Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama Pitches His Budget Plan To "Hope and Change" Democrats With Bad Memories

In This Issue:

- More Explanation of My Comments About Classism Towards The Poor In Baker City When Time & Priorities Permit

- Obama's New "Hope & Change" Gambit To Suck In Progressives For His Reelection, Plus People's Budget

- Other Alternative Federal Budget News including Kucinich YouTube Video, and Montana Wolf Delisting Rider

- Single Payer Health Care Event in Baker City

- A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (YouTube Videos)

[Edited 4/14/11 to add info on wolf delisting rider. For all articles except DN! Jeffrey Sachs and The Nation article, please click on the title link to read the full article.]

More Explanation of My Comments About Classism Towards The Poor In Baker City When Time & Priorities Permit

I received one personal comment from a friend who was offended by my statements regarding the treatment of the poor and old in Baker City, and I responded in my usually frank way, which brought more offense. My basic response to the offeded is if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. There was at least one other somewhat indignant comment that I heard about as well. If nothing else I have said is true, it is true enough to me that the property maintenance jihad is destroying the few bonds that held this "community," rich and poor alike, together.

I do believe I have a responsibility to further lay out my position on the Baker City property maintenance ordinance, in response to these concerns, even though I went over much if it in several posts on the blog a few years ago. I doubt if I will change the minds that are already made up, but I promise to make the effort. The blog is nothing more than my attempt to express what clearly are my own opinions and those of like-mided folks across the globe. I want to make clear to all, especially considering the shape the world and the US are in, that at my age, I simply don't (or can't emotionally afford to) give a shit if readers like my opinions or not. (I just haven't lived my life that way--why should I or anyone start to do that now?) The "conventional wisdom" of mainstream politicians, in Baker City and elsewhere, in the mainstream media, and the like, has failed us miserably, so I see no reason why I and others should not take the opportunity, provided by the internet, to offer something to the contrary.

One problem I face with regard to responding to critics on the classism issue, is that the blog is not, or should not, become an all consuming purpose in my life--I need in fact to take time I have left to enjoy and photograph the natural world (plus all the time and processing that entails) and take care of some of the tasks in life associated with other loves, like preparing my garden, helping friends, and hatching out chickens (hey, it is spring), not to mention less enjoyable tasks like getting rid of yard waste and etc. to please the critical onlookers. Plus, being a news neurotic takes a lot of time, and there is other news to cover! I don't post but a small fraction of the articles that are important.

Additionally, I'll have to pour over old emails, videos, and other information I have accumulated on the property maintenance subject, as well as search for any new information that I may be able to incorporate on that subject. It is not something that requires just an hour of my time, but in fact days, so I plead for patience from those looking for instant results.

Obama's New "Hope & Change" Gambit To Suck In Progressives For his Reelection

Obama, the once "hope & change," but currently war mongering corporate president, now hoping to amass a billion dollar campaign war chest from the Wall Street and other corporations he has supported and helped, is trying to override and erase his record of broken promises with today's budget speech aimed at sucking in his former, but completely forsaken, progressive supporters. Fat chance I say, or at least hope. He, like every politician before him, knows that memories fade and hope springs eternal.

See: Obama / The Billion Dollar Candidate With No Halo Or Base, By Allen L Roland

President Obama will become the first Billion dollar candidate running on a Platform of Corporate Welfare You Can Believe In ~ but the hard reality is he has no halo, no base and a raft of broken promises which no amount of money can cover up.

Having run over and all but dismissed his progressive base, which elected him in 2008, an increasingly arrogant President Obama has consummated his marriage with his new base ~ Wall Street and the global financial elite ~ and has announced his re-election with e-mails and text messages to his supposedly loyal supporters. Obviously, this would allow him to start campaigning and tap into potentially a billion dollar war chest from big money corporate donations he has often criticized in the past . . . . .


