World War II

10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2013

Ice, ice baby.

Ice, ice baby. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

The Week

Resignations rock Turkey’s government, ice storms leave hundreds of thousands without power, and more

1. Resignations rock Erdogan’s government
Three ministers in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet abruptly resigned on Wednesday after their sons were implicated in a corruption investigation. One said Erdogan should step down — a rare challenge from someone within a party known for stifling dissent. Erdogan, who promptly replaced the ministers, has denounced the deepening crisis as part of a foreign plot against his Islamist-supported government. [New York Times]
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2. Winter weather leaves hundreds of thousands without power
Ice storms left about a half million customers without electricity on Wednesday, most of them in Michigan, New York, New England, and Canada. Some of the power lines were toppled as early as last weekend. Crews, many from other states, are working around the clock but thousands of people in the hardest hit areas won’t get power restored until Friday. [Los Angeles Times]
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3. A majority says this is the worst Congress ever
Two-thirds of Americans think the current Congress is the worst they have ever seen, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday. Nearly three-quarters say it is a “do-nothing” Congress that has so far failed to address any of the nation’s problems. All groups — men and women, rich and poor — share these dim views, but older Americans, who have seen more congressional sessions come and go, are the most negative of all. [CNN]
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4. Bombers target Iraqi Christians on Christmas
At least 37 people died in two Christmas Day bombings targeting Christians in Iraq. A car bomb killed at least 26 people near a church during Christmas Mass, and another blast in an outdoor market killed 11. Nobody claimed responsibility, but al Qaeda-linked insurgents have attacked Iraq’s half-million Christians in the past. The U.S. is rushing the Iraqi government missiles and drones to help it contend with rising insurgent attacks. [Fox NewsNew York Times]
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5. Storms and high demand delay some UPS Christmas deliveries
UPS apologized to customers after many packages it promised would arrive by Christmas didn’t get delivered on time. The shipping company said bad weather and a surge in demand that exceeded projections overloaded its systems. The scope of the problem remains unclear, but two big UPS clients — Walmart and Amazon — said they would issue gift cards to customers whose packages did not arrive on time. [New York Times]
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6. Haitian immigrants die after boat tips over
Eighteen Haitians trying to reach the U.S. died on Wednesday when their sailboat capsized off the Turks and Caicos. The boat was being towed to port after being intercepted by police. Thirty-two other suspected undocumented immigrants were rescued from the water. Police were still searching late Wednesday for several other people who reached shore and fled. [Reuters]
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7. Abe visits a controversial war shrine, infuriating China
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial World War II shrine on Thursday, stoking U.S. fears of deepening tension between Japan and China, the world’s second- and third-largest economies. Beijing called the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors soldiers killed in battle as well as Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes, “absolutely unacceptable.” Abe said he was merely expressing his resolve avoid another war. [ReutersBBC News]
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8. Kidnapped American pleads for help in video
A government contractor kidnapped by al Qaeda militants in Pakistan recorded a video message emailed to journalists saying he felt “totally abandoned and forgotten,” and calling on the Obama administration to negotiate with his captors. “You are now in your second term as president of the United States,” the contractor, Warren Weinstein, says to President Obama, “and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about reelection.” [Washington Post]
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9. McDonald’s closes website where employees bashed its food
McDonald’s has shut down an employee “McResource Line” website where workers posted what it called “inappropriate commentary.” CNBC reported that posts on the site had bashed fast food and branded McDonald’s fare as unhealthy. News of the criticism went viral. The company said the scrutiny that resulted was “unwarranted.” A McDonald’s spokesperson said the company would still offer employees the help they once got from the website — by phone. [CNBC]
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10. Girl dies shortly after receiving final wish
An eight-year-old Pennsylvania girl named Laney Brown died on Wednesday days after some 10,000 people gathered on her street to sing her Christmas songs after hearing that one of her two dying wishes was for carolers to come by her house. Laney, who suffered from leukemia, also got her other wish, which was to meet country music superstar Taylor Swift. The two video chatted on Friday, her birthday. [Allentown Morning Call]

Surprise! Man finds himself in audience full of people he saved as children from Nazi camps [W/VIDEO]

Sir Nocholas Winton

Oscar Schindler once said: (paraphrased) He who saves a life saves a generation.

