Archive for Thomas Wark

It Was a Good Time for Tossin’ th’ Haggis

By Thomas Wark


I remember a beautiful end-of-summer in Scotland ten years ago. In lovely sunlight the soft breezes carried the lilt of lassies comin’ through the rye and lovers takin’ th’ high road to Loch Lomond.

Back home unemployment was a rising concern; it had reached 4.9 per cent in August, the highest rate in four years. Private employers had just cut 130,000 jobs, ten times the predicted amount, and shipped nearly 50,000 jobs overseas.

Independent economists said the bad news meant the long-awaited economic recovery still was not in sight. Not to worry, “we’re about where we should be,” said the chief economist at Merrill Lynch, one of the Wall Street firms that was happily selling AAA-rated investment packages that seven years later would be called “sub-prime” and “toxic.”

On a hillside east of a small town in the Scottish highlands, a natural waste-disposal field was in its fifth experimental year. Although toxic slush was deep underfoot somewhere, the air was scented only by a profusion of wildflowers. There’s more than one way to deal with toxic.

The remains of an ancient Roman fortification crested the hill. Later in the afternoon we would stand in its shade and watch Scotsmen sling a haggis in a traditional festival game. A few days later, we took a leisurely drive toward John O’Groat., stopping often to admire rocky shorelines and the occasional sandy beach.

When we stopped for fuel, the attendant for the single pump recognized us as Yanks. “Did y’ hear about the Twin Towers?” he asked. BBC radio told us the latest about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The U. S. national debt was just a shade over $5 trillion.

When he finally emerged from hiding, the President of the United States led a campaign of fear, half-truths, outright falsehood and “cooked” intelligence to launch a war against a country that had nothing to do with the September attacks and whose sleazy dictator had nothing to do with those who organized and financed it.

When he left office, that president and his unfunded wars had doubled the national debt.

Unemployment was over 10 per cent.

The toxic assets Wall Street had sold as prime investments went “Poof!” and the richest banks in the world were on their knees, begging.

A new President printed new money and showered it on the bankers who had brought the world to the brink of depression.

The national debt rose to $12 trillion.

The wars went on.

The unemployment rate remained twice what it had been in 2001. That’s not counting millions more jobless who have been unemployed for so long they no longer count as “statistics.”

So far only one man running for President has offered a plan intended to provide jobs for some of the unemployed. It calls essentially for tax credits to private employers to encourage them to hire more people. (These are the same private employers who cut 130,000 jobs in August of 2010 and shipped 50,000 of them overseas, causing independent economists to warn that we’d better do something soon about unemployment.)

Last month, the U. S. economy did not add one new job. Zero. Zilch. As soon as John Boehner says it’s OK, the President will talk to the nation about jobs.

What he says isn’t likely to do much for the millions without work. Talk doesn’t buy groceries.

Last month, for the first time in ten years, not one American was killed in Iraq in George Bush’s war. However, it was the worst month ever for American deaths in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s war. Nobody reports the losses here and there in the dozen or so clandestine wars we’re fighting.

No politician running for President is talking about ending the wars that put us deeply in debt as a nation. Yet all the politicians say the debt is a crisis.

It is such a big, big crisis that we can’t afford to create public sector jobs fixing a national infrastructure that has been neglected for so long that it’s a risk to life and limb for our common citizens.

But it’s not so big a crisis that we need to end the huge tax cuts we gave to our very richest citizens.

This isn’t a country. It’s a bloody zoo, and the animals are in charge.


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Thank Heavens For Green Chile Roasting

By Thomas Wark

They’ve started roasting the green chile here in southern New Mexico.  This produces one of the great food aromas in the world, like baking bread or fresh-brewed coffee or grandma’s roladen.

All great chefs understand the importance of the olfactory element in  food.  So, too, do dogs, often with results that displease their human companions.

A few fortunate folks have developed keen olfactory skills for political odors, as well,.  In this country they’re called liberals.  Every now and then they catch a political aroma like green chile roasting.  More often than not, in these United States, what they smell is rotten meat.

They are underwhelmed of late by a really bad stink on the wings of the winds out of Texas.  Gov. Goodhair, as he was dubbed by the late, great Molly Ivins, wants to be our President.

