Saturday, October 13, 2012

"The Korean Peninsula: The Future of a Geopolitical Nexus - by Immanuel Wallerstein

Commentary No. 338, October 1, 2012

"The Korean Peninsula: The Future of
a Geopolitical Nexus"

Korea has returned to the world stage as a crucial geopolitical nexus in the coming decade. It will affect in important ways the future of China, Japan, the United States, and perhaps Russia as well. Yet, paradoxically, its future depends primarily on itself.

Korea is one of that rare breed - a country with a very long history as a political and cultural entity, with varying degrees of unity as a single kingdom. In modern times, it was an independent state until Japan first made it a protectorate in 1905 and then annexed it in 1910. Japan's defeat in the Second World War ended her rule in Korea. In the very last days of the war, American and Russian troops entered Korea, meeting at the 38th Parallel. Two states came into existence, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea).

In 1950, the two Koreas came to be at war with each other. How this started remains a subject of fierce controversy to this day. The United States, profiting from the absence of the Soviet Union from the Security Council, was able to mobilize the United Nations to come to the military aid of South Korea. There were troops from 16 countries under the U.N. umbrella, although U.S. troops constituted over 80% of the total. Soon thereafter, Chinese troops entered North Korea to support the DPRK against the U.S./U.N. troops. The Korean War thus became also, and most importantly, a Chinese-American war.

By 1953, the war was at a stalemate, and the opposing sides signed an armistice at a line that was almost the same as the 38th Parallel. In short, the war was a draw. Technically, the war has never ended. There is no peace treaty, but there also is no war, although there remains great hostility and there are skirmishes from time to time. In 1957, the United States renounced a clause of the armistice agreement and introduced nuclear weapons into South Korea, over the protest of the North Koreans.

In 2003, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and sought bilateral talks with the United States on a treaty of non-aggression. The U.S. refused bilateral talks but proposed six-party talks that would include also South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. In 2006, North Korea announced a nuclear test, and in 2009 announced that it had produced a nuclear weapon. These days, some South Korean intellectuals designate the situation with an invented term. They say the Korean Peninsula is in a state of "peacelessness."

The U.S. goal of getting North Korea to repudiate nuclear weapons has not been achieved. On the other hand, North Korea has been suffering for quite some time from an acute food shortage, in part explained by the regime's insistence on giving primacy to their military expenditures.

Korean nationalism is extremely strong, and both the North and the South claim to look forward to reunification. But on what terms? The level of mutual suspicion is high. And South Korea's attitude towards this prospect is one that deeply divides South Koreans.

In 1961, Park Chung-hee led a military coup d'état and ruled as a dictator until 1979 when he was assassinated. Park believed that reunification was only possible and desirable if it involved the overthrow of the North Korean regime. In 1980, students led an uprising critical of the United States and calling for democratization of the regime. It was brutally suppressed.

After this, conservative forces dominated South Korean politics until a left-of-center party led by long-time dissident Kim Dae-jung won the election in 1997. He inaugurated the so-called Sunshine Policy. The name refers to an Aesopian fable, showing that it is easier to get someone to remove his coat if the sun shines than if the wind blows. The policy centered upon seeking concrete forms of cooperation with North Korea and repudiating any attempt to absorb the DPRK. He won the Nobel prize for peace in 2000 for this policy, which was continued by his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, president from 2003-2008.

In 2008, the conservatives won back the presidency, in part because the opening to the DPRK hadn't proved too successful and in part because of scandals affecting the Roh government. The new president, Lee Myung-bak, vociferously repudiated the Sunshine Policy, and asserted a hostile policy stronger even than that of the United States.

It seems clear today that neither China nor the United States nor Japan nor even Russia is really in favor of Korean reunification. All of them prefer the status quo. And yet, at this very time, the forces favoring reunification over the next decade seem suddenly stronger.

There are two factors in this new situation. One is the forthcoming election in South Korea. The conservatives have put forward the daughter of Park Chung-hee, Park Geun-hye, who has insisted on a total justification of her father's regime.

The left-of-center forces are currently split between two candidates. Moon Jae-in is the candidate of the left-of-center party and stands for renewing the opening to the DPRK. There is also an independent candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, who presents himself as the anti-politician candidate, appealing to those who are unhappy with both parties. However, his actual program is virtually identical with that of Moon Jae-in.

The polls show that if the two left-of-center candidates remain in the race, the conservative candidate will surely win. The polls also show however that if one of the two withdraws in favor of the other, the left-of-center forces will probably win. The likelihood of a withdrawal is high. The big question is who will withdraw in favor of whom.

If the left-of-center forces win, what will be the response in North Korea? No one knows. But everyone has noticed that the initial moves of the new leader, Kim Jong-un, seem to be rather different from the policy of his father, Kim Jong-il. He seems to be more concerned with providing more real income for the ordinary North Korean, and more open to changes. He may welcome some sunshine from the south.

If then the left-of-center wins in the South and the new leader in the North is in fact more open to sunshine, the world might see over the next decade a sort of loose confederation of north and south - ignoring the real fears of China and the United States.

