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Guest Blogger: A Degree Of Civilization; The American Prison System

By Ebon - Last updated: Monday, January 20, 2014

The degree of civilization in a society may be judged by entering it’s prisons” ~ Dostoevsky

Pop quiz, kids: Which nation has more of it’s populace imprisoned than any other country on earth?

Nope, it’s not China. It’s not Russia either. Cuba? Good guess but they’re number five. According to Wikipedia (which has it’s problems but is generally fairly reliable), the number one prison population on earth is the USA, both per capita and in sheer numbers. In per capita terms, the US locks up around 743 people per 100k. In absolute terms, the BBC tells me that there are 2,193,798 people in prison in the USA. Obviously, that number rises and falls slightly each day as people get imprisoned and released but still, over 2 million people. Red China, where the government is outright oppressive and dictatorial, has around 1.5 million under lock and key but free and democratic America has two million and change locked down.

Of those, around a quarter are there for drug offenses of various kinds. That’s the population of San Bernadino locked up for drug offenses. According to the Department of Justice, 17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs (Bureau of Justice). According to DrugWarFacts.org, around fifty thousand total are held purely for offenses relating to cannabis. Full disclosure: I haven’t smoked pot in about twenty years but I did when I was a teenager and I’m sure a fair few of you did as well. Were we dumb to smoke pot as teenagers? Yeah, probably. But we were teenagers, making dumb decisions is what teenagers do. Another piece of full disclosure: I think pot should be legalized. Age-restricted but otherwise legal, just like alcohol. I still wouldn’t smoke it because taking any form of mind-altering substance is a very bad idea but it makes no difference to me if my neighbour chooses to smoke a joint rather than have a drink. I also don’t want to turn this into a rant about the virtues of legalising weed (although, if you’ve a mind, Salon has a chilling piece about pot sentences) so let’s move on.

Around 40% of the US prison population are black. According to the Census, black people comprise about 14% of the US population but around 40% of prisoners. What explains that? Well, partly, it’s because black people are more likely to live in poverty and poverty is the most reliable indicator of criminal acts during life but it’s mostly because the average prison sentence handed down to a black guy is 20% longer than the sentence for the same crime committed by a white guy (Wall Street Journal). The 100-1 ratio of crack to cocaine sentences has led to the incarceration of thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Even though that difference has been reduced to 18-1, those prisoners remain in the system. The US prison population was mostly static from 1925 onwards. It started to rise in the late Seventies (as crime always rises during recessions) but then it exploded during the Eighties and onwards (Wikimedia). Why is that?

Two reasons. Firstly, the drug war. Let’s be honest here, the drug war has been lost. It is no more difficult to buy a hit of heroin now than it was in 1975. It hasn’t been a success and it can’t be a success. It can’t be a success due to a basic fact of human nature: Where a demand exists, people will appear to meet that demand. That’s just how things work, a basic law of humanity. So the laws against drugs are commonly broken and, by that breaking, a massive number of people are classified as criminals. Now, proponents of the drug war would argue that the laws against murder are commonly broken so should we abandon them too? That’s a fair question. The difference is that murder harms someone else whereas taking drugs, in and of themselves, harms only the taker. What about the crimes committed to support a drug habit, like theft? What about them? We already have laws against theft and I’m not proposing the legalization of all drugs anyway, just of certain soft drugs like pot.

The other thing that changed was the rise of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This is one of the stupidest movements in human history. The whole reason we have a judge deciding sentencing is so that the sentence can reflect the circumstances of the crime and the perp. Mandatory minimums throw out all that human wisdom in favour of flat sentencing that pays no attention to circumstances. In New York, for example, possessing (note that’s possession, not supply) more than four ounces of any hard drug will get you a minimum of fifteen to life. There are easily found stories of people locked up for life under three-strikes laws for offenses as minor as stealing a slice of pizza or a loaf of bread.

And the US does a lousy job of rehabilitating prisoners as well. We’ve all been shown on tv that prisoners get to complete their education. There are good reasons to educate prisoners. A prisoner who earns their GED inside is half as likely to re-offend. A prisoner who earns their college degree will almost certainly never see the inside of a prison again. You might say it’s unfair that people get sent to prison and get a free education. I would respond that firstly, I’d like to make everyone’s education free and secondly, look at the facts. According to a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, every dollar spent on inmate education saves twelve dollars in future crimes (ABC News). Another study by UCLA found that a million dollar investment in incarceration produced 350 jobs while that same million invested in education, produced 600 jobs (ibid.). Prisoners used to be able to apply for Pell grants to cover the cost of their courses but that was eliminated in the mid-Nineties. The result is that there isn’t funding for prisoners to get educated. Prison budgets are constantly being cut and the first thing to go, after the gyms that tv thinks are in every prison, are education programs.

Oh, and your prisons are over capacity as well.

So what happens when the average prisoner gets released? He probably hasn’t had a chance to finish his education. Because of the prejudice against ex-cons (in fairness, not entirely undeserved prejudice), he’s probably not going to be able to get a job. Ex-cons are routinely discriminated against in housing, public assistance and education (Guardian). So what does he do simply to get by? Chances are pretty good he goes back to crime. That’s why the recidivism rate in 2004 was about 67% (Bureau of Justice). In countries that take rehabilitation seriously, like Sweden or Canada, it’s about 35% (Released & Restored).

Some would say that we send people to prison to be punished. But we don’t. The prison is the punishment. With the exception of lifers, we send people to prison in the hopes that prison will, in some rough and ready fashion, turn them into honest people. The lifers, we’re just warehousing them until they die (or, in some cases, executing them) but for the rest, we have to acknowledge that they will eventually be released and, if we want them to become productive members of society, we have to equip them to be productive members of society. That means educating them. It means drug rehab facilities, preferably at the end of their prison stay (works better that way). It means making an effort to ensure that ex-cons can find work. Look, I’m not saying that we can just open the gates and let all prisoners free. That would be stupid and, more importantly, unjust. But it’s also unjust that people whose only offense was puffing a joint years ago should be rotting in jail twenty years later. It’s unjust to impose a life as a member of the underclass on someone who has paid their debt to society.

And that’s not even touching on the subject of private prisons. This is another incredibly stupid idea brought to you by the worship of private enterprise. The states and the Fed already do prisons about as cheaply as it’s possible to do them so the only way private prisons can do it cheaper is to cut corners. Less guards, less nutritious food, less education. And the corporations that run private prisons are going to behave like any other corporation, they’re going to try to maximize their profits. That means they’re going to lobby for more and longer prison sentences. That means that your government, which is already thoroughly corrupted by campaign contributions and lobbying, have every incentive to create more crimes with longer sentences. That means your prison population will continue to grow. And those prisoners are increasingly being used as a profit centre for big businesses too (Global Research). Workers who work for pennies an hour, can’t unionize, can’t refuse to work or quit, who have very few rights and to whom their employers owe nothing. The corporate dream. The rich against the rest, as always.
 



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Filed in Crime, Greed, Guest Blogger, Money, Taxes January 20th, 2014 by Ebon | • 1 comment | 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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Thinking Outside the GOP Box: Creating New Jobs Without Resorting to Tax Cuts

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, August 5, 2013

Last Tuesday, President Obama began his “Better Bargain” jobs tour promising to “overhaul business taxes” in exchange for jobs created here at home. Every time I hear a Democrat using the language of Republicans, suggesting “tax cuts” as a way to create jobs, I cringe. There are PLENTY of ways to encourage job growth here at home without destroying the tax base. Corporations are ALREADY paying next to nothing in taxes (see blue line in chart on left) by exploiting the dozens (hundreds?) of tax loopholes already provided them by the GOP (see: Arthur Andersen/Enron). “Why do they need more tax cuts?” It seems like the only solution anyone in Washington (BOTH parties) can think of the encourage businesses development here at home rather than overseas is to give huge tax breaks to corporations (destroying the greatest source of tax revenue we have) and shifting the tax burden to workers so that they end up footing the bill for all public services (including roads, security and fire safety of the business itself). And in the end, the companies that receive these imperious gifts rarely produce enough jobs to make up for the lost tax revenue. There’s a better way. Zero interest loans, Free use of publicly owned buildings and/or land, faster/easier licensing, local infrastructure improvements (roads/bridges/beautification) that benefit the surrounding area around a business to make it more attractive (which also creates public jobs), for starters.

I find it appalling that many Democrats… even Moderate ones like President Obama… are quick to jump onto the “tax cuts create jobs” bandwagon. Lord knows there’s ample evidence that “corporate tax cuts do nothing to promote job creation” and actually do more harm than good. If there’s one thing Progressives are good at is thinking “outside the box”, so it is maddening when a Democratic president and head of our own Party continues to promote the GOP gospel of “tax cuts” as a panacea for job growth.

Over the years, I have written extensively about ways to create jobs without resorting to budget-busting tax cuts. Yet still, the myth persists.

Sign my petition on the White House website:

Corporate tax cuts do NOT create jobs. Here’s a half dozen ways to create new jobs without resorting to costly tax cuts:

Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the petition to promote it on Facebook & Twitter. Thanks to Teabaggers and “9/11 Truthers”, it now takes 100,000 signatures in 30 days to reach the president’s desk, and 150 signatures just to get on the Front page of the White House’s Petition website. So please help out by spreading the word.
 



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Filed in Economy, General, Jobs, Money, Seems Obvious to Me, Taxes August 5th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Why Aren’t Obama’s Scandals Gaining Traction? Because the public knows the messengers have no credibility.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, June 3, 2013

Bachmann's retirement means a lot of fact-checkers will be laid off.Godwin’s Law states that the longer any political argument goes on, the greater the likelihood is someone will compare the other side to Hitler. It’s a sound law that has withstood the test of time. But not only is it reliable, it points out a very important point when arguing politics: eventually one side… clearly seeing that it is losing… will try to minimize the misdeeds of their side by comparing them to the most objectionable thing everyone can agree upon: The Nazi’s. “What your side did/doing is just like what the Nazi’s did” or “What my side did is nothing compared to what the Nazi’s did”. “Mugsy’s Corollary” to Godwin’s Law is that Republicans will compare “fake scandals” invented by the GOP to very real scandals that took place under a Republican Administration (Nixon/Reagan/Bush-II) to suggest: “both sides do it”, “both sides are equally guilty” and lately, “Bush’s scandals were nothing compared to Obama’s.” We saw it during the Clinton Administration. It seemed like every week there was a new “scandal”. Rachel Maddow reminded everyone on her show last Thursday of how the GOP spent weeks (and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars) to investigate “the White House Christmas Card List”. I’d add to that “infinite playlist” of imaginary scandals: the investigation into “Socks”… the White House cat’s… fanclub letters (“who paid for the postage?”) GOP scandal-mongering in the late 90′s didn’t just border on the ridiculous, it sailed over that cliff like Thelma & Louise. The initial unspoken intent of the scandal-mongering back then was to limit Bill Clinton to a single term. But following Clinton’s re-election, the GOP scandal-machine went into overdrive to try and ensure he didn’t finish out his second term. And now we are seeing it again. In Obama’s first term, with no real scandals to pursue, Conservatives prattled on about “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” and the “Secret Muslim” nonsense to try and paint the president as an “other”. But by 2012, with desperation creeping in, we started hearing about “Fast and Furious” and (late in the game): “Benghazi”. And now, just months into Obama’s second term, we have no fewer than THREE almost legitimate “scandals” (“Benghazi”, “IRS scrutinizing Tea Party groups applying for tax-free status”, and the subpoena of reporter’s phone records to track a WH leak) with (almost certainly) more on the way, Republicans are crowing about a recent poll that shows President Obama Job Approval falling three whole points (polls are a fickle thing) the same month The Stock Market hits another record high, new home sales are up 10.3% in just one year, and Consumer Confidence hits “a five year high”. A 3-point decline is cause for celebration? (Fox “news” Sunday spent a good portion of their show yesterday making hay of it.) I guess they have to take their victories where they can find them. Maybe these “scandals” aren’t gaining any traction because they’re not scandals?

