Monday, October 28, 2013

Raising Taxes: Why It's Unthinkable

The "Artificial Image" of Higher Tax Revenue

American voters have not heard proposals to increase taxes for years.  Instead, they have heard a continuous stream of Stalinist horror stories vomited forth from right wing think tanks and public opinion "image managers."  Because of this, any sort of normal political discussion of the idea has been inundated long ago in a grisly soup of "job creators," "job killers," "global markets" and so forth.

Even the briefest dalliance with any consideration whatsoever dealing with increasing tax rates and revenue is dispatched as irrelevant folly thanks to this massive shield of talking points and propaganda.  There are no "water fountain" conversations meandering through policy question on this subject -- the equivalent of an "Emmy Award" for so thoroughly and successfully discharging even such a possibility from the minds of American tax voters.

Oh sure, it wasn't easy, but with billions of dollars and an intimidated, obedient net work media the propaganda onslaught has worked fairly well -- so far.

 The Strange History of Low Taxes on High Incomes

Ironically, around the same time that President Ronald Reagan was raising middle class taxes in the country nine times, the Republican Party somehow surgically implanted the idea that taxes must never be raised under any possible conditions, and by "never" this surgically implanted artificial policy "appliance" meant "not ever."  This, at least conceptually, left tax increase policy to the Democrats.

This began an era.  Reagan's Cadillac driving "welfare queens" and the already road weary Party maxim of "tax and spend Democrats" became the new metric for the obedient voters on the GOP side.  And, in fact, especially after LBJ's largess, some of the criticism had a certain kind of temporary traction.

But, MeanMesa emphasizes the term: "temporary."  

However, while this new "party line" left tax increase policy to the Democrats, it did not leave "debt increase" policy to the Democrats.  The following string of Republican administrations, after modifying the old Reagan phrase from "tax and spend" to "borrow and spend," went right to work exploding deficits and, consequently,  the accumulating the current atmospheric National Debt.

For visitors who have been to this site before, MeanMesa always looks for opportunities to present the following graph again.


[Data from Dept. of Treasury, office of National Debt]
If you have ever wondered just how the United States wound up with a $16 Tn National Debt, simply add up the red bars and blue bars and look at the total.  The chart's data ends in 2006, but the deficit totals, of course, continued to increase right through until today.  We haven't been paying back any of the borrowed money, and we have done absolutely nothing to mitigate the necessity to borrow even more.

However, there is "borrowing" and then there is "borrowing."  When the annual  "borrowing" is in $100's of billions, problems arise.  The first problem is that such "borrowing" is evidence of either drastic misfortune or infamously horrible governance. Because nothing particularly drastic kept occurring year after year during the administrations of Republican Presidents, that is, a country threatening drastic event such as a giant volcano, a sudden invasion across every border, a thermonuclear attack, a nationwide plague or so on, our national debt problem rests squarely amid the cash crazed clouds of the "infamously horrible governance" side of things.

Rich in a river of debt. (image)
After all, part of governing is collecting the money you are spending, and if not that, at least having something spectacular to show for all the borrowing and debt it took to get it.  There was nothing spectacular about the Bush W. tax cuts -- then or now.  They created nothing beyond the current huge federal debt and a new crop of nasty right wing billionaires.

If nothing spectacular has been purchased, the spending causing all that government debt can be, perhaps over-generously, characterized as simply day to day spending to pay the routine expenses of keeping the country running.  We know now that pretty much the only "spectacular thing" we purchased with the proceeds of all that "borrowing" is a "spectacular crop" of even fatter billionaires with equally fattened appetites for -- wait for it -- even more tax cuts.

We even know their names.

We also know that this "spectacular crop" of billionaires just keeps getting richer and richer every year because they don't pay taxes -- at least, they don't pay taxes at an actual rate anything similar to the rest of us.  With this conclusion, we will be almost immediately confronted by the wing nut talking point about tax rates.

"US tax rates are already some of the highest in the world -- that's what is keeping the economy on its knees even after we finished with the looting."

Well, at around 35%, the theoretical top US tax rate would in fact, be one of the highest -- if billionaires actually paid taxes at that rate.  They don't.  The IRS tax code contains that 35% figure for the "top marginal rate," but when you have 8,766 pages of deductions, tax expenditures, off shore profits, subsidies and other tax code gizmos on your tax return, the actual rate is much closer to zero.

Last year one of the most profitable corporations on the planet, EXXON/Mobile, actually got money back instead of paying taxes.  The corporation's tax rate wasn't just zero, it was negative. ["For all corporations, about two-thirds, or about 1.2 million, paid no federal income taxes in 2005. But many of those firms are quite small -- an owner and a couple of employees. For large U.S.-controlled corporations, those with at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in gross receipts, one out of four paid no taxes, as Sanders said. The total revenues for those large companies was about $1.08 trillion." source article]

The protestation is that "it simply isn't this simple."  MeanMesa agrees.  For every dime of taxes paid and also every dime of deductions deducted these boys can produce a platoon of salivating tax attorneys, more than enough to guarantee that, after a few days of 12 hour testimony,  nothing will be simple at all -- especially not the amicus brief filed with the Federal Court case.

Still, all Republican deficits in the that "National Debt" chart [above] came from somewhere.  With the dilapidated US infrastructure sitting with a $2.75 Tn repair bill, we certainly haven't been "over spending" on roads, bridges and schools. ["A report this week from the American Society of Civil Engineers shows just how bad the state of infrastructure in the United States is and how much spending is needed in the next decade to get it back up to par. According to the report, $2.75 trillion needs to be invested in America's infrastructure by 2020. The ASCE believes that the spending shortfall in this period will come to $1.1 trillion, and will have dire consequences: some $3.1 trillion in lost gross domestic product; about $3,100 annually lost in disposable income per household; some $1.1 trillion lost in total trade; about $2.4 trillion lost in consumer spending; and, worst of all, a loss of about 3.5 million jobs." marketwatch article here ]

We haven't been doing the US economy much good by this penny pinching, either.  The ASCE was addressing the failing infrastructure, but when MeanMesa adds some serious climate change mitigation expenses to that $2.75 Tn total, the "load" could easily grow from their $2-3 Tn to triple digits. [MeanMesa's post: Managing Global Warming Solutions has climate change mitigation cost estimates in the range  of $100's of Trillions -- moving Manhattan 100 miles inland isn't cheap...]

