is so obvious it should be barely worth mentioning. But simple facts are ignored repeatedly in the fiscal deficit debates. No doubt during the Lew hearings, there will be more discussion about the current crisis being due to the 47 percent freeloading population who, as Mitt Romney put it after his defeat, “want stuff” from the government. As we see in Figure 3, the government’s fiscal deficit spiked at 10.1 percent of GDP in 2009, immediately after the onset of the recession.

But does anybody want to seriously claim that the pattern of fiscal deficits that we see in Figure 3 is due to the fact that people didn’t want too much stuff as of 2007 or 2008, then all of the sudden, that demand for stuff soared in 2009, which was just coincidentally exactly when the Wall Street crash brought the economy to its knees?

The deficit has fallen modestly since 2009, to 8.5 percent of GDP in 2012. But the single most important thing we can do to lower the fiscal deficit further is to push unemployment down. This will generate increased government revenues with people paying more in income and sales taxes, and it will reduce government payments on unemployment insurance and supplemental aid for health care and family support. The U.S. has the capacity to pursue a stimulus agenda now quite easily, precisely because interest rates and interest payments to creditors remain historically low.

It shouldn’t be any stretch at all for Jacob Lew to acknowledge these three simple, irrefutable points. But will he do it? My guess is that he will not. If I am right in this guess, it will provide only further evidence as to the dismal state of the economic policy debate in official Washington, including Democrats like Lew here as well as Republicans.

© 2013 Political Economy Research Institute (PERI)

Robert Pollin, a professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, is co-author of Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy.

A Modest Proposal for Jacob Lew: Acknowledge Three Simple Facts about U.S. Fiscal Reality

In a reasonable world, in which we recognized the culpability of big-time D.C. politicians and bureaucrats who allowed Wall Street hyper-speculation to run wild and eventually cause the 2008-09 crash and Great Recession, Jacob Lew would be understood as a terrible choice as President Obama’s second-term Treasury Secretary, replacing Timothy Geithner. The outstanding journalist Robert Sheer gives us the basic background in a recent Nation article. Sheer writes:

I suppose that he can’t be much worse than Timothy Geithner, but that should be scant cause for cheer over the news that the president has nominated Jack Lew as Treasury secretary. Both championed the financial deregulation craze of the Clinton administration, and both are acolytes of Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who unfettered Wall Street greed and then took his own considerable cut of the action.

But because we are not living in a reasonable world, at least in terms of D.C.-insider debates on economic policy, Lew’s nomination apparently faces opposition from Republicans because he appears insufficiently committed to an austerity budget that could push the economy back into recession while also devastating spending for Social Security, education, health care, family support, and unemployment insurance.

It is clear that debate over the fiscal deficit and austerity will dominate Lew’s confirmation hearings and at least his initial period in office, if he ends up getting confirmed. But without pursuing any deep explorations about who should be taxed more or less, or whether 47 percent of U.S. citizens are indeed freeloaders, I would just propose that Lew be willing to recognize three sets of very simple, irrefutable facts about the current U.S. fiscal condition. Here they are:

Fact #1: The U.S. government is not facing a fiscal crisis.

In any common sense meaning of the term “fiscal crisis,” we would be referring to the government’s inability to make its forthcoming payments to its creditors. By that common sense definition, the U.S. federal government is in just about the best shape it has ever been. Figure 1 below tells the story.

According to the most recent data from the third quarter of 2012 (which we term “2012.3”), the federal government spent 7.7 percent of its total expenditures on interest to its creditors. As the figure shows, that figure is less than half of the average figure under the full 12 years of Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush, when the government paid, on average, 16.8 percent of the total budget to cover interest payments. Right now, as we see, government interest payments are at near historic lows, not highs. As Treasury Secretary-designate, Lew needs to just state this obvious, and highly relevant point. To my knowledge, it has been heretofore completely left out of the insider-D.C. fiscal cliff debates, by Lew, Obama, and Geithner, to say nothing of the Republicans.

Fact #2: Interest rates on government bonds are at historic lows.

Figure 2 tells this story, which is well-known, but is not being given proper recognition in the deficit debates. As the figure shows, at the end of 2012, the U.S. government was borrowing at 0.7 percent on its 5-year Treasury Bonds.

It is precisely because the federal government can borrow so cheaply that our interest payments are corresponding low. Deficit hawks—economists and politicians alike—have been insisting for years that the rates are about to spike back up. Of course, interest rates will rise back up, at some point. We need to be vigilant about that. But this hasn’t happened over the full four year period since the onset of the Great Recession. This enables the U.S. government to maintain stimulus levels of spending, to get the economy onto a healthy growth trajectory. In other words, we have no reason to submit to an austerity agenda now. We should expect Jacob Lew to at least state the obvious here: that the deficit hawks have been wrong about an impending interest rate spike for four years running.

Fact #3: Current large government deficits are due to the recession, not out-of-control spending.

This is so obvious it should be barely worth mentioning. But simple facts are ignored repeatedly in the fiscal deficit debates. No doubt during the Lew hearings, there will be more discussion about the current crisis being due to the 47 percent freeloading population who, as Mitt Romney put it after his defeat, “want stuff” from the government. As we see in Figure 3, the government’s fiscal deficit spiked at 10.1 percent of GDP in 2009, immediately after the onset of the recession.

But does anybody want to seriously claim that the pattern of fiscal deficits that we see in Figure 3 is due to the fact that people didn’t want too much stuff as of 2007 or 2008, then all of the sudden, that demand for stuff soared in 2009, which was just coincidentally exactly when the Wall Street crash brought the economy to its knees?

The deficit has fallen modestly since 2009, to 8.5 percent of GDP in 2012. But the single most important thing we can do to lower the fiscal deficit further is to push unemployment down. This will generate increased government revenues with people paying more in income and sales taxes, and it will reduce government payments on unemployment insurance and supplemental aid for health care and family support. The U.S. has the capacity to pursue a stimulus agenda now quite easily, precisely because interest rates and interest payments to creditors remain historically low.

