The Bizarro World Of The Ultra-Farleftys

I’m a farlefty. My blog name validates this or it wouldn’t be called Farlefty. My world is ruled by logic, common sense, and deductive reasoning and opinions based on research. Then there’s the world of the ultra-farleftys in which President Obama is lying about ISIS/ISIL and the threat they pose to our American way of life. They claim he just wants to phony up a war in Iraq just like the Bush administration did. They also claim we are being lied to about the threat ISIS/ISIL poses to Syria along with the threat Assad poses to his own Syrian people. These people claim the puppet masters behind the marionette show which is Congress, SCOTUS, and the White House are hungry for more oil fields and the plentiful natural resources laying around all over the place in the Middle East and that’s what’s really going on. Well, I agree with that up to a point—especially about most of Congress and the five Koch Brothers employees on SCOTUS being puppets.

But here’s the problem as I see it with the overwhelming paranoia on the Far Left: If Obama is just as much of a liar as George W. Bush was, then this country is already lost to the likes of the Koch Brothers. It’s game over, folks; there’s no Blue and there’s no Red, just Purple. If this is to be believed, then there’s not a thing we can do about it because the game is rigged and no matter who you believe or who you vote for, you’re wrong. I believe Obama to be a basically good man of good intentions for this country, but it’s undeniable that for most of his presidency he’s been in the pockets of the likes of Goldman Sachs (look at how many people from GS he chose to fill White House and Federal Reserve Bank positions) and the banksters (Jaime Dimon being his good buddy). But given all this, Obama did sign into law bills that have helped—for the most part—consumers and homeowners.

These same ultra-farleftys also think Vladimir Putin is an innocent victim of worldwide disinformation intended to frame him as a despot intent on returning the Ukraine piece back to the jigsaw puzzle that was the Soviet Union. They claim that it’s Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, who’s the real villain, trying to gain the world’s sympathy by falsely claiming Russian nationalists and operatives had invaded Ukraine and started shooting wars to capture and control the southeastern region of the country. Ultra-farleftys also point to interviews and articles on Russia Today (where else) that claim it was Ukraine that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near Donetsk in the that the ensuing global outrage would result in a world war against Russia.

The world of the ultra-farleftys is like the Bizarro world in the Superman comics. The good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys good. Everything you know is wrong, which is true up to a point. I think that intelligent people who are also congenitally insightful are intuitive enough to discern truth from fiction, lies, and propaganda. When you read a book by Paul Krugman, you just know he is truthfully and accurately relating what went wrong with the financial system in this country and how to fix it. When you read books by Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulter, you know they’re lying pieces of shit.

Ultra-farleftys may be intelligent folk—many of them seem to be—and some may well be well-meaning but unknowing purveyors of disinformation while others are in on the scam. I don’t know. But what I do know is that people on the far left can go so far to the left, and people on the far right can go so far to the right that both groups meet in the middle. It’s one thing to be faced on both sides with lunacy, but to be surrounded by it creates a vacuum empty of knowledge and truth. Nature abhors a vacuum but tyranny loves it.

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Sometimes Democrats and Republicans ARE The Same

Reading Paul Krugman’s “End This Depression Now!” He makes it quite clear that the whole income inequality and the 2008 financial meltdown was a bipartisan accomplishment. To keep this short, I’ll give a timeline mentioning just the players and the legislation responsible and you can Google them for more information.

1980: Congress passes and Carter signs into law the Monetary Control Act of 1980 which deregulated and opened up many more kinds of deposits that banks could now pay interest on.

1982: Congress passes and Reagan signs into law the Garn–St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 which relaxed restrictions on the kinds of loans banks could make.

1998: Citicorp merges with Travelers Group to attain both Smith Barney and Shearson Lehman and form Citigroup. The problem was that at that time Glass-Steagall prevented commercial banks from engaging in either insurance or investment banking. Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill pays a visit to and makes sure large contributions are paid to Texas Senator Phil Gramm. The result:

1999: Congress passes and Clinton signs into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which retroactively authorizes the Citi-Travelers merger. Oh, the key White House figure supporting the bill? Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Gramm left the Senate and joined the board of directors of UBS. Rubin was a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and after leaving the Clinton White House became vice chairman of…Citigroup.