If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I’d of of thought it was a joke or taken out of context. Two notorious Right-wing bomb-throwers… RW radio host Laura Ingraham and WaPo’s columnist Jeniffer Rubin both tried to compare the made-up “IRS scandal” to the outing of undercover CIA Agent Valery Plame:
 

On subject of AG Holder investigating a Fox reporter to track down a WH leak:

Ingraham: …just like that: “We [the AG's office] never thought we would prosecute him [Fox reporter James Rosen].” Well, what were you really after here? I think… there’s so many questions.” … “for people to just blow this off [as] overreach by the Republicans. How many times did we hear about overreach in the Valery Plame prosecution? I don’t remember one time.

Rubin: “But he [Obama] has not sent out an order as George Bush did in the Valery Plame decision, “I do not want anyone in this Administration to refuse to cooperate.

 
“Mugsy’s Corollary” in action. These two pundits are ACTUALLY claiming the Bush Administration was “cooperative” in the Plame investigation. Is that how you remember it? Because I sure as hell don’t. The person all of us are quite certain gave the order to leak the identity of Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Vice President Dick Cheney, never testified under oath before the Special Prosecutor. Oh, he (and Bush together) agreed to testify, but only until assurances they would not have to do so “under oath”. Rove had to be subpoenaed FOUR times because new evidence kept coming to light that he “conveniently” left out of his prior testimonies. Libby was actually prosecuted/convicted for “obstruction of justice” for refusing to admit who gave him permission to leak the fact “Ambassador Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA.” To hear these two tell it, President Bush had no tolerance for anyone wishing to obstruct justice. Yet, not only do we STILL not know (for a fact) who gave the order to leak Ms. Plame’s identity, but Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence. Absolute models of integrity that Bush Administration was.

Ingram ends by noting that she can’t remember one time anyone… not just the White House, but “people” in general… accused the Plame Investigation of “overreach”. REALLY? The White House itself never accused Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of “overreach” primarily because Fitzgerald didn’t “overreach”. In fact, quite the opposite. To the consternation of most Democrats, Fitzgerald “limited the scope of his investigation” from the get-go:
 

Fitzgerald: “The Special Counsel is limited by the specific scope of the investigation he was directed to conduct. Accordingly, the Special Counsel cannot make any decisions that extend beyond his express jurisdiction. The Court further concluded that the Special Counsel had no authority to disregard Department of Justice policies promulgated by the Attorney General [Gonzales].”

 
The Bush White House might not have accused the Special Prosecutor of “overreach” itself, but accusations that Fitzgerald was going “beyond his assignment” was the mating call of the injured RW Loon for nine months. Another reason the Bush White House didn’t cry “prosecutorial misconduct” is because there was no question a crime had been committed… unlike these made-up scandals under Obama. What is the “crime” of Benghazi? “Failing to provide additional security”? I’m pretty sure you’re not going to find that law on the books. The “IRS scandal”? NOT ONE SINGLE RIGHT-WING APPLICANT WAS DENIED their application (which is a scandal unto itself). If the IRS was abusing it’s authority, it did a really lousy job of it (and as TV’s Stephen Colbert pointed out, you don’t need to “wait for approval” to declare yourself a 501(c)4 and start accepting anonymous tax-free contributions.) And the AP/Leak investigation? As the HuffPo reported a few weeks ago:
 

Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has ruled that information recorded by third parties like cellphone carriers is not protected by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment safeguards against unreasonable searches. So law enforcement need not obtain a warrant from a judge to gain access to records of who we call and when.

 
The AP is (rightly) concerned that if the government can see the phone records of everyone that called a particular reporter, and potential informants know that, they’ll stop talking. The problem here is that The AP is accepting NONE of the responsibility for publicly revealing sensitive national security information (regarding what we knew of North Korea’s missile program.) Someone in the White House revealed Top Secret information to the Press. And rather than ask, “Should you be telling us this?” and/or “Is the public’s right-to-know on this matter more important than National Security?”, they just printed it anyway without regard for the consequences. Maybe if The AP had shown just a little discretion, there would be no reason for “legitimate” sources to be concerned for their privacy. If there was a “crime” here, it was committed by whomever leaked that information to The Press. And the White House needs to know so it can prosecute that person. Compare that to the leaking of the identity of Valery Plame, where the goal of the White House was to PROTECT the leaker, not seek them out for prosecution.

Last week also brought the announced retirement of Michele Bachmann: Self-proclaimed leader of the Teanuts and Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief. I don’t think there’s an “Oh-BHA-MA” conspiracy she didn’t buy into whole-hog. And like all Obama-hating Conspiracy Theorists, she never bothered to verify anything she was (supposedly) told (see: seven-foot doctor” or “mother who told her HPV vaccine caused mental retardation in children”) before repeating it on national TV claiming it was “the God’s honest truth”. If it confirms your own worst fears, why would you want to debunk it?

That just leaves us with Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz, Darryl Issa, Jim Inhoffe… ah, the Hell with it. The whole damn GOP. As Bob Dole so accurately pointed out last week, neither he, nor Reagan nor “certainly not Nixon” could get elected by today’s FAR FAR Right GOP. And that’s why the Public isn’t running for the pitchforks & torches over any of these made-up “worse than Watergate” imaginary “scandals”: they are well acquainted with the Messengers.

UPDATE 6/4/13: DailyKOS charts how President Obama’s approval rating has barely budged over the past three months because the primary concern of voters isn’t the IRS or Benghazi, “it’s the economy, Stupid”, and that seems to be improving.
 



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Filed in fake scandals, Jobs, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity, Taxes, Unconstitutional June 3rd, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 4 comments | Add/View

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The Big Lie: ONLY Conservative Groups Targeted by IRS? That’s not true.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, May 20, 2013

Why us?Last week, the GOP unveiled its latest stalking horse: the idea that someone in the White House ordered city-level IRS offices across the country to single out “Conservative” organizations seeking “tax-exempt status” for additional scrutiny. And not just ANY “Conservative” groups, but “T.E.A. Party” groups. Set aside for a moment the fact that for YEARS the Tea Party has denied being a Republican or even “partisan” organization, as far as “scandals” go, this one is pretty weak tea (pun intended). To buy into this absurd conspiracy theory, one must believe that the White House decided that delaying the approval of “501(c)(4) status” for Conservative groups (because remember, despite “targeting” them, they APPROVED their applications anyway) was a priority worth risking criminal prosecution and possible impeachment for “abuse of power” 18-months before President Obama even began his reelection campaign. Hearings in the House last week revealed that this was little more than a bureaucratic snafu of overworked local IRS staffers looking for “shortcuts” to process a flood of Conservative groups seeking “tax-exempt” status in the wake of the “Citizens United” decision. Republicans could already feel the issue slipping away last week as polls showed the President not losing any ground over the issue. So over the weekend, Republicans started to declare that “ONLY Conservative groups were TARGETED by the IRS”. Why? Because if “ONLY” Conservative groups were targeted, that must mean someone consciously singled them out because of their political beliefs. And “targeted” sounds much more malicious than “singled out”. Problem (for them) is, IT’S NOT TRUE. It’s an absolute total lie. Plenty of “Liberal” groups received the same additional scrutiny, and in one case, was actually denied their application for 501(c)(4) status (unlike EVERY. SINGLE. CONSERVATIVE group, who were ALL approved.) Yet they are making the claim everywhere (even the floor of the Senate) without anyone calling them out for lying, hoping to push the false narrative that something dastardly was afoot at the IRS… an organization Republicans have been vilifying for decades. “Liberal” groups applying for tax exempt status also received additional scrutiny, but not as many were scrutinized as “Conservative” groups only because far fewer of them applied.

But first, some background: in 2011 following the Citizens United decision, the IRS did indeed start cracking down on “political” organizations seeking 501(c)(4) protection as a way to illegally conceal their donors. That’s the “fraud and abuse” portion of the “waste, fraud and abuse” Republicans say they’re always on the lookout for. One of those “tax loopholes” Mitt Romney suggested we close before we raise anyone’s taxes.

It’s a sad sad day when Fox “news” is the lone broadcast network to point out the fact that the IRS did not focus exclusively on “Tea Party” affiliated groups for extra scrutiny:
 

Fox Debunks Lie That ONLY Conservative Groups Targeted by IRS (1:15)

 
Rep. Paul Ryan later claimed in the interview that “the White House released private confidential tax information to the public”. Whose? Ryan never says and Wallace never asks, but after some digging, according the the NYT:

The 2010 incident involved an offhand comment by the White House economist Austan Goolsbee that Koch Industries had not paid corporate income taxes because it pays taxes through the personal income tax code. As it turned out, that was not true, but the assertion was made in a discussion of tax reform ideas, not politics.

 
So that “confidential tax information” wasn’t even real. It was one guy repeating something he had “heard”… NOT “factual tax information” provided to him by the IRS.

IMPEACH!  (Which reminds me, last weeks Op/Ed on all the uninvestigated Bush Era scandals was so popular that I was still updating it as recently as Saturday, so check it out again if you haven’t been back recently.)

On ABC’s “ThisWeek”, interminable Conservative douchebag George Will said accusingly yesterday:

[One must believe that IRS targeting] “JUST HAPPENED to fall disproportionately on Conservatives” [without malice or forethought].

Yes George. Conservative Groups did indeed “just happen” to receive a disproportionate amount of scrutiny because a disproportionate amount of APPLICANTS were Conservative.

