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CNN Interview with Rep. Jared Polis

Sunday, February 15, 2009

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"Kill all the Economists"

By Sen. Fritz Hollings
Huffington Post


No one likes to hear from a "has been." I've tried to be polite. I've tried to be politically correct, but -- in Shakespeare's Henry VI Jock the Butcher exclaims: "Kill all the lawyers." Paraphrasing Shakespeare for the need of the times: "Kill all the economists." The President, the Congress and all in Washington are playing "economists." The economists refuse to admit that in the last eight years we have added $5 trillion to the national debt; stimulated the economy $5 trillion. Heaped on this debauchery, the voters have consumed or added to the household debt $7 trillion or stimulated the economy another $7 trillion, for a total of $12 trillion stimulation. Let's realize the enormity. It took this nation two hundred years paying for all the wars - the Revolution, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam; paying for LBJ's "Great Society," and we had yet reached a national debt of $1 trillion. It wasn't until Ronald Reagan in 1981 that we reached a $1 trillion debt. Now in eight years, President George W. Bush and the Congress have increased the debt $5 trillion or stimulated the economy $5 trillion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the national debt increased from September 30, 2007, to September 30, 2008, $1 trillion, $35 billion. In short, we stimulated the economy last year $1 trillion, $35 billion, and we're losing jobs like gangbusters. Since the beginning of this fiscal year, October 1, 2008, we have stimulated the economy $733 billion, and last month lost 600,000 jobs. It took the economists a year to agree that we were in a recession and they still debate whether or not we're in a depression. As a lawyer, listening to economists for fifty-two years of public service, stimulation is not working. The economy has collapsed. Families all over the land have run out of money or their economies have collapsed. And those with money know that the economy is in real trouble, and given money, they will not spend it. Everybody with sense is saving, and that's what the government must do for a change.

It so happens that the U. S. economic collapse occurs at the same time global economies have had a downturn. They are properly moving with stimulation to jump-start or jolt their economies. China, trying to keep its economy going, pursue a "Buy China" policy. But the economists, the financial world, and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce are so extremely wrong as wanting to eliminate the "Buy America" provision in the stimulation bills....(Click for remainder).

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Failure to Rise

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times


By any normal political standards, this week’s Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. He got more or less what he asked for: almost $800 billion to rescue the economy, with most of the money allocated to spending rather than tax cuts. Break out the Champagne!

Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don’t apply: Mr. Obama’s victory feels more than a bit like defeat. The stimulus bill looks helpful but inadequate, especially when combined with a disappointing plan for rescuing the banks. And the politics of the stimulus fight have made nonsense of Mr. Obama’s postpartisan dreams.

Let’s start with the politics.

One might have expected Republicans to act at least slightly chastened in these early days of the Obama administration, given both their drubbing in the last two elections and the economic debacle of the past eight years.

But it’s now clear that the party’s commitment to deep voodoo — enforced, in part, by pressure groups that stand ready to run primary challengers against heretics — is as strong as ever. In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts....(Click for remainder).

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Tax Cut Zombies from the Planet No!

By Will Durst
Huffington Post


It is the stuff of nightmares. You hear the shabby shuffle of their somnambulant stutter and your skin begins to crawl. To see their haunted hollow eyes on the cable news shows taking no notice of their surroundings is a spiral straight into terror. The worst part is the cries of the children as they cower behind couches, hands over their ears blocking out the monotonous intonations of the mind numbing mantra "Tax Cuts. Tax Cuts. Tax Cuts." They are the Tax Cut Zombies from the Planet No, and they are not of this earth. Okay, maybe they are, but they sure don't live in the real world.

Citizens of America, stay in your homes. The Minority leadership unleashed their legions of virtual undead to battle the White House's economic stimulus package with a soul sapping single-mindedness and they're still out there. "Tax cuts: good. Spending: bad." The slogan echoes mournfully off of marble as the empty husks of conservative humanity stumble through the halls of Congress with heavy plodding steps and outstretched arms lurching from microphone to microphone.

It is a purely defensive tactic borne of panicky desperation as the GOP recoils from the horror of their first Congressional/Executive confrontation in 14 years lacking relevance. In the House, they stood an impenetrable wall of flesh, with not a single vote for the bailout plan coming from their ranks. And the only three Senators to cross the aisle were the two ladies from Maine, who in the privacy of their own homes, are rumored to dress up as Democrats, and Arlen Specter, who pulled a Blagojevich, trading his support for inclusion of a pet project. But a good pet project. As opposed to all those bad pet projects. Which get called pork. By the pigs. Go figure....(Click for remainder).

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Time to End the Inquisition against Buy America Advocates

By Scott Paul
Huffington Post


To hear the critics of Buy America, you would think those misguided souls advocating it, like 84% of the American public, are either out to start a global trade war, responsible for the creation of a second Great Depression, ignorant of economics, or guaranteeing pink slips for even more workers.