That leaves us with the immediate problems of both a country literally falling apart before our eyes and the worse, far larger, longer range problem of a planet doing essentially the same thing.  As a nation it is clear that we don't have anything close to the money required to solve the second part of that -- probably not even for ourselves.

All we have to work with is all this debt and all these billionaires we created.

Illegitimate Majority House Republicans
Gird for Battle to Defend the Castle

Republican House Speaker Boehner is an excellent example of gradually exposed loyalty to the oligarch's electoral "highest priority."  In 2010 Mr. Boehner could not so much as clear his throat without mouthing something about jobs, "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

However, the man's miraculous "transformation" into an austerity promoting talk-a-thon -- no doubt under direct orders from above -- changed the topic of his daily ranting to "Debt, debt, debt."

The big spending, big borrowing John Boehner of the Bush W. years was raising his hand for every piece of the autocrat's gigantic deficits.  The maudlin "totally concerned with high unemployment" John Boehner was fixated on a Democratic President's inability to suddenly replace the millions of US jobs lost as the house of cards collapsed in 2008.

But, of course, the miraculous "transformation" didn't end there.  With the unruly bigots of the gerrymandered tea party at his back, a reinvigorated John Boehner adopted the "blind hatchet job" of Republican austerity as his latest Holy Grail. 

Republican austerity's focus on cutting spending is only a cosmetic apparition.  At its heart, the austerity serves the oligarchs in charge as a means to further cut federal spending in order to protect the tax free billionaires now firmly in command of the US House of Representatives.  Given the $100's of millions it cost the oligarchs to take charge of the House, Boehner's orders from above fastidiously exclude any reference to the fact that his control of the House is founded on a minority of House votes in the 2010 election.
Okay, Where Do We Surrender?
Just wait by the tree where they tied up the noose.

Surrender might make sense if there were anyone to whom we could surrender.  There isn't, so we can't.

Those dismal prophecies above are painting a picture of a problem which won't be solved by a few "tweeks" to the US tax code, a tome already as large as a WWII battle wagon.   Yet, we have to face facts.  To "sustain" the incredibly low tax revenue as an on-going pattern for governance, we will need to drastically degrade the standard of living with which we have become accustomed here.

We will need a country which spends roughly what it takes in as revenue.  If the revenue is to remain in its current low level, the US will need to, well, adjust.  We are living in a country which is budgeting its expenditures based on a far greater tax revenue than it is currently able to collect.

"Able to collect?"

Yes, with the US tax code in its present condition, all the incredibly rich billionaires and corporations are not particularly breaking any laws when they dodge most or all of what their taxes might reasonably have been if they hadn't re-written the tax code.  They also have absolutely no interest in any "new form" of the tax code which might vary measurably from their very comfortable version.

The monied classes have patiently invested millions in the gradual development of this current code so suitable to their liking, but they have never quit complaining that even this dysfunctional, modern train wreck remains intolerably unfair to them.  These interests have never been frugal with their purchases of legislators to author additional travesties to the tax code year by year, but regardless of the latest authorship, they are still not quite satisfied.

After the impact of the 2009 Citizens United decision this flow of right wing dollars sky rocketed as the prospect of Republican "constituent loyalty" cratered.  The GOP Congressmen and Senators elected in this wave of corporate and billionaire money went to Washington with a single, highest priority: protect the tax law to keep it exactly as it is or worse.

The various media constructions since then have been a craven scheme to keep the uninformed masses angry enough to perpetuate the Republican base in the Party's very expensive, locally gerrymandered election districts.  Those district boundaries are considered to be "more or less stable" until the 2020 census possibly exposes them to more rational patterns.

This is not simply a "happy coincidence."  The right wing owners of the US tax code have paid plenty for this outcome.  The "return on their investment" has also been more than generous enough to entice them to continue at even higher  rates of cash for political interference.

Keep Your Dial Set At MeanMesa

Since "talking about" higher tax revenue is essentially a "forbidden zone," MeanMesa intends to rush right into the fray to post a series on this topic.  It's a long past due discussion.  We need to talk about national alternatives and national necessities -- what choices we have and what happens if we don't.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Corporate Insurance HMO's: OBAMACARE's Camp Followers

The ACA's "Death Panel" for "Senior Advantage"

One of the "first shots fired" over the bows of the rapacious health insurance corporations during the earliest days of implementing the Affordable Care Act -- known as "ObamaCare" -- was the "extraction" of what the insurance industry marketers call "Medicare Advantage" or "Senior Advantage" HMO coverage.

While the various names of the programs may have an alluring appeal, each hinting at all sorts of additional services and opportunities for insurance clients on Medicare using a particular HMO, these programs were exceptionally popular with the corporations who were charging 15% of so over the "going price" of basic Medicare to supply them.

The reason for that unusual corporate "popularity?"

It's hardly a tough question.  The "additional services" offered for that 15% increment to the base line costs of Medicare could be provided at an astounding profit.  Those services were cheap.  Yes, they could be advertised flamboyantly, but the corporation's costs of actually providing them was peanuts compared to the price being charged.

They were programs carefully designed for a confusing geriatric "bait and switch."

Before you toss this post as "sour grapes" borrowed from some Internet rant, be advised:  MeanMesa has one of these plans.