Honest Injun!  THAT Gov. Goodhair.

The one whose only policy decision about the state’s record, impoverishing drought was, “pray for rain.” (It didn’t work.)

The one who brags about the “Texas miracle” of increasing jobs during the recession, whereas in fact in true job creation data Texas ranks last among the 50.

The one who has compelled the state’s history teachers to tell their pupils that Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlaffly are “great Americans,” whereas Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez are not.

The one who primed his base for his presidential run by staging a great pray-in featuring some of the most whacko, racist, ill-informed Christofascists on the face of the earth.

The one who set the all-time gubernatorial record for executing prisoners who suffered from mental disability.

Ramblin’ Rick thinks he can pull Texas out of the union with a stroke of his pen; calls Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional and — get this — thinks the way to get this country moving again is to suspend ALL Federal laws and regulations. And one of his lesser gaffes: Fed Chief  Ben Bernanke commits “treason” when he takes even mild regulatory action to keep the country solvent.

In Iowa, a handful of kooks got together in Ames to eat pork tenders and proclaim Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota congressperson, their favorite for the Republican presidential nomination. This makes her Gov. Goodhair’s principal rival.

What a pair!

Bachmann could improve her knowledge of her country’s history by studying even Goodhair’s cockeyed version of it.  Last I heard she thought Paul Revere crossed the Delaware to warn Manchester, NH, that the British were comin’, which alerted Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys to win the battle of Lafayette, Ind.  Something like that.

She and her hubby made their little fortune by praying homosexual people into heterosexuality, the way God intended it.  Maybe her contest with Goodhair will come down to a praying contest.  What a choice to inflict on God!

Meanwhile, vile odors waft unto us from Minnesota and from Texas.  Fortunately, they come together right at the point of heavy green chile roasting, which neutralizes them.
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The Reverse Midas Touch

By Thomas Wark


It’s Like Having a Reverse Midas Touch; All That’s Gold Turns to S—
Paul Krugman (whose name Kidglove can’t even pronounce) said it, and said it well: “The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.”

If even the President of the United States won’t stand up to them, who’s going to lead the effort to “defeat and marginalize” these idiots? I’ve cupped my ear, my friends; the answer isn’t blowin’ in the wind.

What’s really depressing for intelligent, visionary, progressive Americans is that the extremists of whom Krugman speaks won’t be satisfied until they’ve destroyed and dismantled everything good the federal government has done in the last 100 years.

When Kidglove caved in on the phony deficit “crisis,” he opened the door for them to destroy Social Security (“the dole”), Medicare (“socialized medicine”) and Medicaid. No doubt the Cato Heritage squad is already putting the plan for this into the hands of the corporate puppets in Congress, something enabling us poor suckers to put roughly the equivalent of our Social Security payments into their beloved Market, so the hedge fund managers who pay no taxes can steal billions more.

Meanwhile, at the back door, the wolf has already entered the house of environmental protections.  Goodbye, clean air.  So long, potable water.  Hello,  cancer.  Goodbye, Grand Canyon, Arches, Vermillion Cliffs and a thousand other beautiful and wonderful places owned by We, the People.  Hello poisonous mining, fracking, drilling, coal burning and mountain top removal.  Goodbye green landscapes, blue skies and sweet-smelling earth.  Hello mercury run-off, fiish kills, oil spills and black lung disease.  They’ve already slipped a rider into H.R. 2584 (the 2012 appropriations bill) to severely weaken many environmental regulations.

In time, they’ll eliminate or emasculate OSHA,  the EPA and what shred of manhood remains in the NRC.  Fukushima II, anyone?

Here’s a sample of what they’ve already got in the legislative pipeline:

–Natural gas and oil drilling in and around Arches National Park.

–Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon.

–Increased amonia emissions from power plants.

–Ending requirements for better gas mileage in automobiles beginning in 2016 and reducing limits on carcinogens in exhaust emissions.

–Allowing chemical companies to dump pesticides into waterways and publish false information on pesticide labels.

–Repealing health-based air quality standards fior offshore oil operations.

–Eliminate regulation of mountaintop removal water runoff into streams, ash from the burning of coal and  hard rock mining.

There’s more.  Much more.  ALEC, the right-wing source of Koch- and Exxon-friendly state legislation, is propagating  laws to make it virtually impossible for environmental groups to sue polluters.