This actually occurred in 2009 but I ran across it today and wanted to share what the word hero means to me…

Truth Seeker Daily

Sir Nicholas Winton organized the rescue and passage to Britain of about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport.

After the war, Nicholas Winton didn’t tell anyone, not even his wife Grete about his wartime rescue efforts. In 1988, a half century later, Grete found a scrapbook from 1939 in their attic, with all the children’s photos, a complete list of names, a few letters from parents of the children to Winton and other documents. She finally learned the whole story.

In the video below, the survivors gathered to give him a wonderful surprise:

Top 10 Ways to Really Honor our Veterans

Once again, Juan Cole gets it right…

Informed Comment – Juan Cole 

November 11, 1918 marked the armistice that began the end of the Great War (later called World War I), which was formally ended the following summer at Versailles. President Eisenhower later reconfigured Armistice Day into Veterans Day, at a time when there were enormous numbers of Americans who had served in World War II.

Despite the lip service often paid to veterans, society doesn’t always honor its obligations to them. Here are the ways they could more effectively be honored, or at least ways US politicians could avoid dishonoring them.

1. Tell Sen. Ted Cruz and the Tea Party not to shut down the Federal government as part of a political game in such a way as to threaten Veterans with not receiving their benefits.

2. Remind Sen. Ted Cruz and the Tea Party that 27% of Federal employees are Veterans, so arbitrarily closing the government down harms them and threatens their ability to meet, e.g., mortgage payments– they could have lost their homes.

3. Reverse the foolish “sequestration” budget cuts, which cut programs across the board rather than on the basis of their comparative value. Although the Veteran Affairs administration is spared in those cuts, many government programs for Veterans outside that department will be cut back.

4. Reverse the $5 bn in cuts to food stamps (SNAP); in any one month nearly a million veterans have lived in a household receiving food stamp help. Civilians like the chickenhawks in Congress don’t know this, but service personnel are paid almost nothing, so serving their country severely hurt their lifetime earnings, and many fall into circumstances where they need a little help. The Scrooges in the GOP in Congress just took food out of the mouths of their children.

5. Stop opposing Obamacare. About 1 million children and spouses of veterans do not have health care, but can get it under the Affordable Care Act.

6. Tell the GOP it it shouldn’t have blocked a $1 billion jobs bill for Veterans.

7. Fund more counseling services to prevent the over 8,000 suicides by Veterans every year, a toll that is certainly an underestimate and which has increased 11% since the middle of the last decade. Those who suffered intense conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan are at extra risk.

8. Reject a chained consumer price index (cpi), which over time will act as a de facto cut in Veterans’ benefits.

9. Help for Veterans to avoid homelessness or loss of mortgage. People who risked their lives for this country shouldn’t be on the street.

10. Stop needlessly and illegally creating more veterans of foreign wars; no war should be launched by the United States or any other country that isn’t in self defense or in response to a UN Security Council warning that a situation threatens the good order of the world.

Chuck Todd: GOP Has Palin, Cruz to ‘Blame’ for Bad ‘Treatment They’re Getting from Democrats,’ Obama

Chuck Todd is finally reporting the news…

Mediaite

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and MSNBC host Chuck Todd reported on Monday that tea party figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped scuttle a potential deal to raise the debt ceiling over the weekend when they led World War II veterans to march on the White House. Todd reported that the tea party Republicans are “doing everything they can” to keep the shutdown and debt ceiling standoff “alive.”

“While the non-tea party Republicans are desperately trying to end this standoff, the tea party Republicans are doing everything they can to keep it alive,” Todd said on Monday.

He said that Cruz and Palin attended a rally with elderly veterans at the WWII Memorial over the weekend where they were actively “fueling protesters who tore down barricades and carried them to the White House where they clashed with police.”

