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Labor Day: Record Job growth. S&P hits 30th record high. Obama approval among Republicans: 11%.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, September 1, 2014

On this Labor Day, I’ll let the video do the talking (I apologize for the low quality. Recording technology has improved greatly since I recorded this ELEVEN YEARS AGO TODAY):
 

Bush campaigns for reelection amid record bad jobs numbers. (2:48)
September 1, 2003

The woman in the video that “doesn’t blame” President Bush for rapidly rising unemployment because “[the economy] was bad before he got in there” pretty much says it all. When Bush took office in January 2001, the unemployment rate was 4.2% TWO FULL POINTS LOWER than it was at the time of the video. Unemployment would hit 7.4% by the time he leaves office. (I apologize for the lack of indexes in those graphs, but they are auto-generated by the BLS.)

Now try to imagine if President Obama had inherited the same record economy George W Bush did (22 Million new jobs and a balanced budget) and turned it into a basket case in less than three years; took the country into an unnecessary war after asserting as “fact” that another Middle-Eastern nation was preparing to use “stockpiles of WMD’s” against us; stage a “Top Gun” photo op to declare that war over while soldiers were still fighting & dying looking for those weapons, only to later joke about not finding any of those weapons during a White House Correspondents Dinner following the deaths of nearly 800 American soldiers. Imagine the backlash. (Think about the Republican reaction to FOUR deaths overseas in Benghazi on 9/11/12 vs FOUR THOUSAND deaths on U.S. soil on 9/11/01.)

And Republicans cheered Bush… and gleefully reelected him. His average approval rating that year: 62.2%.

Let’s contrast this with President Obama’s record:

Inherited the worst economy since The Great Depression where we were losing nearly 800,000 jobs per month, a 3/4 of a TRILLION dollar bailout of Wall Street, a Stock Market in freefall, and turned it all around, having already created more than THREE TIMES as many jobs in just six years than Bush did in eight.

Six straight months of an economy that’s producing more than 200,000 jobs per month… the first time that’s happened since 1997… the start of the Clinton boom years. (And the Conservative response: yeah, but the numbers are “lower than expected”, “still too many people out of work” and… my favorite… “we needed that many jobs just to recover what we lost” [unspoken: under Bush].)

The S&P-500 has hit a record high… not just once, but for THE THIRTIETH TIME this year, breaking the “2,000” mark for the first time.

And President Obama’s approval rating among Republicans? An absurd 10.7%, dragging down his overall approval to just 42%.

At the height of the economic mess in 2008, President Bush’s approval rating among Republicans was “down to” 60%. The only thing one can conclude from this is that Republicans must LIKE economic disaster.
 


 

Another helpful reminder of where we were more than a year before President Obama took office:
 

Disaster Presidency: Two weeks in November 2007.

 

That was after six years of a Republican president and Republican Congress.

And if you think this current “Do-nothing Congress” (with its 15% approval rating) is bad, just imagine what the next two years will be like if Republicans gain control of the Senate and spend the next two years impeaching Obama the way they did at the end of Clinton’s presidency.

Republicans would love to credit themselves for the economic turnaround. But what actions could they point to to justify it? “Stopping Obama” via unprecedented obstruction? Two signature accomplishments they failed to obstruct… his “tax hike” and “ObamaCare”… they said would kill jobs and destroy the economy. They clearly didn’t. The deficit is shrinking rapidly and I’ve already pointed out record job growth. Republicans have done nothing, even threatening to sue the president for doing “too much.”

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Bush & Cheney insisted that the Clinton economy “wasn’t as good as it would have been if only we had had a Republican president in charge of the Republican Congress. We gave it to him and you saw the result. Now they want you to imagine how much “worse” the recovery would have been if they hadn’t been there to obstruct everything for the past four years. You buying it?

 



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Filed in Economy, Jobs, Partisanship, Politics, rewriting history, Right-Wing Hypocrisy September 1st, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Must a President Be a Failure to Be a Success?

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, May 19, 2014

I was watching former Vice President Dick Cheney and his with Lynn pollute my TV screen yesterday on Fox “news” Sunday, and I’m always struck by how stunningly self-UNaware Cheney is about the havoc his administration caused. Naturally, both Cheney’s blamed President Obama for America’s lack of credibility around the world, because he “drew a red line in Syria” (that wasn’t actually crossed), and apparently has nothing to do with the Bush Administration invading Iraq on false pretenses. And naturally, President Obama’s reluctance to send American troops into Syria or Ukraine has nothing to do with the fact we still haven’t finished the LAST war these numbnuts got us into yet couldn’t finish. Our military has been stretched to its near breaking point and the American people have no appetite to see us get involved in yet another war. But tell that to The Vader Family.

(More info on that corner photo. It’s Cheney’s memoir, “My Life” on the right. I snapped this photo with my cell phone at my local grocery store on 9/1/11, the same week the book was released. It was already marked down “40% off” and placed next to a copy of James Patterson’s “Kill Me”. Note: I live in Texas.)

The Bush-II Administration was mind-numbingly incompetent. Yet, President Bush’s approval ratings were never higher than immediately after 9/11… the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history, of which we now know they ignored numerous warnings from the CIA because they were too preoccupied planning the invasion of Iraq. President Clinton said something interesting last week regarding the foiled “Millennium Bomb Plot”, about how no president ever gets credit for the terrorist attacks they thwarted because no one ever knows about them. There’s nothing for people to “rally around”.

And this got me wondering about how when things appear to be going smoothly, no one takes notice or credits the Administration in charge. It’s only during times of upheaval, lurching from crisis-to-crisis that people seem to take notice of the ongoings of Washington. Must a President create & fail in managing multiple disasters before they look like a “Leader” and achieve high approval ratings?

On December 22, 2008, just days before leaving office, Cheney defended President Bush’s record on fighting terrorism. Strange thing though, he could just as easily have been talking about President Clinton’s record without changing a single word:

Let’s look at Bush’s REAL record: Ignored multiple warnings that might have prevented 9/11. Two Recessions. Katrina and the catastrophic consequences of putting a Horse Show director in charge of FEMA. Gas prices explode creating global Economic disaster. Stock Market lost nearly half it’s value (first decline since Hoover). National Debt doubled where it was previously shrinking. Iraq. Never got Bin Laden. The Patriot Act. Began the practice of widespread warrantless domestic wiretaps. A deregulated “credit ratings” industry that led to the biggest banking scandal & bailout in American history.

We already heard Cheney defend the Clinton record. What about Obama? No attacks on US soil. Period. Got Bin Laden. Ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan this year. A stable and growing economy with both the DOW and S&P 500 closing at record highs last week, NO Recessions. NO FEMA failures. First president to pass sweeping healthcare regulations mandating minimum basic care standards and a competitive market to keep insurance rates down. Housing sales are back on the rise. Created the “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” to protect consumers from deceptive credit/banking practices.

In a way, President Clinton was a victim of his own success, making the job of president look so easy that even someone like George W. Bush could do it. I don’t think anything believes President Obama has had an easy time of it these past 5+ years, but he sure as heck doesn’t seem to be getting any credit for all the disasters that HAVEN’T taken place on his watch. (Note: the current “VA controversy” has more to do with GOP-underfunding and Bush’s wars dumping an additional two million wounded vets into an already stretched system. Local Administrators cooked the books precisely to deceive Washington, and Republicans want to fire Shinseki because he didn’t know he was being deceived.)
 



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Filed in Economy, Election, General, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity, Seems Obvious to Me May 19th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Keystone XL Protest Signs for Download

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Friday, February 28, 2014

As promised, here are seven posters/signs that I created for the Keystone XL Protest that I plan to attend this weekend.

As I mentioned on Monday, I believe it is FAR more effective to focus on NON-CO2 related reasons for opposing the pipeline when your goal is to convince people that don’t believe in “Global Warming” and have been spoon-fed a steady stream of lies of “Job Jobs Jobs”, “cheap gas” and “Energy Independence”, to vote against something they’ve been told would be a magic bullet for the economy.