Something to consider: If you were going to comb through 70,000 applications (Cincinnati in just one year) for “tax free status” and wanted to target “Liberal” groups specifically in your brute-force search of political organizations masquerading as charities, what keywords would you choose? Words like “Liberal” or “Progressive” to be sure. Maybe “Democratic” too though “Democracy” is no sure thing. But what else? What other Liberal “political” keyword might you include in your search to “target” Progressive groups? If you can think of even one more, you’re a better man than I am, Charlie Brown. But when it comes to Right-leaning groups, besides “Conservative” or “Republican” there’s “Tea Party”, “Patriot(s)”, “Militia”, “(fair, flat) Tax (fairness, etc)” … heck, I think even “Freedom” has been co-opted by The Right as their own personal brand. And in the immediate aftermath of the “Citizens United” decision, Conservatives were applying for “tax exempt status” en masse because… not only do they despise paying taxes (read: paying for the government services they use), but 501(c)(4)’s are not required by law to disclose their contributors, allowing them to operate in total secrecy… just the way Karl Rove (et al) likes it.

So is it any wonder Conservative groups were so easily caught up in the drag-net (and I use that term almost literally.) These local under-staffed IRS offices used a quick & dirty search using obvious political keywords to filter the “suspicious” applicants from the genuine ones.

And being dragged into this Dog & Pony Show is ObamaCare via “Sarah Hall Ingraham”. If you’ve never heard of her before now, you are forgiven. She was the evil genius in charge of overseeing just who did & did not qualify for “tax exempt status” when this “scandal” was taking place (2009-2012). That would be the same evil genius that “targeted” Conservative groups only to then go ahead and give them 501(c)(4) status anyway. Ingraham is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office… basically, the person tasked with “enforcing” the insurance mandate with absolutely no power to actually do so. So naturally, Republicans are freaking out because… well… I’m not exactly sure. Why do Republicans ever freak out? Do they think she’ll only enforce the Federal mandate against Conservatives (read: whites) and let everyone else (read: blacks/Mexicans) slide? Because if the current IRS “scandal” is any indication, the people most likely to skate are Conservatives. Do they believe she’s incompetent? Then they should be thrilled that someone was appointed to the job that could take down ObamaCare for them. CLEARLY they aren’t worried that she’s SO competent that she’ll make ObamaCare a roaring success. So what’s their problem? There’s just no pleasing these people.

Personally, the REAL IRS “scandal” is that ANY political group has received tax-exempt status. Who “targets” an entire group of people for additional scrutiny and then goes ahead and approves them anyway? WORST. SCANDAL. EVER.

(Postscript: Since my departure from Crooks & Liars a few weeks ago, if you are missing my weekly live-blogging of the Sunday Talk Shows, you can now follow my updates on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t do this earlier because the people I accused of being “petty & childish” were checking up on my Facebook page to see if I was saying anything bad about them. Pretty much says it all, don’tcha think? I believe enough time has passed where I can safely resume my duties without worrying that I might be assisting them in any way.)
 



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Filed in fake scandals, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, Taxes May 20th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View

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Republicans Desire for Us the Worst of Every Society

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, April 1, 2013

GOP 'logic'.Just a short hit & run on this holiday weekend folks. Have you ever noticed how Republicans seem to look at some of the most deplorable aspects of any society and say, “Hey! I like that!” I first noticed this after 9/11, when after we were attacked by religious zealots stationed in a middle-Eastern theocracy, Conservatives started “admiring” (for lack of a better word) the strict religious teaching methods of Madrassas, and the “dedication” of the very people they raged against. Don’t believe me? Check out the movie “Jesus Camp” where parents sent their young children to be “God Warriors” for Christ. President Bush famously referred to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan as “a crusade”. The anachronism of the Pro-”Life” Holy-Roller Party also being the Pro-gun, Pro-war, Pro-Death penalty Party is never lost on me. But lately, it seems to go beyond that.

Here’s something to think about: What do “Austerity” and “The Black Plague” have in common? In the mid 1300′s (yes, I promise to keep this short), a deadly disease swept through Europe killing millions. This was centuries before anyone knew of the existence of bacteria or viruses. “Illness” was either a punishment from God or inflicted by “Evil”. One of the ways people dealt with The Plague was to kill stray cats by the hundreds because cats were considered “minions of the Devil” or Hosts for witches that would then go about making people ill. The irony is that The Plague was actually being spread by fleas on rats, which the cats might have killed and kept the spread of the disease under control.

So, what does that have to do with “Austerity”, you ask? Right now in Europe, The UK is in danger of having their credit-rating downgraded again (last February, The UK’s credit rating was downgraded from “AAA” to “AA1″ because their economy isn’t growing like it should. Why? Austerity! While President Obama passed a “Stimulus Package” of spending to stimulate growth in this country, the Brits went the other way and imposed economic austerity, deep spending cuts and raising taxes on the Poor. Now there is talk of a possible second downgrade barely six weeks after the first one, and the answer from Brittan’s ruling Conservative Party? Stay the course. More austerity. Once again, Europeans have decided that the “cure” for their ills is to do the very thing that… not only didn’t make things better, but in fact are almost guaranteed to make things worse.

And here in this country, Republicans who think “President Obama wants to turn America into Europe”, keep pushing European-style “austerity” in this country, demonizing Stimulus spending and thinking up ways to shift the tax burden from the Rich to the Poor.

Oh, but it gets better my friends.

Ever get the feeling many Republicans would like to see the return of “Jim Crow”? Ron and Rand Paul aren’t the only ones that think including “private businesses” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act” was a mistake. And now, we are… quite literally… hearing the same “separate but equal” arguments being made about “Same Sex Marriage”. “I’m comfortable with giving gay couples all the rights of ‘straight’ couples, from tax breaks to ‘hospital visitation rights’. Everything except the right to marry”, said GOP Spokesperson Ed Gillespi on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Adding that the GOP still supports an “anti-gay marriage amendment” to the Constitution. I’m still waiting for someone on that side to produce a convincing legal argument for why it is in the Federal governments’ interest to go to such lengths to prevent gays from marrying and the catastrophic consequences if they do, of such danger & magnitude that it demands amending the freaking Constitution.

Republicans do this amazing dance where they denounce the most obvious flaws in other societies, and then go right out and start advocating for us to emulate them.

Remember Gov. Romney’s “Razor-wired factory” story from his infamous “47%” video? He talked about how, in his “private-equity days”, he went to China to buy a factory and was stunned to see “razor wire” along the prison-like walls around the factory. When Romney inquired about it, he was told… and believed… that “the razor wire is there to keep people on the outside from getting IN, not the other way around.” He described the horrid sweat-shop conditions, even noting how some workers… once they got out for some national holiday or what have you… never returned, opening up spots for someone new. Now, if the jobs were so desirable, why would workers not return? Such a question clearly never crossed Mitt’s mind. Instead, he relates this anecdote to his $20,000 a plate guests as a GOOD thing, possibly even a model for work-conditions in America.

In China, underage workers are common-place. Children as young as 12 can be found working in factories. In this country, Newt Gingrich thinks they should be janitors. No OSHA in China or the third-world either. That’s just more “job-killing regulations!” No minimum wage. 12 hour workdays. Republican paradise.

There’s the “Free Marketeers” that want Government completely out of the way to let business do its thing. I believe it was radio’s “Sam Seeder” that first pointed out that the only purely “unregulated Free Market” economy on Earth is Somalia. “You want to see what an unregulated Free Market economy looks like? Move to Somalia!”, said Sam.

And of course, (yes, with “Godwin’s Law” in mind) Government run by & for the Corporations… also known as “Corporatism”… better known as “Fascism”… the worst of all possible societies which Republicans claim to despise and use as The Ultimate Parjorative in describing things they hate, is also something they seem quite eager to emulate. Think about it.
 



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Filed in Economy, General, Middle East, Politics, Racism, Religion, Right-wing Facism, Seems Obvious to Me, Taxes, War April 1st, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Obama’s Successes Equal Failure in GOP-speak.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, March 11, 2013

One job created by the GOPBack when I was in High School, there was this one kid that desperately wanted “the cool kids” to like him. And even though he had friends like me willing to hang out with him, he wouldn’t hesitate to abandon us for the greener pastures of “the in-crowd”… a group that lived to make his life miserable… in the futile hope that he’d convince them to like him. Of course, they never did. They happily invited him over, then instructed him to perform various tasks (from fetching food to doing their homework), all the while ridiculing him behind his back. We tried to tell him he was being used, but he’d have none of it, defending his “friends”, even taking the blame once for something he didn’t do just to keep one of the cool kids out of trouble. Pathetic. I got that same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach last week when President Obama invited a group of Republicans to dinner (again) in hopes of convincing them to stop hating him long enough to get things done. Everyone but Charlie Brown always seems to know Lucy is going to yank the football away, yet he keeps trying. But Lucy was just mean, not demented. It’s not like she went around afterward telling everyone how much better “The Easter Beagle” is at place-kicking. And such was the case on several Sunday shows yesterday. Repeatedly, Republicans pointed to their own failures as “evidence” that President Obama’s policies are a failure. First up, Paul Ryan:

Making an appearance on Fox “news” Sunday Ryan introduced his (third & latest) plan to destroy Medicare by dumping it off on the states, claiming this could save the Federal Government “$770 billion over the next ten years”. Republicans LOVE to play this game… not necessarily with “Medicare” but with ALL government programs… suggesting that the way to “save the Federal government money and reduce the Deficit” is to simply dump every social program off on the states. So YOU… the taxpayer… don’t actually pay less in taxes, you just send the check to a different location (your State Treasurer instead of the Fed). In fact, with the loss of efficiency that comes from consolidating all these programs in one place, there is a VERY good chance… ESPECIALLY if you live in an impoverished Red state… that you’ll end up paying MORE for these services. Meanwhile, Ryan and his ilk get to strut around like peacocks bragging about how they’ve “cut Federal spending” and “reduced the Deficit” without actually improving anything.

But that wasn’t enough. Chris Wallace noted that for the numbers in Ryan’s own budget to work out, he’s depending on the current rate of economic growth under Obama to continue for the next ten years, not plunge into the abyss the way it did the last time we had a Republican president whose solution to every problem was “tax cuts”. Economy good? Tax cut! Economy bad? Tax cuts plus Stimulus Checks! Ryan didn’t dare try and calculate his budget using the rate of economic growth under George W. Bush because he knew it would be impossible. They want us to return to Bush’s policies, but only Obama’s numbers make it possible. It’s not unlike when an insane person thinks they don’t need their meds while they are on them and feeling good.

Repeatedly for the past two months during the “Sequester” fight, I heard Republicans (most notably Speaker Boehner) argue that President Obama “got his tax hike” and therefore additional revenue is “off the table” as a means of closing an “$84 Billion dollar” shortfall in the Budget. Republicans previously put “closing loopholes” and “limiting deductions” on the table as ways to shore-up the Budget to avoid the Sequester. But now that President Obama “got his tax hike in January”, anything other than further budget cuts are off the table.

