Monday, July 26, 2010

Is the middle class being systematically wiped out?

I don't know what else to say here, except that these statistics are scary. Reaganomics has triumphed into destroying the Middle Class. This is from the Business Insider, via Yahoo News:

The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

Here are the statistics to prove it:

• 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
• 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
• A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
• As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
• Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
• In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
• The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
• This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
• Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

All I can think of is that if the destruction of the middle class continues, with the increased discrepancy between the ubber-rich and poor, could we see a class revolution take place in the future--especially since there are around 270 million guns in this country?
I found this CQ Politics story through Americablog:

Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with Sharron Angle and her lackluster campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), fearing she is jeopardizing what they had long viewed as a sure pickup and costing them a chance to reclaim the majority.

Senate Republicans quietly acknowledge that Angle’s controversial views on some issues remain a political liability. But the former Nevada Assemblywoman’s larger problems are a progression of unforced errors stemming from a lack of campaign experience and an amateurish staff incapable of offering her the necessary guidance. However, Angle has proved to be adept at fundraising, corralling $2.6 million in the second quarter.

What is especially interesting is that an unnamed Nevada Republican has called Sharron Angle's campaign "dysfunctional," saying "She can still win, but the operation seems odd at best." Also, the Republican National Committee dispatched an operative to Nevada to help the Angle campaign. However, Angle's deputy campaign manager Jordan Gehrke responded to Republican worries, saying that Angle campaign is 'putting together a professional team of experienced political operatives.'

I'm sorry, but most of this story is complete bull. As Americablog stated, Sharron Angle is a bit nutty. What else is there to say? When you make so many crazed, right-wingnut statements, reporters are going to want you to clarify your positions regarding these crazed statements. And running away from reporters asking hard questions to you will not improve your political image as a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, that is what Sharron Angle has been doing. And now, the Republican Party is worried that Democrat Harry Reid will stomp Angle in November.

Of course, I could also say this is what you get when the GOP decides to shift itself further into right-wing crazyland. You elect crazy candidates making crazy statements that could scare the Hell out of moderates and independents. Do you really expect the moderates and independents to vote for these wacked-out, crazed Republican candidates? Or has the GOP decided to forgo any voter, except their own, crazed, right-wing constituents? I don't know yet, but I do fear for this country if the voters are either that stupid, or ignorant, to elect the likes of Sharron Angle into office.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So which Angle is it on Social Security?

I found this interesting blog post on the Washington Monthly, and I just had to laugh. Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle addressed a conservative convention in Las Vegas, where she backtracked, saying she did not want eliminate Social Security, but save Social Security by paying back the $2.5 trillion the government spent in the fun. Here is the original story on Angle's speech at Talking Points Memo:

Las Vegas -- Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) revved up a conservative crowd today, even as she denied her pre-primary win statements on phasing out Social Security.

Addressing the conservative convention RightOnline at the Venetian casino this afternoon, Angle was hailed for pledging to "permanently repeal the death tax" and for saying she stands with Arizona's new immigration law. She has become a conservative darling in her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Angle repeated her desire to shut down the Department of Education, saying that it and other federal functions should be left to the states. She also said if elected her vision is, "One nation under God, not one nation under the government."

Angle's remarks on Social Security were the most likely to be new political fodder in an increasingly competitive race. The TPM Poll Average is Reid 44.0% to Angle 43.1%.

During Angle's less-than-10-minute speech, she outlined her philosophy to cut the deficit and talked of her "simple" campaign plan she calls "Pay back, cut back and take back." To start with she said the government should pay back the $2.5 trillion that's been "raided and pillaged out of the Social Security fund."

"I've never said I want to eliminate, I always said I want to save Social Security by paying back. But to do that we have to cut back," Angle told the crowd of more than 1,100 attendees to mild applause.

Of course, it takes just a few seconds to find video of Angle's now-famed quote on Nevada's "Face to Face" television show that, "We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out in favor of something privatized."