And then there’s education.  Besides cutting  funding for public schools they will in effect subsidize (with taxpayer money) private, religious schools through things called vouchers.  Any inducement for our best and brightest to become teachers will be doused by cutting teacher pay, benefits and pensions, a la Wisconsin.

The concept of trust-busting and regulating corporate crime is as old as Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency.  Deregulation, depending upon the Holy Market to regulate itself and allowing corporations to run the country is the new, raw deal.

Defeat them?  Marginalize them?  Not in Dr. Kidglove’s U.S.A.

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A deal was made, neither new nor fair

By Thomas Wark


Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the deal was made to assign a prominent speaking role to an obscure Illinois state legislator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

There had to be a deal. Whoever made it, wherever it was made, there must have been enormous amounts of money involved, and a most cleverly constructed conspiracy. That boy Barry was being groomed for the presidency. He spoke (and wrote) good Democrat. Deeds, it turns out, were another matter.

The plot worked to perfection. “Democrat” Obama achieved the presidency, but from the outset his administration was very . .. Republican. Rightward Republican, right of Eisenhower, almost Reaganesque.

If we knew when that deal was made, and who made it, we’d know why.

As a candidate, he said more than once that single payer was the best solution to America’s sad health care mess. But as president he immediately sold his soul to the pharmaceutical industry, whose “Harry and Louise” TV ads had torpedoed the Clinton efforts at health care reform. Half a loaf, we were told, is better than none, but the health care bill he finally nudged through a Democratic-controlled Congress was barely a slice, moldy and sans butter.

His war posture is closer to the neocon hawk than to Ike; he has continued the worst policies of the Bush administration on civil liberties at home, human rights abroad, torture, detention and secret black hole prisons. Even some moderates on the left consider Obama to be impeachable for 1) ordering military attacks on sovereign nations without Congressional authorization; 2) issuing Executive Orders for the extra-judicial assassination of U. S. citizens in violation of the constitutional guarantee of due process; 3) presiding over military, paramilitary and intelligence service use of torture in violation of prohibitions against cruel and unusual treatment; 4) ordering attempts to assassinate foreign heads of state; 5) obstructing justice by failing or refusing to investigate credible allegations of torture brought against the previous administration.

As a candidate he promised relief for over-mortgaged home buyers but as president he bailed out the bankers who brought the economy down and didn’t lift a finger to stop foreclosures, which continued at record rates.

He has done nothing to solve the nation’s greatest economic problem — unemployment — while watching CEO and executive pay and bankers’ bonuses soar into the stratosphere.

In public he can still talk good Democrat but in private he folds to every right-wing Republican whim and folly. Trickle-down economics? Do the voodoo, baby! Extend tax cuts for the super-rich? My pleasure, sirs.

Every time Republicans say “Boo!” he pulls in his horns still further. This week he decided not to nominate the obvious best choice to head the new Consumer Protection Agency, Elizabeth Warren, because Republicans and their corporate masters hate and fear her. His nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, actually has a fairly good record of pro-consumer litigation, and already Republicans are crying “Boo!” again: emasculate the agency or we’ll block this nominee, too. The stage is set for a double cave-in: stripping the agency of power and dumping Cordray in favor one of Timmy Titmouse’s Goldman Sachs pals.

Of course a deal was made. Perhaps we’ll never know the particulars: who, when, where. But we can guess. Just consider who has profited most from the Obama presidency so far.

‘Tweren’t us common folk.


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Shut up. Stop Whining. Vote Republican. Especially, shut up.

By Thomas Wark
Once again the Republican party, including the Worst Congressman in History who is named Stevan Pearce and purports to represent southern New Mexico, is calling its jackass a pony and putting a feather in its cap.  But that’s not Macaroni.  That’s equine excrement.

They’re trying to bully television stations into refusing to air an ad by a progressive group that asserts — accurately — that the House Republicans’ infamous “Ryan Budget” would end Medicare.

It is a clear and obvious fact that House Republicans would end not just Medicare, but also Medicaid and other social programs that benefit  the aged, the sick, the unemployed and the impoverished.