A reunited Korea will have a major impact on the geopolitics of Northeast Asia, and indeed on world geopolitics. It will possibly mediate between China and Japan and enable a tristate common structure to come into existence. It may result in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan all becoming nuclear powers.

Furthermore, a unified Korea will link up with the repositioning of Egypt and the ever stronger geopolitical position of Brazil to entrench the redistribution of geopolitical power worldwide. And, let me repeat, this is in the hands of the Koreans themselves.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Local Hypnotist Shares 10 Stress Reduction Tips For World Mental Health Day -- Keeping it all pent up inside will only cause more of the same and increase stress levels. Exercise is activity and it helps to burn off all the excess energy and contributes to feelings of calmness.

Local Hypnotist Shares 10 Stress Reduction Tips
For World Mental Health Day

Posted by HypnoticTherapeutics

Barrington Patch:  October 10, 2012

For nearly everyone, stress is increasingly becoming a major health issue. Early stress researchers found that regardless of the environmental stressor, a generalized physiological response was activated commonly referred to as the "fight or flight," or stress response. When an individual encounters a stressor, the body part that first notes the stimulus passes the signal to the brain. The message passes through to the hypothalamus and thalamus. When the hypothalamus experiences the stressor signal, it simultaneously activates the two major stress pathways: the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. When the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system is activated by the hypothalamus, involuntary functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body fluid regulation are affected. At the same time, the pituitary gland is stimulated, which in turn orders the release of several chemical hormones. The chemical cortisol provides fuel for the "fight or flight" response by increasing blood sugar so that there is energy for action. Aldosterone increases the blood pressure. Epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are also produced, along with thyroxine.

Some of the health problems that appear to be caused or exacerbated by stress include:

* Nausea

* Indigestion

* Spastic colon

* Irritable bowel syndrome

* Colds and sinus infections

* Bladder infections

* Fibromyalgia

* Arthritis

* Headaches

* High blood pressure

* Slow or improper healing resulting from injury

* Heart disease,

* And other conditions…

In addition to the health considerations listed above, stress in most cases can prevent a person from performing to the best of their capabilities. The ramifications to deteriorating health and performance is often detrimental in the work environment, school, and at home.

Don’t worry! There is good news. Stress is controllable. Even chronic stress is reversible. There are various ways to keep stress under control. It is just a matter of a bit of commitment and time management while putting forth effort to incorporate some positive changes into your daily routine.
Here are the 10 stress reduction tips:
1. Life Happens. Accept that not all things that happen in life are in our direct control. It is important to learn to take things in stride, and make the best of whatever situation is occurring. A positive mental attitude and approach in life will help to keep those worrisome thoughts at bay.
2. Get Physical. Physical exercise (and sex) relieves stress. Regular physical activity is a great outlet for one's frustration, anger, and negative energy. If you are experiencing anger, frustration, negative thoughts and more, you are most likely under stress. Exercise is not a panacea. However, it can help to greatly reduce such feelings, emotions and thoughts. Keeping it all pent up inside will only cause more of the same and increase stress levels. Exercise is activity and it helps to burn off all the excess energy and contributes to feelings of calmness. Exercising releases a hormone called endorphins-which is known for promoting the feelings of euphoria and alleviating physical pain.

3. Deep Breathing. Breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits. A benefit for the body is oxygenating the blood to create more efficient processing for all vital organs. A benefit for the brain is oxygenation helps to stimulate the brain while also relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are easy and effective. It’s hard to find excuses not do daily breathing exercises. You don’t need fancy equipment; you don’t need to be in a certain place and at a certain time. You can do breathing exercises anywhere, and they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The key to proper breathing is deep, slow inhalations through the nose using the diaphragm (not the chest), and exhaling through the mouth.

4. Meditation and Guided Imagery. Meditation builds on deep breathing, and takes it a step further. When you meditate, your brain wave functioning slows similar to sleep, but carries some added benefits you can’t achieve as well in any other state, including the release of certain hormones that promote health. Change of focus to relaxing and pleasant thoughts or even nothingness keeps your mind from working overtime or routing to negative thoughts which increases stress levels.
It takes slightly more time to practice guided imagery. However, guided imagery is a great way to let go of stress and relax your body. Once learned, guided imagery is easy to use and becomes second nature. Many people find it easier to achieve than meditation. It is nearly always easier to focus on something, rather than on nothing. Guided imagery is simply taking your mind to places that you find relaxing and pleasing. It is much like taking a private and personal tour of a destination of choice and design. You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice, to promote a more immersive experience.

5. Visualizations. Creating visuals is a process that builds on guided imagery. By imagining yourself achieving personal and professional goal and becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways you condition your mind, and your body to respond in better ways. What the mind can conceive, it can achieve. The mind cannot distinguish from what is real and what is imagined. Therefore, engaging visualizations in a positive manner and seeing yourself doing well on tasks, projects, and goals and so forth actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your performance through visualizations as well!

6. Self-Hypnosis. Self-hypnosis incorporates some of the features of guided imagery and visualizations, with the added benefit of enabling you to communicate directly or indirectly with your subconscious mind. Connecting with your subconscious and giving it directions can enhance abilities and create positive intended change. Since emotions, behaviors and habits are created, stored and most often controlled by the subconscious mind, making changes at the source helps to eliminate unwanted habits, feel less pain, and more effectively develop healthier habits and behaviors. When the subconscious mind is engaged it also becomes easier to find answers to questions that may not be clear while fully in a conscious state of mind! It takes some practice and training, but is well worth it.