And here is the video of Sharron Angle saying that famous quote "to phase Medicare and Social Security" to privatization. From YouTube:

So which Angle is it on Social Security? Is Sharron Angle for completely privatizing Social Security, giving Wall Street trillions of government money to play in the stock market casino? Or is Sharron Angle again lying to Nevada voters, now saying that she wants the government to pay back the money it pulled out of the trust fund for spending? Which is it Sharron? Of course, if the Nevada press ever get a chance to ask Sharron Angle this question of her flip-flopping, I'm sure that Angle will respond in a truthful manner:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoos--Superfriends meet Bigfoot

The Superfriends meet Bigfoot. How cool is that? From YouTube:

Friday, July 23, 2010

GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle responds to reporters' questions by not answering questions

This is just too funny. From

The day after walking out of her own campaign event when reporters were offered an opportunity to ask questions, Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle on Thursday responded to a question from a reporter — to tell them she wasn’t answering the question.

For the second day in a row, Angle’s campaign alerted the press that they were holding a campaign event where the Republican would offer critical remarks on the estate tax.

After giving a three-minute speech on the tax Wednesday, Angle bolted for the door when asked to make herself available to answer questions from the press.

Angle took a beating in local and national news reports of the event. So on Thursday, Angle’s campaign hoped to make the ground rules for the event crystal clear.

At the beginning of the press conference, Angle spokeswoman Ciara Matthews announced to reporters: “We’re really focused on the death tax today. So that’s what we’ll be taking questions on.”

Following Angle’s remarks on the tax, a reporter told Angle, “we have a bunch of questions on other issues.”

“Is there any reason you won’t talk about any other issues?” the reporter asked, as was shown in a story from Las Vegas NBC affiliate My News 3.

Angle responded by telling the reporter that “today we’re concentrating on one thing. What will get America and especially Nevada back on its economic wheels, if you will.”

Read more:

So if I'm reading this right, GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle will hold a press conference where reporters can only ask questions on issues that the Angle campaign wants to focus on--and nothing else? I take it that Sharron Angle will not comment on why she ran away from reporters at her own press conference, yesterday. Nope--Sharron Angle will only answer reporters' questions on what she wants to answer! Is Sharron Angle that crazy, that stupid, or both?

Looking at this story, I'm thinking that Sharron Angle has an extreme, crazed, right-wing view on issues, and doesn't really want to reveal those views to the media. Perhaps her GOP-handlers are trying to hide Angle's extremist views from moderates and independents, who would realize just how much of a nut-job Angle is and vote in Democrat Harry Reid. Of course, the more that Sharron Angle alienates the media, the more the media will think that she has something to hide. The media will go after Sharron Angle.

Getting interesting here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle ducks her own press conference

This is from Talking Points Memo:

Former Nevada state Rep. Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee for Senate against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, is still getting the hang of holding a "press conference" with the media. At an event Wednesday, Angle spoke for three minutes on cutting taxes -- and then quickly left when the assembled reporters tried to ask her questions.

The funniest thing, as shown in tracking video from the Nevada Democratic Party, is that Angle's host seemingly invited the reporters to ask questions -- then Angle suddenly walked away without saying anything.

As CNN points out, the event was in fact billed as a press conference in Angle's own campaign events schedule. It should also be noted that Angle has previously said she avoids interviews with mainstream media outlets that would ask her tough questions, opting for conservative media where she can raise money from viewers.

You can view the YouTube video here:

Angle won the Nevada GOP Senate primary as a Tea Party candidate to take on Democrat Harry Reid. However, Angle has some very wacked out political views, as Rachel Maddow points out here, here, and here.

Now in one sense, I can understand that Sharron Angle is a friggin' wacked-out, insanely crazed GOP senatorial candidate that Nevada Republicans chose, probably because they were drugged by the Fluoride-laced tap water, dumped by Nevada state government black helicopters! What I do find especially interesting is how the Angle campaign called a press conference to discuss cutting taxes (A Republican campaign mantra), only to have the Not Ready for Prime Time candidate duck out of the conference without answering a single question from reporters--I thought press conferences were events where politicians answered questions from the press reporters?

Then again, Sharron Angle is taking a page from another GOP candidate who also has a knack for avoiding the press:

[GOP candidate Meg] Whitman invited the press to cover a meeting she was to have with a railroad executive, but upon its completion she refused to take any questions. After a long pause and some nervous laughter, she had security block the cameras, and finally had them escorted out by her press aid.