Wanting to get some sort of progressive response to Obama's budget speech today, I did a Google search on the subject. After 6 search pages on corporate Google, I gave up due to nothing but mainstream results and looked to some more reliable progressive news and opinion sources I know of.

[4/14/11--found the following this morning:]

Democracy Now! "People’s Budget"

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has unveiled an alternative plan called the "People’s Budget." With more than 80 members, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus within the U.S. House of Representatives. We’re now joined by the chair, the co-chair, of that caucus, Democratic Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona.

Welcome to Democracy Now! We hear a great deal, Congressmember Grijalva, about the Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. All of the networks show comparisons of the Deficit Commission, what the compromise, so-called compromise, is between the Democrats and the Republicans, and then Paul Ryan’s. But we do not hear about the People’s Budget, and you’re the largest caucus in the entire House of Representatives. How is that? And what is your assessment of the deal that Obama has reached with the Republicans?

REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: Well, the assessment on the lack of attention, Amy, quite frankly, is that we think we have a very, very good product that can stand scrutiny, that deals with the realities of the economies that we’re in right now and into the future, and the fact that we don’t get the promotional attention is disturbing. We want, with our budget, to provide a contrast and a choice between what Ryan’s draconian budget is, basically destroying societal support for each other, and the President’s, which kind of takes a half step toward dealing with some of the issues that we feel need to be preserved and protected: Social Security, Medicare, investments in education, job creation. Our budget is solid. We have third-party validation from Professor Sachs to many other economists, Professor Irons, as well. So we feel very strongly about our budget, and we want it to be on the table.


Roundtable: Assessing Obama’s Budget Plan

This from William Rivers Pitt of Truthout in an e-mail pitch for donations:

Rachel Maddow described President Obama's speech on Wednesday as a "defining moment" for his administration, and she was absolutely correct. It was an excellent speech in the main, filled with the kind of lofty rhetoric we have become accustomed to since Mr. Obama first burst onto the political scene in 2004. In it, he proposed taxing the rich, cutting the defense budget and decreasing the cost of health care. He defended Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. For many in the progressive community, it was a reminder of the man who fired the imaginations of so many during his presidential campaign.

Therein lies the problem: it was all just words. Again. There have been many such "defining moments" during this administration, most of which involved retreat, surrender and failure after festooning the walls with words. We heard great talk about including the public option in the health care bill - until Mr. Obama retreated, leaving many to wonder if he ever meant to include it at all. We heard great talk about closing Guantanamo, until he retreated. We heard great talk about repealing the Bush tax cuts for rich people, until that fell by the wayside as well. The very fact that we are still talking about those damnable tax breaks is evidence enough of how far those words go, and that is not very far at all, so far.

And then there were the other words in Wednesday's speech: the ones that tipped a wink to the Bowles-Simpson proposal to eviscerate the social contract which has sustained this nation for generations. There were the words, "Any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table." If that is true, Mr. President, then a plan to provide Medicare for all must also be on the table … but no, that's not "reasonable" or "responsible." The debate over the future of this country has been skewed so far to the right that centrism appears radical, even as the worst elements in our nation win the day time and again.

Words are no longer enough, even pretty ones. Action is required. . . .


And another from The Nation editors:

Obama's 'Shared Sacrifice' Hits the Poor and Middle-Class Hardest

The Editors | April 13, 2011
President Obama’s speech unveiling his deficit reduction plan contained few big surprises—by its very premise, it was destined to preserve the faulty assumptions behind the whole deficit discussion—but some of his words were welcome. The president called Social Security and Medicare fundamental American commitments and, in a rebuke to Congressman Paul Ryan, left these entitlement programs largely untouched. He also refused to renew Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a pledge Obama has made—and broken—in the past, but let’s take at face value his sincerity on the matter. (All the better to hold him to it.)