7. Alone Time. Being alone and experiencing stillness can help to create balance and centeredness. Often stress comes from being overwhelmed and worried which results because too many things are occurring simultaneously; not leaving any time for rest. People that put themselves in the position of constantly caring for others to the point of neglecting themselves are especially susceptible to this type of induced stress. The solution is to take some time off and do something special; it is okay to be pampered.

8. Group Support. There are times when one's problems become too overwhelming. This is the time when the support of friends and family will make a positive and direct impact. Group support is vital for some people. Having someone to confide in helps to share and disperse issues and take the load they are carrying around off of their shoulders and their minds. Knowing that you have someone to turn to when nothing is going your way, helps to feel that the world is not stacked against you and knowing that goes a long away in battling stress and anxiety.

9. Music. Music therapy has shown numerous health benefits. When dealing with stress, music can actually lower blood pressure, relax the body and calm the mind. There is no right or wrong type of music. Find the music that resonates with your desired way to relax. Use music in your daily life for effective stress management.

10. Get Adequate Rest. Most of the western world suffers from stress that is created or magnified due to lack of adequate rest. Ideally and the preferred amount of sleep each night is approximately 8 hours. Sleep is the time when the body and the mind rests, restores and renews. Taking a 15 minute power nap during the day appears to help energize the body and create greater alertness of the mind.

Stress is conquerable. It is just a matter of making some simple changes in your lifestyle. Doing so will make all the difference and allow you to live a more stress free life. Strive for balance between rest, work, play and other daily activities and routines. Explore what feels best. Notice that by making small changes in your daily patterns, just how much better you feel throughout the day.

David A. Blender, PhD is a practicing clinical and medical hypnotherapist and Life Coach in Barrington, Illinois.

Dr. Blender, is a practicing hypnotherapist with Hypnotic Therapeutics, a clinical and medical hypnotherapy practice. Dr. Blender is dedicated to helping people overcome personal and professional limitations, and unwanted behavior patterns and habits. His passion is re-engineering the human potential. In addition to operating his clinical practice, he is an international board certified hypnosis trainer with specialty in conversational hypnosis. He has published many articles in several journals and online news publications.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Perhaps (former GE CEO Jack) Welch could get away with this sort of temper tantrum nonsense when he was running one of the biggest companies in the world, but he will only get ridicule pushing this line in policy debates. Either Welch doesn’t have any clue about how the unemployment data are collected, or he is just a liar.

When CEO's Pimp Conspiracy Theories

Why Jack Welch Has No Clue About Jobs Numbers


Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric, was unhappy that the Labor Department reported a 0.3 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate on Friday. In fact, he was sufficiently unhappy that he accused the Obama Administration of using its control over the Labor Department to cook the numbers in a tweet just after the unemployment rate was reported. He even repeated the claim in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Wednesday.

Perhaps Welch could get away with this sort of temper tantrum nonsense when he was running one of the biggest companies in the world, but he will only get ridicule pushing this line in policy debates. Either Welch doesn’t have any clue about how the unemployment data are collected, or he is just a liar.

First, it is important to understand that the Bureau of Labor Statistics — the division of the Labor Department that reports data on unemployment — is run by career civil servants. Ordinarily, the commissioner is a well-respected academic economist who is appointed by the president. However, since the previous commissioner left this year, John Galvin, a career civil servant, stepped up to fill the role of acting commissioner. This means the bureau does not have a single political appointee.

It is also important to understand the way the data for the survey are compiled and published. The survey involves hundreds of people at various stages in the process of collecting and compiling the data. Even if Galvin or some other top official in the bureau wanted to lie about the numbers, they couldn’t possibly do it alone.

Suppose they just changed the unemployment rate from a “true” rate of 8.1% to a bogus 7.8% rate. They would have the problem that this 7.8% number was inconsistent with the data on unemployment rates for whites and African-Americans. Or it would turn out to be inconsistent with the data on unemployment for young people and old people.

If the perp just changed the overall unemployment rate, hundreds of experts would quickly find that the numbers did not add up. The drop in the unemployment rate would not be consistent with other data in the survey. This would be easily detected.

In order to successfully manipulate the data, it would be necessary to change hundreds of numbers that get reported each month. This would require the cooperation of dozens of top people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Maybe in Welch’s world, it is possible to go around with a big wad of money and buy off people at the drop of a hat, but the idea that someone from the Obama Administration wandered through the top echelons of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to buy their cooperation in fixing the unemployment numbers is absurd on its face. Perhaps someone could be found who would be willing to be bought, but the rest would be singing their story on the national news.

The other problem with Welch’s charge is that he obviously has no knowledge of the unemployment series itself. In fact, it is common for the numbers to jump around. He found it incredible that the unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points over two months when the economy appears to be growing slowly.

How about when it fell by 0.7 percentage points from November 2010 to January 2011, when growth was also very weak? Was this political manipulation of the data? On the other side, the unemployment rate jumped by 0.2 percentage points in the summer of 1996, when the economy was growing at a 7.1% annual rate.