Previews are in JPG format. Each poster in both “tall” and “wide” formats for signs or posters. Click images to download in high resolution PhotoShop format:


The oil is to be EXPORTED – The oil is to be EXPORTED


HIGHER prices NOT lower –  – HIGHER prices NOT lower


The JOBS myth – The JOBS myth


No good for gasoline – No good for gasoline


Massive Tailing Ponds – Massive Tailing Ponds


An ENORMOUS waste of fresh water – An ENORMOUS waste of fresh water


Summary poster – Summary poster

If you find these posters useful, let us know. – Mugsy
 


 

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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Greed, Jobs, Middle East, myth busting, Politics February 28th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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No, the Keystone Tar Sand Oil is NOT Inevitable

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, February 24, 2014

A little birdy tells me that President Obama is now considering approving the final leg of the infamous “Keystone XL” pipeline because some big names on the Left have resigned themselves to the idea that the tar sands making it to market is “inevitable”, so we might as well be the ones to do it before a “less” environmentally conscientious nation “like China” (who is investing heavily in Green energy and focusing on pollution after Beijing started hitting blindingly toxic levels of smog prior to the 2008 Olympics.) Meanwhile, ask North Carolina and West Virginia what they think about our environmental record. Quite honestly, anyone claiming to be “a Liberal” that tells you the KXL “is inevitable so we might as well do it”, isn’t really a Liberal. Because a true Liberal finds the better way. They don’t just throw up their hands and say, “Okay Big Money, you win! I surrender!” Screw you and the Iron Horse you rode in on. That’s like saying, “Wall Street is going to find a way to screw us out of our money anyways so we might as well deregulate the whole damned thing.” No, Naysayers, the tar sands oil making it to market is NOT “inevitable.” Answer me this: That “tar sand” has been there for tens of thousands of years. Why now? Why are we suddenly considering using it “now”? Was there a sudden drop in the supply of oil that I’m not aware of? Are we running out of places to drill? Has OPEC suddenly cut back production because oil is suddenly harder to find? No. The reason… the ONLY reason they are suddenly looking at it is because it’s suddenly economically feasible thanks to the Bush Administration driving oil prices into the stratosphere. In the past, converting tar sand into “oil” was just too damned expensive. Now, with $95/barrel oil, suddenly, the process is cost effective. Wanna stop the tar sand’s from being used, GET THE PRICE OF OIL DOWN. And there’s several ways to do it.

As I reported last week, if the price of oil were to fall $30 to just $65/barrel, excavating the tar sands would no longer be cost efficient. And arguably, I don’t see the U.S. refining tar sand for China. If they want it, they are going to have to ship it someplace else to refine it. Suddenly, we’re not looking at $65/barrel, you’re looking at more like $75/barrel before it becomes too expensive for a foreign country to try an utilize it.

Ever wonder why CANADA doesn’t just simply refine it THERE in Canada? Why not simply build a refinery there rather than bisect the United States with a 1,800 mile long pipeline to the Gulf? Because they plan to EXPORT that oil once it has been refined. No port, no profit. And as long as oil is in the $75+ range, there’s profit to be made. Get that price down, and all your worries about Keystone go too.

I personally believe that protesters that focus on the catastrophic environmental damage the KXL would do are doing themselves a tremendous disservice. If your target audience is people that don’t believe in “Global Warming” and believe in all the lies they’ve been fed about what an economic boom it would be, you might as well be claiming the KXL kills “Spotted Owls” for all the good it would do. No, you’ve gotta hit them where they live. TELL THEM that it WON’T “create a million jobs” like they’ve been told. TELL THEM that it WON’T lower… but in fact RAISE… the price of gas. TELL THEM that it means an enormous 11-foot deep lake of black toxic sludge the size of Central Park (840 acres) in their backyard blighting the landscape, stinking the air, and lowering their property values. Hit them where they live. And be ready to answer question when they ask you to defend your claims. Because as long as these lies are allowed to persist, they become the truth. “Everyone” was gung-ho to invade Iraq over “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that we were literally guaranteed were there (“slam dunk”). But afterward when the weapons didn’t turn up, suddenly everyone realized they had been lied to for someone else’s personal gain and WE were stuck with the check.

I plan on taking part in a “Stop the Keystone XL pipeline” protest this Saturday, and I hope to create some nice “ready-to-print” signs that I can distribute in file format to fellow protesters. If I do, I’ll be sure to post them here on M.R.S. for free download sometime this week.
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Seems Obvious to Me February 24th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Apathy Latest Enemy In Fighting Keystone XL Pipeline

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, February 3, 2014

Back in April of 2011, I wrote a lengthy post detailing all the misconceptions, deceptions and outright lies being spread by supporters of the “Keystone XL” pipeline. It was popular and important enough that I gave that post its own page, linked from the Top Menu above. Quite literally, EVERY benefit being claimed about the pipeline is complete & utter nonsense: a million new jobs, lower gas prices, and energy independence with minimal impact on the environment. All of it, total bullshit (read my report for details.) In March of last year, the U.S. State Dept declared that they believed the pipeline would have a “negligible” impact on the environment (based on a report prepared for them by people working for TransCanada), which I reported on at the time. Last week, the State Dept released its follow-up report on the environmental impact of the KXL, declaring their belief that it would in fact have “minimal impact”, giving President Obama cover should he decide to approve the final/key leg of the pipeline, extending it up to the Alberta Tarsands itself. Critics of opponents like me think the only reason we oppose the KXL is because of its impact on “Global Warming”… which they deny anyway, so we’re easy to dismiss. We’re just a bunch of squishes that “over-react” when it comes to the Environment. Well, as I pointed out in my post last year, even if you don’t believe in Climate Change, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose the KXL. Few jobs (would you believe fewer than FIFTY permanent jobs?), HIGHER (not “lower”) gas prices, and other environmental hazards like incredibly frequent massive spills of thick gooey tar (292 in North Dakota alone in less than two years) that are next to impossible to clean up. They say “pipeline technology has improved” to the point where such spills are rare. Since when? How long must we go without a pipeline rupturing that we can start calling them “rare”? Because last I checked, we haven’t gone a full 7-months yet without a pipeline leaking tens of thousands of gallons of oil somewhere in the United States.

The State Department report is rubbish. It has already been revealed, once again, that “consultants” hired to write the report were lobbyist for a trade group linked to TransCanada (owners of the pipeline). And their “conclusion” that the pipeline would have a negligible impact is based on the enormously questionable belief that if the pipeline were not built, the “oil” would just be “shipped by rail”, getting out into the market anyway (meaning the “pipeline” would have little impact, not the oil). Not only does rail not move as much product (I’m not calling it “oil” because it’s not. It’s a thick mud called “bitumen”) as a pipeline would, but as The Washington Post points out, if the price of oil falls to roughly $70/barrel, shipping by rail is no longer cost efficient. And if the price of oil falls below $65/barrel, it doesn’t matter how it’s transported, it’ll be cheaper just to leave the tar-sand in the ground. So the assumption that “we might as well just transport it by pipeline since it’s going to be delivered one way or another” is questionable at best.

I don’t like the fact that opposition to the KXL seems to have waned in the Progressive Media as of late. I hear Progressives talk about the KXL almost with a sense of futility that it’s going to happen eventually no matter what. We’ve been talking about this pipeline “for years now” and nothing bad has happened “so far” so maybe the criticism was overblown? “Nothing” has happened “so far” because it hasn’t been built! It reminds me of critics of health care reform blaming “Obamacare” for things that happened before it went into effect. Progressive radio host Ed Schultz… who has been on my shit-list ever since he spent an entire show in 2009 defending dog-killer Michael Vick’s right to earn millions of dollars playing football the same day Blue-dog “Democrat” Max Baucus (D-MT) announced that he would be siding with the GOP to deny Democrats a 60-vote Super Majority if the Health Care Reform bill included a Public Option… stated on his show last Thursday that he “supports” the KXL pipeline and “thinks it should be done” (then spent Friday’s show talking about the Super Bowl). Bye-bye, Ed. I’m done with you. I suggest you find a new job as a sportscaster, since that seems to be where your interests really lie.

Here are some new photos, and a video clip, to go with my earlier reports on the Keystone XL pipeline:

Tailing pond pipe in Alberta, Canada
Tailing pond pipe
 

Tailing pond with pipes (left)
Tailing pond, Alberta
 

Tailing pond dwarfs rig
Tailing pond, Alberta
 

Oil sands, Canada
Oil sands, Canada
 

Mildred Lake, tailing pond
Mildred Lake
 

Pipes in Sudbury tailing pond
Sudbury tailing pond
 

More pipes
Tailing pond pipes
 

Tarsands oil contains 17% more carbon than conventional crude oil.
17percent more emissions
 

More Alberta tarsands
Alberta tarsands
 

More Alberta tarsands
Alberta tarsands
 

More Alberta tarsands
Alberta tarsands
 

Closeup of tailing pond:
Tailing pond

All of these tailing pipes gush toxic waste 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.
Gusher
 

Video clip showing that gushing pipe in action (11sec)


So I’m posting this brief reminder/update on the Keystone XL Pipeline before I hear any more foolishness about the “futility” in fighting a pipeline that seems to be inevitable. That’s how they win, by wearing us down. They have deep pockets to drag this out for as long as they need until they lull us into believing, “Smoking’s good for you. Never mind the “licorice smell in your water, West Virginia. Oh, and the check is in the mail.”

Starting on February 5th, the State Department will begin an “open commenting period” of just 30 days allowing people to write them in opposition/support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Be sure to make your voice heard (don’t contact them before the 5th or risk having your message ignored.)
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Jobs, myth busting, Politics February 3rd, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Mugsy’s Annual Predictions for 2014: No more predictions for Syria (kinda)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 30, 2013

I never put any stock in “13” being an “unlucky number”, but after the year I just had, one can’t help but wonder.