Commentators like Clive Crook, who holds no Nobel Prize in economics by the way, has slapped down Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Krugman for even suggesting that there might be some theoretical rationale for Buy America (though Krugman made it clear he did not personally favor such an approach). Other economists, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Business Week's Michael Mandel, do support the rationale for Buy America.

Crook's intolerance reminds me of the Spanish Inquisition, not in its violence or scope of course, but rather in its complete and total prejudice and vindictiveness against points of view that differ with the orthodoxy-- as if free trade was the founding basis for a theocracy. Perhaps Crook is so defensive because there is a growing consensus that while writing about free trade may be lucrative, the workers who actually produce tradeable goods do not seem to be sharing in its benefits. There's also a real concern that the gargantuan U.S. trade deficit -- $677 billion last year alone -- helped to create a trade bubble that has a direct relation to the housing bubble and our current economic crisis. And then there's our trade policy, which closely resembles a Madoff scheme. We buy far more from China than we sell thanks to China's misaligned currency, massive industrial subsidies, and barriers to U.S. exports. China uses that surplus to buy the debt we've accumulated through our trade, credit, and public deficits. What do we get? Cheaper goods, some laced with lead. We also have a shrinking manufacturing base, with nearly one in four manufacturing jobs shed since 2000 (when trade with China started to grow), and more piles of debt. But we've preserved the idea of free trade, which seems to be the most important goal in Crook's mind....(Click for remainder).

Scott Paul is the Executive Director of Alliance for American Manufacturing

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"Republicants" deny sky is falling

By Leo W. Gerard
Huffington Post


The sky is falling.

For the average Working Joe or Jane in America, it is anyway. Unemployment is at 7.6 percent and rising. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that there are 4.1 job seekers now for every opening. The mortgage delinquency rate set another record last quarter, and foreclosures are predicted to top 1 million this year. Because of reckless speculation by Wall Street financiers, the stock market is plummeting, taking with it a third of the value of the retirement accounts of hard-working Americans.

If the average Jane and Joe have not lost their jobs, they've seen a big chunk of their retirement savings slip away. Or their kid can't find work. Or a neighbor's been foreclosed on.

Still, Republicans in Congress couldn't find it in their hearts to vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly called the stimulus bill. They just can't vote to support the American people - they're "Republicants."
An official description of the act the Republicants rejected says it:
"Makes supplemental appropriations for FY2009: (1) for job preservation and creation; (2) to promote economic recovery; (3) to assist those most impacted by the recession; (4) to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health; (5) to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and (6) to stabilize state and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases."
In the House, not a single Republicant voted for this bill to create jobs and restore economic growth. In the Senate, three brave members of the GOP stood up to the Republicants gang to pass the Recovery Act and aid suffering Americans - Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania....(Click for remainder).

Leo W. Gerard is President of the United Steelworkers International

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How The Government Stimulus Plan Will Affect You

By The Associated Press
Via Huffington Post


An examination of how the economic stimulus plan will affect Americans.

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Taxes:

The recovery package has tax breaks for families that send a child to college, purchase a new car, buy a first home or make the ones they own more energy efficient.

Millions of workers can expect to see about $13 extra in their weekly paychecks, starting around June, from a new $400 tax credit to be doled out through the rest of the year. Couples would get up to $800. In 2010, the credit would be about $7.70 a week, if it is spread over the entire year.

The $1,000 child tax credit would be extended to more low-income families that don't make enough money to pay income taxes, and poor families with three or more children will get an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Middle-income and wealthy taxpayers will be spared from paying the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed 40 years ago to make sure wealthy taxpayers pay at least some tax, but was never indexed for inflation. Congress fixes it each year, usually in the fall.

First-time homebuyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 1 would be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, and people who buy new cars before the end of the year can write off the sales taxes.

Homeowners who add energy-efficient windows, furnaces and air conditioners can get a tax credit to cover 30 percent of the costs, up to a total of $1,500. College students _ or their parents _ are eligible for tax credits of up to $2,500 to help pay tuition and related expenses in 2009 and 2010.

Those receiving unemployment benefits this year wouldn't pay any federal income taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.

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Health insurance:

Many workers who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs will find it cheaper to keep that coverage while they look for work....(Click for remainder).

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Republicans Ignored

Markos Moulitsas
The Hill


Twittering the ongoing negotiations over the stimulus bill last Saturday, Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill bragged, “Proud we cut over 100 billion out of recov bill. Many Ds don’t like it, but needed to be done. The silly stuff Rs keep talking about is OUT.”

Yes, silly stuff. Stuff like money for new school construction and law enforcement, money to help states avoid massive layoffs and service cuts. Apparently, “centrism” means opposition to saving jobs and improving educational opportunities in our country, while Republicanism means obstructing. And their rewards? The “centrists” are “courageous,” while Republicans get feted for their “glimmers of rebirth” on The Washington Post front page.

Meanwhile, the cable networks schedule Republican lawmakers 2-to-1 over their Democratic counterparts — a real challenge when you consider that there aren’t very many Republican lawmakers left in Congress. Take note that many of those Democrats are actually opponents of the stimulus, and it’s soon clear that pro-stimulus voices have been curiously rare in national media.