In New Mexico -- host to MeanMesa's Galactic Headquarters for Short Current Essays -- the shortage of actual health care is immense.  If an elderly New Mexico resident doesn't wind up with a Medicare Advantage type health insurance program,  he will be waiting months to see a doctor.  Worse, the doctor who finally sees him will not be "just any doctor," but instead, a doctor who will agree to provide services for compensation at the subsidized rates.

Medical care, in general, has "developed" in New Mexico along roughly the same lines as elsewhere in the United States, but, remember: "New Mexico is the poorest state in the union."  This means that there are not only lots of patients who can't afford medical care -- or medical insurance -- at all, but also that the state has a corresponding shortage of doctors.

It is quite understandable that an M.D. graduate, already staggering under student loans, insurance and other operating expenses, would be reluctant to "set up shop" in a place where most patients can't pay for service.  Yes, there are all sorts of government subsidies and other programs to compensate doctors treating the poor, but this kind of compensation is hardly competitive with possible earnings for practices in regions bustling with corporately insured "paying clients."

As a consequence, even for a plan "member" who has a Medicare Advantage plan, the wait time for seeing either a general practitioner or a specialist can be long.  There are not enough medical professionals in the state to service the demand -- in some cases mortally long -- a clear consequence of the systemic poverty here.

A "Medium Traction" Right Wing Talking Point

Obama robbed $700 Bn from Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act.

The Democratic authors of the Affordable Care Act could spot a scam when they saw one.  It's clear now that they were, in fact, looking for scams -- money burning "gizmos" which had been patiently and quietly insinuated into the existing health care insurance corporations' business plans.

The Medicare Advantage scheme embedded itself in HMO health coverage policies offered by a majority of the big insurance corporations all across the country including America's famous "not for profit" providers.  The 15% Medicare Advantage "surcharge" for seniors who enrolled in it could be painlessly added to the monthly Medicare payment automatically deducted from Social Security benefits. 

However, the "advantages" provided by the Medicare Advantage policies are sketchy at best -- precisely the reason the legislative ACA authors decided to "pull the plug" on federal funding for it.

The GOPCons instantly seized this opportunity to synthesize incendiary talking points for their low information base, claiming the law's provision amounted to "looting Medicare to pay for ObamaCare."  The hill billies and racists in the Republican base had no problem adding this to their list of "Obama-phobic," faux moral outrages.

Perhaps even more enticing to them, the lie was simple enough to not only understand, but repeat.

MeanMesa still experiences a remorseful pathos when other people tragically embarrass themselves by repeatedly and energetically parroting manufactured falsehoods -- even if they are tea bags. In this case the well designed paralysis behind those intentionally created misperceptions turns out to be much less durable than its instigators had hoped.

Every day the Affordable Care Act web site attracts millions of Americans searching for relief from the abuses that the health insurance corporations have been transforming into corporate profit at their expense.  After a painfully long hiatus, the old "free enterprise" adage, "voting with their pocket books," has finally been resurrected.  The decades long spell which has allowed these corporations to become the dynastic consumer bullies we see currently has been broken.

Ironically, they have become the victims of real, actual, material market competition.  Now, morbidly obese from their monopolistic past gluttony and corporate largess, they are simply dying of old age if not morbid obesity.

The "Camp Follower" Advertisements Tell It All

Now we see a glacial flow of HMO advertisements, each one touting the "advantages" of the corporations' prohibited Medicare Advantage plans.  These insurance scams have been "tweeked" into a ghostly sort of peripheral legal compliance with the newly implemented provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but the brutally mutated progeny is not pretty.

Camp Follower
There are still the "rubber chicken" member forums where seniors sit at long tables to hear marketing directors emote about how much the corporation "cares for each and every one of you."  However, not too far below the glitzy surface of these affairs is a growing realization that the deal may not be that sweet after all.  Some of us at this age are still quite competent to conduct our own comparison of the cost versus the "advantages."

An example can be seen in MeanMesa's own "Senior Advantage" plan.  The corporation has installed a modern gym [on the other side of town] where seniors can attend exercise classes. In Albuquerque there are city run senior centers offering essentially the same facilities and services.

Toward the end of a prolonged physical therapy regime, it was suggested that these old bones should trundle out to the " Silver Sneakers" facility for some exercise therapy.
(source)

While the place was elaborate -- and provided as a free benefit of the Senior Advantage package -- it was immediately clear that the value of the program's "cost per senior" didn't actually make sense.  The reality of the full color, glossy photos of the "Silver Sneakers" in the promotional brochure were cast in a somewhat less glossy light right away.

The advertisement frenzy is ample evidence that the new provisions of the Affordable Care Act have begun to bother these previously "free range" corporations, that is, the ACA's provisions have begun to disrupt the corporate business plan for things such as "Silver Sneakers."

MeanMesa doesn't really need "Silver Sneakers." 

Instead, MeanMesa would like to be able to see a dentist or get eyeglasses.  

When this health care provider starts offering services and benefits like those,it would be a real "Senior Advantage."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Helping a Tea Bag "Do His Part"

The Party of Personal Responsibility

The GOP's "platform" for the 2012 election addressed the frenzy to repeal ObamaCare with the following policy statement:

We believe that taking care of one’s health is an individual responsibility. Chronic diseases, many of them related to lifestyle, drive healthcare costs, accounting for more than 75 percent of the nation’s medical spending. To reduce demand, and thereby lower costs, we must foster personal responsibility while increasing preventive services to promote healthy lifestyles. We believe that all Americans should have improved access to affordable, coordinated, quality healthcare, including individuals struggling with mental illness.


Totally, feverishly responsible
Both during the Romney Presidential campaign and after, conservative "mouth junk" pundits have harped endlessly on the very suspiciously defined, Republican maxim of "personal responsibility."  The use of the talking point certainly focuses directly on the GOP's psychotic hatred of the Affordable Care Act, but its application spreads far and wide beyond that topic.

When MeanMesa talks to a "favorite tea bagger," the term "personal responsibility" is "thrown into the soup" with the same frequency that fly spots appear on day old potato salad.