It shouldn’t be any stretch at all for Jacob Lew to acknowledge these three simple, irrefutable points. But will he do it? My guess is that he will not. If I am right in this guess, it will provide only further evidence as to the dismal state of the economic policy debate in official Washington, including Democrats like Lew here as well as Republicans.

© 2013 Political Economy Research Institute (PERI)

Robert Pollin

Robert Pollin, a professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, is co-author of Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy.

Corporate Gold on the Fiscal Cliff

In economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now!, there’s a chapter titled “The Second Gilded Age” in which he describes the extraordinary rise in wealth and power of the very rich during this era of unregulated greed. Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the top one percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent. After accounting for inflation, the typical hourly wage for a worker has increased just $1.23.

Big Money, as Krugman writes in his book, buys Big Influence. And that’s why the financiers of Wall Street never truly experience regime change — their cash brings both political parties to heel. So it is that the policies that got us where we are today — in this big ditch of chronic financial depression — have done little for most, but have been very good to a few at the top.

But they’re not satisfied with having only most of it — they want it all. If Krugman were writing his book today, he could find plenty of evidence in the deal that supposedly kept us from going over the fiscal cliff. Behind closed doors, Congress larded it with corporate tax breaks worth tens of billions of dollars — everything from tax credits for NASCAR racing and the railroads to subsidies for Hollywood, rebates for the rum industry and loopholes for off-shore financing that could help giant multinationals like General Electric avoid billions of dollars in corporate income taxes.

Writing in the conservative Washington Examiner, columnist Tim Carney says many of these expensive giveaways were “spawned by a web of lobbyists, donors and staffers surrounding Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana,” chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. As we know from the Obamacare fight, Baucus is a connoisseur of revolving door corruption. “Pick any one of the special-interest tax breaks extended by the cliff deal,” Carney wrote, “and you’re likely to find a former Baucus aide who lobbied for it on behalf of a large corporation or industry organization.” Even the pro-business Wall Street Journal was appalled. They called it a “Crony Capitalist Blowout.”

And so it was — and more. It was payback time for all those campaign donations. CEOs and lobbyists were tripping over themselves as they traipsed up and down Pennsylvania Avenue between Congress and the White House. You’ve no doubt heard about Fix the Debt, that group of business execs and retired politicians taking out TV ads and campaigning to slash the deficit. In The New York Times, Nick Confessorereported, “…close to half of the members of Fix the Debt’s board and steering committee have ties to companies that have engaged in lobbying on taxes and spending, often to preserve tax breaks and other special treatment.”

Get it? They’re privately protecting their interests as they publicly urge austerity on everyone else.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chair of the global investment giant Goldman Sachs, is on Fix the Debt’s Fiscal Leadership Council. Here’s what he said when asked by CBS News’ Scott Pelley about how he would reduce the federal deficit: “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations — the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to — they’re not going to get it… Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career… in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.”

Yes, but Blankfein and Goldman Sachs make sure their entitlements aren’t touched! Here’s the story: After 9/11, Congress created tax-exempt Liberty Zone bonds to help small businesses rebuild near Ground Zero. Turns out Goldman’s friends in high places consider it a small business, too, although it made $5.6 billion in profits last year. As the fiscal cliff fiasco was playing out over New Year’s Eve, faster than the ball dropped in Times Square, a deal was struck that will extend the subsidies for Goldman’s fancy new headquarters in lower Manhattan. In their 43 stories of glass and steel, and a footprint two city blocks long, Goldman Sachs reigns supreme – thanks to a system rigged by and for the powerful rich.

And then, according to The Wall Street Journal, just before the fiscal cliff deal’s higher individual tax rates kicked in, Goldman handed “Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants a total of $65 million in restricted stock” — bonuses awarded a month earlier than usual so they could all beat the coming tax hike from which they have been spared for more than ten lucrative years.

It won’t surprise you to learn that, “Corporations announced more special dividends last month than in any other December since at least 1955.” Doing everything they can to avoid helping pay off the debt their CEOs have been urging Congress to cut.

As for working people — tough luck. Because the fiscal cliff deal ends the cut in payroll taxes, the average worker this year will take home about a thousand dollars less.

“Fiscal Pain”: Austerity Drives Up European Unemployment to Record Levels

The policy of unrelenting austerity adopted by the European political elite has driven up unemployment across the continent to record levels, as shown in data released Tuesday by the Eurostat statistics agency.

Unemployment in the 17 European countries that make up the euro zone rose in November to 11.8 percent, with the number of jobless workers hitting 18.8 million. This is the highest figure since the single currency was introduced in 1999.

Euro zone unemployment rose by 0.1 percent compared to the previous month and was up by 1.2 percent from November 2011. Joblessness across the 27 members of the European Union was 10.7 percent and topped 26 million for the first time.

The biggest increases in unemployment have occurred in those European countries that have been selected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union for economic shock treatment. Joblessness in Greece soared to 26 percent in September, an increase of over 7 percent from September of 2011. The European leader for unemployment, however, is the continent’s fourth largest economy, Spain, where 26.6 percent of the work force was registered as unemployed in November.

Commenting on the latest European statistics, the chief economist at the British Institute of Directors, Graeme Leach, said, “It is clear that the economic implosion of several member states continues at a troubling pace… The headline figures spell bad news, but that is compounded by the political and human impact of terrifying levels of youth unemployment in Spain, Greece and Italy.”

According to the Eurostat figures, youth unemployment is currently hovering around 50 percent in Greece and Spain and topping 30 percent in Italy. All of the leading economic indicators point to a worsening of the economic situation in Europe and a further increase in unemployment in 2013.

The bald statistics fail to reveal the enormous suffering and despair gripping tens of millions of families across the continent. The inevitable consequence of record levels of unemployment is levels of poverty in some of the most developed economies of Europe on a scale unseen since the 1930s.

In a recent report, the Oxfam Aid charity warned that the austerity measures introduced by the Spanish government at the end of last year, which include severe cuts to unemployment benefits, could drive the number of people categorized as living in poverty to 18 million, or 40 percent of the population, over the next 10 years.