My predictions for 2013 were a bit rushed. I cranked them out at the last minute as I spent my days preoccupied trying to save the life of my beloved cat “Lefty”. One year later, my days are now preoccupied trying to save the life of my mother. And in both instances, gross medical negligence is to blame. The frustration I feel is profound as I watch helplessly as another loved-one fights for life following the harm done to them by incompetent doctors, with no legal recourse because of the state I live in (Texas). So please bear that in mind if my predictions for 2014 seem a bit bleak.

We begin by looking back at how well the “Professionals” did at making predictions for 2013. I may not get 100% of my predictions right… or even 75%…, but compared to some of the so-called “experts”, I should be sitting on a mountain top somewhere, an oracle allowing but a brave few to ask “Just one question”.

First off, can I just say that if you publish your “Predictions” AFTER December 31st, you’re not “predicting”, you’re reporting the news.

With that said, here is what some famous “psychics” predicted we’d see in 2013:

Sylvia Browne

Maybe it’s a bit unfair, but I love picking on self-proclaimed “psychics” because their accuracy is always dismal. But they make so many predictions, that when one or two pan out, the media responds as if that person has “second sight” and deserving of being taken very seriously.

Famed “psychic” Sylvia Browne passed away in November. It almost seems crewel to “fact check” Miss Browne posthumously, but when you’re as big a name in the “predicting” biz as she was, maybe keeping her on the list is a sign of respect for her particular brand of hucksterism. In 2012, Ms. Browne predicted President Obama would NOT be reelected; in a 2006 appearance on “The Montel Williams Show”, she told the mother of one of the three girls that had been held captive by that nut in Ohio for over a decade only to escape earlier this year, that her daughter was dead and would be waiting for her on the other side (the mother died the next year), and on that same show, Browne told a widow whose husbands’ body “was never found” that he was “in water”, presumably lost at sea. It turns out the woman was the widow of a 9/11 fireman.

As I noted, Ms. Browne passed away in November. Apparently, she never saw it coming because she booked no less than 14 public appearances from December of 2013 to April of 2014. If you want to read her final list of predictions for 2013, you must purchase an ANNUAL membership to her “inner circle” for a minimum buy in of $49.95 or an EIGHTEEN MONTH membership for $79.95 (which, if you do the math, is slightly more expensive than just buying 1-year memberships.) Seeing as how Ms. Browne is no longer with us, anyone who purchases a 12 or 18 month membership at this point to find out what she has to say next deserves to have their money taken from them. They’re still taking Reservations if you wish to meet her.

Psychic-to-the-Stars: “Nikki”

It’s funny how many people bestow upon themselves the title “Psychic to the Stars”. I suppose if two “stars” just happen to meet the same psychic backstage at a taping of “A Sucker’s Born Every Minute”, they can call themselves a “Psychic to the Stars”. But type the phrase into Google, and top of the list is “Nikki”… whom apparently shall remain last-nameless. Among Nikki’s predictions for 2013:

“Nikki’s” list of predictions for 2013 reads like a script for the next Hollywood blockbuster disaster movie. Of the 115 World Events she predicts, EIGHTY (by my count) fall into the “death & destruction” category.

Of course, when you make well over 100 predictions, random chance almost ensures a few hits (“even a blind squirrel finds a nut now & then”):

  1. More cyber attacks. – There were four notable instances of computer crime this year: Britain’s NatWest Bank was the victim of a distributed denial of service (“DDoS”) attack that inconvenienced thousands of customers for a few days, the Bank of China was hacked by (reportedly) some frustrated “BitCoin” users, North Korea is believed to be behind a cyber attack on South Korean TV stations and two banks, and, of course, more significantly, the recent hack of some 40 million “Target” store customer’s credit cards here in the U.S.. Personally, I suspect that if asked for more detail, Ms. Nikki was expecting an attack more along the lines of a “terrorist” nature, not kids hacking credit cards.
  2. A major automobile company will go bankrupt. – You know what, I’m feeling generous and will give “Detroit Declares Bankruptcy” to Ms. Nikki. The auto-companies themselves might have declared “record PROFITS” this past year (their best since 2007), but the city synonymous with the auto-industry did in fact (thanks to a Republican appointed viceroy who dismantled the local government, disenfranchised nearly a million people and is now liquidating the city’s treasures) “declare bankruptcy”. Probably not what she was predicting, but there you are.
  3. Great floods in the US and in Europe – Yes, massive floods did indeed hit Colorado and Central Europe this year.

3-for-115 (she actually made many more predictions than that if you count “celebrity” predictions), for an accuracy rate of 2.6%… and that was after being a bit generous. It’s up to you to decide whether “Ms. Nikki” is psychic or just guessing.

The Psychic Twins

A sister duo dubbed “The Psychic Twins” are laying claim to a number of accurate predictions in 2013, including the “Lone Wolf” shootings in DC’s “Navy Yard” a knife attack by a mentally disturbed student at a Houston Community College (that I just happened to attend some 20 years ago) that ran around stabbing other students with a craft-knife, and an armed gunmen at North Carolina’s A&T University that was subdued before a single shot was fired.

They also predicted strict new gun laws passed in Connecticut just days after the Sandy Hook massacre. They MUST be psychic!

“The Psychic Twins” appear to only make their predictions on video, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours verifying their accuracy, though I have little doubt it would be another case of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”. This short second-hand list of their predictions for 2013 as documented by a fan is predictably (pun intended) hit & miss. Hits with further “Lone Wolf” attacks following Sandy Hook, misses on Economics (but also predicted “cyber attacks”) and vaguely all-too-general predictions of weather/natural disasters.

Last year I singled out another “celebrity psychic, Blair Robertson” for his poor performance in predicting what 2012 held in store for everyone. Mr. Robertson did a little better this year, (arguably) over his one correct prediction for 2012, correctly predicting this year that “a boxer would die in the ring” but falling short everywhere else. Robertson improved his score this year by a half-point for “predicting” Rhianna and Chris Brown would “tie the knot”. The couple played the Media like a fiddle, with photos of “a ring” and even rumors of a “secret wedding”, but no, the most famous dysfunctional couple in Hip-Hop did not in fact get married in 2013 (correct me if I’m wrong.)

Political Prognosticators

It’s a bit more difficult this year to find Republicans opining about 2013 after they all had just finished predicting a Mitt Romney landslide, “easily” winning the election as Americans were “fed up” with President Obama, “Obamacare”, “taxes” and “Benghazi”. That bubble they built up had some might thick glass.

So naturally, when Republicans carried out their threats of being even more obstructionist in 2013, the Right crowed… crowed I tell ya… how “Mitt Romney was right!” when he “predicted” a government Shutdown in 2013. It’s a bit like predicting your “homies” are going to “trash this place” if they don’t get their way, and then being lauded for your insight when they carry out your threats.

Mitt Romney also “predicted” (according to them) Detroit going bankrupt when he in fact only argued for it as being preferable to a bailout. As noted above, the only reason Detroit declared bankruptcy is because a Viceroy appointed by the state’s Republican governor made it so.

In 2010, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn predicted that because of “Obamacare”: “There will be no insurance industry left in three years”. I have little doubt that Senator Coburn wishes millions of people had lost their insurance and the industry imploded, but darned the luck, they still exists and are expected to reap record profits next year.

Bloomberg Right-Wing News Columnist and “AEI Fellow” Ramesh Ponnuru made a number of negative predictions about President Obama and his policies. He actually didn’t do too bad until you consider how many Republican “predictions” were actually self-fulfilling prophecies. Ponnuru “predicted” the Healthcare Exchanges “would not open for business on October 1st” when Secretary Sebelius “admits the federal government won’t be ready by then.” The government was ready, the private contractors that built the glitchy website were not. They did indeed open on October 1st, but weren’t ready and had to be closed soon after for about a week. As a result, Ponnuru predicted support for Obamacare would continue to decline. If you do a Google News search for “poll support for Obamacare”, you’ll see lots of links to sites all claiming this to be true… ALL of them… each and every one… a Right Wing blog or media outlet (from the NRO to Glenn Beck). Interesting, because all the major networks are reporting how the number of people signing up for insurance through the Exchange “surged to over 1.1 Million” in December in a trend that is expected to continue.

Ponnuru also predicted the courts would continue to rebuke the Obama Administration on the rights of Catholic owned businesses to deny their employees contraception if they view it morally objectionable. The most notable of these cases, the “Hobby Lobby” case, is still waiting in the Supreme Court (see my own prediction on that below.) He also predicted The Supreme Court would find a way to weasel out of ruling on Same Sex Marriage. They didn’t, with repercussions that have led to legalization into deep Red Utah.

He predicted “a new monetary regime” between the U.S. and the U.K. that insulates both nations from the problems of Europe. No idea what he means by “a new monetary regime” even after reading his piece on the subject. Whatever it is, it never happened and Europe’s economy is starting to show signs of recovery.