If Welch knew the data at all or bothered to talk to someone who knew the data before he made his outlandish charges, he would realize that the unemployment rate is an erratic series. It moves around in unpredictable ways.

I am on record as saying that Friday’s drop in the unemployment rate was a statistical fluke. So was the 0.1 percentage point rise reported for July. But the economy has been adding 150,000 jobs per month, which is consistent with a declining unemployment rate. To get a full picture of the economy, you have to study the all the data and try to put together pieces of the puzzle. That may not fit Welch’s political agenda, but that is the world we live in.

The economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics may not be the most exciting people in the world, but they are honest. And for that, we should be very grateful. When we get data from them, we know that it has not been doctored for political purposes.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

Painful Spending Cuts and Tax Increases on the

Painful Spending Cuts and Tax Increases on the
Middle Class and Working Poor

Romney’s $9 Trillion Dilemma


The budget plan of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney includes large unspecified consequences; these are tallied here, and the complete implications of the plan are briefly illustrated. The tally includes not only the unspecified tax increases his plan dictates that have been the subject of much debate, it also includes the less-discussed unspecified budget cuts necessitated by a proposal to cap federal outlays at 20 percent of the economy.

* To meet Romney’s commitment to limit spending as a percent of the economy to 20 percent while at the same time increasing defense spending to 4 percent of GDP, would require nondefense spending cuts totaling $6.1 trillion from 2014–2022, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Romney campaign has proposed only $2.4 trillion of specific spending reductions. It has not specified the other $3.7 trillion in spending cuts necessary to achieve its budget plan.

* Similarly, over the next decade Romney proposes $5 trillion in tax cuts, a widely-discussed figure that in fact appears to be understated.1 Beyond suggesting possibly capping the dollar value of itemized deductions—doing so could increase taxes on middle-income households and even fully eliminating itemized deductions would not keep upper-income households from receiving a net tax cut—the Romney campaign has not identified any specific changes in tax policies to offset these tax cuts, but in the Oct. 3 debate Romney stated his tax plan would be revenue neutral.

* In combination, over the next decade the Romney budget plan would necessitate $11.1 trillion of spending cuts and tax increases. It specifies just $2.4 trillion of these, thereby hiding $8.7 trillion of painful decisions. The Romney budget blueprint details all the specific proposed tax cuts, so the public knows how it might specifically benefit from this part of his plan, while leaving out 78 percent of the details that would let the public gauge how its taxes might increase and how government benefits and programs would be cut.

The necessary spending cuts

The signature spending reduction Romney has proposed is to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), thereby reducing support of health care by $890 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. Among other implications, CBO estimates that this would mean “30 million fewer nonelderly people would have health insurance in 2022.”

Romney’s other major reduction proposal is to block grant and cut the Medicaid program, although this plan itself somewhat obscures its consequences by leaving specific Medicaid reductions to the states. This approach would reduce Medicaid expenditures by another $780 billion over 10 years.

Romney has proposed roughly $65 billion in annual savings from programmatic cuts beyond repealing the ACA and block granting Medicaid, including $47 billion from cutting federal compensation, $4 billion from reducing federal employment, and $2 billion from privatizing Amtrak.2 Indexed for nominal GDP growth, these programmatic reductions total $733 billion over 2014–2022, bringing specified spending cuts to $2.4 trillion.

The $3.7 trillion in unspecified spending cuts total nearly 13 percent of remaining nondefense primary spending (i.e., excluding net interest) projected under current policy over 2014–2022. If allocated proportionally, all programs other than Social Security and defense spending would have to be cut an additional 19 percent. These cuts would be above and beyond any specified cuts; for example, Medicaid would need to be cut another 19 percent beyond the reductions already specified by the Romney block grant proposal. (The 19 percent figure represents an average over the period; the actual cuts would be lower in the early years but higher in the later years.)

Other policy scenarios could also achieve the spending reductions consistent with the 20 percent of GDP overall cap on outlays, with 4 percent of GDP spent on defense. It is also quite possible the $733 billion in programmatic cuts might not hold up; this figure does not reflect official scoring, which could come in lower. Further, 73 percent of these cuts come from the reduction in federal compensation, which Romney’s website says is intended to, “Align Federal Employee Compensation With The Private Sector,” since “Federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent.” This differential claim is highly dubious. It is unclear how much in savings the Romney plan would yield if the objective is truly alignment, rather than merely slashing federal compensation.

The CBPP analysis examines the likely general nature of a $5.2 trillion cut over 2014–2022 from the global spending cap (after subtracting out spending reductions of nearly $900 billion for ACA repeal) implied by the Romney budget blueprint. The analysis examines two basic scenarios, one in which Medicare is subject to spending cuts and one in which Medicare is not cut (yielding deeper cuts to other programs). It then assumes cuts would be divided proportionately among the programs the Romney blueprint allows to be cut (core defense and Social Security are exempt from cuts).

