Friday, May 26, 2017

Stop deciding to be poor

Ben Popken of NBC News notes that in the nasty guy’s budget $2 trillion of extra federal revenue growth would be used for the “biggest tax cut in history.” That same $2 trillion is to be used to balance the federal budget.

That revenue growth is based on the economy growing by at least 3% a year, which most economists say is close to impossible to achieve, even though the nasty guy doesn’t like the current rate of growth (as if by saying it he could change it).

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says the double accounting of that $2 trillion was “on purpose” because he says other assumptions in the budget were “overly conservative.”

Representative Karen Bass of California issued a statement blasting the nasty guy’s proposed budget. A couple excerpts:
The President’s “stop deciding to be poor” approach to the budget is a fundamental misstep that would permanently cripple the most vulnerable communities n the short run and erode our country’s international leadership in the long run.

No one chooses food stamps over a job. No one *wants* to be poor, but based on recent quotes from the budget director and the presentation of this budget, it seems like the President fundamentally believes otherwise.

Senator Elizabeth Warren took a look at the Congressional Budget Office report on Trumpcare and simplified it for everyone to understand:
The CBO confirmed: Trumpcare is a $663 BILLION tax cut for the rich paid for by kicking 23 MILLION people off of insurance. End of story.

Sarah Kendzior has this to say about those controlling Washington (which Hillary Clinton incorporated into a speech)
When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Taxpayers first

The nasty guy released his detailed budget for the fiscal year starting in October. It is disappointingly, but expectedly, nasty. Cuts to just about everything except Defense and Medicare and a good chunk of the gutted Education budget designated to go for school choice efforts (see why that is a bad thing here and here). Nasty through and through. I’ll let you read your favorite news source to see the depths of the nastiness.

Many hope Congress won’t be nearly so drastic. It depends on how much they feel they must respond to voters. So far this year that record isn’t good. Even if what Congress passes isn’t “drastic” it will cut the social safety net. But the nasty guy’s budget is what all GOP Congresscritters would like to enact if they thought they would survive the next election.

What really annoyed me was the language used to describe this budget.

Mick Mulvaney is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. That means this nasty budget is something carries his name and blessing. In presenting it today he said this budget will be “putting taxpayers first.” He also said:
Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft. This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny.

He has the audacity to say the poor and working poor are thieves? This is an amazing amount of chutzpah. The poor? Really? Let’s go back to something I wrote a year ago about who the thieves are.

I wish for words stronger than “audacity” and “chutzpah.” I even checked a thesaurus and didn’t find something strong enough. Brazen? Gall? Nerve? Arrogance? Though a phrase from my time in the auto industry comes to mind: “He could bowl with those balls.”

On to that odious phrase of “putting taxpayers first.”

Many of the people paying taxes are the working poor. I’ll come from another angle: 73% of of those on public assistance are the working poor. They have a job. They pay taxes. Yet their employer is so stingy they still can’t get by and need assistance for basics such as food and shelter. This budget does not put these taxpayers first. It actually makes their situation much more precarious. And Mulvaney accuses these people of theft when it is their bosses who are stealing wage and productivity gains the workers made possible. And the GOP in Congress are promoting that theft by refusing to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

And then we get to those who don’t have jobs because their local schools were a mess because of underfunding, who can’t afford a car and don’t have public transportation, who can’t afford child care, who can’t work because they can’t afford healthcare, who can’t work because…

Because Mulvaney and the people whose bidding he does have stolen the future of person after person.

But what annoys me most is the implication that the government should value taxpayers higher than anyone else. Part of that is a ranking thing – that taxpayers as people are worth more and should be ranked higher than others. And part of it is the idea that taxpayers don’t have to share. They can separate themselves from the rest of us. The well-being of the country as a whole doesn’t depend on us working together.

This is a blow to building community, to the reality that we’re in this together. We need to take care of one another. We are one nation.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tantamount to shutting down free speech

The new Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has led his team into the first step in undoing net neutrality, the rules that say internet service providers must treat all traffic the same. They can’t slow down or block traffic from sites they compete against or disagree with. The first vote was 2-1 in favor of undoing the rules.

There will now be 90 days of comments. And the comment process is looking mighty suspicious.

Joan McCarter of DailyKos wrote:
Shutting down the open internet is tantamount to shutting down free speech and doing it for Trump makes it even more fraught with danger.

Carvell Wallace emphasizes that last point in a series of tweets:
If you’ve noticed that black and brown writers, media makers, activist, etc have a much bigger role in the conversation, if you’ve notices that writers like me have a platform now when we would not have 20 years ago, then you should know that it’s because the internet has to a significant extent removed traditional gatekeepers from media. Back in the 90’s you COULD NOT GET ON unless a white person gave you permission. And that could be revoked if you talked too crazy. Social media, and the initial (relative) even-handedness and openness of the net has changed that, has allowed us to talk openly, honestly. This is EXACTLY why whiteness is being so roundly question as a benign and neutral default. This is EXACTLY how patriarchy is coming to be publicly and widely examined for the fucking bullshit scourge that it is. NET NEUTRALITY is about all that. This is literally an attempt to return ALL media to paying corporations.

Calvary and white horses

Congress has abdicated its Constitutional checks and balances in investigating the nasty guy, including around the mess with Russia. This is not yet an issue for the various courts, the third branch of our government system. Which leaves… who?

The who is a special counsel working through the FBI (I think) and supported by the general intelligence community. Hooray! At least someone is doing it! Here comes the Calvary to save us!

But Melissa McEwan of Shakesville and others are growing alarmed. This Calvary may not be riding white horses. They don’t necessarily have the nation’s best interests in mind. Some of the reasons for their alarm:

* The intelligence community (IC) has been on the receiving end of the nasty guy’s ire. Which means the IC is trying to even the score by being all the more determined to pursue allegations against the nasty guy. This is coming out as dueling coups – the IC trying to bring down the nasty guy while he is trying to dismantle them (or at least their ability to investigate him) and replace them with loyalists. Which will happen first?

* Michael Glennon of Harpers notes that the Constitution says the Congress is to provide a check on the prez., not a bureaucracy devoted to security. Who controls this bureaucracy? Do we want to set that precedent? Security forces, with strengthened powers, don’t have a good track record: FBI blackmailing civil rights leaders, NSA watch lists, CIA waterboarding. Those good at repression would not keep us from repression. And security is the excuse for everything they do.

* Are we seeing an effort to oust the nasty guy, or are we seeing the IC only trying to keep the nasty guy from being hostile to them? Are they simply fighting for power and influence? If the nasty guy manages a truce might he then turn the security forces to his bidding, might they be turned against us?

Think of it another way: If the nasty guy is ousted and the vice nasty guy ascends he will be very good a cosying up to the IC with ways to use them against democracy.

Yeah, I’m glad someone is researching the nasty guy. But they may not be doing it for us.