More wishful thinking? “Paul Ryan,” feeling he can’t work within the GOP, “will resign” in order to “focus on running for president”? No date cited and hardly makes sense as a 2013 prediction, but maybe Ponnuru is looking to late 2014?

How I Did.

Now is the time I look back at my own predictions last year to see how I did. All year long, I thought about the predictions I made for 2013, and as I do every year, I am certain I did “incredibly poorly” that year only to look back at years end and find I didn’t do quite as bad as I thought.

  1. Correct: My first prediction regarding the “fiscal cliff”, and whether the GOP was irrational enough to go over it, had to be split into three scenarios: a) the GOP agrees to President Obama’s demand that taxes go up on people making over $250K per year, but only because they intend to hold the Debt Ceiling hostage again, b) a deal is reached only after Democrats concede to raise the starting point at which taxes go up to $500K, or c) the Bush Tax Cuts expire because no deal can be reached allowing Democrats to pass the “Obama tax cut”. It all depended upon how the GOP reacted. Knowing Scenario “c)” would be the worst possible outcome for them, the GOP agreed to a hybrid of “scenario A” and “scenario B” (pre-planning to hold the Debt Ceiling hostage while agreeing to a deal where the tax increase begins at $450K instead of $250K.)
  2. A Push: #2 was conditional on the GOP being suicidal enough to go over the cliff and refuse to raise the Debt Ceiling, forcing President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment. They didn’t, so he didn’t have to. No way to know if he would have (though he said he wouldn’t.) I’m certain when faced with certain global economic catastrophe, he would have. And I think the GOP knew it too, the consequences of which would have been to render them irrelevant the next time a Debt Ceiling fight rolled around. So they had no choice but to cave.
  3. Wrong: Harry Reid would make good on his threat to “reform the filibuster” at the start of the session. While a “Psychic to the Stars” might take credit for the eventual decision of Reid to “go nuclear” last November, I’m no hypocrite. I was hamstrung when I made my prediction late on December 31st by the fact it might be proved false in less than 24 hours. Considering the record-setting obstructionist year we had just had, and Reid’s own admission that he was “wrong” for not reforming the filibuster the way Democrats pleaded with him to do at the start of the 2011 session. it was almost unimaginable that he would make the same mistake twice. And while he dragged his feet and messaged Senate rules to extend his time to make a decision till the end of the month, Reid did eventually cave to Republican threats, agreeing only to minor, essentially irrelevant changes… something he quickly came to regret as the GOP shutdown the government months later. The reform he finally agreed to last November likewise was only a narrow rules change affecting only the President’s judicial & Cabinet appointments.
  4. Correct: Despite promises of “Election Reform” following the mass disenfranchisement of Poor & Middle Class voters seen during Early Voting and on Election Day 2012, not a damn thing was done about it. On to 2014!
  5. Correct: The Unemployment rate, which I predicted would be “very close to 6.9% by the end of the year (give or take 3/10ths of a point).” After November, the BLS reported the Unemployment Rate had fallen to 7.0%, a 5-year low and more than a full point below where it was the year before.
  6. Wrong: Sadly, concern over spending did not spark public pressure to exit Afghanistan by years end.
  7. Wrong (and happy about it): While they did remain fairly stable, my prediction that gas prices would still be close to $3.50/gal a year later turned out to be too high, with the national average presently at just under $3.30/gal. I can’t in good faith count that as “correct”. Maybe a difference of ten cents a gallon, but not twenty. And I didn’t foresee things like “nuclear talks with Iran” to bring down oil prices to a three year low.
  8. Correct: – No U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran. Funny to think how long this nonsense has been going on. And the fact no provocative moves have been made by Iran in all that time only goes to show how reality rarely lives up to the most wild militarist fantasies of Neoconservatives. Much to their chagrin, not only did Iran not do anything threatening, they even reluctantly have opened discussions of disarmament. Astounding.
  9. Wrong: Ah, Syria! It’s depressing to think that Civil War is now in it’s THIRD year. I was stung after my first prediction of the fall of Assad in 2011. A bit more cautious last year, I predicted Assad to fall into irrelevancy as the rest of the world just stopped recognizing him as the legitimate leader of Syria. They didn’t; he didn’t; so for 2014 , I won’t.
  10. Wrong (another “and happy about it”): I predicted the DOW would be around 14,500 points by years end, predicting an impressive rise of more than 1500 points in just one year. Instead, we saw an astonishing rise of nearly 3,500 points in just one year to a new record of just under 16,500 points. If President Obama is a  “Socialist”, he’s a piss-poor one.
  11. Correct: As America’s economy recovers, so does Europe’s and the rest of the worlds.
  12. Correct (sadly): My exact words were: “Immigration reform? Don’t bet your Aunt Fanny on it.” Republicans said they wanted it. President Obama said he wanted it. So it was inevitable that nothing would get done.
  13. Wrong (sadly): Just days after Sandy Hook and the massacre of twenty 6/7-yearolds and six teachers, I couldn’t imagine even Republicans turning this into a partisan fight, caving to their gun-nut base and doing absolutely nothing to keep weapons of war out of the hands of children, the mentally unstable and known criminals. Lesson learned: Never under-estimate the depths of GOP cowardice or the ignorance of their base.

Final score: 6 out of 12 (#2 was inconclusive) for 50-percent. Not too shabby for a list I was certain all year long would be one big goose egg. Take that you “Psychics to the Stars” with your “2.6%” accuracy rating!

So now my Predictions for 2014:

  1. Failing to extend Unemployment benefits at the end of 2013 will mean great hardship that extends beyond Party Lines. Just as Republicans mistakenly believed that voters would side with them for “taking a principled stand” on the Government Shutdown even after it started to affect them personally, they undoubtedly believe the same is true here. As far as the GOP is concerned, only poor Minimum Wage slackers are home waiting for their Unemployment Checks to roll in while they sit on their lazy duffs. But their refusal to continue the extension of those benefits past the end of 2013 will come back to bite them in the butt, not realizing just how many “Poor & Middle-Class” workers make up their Redneck base. As a result, expect the GOP to agree to a “compromise extension” of Unemployment benefits. There will be an insistence that it be “paid for”, but then there will be a huge fight on just what to cut. There will be an extension, just not the “90+ week” maximum some are seeing now. Probably something closer to “52 weeks”, double the standard length, with some “creative accounting” paying for it.
  2.  

  3. Where will the DOW be by the end of 2014? I sure as heck didn’t foresee the meteoric rise of 3,500 points in 2013. Another rise like that would have us knocking on the amazing “20,000 point” mark, and that’s going to make a lot of investors nervous about “over exuberant” investors buying stocks just to set a record. I expect the DOW to close just over the “19,200” mark come years end… which is an incredible thought. Bill Clinton took the DOW from around 3700 points to over 11,700 points seven years later… an increase of OVER 300 percent. The DOW bottomed out barely a month after President Obama took office at just over 6600 points. A close of “19,200” would be another rise of nearly 300% in just SIX years. George Bush cut the taxes of the Rich & Powerful, but cut their portfolio’s in half as the economy crashed. With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why Wall Street hates Democrats, and loves Republicans (yes, that’s snark.)
  4.  

  5. Marriage Equality – No surprise that more states will officially declare Same-Sex Marriage as legal, but with it suddenly legal in nearly half the states in the Union and no solid legal argument for why any group of people should be discriminated against, expect a positive ruling from the Supreme Court… probably 5/4 but possibly even 6/3… telling states where SSM is outlawed that they must recognize marriages performed in another state. As people flood to neighboring states to get married, laws banning SSM will become moot and fall like dominoes.
  6.  

  7. The Mid-term elections – AKA: “The Battle for the Senate”. Not surprisingly, with the House and the Senate so narrowly split, both sides will be pulling out all the stops seeking control of Congress. The big question? What will be the mood of the public come Election Time? Will problems with the health care law sour voters on the Obama Administration? Will unemployment continue to fall making them optimistic? And what role will record low approval ratings for Congress have on turnout? In the end, it’s pretty much a wash. The people that hate “Obamacare” will continue to whine about “Obamacare”. The people that like the law will continue to do so. I ran into a lot of Conservatives this past year that believe “Obamacare” is an insurance program that you must (MUST) buy into, and they can implode the entire system if they simply refuse to sign up. Little do most of them realize, “Obamacare” does not even apply to them because they already get insurance through their employer. They couldn’t “sign up” even if they wanted to. So the entire system doesn’t implode, and for most people, nothing changes for them. It will be hard to be “outraged” over health care reform come November. Good economic news will continue, so there will be little economic motive to head to the polls. And despite near single digit approval ratings for Congress, don’t expect control of either House to change hands, though, thanks to Gerrymandering, I think Democrats have a better chance of picking up seats in the Senate than the House.
  8.  