In Greece, more than a third of the population now lives below the poverty line, according to official estimates. Soup kitchens have become commonplace in major cities, and bartering communities have been established in parts of the country to enable the income-less poor to exchange commodities.

At the end of January, a series of cuts to the incomes of pensioners and civil servants will take effect as part of the latest cuts package approved by the government in Athens. Many workers’ incomes, which have already declined by 40 percent in recent years, will fall further.

Aliki Mouriki, a sociologist at the National Centre for Social Research, warns of the political consequences of the austerity policies imposed by the EU and IMF: “Joblessness will continue to grow, the recession will get worse, more businesses will close. The big question is who will survive?… Anger and despair are building up… unless people see a way out of this deplorable situation there will be an explosion.”

In fact, mass unemployment and widespread poverty have been factored in by the European ruling elite in the course of drawing up plans for what one economic commentator has described as “perma-austerity.”

At the end of the year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that when it came to determining the wages and social conditions of European workers, China was the bench mark. A huge army of unemployed living on the brink of destitution is being created in order to push down the wages of those still employed and achieve the levels of super-exploitation found in the free trade zones of China. The extremes of social devastation and poverty prevailing in Greece, Spain and Italy are to be exported across the entire continent.

Merkel’s own government is drawing up plans for the introduction of drastic austerity measures in Germany in 2014, following federal elections this autumn. The recent adoption of the German debt brake, which strictly limits levels of debt, will force all other euro zone countries to take the same path.

Outside the euro zone, British Chancellor Cameron has made clear that the Westminster government intends to maintain its own program of “fiscal pain” until at least 2018. Not least among the cuts planned for this year by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is the introduction of a ceiling for welfare payments, which will mean massive cuts to the incomes of the poorest layers of society.

All of these attacks across the continent have been made possible by the compliance of the trade unions, which support the policy of the European ruling class of slashing workers’ wages and conditions to close the labor exploitation gap with China.

Following the “Fiscal Cliff” Agreement, Drastic Bi-partisan Spending Cuts

tax

Following the agreement between Democrats and Republicans to avert the “fiscal cliff,” the two big business parties enter the new year with one item on their domestic agenda: cuts in health care, retirement and other programs on which millions of people depend.

Behind the squabbling and political theater, the representatives of the financial aristocracy, along with the media, are working to create the conditions for implementing social attacks that previously were considered politically impossible. Such measures—slashing health care, cutting already meager retirement benefits, forcing people to work longer before receiving benefits—are presented as unavoidable.

President Obama used his Saturday radio and Internet address to declare that there would be no negotiations with congressional Republicans on raising the federal debt ceiling, which the US Treasury is about to breach. House Speaker John Boehner said the Republicans would use the debt ceiling as leverage to force through spending cuts in social programs, demanding one dollar in cuts over a ten-year period for every dollar increase in the debt ceiling.

For the ruling class, the question of the debt ceiling is a tactical issue, with a section concerned that continuing to use it as leverage for pushing through cuts imperils the US debt rating and the position of the dollar. On the end goal—slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—all are in agreement.

In his Saturday address, Obama pointed to $2.4 trillion in deficit-reduction measures enacted under his administration, while declaring his readiness to impose “reforms” on Medicare and other entitlement programs. “And I’m willing to do more,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the CBS program “Face the Nation” that she was willing to consider increased means-testing for Medicare, among other deficit-reduction measures.

For the Republicans, Senator Mitch McConnell appeared on several network interview programs Sunday morning to reiterate that with the fiscal cliff deal, the “tax issue is finished.” He continued, “Now the question is: what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future? And that’s our spending addiction.”

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the White House is planning to revive many of the social benefit cuts that were included in the “grand bargain” negotiated by Obama and Boehner in July 2011, which ultimately collapsed. Overall, the newspaper said, the administration was considering $900 billion in spending cuts, including $600 billion from entitlement programs. The cuts could include raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 and reducing cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits.

For the ruling class, such measures are considered a down payment. They have much grander schemes in mind. A particularly revealing analysis appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, penned by economists Gary King and Samir Soneji. Arguing that the budget crisis in Social Security was “worse than you think,” it called for discussion of actions like raising the age of retirement to 69 or 70, reducing benefits across-the-board, and introducing a new, lower, benefit rate for workers with incomes above $43,000 a year.

The analysis was remarkable for its hostility to the elderly, suggesting that retirement was a positive evil, and arguing that federal policy should be restructured so as not to “encourage” retirement, but only make it “an option.” It is no accident that one of the authors, Soneji, comes from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy, an institution closely aligned with the Obama administration that has been in the forefront of calls for slashing “unnecessary” medical procedures to cut costs.

It is, we are supposed to believe, the elderly who are leeching off society because they want, as Times columnist David Brooks put it last week, to “spend a lot on themselves” while “pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren.”

The American financial aristocracy has spent several decades consumed by the single-minded aim of extracting as much money as possible through speculative and parasitic operations. It is an occupation to which it has given redoubled attention over the past four years in order to ensure that the rich not see their fortunes diminished by the economic crisis they fostered.

Yet it is not they who must pay—not the multi-millionaire hedge fund managers or corporate executives—but the elderly and infirm. The flood of right-wing media pontification is all based on the unquestioning acceptance that society can no longer afford to have its population get old or sick.

Amidst these calls for austerity, the US stock market is at a five-year high, having largely recovered from the losses of the 2008 financial crash. American corporations are sitting on a cash hoard of trillions of dollars.

The political and media establishment treats the vastly unequal distribution of wealth and income as an unalterable fact of life. The vast sums of wealth accumulated by the ruling class have been based on a looting operation that, at all costs, must be continued. Whatever drains on profit and private wealth still exist—including social reform programs that were a bedrock of the post-war social and political order—are targeted for elimination.

Such conditions speak to a social order, capitalism, that has lost all historical legitimacy. The fact that this social system can no longer afford the pensions and health care which tens of millions of retired workers have earned through many years of labor is an argument, not against the elderly, but against the profit system.