The Republicans say they are not, either, ending Medicare; they would still call their program “medicare,” even though it would NOT pay for your medical care the way Medicare does.  Confusing?  The Republicans want it that way.  What they call “medicare” is in fact a system of providing vouchers that you could use to pay a private insurer for medical coverage — if you can find one that will accept your vouchers as payment in full for a policy, which of course no private insurer will do since they’d all be free to raise premiums far above the value of the vouchers. It would legalize robbery by insurers from the people who can least afford to be robbed.

This is the basic Republican philosophy: government exists to serve the interests of only the richest and most powerful people and institutions in the land. The most powerful institutions in the land, of course, are corporations, which, according to the Worst Supreme Court in History are people, too.  Real people — workers, family farmers, small businessmen, the unemployed, the sick, the tired, the poor, those who speak with funny accents, those whose skin is the wrong color — are not entitled to suck at the teat of government because that causes the richest and most powerful people to  pay taxes, which are sinful, evil things that only the sick, the tired, the poor and the afflicted should have to pay because they can’t afford multimillionaire lawyers and accountants and lobbyists to create loopholes that allow them to pay virtually no tax.

So stop whining.  Crawl off somewhere and suffer in silence, you lazy unemployed  slobs, you welfare queen sluts, you baby-factory refugees, you ignorant  non-English speaking leaches, you tree-hugging enviro nerds, you bleeding-heart Commie ratfink libruls, you  . . . well, you know who you are.

This is Merka, by God, the land of the Red, White and Blue, the flag-waving, tea–bagging, race-baiting, other-hating, war-making, bloodthirsty, world-ruling home of the brave and land of the free.

Love it or leave it.


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Is There Anything These People Don’t Hate?

By Thomas Wark


Do you have to hate everything in order to be a new Republican?

You’ve got to hate women: the Republicans in Congress refused to accept any budget that funds the health and social services that millions of American women need just to eke out an existence. These are the kind of people who came up with “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.”

You’ve got to hate animals: my Republican congressman wants to kill all the wolves in the southwest and other Republicans want to gut wildlife protections and endangered species laws.  These are the kind of people who would shoot Bambi between the eyes, feed poison to Lassie, put Flicka in hobbles and filet Flipper.

You’ve got to really hate poor people.  In a land where the richest one per cent of the are getting richer still by leaps and bounds, while the rest of fall further and further behind, the Republicans want to cut funding for programs to help the poor.  When Barry Goldwater, the godfather of neoconservatism, was running for President, Bill Mauldin drew a cartoon depicting an impoverished woman in tattered clothes on a church step, with B.G. towering over her saying, “Quit whining.  Go out and inherit a department store.”

You’ve got to really hate the planet we inhabit.  Let the filthy rich mining companies turn Grand Canyon and Arches National Parks into slag-filled swamps of bile and rot.  Drill, baby, drill!  Put the tree-huggers in concentration camps and make them drink from the streams befouled by mountain-top removal.  These people never met a landscape they didn’t want to defile.

You’ve got to really hate good health.  The Republicans want to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency.  Never mind that it prevents the polluters from causing cancer, diabetes, asthma and emphysema in millions of Americans.  It’s a damned nuisance for industries with billion dollar profits that don’t pay a nickel of income tax. These are the kind of people who would make matchsticks out of Tiny Tim’s crutch.

You’ve got to really hate the old and the sick.  Republicans want to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know it.  They detest what they call Obamacare.  They think primitive tribes had it right: when you’re old, infirm or sick, you should just crawl off into the wilderness and die.  Except that if the Republicans had their way, there’d be no wilderness to crawl off into.

You’ve got to hate real people and love corporations.  (See Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.) No wonder women are beginning to incorporate their uteruses: “It’s a person, not a choice.”

You’ve got to really hate liberals. Liberals, by definition, are open to new opinions and progress; they favor  individual liberty in political and social affairs.  Next thing you know they’ll be wanting to inflict stuff like  habeas corpus on us.

You’ve got to really hate working people.  Republicans have already put 27 million Americans out of work, and now they’re zeroing in on  the unions that protect workers’ rights.  A variation on the idea in the Mauldin cartoon. These are the kind of people who would strangle the canary in the coal mine because it costs too much for birdseed.