Also in 1998: Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers testifies before Congress that regulating derivatives would be a bad idea and so the issue is tabled. He later endorses the the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. (In 2009, Summers admits he was wrong about everything. Better late than never? Tell that to all the people worldwide who lost homes, jobs, savings, retirement accounts, lives–everything–before Summers in essence said “Oops.”)

My contributions outside of the book:

2001: Along with the British, Dubya starts a war in Afghanistan. The costs for the war is kept off the federal budget.

2001: Congress passes and Dubya signs into law the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.

2003: Dubya invades Iraq. The costs for the war are kept off the federal budget.

2003: Congress passes and Dubya signs into law Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

2009: Congress passes and Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It authorizes a stimulus payment of what grew to be $831 billion. Economic adviser Christina Romer insisted that the minimum stimulus needed to jump start the economy was $1.8 billion, and she was later proven right although she was gone from the White House by that time. Who overruled her, insisting on the lower stimulus package? Our old friend (and Bill Clinton’s), Larry Summers, along with Peter R. Orszag, yet another ex-Clinton economic adviser who headed the CBO under Obama. After leaving the Obama administration, Orszag took a job with…Citigroup.

So, as Krugman and I have shown, what led to the 2008 meltdown and which continues the basis and continued extension of income inequality (through all the deregulation because yes indeed, as the rich get richer the poor get poorer) has been a bipartisan affair. It is very true: when it comes to the economy, there is no difference between the two parties.

John Stewart Schools Timothy Geithner In Economics

Watch Jon Stewart at his best: Geithner. It’s a 3-part interview with a 5-part extended interview.

Timothy Geithner is making the talk show rounds plugging his new book. Geithner is a typically, tone deaf political economist who was one of the primary constructionists of two economic policies which led to and has perpetuated the effects of the crash of 2008. Watch his body language as he insists the Obama administration did the only thing possible to help the economy recover while Stewart keeps calling him on his bullshit, requiring Geithner to reset and try to throw it again.

Geithner is not a people person and it shows. He has been around economic theory, growing up living a privileged life; he has never known poverty. Throughout most of his childhood he lived abroad; throughout his education, his focus was on Asia, not on the USA. He went to two universities in China and then majored in and got advanced degrees from two American schools in Asian and international studies. His entire career has put a firewall between him and the average person,. He’s all economic theory and no personal knowledge or experience with or—I think—any true compassion for the plight of the people who suffer as a result of economic policies he put in place.

After the 2008 economic meltdown, what was his primary concern? He wanted to avoid setting off a bank panic, or even making them slightly nervous. That’s why he insisted the banks be given all that free money with absolutely no restrictions or federal controls. He smugly claimed to Stewart that the banks paid back all those loans with interest; therefore, the taxpayers made a profit. Really? Was that profit shared with all those homeowners who lost their home because banks like Bank of America, Citibank, and JP Morgan Chase refused or delayed to refinance homes, denying or delaying applications for refinancing under HARP? Over and over again you see Geithner try to run, but he can’t hide from Stewart.

To him, the economic problems of the poor and the middle class are theoretical. So, no matter how much he tries to argue to the contrary, Stewart is right: TARP gave no-strings-attached money to the banks hand-over-fist, and then allowed them to borrow money at the discount window for 0% interest and make 3% interest on that same money. Yet despite both TARP and HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program), homeowners were foreclosed on in record numbers—many through fraudulent and illegal means—and the banks were left off the hook by paying plea-bargained fines which amounted to pocket change for them.

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Geithner insists the Obama administration did the right and the only available thing to fix the economy. Tone deaf, again. And this speaks volumes about Obama because he was the one who hired Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury, to work beside Larry Summers, the Clinton retread who gave us unregulated derivatives and the repeal of Glass-Steagall during the Clinton years which directly lead to the 2008 crash. While Stewart did a great job of nailing Geithner to his own cross, even better than Stewart, I’d love to see Paul Krugman and/or Robert Reich debate Geithner over his book. Both of them would bring along their good friend, John Maynard Keynes (in spirit), who I believe would have loved the opportunity to go a few rounds with Geithner on TV. Talk about REALLY being schooled…

Liberal Talk Shows—Best P.R. Right Wingers Ever Had

I turned on John Fugelsang’s Current TV show last night just for a moment but saw what epitomizes the frustrating state of most liberal talk shows today. Fugelsang and a panel were talking about Ann Coulter’s latest spew of vomit.  I have no idea what she said—and I don’t care. Once I saw what the topic was I turned off the show.