The resources to meet the needs of retired workers, and to meet the needs of the entire population, for jobs, decent incomes, education, health care, access to culture and other social benefits, must be obtained through the expropriation of the billionaires and the giant corporations and the reorganization of economic life to serve the needs of the working people who produce all the wealth, not the handful of wealthy parasites at the top.

Patrick Martin

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Americans Trust ‘Our’ Intelligence Agencies. Should We?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org The record is clear that ‘our’ (that is, the ruling Establishment’s) intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, have lied...

Roger Lowenstein, F**k Your Stock Portfolio

I realize it would be too much to ask that people who write on economics for major news outlets have any clue about how...

USAF may be forced into massive reduction of planned F-35 fleet – report —...

The US Air Force may be forced to dramatically cut its fleet of F-35 multirole stealth...

Govt shutdown avoided as Trump withdraws threat & signs spending bill — RT US...

A US government shutdown has been avoided as President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus...

US Congress passes colossal $1.3 trillion budget — RT US News

The US House of Representatives and Senate has approved, at the 11th hour, a $1.3 trillion...

How New York City Punishes the Poor

(Photo: Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock) In "progressive" New York City, reminders of inequality abound: A homeless woman asleep outside of a bank, a man begging...

How Long Can We Get Away With It?

US lawmakers push Trump to spend more on Russian ‘propaganda fight’ — RT US...

The State Department has a $120-million war chest to counter ‘Russian propaganda’ but that’s not enough...

‘Modernization’: Media’s Favorite Euphemism for Military Buildup

Reuters (2/12/18) One of the most effective rhetorical tools in normalizing massive military budgets is to treat spending billions—and sometimes trillions—of dollars as something one...

US ‘outgunned & outmatched’ by Russia in Europe, admits top general seeking budget increase...

US troops in the Baltic countries would be “outranged, outgunned and outmatched” by Russians in case...

Trump Seeks Congressional Funding for 60,000-Man Army to Overthrow Assad

Eric Zuesse ISIS, or ISIL, or Islamic State, has been almost completely defeated in Syria, but the U.S. Department of Defense is requesting an increase...

Pentagon ‘disappointed’ by Putin’s revelation of new Russian nuclear deterrent — RT US News

Top Pentagon officials have told US lawmakers that they were “disappointed” by Putin’s public announcement of...

Google working with Pentagon on using AI for drone improvement — RT US News

Ubiquitous IT giant Google has silently inked a partnership with the Department of Defense to militarize...

Pentagon wants more money to develop its own hypersonic nukes, just like Russia’s —...

The Pentagon may not be surprised by the new Russian hypersonic missiles – but why not...

US State Dept pledges $40mn of military funds for ‘information wars’ — RT US...

The Pentagon will pump millions into a State Department center created to fight propaganda and disinformation...

As the Trump Administration Retreats on Climate Change, US Cities Are Moving Forward

Despite almost universal scientific consensus that climate change poses a growing threat, President Donald Trump's recent infrastructure plan makes no mention of the need to build...

Is the CIA so bad that even when it tells the truth it adds-in...

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org On Sunday, February 17th, I was surprised to see in the reliably neoconservative newspaper, New York Times, an opinion-article...

War Spending Will Bankrupt America

“Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend more money on our military (about $600 billion...

Want £10,000 for free? Here’s how, and it’ll only cost you the UK’s welfare...

Would you like £10,000 for doing absolutely nothing? Well, you may be in luck, provided...

The Military Industrial Complex Strikes Again: War Spending Will Bankrupt America

by John W. Whitehead / February 13th, 2018 Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend...

‘Bad advice from generals?’ The Mystery of why Trump considers US military weak —...

Trump believed the generals who told him the military needs money to keep America safe. ...

What’s in Trump’s 2019 budget? — RT US News

The White House 2019 budget proposal offers the Pentagon and the president’s immigration agenda a generous...

Trump’s Proposed Budget Eviscerates Federal Science, Rural and Environmental Programs | Union of Concerned...

WASHINGTON - President Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget is yet another sign of this administration’s hostility to scientific research and technological development across...

US Resettles More Christian Refugees Than Muslims as Overall Numbers Plummet

Children stand in a muddy street at a refugee camp on January 26, 2018, at the Syrian town of Azaz. (Photo: Ozan Kose /...

White House releases 2019 budget plan — RT US News

President Donald Trump on Monday released his second budget plan, which is slated to boost spending...

Senate announces bipartisan budget breakthrough — RT US News

Leaders of both parties in the US Senate have agreed on a two-year budget proposal that...

Trump signs US spending bill ending government shutdown — RT US News

US President Donald Trump says he has signed a spending bill into law, bringing an end...

Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello Nearly five months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, more than a hundred thousand US citizens there still lack clean...

Rand Paul & the art of filibustering — RT US News

The US government shut down for a few hours after Senator Rand Paul made the lawmakers...

Reproductive Rights Groups Slam WH Report on Trump’s ‘Unconscionable’ Global Gag Rule

Women's rights groups on Thursday denounced a report issued by the State Department on the impact of the Trump administration's reinstatement of the global...

Another government shutdown looms as budget deal hits snag in Senate — RT US...

The White House is preparing for the second US government shutdown in three weeks, after the...

Misconduct complaints rise in US military, but fewer senior officers found guilty — RT...

While the number of complaints filed against senior US military and defense officials increased, fewer Department...

Two Elephants in the Room

As Congress Feeds the Merchants of Death, the People Must Divest

In recent budget negotiations, Senate Democrats agreed to a boost in military spending that exceeded the cap for fiscal 2018 by $70 billion, bringing...

Lawmakers question military spending — RT US News

As US Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a case for more military funding to counter...

Wolves close in on Theresa May as Rees-Mogg takes dig at prime minister’s leadership...

Top Tory posh boy Jacob Rees-Mogg has taken a swipe at Theresa May, adding fuel...

Pentagon logistics agency lost track of $800 million – report — RT US News

In the latest instance of negligent bookkeeping at the Pentagon, its Defense Logistics Agency has failed...