I think it is rather disturbing that we have two Republican candidates consistently refusing to answer tough reporter questions on the issues, or their political views. And yet, both candidates are groomed by the GOP-spin machine as mainstream, with their supposed "messages" sanitized and pre-packaged for voters that the Republican Party probably thinks are either dumb, or ill-informed. Then again, perhaps the GOP wants dumb American voters who will simply accept whatever crap the GOP shoves down their throats. And we will never really see who Sharron Angle, or Meg Whitman really are, as they are both marketed as stale turkey sandwiches on canned bread.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cigar association for congressional staffers is a GOP lobbying front

There is not much more I can say about this story, except....WOW! From the Huffington Post:

Lobbyists for major banks, insurers, pharmaceutical firms, energy companies and at least one foreign government have been helping organize lavish gatherings of staffers and members of Congress since early 2009, funneling K Street money through an officially chartered staff organization called the Congressional Cigar Association.

The CCA, founded by Republican staffers and sponsored by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), is chartered by the House Administration Committee to encourage networking among congressional staff. Its most recent gathering was held Tuesday at a townhouse just steps from the Capitol, where staffers were feted by Miami Cigar & Company.

As evening fell, guests lounged in the garden out back, sipping cold drinks and puffing away on what smelled like high-end cigars. Gary Pesh, owner of Old Virginia Tobacco and a member of the Congressional Cigar Association, said the event is just an excuse to "get together and have fun." When asked about the conflict of interest inherent in allowing lobbyists to fund a congressional staff organization, dozens of attendees just continued wordlessly on up the red brick steps. "This is approved by the House, so we're good," one staffer said. (Another staffer told HuffPost that filming wasn't allowed, though she was standing under a sign warning passersby that the area was under video surveillance.)

At least half a dozen lobbyists have been closely involved in the operation of the ostensibly staff-driven organization, a review of emails, documents and lobbyist disclosure reports finds. By helping to fund and organize the group's activities, K Street lobby shops are given privileged access to senior-level staffers and members of Congress in intimate settings where they lobby on behalf of their clients. The association is overwhelmingly Republican, as is the cigar-smoking habit it is organized around.

The cigar group is run by a six-member board. In the wake of the Abramoff scandal, congressional ethics rules were implemented to require that "all officers must be employees of the House or Senate" and that the ethics committee approve all gifts of monetary value offered to the association. Meanwhile, federal law forbids staffers from soliciting gifts to it. Yet three of the board members running the cigar group are lobbyists, including the lead organizer of several exclusive events. Trade associations subsidize the group's events.

"On the face of it, while its not the great train robbery, it clearly implicates House rules that prohibit taking gifts from lobbyists," said Stan Brand, a congressional ethics attorney, when told of the group's activities. "The prohibition is a flat prohibition. The staff can get together and do whatever they want. But when it's underwritten by lobbyists it's gonna fly in the teeth of the rules."

Spokespersons for the House and Senate ethics committees, as well as the House Administration Committee, said they were unable to speak on the record. A spokesman to Bilbray said that the congressman has had little interaction with the group since its 2009 founding and that it is the organization's responsibility to make sure it behaves within House and Senate rules.

Here is the YouTube story by HuffPost:

In another sense, I'm actually not surprised at this type of corruption within the Republican Party. We've seen some of this corruption with Tom DeLay, the Jack Abramoff scandal, the K Street Project, U.S. Attorney firings, and the dozens of scandals from the Bush administration. And let us not forget the strange, secret, religious organization known as The Family, which was linked to several sex scandals of prominent Republican congressmen. Why should I also not be surprised that Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) is financing a little cigar smoking get-together between GOP staffers and lobbyists? It is just another example of just how corrupt the Republican Party has become.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will Meg spend $30 million to buy the California legislature?

I found this San Francisco Chronicle story last week, and it is just fascinating. Republican candidate Meg Whitman has already spent over $100 million in her bid to purchase the California governors mansion. Why not spend another $30 million to purchase the California legislature as well? From the San Francisco Chronicle:

California Republicans are buzzing about the possibility that billionaire gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman - who has spent nearly $100 million of her own money on her campaign - could be preparing another unprecedented personal investment in her political future: a $30 million-plus infusion into the state party.

The Chronicle has obtained a draft of a detailed 44-page state GOP "2010 Victory Plan" that outlines the party's $85.5 million financial blueprint for a campaign effort that includes $30 million directed to the gubernatorial race.

