Is The United States Now A “Banana Republic”?

In most Banana Republics, only 1 or 2%  of the population own almost every commodity in the country…while the “people” own nothing.  Essentially making those countries plutocracies.

Sound familiar? 

New York Times – Nicholas Kristoff

In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie.

But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home — and in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, it may get worse.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. 

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

That’s the backdrop for one of the first big postelection fights in Washington — how far to extend the Bush tax cuts to the most affluent 2 percent of Americans. Both parties agree on extending tax cuts on the first $250,000 of incomes, even for billionaires. Republicans would also cut taxes above that.

The richest 0.1 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut of $61,000 from President Obama. They would get $370,000 from Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And that provides only a modest economic stimulus, because the rich are less likely to spend their tax savings.

At a time of 9.6 percent unemployment, wouldn’t it make more sense to finance a jobs program? For example, the money could be used to avoid laying off teachers and undermining American schools.   Continue readng…

Bloomberg, 2012?

The New Yorker

John B. Anderson, the former Republican congressman from Illinois and 1980 Presidential candidate, said that his mind was “in a whirl,” late last week. Anderson, who now lives in Florida, was a Charlie Crist supporter, and, despite his long-standing disaffection toward the two-party system, he feels no affection for the ascendant Tea Party movement. “I break out in a cold sweat at the thought that any of those people might prevail,” he said. Nationally speaking, Anderson remains an Obama man—for now. “But I’m still fiercely independent, and believe that only an independent might take us to a higher plane,” he said.

On November 4th, Joe Trippi, the Democratic consultant and former campaign manager for Howard Dean, was “cruising down the beach,” as he put it, in Mexico, recuperating. “I would put the odds of an independent candidacy for President in 2012 or 2016 at probably sixty to seventy per cent,” he said. “People make the mistake of saying that this was a big Republican victory. They were the only other option. The question is: Who? It’s not going to be like Ross Perot coming from out of nowhere.” He added, “The White House seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time with Bloomberg, keeping him close.”

So, that again: the maddeningly perennial game of speculating about the next move of New York’s mayor. Last month, the CNBC host Larry Kudlow announced on his show that, according to a “serious insider,” Michael Bloomberg would be the next Treasury Secretary. “The deal has been done,” Kudlow reported, perhaps prematurely. Then, the week before the election, Bloomberg’s grander ambitions were publicly revived by New Yorks John Heilemann, in a cover story titled “2012: How Sarah Barracuda Becomes President.” The scenario, in short: Amid ongoing polarization and a stalled economic recovery, Bloomberg declares his candidacy, wins a handful of coastal states, thereby denying Obama the requisite electoral votes, and the Republican House awards the office to Palin.

Speaking at Harvard, the day before the election, Bloomberg said, “I think, actually, a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political President,” and then he went on, as he always does, to deny that he intends to pursue the position. He is, as he is fond of saying, Jewish, unmarried, pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-immigrant, and pro-gay-marriage. Add to that a strong allegiance to Wall Street, a weekend house in Bermuda, and his vehemence, last summer, in defense of the mosque near Ground Zero, and it’s hard to see how he plays to the populist moment. A recent Marist poll indicates that only twenty-six per cent of New Yorkers favor the prospect of his running.

Yet the dream persists. “I think it’s a strong possibility,” Clay Mulford, the chief operating officer of the National Math and Science Initiative, and, as it happens, Perot’s son-in-law, said the other day. “The mood of the country is not ideological but more practical. The timing is unusually right.” Mulford mentioned that a Google search of his name and Bloomberg’s would reveal that the two of them met, a couple of years ago, to discuss ballot logistics. “His people put the story out,” Mulford said.   Continue reading…

Rush Limbaugh: “Pre-Existing Condition Coverage is Not Insurance; It’s Welfare”

What is it about conservatives like Rush Limbaugh?  They seem to be lacking what some call the “compassion gene“…

Crooks & Liars

Yes, he really said that. He really, truly did, and it’s a BFD. digby writes:

Although it sounds ridiculous, Rush is in the process of making his followers believe that the pre-existing condition provision in the health care reforms is something bad and shameful. The reason he’s doing this, of course, is because this is the most popular piece of the bill and the one on which the rest of it hinges. If they can divide people on that, the repeal of the plan will be much easier.