Ten Commonsense Suggestions for Making Peace, Not War – Consortiumnews

President Trump’s first year in office brought an escalation of military aggression abroad as he built on the interventions of...

Ten Common-Sense Suggestions for Making Peace, Not War

Activists display signs during a protest against US military action in Syria on April 8, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)   Whether the rationale...

Radical Recipe: Key Sanders-Corbyn Advisors to Back Leap Manifesto in Canada | By Susan...

A revolution is coming to Ottawa in two weeks.For the past two years, the Leap Manifesto has been a disruptive force within New Democratic...

Democrats Have Found the Enemy if They Would Only Look

The Republicans are up to their usual shenanigans. There they are again, sitting on the Right. Don’t like it, Democrats? At least we (and...

Exposing Propornot: The Underbelly of the Deepstate and Russian Influence

A little over a year ago, the deep-state graced the world with Propornot. Thanks to them, 2017 became the year of fake news. Every...

Half of F-35 fleet grounded by tech problems – Pentagon report — RT US...

The most expensive weapons program in the world will not meet its testing schedule and of...

Medicaid Work Requirements Could Cost the Government More in the Long Run

After the Trump administration gave states permission to impose new restrictions on Medicaid eligibility, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin wasted no time.  Within days, Kentucky instituted a new rule...

Nobody Will Take Trump’s Attempts to Blame Democrats for Shutdown Seriously

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Toronto, Canada, on October 30, 2017. (Photo: Broadbent Institute / Institut Broadbent) As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the...

Don’t Give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau a Single Dime, Mulvaney Tells Fed

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's pick for acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, walks back to the White...

Public Schools Best Fulfill Dr. King’s “Purpose of Education” | By Steven Singer

What is the purpose of education? Is it to train the next generation of workers? Or is it to empower the next generation of citizens? Is it...

2018 Will Be an Arms Bonanza

Marines fire a weapon at the Black Top Range training area on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, August 9,...

In Trump Era, ‘Both Sides’ on Immigration Includes White Nationalists

Washington Post piece (12/21/17) quoting the far-right Center for Immigration Studies as a legitimate source. President Trump’s far-right immigration policies have US corporate media reaching...

Trump says Rand Paul’s call to end all US aid to Pakistan ‘a good...

Published time: 6 Jan, 2018 11:21 US President Donald Trump praised a bill that Senator Rand...

New US customs guidelines limit agents from accessing remote data on electronic devices —...

In response to a nearly 60 percent spike in searches of electronic devices, customs agents are...

Unhinged – LewRockwell

Report tells military sexual harassment undermines combat readiness — RT US News

Promoting empathy and cracking down on hypermasculinity may help the Department of Defense to reduce unwanted...

Trump admin struck with lawsuit over delay of methane emissions rule — RT US...

Nearly 20 environmental and Native American tribal groups are suing the Trump administration for delaying the...

Haley hails $285mn cut to UN budget — RT US News

Cutting the “bloated” UN budget by $285 million next year is a “big step in right...

Journalists Who Relayed GOP’s Deficit Moaning Owe Us Apologies | By Adam Johnson

Now that the Republicans’ brazen tax bill that the CBO predicts will add $1.4 trillion to the deficit has passed, yet again exposing “deficit...

Journalists Who Relayed GOP’s Deficit Moaning Owe Us Apologies

A 16-digit deficit increase doesn’t faze Republican senators (The Hill, 12/2/17). Now that the Republicans’ brazen tax bill that the CBO predicts will add $1.4...

‘Wage theft’ robs billions from workers each year – study — RT US News

Published time: 21 Dec, 2017 23:28 Edited time: 21 Dec, 2017 23:43 US workers lose more...

Oklahoma Poised to Cut Off 20,000 Disabled and Elderly People From Life-Sustaining Home Care

In early November, the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Oklahoma sent letters to more than 20,000 disabled and elderly residents informing them that...

The Tax Cut and the Fake Trump Boom | By Robert Kuttner

With the economy producing rising growth rates and falling unemployment, will Donald Trump and the Republican tax bill be able to take political credit...

Minimum wage hike will axe 400k jobs in California – study — RT US...

A study conducted by the Employment Policies Institute states that a hike to a $15/hr minimum...

Net Neutrality Repeal Is Only Part of Trump’s Surrender to Corporate Media

The FCC is under attack—and so too is the First Amendment. As the primary regulator of how media and information gets to our nation’s...

Lavishing Money on the Pentagon – Consortiumnews

Exclusive: It seems like it’s always Christmastime at the Pentagon where the stockings are full and budget-cutting is for those...

Green Party Leaders Speak Out Against The Republican Tax Bill | Green Party of...

WASHINGTON - Green Party leaders took to video to speak against the Republican tax bill moving through Congress and called on all Americans to contact...

Still Waiting… A Harvey Weinstein Moment for America’s Wars? | By Andrew Bacevich

What makes a Harvey Weinstein moment? The now-disgraced Hollywood mogul is hardly the first powerful man to stand accused of having abused women. The...

The Corruption of College Athletics – Consortiumnews

The U.S. likes to view itself as the epitome of sports integrity, but beyond its own professional and amateur doping...

ICE cracks down on immigrants far from border, new data reveals — RT US...

Published time: 5 Dec, 2017 23:53 Edited time: 6 Dec, 2017 07:35 President Donald Trump made...

‘You’re right – we are dangerous… to the few,’ Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn tells Morgan...

Published time: 1 Dec, 2017 09:03 Edited time: 2 Dec, 2017 17:05 Labour leader Jeremy...

Senate passes GOP tax reform after frenzied last-minute changes — RT US News

Late into the night, the Senate passed the Republican bill to rewrite the American tax code....

Looming Threats of Privatization After Hurricanes Irma and María

Photo by Solana Larsen | CC BY 2.0 Long before hurricanes Irma and María utterly devastated Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the...

Millions of Households Face Tax Increase or No Tax Benefit Under Senate GOP Bill...

Millions of households would face tax increases or get little from the Senate tax bill – even before most of its individual income tax...