All told, the affected programs would be sliced by 22 percent in 2016 and 34 percent in 2022, if Medicare is also cut. If Medicare is exempt from cuts, the programs would be cut by 32 percent in 2016 and by more than half (53 percent) in 2022. Among the consequences:

* Over and above the cuts to Medicaid due to repeal of health reform, the additional Medicaid cuts required (which CBPP estimates would need to be significantly greater than those required by the specific block grant proposal) “would likely add at least 14 million to 19 million more people to the ranks of the uninsured.”

* “Nondefense discretionary spending would shrink to 1.8 percent of GDP by 2022 if Medicare is subject to cuts, and to 1.3 percent of GDP if Medicare is exempt. In contrast, spending for this category has averaged 3.9 percent of GDP over the past 50 years and has never fallen below 3.2 percent of GDP during this period. … This category of spending covers a wide variety of public services such as aid to elementary and secondary education, veterans’ health care, law enforcement, highways and mass transit, national parks, environmental protection, biomedical and scientific research, housing assistance, the weather service, and air traffic controllers.”

The necessary tax increases

EPI, among others, has analyzed Romney’s tax plan at great length, most recently arguing that the specified tax cuts cannot be mathematically squared with numerous other promises; something has to give. The structure of this plan is a moving target—for example, it was not until the Oct. 3 debate that Romney stated that his tax cuts would be entirely revenue neutral—but several overarching conclusions can nonetheless be reached.

First, the specific tax cuts that have been promised, which include measures such as completely eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, would be of disproportionate benefit to high-income households. Data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) indicate that the specific tax cuts, before considering the unspecified tax increases, would reduce the effective tax rates for the highest-income 1 percent of households by 7.8 percent, more than five times the rate reduction for middle-income households produced by the specified Romney tax cuts. In 2015, Romney’s specified tax cuts for the top 1 percent would average $150,000 per household.

Second, as noted, the various objectives of the plan are incompatible. The claims Romney makes about providing net tax cuts for the middle class, having all the tax cuts be revenue neutral, reducing all tax rates by 20 percent, and adopting the specific high-income tax cuts he has proposed, cannot all be accomplished at the same time.

Third, if in fact the specific tax cuts are offset in a revenue neutral fashion through broadening the tax base, there are simply not enough high-income tax expenditures (or loopholes) available for offsets, so tax expenditures for middle-class households would have to be targeted. This is why TPC found that “any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Romney has proposed would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.”

The final tally

This sketch of plausible offset scenarios suggests the large amount of pain that would be caused by the combination of $11.1 trillion in tax increases and spending reductions over the next decade that would be necessary under the broad parameters outlined by the Romney budget blueprint. For a sense of scale, the amount of necessary savings is substantially greater than the $6.7 trillion in deficits projected over the next decade under a continuation of current policies. Further, it is imperative that any budget proposal spell out its damage, and not just its benefits. Not specifying every single proposed change is one thing, but failing to detail nearly $9 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts is another.

Andrew Fieldhouse is a federal budget policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, where this article originally appeared.

Isaac Shapiro is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute. He is the co-author of two books: Working But Poor: America’s Contradiction and Protecting American Workers.


1. A more precise calculation is that Romney has proposed specific tax cuts that would reduce revenue by $6.1 trillion over 10 years. The higher figure assumes implementation in tax year 2013 rather than 2014 and includes all the revenue changes related to repealing the ACA, while the lower figure only accounts for some of the changes. This higher calculation also indexes the cost of the proposed tax cuts to nominal GDP growth.

2. Romney has also proposed cutting non-security discretionary spending back to 2008 levels, but, like the cuts required by the global spending cap, has not specified how these reductions would be apportioned. To reduce overall spending to 20 percent of GDP while raising defense spending, however, would surely require non-security discretionary spending cuts of a much greater scale. Romney’s annual savings of $60 billion from reducing “waste and fraud” is ignored in our analysis, as there is no waste, fraud, and abuse account in the federal budget and this would certainly be deemed insufficiently detailed to be scored should CBO analyze a Romney administration budget request. Savings from capping and block granting Department of Labor training programs are also ignored, as freezing either 2013 or 2014 outlays in nominal dollars would fail to produce any savings relative to projected outlays in the Office of Management and Budget’s public budget database.

All other programmatic savings listed by the campaign have been taken at face value, have been assumed to take effect in 2014, and are indexed to nominal GDP in 2015 and beyond. As discussed in the text, these programmatic savings levels do not reflect official government scoring, which might come in considerably lower.

Under the Cloak of Liberalism

Under the Cloak of Liberalism

America on the Cusp of Fascism


I use “fascism” here not as a cliché, but as an historical-structural formation principally rooted in the mature stage of capitalism, in which business-government interpenetration (what the Japanese political scientist Masao Maryuma called the “close-embrace” system) has created hierarchical social classes of wide differences in wealth and power, the militarization of social values and geopolitical strategy, and a faux ideology of classlessness to instill loyalty for the social order among working people. In fact, each of these factors is already present to a high degree in America–superbly disguised however by the rhetoric of liberalism, as in Mr. Obama’s presidency.