  9. Which of course takes us to the start of the 2016 campaign (hard to believe it’s already a topic.) Though she will try to wait until January 2015, Hillary WILL announce her intention to run for President, as will Chris Christie, whom even this far off, already look to be the front-runners. But anything can happen between now & then.
  10.  

  11. Paul Ryan & Patty Murray coming to a two-year budget deal here at the end of 2013 insures no “Fiscal Cliff, Debt Ceiling, Shutdown” economic brinksmanship before the election. No GOP manufactured crisis means we can expect a reasonably smooth, growing economy in 2014. Expect GDP growth in the 4.0+ range next year.
  12.  

  13. What will become of NSA Leaker Edward Snowden? I expect a move to South America sometime next year. The last shoe has yet to drop in that story because Snowden took FAR more material than he could possibly have read when he absconded from the NSA with all that Top Secret information. But time is not on his side as much of the information he took grows out of date. As he continues to pour through the files he stole, I expect few additional revelations, perhaps saving his biggest bombshell in time for the election.
  14.  

  15. Will Congress raise the Minimum Wage? If this weren’t an election year, I’d say yes, but since it is, the state of the economy will play a large part in whether it gets raised or not. A number of states won’t wait and raise it on their own, but nationally, if the economy continues to improve, forget it. With no Budget Battles for the GOP to hold hostage, they must dig their heels in somewhere, and The Minimum Wage is it.
  16.  

  17. The Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia is going to be a mess. Technical and scheduling issues as civil unrest disrupts the games. As I type this, we’ve already seen acts of terrorism very close to Sochi, and Putin won’t have a clue how to handle Gay Rights protests in a country where just holding a sign can land you in jail. International condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay laws will overshadow many events.
  18.  

  19. And while we’re on the subject of Sochi, in a separate prediction, I believe the reason President Obama chose former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to lead a delegation of openly gay athletes is because she herself intends to come out as gay upon her arrival in Sochi, almost daring the Russian government to arrest her.
  20.  

  21. So what will the Unemployment Rate look like by the end of 2014? If current trends continue, I don’t think an unemployment rate of 6.1% (give or take 3/10th of a point) is out of the realm of possibility. If it weren’t an election year, I’d might go lower than that, but it’s in the GOP’s interest to encourage a worsening economy going into the Mid-term elections. With no budget battles to destabilize the economy in an election year, it’ll be difficult. I’m interested in seeing how they pull it off.
  22.  

  23. What about Iran? I think a nuclear disarmament deal WILL be struck that allows Iran to continue to develop nuclear energy using Uranium bred outside the country (probably Russia.) IAEA inspectors will be allowed into the country to check for nuclear weapons development. In exchange, the U.S. will once again allow Iranian oil to be traded on the U.S. Market, causing a decline in the price of oil (maybe $80/barrel give or take $5?), lowering gas prices in the U.S., serving as a substantial boost to the American economy. 2014 will be a very good year for the U.S. economy.
  24.  

  25. Ted Cruz announces his intention to run for President. Outside of the (dwindling) Tea Party, support for his candidacy will not exceed that of Michele Bachmann in 2012, and his campaign will fizzle out early in 2015.
  26.  

  27. Hobby Lobby’s “my religious beliefs supersede yours because I’m your boss” Supreme Court case will return a verdict in favor of the Christian-owned craft store. Any other sane Supreme Court would realize that if a “Christian” owned company can decide what health care you can get, so could an Amish, Muslim or even Satanic boss dictate your health care choices. But an “Amish, Muslim or Satanic” corporation didn’t file this case. A “Christian” one did. And therefore, this Conservative Court will tie the Constitution into knots to accommodate them. Republicans will tout it as “a victory for Americans over the scourge of Obamacare.”
  28.  

  29. Following up on last year, no “Election Reform” bill will be taken up in an election year. Republican governors will step up their efforts to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Democratically leaning voter blocks… most of whom will be minorities.
  30.  

  31. As an homage to my “psychic” friends out there, a really big hurricane will hit someplace somewhere.
  32.  

  33. And another “Lone-wolf” gun nut will go on a shooting spree, killing over a dozen people. And what will come of it in terms of gun control? Nothing.
  34.  

  35. And finally, Syria. In 2011, I predicted Assad would be overthrown just like all the other “Arab Spring” nations did to their leaders. But Assad was willing to be far more brutal and had the army on his side. In 2012, I predicted him to become irrelevant as the rest of the world simply stopped recognizing his authority, but that didn’t happen either. So now, in year three, all I’m willing to wager is that the Syrian conflict will still be raging a year from now. That’s a prediction I’d be happy to get wrong.

Eighteen predictions. I can live with that. How do you think I did? Post your own predictions for 2014 in the Comments.
 


 


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Filed in Economy, Election, General, Guns & Violence, Healthcare, Jobs, Middle East, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Seems Obvious to Me, Taxes, voting, War December 30th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 2 comments | Add/View

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The Lesson of Christmas this Year is to Always Look at Things Differently.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 23, 2013

Back when I was in college, I was having lunch with a group of friends, one of which was a girl from Switzerland (one of the great things about college is it’s one of the few times in your life when you’ll frequently come in contact with people from other countries). The topic? What we miss most being away from home on Christmas. I mentioned how I missed all the Christmas lights & decorations. My friend from Switzerland said bluntly, “I hate American Christmas.” This took me by surprise. “What? Why?” What do Americans do different at Christmas that makes it so awful, I wondered? “It’s so tacky. Plastic trees strung with electric wires and colored lights. Houses covered with the same gaudy lights so they look more like used car lots than homes.” Thinking about it, I couldn’t quite disagree. “Geez, when you put it that way, it really does sound awful.” But I had to ask the obvious, “If you don’t use electric lights on your trees, how do you light them?”

“Candles!”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“No. We spray the trees with fire retardant and blow out the candles at night, lighting them only when company comes over.”

Suddenly, the Christmas lights I missed moments ago now embarrassed me.

And I must admit, the mental-picture of a Christmas tree covered in candles does sound awfully nice. Ever since that exchange 25 years ago this month, I’ve never looked at American Christmas quite the same again. There are TV Shows now that pit families against each other to see who can turn their house into the gaudiest electric light show this side of Vegas in hopes of winning $50,000 bucks in Christmas cash… which, of course, is what Christmas is all about. No?

As 2013 grinds to a miserable (for me, your mileage may vary) close, I’m happy to report that our continuing War on ChristmasTM has attracted a big-name supporter: Pope Francis, who is driving the Religious Right batty with his intolerance… dare I say even outright disgust, for the way the Religious Right in America has somehow melded the teachings of Christ with Bigotry, Consumerism, hatred of the Poor, the sick and Immigrants.

Mark Fiore: Jesus Rebranded
Jesus Rebranded

I grew up in a very religious Italian family. My grandparents had a shellacked & framed “Last Supper” jigsaw puzzle hanging just above portraits of Jesus Christ and FDR on the kitchen wall. Holy Ghost salt & pepper shakers rested on the back of the stove beneath a plastic crucifix, and dinner always started with “Giving Thanks”. I knew what it was like to be around “religious” people growing up, which is probably why the people claiming to be the “Family Values” “Religious Right” seem so alien to me. Pope Francis would have fit right in as my long-lost Uncle Frank (though I do have trouble imagining him in a wine-stained “wife-beater” undershirt and Bermuda Shorts with black socks & sandals.)

Rush Limbaugh called the Pope “a Marxist” for criticizing (without specifying, but we all know who he meant) America’s Religious Right’s embrace of Greed & Capitalism and seeming hatred for The Poor. Noted theologian Sarah Palin, while plugging her new book criticizing the commercialization of Christmas, rushed to the defense of commercialism:

“I`m not saying it’s way too commercialized. I love the commercialization of Christmas because it spreads the Christmas cheers [sic],”

When the “Family Values” Party decided that Christmas Time was the perfect time to cut back the Food Stamp program for hungry families, they turned (as they always do) to The Bible to defend their heartlessness as being right in line with the teachings of Jesus:

“Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Read in context however, the “work” referred to in that passage includes “prayer” and service to the church. Of course, The Bible is probably the most abused, quoted out-of-context book in existence used to justify whatever hateful position the worst in any society can dream up so they may claim to be “on the side of God”. The most obvious response to the “unwilling to work” justification for starving the poor is to point out the obvious: that not everyone on Food Stamps is “unwilling to work”. Many (most?) HAVE jobs and ARE working, but (thanks to GOP policies) don’t make enough to feed their family. Many more are actively searching for work. Personally, I find the passage immediately preceding more informative:

“Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Which passage do you think The Right should be more worried about? Merry Christmas, and remember to always look at things differently.

Note: Next week will be our annual “Predictions for 2014″. Don’t miss it.
 