TSA lacks funds to install 3-D screening at US airports — RT US News

The Department of Homeland Security claims it can’t afford to enhance its security screening technologies in...

Monetary Imperialism

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair In theory, the global financial system is supposed to help every country gain. Mainstream teaching of international finance, trade and...

Bernie Sanders reveals $146bn relief bill for Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands —...

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced a $146 billion relief package for Puerto Rico and the US...

IMF lays down the law for Zimbabwe post-Mugabe

  ...

Chicago bakery loses one-third of staff to immigration raids — RT US News

A Chicago, Illinois bakery that makes McDonald’s hamburger buns is struggling after a third of its...

Pentagon sexual misconduct on the rise, Defense watchdog says — RT US News

Published time: 26 Nov, 2017 07:37 The US Department of Defense has revealed that allegations of...

How to Stop a Tax Plan Rigged for the Rich | By Sam Pizzigati

The Earth doesn’t quite shake when lawmakers in Washington, D.C. take one of their periodic votes on tax “reform.” But sometimes history does turn,...

4 Things that Both the Right and Left are Getting Dead Wrong about the...

Venture out on the web in any direction or engage in some random channel surfing, and you can be assured that within minutes —...

Your Lower and Lower Standard of Living

Several times over my 29 years in Congress I have wondered whether there are any fiscal conservatives at the Pentagon. It seems that the Defense...

Mismanagement, Fraud and Worker Abuse at Charter Schools Are Driving School Staff to Unionize

Unionized teachers with ASPIRA charter school network rally outside an ASPIRA high school to convince the company's management to come to terms on a...

There Is Nothing Patriotic or Conservative About Our Bloated Defense Budget – Antiwar.com Blog

Several times over my 29 years in Congress I have wondered whether there are any fiscal conservatives at the Pentagon. It seems that the Defense...

US spent $5.6 trillion on wars since 9/11 – study — RT US News

Washington has expended a whopping $5.6 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan since...

No ‘Space Corps’ as Air Force gets sole authority to boost America’s galactic might...

Published time: 10 Nov, 2017 18:11 Edited time: 11 Nov, 2017 08:22 Plans for a US...

US Air Force declares space a new ‘warfighting domain’ — RT US News

In order to increase the global dominance and “lethality” of the US military, the Air Force...

Making Puerto Rico the New New Orleans – Steal the Schools and Give Them...

Charter school backers can’t help it.     They see a bunch of black or brown kids displaced by a natural disaster and they have to swoop...

Tax reform deadline may be in jeopardy, as Senate & House GOP split on...

Senate Republicans have unveiled their version of the tax overhaul bill, but must now find common...

US defense bill targets Moscow-linked TV content amid crackdown on Russian media — RT...

Moscow has vowed to impose tit-for-tat restrictions on US media if a defense bill currently being...

US defense bill authorizes development of ‘INF treaty-compliant’ mid-range missile — RT US News

US lawmakers have agreed to allocate $58 million for research and development of a ground-launched, intermediate-range...

A Year Without a President | By Robert Reich

It seems like forever, but it was just one year ago that Donald Trump was elected president. So what have we learned about the...

Black Swan in Plain Sight

Trump asks for another $4bn to ‘detect, defeat, & defend’ against North Korea —...

President Donald Trump wants lawmakers to give the Pentagon an additional $4 billion for “urgent” missile...

In Puerto Rico’s Highlands, Hurricane Maria Has Exploded Fault Lines of Poverty and Austerity

Six weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, millions of residents are still living without safe drinking water and electricity. Health experts say the...

400,000 more children will grow up in poverty if Tory tax & welfare policies...

Nearly half a million children across the UK will be living in poverty within the...

Greece Today

Graffiti at Corinth Harbor. Photo: Kenneth Surin. I am in Greece, attending a conference to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.   I was...

No Conservative Should Support Staying in Afghanistan – Antiwar.com Blog

"We’re long past the time we should have gotten out of Afghanistan," US Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) told the Oversight...

For NYT, Making the Democrats Safe for the Oligarchy Is Literally Job One

by Jim Naureckas Reviewing The Family, a history of the owners of the New York Times, veteran Times reporter John L. Hess (Extra!, 1–2/00) summarized...

RN Volunteers Back from Puerto Rico Join Congress Members to Urge Increased Aid to...

WASHINGTON - Registered nurse volunteers who recently returned from two weeks of providing nursing care and other disaster relief today joined House Minority Leader...

Billionaire Mark Cuban targets Trump in potential 2020 White House run — RT US...

Mark Cuban is considering challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican candidacy for the 2020 presidential...

Senate takes up 2018 budget resolution — RT America

Republicans need just 50 votes to pass the $4 trillion budget resolution to ensure the US...

51 GOP Senators Just Voted to Cut $1.5 Trillion From Medicare and Medicaid to...

Sen. John McCain heads back to his office following a vote on amendments to the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, on Capitol Hill, October...

US military doesn’t need 19% of its property, Pentagon chief estimates — RT America

Published time: 18 Oct, 2017 05:07 US Defense Secretary James Mattis is having a hard time...

Trump ends Obamacare subsidies that ‘cannot lawfully’ be paid — RT America

Published time: 13 Oct, 2017 03:20 Edited time: 13 Oct, 2017 08:27 Cost-sharing reduction payments to...

People of Color Fight for a Place in New York's Money-Driven Arts Ecosystem

A small number of legacy arts institutions are sweeping up vast shares of public art funding, while newer immigrant and ethnic arts groups in...

Trump administration to crack down on worker visa abuse

The departments of State and Justice have agreed to share information about employers discriminating against American...

The Rich Get Richer Still

The Trump tax proposal is appalling (if utterly unsurprising).  It is immoral and it is bad economic policy.  It will make the rich richer,...

Wall Street Bailout: Latest Updated Report

Eric Zuesse The latest of the U.S. Government’s updates on the status of the Wall Street bailout is 151 pages long, and highlights from it...

‘Better navy at Dunkirk!’ Naval experts’ fury at military cost-cutting plan

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to strip the Royal Navy of two specialist...