From there the president outlined his plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in the next twelve years, based on the principle of “shared sacrifice.” Here’s what that looks like: for every $1 raised by closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans, Obama proposes $2 in spending cuts. Two-thirds of those cuts would come from education, health and other social programs while one-third would come from the military budget. The president’s vision of “shared sacrifice,” in other words, hits the poor and the middle class hardest. Meanwhile, wealthy Americans and the military are asked to sacrifice less, even though it was unfunded tax cuts and wars that got us a deficit in the first place.

The problem with starting with such skewed priorities is that Obama will be negotiating with the Republican Party, whose reverse–Robin Hood agenda proposes sacrifices almost entirely from the poor and middle class to pay for tax breaks for corporations and the rich. Indeed, just such a give-and-take is how we ended up with the 2011 budget compromise that averted a shutdown at the expense of
 $38 billion in spending cuts, the majority of which will come from the departments of education, labor and health. It’s a rotten deal, which the president curiously chose to hail as “the largest annual spending cut in history.” Any more victories like this and Obama will become a new American synonym for “Pyrrhic.” The cuts in the 2011 budget—“79 percent of what we wanted,” in Paul Ryan’s words—will be exacted immediately, despite an economy still struggling to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, one in which 25 million people are still bereft of full-time work.

Lost in this discussion is what the country needs: a clear strategy to rebuild the economy and revive the middle class. That requires making the investments vital to our future and figuring out how to pay for them. It requires taxing what we have too much of (financial speculation and extreme concentrations of wealth) and investing in what we have too little of (education like pre-K and affordable college, twenty-first-century infrastructure, renewable energy). And it means addressing the real source of our long-term debt crisis: not Social Security or Medicare, not “entitlements” but a broken healthcare system, dominated by powerful drug, insurance and hospital lobbies, that costs about twice as much per capita as the health system of any other industrialized country and producing worse results.

The sad fact is, President Obama knows much of this. He spoke compellingly of the injustice of an economy in which the top 1 percent enjoys quarter-million-dollar windfalls while everyone else struggles. He gets that rising healthcare costs are a burden, and that deficit-cutting is no excuse for neglecting our country’s future. But his “balanced approach” conceded too much too early to the deficit hawks and austerity pushers. He needed to reset the debate, but instead he split the difference.


A more cynical/real politic view from Glenn Greenwald:

. . . . Obama's most loyal supporters often mock the notion that a President's greatest power is his "bully pulpit," but there's no question that this is true. Reagan was able to transform how Americans perceived numerous political issues because he relentlessly argued for his ideological and especially economic world-view: a rising tide lifts all boats, government is not the solution but is the problem, etc. -- a whole slew of platitudes and slogans that convinced Americans that conservative economic policy was optimal despite how much it undermined their own economic interests. Reagan was "transformational" because he changed conventional wisdom and those premises continue to pervade our political discourse.

When has Obama ever done any of that? When does he offer stirring, impassioned defenses of the Democrats' vision on anything, or attempt to transform (rather than dutifully follow) how Americans think about anything? It's not that he lacks the ability to do that. Americans responded to him as an inspirational figure and his skills of oratory are as effective as any politician in our lifetime. It's that he evinces no interest in it. He doesn't try because those aren't his goals. It's not that he or the office of the Presidency are powerless to engender other outcomes; it's that he doesn't use the power he has to achieve them because, quite obviously, achieving them is not his priority or even desire.

Whether in economic policy, national security, civil liberties, or the permanent consortium of corporate power that runs Washington, Obama, above all else, is content to be (one could even say eager to be) guardian of the status quo. And the forces of the status quo want tax cuts for the rich, serious cuts in government spending that don't benefit them (social programs and progressive regulatory schemes), and entitlement "reform" -- so that's what Obama will do. He won't advocate, and will actually oppose, steps as extreme as the ones Paul Ryan is proposing: that's how he will retain his "centrist" political identity and keep the fear levels high among his voting base. He'll pay lip service to some Democratic economic dogma and defend some financially inconsequential culture war positions: that's how he will signal to the base that he's still on their side. But the direction will be the same as the GOP desires and, most importantly, how the most powerful economic factions demand: not because he can't figure out how to change that dynamic, but because that's what benefits him and thus what he wants.