Problem is, President Obama did NOT get “his” tax hike. He wanted the tax hike to begin on incomes of $250K. Republicans held “the Fiscal Cliff” hostage in exchange for raising the starting amount to “$500K”. Extrapolating from one website that claimed starting the new top tax rate at $250K would raise “only $800 Billion in additional revenue”, and another report saying that starting the top rate at $450K will raise “$396 Billion” in additional revenue, that’s a shortfall of roughly $400 Billion… which would have MORE than made up for the “$84 Billion dollar budget gap”. So once again, Republicans are being obstructionist asshats over a problem of their own creation.

But ABC’s George Will took the cake. Whatever this guy is smoking, it must be strong stuff. On ABC’s “ThisWeek” yesterday, the Roundtable discussion turned to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report announcing that 236,000 jobs were created in February (the shortest month of the year BTW). Not only was this number well above what was “expected” (a number I could not find anywhere), but it’s more than twice the number of jobs the economy must produce each month just to keep up with population growth. The number of people filing new jobless claims fell as well, pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7%… the lowest since December of 2008 at the height of the collapse on Wall Street. Add to that the fact the adjusted job-creation figures for December were revised up from 196,000 to 219,000 (though January was revised down from 157,000 to 119,000.) For comparison-sake, by this point in George Bush’s presidency, unemployment had gone from 4.2% to 5.4%. (set dates manually at link.) Under Obama, job creation is up, while unemployment, jobless claims and The Deficit are all shrinking… which makes the following comment by ABC’s “ThisWeek” resident Conservative hack George Will all the more mind-numbing:
 

WILL: If the workforce participation rate were as high today as it was just 12 months ago, the unemployment rate would be 8.3 percent. If the workforce participation rate were as high today as it was when Mr. Obama was inaugurated, the unemployment rate would be over 10 percent.

 
Think about what George Will is arguing here: job growth under Obama isn’t growing fast enough to to make up for the MILLIONS of jobs lost under President Bush, ergo Obama’s policies are a total failure and we need to return to the Conservative economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
 

Kaboom!

 



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Filed in Economy, Jobs, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity, Taxes March 11th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Mugsy’s Predictions for 2013. Fight, fight, fight.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 31, 2012

Ominous 2013Well, as the cliche’ goes: “It’s that time of year again” for my annual “Predictions” edition of Mugsy’s Rap Sheet, when we look back at how well I did last year, a little schadenfreude examining just how badly the so-called “psychics” did, and ending with my own predictions for the coming year. My own record (with all humility) is incredibly good, averaging well above 50%. But I think my call on the Constitutionality of “ObamaCare” (see more below) will stand out for years to come. Off-election-year political predicting is more difficult because there are no races to call, and politicians are far more predictable in an election year. Conservatives pick fights over things they might otherwise have ignored, attempting to rile their base to score cheap political points. Democrats trade their spines in for Jell-O as they try to look like “the reasonable ones” by compromising on everything they way voters claim to want (but really don’t because Republicans have no respect for people that don’t stand up for their principles, while Liberals become infuriated by Democrats repeatedly caving-in to GOP blackmail.) 2012 was one wild ride with the election & all. And despite my confidence in my predicting ability, there were plenty of times when I thought I’d be lucky if I got even one prediction right. And while I missed my share this past year, I think my hits outweigh my misses. So without further ado:

My 2012 Scorecard (17 predictions):

  1. Correct!“President Obama will win reelection. Handily. I’d say by roughly the same margin he beat John McCain (around 5% of the popular vote).” President Obama’s Electoral Vote victory was 332 to Romney’s 206, with a popular vote margin of nearly 4-percent (even with widespread attempts at voter disenfranchisement.)
  2. Correct!Romney will be the GOP nominee. As noted, other candidates came and went during the 2011 Debates as Republicans desperately searched for “anyone but Romney”, but Romney always hovered in the top-3 while his competitors imploded around him. (Gingrich did give me a fright there momentarily when he came back a second time to win South Carolina. But thankfully, his enormous ego did him in again.)
  3. Correct! – A lack of enthusiasm for Romney will have an effect “down ballot”, with Democrats making big gains in the House and holding onto at least five seats in the Senate. My final “pick-up” totals might have been off, but that “enthusiasm gap” did indeed crash the GOP. Appalling “gerrymandering” of voting districts ensured the GOP lost only 6 seats in the House despite receiving 1.2-million fewer votes. In the Senate, Democrats won all but 1 out of 22 incumbent races and picked up two more for a 54/46 majority (including two independents.)
  4. inconclusiveThe “Arab Spring” uprisings will finally reach Iraq. A string of “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya all leading to the ouster of their corrupt leaders and historic political reform, followed by a series of protests in Iraq led me to believe that Iraq would likely follow. And while weary Iraqi’s did not overthrow their corrupt government over the continued violence and lack of services in 2012, hints of such protests did indeed surface on Friday (in just under the wire), so I’ve upgraded this miss to “inconclusive” because if it is the dawn of an “Arab Spring” in Iraq, it will have definitely started in 2012 as predicted. Only time will tell.
  5. WrongGas prices will hit a new record high momentarily next Summer. Mercifully, this is one prediction I don’t mind getting wrong. While gas prices did indeed hit record highs in parts of the country or for “that particular time of year”, the “National Average” peaked at $3.92 last March, never breaking the $4.10/gal record set under President Bush in July of 2008.
  6. WrongSyria’s King Assad won’t still be in power by the end of 2012. While I could rate this “Correct” on a technicality, I never expected him to hang on this long. The revolution in Syria had already begun in mid-2011, and by the end of 2011, the Arab League had already sent 60 Monitors into Syria to witness/prevent the reported slaughter of civilians. Other “Arab Spring” nations fell in only a matter of months. But shocking support from Russia & China, even vetoing the use of force against Assad in July as part of the UN Security Council, allowed him to cling to power all year. And Arab League observers were forced to retreat barely a month later after incidents of violence against some of their own people by Syrian troops. Recent appalling acts of genocide could pressure Russia and China into reconsidering their longtime support for Syria sometime in the coming year. We’ll see.
  7. WrongCharges of “racism” surrounding Ron Paul will hurt him badly in early primary states. – While Paul’s notorious racist history always lingered just beneath the surface, he never drew enough “mainstream” support to make it an issue. Nothing could shake Ron’s loyal “Revolution” devotees’ fawning adoration of him, and “racism” doesn’t make the Top-10 List of Concerns in Republican primaries searching for the old white guy that will rescue them from the nation’s first black president whose very place of birth they question. So it came as no surprise that Paul’s racist past had little to no impact on his campaign.
  8. Correct!With Gingrich & Perry failing to get on the ballot in the Virginia primary, Romney will win Virginia easily (but with low voter turnout); Gingrich will take the state to court while Perry simply drops out. The headline after the VA Primary: “Mitt Romney Wins Virginia Primary With Lethargic Voter Turnout”. I was right on the legal challenge but got the names reversed. Perry was the one to go to court, dropped out after losing and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
  9. WrongThe “99%” Movement gains strength. Obama hosts a “99%” rally while the GOP candidates host “Tea Party” rallies. While the “Occupy Wall Street” movement did indeed have a substantial impact on the election… most notably in response to Romney’s devastating “47%” video… the President did not host/attend any OWS rallies, nor did the GOP candidates host any “Tea Party” counter rallies.
  10. Correct! Correct! Correct!The Supreme Court will declare “ObamaCare” Constitutional, citing the government’s power to tax, in a 5-4 split decision. On June 28th, the Supreme court ruled “The Affordable Care Act” constitutional. The deciding vote in a 5-4 split decision was cast by none other than Conservative Chief Justice Roberts (now THAT I didn’t predict!) who specifically cited the government’s power to “tax” as what made the “mandate” portion of the law legal. I’d call that prediction a slam dunk! I’m counting it as three.
  11. Correct!Someone will FINALLY get around to asking the GOP candidates that “if they repeal ObamaCare, what would they replace it with?” The idea of simply “just going back to the way things were” before Health Care Reform was finally recognized as unacceptable. Many sources did indeed start asking about the “replace” portion of the GOP’s call to “repeal & replace”, but this exchange on “Fox news Sunday” on June 30th particularly stood out.
  12. Correct!The return of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan won’t strain the job market as much as expected, but in fact have a mini stimulative effect with the increase in consumer demand. The return of all troops from Iraq in December of 2011 and 33,000 troops from Afghanistan last September did not push the unemployment rate up as soldiers returned home looking for work. Economic growth continued to rise slowly but did not in fact contract.
  13. Correct!Unemployment will be under 8% in time for the election. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% at the end of September, ticking up to 7.9% by the end of October, but indeed below 8.0% as predicted.
  14. Correct!Gitmo will still be in service by the time of the November election. Probably not the most difficult of predictions. Such issues have a way of falling onto the back burner when attentions are drawn elsewhere.
  15. Wrong.The planned removal of  23,000  33,000 additional troops from Afghanistan by September 2012 will hit a snag. Not much to say here. I expected protests in Iraq that never materialized, coupled with civil war in Syria to derail the withdrawal of “Surge” troops from Afghanistan. I should of had more confidence in President Obama.
  16. Correct!The London Olympic Summer Games will go off without a hitch. No violence, terror threats, or major disruptions of any kind.
  17.  
    And the “Should have quit while I was ahead” award goes to:
     

  18. Wrong.If Mitt Romney does win his Party’s nomination as predicted, Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell will be his running mate. A last minute prediction I tossed in just before midnight on December 31st. McDonnell was campaigning hard for the job, and probably would have been the pick if he hadn’t gone off the rails and pushed a “mandatory vaginal ultrasound” law for rape victims seeking an abortion. I suppose he thought it would endear him to the whacked-out Evangelical Right, but instead made him the poster-boy for the GOP “War on Women”. Not even I could have seen that coming.

The final tally: 12 of 18 (I’m counting #10 as three) correct, 6 wrong and one “inconclusive”. 66%. That’s a heck of a lot better than I thought I’d do after Newt won South Carolina and McDonnell imploded. Even if you count #10 as just one prediction, I still scored an impressive 62.5%.