Absolutely 100% on the money. The rest of the Affordable Care Act, along with any other proposal for reform like single payer or a public option hinges on one single provision: No exclusion for pre-existing conditions. So the Corpulent One knows that the only way to marshall support for complete repeal is to erode support for covering people with pre-existing conditions.

It drives me crazy now just as it did during the whole debate that there wasn’t more focus on effective dates. Waiting until January 1, 2014 for the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions was risky and opens a window for a long, sustained attack. Whether they had passed Medicare for All, a robust public option as part of the overall bill, none of that, or all of that, the heart of the debate is over people who have pre-existing conditions, which are defined by insurers and have been broadened more and more over time. This is only one of many salvos which will be thrown over and over and over again.

digby, again:

People thought it was insane for Rush to say that he wanted the president to fail. But he held the line and made the GOP come crawling for even suggesting that he was wrong. And the party just became more and more radical. They don’t see health care reform as sacred and they will feel absolutely no remorse about destroying it.

Here’s what concerns me, no matter what side of the Medicare-for-All/SinglePayer/Public Option debate you are on: If they succeed at repealing the requirement to cover people with pre-existing conditions, there will be no possibility of modifying, adding, expanding, or creating a better health care program for this nation. It will all be privatized and Medicare will become a memory we had of our grandparents’ day instead of our own.

This is a line they cannot cross


Well, the new narrative to “exonerate” George W. Bush’s flawed presidency is under way.  Bush is hoping that his new book will set the record straight or as he puts it, give historians a “data point” in which to judge his presidency. 

Ultimately, history will indeed be the judge of Bush’s presidency.

Huffington Post

Former President George W. Bush is back in the spotlight as he hits the media circuit to promote his new memoir Decision Points in conjunction with its release this week.

“I have written a book,” said the Republican leader at a trade conference in Chicago, Ill. last month. He joked, “This will come as quite a shock to some. They didn’t think I could read, much less write.”

Details from Decision Points began to leak in the weeks leading up to its November 9 scheduled release. From reflections on some of the most intense controversies his administration faced, to concerns over former Vice President Dick Cheney coming off to the public as “Darth Vadar,” new insights continue to emerge as Bush conducts interviews about the book.

“I have zero desire, just so you know, to be in the limelight,” explained the former White House leader last month. “I’m going to emerge then submerge.”

In a one-on-one interview with NBC News host Matt Lauer this week, Bush spoke about his legacy.

“I hope I’m judged a success. But I’m gonna be dead, Matt, when they finally figure it out,” he explained. “And I’m comfortable knowing that I gave it my all, that I love America and I know it was an honor to serve.”

While the time Bush spends in the public eye may be short-lived, there’s no shortage in details from Decision Points to keep buzz alive about the former president.

See slide show of Bush’s revelations in the book here.

Obama makes long-awaited return to Indonesia

Undoubtedly the naysayers and birthers will have something to say about the President’s trip to Indonesia…

The Associated Press

After two years of waiting, Indonesians are finally getting the chance to welcome back their adopted son. But the euphoria that swept the predominantly Muslim country after Barack Obama’s election victory has been replaced by a dose of reality.

Few here now believe he will change American policies in the Middle East or improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world. And hopes that the two countries would march forward together on the world stage have been cast aside.

Still, Indonesians gathered around television sets all over the country — in their houses, coffee shops and office buildings — and watched as he touched down.

“We all stopped what we were doing,” said Tito, who works at the front desk at the Novotel Hotel in Balikpapan, a city on Borneo island. “Staff, guests … It’s just so amazing that he grew up here, has family here, and is now the U.S. president.”

While Indonesians take tremendous pride in having partially raised the American president, who spent four childhood years in the country, the plans for his long-anticipated homecoming Tuesday have been accompanied by a sadness that he is not fully theirs.

He’s already canceled two planned trips and is due to stay for just 24 hours. Shortly after he touched down his spokesman said the trip may be even further shortened because of concerns about the ash of a volcano hundreds of miles (kilometers) away.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono presented a line of ministers to Obama, who greeted them in Indonesian.

At a news conference after arriving, Obama referenced the intense anticipation surrounding the homecoming.