The Mathematics of Responsibility

The parameters:

Number of votes cast in 2012 election:  126,000,000  [126 Mn]
Percentage of US voting Republican:  roughly 48%
Number of Republican voters:  roughly 60,000,000 [60 Mn]
Estimated cost of shut down & default "debate:"  $24,000,000,000  [$24 Bn]

We can begin our series of alternate calculations with the part of the $24 Bn which was incurred by each of the 310,000,000 American citizens:

$24 Bn  deficit increases
-------------------------------------------------- = roughly $770 per citizen
310 Mn population of US citizens

However, many US citizens. notably those not old enough to vote and others, never cast a ballot in the process of electing these Congressmen.  So, it makes sense to alter the "310 Mn" figure from all Americans to the number of Americans who had anything to do with electing this Congress.

$24 Bn deficit increase
----------------------------------------------- = roughly $1,900 per voter
126 Mn Americans voting 2012

Yet, we must also consider that not all the voters in the 2012 election voted for the Congressmen who increased the deficit s recklessly.  Using the percentages of respective "Party votes" cast in the 2012 Presidential race, we can estimate the number of votes cast by Republican voters at around 48% of the 126 Mn total votes cast, or, roughly 60 Mn.  The "responsibility" equation now looks like this:

$24 Bn deficit increase
------------------------------------ = roughly $4,000 per Republican voter
60 Mn GOP voters 2012

Back to the Water Fountain

Because this quick analysis is presented here to provide a few "talking points" of our own for the inevitable parroting of right wing propaganda a MeanMesa visitor might encounter in one of those famous "water fountain" debates, a few "also useful" additions to such a debate should be included here.  So, by the numbers, be sure to bear in mind these "extra credit" points.

1. The owners of the Republican Party, after wrecking the global economy during the Bush W. autocracy, found US Treasury bonds to be the last remaining, safest place for their billions.  As holders of the Treasury Bonds, when economic uncertainty lowers the United States' credit rating and, hence, increases interest rates, those Treasury Bonds pay a higher interest to bond holders.

2.  The $24 Bn "hit" the shut down and default threat created is manifest mainly as the cost of increased interest payments on Treasury Bonds.  That $24 Bn didn't simply "vaporize" into some incomprehensible national economy "money pit."  It went almost directly into the pockets of the billionaires who ordered their tea bag minions in the Congress to make the problems in the first place.

3.  The $24 Bn represents only the direct cost of the catastrophe.  Current estimates of the complete economic impact run around $150 Bn.

Moreover, this latest budget impasse came after years of similar episodes, and the economic ramifications have accumulated over time, analysts say. A new report from Macroeconomic Advisers, prepared for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, estimates the costs of the fiscal uncertainty of the last few years. Its model suggests that uncertainty since late 2009 has increased certain corporate borrowing costs by 0.38 percentage point; lowered economic growth over that period by 0.3 percent a year, costing at least $150 billion in lost output; and left this year’s unemployment rate higher by 0.6 percentage point. That translates to 900,000 jobs lost. 



4.  Congressional creatures such as John Boehner, the creepy tea bag GOP leadership and McConnell in the Senate could not say enough about the high unemployment Obama inherited.  Now, after a relentless right wing propaganda campaign, Americans think that the economic problem is the debt.

But Bill Clinton's record proves otherwise.  The way we handle the debt is to enlarge the economy, raise taxes and get rid of the the main engines which wrecked us last time -- the Bush W. tax cuts, the non-negotiable Part D costs in Medicare and the incredible subsidies the most prosperous US industries -- such as big oil companies --  continue to suck out of the Federal general fund.

Further, Obama has already sliced the annual federal deficit in half.  The House Republicans can claim that they have helped do this, but the help they have "provided" has sucker punched the frail economic recovery -- they have also added to the deficit and the unemployment rate while ignoring the infrastructure and other responsibilities.  MeanMesa will grant -- perhaps over generously -- 5% of the credit for deficit reduction to the Republicans; the remainder is the result of work done by the Administration.

Just try to remember that the person you are talking to "at the water fountain" lives in FOX World.  The actual facts about where the country is and what can be done are all over, but these may as well be secrets to anyone in the hypnotic Obama-phobic thrall of the media.

The debt -- which is their favorite topic -- is a Republican debt.  Don't forget it.

Beginning with Reagan, every Republican President has mushroomed the national debt with money borrowed from anyone available, while every Democratic President has cut the deficit, raised taxes, lowered the debt and watched employment figures improve.

If the "personal responsibility" talking point comes up in that conversation, jot down the numbers and tell your friend that he owes the Treasury a free, non-tax gift of $4,000 -- his part of the damage just done.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

US Politics: After the Shut Down and Default

[A MeanMesa note:  This post was finished literally minutes before the final collapse of the most recent tea bag extortion scheme and the subsequent unconditional surrender of Speaker Boehner.  Normally, this would introduce enough irrelevancy to justify hitting the "delete" key, but in this case we can actually count the hours before the tea bags try it again in February.  Because this is the case, MeanMesa stands with the original post.  Enjoy.]

The Apocalypse Waltz
Tea bags not provided.

There has been no shortage of apocalyptic prognostication regarding the incredible potential damage which could follow the GOP's recent failed extortion scheme.  Any post with only the modest ambition of somehow embellishing such horrifying tales would amount to nothing more than "adding fuel to the fire."  However, MeanMesa visitors have, no doubt, by this time thoroughly invested sufficient apprehension over the imaginings which accompany these dire predictions.

Yet, even the time period for even the most agonizing of the various scenarios seems limited to the weeks and months following such dismal events.  What about a year later?  What about four or five years later?

It is precisely these longer term consequences which have captured MeanMesa's perpetually optimistic, creative vent.  In this post, another segment of the now famous "MeanMesa Future History," we can explore -- together of course -- how the ramifications of the shut down and, more importantly, the debt ceiling default, might appear in the near, but not too distant, future.