So let’s look at how the so-called “psychics” and Political Pundits did:

Psychic Blair Robertson, who claims to have predicted the 2011 Japanese earthquake (which is a bit like predicting snow in Winter), the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski (no link to original prediction provided, so no way to verify the claim), along with some unnamed Soccer and Oscar predictions, was touted as a psychic whose track record of “successful forecasts” demonstrates he has the ability to “see into the future”. Let’s see:

Mr. Robertson predicted:

…a GOP Presidential victory, major volcanic activity in the Northwest and a “good chance” of a large eruption (none of which occurred), the “bombing of a cruise ship” (which I expect Robertson will point to the “Costa Concordia” being run aground by its captain as fulfilling his prophecy of a “cruise ship disaster”), North Carolina heavily damaged by storms in April, Jennifer Aniston will marry (nope), major riots in Miami and London, a train crash in Southern Europe caused by sabotage (nada)… okay, by this point, I’m just rubbing it in. Of Mr. Robertson’s 26 “psychic” predictions, only one came to pass (arguably): “a baby for the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge” (pregnancy but no birth yet). 1 for 26 (0.4% accuracy).

Here is a sample of predictions from Cable TV’s “well known Long Island psychic” Janet Russell for 2012 (excuse me for picking on her for a second year in a row, but how is she “famous”? She truly sucks as predicting. 0-for-20 over the past two years):

…more people will be forgiven for their [home] loans and will be able to forgo foreclosures (I found no such widespread movement).

…one state will be open to “alternative lifestyle” and people will move to that state because they feel more comfortable (actually, same-sex marriage was on the ballot in four states in 2012, and passed in support of gay marriage in all of them. No mass migration into those states was reported.)

…the government will admit that we do have contact with other beings in other dimensions. (Uh… no.)

Several other “psychics to the stars” predictions appear on that same page (ibid: “Janet Russell”). Of the 50 or so predictions listed, I’m not sure a single one came to pass.

But that’s Hollywood. How did our friends over at Fox “news” do?

A Fox list of “5 Medical Advances in 2012″ is interesting:

  1. Medicine gets closer to treating cancer with vaccines. – There was actually plenty of news in 2012 to grant this a bonafide “Correct”. Vaccine treatments for cervical, lung, and breast cancer were all announced in 2012.
  2. An anticipated “Malaria vaccine” did not pan out.
  3. Millions will breathe easier, thanks to new EPA air pollution Regulations. – Gotta give this one a “No”. A minor “Cross-State Pollution Rule” was passed in 2012 (no surprise) that even their own best estimate was that it would improve life for up to 820,000 in the region, not “millions”. I think Fox’s own unfounded belief that Obama is a “regulation-crazy” president, played a part in that prediction.
  4. Many crucial drugs will become cheaper. – While a WSJ report claimed “Name-brand Drug Prices Rise, But Generics Get Cheaper”, with some generics falling as much as 22%, reading the Fox prediction, the basis for their prediction was that the price of many “name brand drugs” would fall as their patents ran out, while insurance companies (under ObamaCare, seeking maximum profit) would push doctors into prescribing cheaper generics. This did not happen, so I rate this prediction a “No” as well.
  5. Legislation will make it easier to choose health insurance. – There really was no “new” legislation specifically to aid in “choosing” a health insurance provider, so this is another swing & a miss.

Five predictions; one right: 20%. The fewer predictions you make, the easier it is to get a high score. Make one prediction and if you’re right, you score 100%. But even with that in their favor, they still tanked.

But medicine really isn’t in Fox’s wheelhouse. How did their “political” predictions go? On the Christmas Day 2011 edition of “Fox news Sunday”:

  1. Steve Hayes of “The Weekly Standard” predicted: “It’s more likely than not that Republicans win the White House in 2012 (later, “Probably Mitt Romney”), win the Senate in 2012, [and] despite some good Democratic recruits, keep the House of Representatives.” – One for three there, Steve. And the other two weren’t even close. Go fish.
  2. Liz Marlantes of the CSM predicted an Obama reelection and Republicans holding onto the House, but Democrats only “narrowly hold onto the Senate” losing “at least three seats”. For the record, Democrats increased their margins in both the House and Senate.
  3. Susan Ferrechio of “The Washington Examiner” disagreed with Marlantes, predicting Republicans regaining control of the Senate for an “all-Republican Congress”, but losing the White House. (Amazing how many Republicans, even back then, were pessimistic about unseating Obama.)
  4. Charles Lane of “The Washington Post” refused to reveal his prediction for the winner of the election, but was willing to predict they would “win the Electoral vote but not the popular vote”. Maybe he should have revealed his pick because it’s clear to me he was expecting Obama to win, so he would of gotten at least ONE thing right. And sorry Chuck, but Obama won both votes handily… just as *I* predicted.
  5. Hayes also predicted “economic growth will be under 2.5 percent every quarter of 2012″, and “unemployment on Election Day of 8.5 percent” (seconded by panelist Liz Marlantes.). – Sorry Steve & Liz. Economic growth was 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate was under 8 percent by election day (again, as *I* predicted.)
  6. Lane called a General Motors rebound looking “a little iffy right now”. – To be clear, General Motors saw its second straight year of “robust profits”, earning “$1.48-Billion dollars” in 2012, well above Wall Street expectations. Hang it up now, Chuck.

Okay, enough of that. Conservatives suck at predicting politics because their predictions always follow their own personal biases and ignore reality. It’s a waste of time to guess what Republicans think because they are so damned predictable themselves. Time for my “Predictions for 2013″:

  1. I can’t really make a prediction regarding whether or not we’ll go over the imaginary “Fiscal cliff” because Congress is likely voting on it as you read this on December 31st, so let me split my 1st prediction depending on whether a deal is struck or not:
       o If a deal is made before the clock expires that comes very close to what President Obama already wanted ($250K ceiling with no cuts to Social Security & Medicare), Republicans will have done so only because they intend to hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again to get what they want when they think they’ll have more power… an astoundingly dangerous and irresponsible game, playing Russian Roulette with “the full faith & credit of the United States”. Too many Teanuts in Congress mistakenly believe the Debt Ceiling has something to do with future spending, and refusing to raise it somehow means we’ll be forced to “live within our means”, instead of an agreement to raise money to pay for past obligations already passed by Congress.
       o If a deal is struck with Democrats making wholly unnecessary concessions, President Obama will have fudged on the cutoff figure, possibly agreeing to raise his “$250K” ceiling to “$500K”. But since 20 Republicans in the House already rejected Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” that set the ceiling at “$1-Million”, the likelihood they’ll agree to a much lower “$500K” ceiling seems unlikely. And no sane Democrat should be willing to accept that deal either. Not only would it be a bad deal that makes the entire point of this fight moot, producing lots of pain for very little gain, but voters have already sided with the president, blaming Republicans for the obstruction. Caving in to GOP Blackmail is pointless because Democrats could obtain almost everything they asked for if they just hold out for a couple of weeks.
       o If no agreement is made before midnight and we “go over the imaginary cliff”, that puts Democrats in the cat-bird seat. The Bush Tax Cuts will expire for everyone, and Democrats will then propose The Obama Tax Cut in the exact form proposed by the President during the 2012 campaign. Until that time, the Stock Market will quake a little for about a week (or wildly roller-coaster for a month or two until the new tax cut is passed). Democrats will dare Republicans to vote against a tax cut for 98% of Americans, and anyone that refuses will only be proving to the entire country just where their loyalty lies: protecting the rich at the expense of the Poor & Middle Class. Since Republicans will have no choice but to vote for The Obama Tax Cut, it’s an absolute certainty that they’ll hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again to get the concessions they lost in the tax fight.

     
    Of the three options, I expect the second to be the most likely. Which brings us to #2:

    (Dec 31, 2012 Update: Senate agrees to a last-minute compromise with the tax-cut threshold pushed up to $450K with spending cuts postponed for two months… so the end result was basically a hybrid of the first two scenarios. We shall see if the inevitable “Debt Ceiling” fight… and now a fight over the “sequester” at roughly the same time… will be a “hybrid” as well.)
     

  2. IF Republicans play chicken with the Debt Ceiling” once again and take us down to the wire once more (and #3 below does not come top pass), President Obama won’t play that game a second time around. The moment it looks like the GOP’s hostage crisis might jeopardize our credit rating again (and cost us BILLIONS in interest on the money we barrow), President Obama will circumvent Congress and raise the Debt Ceiling all on his own, invoking The 14th Amendment. To say the GOP will have a conniption will be an understatement. Had the GOP of won control of the Senate, we would assuredly see another round of “impeachment hearings” as the GOP attempts yet another coup against the second Democratic president in a row (which would not have gone well with the public). Thank your lucky stars the GOP didn’t win control of the Senate in 2012. (Addendum: See #3 below.)
     
    Which leads us to #3:
     
  3. While I despise making predictions that will be proven right or wrong within a day or two, expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold true to his word and pass a rules change on day one of the new Congress to reform the filibuster. I think it unlikely he’ll get all the reforms he wants, with plenty of Senators concerned about “the slippery slope of 1st day rules changes passed with a simple majority”, but passing a simple agreement to force a “standing filibuster” (also known as a “talking filibuster”) is almost certain to pass w/o much of a fight. With Republicans still in control of the House for another two years, and another shot at retaking the Senate in 2014 and changing the rules back, there really isn’t much of a downside for them. The GOP House will ensure Republican Senators don’t have to filibuster anything that draws public fire, and they get to look like the reasonable affable ones by agreeing to “those power-crazed Democrats”. And let’s pray I’m right because should that “Debt Ceiling” fight come to pass, the change in the filibuster may be the only thing standing between us and default. I’m trying to imagine the public response to seeing a single GOP Senator holding the Senate hostage for hours… even days… and it won’t be pretty, making the likelihood of an extended challenge less likely. (Addendum: If I’m right and the Rules Change comes to pass, there will likely be no need for the President to invoke the 14th, negating prediction #2.)

    UPDATE 1: Sen. Reid delayed voting on filibuster reform on the first day of the new (113th) Congress, calling for a “recess” rather than an “adjournment” so that upon their return in three weeks, the Senate will still in its opening session.

    UPDATE 2 (1/24/13): In a move that has shocked Democrats, Reid has agreed to only mild changes to the filibuster rule, but otherwise leaves all of the GOP’s obstructive powers intact. When asked for an explanation, Reid said that he “didn’t feel it was time to get rid of the filibuster. But that argument does not wash since none of the proposed rules changes would have actually “abolished” the filibuster.