“Every time non-tea party Republicans want to complain about the treatment they’re getting from Democrats and the White House, they may only have these folks to blame,” he continued.

Todd laughed after playing a clip of Cruz saying the Democrats in Congress should give up on the “games” that led to the shutdown and the debt ceiling standoff.

“The solution to the standoff, at least according to establishment Republicans, has always been to point out that the spending victories of the last few years are victories for the GOP and that they should declare that and move on,” Todd continued.

“It’s just one more example of how the tea party has been a net negative for the Republicans post-2010,” he concluded. “Gave them the enthusiasm to win the House, but what’s it done since?”

The Big Lie Behind Rand Paul’s Pack of GOP Shutdown Lies

Rand Paul

PoliticusUSA

The GOP, driven by tea party extremism, has shut down the U.S. government, costing taxpayers on the order of $40-$80 million per day at a conservative estimate. Some estimates go as high as $300 million per day. According toShutdowncost.com, as I write this, the shutdown has cost in excess of $1,593,276,000 and it is literally climbing by the second.

Yet Rand Paul (R-KY) writes an op-ed on CNN.com on Fridaywith the disingenuous claim that he doesn’t understand why the WWII memorial isn’t open:

This week, we saw the outrageous spectacle of World War II veterans being told by our government that they couldn’t visit their own memorial. These former service members, who stared down the Japanese and the Nazis, were told that they couldn’t step through barricades arbitrarily placed in front of their memorial because the government has shut down. Some have speculated that it might have cost more to place the barricades there than to have done nothing at all.

This is a tear-jerker, and it is meant to be. But Paul is being as dishonest here as the day is long.

He says putting barricades up cost more than to have done nothing. But Rand Paul doesn’t mention that, the shutdown his party is responsible for is costing Americans more than if the Republicans had done nothing. And the shutdown is costing Americans more than a few barricades.

Let me put it this way: Not only do the spending cuts the GOP demands not reduce the federal debt, but the shutdown Republicans initiated claiming Obamacare is costing Americans too much money, costs more money than Obamacare.

If this makes sense to you, you are probably a tea partier.

Yet Rand Paul says Obamacare makes no sense, because, apparently, giving millions of Americans access to insurance for the first time, and forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, makes no sense.

He accuses President Obama of being “tone deaf” to Americans, completely ignoring the fact – and it is a fact – thatthe majority of Americans want Obamacare and that the majority of Americans do not want a government shutdown.

I think we know who is tone deaf, and it isn’t President Obama.

Then Rand Paul pulls out the Big Lie, the same one every Republican who began planning for this shutdown in 2010 are all using, that none of them wanted a shutdown. Keep in mind that they shut down the government using Obamacare as an excuse. Keep in mind that Obamacare is the law of the land, and more, a law upheld by the Supreme Court.

No one wanted a government shutdown. Republicans have continued to offer multiple compromises that would keep the government open. I offered an amendment to keep the government open an additional week while negotiations continued. My proposal was rejected. In fact, all of our proposals were rejected.

Paul tells another lie when he claims, “Every attempt to bargain, negotiate or compromise has been rejected by the Democrats.”

Let us be clear: The Republicans have offered no compromises. They refused from the start to negotiate. Their demands – and they can be construed no other way – have been predicated on 44 unsuccessful votes to defund Obamacare, and when that failed, to delay it for a year, when, they hope, a new majority in the Senate will kill it for good. In other words, delaying Obamacare is, from their point of view, no different than killing it. Some compromise. Either way, it’s “kill Obamacare.”

Apparently, Rand Paul yearns to be known as the biggest liar in Washington, D.C., to judge by this next whopper:

Pundits like to talk about dysfunctional government in Washington. This week demonstrated how right they are. Our government is too big, inefficient and incompetent to possibly handle American health care effectively. Why can’t this administration get its act together?

A Republican-dominated House of Representatives rushing down a road to nowhere with no clear end-game in mind save unconditional surrender by the administration, and Paul says the administration doesn’t have IT’S act together?