Selecting a literary mechanism to clearly present these furtive prophecies was a bit of a challenge, so to accomplish this task we will examine a few speculative news paper clippings which reflect the changes inflicted upon the nation.  Rather than spout one issue of damage after another, perhaps these "oblique glimpses" will communicate a more complete idea.

The "News" from MeanMesa Future History

MeanMesa as Harry Seldon? (image source)

[Seldon was the mathematician who finally mastered psycho-history, an empirical means to predict and "intervene" in future crises.  If any MeanMesa visitors haven't enjoyed Asimov's trilogy, Foundation and Empire, don't miss it!]


The News From 2017

Washington, D.C.

President Clinton signed the final version of the "Money is Not Speech" bill into law this morning.  Designed by the Democratic majorities in Congress to legislatively prohibit the influx of corporate interest campaign money into political campaigns -- originally ushered into practice by the Roberts Court  Citizen's United decision -- Washington insiders predict that most candidates in the 2018 mid-terms will opt for public campaign financing.

In related other news, a number of the established Super PAC organizations have announced that they will be folding up shop, a development based primarily on their inability to attract political clients.

New York, N.Y.

Pundits on the broadcasters remaining as affiliates in Rupert Murdoch's FOX network continue to accuse the Democratic Congressional majorities in the House and Senate of "revenge seeking," a charge strongly denied by the House Speaker.  She was quoted in a news conference this morning:

"Who cares what they are saying now?  This Congress is not being run by political talk show hosts.  This Congress is being run by voters.  If any of you doubt that, spend a morning answering constituent phone calls in my office."


Washington, D.C.

The final revisions in the IRS tax code regulating the use of 501C3 and 501C4 tax exemption status for political organizations cleared the House Oversight Committee this morning.  Congressional staffers predict a short Senate Conference Committee reconciliation, probably further strengthening the provisions with Senate Finance recommendations, before the final bill is sent to the President.

Green Party House members had sought increases in the bill's prosecution with more serious prison sentences for convicted violators, but both this and the Green's original proposal for 20 year Statute of Limitations for Justice Department prosecutions were withdrawn dues to a lack of Committee support.

DOJ spokesman announced that the new legislation would be adequate for the on-going sedition trials of the large cash donors in the 2010 - 2012 election campaigns.

Washington, D.C.

The Federal Reserve Board bankers, meeting this weekend, have decided to curtail some of the anti-inflationary monetary policies adopted after the 2013 default crash.  The Head of the Federal Reserve outlined the changes at a news conference Saturday:

"With the current inflation rate dropping below the 10% 'trigger,' the Federal Reserve is in favor of decreasing the Treasury Bond interest levels to around 8% for the next fiscal year.  We are far from 'out of the woods' after the explosive inflation cycle of 2013-2014, but the American economy is showing signs of a slowing inflationary trend -- which is good news."

The spokesman for the Peoples Republic Of China, holding approximately $2 Tn worth of Treasury Bonds and other US dollar investments, complained about the interest rate drop at the meeting of the International American Debt Council in Geneva, but other creditors were "satisfied" with American recovery efforts.

The PRC representative at the meeting indicated that the Chinese State Council might reset the Yuan/dollar exchange value higher to compensate Chinese investors, suggesting that the current exchange rate now set at $0.38 for the Yuan might be increased to around $0.42.

Washington, D.C.

The Secretary of Labor, commenting on the latest employment figures for the last quarter, noted that improvements in the unemployment rate -- dropping below 12% for the first time since the 2013 default -- showed that the US domestic labor market was beginning to show additional strength.  He was quoted at the quarterly meeting of the National Labor Council:

"The adjusted tax policies intended to repatriate jobs exported during the late 1990's and 2000's are finally beginning to positively impact the post-default unemployment rises.  It took a while longer than the Congress anticipated, but the national unemployment rates have fallen from their 31% high in 2014 to the current 12% largely thanks to the re-importation of manufacturing jobs to the US."

"The higher valuation of currencies in the Asian countries along with the new tax policies have created a steady flow of jobs back into the domestic labor market."

Washington, D.C.

President Hillary Clinton nominated a respected environmentalist from the Green Party as the new Environmental Protection Agency head this afternoon in a short ceremony at the White House.  The Green Party's strong minorities in both the House and the Senate applauded the choice, and the nomination is expected to pass through Senate hearings smoothly.  In her official statement at the nomination she told reporters:

"Yes, the Green Party is a minority in our Congress, but unlike their predecessors, they win elections -- they contribute very sincerely to the work of running the country.  I look forward to having this new voice in my cabinet."


Washington, D.C.

The rate of prosecutions under the 2015 "Truth in Media" laws has dropped for the third straight quarter.  A Justice Department spokesman attributes the decline to "getting the message out."  He told reporters at the National Media Convention in Seattle:

"If you have a microphone, you don't need to tell the American people blatant falsehoods to make a profit.  The days of irresponsible media broadcasting every sort of inflammatory propaganda have passed.  This law had a 90 day delay written into its implementation, and the folks who kept going after that 90 day grace period are in Federal prison today.  No American citizen has to believe anything, but our democracy has become stronger from having truthful information."

Philadelphia, Pa.

Speaking at the Liberty Bell Monument this morning, the newly confirmed Federal Judge of Election Courts announced "good progress" on the implementation of the Congressional bi-partisan election reform law.  

"Working with the close coordination of the Department of Justice, every one of the law suits filed against the law's redistricting regulations are being litigated quickly.  By the 2018 mid-term elections every election district in the country will conform to the standardized design regulations for district maps."

"We have established the uniform voter registration laws in every state in the Union.  Legal, qualified voters will never again face obstacles from local or state governments attempting to disenfranchise them to create political advantages in elections.  The newly formed election courts will monitor voter registration policies and practices.  No American citizen will be sent away from the polls after being unable to vote.  This is a democracy."