US House panel approves $10bn for Mexico border wall

A House panel has approved legislation to provide a total of $15 billion for construction of...

The GOP Tax Reform Plan

The Trump Presidency

  David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is...

Republican Tax Cuts Could Be Paved with Fossil Fuel Giveaways

Friday was a busy day for the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress giving handouts to their friends in the fossil fuel industry. Two...

Raid maintenance fund for missile defense, Pentagon asks Congress

Citing tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon has asked Congress to move $416.4 million earmarked for...

Puerto Rico's Bankruptcy Will Make Hurricane Recovery Brutal — Here's Why

Aerial photo of the floadings in the costal town of Loiza, in the north shore of Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico...

Despite more arrests, deportations down under Trump

President Donald Trump is on track to deport fewer illegal immigrants this year than were expelled...

Report: Illegal Immigrants Cost America $135 Billion a Year

The swelling population of illegal immigrants and their kids is costing American taxpayers $135 billion a year, the highest ever, driven by...

Deportations Higher Under Obama Than Trump

Sep 29, 2017 By Reinhard Wolff | redice.tv Despite making many promises during his campaign to solve the illegal immigration problem,...

Executive order will let Americans buy healthcare across state lines – Trump

President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order enabling Americans to purchase health insurance...

Trump Tax "Hoax" Would Blow $5 Trillion Hole In Budget Over Next Decade: Analysis

Trumpcare may be dead again (for a while at least) on Tuesday, but Republicans now want to get serious about what they call "tax...

Unhappily ever after: 'Brides' march in NYC against domestic violence

Over 200 women, many dressed in bridal gowns, joined the Brides March through Manhattan on Tuesday,...

Puerto Rico asks for federal help to recover from Hurricane Maria

Food, water and medical aid are “top priorities” for Puerto Rico after a Category 4 storm...

3rd GOP senator says she’ll oppose Graham-Cassidy, likely killing healthcare bill

The Republican’s last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,...

Are Chickenhawks Afraid of Ron and Lew?

Buried deep inside the just-passed defense budget is a small amendment, which could lead to a ban on broadcasting RT in America. The architects...

‘US designed a force unable to provide national security’: Report slams American training of...

The Pentagon has spent billions outfitting Afghan forces without giving them proper training, failing to understand...

Charity rents out Trump’s childhood home to refugees in publicity stunt

The international charity Oxfam rented out President Trump’s childhood home in Queens, New York, letting four...

Wing and a prayer? US Air Force may ground aging 100 A-10s

The US Air Force may ground around 100 of its A-10 Warthog jets already in 2018...

The Brutal Racial Politics of Climate Change and Pollution

As I watched coverage of Harvey's flood damage in Houston, Irma's wreckage in the Caribbean, the devastating record monsoons in South Asia, and the...

RT may soon be dropped by US providers, courtesy of McCain & Graham

Published time: 21 Sep, 2017 12:47 Edited time: 21 Sep, 2017 12:58 Buried deep inside the...

Tom Price Is Enhancing the Health of the American People By Wasting $60,000 On...

   Hypocrisy, thy name is the malignant gang of grifters, liars and swamp monsters now in control of many American institutions. Thus on Wednesday, we...

Boris Johnson slammed by UK statistics chief for repeating debunked Brexit claim

Published time: 17 Sep, 2017 16:43 UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been criticized by...

President Trump Is Poised To Slash the Number of Refugees In the U.S., Replaying...

In coming days, President Trump is expected to announce the maximum number of refugees the United States will accept in the next fiscal year....

Trump’s Bonfire of Washington Politics

President Trump shocked the political world and his own “base” when he struck a budget deal with Democrats to get...

Trump's Amnesty Would Prove Disastrous

Last year, President Trump promised that the days of people coming here illegally to get citizenship are over. Well, now those days...

Trump admin waives more environmental laws to expedite border wall construction in California

The US Department of Homeland Security has waived another set of environmental laws that would impede...

Rand Paul threatens to hold up defense bill unless Congress votes to end wars...

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has vowed to delay a $700 billion defense bill until...

What Steve Bannon's 60 Minutes Interview Proved

There was gale-force bullshit coming from all points of the compass and nonsense was running at floodtide in the newspapers and on TV this...

Doctors’ Capitalist Ethos and the Fight for a Fairer Tax Code

Doctors’ aggressive opposition to a more equitable tax code reflects a capitalist ethos that’s often been at odds with public health. The Canadian Medical Association,...

Health Coverage for 9 Million Children Will Soon Be at Risk — Unless Trump...

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on extending funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and for good reason: no additional CHIP...

Teachers Shouldn't Have to Panhandle to Prep for a New School Year

(Photo: Pixabay) Back to school! These three simple words used to leave America's public school teachers giddy with anticipation. Now they leave them opening up...

Teachers Shouldn’t Have to Panhandle for School Supplies

Back to school! These three simple words used to leave America’s public school teachers giddy with anticipation. Now they leave them opening up their...

USAID spent $160mn on failed e-payments program for Afghanistan – watchdog

A program to implement an electronic payments system for collecting taxes in Afghanistan to fight corruption...

‘Nobody will like’ govt shutdown over border wall, Senate Dems leader says

Published time: 23 Aug, 2017 17:16 Edited time: 24 Aug, 2017 08:30 Shutting down the US...

Trump blames Congressional GOP leaders for debt ceiling ‘mess’

US President Donald Trump has chastised Republican leaders in Congress, implying that efforts to increase the...

Lockheed & Raytheon to develop new US nuclear cruise missile – Pentagon

The US Air Force has awarded two $900 million contracts to design the next nuclear-capable cruise...

Awful Flip-Flop

As the Donald himself might have put it: PITIFUL! We are speaking of his horrid lip-synching effort last night to keep time with the voice...

Tories guilty of ‘grave, systematic violation’ of disabled people’s rights, activists tell RT

Britain’s Conservative government is guilty of “grave and systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights...

Trump's Proposed After-School Cuts Could Lead to More Hungry Kids, Lower Test Scores

Greenville, Mississippi—In March, President Trump revealed his "skinny budget," a rough sketch of the nascent administration's fiscal priorities and objectives that included deep cuts...