Paul pulls out one lie after another, each worse than the last, arriving at the tried and untrue Republican claim that Obama is building the deficit at a record pace:

And what do we have to show for this largely dysfunctional government? Annual trillion dollar deficits and a $17 trillion debt than keeps climbing.

The truth is exactly the opposite. In fact, Obama is reducing the deficit at a record pace. It is a fact, as Sarah Jones reported here in May, that the Obama administration has presided over the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.

In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg(that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting).

Where does that leave Paul’s op-ed? Lie, lie, another lie, followed by more lies. So does Rand Paul have anything to say that is not a lie?

No, sadly he does not. All Rand Paul has is lies.

And so the liar from Kentucky concludes, dishonestly, that because his party has shutdown the government over a law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, that, “What Americans were reminded of this week — more than anything else — is that big government doesn’t work.”

What doesn’t work is the House of Representatives, which has spent 15+ percent of its time this year trying to get rid of a law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court. A law, moreover, that most Americans want.

The GOP, to nobody’s surprise, is a party these days of liars and shills. But Rand Paul, apparently – and this is saying something when you consider the company he keeps – wants to be the liar of the century.

Right now, he has that award hands down.

Obama reminds GOP: U.S. is ‘not a deadbeat nation’

The Maddow Blog

President Obama’s weekly addresses are generally rather laid back and non-confrontational, so it was all the more striking to see the president use the platform to warn Americans about the looming Republican-imposed crises, while chastising the GOP lawmakers themselves.

After arguing that the economy continues to find its footing, Obama added, “[A]fter five years spent digging out of crisis, the last thing we need is for Washington to manufacture another. But that’s what will happen in the next few weeks if Congress doesn’t meet two deadlines.”

The first, obviously, is keeping the government’s lights on, and that deadline is now just one week away. The president marveled that “a faction on the far right of the Republican Party” would “actually plunge this country back into recession — all to deny the basic security of health care to millions of Americans.”

The second is raising the debt ceiling, which makes it possible for the nation to pay its bills. Note how Obama tried to help the public understand the issue a little better: “This is important: raising the debt ceiling is not the same as approving more spending. It lets us pay for what Congress already spent. It doesn’t cost a dime, or add a penny to our deficit. In fact, right now, our deficits are already falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. And by the end of this year, we’ll have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.”

And with that, Obama made his position clear:

The United States of America is not a deadbeat nation. We are a compassionate nation. We are the world’s bedrock investment. And doing anything to threaten that is the height of irresponsibility. That’s why I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States. I will not allow anyone to harm this country’s reputation, or threaten to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people, just to make an ideological point.

In case that was too subtle, Obama also called House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to tell him the White House will not negotiate if congressional Republicans hold the nation hostage again.

Boehner’s office told reporters it was “a brief call,” which certainly makes sense. How long could it take for a president to say he won’t negotiate with those threatening to hurt Americans on purpose?

10 Reasons Millennials Are the Screwed Generation

This is the reality most millennials, their parents and grandparents fear.  Yet, I don’t share most of the gloom and doom scenarios set forth in the following piece.

I’m publishing this because it can open our eyes to the reality of our current state of affairs in America and perhaps we will see that change to the status quo and activism are still options.

Alternet

Young people living in the United States have inherited a broken country.

Generation gaps are nothing new. Back in the 1930s, members of the World War I generation complained bitterly about their World War II generation offspring and all the swing-dancing, noisy big bands and awful crooners they were into (many of those jitterbugging teenagers of the 1930s went on fight the Nazis after high school and have since been called the “Greatest Generation”).

So it isn’t surprising that there are members of the Baby Boomer generation and Gen X who have a hard time figuring out what makes Millennials, aka Generation Y, tick. People in their 40s, 50s and 60s not understanding people in their 20s is as old as time itself. But if there is one claim about the Millennial generation that is truly absurd, it is the notion that they are entitled, spoiled and pampered. Some Baby Boomers and Gen-X members (especially Boomers) insist that Millennials don’t want to pay their dues and expect everything handed to them on a silver platter, but Millennials on the whole are the polar opposite of entitled or spoiled.