UN, New York, N.Y.

The Security Council today accepted as "advisory" a resolution submitted by a majority of Council member states requiring US de-nuclearization moves.  The Brazillian UN Ambassador, now occupying the Council seat previously held by the US, continued to insist that the US nuclear arsenal be reduced to "stable levels" established by the almost unanimous General Assembly vote earlier this year.

Speaking to Ambassadors from the Council membership states today, the Brazilian Ambassador said:

"This world can longer trust having such destructive weapons under the control of a government as clearly unstable as that of the United States.  The damage inflicted on the Brazilian economy and economies around the world by the 2013 default was too great, and the cavalier flippancy of the US government during that same 2013 default must not be repeated in a future incident involving nuclear weapons."

Although the Clinton Administration has expressed a strong reluctance with the idea of complying with the Security Council resolution, US creditors speaking through the International American Debt Council have indicated they they, too, will insist on the de-nuclearization of the US as a condition of the continuing credits for the American economy.

In other UN news A unanimous vote in the General Assembly has led to another Security Council discussion with respect to American oligarchs.  A Security Council spokesman addressed the international press today:

"The American billionaires have enjoyed an unregulated sponsorship under the American government.  With the remainder of the world now approaching, once again after the 2013 collapse, a more or less normal rate of economic development, the activities of this class of Americans can no longer be tolerated by other member nations in this Assembly, many of whom have suffered as their traditional victims in the past."

"This resolution of the General Assembly is a clear message to the US government: 'Control them, or we will.'"


Disaster's Durability

Americans have had disasters before, and in each case the country emerged to re-establish its previous global economic hegemony. The effect of such catastrophic political failure and national mismanagement has -- too often -- been even greater in other nations, and the costs of recovery have -- too often -- also been dire for these non-US economies.

This pain on others has been inflicted with a strident disregard for the welfare of humans who could not vote in US elections.

We may have assumed that this perod of international "involuntary grace" would be extended indefinitely. MeanMesa is saying,

maybe not.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

LAST CHANCE!! JOIN NOW!! MeanMesa's Fabulous New 501C4: MAPPEMAJIC

How do these people -- even possibly --
 ever wind up in the Congress?
Here's a little fantasy from the MeanMesa "horror collection."
 It will explain everything.

This tale begins as a "family matter."

My wife demanded that I accompany my brother-in-law to some kind of political rally in near-by  Buffalo Junction.  She insisted that I go in order to keep her brother, Harold, a 50's something Tea Party zealot, from simply getting drunk, arrested and lost for a week -- his usual pattern on out of town visits.

Grudgingly I packed some underwear and my sports coat along with a spare pair of more or less presentable black loafers.  At least our expenses for the trip were being paid for by Harold's new campaign sponsor.  Harold dutifully appeared at our house at 7:30 AM sharp, fairly sober but dressed in an awful pair of checked trousers and a slightly soiled Polo shirt -- a shirt which did painfully little to disguise the man's giant belly.

Off we went.

Amazingly, Harold had arrived in a new band new Buick to make the 200 mile trip.  "Did someone loan you a car, Harold?"

"Nope.  This lil' beauty's all mine.  My campaign bought it for me as a gift." he answered, driving away unsteadily.  "Ain't no secret thet I'll have to drive all over to talk to mah voters."

Now, Harold had run in every election for County Commissioner since the 1980's, losing every time, and, in fact, losing every time by a larger and larger margin.  My wife had told me that Harold was considering a run as a Tea Party Republican in our district's primary for the US House of Representatives, but I had given the news very little thought after that.

The precise reason that Harold kept losing elections was because he had no support, no policy ideas and a really bad reputation as a hollow blow-hard. His understanding of governing was limited to a few, usually mangled, talking points he had picked up from right wing radio. Our neighbors, in fact, had always considered him something of a nuisance.  I had never met a single voter who would admit to ever voting for him a single time, much less one who might have thought he had something to offer the local government.

The next election was still more than a year away, and my hope was that after this conference or whatever it was Harold might just change his mind and be reconciled with just watching FOX on television, drinking beer and, being perpetually unemployed, living on his wife's money.  And, after my "little errand" of baby sitting him for this meeting, I would return home to a grateful wife.

However, the conversation in the car rapidly grew very disturbing.

"You must have found some campaign donors, I guess."  I offered as casual conversation.

"Don't yew wurry nun about thet.  I found me a campaign donor, got mah' campaign all financed real good, 'n I plan to walk away with that House seat.

Mah' donor's payin' fer this here conference so's I'll be able to win thet 'lection when th' tahm cums."  Harold grumbled, easing the car into the fast lane.

Harold's false Southern accent had always puzzled me. To my knowledge he had never even left the state, much less ever travelled to the South.  He had begun speaking this way when George W. Bush had been appointed to the Presidency by the Supreme Court.

"Ah alreddy know thet 'afore I start talkin' public, Ah'm gonna' hef to read this heah little book mah donor give me so's Ah'll know fer sure whut I think 'bout stuff. If Ah kin do thet okay, mah donor's got a plan fer everything else -- he keeps sayin' thet redistrictin's comin' up on account o' thu census 'n all jest afore my 'lection."  Harold rambled.

"Gosh.  That sounds pretty good.  Who is this donor?"  I asked.

"Oh shore.  Naturlly yew wann'a know thet!  Wahl, thet raht theah's one of thu rules.  Ah don't evah tell no one who mah donor is.  Just figger thet he's a good whaht Chrishtun patriot.  Thet's all yeew need t' know."  Harold snapped.

The rest of the ride was peacefully silent.  Harold, usually a tragically insecure ne'er do well, seemed to be suddenly sporting an unanticipated optimism.