 


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Filed in Economy, General, Partisanship, Religion December 23rd, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 2 comments | Add/View

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Pinging the Bullshit Meter: Gingrich Says Poorest Big Cities All Have Dem Mayors

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 16, 2013

“Sorry Newt, that’s a Bullshit statistic.” That was my immediate reaction to Newt Gingrich’s claim that, “Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city!” He said it as a rebuke to Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s suggestion that the GOP was responsible for the inability of so many people to move out of poverty. Having lived in the South almost my entire life, and in a very tiny town for much of that, if there’s one thing I know: Most dirt-poor rural residents vote Republican. The poorest states in the Union are deep red states like Mississippi and Louisiana, where some of the richest are deep blue like Massachusetts and California. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that “statistic” about “Democrats running the poorest cities” (and “Detroit” always tops their list), but it’s a bit like arguing that ALL Republicans are soulless turds because all of the 2012 GOP Presidential candidates were soulless turds. It’s a highly selective feux-“statistic” that is representative of nothing. If nothing else, Gingrich is guilty of wildly over-simplifying the matter.

Wiki (for what it’s worth) lists the top 10 poorest major cities in the United States (w/percentage living in poverty):

  1. Detroit, Michigan – 42.3% – Democratic Mayor
  2. Cleveland, Ohio – 36.1% – Democratic Mayor
  3. Cincinnati, Ohio – 34.1% – Democratic Mayor
  4. Miami, Florida – 31.7% – Republican Mayor
  5. Fresno, California – 31.5% – Republican Mayor
  6. Buffalo, New York – 30.9% – Democratic Mayor
  7. Newark, New Jersey – 30.4% – Democratic Mayor
  8. Toledo, Ohio – 30.1% – Independent Mayor
  9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 29.9% – Democratic Mayor
  10. St. Louis, Missouri – 29.2% – Democratic Mayor

(I would like to point out that Michigan’s Republican governor stripped Detroit’s mayor and City Council of ANY power, declared bankruptcy, and is about to liquidate the city’s assets, treasure-for-treasure, with NO plan to grow the local economy. Of the seven Democratically run cities on that list, FIVE are in states with Republican governors.)

Is the list top-heavy with Democrats? Yes. Is it exclusively Democrats? No. So what does this prove? Nothing. Inner-cities typically have larger minority populations that tend to vote Democratic. So are they poor because they vote Democratic or do they vote Democratic because they’re poor? That same Wiki page lists the Top-100 poorest cities in America regardless of size. By my count, EIGHTY-FOUR of the top-100 poorest cities in America are in Red states (with Texas accounting for more than 1/4 of the 100.) Of the Top TWENTY states with the highest per capita income, only TWO are Red states (Alaska at #8 and Wyoming at #17). The rest are all Blue. of the Top-20 Poorest states, just two are blue states (Michigan, the least poor at #30 and New Mexico at #45.) The rest are all Red.

(I feel I could do a far more in-depth analysis of this nonsense pseudo-“statistic”, looking back at whether previous mayors were Republican or Democrat and which Party’s policies were more responsible for the poor economic conditions in these cities, but that would only lend credibility to this particular bit of nonsense.)

In the 60’s many large cities fell victim to “White Flight”, a phenomena where many affluent whites fled to the suburbs, leaving behind large minority populations in the inner city. Poverty and unemployment are higher among Blacks and Latinos than whites. So it just goes to follow that poverty and unemployment are higher in the city than in the suburbs. They also tend to vote Democrat. Newt and the GOP would have you believe that the poverty-stricken people in these big cities are either too dumb to figure out that voting for Democrats is why they are still poor, or that they’re just lazy and like all the “free stuff” Democrats promise them.

Gingrich has had a problem with viewing Blacks as a different breed of human being altogether. “Poor work ethics” are responsible for their chronic poverty that can be cured if we just gave all their kids janitorial jobs at school, and the only “work” Black kids are interested in is crime where they can make a lot of money with very little effort. They vote Democratic because they’re clearly too stupid to figure out that Republican policies will lift them out of poverty… the way it did under the last two Republican presidents (Bush-I and Bush-II) but not under Clinton (yes, that’s snark.)

Newt Gingrich is just one of those Republicans that bugs the crap out of me. Like Rush Limbaugh. They are race-baiting pseudo-intellectuals that make ridiculous claims with all the authority of Stephen Hawking, pass morality judgements upon others when they themselves are guilty of the same or far worse, and the Media showers them with undeserving praise & respect as authority figures even though they are ALWAYS wrong. And I do mean ALWAYS.
 


 

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Filed in Economy, General, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Politics, Seems Obvious to Me December 16th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Good Economic News Despite Shutdown? Thank low gas prices

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 9, 2013

It’s a point I’ve been making for years: Gas Prices have THE MOST direct impact on the economy than any other factor. When gas prices go up, consumers have less money to spend elsewhere. In addition, the costs of production go up, as does the price of shipping those goods to market. So not only do you have less money to spend, but you’re buying fewer products because the prices have all gone up as well. And when companies sell fewer products, they need fewer employees to MAKE those products… starting a vicious cycle. It would be bad enough if the cost of fuel was the only negative impact, but unlike higher prices for DOMESTIC products where at least the money stays in the United States, most “petro dollars” go overseas and stay there rather than be recycled back into the American economy. The Economic Collapse of 2008 (under two Texas oilmen Bush & Cheney who pined for the days of $50/barrel oil during the 70’s “energy crisis”) can be traced straight back to the invasion of Iraq and the resulting skyrocketing price of oil & gas (and you thought “Mission Accomplished” was about the end of war in Iraq. Silly you.) This past week brought a bevy of sorely needed good economic news to the Obama Administration. Unemployment fell to just 7.0 percenta full 1.3 points in just the past 16 months (and NOT because of people dropping out the workforce.) Jobless claims plunged to 298,000 and the number of layoffs declined. Even before these positive jobs numbers, the Stock Market also hit a new record high last month as well. And it all happened at a time when everyone expected BAD economic consequences following the Government Shutdown last October and Republican catcalls over the “job-killing” implementation of “Obamacare”. What’s the reason for all this positive economic news in spite of everything Republicans did to derail the economy? Lower gas prices thanks to positive news on the diplomatic front in the Middle East… first with avoiding war with Syria and then the nuclear deal with Iran. So while everyone else is running around scratching their heads trying to figure out “just what went right” for the economy to improve despite all the attempts to sabotage it by the GOP these last two months, know this: Nothing demonstrates better how closely tied our economy is to Energy, and how developing a Green Energy Industry would promote economic growth.

Remember all the Wingnuts complaining about Obama bowing?

On ABC’s “ThisWeek” yesterday, the chronically incredulous Mary Matalin (wife of James Carville) dismissed the good economic news by saying, “This is the worst economic recovery in seven decades!” I responded on Facebook (where I live-blog the network Sunday Shows each week):

Mary Matalin on #ThisWeek says this is “the worst recovery in 7 decades”. It’s also the most partisan obstructive GOP in 7 decades. Coincidence?

Please note that even President Obama’s worst critics must admit that the economy is in “recovery” and not getting worse. In the third quarter on this year, the economy grew at a rate of 3.6%, well above estimates. The Bush Administration used to “brag” incessantly about “52 months of consecutive private sector job growth” just prior to The Great Recession (a streak the Obama Administration will surpass next May). But the economy was astoundingly weak that entire time (and if this chart is to be believed, the growth rate never broke 0.7% during the entire Bush presidency.) They can’t claim President Obama’s economic policies are making the economy “worse”, and lord knows if it were, they’d be blaming yet-to-have-gone-into-effect “Obamacare”. You KNOW that if this latest jobs report had been bad, Republicans would NOT have blamed their Shutdown of the Federal government in October, no, they would have claimed “Corporations and Small businesses aren’t hiring out of concern over ‘Obamacare’ being implemented on January 1st!” You KNOW they would have said that.

But instead all they can do is scratch their heads and wonder, “Just what do we have to do to stop this guy?”

So now we know the secret on how to grow an economy. And the irony is, it’s not too different from the Republican dogma on how “tax cuts” are supposed to be a panacea for economic growth. Conservatives believe that “cutting taxes leaves more money in people’s pockets so they can go out and buy stuff, sparking the economy.” That’s their entire ideology in a nutshell. The problem with that is that the people paying the most in taxes don’t need more money just to buy stuff. Tax cuts help only a very small percentage of the population. If you’re extremely poor, you’re not paying any taxes anyway. The Wealthy don’t “buy more stuff”, and business expenses like “equipment” and “hiring more employees” are ALREADY tax deductible, so “tax cuts” are a horrible way to promote economic growth. Republicans love to say, “poor people don’t create jobs.” My response has always been, “Really? Ask Wal*Mart if poor people create jobs.” The Walton Family is the wealthiest family in the nation, with SIX family members on the Forbes-400 list of wealthiest people in the world. Trust me, that money didn’t come from selling cheap crap to The Rich. Another sad irony is the fact that plenty of clueless low-income Teanuts probably voted for these Cretins, creating THEIR jobs. But government jobs apparently don’t count.