  4. Election Reform: Despite what President Obama said in his victory speech last November, since 2013 is not an election year, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of Election Reform this year… which is a shame because NON-election years are the best time to tackle the problem. More time to implement changes, and less paranoia on the Right over what those changes will do (everything from “helping ACORN… which went defunct in 2010… steal the election” to “helping illegal aliens vote”). I’ve finally come around in support of abolishing the Electoral College. I didn’t (and still don’t) like the idea that candidates can ignore less populated areas and simply focus all their efforts on big cities, but baldfaced attempts by the GOP to gerrymander electoral votes by district despite receiving over a million fewer votes in the House nationally, and an insane amount of focus on just one state (Ohio) deciding our election, I’m finally convinced that it is time for it to go. It’s a moot point, but I’m predicting little to no action on Election Reform in 2013. Damn shame too.
  5. The Unemployment Rate: Hmm, that’s a tricky one. Again, it depends on the “Fiscal Cliff” and “Debt Ceiling” votes. If the votes go (arguably) smoothly, I expect unemployment to be very close to 6.9% by the end of the year (give or take 3/10ths of a point). If however these votes become a long and protracted fight that drives the Stock Market nuts, it’s going to be very close to where it was in October (7.8%, give or take 3/10ths of a point.)
  6. Afghanistan: People are already asking, “why are we still there?” and the “Debt Ceiling” debate will thrust the cost of the war into the spotlight. I’m predicting that towards the end of the year, the idea of waiting another full year “until the end of 2014″ to bring our troops home will become increasingly unpopular, with calls to end the war in Afghanistan… if not by the end of 2013… then by early 2014 at the latest.
  7. Gas prices: Unlike during the Bush years where a stream of never-ending chaos kept the Middle East in turmoil for nearly a decade, President Obama has shown his desire not to rock-the-boat in the Middle East. Stability aids recovery. And gas prices go up FAR more easily than they go down. Gasoline over $3.00/gal is the new normal. Assuming nothing insanely stupid takes place like an Israeli attack on Iran sometime next year, expect gas prices to remain close to where they are today, hovering in the $3.50/gal range by years end.
  8. As such, I’ll also predict no U.S. or Israeli missile strike on Iran in 2013. I honestly don’t think Iran is suicidal. They may even be willing to negotiate in response to their devastated economy resulting from current sanctions. (This is a much easier prediction to make after Bill “The Bloody” Kristol predicted yesterday a  U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iran next year.)
  9. Syria and Assad: Dangerous territory for me, since I (incorrectly) predicted last year that he would no longer still be in power by year’s end, not foreseeing Chinese and Russian support for Assad. So with that in mind, the only thing left is for the Syrian people to overthrow Assad on their own, which would be a Herculean task. However, now that we know the score, expect the Assad regime to be “economically starved out of power”, with opposing countries refusing to do business with him, and commencing all business with a parallel government formed by the Syrian opposition. Seen as irrelevant, Assad will be left with no choice by to step down voluntarily from a meaningless “Presidency in name only”.
  10. The DOW: On December 28th, the last day of trading in 2012, the DOW closed at 12,938.11 (down 158 points on Friday, but was averaging above 13,000), up less than 1,000 points over 2011. But, assuming we avoid a nasty drawn-out debate over the “Debt Ceiling” and no missile strikes on Iran jacking up oil prices, a relatively stable economic situation means better-than-average economic growth in 2013. Expect the DOW to be up over 14,500 by the end of 2013.
  11. They say when the U.S. economy sneezes, the world catches cold. The reverse is also true. Positive economic growth in America will mean the first signs of economic recovery in Europe, particularly the hard-hit countries of Greece & Spain. Of course, a protracted debate over the “Debt Ceiling” would only help destabilize the world economy. With so much at stake, and while there is NO doubt in my mind the GOP is going to threaten to hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again, I don’t think President Obama will let it get that far again. So I repeat my prediction for the first signs of economic recovery in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe (and Conservatives will credit “Austerity” for their recovery.)
  12. Is 2013 the year we’ll see some serious Immigration reform? Don’t bet your Aunt Fanny on it. Will we see some “token” reform(s)? Yes. With the 2012 election still fresh in the GOP’s memory, and a recognition that they need to do damage-control with Hispanic voters, Republicans will agree to one or two minor changes in our immigration laws that poll well with Latino voters, but the Republican’s instincts (and deathly fear of offending their Redneck base) will win the day, making sure little to nothing substantial takes place in this non-election year. The time to gild-the-Lilly is in an election year, when pandering is most likely to help them at the polls. So, no, don’t expect much in the way of Immigration Reform this year.
  13. And finally, do Democrats finally pass an Assault Weapons Ban or pass meaningful restrictions on the amount of damage they can do (like limiting clip size)? This will be an ugly fight, so let’s pray Harry Reid does indeed pass filibuster reform, but yes, I do expect Democrats to pass something similar to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban in 2013. Early on, many Republicans will express “support” for new gun laws, but when they don’t get their way on some “conditions” (eg: an armed guard in every school but with no explanation how to pay for it), the final vote will split almost straight down Party lines, passing with a few (less than 5) Republican votes in the Senate and maybe 20 in the House.

And that’s my list of 13 predictions for 2013. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? 13 for ’13? Completely coincidental I assure you. This year is going to be a toughy. So much depends upon things that happen in just the first few days, I could be either incredibly accurate or incredibly wrong by this time next year. We’ll see. I encourage you to add your own predictions in the Comments below.

Postscript: How do you like the new look? Not sure I see myself sticking with it for a year or two if I can’t tweak it a bit more. We’ll see. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

 


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Filed in Economy, Environment, General, Guns & Violence, Healthcare, Jobs, Middle East, Money, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Taxes, Unconstitutional, War December 31st, 2012 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View

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Fiscal Cliff Divers (or, We’re being held hostage by a bunch of childish morons)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 10, 2012

We need to ID the people behind our elections, not the votersIt’s not that I hate being broke. In fact, I kind of enjoy many of the freedoms that come with not being a wage-slave. My needs are few, and I don’t live on Credit beyond my means. If I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it. Period. Not that I’m not smart enough to be rich. Because in recent days we’ve seen that it doesn’t appear to require a whole lot of brain-power to run a multimillion dollar corporation (actually, as we just saw in this last election, it’s quite easy to become filthy rich if you’re willing to be a soulless bastard with no qualms about profiting off other people’s misery, then think you can absolve yourself by donating generously to your filthy-rich church… which often turns around and uses that money to commit more acts of evil.) And such has been the case in recent months, with Conservative CEO’s of the eateries “Applebees” and “Papa John’s Pizza” threatening to cut Full-time workers down to Part-time because of “ObamaCare”. DailyKOS provided a decent explanation yesterday as to just why their fears are unfounded, but my qualms with these people aren’t just that they are “misinformed”. They’re downright stupid. Like any other Republican, they believe the Party-line because it plays into their own Right-wing beliefs, and if they bothered to so much as actually think their plans through, they might realize that not only are they terrified over nothing, but their reaction might actually cost them MORE money than they think they might lose. Let me explain…

John Schnatter, Founder of “Papa John’s” publicly stated before the election that if ObamaCare forces him to provide health insurance to all his employees, he’d have to “increase the price of pizza” to make up for his loses (and losing business because of it, resulting in the firing of workers). But pressed for an actual dollar figure, we weren’t talking about a large pizza going from $16 to $22, or even $17. No, by Schnatter’s OWN calculations, providing his employees with health insurance would add a paltry 10-14 cents per pizza. And when “Managed Care Matters” looked into it, they found even that paltry figure to be 2-3 times too high, calculating that it would only add a trivial 3.4 to 4.6 cents per pizza (or in more dramatic terms, a 0.4 to 0.7 percent increase in “Papa’s John’s” overall expenses.)

William Black, owner of some 40 Applebee’s franchises made similar claims, saying that if President Obama were reelected and ObamaCare were not repealed, he will need to fire workers, cut existing workers to part-time (so that they don’t qualify for coverage), and cancel plans to open new restaurants. “Olive Garden” and “Darden Restaurants” made similar claims.

For the sake of argument, let’s say there’s no wide-scale public backlash (there actually has been some [ibid last link], forcing Schnatter and Darden to walk back their statements) and these restaurants cut their employees hours to just 29 hours a week, but the number of customers walking through their doors stays the same. Now what? They are going to have to hire more part-time employees to fill those vacant hours (assuming they can find enough people willing to work part-time, rotation schedules with no benefits). Now you’ve increased your workforce by 25% so your salary obligations are the same as before (sans the paltry cost of health care). Success? Not so fast. First off, you don’t instantly find enough employees to replenish your workforce overnight. You’re going to have to keep those employees on full-time until you find someone to take over their slot (and pray another 50% of your workforce doesn’t up & quit after you’ve cut their hours). Then, as with all new employees, you’ve got to train them, which requires time and still more money. And if you’ve ever been served by a trainee, you know how frustrating it can be. Now you are losing customers, fed up with all the low-skill trainees they have to deal with. ObamaCare doesn’t take full effect for another year, so for the next 12 months, you’ve got unmotivated trainees coming to work sick because… let’s face it, if they are working part-time for minimum-wage, they can’t afford to take a day off. Nothing better than having sick employees handling your food. One good lawsuit, and that 4 cents per pizza you thought you were saving could end up costing you millions.

I‘ve mentioned here before, that I used to be a Republican until the dawn of the Internet and I was able to check out the things I was being told, and amazingly, nothing ever seemed to pan out. “Tax cuts on businesses do NOT create jobs” and the Clinton tax increase did NOT wreck the economy.

I recently noticed these are the same insane people dictating our policy that believe THEY could have taken down “the Batman shooter” in that Colorado movie theater last Summer armed with just their trusty handgun, THEY could of saved all those people… in a darkened theater, filling with teargas, people screaming, children crying, people running all over the place while a madman wearing body armor with the element of surprise on his side, fired his semi-automatic rifle into the crowd. THEY KNOW they would have had the presence of mind to calmly take the guy down without hitting any innocent bystanders or getting killed themselves, mistaken for an accomplice by the police or another armed idiot in the theater who only sees a muzzle-flash and decides to shoot in that direction.

Just who are these people? They’re…

…the “female body has a way to shut down rapists sperm” crowd.

…the “snow in January means Global Warming isn’t real” crowd.

…the “evolution is a lie straight from the pit of Hell” crowd.

…the tri-corner hat wearing “FEMA Camps” & “Death Panels” Tea Party crowd.

…the “Obama is a secret Muslim that attended Reverend Wright’s Christian church for 20 years” crowd.

…the “black people just want free stuff” crowd. The “lets put poor school kids to work as janitors” crowd.

…the “Michelle Obama’s fist bump might be a terrorist fist-jab” crowd.

…the “George Bush deserves more credit for getting bin Laden than Obama does” crowd.

THESE are the people dictating policy to the rest of us.

People like Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) that thinks nothing of using the “Debt Ceiling as leverage” to force President Obama to negotiate with the GOP. “Leverage”. Think about that for a moment, using the full faith & credit of the United States as a bargaining chip. If that doesn’t scare the Hell out of you, either you don’t understand its significance or you’ve got your own private island in the Galapagos. The last time the GOP did this, our credit rating was cut and it added several Billion to our Deficit (because we now had to pay higher interest rates to convince people to lend us money with a greater risk of not being paid back.)