Mile 41 Motel
After half a dozen confused circles around the center of Buffalo Junction, Harold finally located the cross street, recklessly accelerating his new Buick down the back street toward the motel meeting room hosting the conference.  In minutes we were making our way through a half empty parking lot to the meeting room, a fairly dilapidated place pretentiously announced on a the surviving ruins of a small, haggard, sun bleached sign as the "Highway 41 Motel -- Conference Forum."

I was grateful that Harold's campaign donor was at least providing us separate rooms at the dump.

After checking in, an embarrassingly excited Harold herded me toward the meeting along a long, seedy hall way.  An over dressed man sat at a reception desk near the door of the meeting room.  Directly behind him, I saw an over sized sign advertising the group hosting the meeting.

Harold drew a business card from his jacket pocket, comparing it to the sign behind the reception desk.  "This is it!!  This raht heah's MAPPEMAJIC!!  We'r at the raht place!"  he exploded. "These folks gonna' fix it so's I kin win thu 'lection!!"

He immediately began scrawling his name, address and a few other items on the official registration form.  When he had finished, he stared blankly at the broadly smiling man at the reception desk, pointed his thumb at me and said "This heah's mah aid.  Ah ain't registerin' him."

The greeter responded with a knowing smile, "Of course.  You two can go right on in."
Harold was ecstatic.

Once we were in the meeting room it became clear that Harold was to join a line of strangely similar "new candidates" for "additional registration procedures."  No one seemed to mind if I tagged along next to him, however, the raucous mood which prevailed around the rest of the gathering had changed into a far more somber, executive business meeting atmosphere.

Harold was suddenly surrounded by a group of men in expensive suits, apparently lawyers.  One of them was explaining the arrangements which had been made to provide "MAPPEMAJIC election services" to get Harold through the candidate nomination process.

"We're going to pay plenty to get your state legislators to gerrymander a Congressional District where you can win your primary, so, our...uh... investors want to be sure that you'll 'remember' them once you're elected."  one of the lawyers rambled.  "Just sign here, and head on to the next station."

Harold scrawled his name on the paper with absolutely no hesitation.  It was unusual for him to act so confidently.  The over sized advertising signs were everywhere, but I couldn't tell if Harold even noticed -- much less read any of them.

Harold, for the first time, looked puzzled.  "I shore plan to 'member mah donor all raht, but how a'mah gonna know whut thet donor wants me t' do?  Ah don't even know whut his name is yet."

Suddenly everything was becoming clear.  Harold didn't have any idea who was "footing the bill" to hire MAPPEMAJIC or paying for his campaign.

The lawyer responded fluidly.  "Don't worry.  We've already prepared a list of staff members you'll be needing once you get to Washington.  They'll be able to tell what your...uh...donor thinks about bills and issues."

The next "station" was a very business-like group of "image consultants."  While one bunch measured Harold for his new wardrobe of suits, shirts and ties, another group was "inventorying" the physical improvements that would be necessary for his new role in the national spot light.

Handing him the already prepared round trip tickets for his flight to the secret candidate "fix it farm" in California, one quietly explained what all would be done.  "You'll be getting a mouth full of brand new teeth from a full set of dental implants, and you're going to have nice head of hair once the doctors have finished with the replacement surgery.  We're setting a preliminary weight loss target at 40 pounds, but don't worry, these guys know how to do that so you'll never feel a thing."

As we moved to the next table, Harold, smiling broadly now, turned to me and said, "Ah'm gonna look so 'Congreshinyul' thet neetha' yew nor thet damned bitchin' wahf o' mine's even gonna' recogonahz me!"

Another group of "suits" had just finished with the man in line before us.  He was clearly some kind of rancher or farmer. Dressed in boots and a worn out cowboy hat, he kept spitting chewing tobacco every few seconds.  As Harold and I approached their table, the man seated there fumbled to find Harold's file in a box of folders.

Opening the papers in the manner of an accountant, he reviewed Harold's accounts.  He withdrew a cashier's check from amid the papers and laid it carefully on the table top.  "I see that your donor has prepaid your MAPPEMAJIC membership dues.  You just need to endorse this check, and we can add you to our official client list."

Harold clumsily took the ball point the man offered, and endorsed the back of the check.  As he turned it over, I peered over his shoulder just long enough to see the check's face.  It was a cashier's check made out to "MAPPEMAJIC election services" in Harold's name for $1,000,000.  On the "subject" line were only the cryptic words: "for services rendered."
 


"Of course there will be an additional payment due once you win the election," the accountant explained, "but your 'campaign donor' has already signed a promissary note for that expense.   After that there will just be the annual dues of $275,000, but you should be able to pay those easily from your political 'war chest.'  It only sounds like a lot of money because you haven't had time to get used to it yet."

After reviewing Harold's file, the accountant was satisfied that everything was complete.  He pointed to the audience area of folding chairs, "Go ahead and find a couple of good seats for the short presentation of MAPPEMAJIC client services.  Welcome aboard!"

 
The convention's speaker introduced himself and quickly referred the attention of the motley crowd of future Congressmen to the giant wall board directly behind him.

Harold whispered to me, "Am Ah 'spossed to unnerstan' thet?"

Before I could answer, the speaker had gone on to explain that these election districts had already been gerrymandered by MAPPEMAJIC so client candidates who otherwise had no chance of ever being elected would win elections and become Congressmen.  Harold immediately understood.

"Now that you are all MAPPEMAJIC members, we intend to do exactly the same thing for you!  Just think of yourselves on the night following election day.  You have already packed your socks and clean underwear for your victorious trip to Washington, D.C. where you will be Congressmen!"  he continued.  "MAPPEMAJIC is a complicated thing to call this, but that just keeps everyone who isn't here guessing!"

"We just think of ourselves as a sort of 'election district map design' organization.  There are plenty of voters out there ready to elect you guys. Once our newly designed district boundaries are in place, none of you will have the problem of all the voters in your new district who won't vote for you. Your Congressional success is just around the corner!"