But lower gas prices affect EVERYBODY, and benefits The Working Class FAR more than “tax cuts” for a fraction of a fraction of the population. Cheap energy is like a “tax cut” for the poor, and a FAR more direct stimulus for the economy. Sen. Rand Paul (Wingnut-KY) was on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday where he proposed “Economic Freedom Zones” (don’tcha just love the Orwellian Double-speak?) in economically depressed cities like Detroit where everybody would pay a FIVE PERCENT FLAT TAX. This is the height of Conservative arrogance and the epitome of Libertarian cluelessness. The idea that wildly plunging the tax rate on corporations and the very wealthy will be offset by raising taxes on the extremely poor. Because what rich person wouldn’t want to move to a slum where the tax rate is just 5-percent? Of course, we know Paul’s thinking is that if the tax rate were just 5-percent, businesses will use that savings to “hire more people”. But as I already pointed out, hiring people is already taxed at ZERO, so this would INCREASE the cost of hiring new employees. And for some inexplicable reason, Republicans just can’t seem to figure out that DEMAND drives hiring. It doesn’t matter how low you cut a company’s taxes, if there’s no demand, they are not going to hire more employees. They just can’t get this simple fact through their thick skulls.

Locally, gas is still selling for under $3.00/gallon. It’s the holiday season, so people are already out spending more money now than any other time of year. And this year, because of lower gas prices, more of that money is being spent here at home. And it’s having a direct stimulative effect on the economy. There’s no denying it. One can only wonder how the economy might have done last month had it not been for GOP obstructionism, the Shutdown and yet another round of manufactured fiscal crisis.

Oh, and just a reminder, the 90-day budget deal to end the Shutdown and reopen the government expires in January. Do you think the GOP has learned their lesson? Is The Pope Jewish?
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, General, Jobs December 9th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Republicans Sabotaged Obamacare Rollout, then point to problems as proof the ACA is a failure.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, October 21, 2013

Everywhere I turned yesterday on the Sunday talk shows, some Right Winger was pointing to the botched rollout of the Federal “Health Care Exchange” website as evidence “Obamacare” was a failure. As both a former website developer AND small-business owner, I take great umbrage to the idea that if the website is a “failure” that the company is also a failure (unless the company in questions builds websites.) Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: A WEBSITE IS NOT “OBAMACARE”. Just because the signup website buckled under the strain of immense interest, does not mean “The Affordable Care Act” isn’t working. And the Federal Exchange website wouldn’t have been so wildly overloaded had it not been for 26 states with either Republican governors or Republican controlled legislatures refusing to create a state Exchange, thus forcing half the country to use the Federal website. That’s like shooting a guy in the foot and then ridiculing his inability to dance. In states like Virginia (correction) Kentucky and California where they created a state Exchange like they were supposed to, the system worked perfectly, signing up literally thousands of applicants. You can’t sabotage the Exchange and then call it a failure when it fails.

As I said, I’m a computer guy. I got my first computer long before IBM ever dreamed up the PC and Microsoft was selling software for the Apple ][ in ziplock bags via magazine ads. So you might say I know a thing or two about computers.

We’ve all heard about “computer attacks” from “hackers” shutting down entire computer systems (the most recent and well known is a group called “Anonymous”). One of the “easiest” ways to shutdown a website is via a “Denial of Service” attack. This is achieved by accessing a particular website hundreds (even thousands) of times per second until the host computer crashes, unable to handle so many hits at once. Have you ever poured water down a funnel too fast only to have it overflow and make a mess? That’s what happened to the Exchange website last week.

Now, let it be known that the Federal Exchange was NOT the victim of a DoS attack (that is easy to figure out just by checking the logs), but the identical thing happened legitimately when millions of people all hit the Federal site in the span of just a few days. And why were so many people all trying to access the website at once? Because of all those red states that left its residents with nowhere else to go.

It is incredibly stupid to say, “I hate Obamacare so much I’m going to give up any power I have to control how it is implemented in my state!” And you have to extra dumb… I mean Tea Party dumb… to tell the government that you’re turning down free money from the government both to create a state Exchange at no cost to the state, AND turn down millions in Federal Medicaid funding, all because you stubbornly oppose something you clearly don’t even understand.

After the rollout debacle, I spent about a week debating Right-Wingers on Facebook actually advising people to “not sign up for Obamacare and it’ll collapse under its own weight.” I pointed out 1) “Obamacare” is not “an insurance program” that you sign up for, and 2) I question the logic of telling people that having “NO” insurance is better than even (what they believe to be) “overpriced” insurance. And naturally, after much debate, it was clear NONE of these critics had actually gone on the Exchange to compare prices and find cheaper insurance (of course, the bungled rollout made that impossible… but the fact remains, they hadn’t even tried and therefore had no proof that insurance purchased via the Exchange would be more expensive.) And after several days of correcting nonsense, my sparring partners were STILL talking about “Obamacare” as if it were an “insurance program” that they were going to be forced “by law” to sign up for. Another was telling me how she got better deals by negotiating with her doctor to pay “over time in cash”. Try doing that when your hospital stays runs into the hundreds of thousands. And of course, the old Romney chestnut that “no one in this country lacks health care as long as we have ER’s” (the most costly care there is, which drives up everyone’s rates covering the uninsured, while providing no “maintenance” care like “chemo”, “check-ups” or “dialysis”.) It was as futile as sweeping back the rolling tide. Conservatism is a bottomless pit of stupid from which wisdom neither enters nor escapes.

And yes, sites like “Facebook” and “YouTube” handle “millions of visitors per day. But they didn’t on DAY ONE. They started out small and added capacity as their popularity grew over months and years. Opening “Healthcare.gov” was like launching “Facebook” or “YouTube” at their current level of popularity without knowing you were doing so. And as someone who has built large websites, arguments that “they should have known what to expect” make me very uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, you never are once those hits start rolling in.

I was one of the Beta testers for “Windows 7″ before it was released. We tested it for nearly a year through four or five rewrites seeking out bugs before it was finally declared “bug-free”. And yet Microsoft still had to release a “Service Pack” to patch numerous security holes less than a year after its launch. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, after millions of people get their hands on your work, someone’s going to break it. There’s an old saying in the computer biz:

It doesn’t matter how foolproof you make something, someone always comes along and builds a better fool.”

So in the coming weeks (not months), the government contractors that were wildly overpaid to build Healthcare.gov will be fixing their own work. I don’t know if the Canadian company that built the site will be paid even more to fix it, but one thing is for sure, it wouldn’t have needed fixing if we had 50 state Exchanges instead of just 24.
 

(Postscript: I predicted three weeks ago that the true goal of the Republican Shutdown was to set up President Obama for impeachment, and Gohmert’s like Rep. Louie Gohmert seemed to confirm what I had been saying all along, but in the end, there were just enough sane Moderate Republicans left to side with a united Democratic caucus to avoid default for another 90 days. But keep in mind that on the very last day, 144 Republicans voted against raising the Debt Ceiling and allowing the nation to default, which would have sparked world-wide economic disaster, thwarting what I believe were the Teanut’s intentions all along… impeaching Obama in an election year the way they did Clinton in ’98. But it’s not over yet. There’s still February.)

UPDATE: New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone (D) blasted the Republicans chairing a hearing on problems with the website rollout, accusing them of fear-mongering by suggesting the site was collecting sensitive medical history information from applicants:
 

 



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Filed in Economy, fake scandals, General, Healthcare, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity October 21st, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 5 comments | Add/View

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Time to Liberate the Debt Ceiling Hostage

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, October 14, 2013

Why do we even HAVE a “debt ceiling”? Plenty of people have asked this question in the past and no one seems to have a good answer. It doesn’t limit spending. Spending is decided in The House, and clearly Congress doesn’t keep the Debt Ceiling in mind when passing a Budget or appropriations. It’s a self-imposed limitation passed in 1917 during the First World War as a way to streamline the government by allowing it to spend money whenever it felt it necessary without putting every expenditure to a vote. Senator Coburn (R-OK) blithely stated last week that “We don’t [actually] have a Debt Ceiling” [because we just keep raising it anyway]. That’s not the point. ALL spending originates in the House, and this House is controlled by Republicans. And how many times have I pointed out that Republicans apparently lack the gene that allows them to foresee the consequences of their actions [see: Iraq]? So they pass spending bills and tax cuts without any consideration for how they’ll pay for them (Iraq was to be paid for with “Iraqi oil revenues” and “tax cuts pay for themselves”.) Then when we run out of money, they simply raise the Debt Ceiling. That’s what they did eighteen times under Reagan and six times under GWBush (three under Clinton and now Obama). If the ceiling exists only “in concept” (according to Coburn), then why would the GOP go apoplectic if President Obama were to bypass Congress and simply raise it on his own to avoid certain economic catastrophe inflicted by a select few Teabaggers with a third-grade understanding of economics telling them that sucking a half Trillion dollars out of the economy won’t hurt us? Because then you take away their hostage.