But Republicans still love motherhood and apple pie.  Unless, of course, mother is a liberal.  Then, well, send her out into the wilderness!


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Notes to a friend on an Open Letter to the Left

By Thomas Wark


A friend who is as passionately anti-war as I am — and has been for the same, long time — has engaged me in a friendly disagreement regarding the war in Libya.

As part of the dialogue he has sent me Juan Cole’s recent internet posting, “An Open Letter to the Left on Libya.”

Most of Cole’s arguments are reasonable, his assessments of the situation sound, his sincerity indisputable. The case he makes is essentially what weighed heavily on my mind as I considered what President Obama and his advisors finally decided to do in Libya.

Cole, however, fractures his own case for a reasoned, dispassionate discussion on the left with this paragraph:

If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.

Neither I nor Dennis Kucinich nor many others who share our views “acquiesce in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor.” Cole’s accusation is baseless and insulting.

As for the rest of the paragraph, I compliment Mr. Cole on his ability to see into the future. Perhaps some day he will help me pick a few stocks to invest in.

My concern about President Obama’s action involves the United States Constitution. It placed the war-making power solely in the hands of Congress. In 1973 the Congress itself muddied the waters with a War Powers Act that presidents have used ever since to make war whenever they damn pleased. Obama has done this in the case of Libya.

The United Nations Security Council cannot repeal the United States Constitution or any part thereof. Even in the muddied water of the 1973 Act, President Obama overstepped his authority on this matter.

The humanitarian objectives of the United Nations resolutions could have been met in time to prevent “destruction of a movement” for democracy in Libya by using the armed forces of those nations that endorsed the resolutions and were able to act immediately under their own laws and constitutions.

President Obama could have joined them in support of the anti-Qaddafi forces after consulting with Congress as required in the 1973 law.

I still have questions in my own mind about the initiative for the Arab League request to the U. N. that resulted in the Libya resolutions by the Security Council. The fact that none of the Arab League members rushed to join the combat caused me to wonder if arms were twisted — perhaps unethically, perhaps even illegally — in the deep diplomatic background before the UN action. My friend points out that Qatar recently joined the affray, which still to me smacks of the quasi-legitimacy of the Bush II “coalition” in the invasion of Iraq.

But the real concern is the addition of yet another precedent to support the notion that Presidents of the United States have war-making powers. The framers clearly did not intend that he or she should have such power. They vested it solely and absolutely in the Congress.

If that Constitutional mandate is outdated in today’s world, there is a process for amending it. The 1973 War Powers nonsense does not fulfill that process. A constitutional amendment, with ratification by two-thirds of the states, is what it takes.

Obviously that hasn’t happened. Instead, the door has been wedged open a bit further for this President and subsequent ones to bomb and otherwise make war upon any head of state who disagrees with U. S. policy. This in turn tends to prolong the endless war policy of the United States corporatocracy that I, Cole and my anti-war friend all oppose with every fiber of our being.


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What will be the lesson of Fukushima?

By Thomas Wark
Posted March 16, 2011


As someone who lived a gentle breeze away from Three Mile Island when its nuclear emergency took place, I have long been concerned about the proliferation of the technology to meet our increasing energy needs.

All of the chemical engineers I have known — particularly my own brother, who was not a nuclear expert, and my favorite hiking companion, who was — tried to persuade me that nuking was safe, clean, efficient and, while not perfect, still the best alternative to fossil fuel energy.  Their arguments — particularly regarding improved safety technology since TMI — were cogent.

Once, atop a mountain in southwest Virginia, my hiking friend and I looked eastward where once treed peaks filled the horizon, and were horrified to see moonscapes of mountaintop removal projects to obtain coal to fuel power plants. At that  moment the arguments for nuclear energy seemed particularly compelling. After all,  Chernobyl could never happen again.  Nor could TMI.

Now, tragically, we know otherwise.  We know that something unspeakably terrible can happen even in a technologically advanced society that has employed the best available science to make its nuclear plants safe.  Surely our hearts bleed for the people of Japan, on whom we inflicted Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as they now suffer the horrors of a powerful earthquake, a tsunami and new nuclear disaster.

Today we know not how all of this will end.  Workers have returned to the Fukushima nuclear plant to attempt to prevent the unspeakable from happening.  None of the world’s nuclear experts who have been commenting on the disaster in Japan knows if this can be done.  Like us, they can only hope.