I don’t give a crap about Coulter but what bothers me is that I bet she gets more air time and mention on liberal talk shows than on Fox News.  I don’t know how many times she’s been on the Daily Show but I bet it’s more times than Stewart has had Bernie Sanders or Paul Krugman on.  I can’t stand liberal show segments like this one on Fugelsang or Stephanie Miller’s “Right Wing World” that discuss or play back comments made by right wingers for the sole purpose of fomenting ire and saying “Isn’t what they said OUTRAGEOUS????” The fact is hardly any wingers are watching Fugelsang and Miller so they’re preaching to the goddamn liberal choir who are already fully aware that anything Coulter says is self-serving, intentionally inflammatory shit. And guess what? If liberal shows didn’t repeat what was said—we wouldn’t even know about it.

OK, so Coulter first said whatever she said at CPAC and perhaps repeated it on Fox. So what? The people she would influence are already voting Republican and she’s not going to change or sway any Democratic minds so what the hell is the big deal? What WOULD be a big deal is if liberals like Fugelsang and Stewart would stop repeating her statements or give her a platform on which to make these statement she would be a lot less well-known. I’m sure Fox and the Repugs buy a lot of her books to boost the sales figures and then give them away free to whoever wants a copy.

The fact is the Right has not one pundit worth a shit so it loves when liberals do their p.r. work for them, even if it’s just chastising an assembly line right wing idiot pundit who’s never made a logical or incisive political observation in her professional life.  Just ignore her and those of her ilk. If Coulter had to maintain her infamy solely with her Fox appearances, she would go the way of both Sarah Palin and Dick Morris—both of whom Fox tossed overboard.

When I tune into MSNBC or Current TV, I don’t want to hear how lousy and corrupt Republicans and right wingers are—I already know that.  I want to hear what liberals and Democrats are actively doing to take our country back. And honestly, I haven’t been hearing much in a long while.

Paul Krugman Keeps It Simple For Stupid People

I’m going to borrow a phrase from Paul Krugman’s excellent book. “End This Depression Now!”: “Your spending is my income and my spending is your income.”

Yes, it’s that simple.  So when John Boehner claims “We’re broke” and insists on cutting federal government spending, when President Obama buys into this, when the banks refuse to lend out money, when  the Irish and British governments but themselves on an austerity diet, when Angela Merkel of Germany puts the monetary  screws to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc., they’re all missing that obvious, simple point.  In order for people to spend money, they have to have money.

So with this simple logic, how illogical is it for Boehner and the Republicans to insist on cutting unemployment benefits, food stamps, cash aid, Social Security, government spending on infrastructure repair, public works projects, light rail and high speed rail projects, and for Republican governors to refuse to accept federal funds for these projects? The answer is incredibly as well as stupid as well as venal.  Boehner’s and the Republicans’ only objective in cutting spending (and the deficit) is to keep unemployment high and GDP low so that Obama is held to a mere four years in office.  Yes, it’s that simple.

In any recession or all-out depression, the only way out is to put money into people’s pockets so they can go out spending—and saving—thus infusing cash into the economic system, which is like filling up a car’s gas tank with fuel so that it can run at top speed for another several hundred miles (or charging up your Chevy Volt to get another 50 miles down the road).  The only reason why the 2009 $787 billion Obama stimulus package was not nearly as successful as it would have been is that it was substantially lower  than the $1.8 trillion that his former chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisors Christine Romer insisted that it should have been—at a minimum.  Think of it this way: if someone hands you $50 or $150, which amount will enable you to buy more stuff?

It’s in vogue for right wing economists to denigrate John Maynard Keynes. That’s because his theories work and theirs don’t, and those right wing economists aren’t working for people, they’re working for corporations who are people too, my friend. They’re working for the Kochs, for the Murdochs, for the Adelsons, for any filthy lucre-rich old white guys you’ve got.