Millennials—those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s/early 2000s—in the United States inherited a country that is broken in many respects. From the worst economy in 80 years to a post-9/11 surveillance state to a dysfunctional healthcare system, Millennials have been given a raw deal. And fighting to get the country back on track will be an enormous task for them.

Here are 10 reasons why Millennials are the most screwed-over generation in recent history.

1. A dying middle class.

Many Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation (essentially the younger end of the World War II generation) entered the workforce at a time when there were still plenty of good-paying jobs in the United States. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, a college degree practically guaranteed a job that paid a living wage, and for blue-collar workers who went to trade school, high-paying unionized jobs were not hard to come by. Gen X, however, confronted some harsh realities during the recession of the early 1990s, when many college graduates found themselves in dead-end service jobs (which was unheard of in the 1950s and 1960s). But the American economy boomed considerably in the mid- to late-1990s, and many Gen-Xers who had struggled in the early 1990s went on to prosper as the 1990s progressed (especially during Bill Clinton’s second term as president). Millennials, however, were unable to take advantage of that Clinton-era prosperity, and they entered the workforce at a time when the American middle class was in danger of extinction. Many Boomers and X-ers have had their savings depleted by the economic downturn of the late 2000s and early 2010; many Millennials haven’t even had a chance to build a substantial savings.

2. The financial crash of Sept. 2008.

The United States’ financial problems didn’t begin with the crash of September 2008. American manufacturing jobs were being exported to developing countries long before that, and the North American Free Trade Agreement of the early 1990s proved to be every bit as damaging as Ross Perot predicted it would be. But the crash of 2008 greatly accelerated the U.S.’ decline, and five years later, millions of Americans continue to suffer. The number of Americans who were poor enough to qualify for food stamps was just over 17 million in 2000; in 2013, it’s 47 million. Misleading Bureau of Labor Statistics figures claim that the unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to 7.4% in July 2013, but that figure excludes all the Americans who have been unemployed for so long the BLS no longer counts them as part of the workforce. In this abysmal job climate, Millennials have a hard time building a résumé because they are competing with desperate Gen-Xers and Boomers who have decided that being underemployed is better than being unemployed and are willing to dumb down their résumés in the hope of finding steady, if inadequate, income.

Continue reading on the next page…

Drudge Puts Christie On Notice: ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ (PHOTO)

TPM LiveWire

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been put on notice.

“Whose side are you on?” screams a Monday headline on the conservative Drudge Report, linking to an Atlantic Wire article that spells out his precarious position with the right as he considers a replacement for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who died from complications with pneumonia.

 

Remembering Frank Lautenberg’s Progressive Legacy

We need more Senators like Sen. Lautenberg.  He will be missed.

Think Progress

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the last remaining World War II veteran in the Senate, died on Monday morning at the age of 89, after struggling for months with poor health.

Throughout his long career in the Senate — he held two different Senate seats — Lautenberg championed a long list of progressive causes from women’s health to gun safety, LGBT rights, and anti-tobacco laws, making him one of the loudest and most effective lawmakers of his time. Here is just a short list of some of Lautenberg’s most progressive causes and accomplishments:

1. Lautenberg helped write the law banning smoking on airplanes, which helped start the movement towards smoke-free public spaces.

2. In 1989, Lautenberg co-authored an amendment that designated Soviet Jews as a “persecuted minority” in the Soviet Union and therefore eligible for admission to the United States without regard to regular immigration quotas. The measure allowed thousands of persecuted Jews to immigrate into the United States.

3. Wrote the law banning smoking in all federally funded places that serve children. He was also the author of legislation to ban smoking in federal buildings.

4. Wrote the domestic violence gun ban to protect women and children by keeping spousal and child abusers from owning guns. Gun safety advocates are now seeking to strengthen the law.

5. Strongly supported eliminating $24 billion in “immoral” subsidies for big oil companies, noting on the floor of the Senate that “A single oil company CEO makes more in one year than all the people in that county all together. They’re already contributing to his salary when they fill up at the gas tank.”