But this much is clear: Nuclear power is neither safe nor clean.  And, as the slogan elsewhere on this page reminds us, “Nature bats last.”  Our planet has a fiery core; it has fault lines; its thin envelope of compatibility with human life has been tampered with by the very humans it protects.  We will have earthquakes; we will have tsunamis; we will have hurricanes; and we will pay the price of our tampering with Nature.

Nuclear plants  leak radioactive waste from underground pipes and radioactive waste pools into the ground water at sites all over the world. Science has yet to devise a method for adequately and safely handling long lived radioactive wastes.  Nuclear waste disposal was my hiking companion’s  particular sub-specialty.  He spent the twilight of his working career trying to deal with the waste problem at the Hanford site where the first atomic bombs were created.

Despite his faith in technology and his fellow scientists, there is still no safe, satisfactory way to deal with nuclear waste.

Several nuclear plants in this country are sited on, or perilously close to, fault lines. Perhaps that fact alone will prod us away from further nuclear dependency, away from filthy fossil fuels, and toward safe, renewable energy sources. Technically feasible renewable energy sources in the world are capable of producing up to six times more energy than current global demand.  Even now, nuclear plants around the globe deliver less energy than renewable sources of power.

Consider the recent coal mining disasters.  Consider the cost in money and wars of sucking a finite supply of petroleum out of the earth.  Consider the environmental consequences of gas and oil drilling.  Consider TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima.

Wind farms and solar panels do not kill.


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How Blatant Lies Become “Fact” in These United States

By Thomas Wark


A cartoon in today’s local newspaper (March  8) represents the outright lies a gullible electorate believes, partly because the mainstream media repeat them as fact without bothering to do basic journalism checking them out.

It depicts a thuggish, bloated figure labeled “unions” riding the back of a small, overburdened figure labeled “taxpayers.”

Its creator accepted as fact the blatant lies that have been repeated countless times in print, on the radio and on television, especially since the Wisconsin public employee protests began.

The media have parroted without challenge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s wildly untrue statements in support of his so-called “budget repair bill,” a thinly-disguised attempt to destroy unionism in one of the states where it began.

Here is David Cay Johnson, multiple Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, best-selling author, distinguished university lecturer (and registered Republican) :

“(Walker) says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.

Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so, a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.”

There are foolproof and longstanding laws of economic cause and effect that make this arrangement beneficial to both sides.

Understanding them requires a bit more time, study and effort than simply repeating what politicians like Walker say, as too many journalists today are wont to do. But here, from the economist Dean Baker, is an easy-to-grasp explanation:

“At the center of the right’s story is the view that governments are somehow being reckless or irresponsible when they provide guaranteed pensions for their workers. They tell us that these guaranteed benefits will bankrupt state and local governments, imposing impossible burdens on future taxpayers.

This story can be easily shown to be untrue. While the right has been scaring the public with talk of a trillion dollars in unfunded liability in state pensions, this sum can also be expressed as about 0.2 percent of state income over the time-frame in which the liabilities will have to be paid.

In other words, if states raise 20 cents in taxes or cut 20 cents in other spending for every hundred dollars of future income, they will be able to meet their current pension obligations. This is not a trivial sum, but it doesn’t seem likely to bankrupt our youth either.

Furthermore, the vast majority of this shortfall was due to the plunge in the stock market that followed the collapse of the housing bubble. Overly generous pensions were not the problem. The problem here were the greedy Wall Street types who profited from the housing bubble and the incompetent economists who did not see it. Of course the market has recovered much of its losses, so future years’ pension reports are likely to show that most of the shortfall has already been eliminated.

But it is important to understand the basic logic of defined benefit pensions, since many are trying to eliminate them altogether. Defined benefit pensions are in effect a form of insurance. They guarantee workers a level of retirement income based on the years that they work.

This guarantee of future income is more valuable to workers than getting the same amount of money in salary since it would be very expensive for workers to buy the same insurance from the financial industry. From the standpoint of the government, the insurance is virtually costless.

State and local governments will survive into the indefinite future. If the stock market is down any given year or set of years there is little consequence for a government offering a pension fund. Of course, a down market would be devastating for an individual worker if it happens at the point where he/she retires.