Two weeks ago, I predicted that the Tea Party extremists that think nothing bad will happen if we fail to raise the Debt Ceiling have a secret goal in mind: forcing President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to circumvent Congress and avoid default, and therefore provide them with an excuse to begin impeachment hearings in the House against the president in an election year. It’s a win/win for Teanuts with NO incentive to give-in and raise the Debt Ceiling before the deadline. If the deadline passes and the ceiling is not raised, they do irreparable harm to the government and they win. If President Obama invokes the 14th, the House begins impeachment hearings and they win again. The Teanuts have NO incentive to compromise as long as they stay insane. However, it appears the “Tea Party” is about as popular with the public right now as a pimple on a first date, and Moderate Republicans are starting to have second thoughts about being seen as aligned with them. If a clean vote to raise the Debt Ceiling comes to the floor before the ceiling expires, there’s probably not enough Teanuts to prevent the bill from passing and their grand scheme falls apart.

IF however they convince enough Republicans that saying “No” is a “win/win”, they might very well take us to the brink.

Consider for a moment though that if the Debt Ceiling is raised at the last minute once again, it’s future value as a threat drops to nil, and the GOP knows it. Because the next time they do it, the rest of the world will just yawn, knowing it’s just the GOP playing games again, confident in the knowledge that it will eventually be raised at the last second. So we might as well just abolish it. Take it away from Congress so the full faith & credit of the United States can’t be held for ransom once again. (Knowing it’s future value as a hostage drops precipitously after this, only increases the odds there will be no deal by the end of the week. “Impeachment” may be the only thing of value they can extract from this final losing battle.)

If the Debt Ceiling is not raised, we’ll have to raise interest rates to entice other countries into loaning money to a nation that might not pay them back. Every 1-point increase in interest rates would costs us an additional $120-Billion dollars a year. So much for claims of “fiscal responsibility” to justify this charade.

President Obama, screw the GOP. Invoke the 14th Amendment and deny the GOP this hostage now & forever. If you give a child a gun and that child threatens you with it till you exchange it for a cookie, you don’t then turn around and give the gun back. “ObamaCare” passed Congress and it became law on the condition that it not take effect until AFTER the 2012 election (believing the public will so hate it, they’ll elect a Republican to overturn it.) It survived a Constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court AND the 2012 Election, yet less than half of one-half of one-third of the U.S. government (the Teanut minority in the House) is now holding the Debt Ceiling hostage in order to extort everything they lost in the 2012 election out of the other 5/6ths.

It’s time to stop handing this hostage back over to the kidnappers and set it free.
 

Reagan on Raising the Debt Ceiling: 1983/85/87 (1:45)

 



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Filed in Economy, Money, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Right-Wing Insanity, Unconstitutional October 14th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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The Shutdown Gets Personal: Getting Mom to a Doctor

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, October 7, 2013

I‘ve spoken to you several times recently regarding my mother’s sudden & ongoing medical crisis following a string of medical mistakes (and incompetence) that turned my otherwise healthy mother into a (for lack of a better word) “vegetable” last June. I blame her HMO for creating this mess, and we had to fight them just to get her into a rehabilitation hospital, then fight them again when they threatened to cut her off if we didn’t bury their mistake by putting Mom in a nursing home. I’ve been wanting for months to take her to a specialist, but the HMO refused to cover any doctor that did not work for them. When I finally found a specialist willing to see her, I had to fight again to get her out of that #@!*% HMO and back onto good old-fashioned Medicare (which just about EVERY doctor accepts.) I’m pleased to report that as of October 1st, Mom is back on Medicare and scheduled to see a specialist Wednesday… just as the Teanuts have Shutdown the government and are now threatening to Default on the Debt Ceiling. Which means the Social Security checks paying for Mom’s rehab could stop, and Medicare won’t have the money to pay her doctor. Suddenly, this artificial Tea Party invented “crisis” has become very personal.

Conservative icon “George Will” finally faced up to the fact he wasn’t fooling anyone pretending to be a “Moderate” Republican over there on ABC for the past 20 years, and joined the cast of The Biggest Loser, er, Fox “news”, expressing opinions that put him squarely to the Right of Ted Cruz. On Fox “news” Sunday yesterday, when asked about the possibility of Default on the Federal Budget, Will declared “there will be no default” by pointing out the meaningless fact that, “We collect 10 times as much in tax revenue as is needed to service the Debt” (ergo, we have enough money to avoid Default.) This is classic George Will bull$hit (and an opinion held only by the most FAR right Tea Baggers). Yes, that’s absolutely true that we “collect 10 times as much in tax revenue than we pay in interest on the Debt”… which wouldn’t be a problem if didn’t have all these other expenses like… oh… like PAYING THE MILITARY or for the War in Afghanistan (which, as Bill Maher rightly pointed out Friday, if we ended now, would save us nearly $100 Billion dollars.), or paying outrageous prescription drug prices as a part of the “Medicare Part-D” program THEY created under GW Bush where they themselves made it illegal for the Federal Government to negotiate lower drug prices. We just saw massive forest fires in the West… the result of historic drought due to their denial of Climate Change… and massive flooding in the East as all the moisture sucked dry from the West was dumped in the East for the same reason (disasters which create OTHER disasters in their wake.) These states have already declared themselves “Disaster Areas” entitled to Disaster Relief funding. Where do they get the money for that?

Republicans… consisting of an awful lot of “Cafeteria Christians”… want a “Cafeteria Budget” where they can pick & choose what government functions they fund on a case-by-case basis upon discovering there are a lot of things people actually need government to do. That’s no way to run a $3-Trillion dollar government. The National Institute of Health is shutdown, then when someone points out that there are sick children that won’t be receiving their cancer treatments, suddenly they’re asking for a special exemption for those poor kids they clearly were never even aware of before they took us on this joy-ride (how many times have I written about the fact Republicans NEVER think about the consequences before they act? [see: Iraq]). They shutdown the National Parks and then attack a furloughed park ranger for telling a busload of World War II veterans that the park is closed. The Shutdown lays off nearly 15,000 FEMA employees, but when a Tropical Storm develops off the waters of a half dozen red states, suddenly FEMA is allowed to call over 11,000 of them (nearly 80 percent) back to work… as they suddenly realize, “Hey! The Federal Government really is necessary!”

Of course, if the anarchists in the GOP get their way, they won’t allow an increase in the Debt Ceiling, meaning we won’t have the money to carve out any of these special exemptions. No cancer treatments for sick children, no bringing back FEMA employees in an emergency, Mom doesn’t get her Social Security check, and Medicare lacks the funds to pay for her doctor’s appointment. Seal Team 6, which just pulled off another spectacular capture of an alQaeda terrorist guilty of killing Americans back in the 90’s, who eluded a Bush Administration distracted by their obsession with Iraq, but found and killed by the Obama Administration 15 years after committing his crimes. Do we carve out a special exemption for them too? Where are they going to get the money to pay for all these exemptions? They’ll NEVER raise taxes. That just leaves “cuts”.

As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reminded everyone on “Meet the Press” yesterday, we are STILL operating under “The Sequester” from earlier this year, deep across-the-board indiscriminate budget cuts. We have been financing the government using “budget tricks” up to now, but as of October 17th, those “tricks” will have been exhausted. No more rabbits left to pull out of anyone’s hat. Yet these haters of all things government” keep finding programs they want keep while the only thing they can think of to cut is the one thing the CBO says will actually SAVE us Billions each year. (“ObamaCare” if you haven’t figured it out.)

Prior to the Shutdown, the GOP was heavily hyping a CBO report (pdf) on a Republican House Bill (H.R. 2668) that found that “delaying the implementation of The Affordable Care Act by one year” would “save us $35 Billion dollars.” Google “CBO ObamaCare saves billions”, and the first two pages are nothing but Right Wing links to the same report. So I checked out the report myself. It concluded a “savings” of “$35 Billion OVER TEN YEARS” simply by delaying those start-up costs (and reductions in funding to programs like CHIP… the Children’s Health Insurance Program). I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a savings of $3.5 Billion a year0.3% of the Federal Budget… on the backs of sick children is going to be enough to offset our expenses if they fail to raise the Debt Ceiling 10 days from now. (A brief scan of the CBO report appears to not take into consideration any SAVINGS resulting from the new health care law over those 10 years. Only the expenses incurred in the first year of roll out.)

So, what do you cut to come up with the money for all those government services you suddenly feel aren’t so bad? Remember, George Will already pointed out that 1/10th of the Federal Budget is spoken for (servicing our debt.) Republicans are GREAT at complaining about “wasteful spending”, but when it comes to actually naming those “wasteful” programs…

In the infamous words of Gov. Rick Perry, it’s “Energy, Commerce, and… er, uh, I forget. Oops.”
 



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Filed in Economy, Healthcare, Partisanship, Right-Wing Insanity October 7th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 2 comments | Add/View