The former eBay CEO is "putting a significant amount of money in ... it could be $30 to $40 million," said a GOP insider familiar with the plan. The source said Whitman is also expected to tap her fundraising sources and contacts for the party's benefit.

Whitman's potential $30 million in contributions was confirmed by prominent state Republicans, who spoke on condition that they would not be named for publication.

But Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds strongly denied the notion.

"No secret document or anonymous source you have is credible in this because Meg is not writing the $30 million check," he said. "It's simple. Meg is planning to help solicit outside contributions to the party and working tirelessly to defeat the status quo in Sacramento. That's the plan and it isn't a secret."

Moreover, Whitman campaign officials insisted the candidate is planning no sizeable contributions to the state GOP.

First thought is that I don't think "Governor" Whitman would have a clue as to how to work with the state legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats. Instead of finding common ground with the legislature that can provide compromises, I'd say that Whitman would rather shove whatever her agenda is down the legislature's throats. Of course, I've seen this behavior before with Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. The result has been a constant bickering between the Governator and the legislature (And I'm sure the state legislature is just as responsible as the Governator regarding the nasty fights that have taken place in Sacramento). Ironically, both Schwarzenegger and the legislature's poll numbers are in the garbage can. According to this Field Poll, Governor Schwarzenegger's approval ratings are at an all-time low of 22 percent--plunging from an all-time high of 65 percent in 2004. What is more, Schwarzenegger's poll numbers are now at the same level of his predecessor, Gray Davis, when the Governator jumped in the recall election ring to replace Davis. The state legislature's approval poll numbers are even lower than the Governator's, at around 16 percent.

So what does this mean for Meg Whitman? I'm thinking that the Whitman campaign has studied the Schwarzenegger administration, and has decided that since they can't work with a Democratic legislature, they might as well buy a Republican legislature into office. As the CEO of eBay, I can see Whitman using the forcefulness of her personality to get things done her way--eBay was her company. I just can't see Whitman succeeding in forcing the Democratic legislature bending towards her agenda. Instead, we would see four more years of bickering and gridlock. When I look at Meg Whitman's campaign, I see a completely controlled, fully scripted, almost corporate marketing campaign that has spent $100 million to promote its product of Meg Whitman. That is it. Whitman has consistently refused to answer tough press questions on her policy agenda. Meg Whitman has become the Invisible Candidate. Will she also become the Invisible Governor, pushing whatever agenda she has that the California voters have no clue about, since the Corporate Whitman Marketing Campaign has pushed their view of who Governor Whitman is? I can't say.

Hence, we've got this speculation that Meg Whitman will be buying the California legislature to the GOP for a price of $30 million. If the Invisible Candidate becomes the Invisible Governor, and the California legislature switches to the Republicans as a result of Whitman's $130 million-plus investment, then I guess we'll have the best political system that money can buy in California. And the Invisible Governor would have the perfect platform to shove whatever her agenda is, down California's throat. That is scary.

The second thought I have about this story is the Whitman campaign's denial that the Invisible Candidate will actually spend $30 million to the state GOP coffers. Perhaps it is true, and Whitman will not be spending her own money to help state Republican candidates win office. But somehow, I don't believe it. There are a couple of reasons here. First, Whitman has spent over $100 million of her own money in this campaign--and we've got four months to go before the election. Can you say Whitman will spend another $100 million in the general election on negative advertising to defeat Jerry Brown? Because that is all I see on the television now, and I'm expecting it will get even worst as November rolls around. Meg Whitman is spending so much money to influence California politics towards her advantage--what is another $30 million to influence the legislature, if she gets elected? Second, Whitman campaign spokespeople are denying these claims. I want the Invisible Candidate to come out and speak on this issue to reporters. Of course, Meg Whitman will never speak to reporters on any issues. And third, I think there may be a backlash brewing on how much of her money Meg Whitman has spend on her campaign. The more of her money the Invisible Candidate spends of her political campaign, the greater the negative speculation is of Whitman attempting to purchase the governor's office. Perhaps the Whitman campaign doesn't care how much money Meg spends on herself. But if the story of Whitman spending $30 million to help Republican candidates win seats in the legislature has any truth to it, then is Whitman trying to purchase the California government for the Republican Party? I know that Democratic voters would cringe at that thought, but how would independent and non-partisan voters feel about Meg buying a state government for the GOP?

Talk about another scary thought. More to come.