The excitement among the strange group in the audience was palpable.  Harold, himself, was clearly lost in a haze of an imaginary fantasy where his teeth were straight, and he was wearing the fine new suits which were practically already waiting for him in Washington.


"When you're walking through the halls of the Capitol, everyone's going to think you're important!" the salesman delivering the talk droned on for almost an hour.  "There will be fancy dinners in fancy restaurants, nice cars driving you around and a great office right down the street from the White House!  And, of course, women."

The over weight hill billies in the audience gasped, salivating.  Noting this, the speaker jumped right back to the point.

"Those Washington, D.C. women are attracted to a powerful man, and when I say 'powerful man,' I'm talking about you!"  he added, sealing the deal.  "So get out there and get ready for your election campaigns!  Remember who your friends are!  And, remember to mention MAPPEMAJIC to folks with the same ideas that you have!" 

The road trip back from Buffalo Junction was a nightmarish torture. I finally tuned the Buick's radio into a AM FOX station and watched Harold's eyes glaze.


Additional MeanMesa reading on this topic:

A Mathematician Redistricts Congress

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

5/4 The GOP Billionaires: Just How They've Gotten This Far

Ooops. 5/4? Frequent visitors here know all about how "chatty" MeanMesa can become once something gets the "dander up." This billionaire business is nasty. 

The "Tactical Mechanisms"
of the Plutocrats' Coup d'etat

To control the United States in the way they want, they must control the democracy.  While out right and immediate control through, perhaps, force of arms is still out of reach in these ambitions, other avenues are disturbingly available to these oligarchs.  We can easily discern just a few of the primary avenues.

1. Through Corrupted Politics

The oligarchs are astonishingly cynical.  They are convinced that when enough money is made available to a political campaign, the character and qualifications of such a candidate mean almost nothing.  Because an interested, educated electorate -- as envisioned by the country's founders -- would make this approach unworkable, the plutocrats began to target the populations' education and interest levels directly -- with some remarkable success.

The candidates that they manage to elect are necessarily subservient to them.  They were hoisted into office on the false premise that their campaigns were financed by constituents when the cash actually came to them from rather demanding billionaires through their Super PACs,

These candidates, once in office, fully realize that the same subversion of the democratic system which placed them there can be made instantly available to a more dependable and obedient replacement.  The investment required from a billionaire to elect a Congressman represents almost nothing.

The Koch brothers, for instance, have a personal wealth of $39 Bn -- 39,000 million.  A "campaign contribution" of one or two million dollars, while able to totally submerge most election opponents, amounts to almost nothing to them.

2. Through the Media

While Murdoch's FOX News Corp is the most obvious among the sold out media, the largest five "non-FOX" networks [CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS and MSNBC] are held -- and managed -- by six massive corporations.  Although MeanMesa visitors are likely to look to the internet for their information, the majority of American voters rely on these network "news" outlets.

The main propaganda work is accomplished through syntactic nuance.  For
Everything's just fine. (image)
example, the President doesn't actually ever "do" things, he "tries to do" things; when there is little validity to one side of a conflict or argument, the "news" reports two equally valid sides; and, when a "rebuttal" is to be aired as "news," the time allocated always favors the Republicans.  There are plenty of examples.

Why would we expect otherwise from wholly owned, dutiful servants working  under direct "editorial" orders from their owners?

3. Through Managed Education

Most billionaires could not possibly care less about public education, but, it turns out, they are not at all pleased with the now rare cases of educational products which are successful.  They were also "born to hate teachers' unions" and "love the interest payments" they get from financing unaffordable college degrees.

These same billionaires hate a public acceptance of climate change, any growing interest in renewable energy, negotiated international relations instead of war or any reasonably objective teaching of history or science.  Because these billionaires are within striking distance of owning most of the real estate in the country, they naturally hate the property taxes which fund public education.

While they have absolutely no interest in wide spread, high educational outcomes, they are organically attracted to social failures such as home schooling, religious colleges [Regent University et al.], high drop out rates, dumbed down textbooks [the Texas Board of Education] and so on.  All these alternatives to actual, functional education not only produce future voters without any bothersome critical thinking skills, but they are also cheaper -- easier on the tax fund and the tax rates -- which makes them an irresistible target for the plutocrats' political manipulation.

4. Through Incendiary Social Culture

Any public issue -- abortion, gun ownership, gay marriage, health care, jobs programs and so on -- offers the billionaires a ready made target for their political schemes.  As mentioned before, the oligarchs have essentially no ideals or personal interest in any other these superficial incitements, but they are quite willing to invest heavily in maintaining the inflamed hysteria among the easily manipulated, poorly educated, low information base voters upon whom they periodically rely to elect their puppet politicians.

The amount of corporate money required to sustain these artificial incitements in between political elections amounts to chicken feed -- and it's a remarkably good investment.

A Not Too Promising Future

The billionaires in the long term want a "plantation society" to replace the democracy -- an unavoidable explanation of why their reactionary social engineering schemes are so popular in the economically failed Southern US states.

However, in the shorter term, the interests of the anti-democracy types are "closer to home."  The billionaires cannot avoid being fixated on some aspects of the American economy.  They literally salivate every time they see the abbreviation "Tn."

The Social Security Trust currently holds $2 Tn in cash reserves, the health maintenance industry in the US represents $6 Tn annually, the Department of Defense budget runs around $700 Bn annually [over $1 Tn when all the "doo-dads" are added], the US stock exchange holds around $16 Tn [Until the next time the oligarchs empty the cash register as they did in 2008.  It went down to around $9-10 Tn after the Bush W. cronies were through with it.  The tax payers pumped in around $2 Tn to prop it back up on its feet.]

Every subtle bit of mind bending propaganda -- on any issue -- billowing forth from these self-proclaimed "masters of the universe," their obedient politicians, their sold out media or even from the mouths of oblivious hill billies in their voter base targets precisely these reservoirs of someone else's wealth.

Watch out.