When the GOP played chicken with the Debt Ceiling in 2011, talk circulated of President Obama possibly invoking the 14th Amendment and bypassing Congress altogether. Thank your lucky stars we held onto the Senate, because if the GOP controlled both Houses and tried that again, I can assure you President Obama would use that authority and it would be 1998 all over again as the GOP unquestionably would attempt to impeach President Obama for circumventing them. The Insane Clown Posse that is the GOP has no problem going to the absolute extremes with the slightest provocation. These were the children that threatened to tell Mom that you “stole all their Halloween candy” and threw a tantrum until you apologized and gave them half your candy when all you did was swap one gumdrop for a Raisinette.

We’re all being held hostage by a bunch of childish morons.
 



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Filed in Economy, Election, Healthcare, Jobs, Money, Politics, Taxes December 10th, 2012 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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“Fiscal Cliff” Negotiations Preview Importance of Filibuster Reform

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 3, 2012

Today's 'Do-Nothing' Congress vs Truman'sAs you probably know, the first day of each legislative session (ie: every two years) the House & Senate can set the rules for how that session operates with a simple majority vote. This is the ONLY day such changes can be made. After that, whatever rules are in place, Congress is stuck with for the next two years. After a stunning number of Republican filibusters during Obama’s first two years in office, many Democrats begged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to change the filibuster rules to avoid another two years of gridlock. Reid foolishly said “No” as some sort of gesture of good faith with the GOP. What Reid failed to realize was that now that the House was in GOP hands, Senate Republicans didn’t HAVE to filibuster as often as before because they knew the new Republican-controlled House would just kill everything anyway, so promising not to filibuster so much was an easy promise to keep. Despite that, the Senate still came close to tying their 2009-2010 filibuster record these past two years. So Democrats are again begging Reid to wise up and stop thinking that if Democrats show deference to Republicans, they’ll return the favor (and it seems they may finally be getting the picture. And in a nick of time I might add.) Based on the reactions I saw on the Sunday shows yesterday, if the filibuster is not reformed, the GOP is all set to block everything in sight, disappointed from losing an election they thought they were sure to win, the GOP is ready, willing & able to “rule by proxy” and undermine Obama’s entire second term to advance their legislative agenda.

“Tea Party 2 is going to dwarf Tea Party 1 if Obama pushes us over the fiscal cliff.” – Grover Norquist on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

The “Fiscal Cliff” that America is supposedly careening towards like a racecar using a boat-anchor for brakes, arrives on January 1st as the “Bush Tax Cuts” for ALL Americans are finally allowed to expire as intended, two-years past their original termination date. The GOP is already holding the tax break for 98% of Americans hostage in order to avoid a 4.6% increase in taxes on people that gross over a quarter million dollars a year in income (Republicans argue that a substantial number of these filers are actually “small businesses” filing as individuals on their taxes, but the number of “small businesses” grossing between $250,000 and $388,000 and filing as “individuals” is actually quite small (and I’d argue, if you are grossing over a quarter Mil in profit, you ain’t no “small” business). And again, it bears pointing out that we’re only talking about an increase of just 4.6%, which on $300,000 of income, comes to an extra $2,300 in taxes… not even ONE TENTH the salary of a single middle-manager employee.

When President Obama presented his “opening bid” in the Debt Negotiations to Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Boehner called it “not a serious proposal” on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday, and when host Chris Wallace asked him if it was true that McConnell “laughed out loud” at the offer, Boehner did not say a word. (How come when Biden “laughed at Paul Ryan” during the debates, he was being “obnoxious” and “immature”, but when McConnell does it, it’s legitimate criticism?) In any case, Boehner refused to say whether the GOP was willing to “go over the cliff” come January, only to imply that the GOP would find other ways to cut the budget if they don’t get their way (translation, the House will table every budget and the Senate minority will filibuster every bill.)

Part of President Obama’s proposal was to eliminate the need to vote on raising “the Debt Ceiling”. It’s an arcane and stupid rule that does NOT appear in the Constitution, so all this talk about the “Constitutional authority of Congress to raise the Debt Ceiling” is nonsense. In fact, the only thing in the Constitution even related to Debt (as we learned a year ago, is the 14th Amendment [ibid] that gives the president the power to CIRCUMVENT Congress and raise the ceiling all by himself to avoid default if necessary). A GOP filibuster of the Debt Ceiling in 2010 cost the U.S…. not only our AAA credit rating… but the resulting drop in our credit rating means we now must pay MORE in interest to convince people to lend us money to make up for the fear we might default and not pay them back. So while Republicans were screaming bloody murder over the size of the Deficit they actually made the problem WORSE with their shenanigans. It makes NO sense that the same body that approves spending is also the same body that votes on whether they will allow us to raise money to PAY for that spending. It’s nuts. And it needs to go. But when Grover Norquist was asked about this last week, he actually suggested we vote on raising the Debt Ceiling Monthly if he’s good. Weekly if he’s not” as if the president were a misbehaving child. This of course makes no sense because IT’S NOT THE PRESIDENT THAT APPROVES SPENDING, IT’S CONGRESS. The Debt Ceiling would only need to be raised to pay for CONGRESS’ spending. It has nothing to do with THE PRESIDENT’S behavior. Should our nation’s entire economy be held hostage by a man that doesn’t even seem to understand this one simple principle of how our Budget works?

Senator Clare McCaskill pointed out the obvious on “Meet the Press” yesterday regarding the “fiscal cliff”:

SEN. MCCASKILL: And here’s the deal. Here’s– here’s the reality. Let’s assume they [Republicans] won’t go for any raising of the rates, then all the Bush tax cuts are going to expire and then we would come back in January, first thing and pass a tax cut for everybody under 250. What, are the Republicans going to vote no on that?

Democrats hold ALL the cards in this “fiscal cliff” debate and the GOP knows it. Dems are offering to extend the “Bush Tax Cuts” for EVERYBODY on the first $250,000 in income RIGHT NOW, while the GOP is threatening to let EVERYBODY’S taxes go up “to protect millionaires & billionaires” (to quote Bill Kristol) from a 4.6% increase in taxes. And if they refuse to agree to Obama’s demands and take the country “over the cliff” (which actually isn’t a “cliff” at all. More of a “Reset Button”), then EVERYONE’S taxes go up and Democrats get to pass a totally separate “OBAMA Tax Cut” for 98% of Americans.

That is… if the GOP doesn’t threaten to filibuster it. Republicans are over a barrel on this one. Democrats don’t have to concede ANYTHING in this debate. And what can Republicans do to extract concessions from the Democrats? Nothing except the threat of obstruction if they don’t get their way. Time to defang this obstructionist “Do Nothing Republican Party” once and for all. Bring back “The Standing Filibuster” and force the obstructionists to stand before the cameras for all the world to see just who is stopping Congress from getting anything done.
 



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Filed in Economy, fake scandals, Money, Partisanship, Politics, Taxes December 3rd, 2012 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Tax Rate Reality: Under Obama, Filers Up To $284,000 Would Still Pay Less.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012

The Rich need a tax cutThe Bush Tax Cuts were only supposed to be temporary. Let’s get that out of the way up front.

I starting writing this op/ed weeks ago, but mothballed it because I didn’t have enough for a story at the time. But recent events… by which I mean the hysteria over “the looming Fiscal Cliff” (insert scary hand-gestures here)… have changed all that.

Perhaps you saw the stories last week on Rachel Maddow about Conservative taxpayers… clearly with no understanding of how marginal tax rates work… worried silly over possibly earning over $250K, or DailyKOS reporting some Woman business owner terrified of earning over $250K? The GOP has always depended upon the ignorance of their base to help them win elections, but as the recent election proved, fewer & fewer people are falling for their bull$#!+ as reality keeps proving them wrong over & over again, until soon the only Republicans left will be the ones that think Sarah Palin is a brilliant politician.

I’ve discussed the public’s stupidity when it comes to marginal tax rates before, pointing out that if the top tax rates goes up from 35% to 39.6%, the guy making $250,000 would pay exactly 5-Cents more in taxes than the guy earning $249,999 (an extra 4.6% on the extra dollar), but the GOP has done a masterful job of convincing a lot of wealthy stupid people that the Obama Administration is going to tax them to death (which certainly begs the question: How did people SO DUMB get to be so wealthy in the first place?)

This past week had everyone on the Sunday Politi-Talk Shows hyperventilating over the fiscal cliff… no, I take that back, THE LOOMING FISCAL CRISIS that will plunge the nation into an economic black hole that makes the Greek economy look stable by comparison… or at least that’s what they certainly make it sound like. And you’d be forgiven if you thought our Deficit might explode rather than shrink dramatically if Washington failed to reach an agreement before the end of the year, but in fact, that’s exactly what would happen: dramatic cuts in spending across the board while taxes simply return to Clinton Boom Years levels. Oh, the horror. As one blogger pointed out last week: “The Rich aren’t afraid a tax increase will crash the economy. They are TERRIFIED that it WON’T! I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put more brilliantly.

When the Bush Tax Cuts were passed in 2001, President Bush argued we could afford them because we were “running a surplus”, or in other words, people were being “overtaxed” (so how do we EVER pay off our Debt if the moment we take in more than we spend, Republicans use it as an excuse for cuts? But I digress.)

The economy… which was already in a nosedive as Bush & Cheney talked the economy into a Recession to undercut Gore’s biggest advantage… continued to tank after Bush’s inauguration even BEFORE 9/11 (a timeline I recorded in detail here), but after the attack, the continued decline in the economy was their excuse for keeping the cuts in place. “Tax cuts” when things are good; “Tax cuts” when things are bad. There is no situation where Republicans call for higher taxes (eventually hitting zero, and then they’d mail out “stimulus checks”). So then Democrats, the only adults in the room, must point out that you can’t have pie for dinner every day. At some point, we need to eat our vegetables. And the best place to start is with those people that got the biggest piece of the pie for the past twelve years.

President Obama’s compromise (currently) is to keep the “Bush Tax Cuts” for everyone making less than $250,000 (the lower 98% of Americans), but anyone making more than that will go back to paying the Clinton era tax rates: a top rate of 39.6% (up from 35% today), an increase of just 4.6%.

Now here is where things get a little tricky:

With “progressive taxation” (ie: “brackets”), people making over $250K will STILL get a tax cut on the first $250k of their income, paying LESS in taxes on that portion than they did under Clinton even after President Obama repeals the cut on the top tax rate.

So a thought occurred to me: How much must a person earn before the increase in their taxes negates their savings on the first $250,000?

I put out the call to my fellow Crooks & Liars staff members and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Heather & “Kathy A” (much thanks), and a bit of work on my own, was able to calculate (approximately) what that amount might be. Using the 2000 & 2012 tax brackets (via “moneychimp.com“), along with the new rates proposed under Obama, I inserted the data into a simple spreadsheet, then comparing the diminishing savings as income grew, I believe I was able to deduce at what point the increase in taxes on income over $250,000 would negate their savings on income below $250,000:

Tax rates:
Clinton: income above $288,350 paid 39.6%.
Bush: income above $388,350 pay 35.0%.
Obama: Income above $250,000 pay 39.6%.