“Your spending is my income and my spending is your income.”  The simple, basic truths in life have a beautiful symmetry to them.  Boehner and Merkel can probably not be taught that the less money government infuses into its economic system, the less money people will plow back into it.  This notion of austerity totally forgets the concept of profits, which is what helps a market grow.  You grow or make something for $5 and sell it for $10, you’ve got $5 more to re-invest in your business or perhaps you take that profit and spend it at someone else’s business, which means they need to buy more product and hire more people to sell it, and more people are hired to deliver the products and more money flows on down the line. And this is what Obama was saying if you look at his complete, in context statement about small businesses not growing by themselves. There’s a whole bunch of interdependencies going on, and infrastructure, security, utilities, and what I’ve already mentioned are all part of it.

I know that people who watch and listen to Fox will never get economic theory but this is a simplified as I can make it. The Republicans and right wing economists, heads of state like Merkel all want to protect a small, wealthy class by keeping as large a class of other people poor.  Poor people do what they’re told so that they don’t lose what little they have.  Poor people look up to wealthy people because they have to be touched by the hand of God to have become so rich. Poor people worship rich people, until that worship turns to envy, which turns to resentment, which turns to anger, which turns to revolution, which results in the overthrow of the ruling class and the redistribution of wealth. Well, mostly anyway.

But we don’t need to take it as far as all that.  Just repeat the simple, friendly mantra to your Fox fan friends and maybe they’ll get it along with all of you: “Your spending is my income and my spending is your income.” Thank you, Paul Krugman.

The Obama Economic Braintrust?

To all my liberal friends who support Obama unconditionally and consider him the smartest guy in the class and always in control, the following is a primary reason why I believe you’ve bought into the image and not the man.

In early 2008, Obama was considered virtually ignorant on economic policy by those in the know. His only econ advisor was Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago econ professor who stands maybe just to the Left of Milton Friedman and far to the right of Paul Krugman.  Obama linked up with Goolsbee in 2004 when Harvard econ dept. wouldn’t give him the time of day.

Since Obama knew what he didn’t know about econ, he did what he usually does in those situations: he went conservative. He went with the tried and true and raided the Clinton economic braintrust because they had whipped inflation and several economic crises, or so they would have you believe.  Obama brought in Larry Summers, the man who gave you the Wall St. meltdown when he lobbied Congress to not regulate derivatives, and he also gave you the repeal of Glass-Stegall, another leg which was kicked out from under Wall St. that led to its collapse.  He brought in Robert Rubin,  who was with Goldman Sachs for 26 years before going to work for Clinton.  Both Summers and Rubin never met a Wall St. brokerage firm or bank they didn’t like—a lot. The only Clinton econ alum Obama didn’t  enlist was Robert Reich, the only liberal of the entire bunch. Imagine that.

A 1991 quote by Summers, who was then Chief Economist of the World Bank: “There are no… limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future. There isn’t a risk of an apocalypse due to global warming or anything else. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit, is a profound error and one that, were it ever to prove influential, would have staggering social costs.”  This is the guy who advised Obama on economics.

So, with Clinton’s braintrust firmly in place within the Obama campaign, what four names out of all available economists did they throw into the hat for Secretary of Treasury?  Not Robert Reich. Not Pulitzer Prize-winning and liberal economist Paul Krugman.  Nope, they went with:  1) the aforementioned Larry Summers, who had been forced out of the presidency of Harvard University under a cloud of scandal and a no-confidence vote by the faculty.  2) Timothy Geithner, who worked for Henry Kissinger,  Ronald Reagan, and Clinton, and headed the Fed Reserve Bank of NY.  He took over guidance of Bush’s proposed TARP for Obama. The program allowed Wall St. and banks to recoup all the money they lost or stole without being required to pay back one penny or make any operational or ethical changes to their business practices. 3) Jon Corzine, another Chicago School econ and ex-Goldman Sachs who later ran MF Global into bankruptcy.  Hundreds of millions of customer-invested money are unaccounted for to this day—and Corzine maintains he doesn’t know where the heck it went.  4) Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, who just lost $3 billion of customer-invested funds by gambling on derivates (thanks to Larry Summers) and just had the Senate jostling and elbowing each other out of the way to kiss his ring.