This said, my provocative hypothesis (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) is that in the coming election Romney is preferable to Obama. Why? In broad terms, we see varying degrees of sophistication in the mad dash across the finish line (i.e., fascism proper, midway between nascent and full-blown), with Romney and Republicans representing plebeian fascism, and Obama and Democrats a sophisticated corporatist form. Everything charged against Romney may be true, from Social Darwinist beliefs and gut-militarism to cultural intolerance and xenophobia, and perhaps even more so for the party as a whole, though that is a moot point–an overt negation, on all grounds,of what we mean by democracy. (Not that America has honored or achieved that state of political-economic development through most of its history!) To pursue the candidacy of Romney involves one in a societal nightmare of unrestrained wealth (and the perks that go with it, from horribly skewed taxation policy to categorical setbacks to unions, wage rates, and an antilabor climate) and severe cuts in the social safety net. All this is known, predictable, transparent–part of my argument for viewing Romney as preferable to Obama. Clearly, Trotsky in popularized form is in the back of my mind.

By contrast, Obama is unassailable, enjoying the protective cloak of the state secrets doctrine (which, also as the National Security State, he invokes constantly), the liberal glossing on all policy matters, thanks to the extremely able spinmeisters Axelrod and Rhodes, and an adoring, submissive, uncritical base, in deep denial and for whatever reasons unwilling to examine the administration’s record. That record confirms the long-term political, economic, and moral bankruptcy of the Democratic party, whose differentiating character setting it apart from the Republicans lies in the magnitude of skilled evasion and/or deception surrounding policies which themselves replicate the central elements in those of their opponents. Republicans sincerely criticize Obama because they are too ignorant to recognize, in their rush to antigovernment rhetoric, that he takes the same position as they smoothed out to please a base at best composed of pretend-radicalism and, equally, to ward off criticism from those who desperately want to believe his earlier promises. This comes down to political theater at its cruelest.

The list of actual betrayal is long and virtually covering his public policy without exception. (A good start can be found in the critical essays in Hopeless, a true icebreaker for the uninformed prepared to listen.) Let me select several obvious examples. 1) Health care, in which Obama savaged the single-payer system, thus preparing the way for the same on the public option, meanwhile silencing, or rather, delegitimating all dissident voices, at the same time as exempting health insurers from antitrust prosecution and favoring Big Pharma; 2) Civil liberties, a good litmus test of democratic governance, in which Obama’s Department of Justice argued against granting habeas corpus rights to detainees, invoked the Espionage Act against whistleblowers, carried surveillance beyond that of previous administrations, with the National Security Agency one of the culprits practicing the black magic of eavesdropping, while renditions and “black holes” continue and even agencies like FDA spy on its employees; 3) militarism, from which foreign policy, including trade policy, cannot be excluded, in which the drone–as Obama’s signature weapon–terrorizes whole populations reeking destruction from the skies, naval power displayed from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean, a whole new generation of nuclear weapons in the pipeline (exempt from potential budgetary sequestration), a military budget itself second to none, and what appears to be a permanent state of war; 4) the omissions, which by their absence speak volumes about the purposes and policies of his administration, in which job creation and foreclosures have not been addressed, climate change, wholly disappeared, gun control, nonexistent, poverty never, never mentioned, and business and banking regulation the compounding of phoniness on phoniness, not unexpected considering Obama’s belief in deregulation and bringing in the Clinton-Rubin crowd of free marketeers.

How much more or worse damage can Romney and the Republicans do? They might fuss about same-sex marriage and contraception, while Obama, in his Pacific-first geopolitical vision and concrete strategy, wants to encircle China, and press for an economic agenda promoting further corporate-wealth concentration. If Republicans come across as Taliban on cultural issues, Democrats almost surreptitiously advance the financialization of the total economy, with the consequent distortions introduced–loss of manufacturing, increasing wealth concentration, and capitalism’s Achilles heel, underconsumption. Why Romney? Because his transparency as a Neanderthal may, just may, bring people into the streets, while under Obama passivity and false consciousness appear almost irreversible. I for one will stay home. The lesser-of-two-evils argument is morally obtuse, and dangerous, the first, because it means complicity with policies ultimately destructive, the second, because it induces an undeserved self-righteousness which next time around would yield further compromise. If the people are gulled and lulled into the acceptance of mock-democracy, courtesy of Goldman Sachs and waterboarding apologist Brennan, with Obama presiding over the bread-and-circuses routine, heaven help us.

Norman Pollack is a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Given the ease with which the Obama administration allowed the financial industry to subvert the Congressional legislation designed to reform the banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-9, and the White House decision not to prosecute a single bank executive for the wholesale destruction of the US and global economy, one might think that Wall Street would have rewarded Obama with more money for his re-election campaign. Instead the industry, seeing even more advantage in having a Republican in the White House, and particularly one of its own — venture capitalist and multi-millionaire Mitt Romney, has switched its support over to his opponent.