This simple logic means that governments can give workers something that is of great value – a guaranteed retirement income — at very little cost. (Research shows that even after adding in pensions, health care and other benefits, public sector workers are paid slightly less than their private-sector counterparts. This means that because governments offer defined benefit pensions they can either attract better workers at the same pay, or the same quality workers at lower pay, than if they did not offer pensions. This is as basic as economics gets.”

Facts, basic economics, logic, legal precedent, even the Constitution — — none of these seem to modify in anyway the bullying anti-intellectual nonsense of the prevailing Tea Pot element of the Republican party. And far too many members of the voting public believe their lies.

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If spunk were eggs, we’d all eat omelets

By Thomas Wark
Say this for the handful of true progressives in American political life: they’ve got spunk.

It’s a pity that the likes of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich have no option in party affiliation except to align themselves with the gutless Milquetoasts who call themselves Democrats.  But such is political reality in the two-party system of the former democracy called the United States. They have to lie down with dogs and accept fleas like the so-called health care reform act, which passed only after it was so modified that it merely perpetuates the crimes it set out to reform. Dean and Kucinich ultimately supported it because, for a complicated set of reasons, they perceived it as slightly better than nothing at all.

In his working class district of Ohio, Kucinich has retained his seat in Congress in successive elections despite enormous sums of money spent by the Republicans in vain efforts to buy enough votes to oust him. But if they failed at the ballot box, the Republicans now will get rid of Kucinich by the massive scam called redistricting.

Under the law, each state gains or loses seats every ten years according to its new population as determined by the U.S. Census.  Because Ohio lost population, it is required to redraw its Congressional districts later this year.

Here’s what Kucinich said in a recent letter to constituents:

My district might be eliminated. We need to begin to work now to prepare for what is sure to be a major effort to silence your voice. As you know, my work in Congress has never been about me. It’s about the hopes and aspirations of the people of the 10th district and the people of our Nation.

I don’t know where my district will be. But I owe it to you and to all those who have ever supported me to not sit idly while questions are being raised in every major media outlet about whether I will be forced out of Congress by redistricting. I will not let any special interests force me out. Your support will ensure that the debate – on issues as important as ending the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, implementing single-payer healthcare, and remaking our economy for Main Street not Wall Street – will continue.

I’m not going to let our voices and our movement be abolished by the stroke of a pen. There’s too much at stake. This is the time to stand up and speak out. And based on the support and responses I’ve seen so far, I know you’re right there with me.

Good luck, Dennis.  Hell, I remember the afternoon a friend plunked down two bucks at the parimutuel window in Liberty Bell park for a “win” ticket on a 1,000-to-one shot, the longest odds in the history of the venue.  The nag won and my friend took his bride out to dinner at Le Bec Fin.

And here’s Dean:

The question is still what kind of country do we want to live in?

Republicans often play to the worst impulses in human nature and separate people from each other, scapegoating minority groups and dismantling our community support systems. We have a better answer.

We know what we believe.

We believe in community. We care about our neighbors and we help each other. We can provide a bright future to our children with a quality education and we can provide a secure retirement free from poverty and dependence for our grandparents. And we can accomplish it within a reasonable budget so we don’t leave a burden of debt on the next generation. Democrats are responsible and balance budgets. Democrats lift up the community and make sure that everyone has a chance for a future.

We believe in security. We will foster strong partnerships with other nations to ensure the secure and safe prosperity for all. We will reduce our dependence on resources that make us vulnerable to attack. We will use our American ingenuity to strengthen our own economy and our environment. We won’t start wars of choice and then perpetuate them to keep the military contractors in business. We will fund schools and investment in green jobs over funding bombers and missile defense our military doesn’t need or even want.

We believe in liberty. We respect every American’s right to practice their own religion and to live a life free from bigotry, abuse, and harassment. We will fight discrimination and deliver on the promise of equality for all Americans. We believe that no one, not multinational corporations nor the government, has the right to your personal information to keep tabs on you for profit or unwarranted policing.

We believe in community, security and liberty and we will never back down.

Truly, they won’t quit.  But how often do thousand-to-one shots win?  Don’t make your dinner reservations yet.

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