Ironically, Obama is turning out to be "transformational" in his own way -- by taking what was once the defining GOP approach to numerous policy areas and converting them into Democratic ones, and thus ensconcing them in the invulnerable protective shield of "bipartisan consensus." As Digby put it: "Reagan was a hard-core ideologue who didn't just tweak some processes but radically changed the prevailing conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, Obama is actually extending the Reagan consensus, even as he pursues his own agenda of creating a Grand Bargain that will bring peace among the dueling parties (a dubious goal in itself.)" That has been one of the most consequential outcomes of the first two years of his presidency in terms of Terrorism and civil liberties, and is now being consecrated in the realm of economic policy as well.

UPDATE: Obama gave a speech today on the budget that many liberals seemed to like -- some more than others. It was a fine speech as far as it goes -- advocating, among other things, defense cuts and a repeal of the Bush tax cuts and vowing to protect the poor from the pain of deep entitlement reductions -- but I've long ago ceased caring about what Obama says in individual, isolated speeches: especially an Obama now formally in re-election mode. As I said above, he can be expected to oppose Paul Ryan's plan and "pay lip service to some Democratic economic dogma." If this becomes a sustained bully pulpit campaign to rhetorically sell these principles to the citizenry accompanied by real action to defend them, that will be one thing: I'll be pleasantly surprised and will be happy to say so. But what matters is actions and outcomes.


From The Center for Economic and Policy Research:

Statement on the President's Deficit Reduction Plan
April 13, 2011

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2011
Contact: Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115

Washington, D.C.- Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released the following statement on the President's deficit-reduction plan:

“President Obama’s statement was about as encouraging as could have been hoped for in the context of an agenda committed to deficit reduction. He rightly stressed that the wealthy, who have been the big winners in the economy over the last three decades, can afford to pay more in taxes. He also correctly pointed out that Social Security is an essential program for the nation’s retirees and workers, and that it does not contribute to the deficit. He also pointed out that the way to fix Medicare and Medicaid is to fix the private health care system, not to privatize Medicare as the Republicans in Congress have proposed.

“On the negative side, it is unfortunate that President Obama accepted a formula that cuts three times as much from projected spending (including interest) as he proposes to increase taxes. It is also striking that he proposes to cut twice as much from domestic discretionary spending (the portion of the budget that includes most investment spending) as he does from defense spending, especially since defense spending is projected to be about 20 percent larger than domestic discretionary spending over the 10-year budget horizon.

“More importantly, a deficit reduction agenda is a serious problem in the context of an economy that badly needs additional demand. While the economy is much healthier today than it was two years ago, the pace of job growth is not acceptable. . . . .


The False Debate on the Debt

Posted on Apr 12, 2011

By Robert Scheer

In the ever-so-smug company of the rich and powerful, it is a given that there is never to be any expression of remorse or other acknowledgment of the pain they have inflicted on the lesser mortals they so cavalierly plunder. It’s convenient for them that the media and the politicians, which they happen to own, rarely connect the dots between the scams that made the rich so rich and the alarming rise in the federal debt that is crushing this nation.

The result of this purchased public myopia is that we are left with an absurd debate over how deeply to cut teachers’ pensions and seniors’ medical benefits while preserving tax breaks for the superrich and their large corporations. At a time when 10 million American families will have lost their homes by year’s end, when $5.6 trillion in home equity has been wiped out, when most Americans face steep unemployment rates and stagnant wages, a Democratic president is likely to compromise with Republican ideologues who insist that further cuts in taxes for the rich is the way to bring back jobs.