Loyalty’s for Chumps on The Street

Obama Dumped by the Money Men


One thing you can say about the financial industry. It has no sense of loyalty. (It has only a sense of entitlement and of sucking the money up from everybody)

Back in 2008, most of the biggest contributors to presidential candidate Barack Obama were financial companies (Of course they were, that is because the first thing he put himself into after the election - and I mean IMMEDIATELY after the election was getting the bail-out for Goldmen-Sucks implemented - Obama literally took up the fumbled ball and RAN with it, the better for the sock-puppet Preznit, George W Bush, to go an pursue his alcohol intake to the max habit again). According to the campaign fund tracking website Open Secrets, after the $1.65 million donated by a political action committee (PAC) for the University of California, the next biggest contributor was a PAC for the giant bank, Goldman Sachs, whose employees ponied up a reported $1 million. Right up there among the top contributors to the Obama campaign that year were two other of the nation’s top banks too: JP Morgan Chase, whose employee PAC gave $809,000, and Citigroup, which gave $737,000. Two more big banks, UBS and Morgan Stanley, as well as General Electric, which less than a year later bought a bank to enable itself to benefit from the government’s largesse in doling out billions of “rescue” dollars under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), were among Obama’s top 20 campaign donors, handing over $533,000, $512,000 and 530,000 respectively to support his election.

Obama, after winning the presidency, repaid all that campaign largesse, appointing bank industry lackeys and executives to top positions. He made Timothy Geithner, who as head of the New York Federal Reserve branch during the Bush administration, had ignored the scandalous derivatives scandals that brought on the financial crash, his Treasury Secretary, and Lawrence Summers, who as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, had pushed for the deregulation of derivatives, and for allowing banks to merge with investment banks, and who during the Bush years earned millions as a consultant to the hedge fund industry and from speaking fees provided by Wall Street banks, got the post of head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. Meanwhile, GE’s chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, who famously exported thousands of GE jobs abroad, was given the post of White House Jobs “Czar.”

Given the ease with which the Obama administration allowed the financial industry to subvert the Congressional legislation designed to reform the banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-9, and the White House decision not to prosecute a single bank executive for the wholesale destruction of the US and global economy, one might think that Wall Street would have rewarded Obama with more money for his re-election campaign. Instead the industry, seeing even more advantage in having a Republican in the White House, and particularly one of its own — venture capitalist and multi-millionaire Mitt Romney, has switched its support over to his opponent (and this serves the Bland One, Barry O RIGHT! He has gotten exactly what he deserves to get - as an amoral opportunist, now that he has "lost" the first debate, and the Republican (ever contracting base) is getting fired up again, presumably because now they believe it will be Mitt the Shitt, rather than O-Bummah, and the wet dream of a Republican being elected Preznit - as if the effete East Coast liberal disestablishment will let Mitt the Shitt Romney get away with doing what Obummah has already accomplish towards the ultimate Republican party's goal - a return to serfdom, slavery, and the divine right of kings, they are hoping to run the table with a Republican Preznit (that the fundies won't come out to vote for), and Republican Congress (the 1st term incumbents of which WILL NOT, by and large, be re-elected), and an overtly Repubican Supreme Court: HA - the American voting public is NOT entirely stewpid, and full well understands that, at least with Obummah, they will have longer to starve slowly to death..

Open Secrets reports that this year there is only one Wall Street bank listed among Obama’s top 20 largest donors: Wells Fargo, which only gave the president’s re-election campaign a scant $202,000, less than half what the smallest of his top 20 donors gave four years ago. Over all, big banks gave Obama over $4 million in 2008, and only $200,000, or just five percent as much, in 2012.

Romney, meanwhile, this year is awash in Wall Street money, and his donations are even bigger than the donations Obama received from the industry back in 2008. Romney’s number one donor is Goldman Sachs, the turncoat institution that gave Obama $1 million four years ago. Its PAC this year as of August had already given Romney almost $900,000. More importantly, the top eight biggest donors to Romney’s campaign were Wall Street financial institutions (Not to worry, however, after getting re-elected, Obama will still get down on his knees under the table of the Finance smorgasboard and suck enough corporate c-ck to make a Singapore whore blush).

Number two on the list, Bank of America, gave $668,000. Number three, JP Morgan Chase, gave $663,000. Number four, Morgan Stanley, gave $650,000. Number five, Credit Suisse Group (where Romney reportedly stashes some of his money outside the US and the prying eyes of the Internal Revenue Service), gave $554,000. Citigroup, his sixth biggest contributor, gave $554,000. Wells Fargo, number seven on the Romney donor list, gave $415,000, or more than double the amount given to the Obama campaign. And number eight, Barclays, the bank at the center of the LIBOR- rigging scandal in Britain, gave $404,000. Also on Romney’s to 20 donor list are the hedge funds HIG Capital and the Blackstone Group, giving $338,000 and $309,000, respectively, the Swiss bank UBS, which was the center of a whistleblower-exposed scandal involving helping wealthy Americans hide income from the IRS which donated $308,000, Bain Capital, the venture firm owned and run, until recently, by Romney, which donated $268,000, and GE, now a banking firm, which gave $214,000.

In total, the banks that are among Romney’s 20 largest donors, had, through August, contributed a total of over $5 million to his campaign. Adding in other financial companies in that premiere list of donors, Wall Street firms alone gave his campaign over $6.2 million. The figure is surely considerably higher two months later in the campaign.