Planned Parenthood has no right to Medicaid funds in Arkansas, US appeals court rules

Published time: 17 Aug, 2017 00:33 Edited time: 17 Aug, 2017 07:05 A US appeals court...

Dog Whistle?

Who would have thought the red hot war of words between Kim Jong-un and the Donald could be wiped right off the cable gab-a-thons...

US Postal Service calls for price increases amid record losses

The US Postal Service has seen record losses as traditional mail is replaced by electronic means....

Statement by National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel on HUD’s...

WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published on August 9 its Worst Case Housing Needs: 2017 Report to Congress, showing...

Polls: U.S. Is ‘the Greatest Threat to Peace in the World Today’

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org It has happened again: yet another international poll finds that the U.S. is viewed by peoples around the world...

The Solution to the German Migrant Crisis

When Germany Was Great! Ever since the start of the deliberately conceived “migrant crisis,” orchestrated by NWO elites, the news out of Germany has been,...

Rep. John Duncan, Conservative Peace Proponent, Will Not Seek Reelection to US House

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2018 to the United States House of...

Why America Isn’t Free

The United States is one of only three developed countries in the world with a nationwide drinking age over 18. The other two countries...

Trump admin waives environmental laws to expedite border wall construction

Environmental activists say the Department of Homeland Security is violating the Constitution with its move to...

‘Win-win-win situation’: Los Angeles to host 2028 Olympics, giving Paris the 2024 games

Los Angeles, California has been awarded the 2028 Olympic Summer games. In order to finance the...

Trump Threatens to Attack Health Coverage of Congress Members and Low-Income People

Trump steps out of Air Force One on July 28, 2017, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) President Donald Trump...

The Hidden Costs of “National Security”

You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the...

‘Generation of Al Capones’: Prison reform attracts strange bedfellows

Senators Kamala Harris (D-California) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) are reaching across the aisle in a bid...

WW2 Military Surplus 1911s

The Civilian Marksmanship Program may be getting thousands of WWII era M1911 pistols to sell to the public. This is courtesy of a clause in the...

Trillions of Dollars in U.S. Military Spending Is Unaccounted-For

Eric Zuesse Now, and for many decades past, the American public has displayed far higher confidence and trust in “The Military” than in any other...

America’s Invasion of Syria

Will it finally end now? Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org The U.S. government has invaded and occupies Syria to overthrow its President, Bashar al-Assad and...

House GOP unveils $1.1tn budget with major cuts, tax reforms & increased defense spending

House Republicans have released their 2018 budget proposal, which they say will balance over the next...

Tough vetting for new refugees entering US after 50,000 yearly limit reached

Published time: 14 Jul, 2017 00:02 Edited time: 14 Jul, 2017 19:51 President Donald Trump’s administration...

Too broke to go Martian: NASA says it can’t afford to send humans to...

Published time: 14 Jul, 2017 19:11 The perspectives for landing humans on Mars in the next...

Ending austerity could unleash economic shock on Britain, warns budget watchdog

Published time: 14 Jul, 2017 09:29 Ending the Tory program of austerity cuts and increasing...

PEACE ACTION: Congress Votes Again for Unconstitutional Wars and Pentagon Pork

WASHINGTON - In response to the passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy...

Bill Allocates $1.6 Billion for Trump’s Border Wall

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a bill allocating $1.6 billion to begin construction of a physical barrier along the U.S. border with...

As Single-Payer Gains Momentum, 1 Adult in Every 830 Lacking Insurance Will Die

Two-million more Americans are without health insurance thus far in 2017. (Photo: Pixabay; Edited: JR / TO) Two million more Americans are without health insurance...

Democrats seek to block Trump-Putin cybersecurity plan by cutting US funds

Published time: 11 Jul, 2017 09:03 Democrats have filed amendments calling to block funding, including from...

Census Challenges Jeopardize Efforts Towards Greater Equity in the South

The 2020 Census -- a once-a-decade effort by the federal government to count every person in the US -- is still three years away,...

Illinois approves first budget in 2yrs as 'junk' credit status looms

Lawmakers approved the first full-year budget in Illinois since 2015, after overriding the governor’s veto of...

US senators propose $558mn more for Israeli missile defense

A Senate committee markup of the 2018 Pentagon funding bill would give $705 million to Israeli...

It’s Not Just Illinois and Puerto Rico

With Illinois facing a Friday night deadline by which it has to come up with its first fiscal budget in three years or face...

Soy seeds sales surge, giving Monsanto better-than-expected 3rd quarter

Monsanto has reported better-than-expected quarterly profits after record soybean sales lifted the company above analysts’ estimates....

Sovereign Debt Jubilee, Japanese-Style

Japan has found a way to write off nearly half its national debt without creating inflation. We could do that too. Let’s face it. There...

What Happened to America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It.

If you find yourself traveling this summer, take a closer look at America’s deteriorating infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks, public parks, and train...

New US ambassador: NZ needs to give Trump a chance

The new United States Ambassador has asked that New Zealanders give him, and US President Donald Trump, a fair go. Mr Brown...

Future Shock: Imagining India

What might a future India look like? If current policies continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just two...

Kansas' Tax Cuts Are a Spectacular Failure. Meanwhile, in California

Republican legislators in Kansas did the unthinkable this month: They voted to raise income taxes, ending a painful five-year experiment with an extreme anti-tax...

Pentagon wasted $93 million on 'forest' camouflage uniforms for Afghan troops – report

The Pentagon spent $93.81 million over the past decade to provide Afghan troops with uniforms of...

Trump Cuts Critical Services to Pay for Wealthy Tax Cuts

At a recent press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Marta Conner told reporters, “My daughter Caroline is alive because of Medicaid.” Caroline suffers from...

'Stunning and Dangerous': DeVos Memo Reveals Plan to Roll Back Civil Rights

In a move decried as "more evidence of backward thinking" by the Trump administration, an internal memo from the Department of Education's office for...