Yet through it all, an increasingly sophisticated American public is getting better at bypassing the media noise and making up their own minds. Just as they eventually decided to ignore the media proclamations that “George W. Bush is a great leader,” or that “Hillary Clinton is inevitable,” they’re now tuning out much of the Beltway-driven anti-stimulus media onslaught. As Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod told the press on Monday, “Here’s the point, folks: We’ve got a good plan to deal with a deep crisis. The American people support it and we’re urging everyone in Congress to catch up with the people on this one.”...(Click for remainder).

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Public still sky-high on Obama 'brand'

By Ben Smith
Politico


With Barack Obama’s victory in passing a massive stimulus package marred by days of bad press — as not a single House Republican backed the bill, his health czar went down in flames and his second pick for commerce secretary walked away — the administration has been cut down to size, and lost some of its bipartisan sheen.

Such, at least, has been the beltway chatter, but so far the numbers don’t back it up.

Obama’s approval rating remains well above 60 percent in tracking polls. A range of state pollsters said they’d seen no diminution in the president’s sky-high approval ratings, and no improvement in congressional Republicans’ dismal numbers.

And that’s before the stimulus creates billions of dollars in spending on popular programs, which could, at least temporarily, further boost Obama’s popularity.

“It’s eerie — I read the news from the Beltway, and there’s this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me,” said Ann Seltzer, the authoritative Iowa pollster who works throughout the Midwest.

That’s a perception treasured by Obama’s aides, who spent a two-year presidential campaign safeguarding “the brand,” as they called it, of a new, post-partisan sort of political figure....(Click for remainder).

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Why Eric Cantor Hates You

By David Glenn Cox
OpEd News


The easy answer is because you're not Eric Cantor, but like most wealthy Republicans he hates you because you're here. Reason enough, your poverty or neediness angers him because you're not Eric Cantor. The insulting video put out by his office is not proof of it; it is just another example of it. This is what the Republican Congressman from Virginia thinks is funny, disparaging characterizations of working people depicted in stereotypical roles.

Cantor sees the world a little differently than most Americans; his world belongs to the wealthy, and the middle class and poor are seen as an impediment to his world. You are the garbage to be swept off the street; he will gladly support prisons to incarcerate you, but not colleges to educate you.

Cantor's first measure introduced to Congress was the Education Empowerment Tax Credit Act that would provide for a $1,000 per-child education tax credit for all parents with school-age children. The bill would help parents to meet their children's individual education needs. The credit could only be used toward the purchase of computers, encyclopedias, tutors, special education needs and private school tuition.

Contrast that with Cantor's vote against grants for Black and Hispanic colleges in 2006. Cantor has little knowledge of public schools because he never attended any. He attended elite private schools where he could be protected from the riffraff and ruffians often found in public schools. Perhaps that is why he votes against public education at every opportunity. In 2007 he voted no on $10.2 billion for Federal education and Health and Human Services projects....(Click for remainder).

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Study: Bio-fuels may actually be accelerating global warming

This is potentially disturbing. What I want to know before I start 'worrying' is who funded this study? If this was actually funded by Stanford, then okay. But if this was somehow funded by the oil industry, then this is a bunch of poo.

By Agence France-Presse

CHICAGO (AFP) – The use of crop-based biofuels could speed up rather than slow down global warming by fueling the destruction of rainforests, scientists warned Saturday.

Once heralded as the answer to oil, biofuels have become increasingly controversial because of their impact on food prices and the amount of energy it takes to produce them.

They could also be responsible for pumping far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they could possibly save as a replacement for fossil fuels, according to a study released Saturday.

"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks," warned Holly Gibbs, of Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment.

Gibbs studied satellite photos of the tropics from 1980 to 2000 and found that half of new cropland came from intact rainforests and another 30 percent from disturbed forests.

"When trees are cut down to make room for new farmland, they are usually burned, sending their stored carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide," Gibbs said.

For high-yield crops like sugar cane it would take 40 to 120 years to pay back this carbon debt.

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They Sure Showed That Obama

By Frank Rich
The New York Times


AM I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. “Obama Losing Stimulus Message War” was the headline at Politico a day later. At the mostly liberal MSNBC, the morning host, Joe Scarborough, started preparing the final rites. Obama couldn’t possibly eke out a victory because the stimulus package was “a steaming pile of garbage.”

Less than a month into Obama’s term, we don’t (and can’t) know how he’ll fare as president. The compromised stimulus package, while hardly garbage, may well be inadequate. Timothy Geithner’s uninspiring and opaque stab at a bank rescue is at best a place holder and at worst a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the TARP-Titanic, where he served as Hank Paulson’s first mate.

But we do know this much. Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.

On Wednesday, as a stimulus deal became a certainty on Capitol Hill, I asked David Axelrod for his take on this Groundhog Day relationship between Obama and the political culture....(Click for remainder).

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