Let’s deal right off with that canard. There is currently no shortage of corporate profits or excessive executive compensation to explain away the failure of the private sector to create jobs. On the contrary, as The New York Times reports, “In the fourth quarter, profits at American businesses were up an astounding 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in more than 60 years. Collectively, American corporations logged profits at an annual rate of $1.678 trillion.” And to add insult to injury, the top executives, who seem unable or unwilling to create jobs or adequately reward their workers, have increased their own compensation by a whopping 12 percent over the previous year, setting the median pay at $9.6 million per year for those in control of the leading 200 companies. The Times adds that “C.E.O. pay is also on the rise again at companies like Capital One and Goldman Sachs, which survived the economic storm with the help of all of those taxpayer-financed bailouts. . . . .”

See also this article referred to in the article above:
TARP Was No Win for the Taxpayers
By Paul Atkins, Mark McWatters and Kenneth Troske


Older Views Concerning the Budget "Debate."

Two Radically conservative Senate Democrats in our 6th smallest state, Montana, with fewer people than the city of Dallas, Texas, have placed a stealth rider on the budget deal. You may remember that Sen. Max Baucus is the man who helped derail a minimally progressive "public option" health care plan for Americans. This situation, where Senators in a very small state, have the same, sometimes more, power than a Senator from California, with almost 38 times as many people, reveals one of the odd undemocratic quirks in our system of governance. I posted an alert about this on my facebook page a few days ago, but you can make a very easy and simple call to defend wolves now by going to Oregon Wild. In any state, you can go to Center For Biological Diversity--BUDGET DEAL SACRIFICES WOLVES, KNIFES ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT to send an e-mail. [Chris]

Wolf delisting appears likely as measure joins federal budget bill

The Missoulian
April 13, 2011
A measure taking gray wolves off federal Endangered Species Act protection made it into the must-pass U.S. Senate budget bill late Monday night.

Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, both Democrats, placed a rider in the 2011 Appropriations Bill reauthorizing a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule delisting the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains.


Congress, in a first, removes an animal from the Endangered Species List
New York Times
April 12, 2011

Congress for the first time is directly intervening in the Endangered Species List and removing an animal from it, establishing a precedent for political influence over the list that has outraged environmental groups.

A rider to the Congressional budget measure agreed to last weekend dictates that wolves in Montana and Idaho be taken off the endangered species list and managed instead by state wildlife agencies, which is in direct opposition to a federal judge’s recent decision forbidding the Interior Department to take such an action.


Democracy Now! April 11, 2011

"Don’t Punish the Poor" Economist Jeffrey Sachs Slams Obama-GOP Budget Deal

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a last-minute budget deal on Friday, narrowly averting a government shutdown. The deal would cut roughly $38 billion from a federal budget expected to exceed $3.7 trillion this year. We speak to Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Many of us who supported President Obama just feel that he’s abandoned the field," Sachs says. "He’s left it to the right wing, which wants nothing more than taxes cut for the rich, whereas the American public is saying very clearly, in every opinion survey, one after another, if you want to close the deficit, go after taxes for the rich, raise them, cut military spending, cut the excess profits in the insurance industry and healthcare, do things that would really make a difference—don’t punish the poor."

Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia. He is also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty. He is the author of numerous books and articles on development and economic policy.

AMY GOODMAN: President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a last-minute budget deal Friday, narrowly averting a government shutdown. The deal would cut roughly $38 billion from a federal budget expected to exceed $3.7 trillion this year. Many details have yet to be worked out.

Much of the deal has not yet been made public. Known cuts include $13 billion from the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. The GOP won a stand-alone vote over barring Planned Parenthood from accessing federal funds. A vote on defunding public broadcasting was dropped, as was a ban on using Environmental Protection Agency funds to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama characterized some of the cuts as, quote, "painful."

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful.

AMY GOODMAN: White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe announced yesterday President Obama plans to release a long-term plan on reducing the nation’s deficit Wednesday. Speaking on Meet the Press, he said President Obama will insist the nation cannot afford to continue tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

SENIOR ADVISER DAVID PLOUFFE: Now, under the Republican congressional plan, people over $250,000 get over a trillion dollars in tax relief. So this is the important thing: you’re making a choice. You’re asking seniors, the middle class to pay more. You wouldn’t be having to do that if you weren’t giving the very, very wealthiest in this country just enormous tax relief.

