Friday, January 18, 2008

Mmmmmm, milkshakes

Sean T. Collins of Attention Deficit Disorder has created a presidential milkshake list that tells you all you need to know about the candidates.
Here are a few:

  • I drink your milkshake, even though I opposed drinking your milkshake four years ago. -- Mitt Romney

  • I drink your milkshake, but only if the Bible says it's allowed. -- Mike Huckabee

  • I may drink your milkshake for another 100 years, if that's what it takes. -- John McCain

  • I drank a milkshake on 9/11. -- Rudy Giuliani

  • I drink your milkshake, but I'm paying for it with gold. -- Ron Paul

  • I will fight the corporations so that you can drink your own milkshake. -- John Edwards

  • I have 35 years of milkshake-drinking experience. *sob* -- Hillary Clinton

  • I peacefully drink your milkshake. -- Dennis Kucinich

Of course, a few candidates are missing. Here are my suggestions

  • We will both drink your milkshake, thereby canceling each other out -- Dodd and Biden

  • I kinda look like Al Gore drinking this milkshake, don't you think? Mmmm, VP milkshake -- Richardson

  • Gosh, how cool is this. I woke up during the debate and here was Regan's milkshake -- Thompson

  • A milkshake sounds really good, but I can't afford one -- Vilsack

  • Hey, nobody invited me to the milkshake party -- Gavel

  • I don't oppose all milkshakes. What I am opposed to is a dumb milkshake. What I am opposed to is a rash milkshake. -- Obama

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The effects of Republican economic policy

The average income of the bottom 90% of Americans, adjusting for inflation, peaked in 1973. Today we earn $74 per week less than in 1973, while at the top, income has grown exponentially. From 2003-2005, just the INCREASE in income of the top 1% was greater than the total income of the bottom 20%. The top 1% got $1.37 increase in their income for every dollar earned by the poor.

After WWII, bipartisan policies set up the US economy to benefit the middle class, and to set up the poor to elevate themselves to the middle class. This is history. In recent times we have radically cut back on worker and consumer protections. We have cut back protection laws in banking to legalize loan sharking by institutions.

Hidden and subtle government policies are finding more and more ways to tax and take from the poor and middle class, while giving more subsidies to the very richest.

I wish I could say that the Democratic party was not implicated, but they could have done more to stop this class warfare, and indeed some party members have caved into the economic lure of the lobbyists buying them off. However, on a whole they still are the sole national political voice looking out for the interests of the US Citizenry. That is because part of the Republican Party's agenda is to show unity for taxing the middle class into the lower class, and further enriching the rich with the spoils.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fair trade vs. free trade

One of the reasons I'm a liberal and not a conservative is the issue of fair trade vs. free trade. The Democratic party is not united on this front, but generally steers towards fair trade. The Republican party is, however, very united on this front. They are staunch advocates of free trade, and make no apologies for it, because in their world this is obviously good business.

Here's the difference in a nutshell. The United States has all kinds of labor and protection laws. Things like a minimum wage, outlawing child labor, OSHA to watch out for unsafe working conditions, and the freedom to form unions. This makes labor more expensive, but makes for a better society, in my opinion.

Fair trade says it's fine to import goods from anywhere, but the workers that produced the goods should have comparable protections. If there are child labor sweatshops used to produce goods, then we should not import them.

Free trade says the cheapest goods are the best for profit, so import from anywhere, and do not question how those goods are made, or the conditions under which they were made.

Case in point - Cambodia. Cambodia is the only poor country in the global garment industry to implement fair labor practices – no sweatshops, a living wage, no child labor, and much more. Because of this, they had been able land good trade deals with the US and their economy boomed. However, Bush and the GOP’s “free trade” policy eliminates fair trade, as the only thing that matters is profit margin. Cambodia is being pressured to reject all of their fair labor practices and reduce costs by paying sub-poverty wages, have laborers work in dim lights, provide poor water, use child labor - basically find any and all ways to increase profit, regardless of its effect on workers and society.

For more depth on this example, check out this This American Life

Government exists to enrich the rich

Lots of folk think that Bush got most of his personal fortune directly from his father, or from his failed oil businesses. The fact is, however, that much of it came from a scheme to bilk the taxpayers out of their money. Steal from the poor to give to the rich.

Lots of folk also know that he once owned (partially) the Texas Rangers baseball team. This came to be because he and his business partners realized that this money-losing team would be worth a lot more money if it came with a big, new stadium. So he and partners arranged to by the Rangers, and they had more than enough money to build the stadium themselves. But rather than build the stadium, they lobbied for and got a special election held (in January, an odd time for such a referendum) to increase sales tax in the Arlington area. Taxpayers thought this was for the good of their team, and Bush got his tax increase passed.