6. Wrote the Responsible Education about Life (REAL) Act, which provides funding for comprehensive sex education, and the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act that would prohibit pharmacies from denying access to birth control. As he said on the floor in March of 2012, “So I want them to have doctors making decisions, not some employer who has a self-righteous moral view that he wants to impose on my daughter, my granddaughter, my wife.”

7. An original cosponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people to take time off work to care for sick children or parents.

8. Coauthored and helped secure funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, provides services to over half a million people living with HIV/AIDS and offers treatment for low-income, uninsured and under-insured patients.

9. Wrote the Toxic Right to Know law to make sure local communities are informed about harmful toxins that chemical facilities are releasing into the air.

10. Coauthored a 2007 law to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.

 

GOP: We’ve been lying all along

Oh my…is the Speaker of the House a bit upset with the tea-party faction of his caucus?

Salon

Boehner’s admission that we don’t really have a debt crisis reveals his party’s ulterior, program-cutting motives…

I never thought I’d write these words, but here goes: Thank you, John Boehner. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for finally admitting on national television that all the fiscal cliffs, sequestrations and budget battles you’ve created are, indeed, artificially fabricated by ideologues and self-interested politicians and not the result of some imminent crisis that’s out of our control.

America owes this debt of gratitude to Boehner after he finally came clean on yesterday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week” and admitted that “we do not have an immediate debt crisis.” (His admission was followed up by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who quickly echoed much the same sentiment on CBS’ “Face the Nation”).

In offering up such a stunningly honest admission, the GOP leader has put himself on record as agreeing with President Obama, who has previously acknowledged that demonstrable reality. But the big news here isn’t just about the politics of a Republican House speaker tacitly admitting they agree with a Democratic president. It is also about a bigger admission revealing the fact that the GOP’s fiscal alarmism is not merely some natural reaction to reality, but a calculated means to other ideological ends.

Before considering those ends, first remember that Boehner (like Obama) is correct on the facts.

As Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, “Even if we do run deficits, federal debt as a share of GDP will be substantially less than it was at the end of World War II” and “it will also be substantially less than, say, debt in several European countries in the mid- to late 1990s.” It is also lower than the 80 percent of GDP level that many economists say starts to put countries in a precarious position. Additionally, citing Congressional Budget Office data, the Center for American Progress notes that the long-term debt outlook is only dire because the projections simply assume without question that “future Congresses will enact huge new deficit-increasing tax cuts and spending hikes.”

“The debt outlook is bad (but) we’re not looking at something inconceivable, impossible to deal with,” writes Krugman. “We’re looking at debt levels that a number of advanced countries, the US included, have had in the past, and dealt with.”

So yes, we should start dealing with the long-term debt in a pragmatic and sober way, but we shouldn’t pretend it is some sort of imminent crisis worthy of draconian austerity measures.

If we could somehow do that, then there would be plenty of gradual steps that could be taken right now — steps that deal with the debt in measured ways that do the least harm to the overall economy. Those include starting to phase out the Bush tax cuts, which show no correlation with job growth and yet are the single largest driver of annual deficits; starting to reduce defense and war spending, which, job-creation-wise, is one of the least effective ways for the government to spend money; starting to move the United States toward the least costly, more efficient, and more effective single-payer healthcare system that most industrialized countries have, and that lowers overhead for employers; and starting to spend more money on social programs that fight economic inequality, with the understanding that driving down such inequality tends to boost macroeconomic growth and consequently boost public revenues (this is the Reagan-esque idea of growing one’s way out of debt).

But, of course, we aren’t having a sober and measured discussion about such pragmatic solutions. Instead, the national conversation about the budget is dominated by debt demagogues with ulterior motives. Taking a page out of the shock doctrine playbook that says every crisis is an opportunity, these alarmists have sought to create the perception of an immediate crisis in order to quickly manufacture opportunities to legislate their otherwise politically impossible agenda items.

Continue here…