AMY GOODMAN: Plouffe made it clear that the House Republicans’ alternative, crafted by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, was unacceptable. He said, "Ryan’s plan] might pass the House, but it’s not going to become law."

Obama is also expected to propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Well, to discuss the budget deal, we’re joined right now by leading economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. He is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group aimed at ending extreme global poverty. He’s the author of numerous books and articles on development and economic policy.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Your understanding of what this agreement is?

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, this is a miserable step in the wrong direction. It started last December, when Obama and the Republicans agreed to cut a trillion dollars of taxes by extending the Bush tax cuts. And now, even though the details aren’t even worked out, apparently, they’re slashing into programs for the poor. So this is all going in the wrong direction, and many of us who supported President Obama just feel that he’s abandoned the field. He’s left it to the right wing, which wants nothing more than taxes cut for the rich, whereas the American public is saying very clearly, in every opinion survey, one after another, if you want to close the deficit, go after taxes for the rich, raise them, cut military spending, cut the excess profits in the insurance industry and healthcare, do things that would really make a difference—don’t punish the poor. And yet, that’s what Obama is giving up right now. It’s absurd. And when Plouffe says, "Well, it’s unacceptable that the taxes on the rich have come down," the President not only agreed to that last December, but when they announced the compromise this weekend, he referred to that historic agreement last December. So the whole thing is a bit of a mass confusion, and I find it absurd.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the four proposals.

JEFFREY SACHS: I say that there really are four proposals on the table right now. One is the Ryan plan; that is the extreme right: just do anything, slash anything, hit the poor, in order to get the tax rates down on the rich. It’s a fraud. But they have momentum because Obama is not resisting.

Then there was Obama’s muddle, because he put forward a budget plan last month, after all, not only for fiscal year 2012, but a decade-long framework. He agreed to keep taxes so low on the rich that, in effect, his proposals, if you look at the fine print, would squeeze the so-called civilian discretionary budget, where education, where infrastructure, energy, climate would all be squeezed to an unmanageable small level.

Then there’s a new proposal that the Congressional Progressive Caucus put forward last week. Terrific. It’s called the People’s Budget. It actually responds to what the people want, and that is, raise taxes on the rich, raise taxes on the corporations that are getting away with absolute unbelievable—unbelievably abusive loopholes, cut military spending, preserve spending for the poor, for education, for investment and so forth.

Then there’s a fourth position. That’s the American public. You notice the American public isn’t asked by Congress or the President these days, but the American public speaks clearly in opinion survey after opinion survey. It says the rich have had a free ride, the corporations have been running our country, the spending on the military is completely unjustified, and we want a public option on healthcare. All large majorities, not one of them happening. Why? Because the lobbyists are in control, both of the White House and Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’re not just talking about in control of the White House and Congress, but what about the press? When you talk about these opinion polls that show a very progressive America, this is not reflected across the networks when you watch TV.

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, first of all, Fox News is pure propaganda. We know that. But it’s just relentless propaganda, and people respond to it. To my mind, the Tea Party is nothing but a Fox News Channel propagandistic creation. This is Roger Ailes at work. So that’s one part of it. But it gets a lot of—lot of press.

Same thing with the Wall Street Journal editorial page. That’s our leading business press, but it’s so relentlessly phony and right wing on the editorial page that you never hear anything about the middle. It’s only about tax cuts. It’s all this drum beat to cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes.

Then the mainstream, you know, basically, the New York Times, as far as I’m concerned, it just tries to protect its inside line to the White House. So, whatever the White House says, that’s what it reports. But it doesn’t report the fact that there’s a whole public opinion out there that needs to be covered. And I find that very, very sad.

AMY GOODMAN: But even outside of Fox, these discussions, for example, raising the issue of the military, that people recognize this as a huge drain on the budget, this is not raised, rarely in discussion.