This year, meanwhile, having lost the banks, Obama is down to being the candidate of University administrators and faculty. His largest donor this year is the PAC for the University of California, which gave his campaign $707,000. U of C is one of six university PACs that dominate the list of Obama’s 20 largest donors, with his alma mater of Harvard being the second largest of the group and the fourth largest donor to the campaign overall at $434,000. Other large donors to the Obama campaign are Microsoft, which gave $544,000, Google, which gave $526,000, IBM, which gave $219,000, the health insurer Kaiser Permanente (how quickly the health insurers forget - BARRY, you friggin' moron - for keeping around the nincompoops that are advising you - you maintain their loyalty by making DEMANDS on them), $316,000, entertainment conglomerate Time Warner $295,000, and several US government employee PACs, which collectively gave close to $600,000.

Given these numbers, it seems clear, in case anyone needed a clue, that quarter-billionaire Mitt Romney is the candidate of Wall Street this year (the only reason they EVER back anyone other than a hard core Republican is when they know that their hard-core-radical-lunatic-Republican has lost the interest in getting TARP legislation passed - lesson learned, yet? Mr Preznit?). As for Obama, Wall Street’s man in 2008, he may have to content himself with being the higher education candidate this year.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The great recession of 2008, this global economic meltdown, has wiped out the life savings of so many people and created a looming threat of chronic unemployment for millions. This is happening while corporate coffers are brimming with historically high levels of cash on hand, in both the “too big to fail” banks and in nonfinancial corporations.

October 11, 2012 by

Workers Fight for Justice, From Wal-Mart to Chipotle

by Amy Goodman

Walmart Associates across the country are walking off the job to protest Walmart's attempts to silence their right to voice grievances. The great recession of 2008, this global economic meltdown, has wiped out the life savings of so many people and created a looming threat of chronic unemployment for millions. This is happening while corporate coffers are brimming with historically high levels of cash on hand, in both the “too big to fail” banks and in nonfinancial corporations. Despite unemployment levels that remain high, and the anxiety caused by people living paycheck to paycheck, many workers in the United States are taking matters into their own hands, demanding better working conditions and better pay. These are the workers who are left unmentioned in the presidential debates, who remain uninvited into the corporate news networks’ gilded studios. These are the workers at Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States. These are the tomato pickers from Florida. With scant resources, armed with their courage and the knowledge that they deserve better, they are organizing and getting results.

This week, Wal-Mart workers launched the first strike against the giant retailer in its 50-year history, with protests and picket lines at 28 stores across 12 states. Many of these nonunion workers are facing retaliation from their employer, despite the protections that exist on paper through the National Labor Relations Board. The strikers are operating under the banner of OUR Walmart: Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, started with support from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. OUR Walmart members protested outside Wal-Mart’s “Meeting for the Investment Community 2012” in Bentonville, Ark. Demanding a stop to the company’s retaliations, the group promised a vigorous national presence at Wal-Mart stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the largest retail shopping day of the year. The workers have an impressive array of allies ready to join them, including the National Organization for Women.

Wal-Mart has historically shrouded its business practices by engaging subcontractors to perform tasks like warehousing and delivery. In Elwood, Ill., warehouse workers employed by Wal-Mart subcontractor RoadLink went out on strike immediately after a similar strike in California. According to Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), “warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures, lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250lbs each. Workplace injuries are common; workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits.”

According to WWJ, after 21 days on strike in Elwood, the workers “won their principal demand for an end to illegal retaliation against workers protesting poor conditions. They will return to work ... with full pay for the time they were on strike.”

I spoke with one of the Elwood strikers, Mike Compton, who described just one of the awful conditions they endured at their low-wage job:

"We have a big problem with dust. You know, all our containers that we unload come from China, and they’re just filled with black dust. It’s horrible, breathing the stuff in all day, you know, and we’d have to ask seven, eight times to get a dust mask. We’d just be pointed in different directions, to a different manager, to a different department. And half the time we’d walk away empty-handed at the end of it anyway. We’ve actually had trailers that were labeled ‘defumigated in Mexico.’ We don’t know why. People have had trouble breathing in the trailers. You know, dust—something as simple and as cheap as a dust mask should just be readily available to anyone, in my opinion, especially a company as wealthy as Wal-Mart.”

Compton was in Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters, to protest at the Wal-Mart investor meeting

Meanwhile, immigrant farmworkers have for generations labored under brutal conditions, picking tomatoes in the rural town of Immokalee, Fla. In 1993, they formed the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to organize in solidarity with consumers to demand that major restaurant chains source their tomatoes from farms that pay a fair wage to their workers.

I spoke with farmworker and CIW organizer Gerardo Reyes-Chavez. He was in Denver, where the fast-food outlet Chipotle is based. CIW has been working on Chipotle for 10 years. He told me: “We have been able to create a Fair Food Program, addressing abuses in the tomato industry. We created a whole new system ... to identify where abuses are going on and uproot them from the system. This is an opportunity for Chipotle to do the right thing. They claim that they sell food with integrity, and they are really focused on the sustainability ... what we are saying is, this is an opportunity for them to make it a reality.”

The day after I spoke with Reyes-Chaves, Chipotle signed the Fair Food Agreement. As the presidential candidates trade barbs over jobs in their heavily-controlled debates, workers at the grass roots are organizing for change, from Florida to California.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2012 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.