That money was funneled into building the stadium. The city also enacted eminent domain, so it seized private property all around the stadium site, taking it from private property owners for a fraction of the value of the land. This was added to the deal, so Bush and his partners got a lot more land than the stadium needed. The city then sold the stadium and all this property, under this special arrangement, to Bush and his partners for a small fraction of its value – all of which was paid for by taxpayers or seized from citizens.

This greatly increased the value of the Rangers. Bush and his partners then promptly flipped the team, with all of the taxpayer-financed subsidy turning into massive profit to line their pockets. The local and state government could have done this deal themselves much cheaper, but instead higher taxes enriched the dealers.

Bush personally netted $17M from this deal, about 2/3 of his personal fortune. It all came from taxpayers through this scheme.

Further, Bush’s entire investment in this deal was $600,000 of borrowed money. Therefore, based on his percentage ownership, his proceeds from the sale should have been $2M. However, the partnership was set up to give him the extra $15M as wages for his part in greasing the wheels of the government to make the deal happen.

When he filed his income tax return, he claimed the entire $17M was capital gains, instead of accurately reporting $2M as gains and $15M as salary. That means the $15M was taxed at a lower rate and he paid $3.4M less than he owed. This is, of course, illegal. However, according to the tax code, since he was not officially audited, he was able to get away with it. Friends in high places make sure this swindle was passed over, and there was no audit.

The deal and his connections not only gave him a huge personal fortune from the pockets of taxpayers, but he also counted on his political connections to avoid paying the taxes that he owed.

Now take this basic concept and enlarge it thousands of time, and you'll begin to see the money trail of the war against Iraq.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reflections of Iowa

This (paraphrased) email came to a mailing list that I'm on:

I'm sort of surprised that there isn't any political conversation regarding the Iowa caucus results. Anyone have strong feelings? Perhaps the more interesting thing to discuss is what will happen on the republican side. Which republican will be the easiest to defeat in the election? Who will be able to rally the party enough to be the decisive candidate after the primaries?

It seems to me that a lot of democrats are most interested in putting forward the candidate that seems most electable rather than the one that most represents their politics. Given the current political situation, this makes perfect sense to me.

Here's my response:

Gosh, with that subject (Iowa), I assumed this was about a Dar Williams song. ;-)

The two people that I thought would make the best Presidents just dropped out - Biden and Dodd. Can't say I'm surprised in the least. Either Edwards or Obama would be great moral compasses to right the ship, very electable, and good potential Presidents - Edwards for greater electability, Obama for greater experience (while he'd get more poll turnout in a positive way, the negative ads would really fire up and get out the idiot vote). The right has spent sooooooo much time, effort and money for so long convincing their base that Hillary is the antichrist that she would also result in a strong "right base" turnout, and therefore less electable. While I also think she'd be a very fine President, 6th on my list of what I consider an extremely, extremely strong field of candidates. I haven't looked into Richardson enough, so not sure where he'd rank w/ me, but not top 3.

In the meaningless WI primary of '04, I voted against my choice, Dean, and voted for Kerry because I thought he was more electable, but still an excellent candidate. I think I was wrong and should have voted my issues. Therefore, none of the above changes my vote for Kucinich. Would I be so cavalier if I thought he had a shot at the nomination but would have trouble in the general election? Probably not, as I still think getting "the one true party" out of the White House is the single most important issue for improving this country.

On the GOP side, I have no idea what I'd do if I was a fervent Republican and had to pick from that lot. I'd probably trick myself into forgetting about how much of a sellout to political winds McCain turns out to be, and remember his good points and pick him. I'd probably be tempted into Liberatarianism, but have no need for a racist (or best-case, someone that pretends to be be in order to woo the "rebel vote").

Being a liberal, it's a tough choice who I would want to see get the GOP nod. Probably Thompson, because he's a complete joke and it would be funny to see him fall asleep in the debates (same would have applied to Tommy). Huckabee is a joke too, of course, but would get out the "elect God's choice" vote. Rotten Rudy has the greatest capacity for sleaze and corruption, so I wouldn't really care to see the right's character assassination election tactics get escalated. McCain has positives, Mitt has money - so either would would generate more right excitement than Freddy "hey, I'm kinda like Regan" T.

I once thought McCain was selected as "the one true party's" guy, since he was presented with the campaign prowess of the swiftboat organization (a further testament to his political sell-out-ness). But he can't raise or supply the money of Rudy or Mitt, which is what matters there.

As for '08 prediction - Obama over Rudy.