JEFFREY SACHS: It’s true. When I am on talk shows and people talk about what to do, it’s all wringing your hands: "We have to cut entitlements, we have to cut entitlements." But the public is saying, "Can we get out of Afghanistan?" What an incredibly wrongheaded policy, wasting more than $100 billion a year, achieving nothing. But you’re right, this doesn’t get discussed.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, what about healthcare? What about these costs, and what can be done about it?

JEFFREY SACHS: Basically in healthcare, the U.S. has the most expensive system for what’s delivered of all the high-income countries. Why? Because we have this huge private sector health insurance industry. It’s hugely overmanned. Salaries are enormous. They spend a tremendous amount advertising, which doesn’t happen in other healthcare systems. Our specialists are paid way out of line with what happens in other countries. And that’s because we have a system that allows these huge costs, and then the government just pays a kind of cost-plus pricing, whereas a public option would get that under control and a system, called capitation, where basically insurance—or, health providers and public sector providers are responsible for the person and the family as a whole, not operation or procedure, one after another, that they get reimbursed for, is the much more efficient, low-cost way to do things.

All of it is to say, when the public option was taken off the table last year, despite a strong support of the public—and why did Obama take it off the table? Because the lobbyists told him to take it off the table. When that was taken off the table, we lost the chance to get healthcare costs under control. This is the problem. It’s lobbyists, morning 'til night. Whether it's lobbyists for healthcare, lobbyists for the financial sector, lobbyists for the war industry, and lobbyists for the tax cuts, they’re running Washington, both the White House and the Congress. And what the public wants—actually, the broad majority of the public—doesn’t get heard.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk more about the People’s Budget.

JEFFREY SACHS: The People’s Budget is a proposal of the leadership of 80 members of Congress, which is called the Progressive Caucus. I was so happy—

AMY GOODMAN: The largest caucus in Congress.

JEFFREY SACHS: I was so happy to see it when I saw it for the first time last week as it was being unveiled. I said, "Thank God. Something coming from Washington that makes sense," because they, too, have been crowded out. The White House has played a game, basically. If the far right is holding the agenda, the White House says, "We’ll be one step towards the center of the far right." But that means giving concession after concession after concession. What Obama is trying to do is to look reasonable, to look a little bit more reasonable than the extreme right. But to do so, he’s just compromising, compromising on core principles.
Then, finally comes the Congressional Progressive Caucus and says, "Stop it. Let’s do what the people really want." This is the wonderful thing about America. Sometimes you feel so frustrated: "What’s going on in this country?" as if everybody’s a Tea Partier. It’s not true. The broad majority of the public has very reasonable, very mainstream and compassionate views. They say, "Don’t slash for the poor. No, let’s start making the rich pay their due." That’s what the public says, the large majority. Who’s listening? Or who’s hearing them? The media keeps them out, by and large. And the White House and the Congress are dominated by the lobbies and by the concern about raising campaign funds. After all, President Obama is trying to raise a billion dollars for his 2012 election. Where is he going to get that? On Wall Street. Are they telling him, "Raise the taxes"? Unfortunately not.

AMY GOODMAN: What about House Speaker Boehner. What role is he playing in this?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, the Republican Party is dominated by a absolutely obsessive single idea: slash anything, cut anything, as long as the taxes for our rich patrons come down. That’s the role he’s playing.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the different proposals as a—the taxes as a percentage of the GDP.



JEFFREY SACHS: Basically, right now, we’re collecting this year only 15 or 16 percent of our gross national income, or gross domestic product, as taxes. That’s not enough to pay for even the most basics of government, for Social Security, for Medicare or Medicaid, military, interest on the debt. And then you have all the rest government is needed for to help educate our children, to help keep our children safe, to have the infrastructure for productive economy, to address climate change and so forth. There’s no money for that right now.