After Obama was elected President,  he chose to retain George W. Bush’s man, Ben Bernanke, as the chairman of the Fed Reserve, opting to not be concerned with the fact that it was on Bernanke’s watch that Wall St. and the banks melted down.

So, my point is this. Even if Obama hadn’t had Repugs and Blue Dogs obstructing his economic recovery plans, they were doomed to modest success anyway. The guys he goes to for advice are on the side of Goldman Sachs, Wall St., and the banks because that’s where they spent most of their entire careers.  The only exception is Geithner, who spent his governmental career catering to the will and whims of Wall St. and the banks.  Obama is great at speechifying, but he clearly doesn’t have the best interests of the middle and poverty classes at heart.  If he did, Robert Reich would be Treasury Secretary and Paul Krugman would be running the Fed Reserve.

The ultimate irony is that despite all the Milton Friedman disciples who populate the Obama Economic Braintrust, the Jobs Bill they developed with its emphasis on national infrastructure repair is pure John Maynard Keynes.  And high speed rail is just a modern day update of Dwight D. Eisenhower implementing  Keynesian economic principles to build the U.S. interstate highway system.

Obama is not as smart as you give him credit to be.  Or maybe he’s not really who you think he is at all.  Being right on a few social issues doesn’t make him a good guy.  He can propose all the reforms of mortgage loan modification and student loan programs he wants all the while knowing the Repugs will block every one.  The one best thing about Obama, the primary reason to vote for him in November is that he is not Mitt Romney.

The Whoosh Sound

The Obama campaign strategy has just come into sharp focus. Following on the heels of a bill the President just signed that drastically cuts the number of weeks federal unemployment benefits can be collected comes the announcement that Obama plans to cut the top corporate effective tax rate to 25%. Although he claims this is part of a greater tax code overhaul which will close many business tax loopholes, cutting the tax rate flies in the face of advice given by prominent economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich to raise them. These tax changes will further motivate corporations to bring overseas jobs back here, according to the President’s claim.  But what he doesn’t explain is how those jobs can be brought back here with a pay scale that won’t exceed what the Chinese were being paid.  To pay Americans more would boost the cost of the manufactured goods beyond what the unemployed who just ran out of unemployment benefits can afford.

The Obama team claims the tax overhaul will bring in an additional $250 billion in tax revenues, if we’re willing to wait 10 years to collect it all. These tax changes will further motivate corporations to bring overseas jobs back here.  By that time Obama will have been retired from the White House and making a lucrative living from speaking tours and book sales. Whichever presidents follow him into office can do whatever the want to the tax code which could render the anticipated $250 billion just another phantom of an unfilled campaign promise. But the tax benefits to corporations are immediate and that’s how quickly his SuperPac will start collecting their campaign contributions. (Have you ever noticed how all presidents are fond of predicting outcomes that will happen during someone else’s presidency? But I digress.)

Obama has clearly kicked the 99% to the curb. He knows he’s got his base locked in on the social issues because they’ve got nowhere else to go. So now he’s looking to cut his opposition off at the knees. Moderate Republicans are turned off to the crop of clowns they’ve been offered. The clowns’ stances on the social issues are no laughing matter, despite their large floppy clown shoes. So Obama needs to woo these moderates on their bread and butter economic issues: make unemployment harder to get and for a shorter amount of time, and back off on those high corporate taxes which are strangling the job creators. After the President wins both the social and economic debates, the clowns, despite their large floppy clown shoes, will fall flat on their collective face.

It’s a brilliant if cynical campaign strategy. The difference between Obama and Romney is that Obama can tell a crowd what it wants to hear with believable sincerity. I think that both Obama and Santorum are sincere in their religious beliefs, but Obama’s are grounded in reality and if he ever spoke of inserting an ultrasound vaginal probe up into a woman’s private parts, Michelle would whomp him upside the head with the Lincoln cast iron skillet.

But Obama’s message to the 99% is once again, “I gotta go meet with the money people now. See ya later.” And the 99% have no choice but to respond back, “OK. See ya…”  That whoosh sound you just heard is Obama turning his back on them.