“Obviously much has been made of the fact that this marks my return to where I lived as a young boy, I will tell you though that I barely recognized it as I was driving down the streets,” he said to laughter. “The only thing that was there when I first moved to Jakarta was Serena (a shopping mall). Now it’s one of the shorter buildings on the road.”

He was later to tour the country’s largest mosque and make a speech that will give him another opportunity to convince Muslims that the U.S. is not waging a war on Islam, but on terrorism, and needs the help of moderates to fight it.

That will give him no time to visit his old neighborhood in the sprawling overcrowded capital — a jumble of houses and narrow streets that has changed little since he was here from 1967 until 1971, although it is now in the shadow of luxury shopping malls and high-rise buildings.

His tightly packed schedule does not even allow time for brief meetings with family and friends.

“I have waited so long for this visit,” said Katarina Fermina Sinaga, 61, who taught the chubby, vivacious boy, then known as “Barry,” in the third grade. “I know as the world leader, his schedule is tight, but I still hope to meet him.

“I just don’t want him to forget us.”

When he was first expected to come in March and then again June, the country whipped itself into a frenzy of anticipation: Books and movies about his childhood were released, celebrations planned, and exhibitions mounted.

But this time, the country seems sapped after twin natural disasters — a volcano and a tsunami — over the past two weeks that killed a combined total of 600 people. There was speculation Obama would cancel again, and the country has been unwilling to get its hopes up, too drained to put on a big show. Even the government waited until the last minute to announce that the visit was on.

Hopeful he still might make a last-minute stop to his old elementary school, dozens of third- and fourth-graders, dressed in green-and-white uniforms, spent Tuesday morning practicing a song dedicated to him.

“We haven’t been told anything,” said Hasimah, the clearly disappointed headmaster. “So we don’t know how to prepare.”

With peace talks in the Middle East moving slowly, many believe he is not much better than his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Still, there is sense, even here, that what Indonesians want most is a little attention.

“He’s not even taking time to meet with us,” said Din Syamsuddin, the leader of the country’s second-largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, whose 30 million members had high hopes for Obama. “Even Bush did that …”

Obama moved to Indonesia when he was 7 after his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, married her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, whom she met when they were studying at the University of Hawaii.

The neighborhood they first called home was Menteng Dalam, a Dutch-era neighborhood with red-tiled roofs in Jakarta’s center, where many share fond memories of the young Barry.

They remember that his mother would walk him to school through streets muddied by monsoon rains, that he was comfortable speaking Indonesian, and that the family kept white crocodiles and a monkey in their yard.

“We really have to greet him like a homecoming brother,” said Linggas Sitompul, a 65-year-old customer at a food stall serving Bakso, the same spicy meatball soup the president says he loved as a child.

Before Obama’s inauguration, Indonesia viewed the United States mostly as a target for protest. Hard-liners saw the George W. Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts as a proxy for anti-Muslim feelings.

They had hoped that Obama’s connection to Indonesia would give it a special place in his administration, but two years into his term, reality has set in. Most now recognize his visit will not improve their poverty or raise their national stature.

And they know that despite feeling a kinship with the American president, in the end, he will leave and go back to the place that is really his home.


Fox News gets subpoena power

As I mentioned  in this post yesterday, the GOP and Fox News have colluded together to get as many Obama Administration officials subpoenaed as possible. 

Fox News is no longer hiding the fact that a) they are working with the GOP to b) make sure Obama does not get elected to a second term.  Essentially, for the next two years, Fox news will broadcast every hearing and of course give the most negative spin possible. 

It appears the 2012 campaign season has begun, courtesy of Fox News and the GOP led Congress of 2010.

Media Matters

Fox News figures are telling the incoming Republican House majority how to use its investigative authority, compiling a growing list of targets in the Obama administration.

Fox News helps GOP target subpoenas

Fox Nation highlights “GOP’s First 4 Potential Investigations of Obama.” Fox Nation trumpeted a November 3 article that discusses four possible House investigations into “criticisms of administration officials and their decisions,” including the phony New Black Panthers scandal, conversations between the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) leading up to his Democratic Senate primary, funding of ACORN and its successor groups, and the administration’s response to the BP oil spill.  Many of these investigations are based on phony scandals that have been aggressively promoted by Fox News.  Continue reading…