The only way seriously to have government do what government needs to do for the American people is to raise revenues right now. Now, in a normal economic recovery, maybe our current tax system would go back up to 17 or 18 percent. Ryan’s proposal and Obama’s proposal is to stop somewhere 19 to 20 percent. But if you look at what we really need to have a normal country, we would have to be 23, 24 percent of GNP—that’s just basic arithmetic—to cover our core costs and to be able to face the needs of the American people for education, for roads that don’t collapse, for a climate that doesn’t get wrecked, for a modern energy system, for science and technology, for our competitiveness. So, this means tax—taxes on the rich and on the companies have to go up, if we’re going to have a normal country. But the Republicans are dead set against it. And until now, Obama has just compromised, compromised, compromised.

AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to go teach a class. How do you think President Obama has most failed the American people?

JEFFREY SACHS: He hasn’t led. His job in our constitutional system is to help show a way forward and help to explain, help to say why we need to go this way, not to stand in the back and then announce how historic an agreement is to slash taxes on the rich or how historic an agreement is to cut $38.5 billion that’s going to slash programs for the poor. That’s not his job. His job is to lead. That’s why we who supported him—I was one of them—expected something very, very different. Now, Wednesday, maybe he’s going to try again. We hear from Plouffe, OK, this time it’s for real. But if he comes out and does again what he’s been doing, I just think he’s lost the core, the heart, of the political movement that basically supported him to bring him to office.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Sachs, I want to thank you very much for being with us, leading economist, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance.

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The Real News Network

Kucinich: Obama Admin Transferring Wealth to the Few



Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

Chairman Ryan’s sweeping budget plan has been labeled “courageous,” but it’s a cowardly budget in a crucial respect. It proposes a dramatic reverse-Robin-Hood approach that gets the lion’s share of its budget cuts from programs for low-income Americans — the politically and economically weakest group in America and the politically safest group for Ryan to target— even as it bestows extremely large tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. Taken together, its proposals would produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, while increasing poverty and inequality more than any measure in recent times and possibly in the nation’s history.

That’s because the Ryan plan would generate at least two-thirds — about $2.9 trillion — of its $4.3 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years from programs for people of modest means, while making permanent all of President Bush’s tax cuts for high-income Americans as well as a new estate-tax giveaway in the December 2010 tax package.

Ryan has said that he borrowed some ideas from President Obama’s fiscal commission, which was chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. But in a sharp departure, it stands a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson plan on its head. The co- chairs called for policymakers to set, as a basic principle, that the deficit should be reduced in a way that does not increase poverty and inequality; they called for protecting low-income and vulnerable Americans. The Ryan plan, in contrast, aims by far its most severe blows at those people — even as it drops all of the Bowles-Simpson revenue- raising measures that would secure their largest revenue increases from people at higher income levels.

On the tax side, the Ryan plan would make permanent all of the Bush tax cuts for high-income Americans, as well as the striking estate-tax giveaway included in the December 2010 tax package that benefits the estates of only the wealthiest one-quarter of 1 percent of Americans who die, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. . . . .


Single Payer Health Care Event in Baker City

Please mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 6:30-8:00. The Mad As Hell Doctors will be in Baker City to speak at an event at the Baker County Library. If you are like me you were disappointed that single payer (Medicare for All) was taken off the table before the health care reform negotiations even started. But states can opt out if they come up with a plan that will cover as many people as the AHA for less money. A single payer bill has been introduced in the Oregon legislature and the doctors are touring the state to promote grassroots support for the bill. Vermont is close to passing single payer and Oregon needs to do the same.

It will be a fun evening of singing, hearing the doctors' testimonies and ideas.

If you have any questions at all, please call Marilyn at (541-523-4421).

Two versions of an old Bob Dylan Song--A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.
[It's not good news week!]

Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall


Newer Version
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Bob Dylan's live-performance of his legendary "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at "The Great Music Experience", Nara (Japan) in May 1994. Dylan plays before a massive orchestral scenery, which is the Tokyo New Philharmonic orchestra -- the first time ever he played with a classic orchestra.

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