Under President Obama’s proposed changes, anyone making less than $250,000 would still pay the same $64,513 on the first $250K of income as set by the Bush Tax Rates. So all I had to figure out was at what point would someone pay an additional $13,484 more in taxes.

Without getting into the weeds of Deductions and filing Single vs Jointly, I found that a person earning up to $284,000 a year will STILL be paying LESS in taxes under Obama than they did during the Clinton Boom Years. (This does unfortunately create a tiny $4,300 window between $284,050 & $288,350 of people that will pay up to $197 more in taxes under Obama than they did under Clinton. Oh the humanity!)

While Republicans are wetting their knickers over “raising taxes on people making more than $250,000“, in actuality, even after the repeal, people earning up to $284K will STILL be benefiting from the Bush Tax Cut, continuing to pay less today than they did under Clinton.

I know an extra $34,000 might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but when you have people who are petrified of making even one penny over $249,999.99, you can relax, I just bought you an extra $34,000 worth of breathing room. THEN you can go back to hyperventilating over having to pay the same tax rate as you did 12 years ago.
 



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Filed in Economy, Money, myth busting, Politics, Taxes November 26th, 2012 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Closing Arguments: Some thoughts on Romney

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 5, 2012

The GOP's idea of NegotiatingOver the past 18 months (since the first Republican debate in May of last year… yes, it has been that long), two things have always been clear: one, Mitt Romney would be the GOP nominee and two, Republicans hate him. This will be the first “post Citizens United” presidential race. And because of that, not only was this the first presidential campaign to cost over a Billion dollars, but BOTH candidates will have spent more than a Billion dollars EACH to win this race. Republicans had to spend like Ronald Reagan after finding Joe Stalin under his bed just to keep this race close, working overtime to convince Republicans to vote for a polished turd like Mitt Romney. Oh sure, they all now claim that they actually LIKE the former pro-choice, health-insurance mandating, French-speaking equivocator from “Taxachusetts”, and insist they are actually voting FOR him rather than just “against Obama”, but their sudden love for Romney rings about as hollow as the guy in Orwell’s “1984″, pitifully joyous over how great it is that they are having pudding for the eighteenth day in a row (sorry, I could find no clip). Romney is Double-plus-good. Over these last few weeks, I’ve made a few observations about the Romney campaign that I think deserve one last review before what is sure to be a VERY long election night.

Hurricane Sandy (IMHO) did almost as much damage to the Romney campaign as it did to the East Coast (no, I’m am NOT belittling the lives lost). While President Obama was (without even trying) showcasing the need & value of an effective government that comes to the rescue of its people in a crisis when no one else can, Governor Romney was a living example of just how inept and inadequate Corporate America is in an emergency. I wrote about this on “Crooks & Liars” at the time. If this race is a battle of ideologies… “Corporate America” vs “Big Government”… and you’re already on the record as advocating the privatization of FEMA, what better opportunity to PROVE your solutions are better than to put them in action during a natural disaster that (conveniently) strikes just days before the election? Think of it as a contest: “Which ideology can provide more relief, faster and more efficiently for less money?” Obama & FEMA vs Romney & Corporate America? The Governor could have responded to the disaster by trying to organize major corporations into donating: money, food & water, resources and heavy machinery, going out to devastated areas, rescue a few thousand people and provided electricity to a few million homes. Is that too much to ask? And all it would of cost them is a paltry $20-Billion dollars or so (assuming the race between Romney & FEMA were neck & neck) C’mon! Let’s see who’s REALLY better in an emergency!

But of course, Romney didn’t do that (assuming he even thought of it, which I can assure you he didn’t) because some problems are so big that only something the size of the Federal Government is big enough to take it on. Do you think that if such an option (a corporate rescue following a natural disaster) were even REMOTELY possible, Romney’s first instinct wouldn’t of been to hold a “donation drive”? That’s how my mother responds to a disaster, not an entire government. Hell, the Romney Campaign didn’t even consider DISTRIBUTING those donations themselves. They were going to dump the entire load off on the Red Cross. One can’t help but think that under a Romney Administration, Republicans might try to do something stupid like “privatize FEMA” when all is calm, only to suddenly realize how much we actually need FEMA come the first disaster? Republicans never consider the consequences of their policies. That’s how you end up in Iraq & Afghanistan with no exit strategy.

This past week, desperate to diffuse the bi-partisan praise of President Obama and his handling of Hurricane Sandy, most notably from Romney’s own keynote speaker Chris Christie, Romney himself has started telling crowds of how HE will do a better job of “working across the aisle”… unlike President Obama who couldn’t convince Republicans to work with him on ANYTHING. Yes, President Obama kept seeking Republican support for his programs, and they instead fought him tooth & nail. What a loser. If you want a guy that knows how to work with the opposing party, you need a president that vetoed 844 bills as governor passed by an “85% ‘Democrat’ Congress” in just four years (MA’s legislature is only in session 150 days a year, so that’s more than one veto a day), who has vowed on “Day One” to undo every piece of legislation they passed under the previous administration and push through every Tea Party wet dream for the next four years. And by all means, keep using the noun “Democrat” as an adjective/pejorative. Democrats just love that.

Republicans are still trying to convince you there’s “an enthusiasm gap” among voters. Yep, but it ain’t on our side.

Last Friday saw the release of the latest Jobs numbers from the Department of Labor. The very good report was a decidedly mixed message, showing 171,000 new jobs were added in October, but coupled with last month’s drop in the Unemployment Rate to 7.8%, about 100,000 of the long-term unemployed rejoined the job-hunt, pushing the UE Rate UP by 1/10th of a point. The President touted the number of jobs created, while the Romney campaign was once again able to claim “unemployment is higher now than when Obama took office”… a debatable claim since UE was indeed 7.8% in JANUARY… Bush’s last month in office with Obama taking over on the 20th. But UE was already 8.3% by February and continued to rise like a bat out of Hell to 10.0% by October. That’s how bad things were when President Obama took over, and unemployment has not been as high since. Pointing to how “low” the unemployment rate was the day Bush left office and then blaming Obama for everything afterwards is like pointing out what “great condition” a house is the moment it catches fire and then blaming the firemen for how it looks 4 hours later.

Another thought crossed my mind in recent weeks: Ever notice how Republicans always stop at “FDR” when saying “Obama is the worst” on something? “No president has won re-election with unemployment this high since FDR.” “The highest spending as a percentage of GDP since FDR.” Ever notice that? Why always since FDR? What happened when FDR was president? Oh yeah, the economy collapsed and the nation found itself fighting two wars simultaneously. NOTHING like President Obama had to face. Maybe President Obama’s Debt & Unemployment haven’t been seen since FDR because we haven’t seen this level of crisis since FDR? Republicans pointing out that we haven’t seen such numbers since FDR is an implicit admission that things have not been THIS BAD since FDR.

Nearly two months after the Embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, Fox “news” is still hyping a supposed “Intelligence failure” that led to American deaths on “September 11th”, accusing the president of demonstrating a lack of concern for those who had been killed, and even sitting and doing nothing while the attack was being carried out. The irony is palpable. But as we learned last week, the CIA responded to the attack within 25 minutes, while at the same time, Governor Romney was racing to the cameras to accuse the Obama Administration (and unwittingly, the embassy itself) of “sympathizing with the attackers” WHILE the attack was still underway.

Romney also took some heat last week for falsely claiming Chrysler might be shutting down “ALL” of its American factories and moving to China. Clearly desperate to make President Obama look worse for Detroit than his own suggestion of letting them go bankrupt, Romney seized on a report by a Conservative blogger that misinterpreted a Bloomberg News report of Chrysler opening additional factories in China to make cars for sale in China as suggesting the company was “shutting down factories in the U.S. and moving the jobs to China.” So not only did the blogger get the story wrong, but Romney embellished on it even further, falsely claiming Chrysler might be moving ALL production to China. When caught in the lie, rather than admit his mistake, Romney doubled-down, running carefully worded radio and TV ads saying Chrysler was going to “build cars in China”… which is true, but not at the cost of American jobs and not because business is bad for Chrysler. So unless you have a problem with selling cars to the Chinese, what is the point of the commercials?

(And, I might add, that total inability to admit you’re wrong… that’s how “shame on me” becomes “can’t get fooled again.”)

It deserves pointing out that just last June the Romney campaign defended “Offshoring” when Romney was criticized for “outsourcing” jobs to China while at Bain Capital. Romney adviser Andrea Saul quipped back that there is a difference between “outsourcing” and “offshoring… work done overseas to support U.S. exports“. So unless Mitt had a sudden epiphany that doing business overseas is a “bad” thing, he is once again flip-flopping on something he took a stand on not five months ago, for crass political gain.

With less than 48 hours to go as of this writing, Obama leads Romney in EVERY Ohio poll (sans… of course, Rasmussen that shows them merely tied)… a must-win state for Romney (actually there are one or two skin-of-his-teeth paths to victory for Romney w/o winning Ohio, but they both require winning five of eight swing states… not a single one in which he currently leads. Romney has NEVER led in Ohio. If Ohio goes Red Tuesday night, there will be a LOT of people (myself included) suspecting something hinky on election night.

There are FAR more paths to victory for Obama. While Romney has to virtually run the table and pick up almost every swing state just to reach 270, President Obama can lose Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virgina, Vermont AND North Carolina (seven of eight swing states), and STILL reach 272 Electoral Votes by simply winning Florida (along with all other states he currently leads in):
 

272 with JUST Florida

 

Likewise, he can swap Florida for Ohio and Virgina and still reach 274 EV’s:
 

274 without Florida

 

While everyone will be watching Ohio Tuesday night, I’ll be watching Virginia, which is a much closer race than Ohio and has a longer history of going red. If Romney loses Ohio… which looks very likely right now, he can’t win without Virgina. If he loses Virgina, he can’t with without Ohio.

So that’s Mitt. A former Republican governor with daddy issues (his father’s “brainwashed” remark that tanked his nomination “affected Mitt deeply” according the the PBS documentary: “The Choice 2012″) that can’t admit mistakes, believes tax cuts are the solution to every problem, is saber-rattling the threat of war in the Middle-East, and is now running as “a uniter, not a divider.” What could possibly go wrong?

And what in the heck is this? Keep calm?
 

Keep calm?
(click for full image)

Think maybe they’re a little worried over there at Romney headquarters?
 



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Filed in Economy, Election, General, Jobs, Money, Politics, Predictions, Rants, Taxes, voting November 5th, 2012 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View