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Maybe I'm just getting giddy from all the propaganda lately, but this NYT article, particularly the headline, made me laugh and I read it in amazement.  I feel like I'm back in Catholic school when I read things like this.  Take your bitter medicine, kiddies...  We're only beating you because we love you... or something like that.  It's got a bunch of black and white photos too.  Austerity romanticized.  And whatever you do, don't protest!  I thought I'd seen it all.  If you haven't already, go read this article.  I think it's an amazing piece of propaganda though at the same time very strange.

Used to Hardship, Latvia Accepts Austerity, and Its Pain Eases

RIGA, Latvia — When a credit-fueled economic boom turned to bust in this tiny Baltic nation in 2008, Didzis Krumins, who ran a small architectural company, fired his staff one by one and then shut down the business. He watched in dismay as Latvia’s misery deepened under a harsh austerity drive that scythed wages, jobs and state financing for schools and hospitals.

But instead of taking to the streets to protest the cuts, Mr. Krumins, whose newborn child, in the meantime, needed major surgery, bought a tractor and began hauling wood to heating plants that needed fuel. Then, as Latvia’s economy began to pull out of its nose-dive, he returned to architecture and today employs 15 people — five more than he had before. “We have a different mentality here,” he said.

Latvia, feted by fans of austerity as the country-that-can and an example for countries like Greece that can’t, has provided a rare boost to champions of the proposition that pain pays.

If they are uninformed, it is the result of willful ignorance, a preference to parrot a canned message developed by a decidedly not uninformed Democratic leadership, and also the corruption of being owned by big banks, big biz, and a system that requires members of Congress to spend a lot of their time and energy raising money for reelection.  This makes it much easier for the Dem leadership to keep them in line.  A simple threat of a primary and no help from the party with campaign funds will do it for most members.  Well maybe we should cut them more of a break because it really is hard to keep up with the complex and secretive deals that always change at the last minute and require rapid votes with no time to review the details, and also, the leadership has an army of think tanks helping them create the deals and the spin propaganda for it.  They've been strategizing for some of these wet dreams for years, decades.  The Republicans are even worse and from what I've seen, most can't answer any substantive questions, they just parrot the party spin.  It's a shame to see the Democrats doing the same thing and that's what they did on the House floor on Tuesday night.  Anyway, this is Krugman with some good analysis (who imho, should be nicknamed Ping Pong Krugman because of the way he bounces back and forth on big bills that are passed).
Uninformed Politicians Pushing US Toward Austerity

It's pretty amazing, actually — and again, it makes me a lot more sympathetic to those confused voters, who have much better excuses than sitting governors with presidential ambitions. Why People Are Confused Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently caught The Washington Post publishing an explainer under this banner: "Questions About the Fiscal Cliff: Key Points About the Looming National Debt Crisis." O.K., if there's one thing the fiscal cliff confrontation isn't, it's a "debt crisis."
The problem — a political standoff that may lead to damaging austerity in an economy that's still depressed and in a liquidity trap — has nothing to do with either debt or deficits; the danger would be exactly the same if America had a balanced budget and low debt. So what's going on? The answer is that the Very Serious People — and there's nothing as V.S.P. as The Washington Post — have spent years crying Deficits! Debt! Danger!, and staff at The Post can't wrap their minds around the fact that suddenly it's a too-rapid fall in the deficit that has those very same people terrified.
It speaks to the state of confusion that all the deficit fearmongering has created. And if headline writers at a major newspaper can't get it straight, how can you expect ordinary voters to get it?

Top Goldman Sachs execs get shares on New Year's Eve

The executives, which also include Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, Vice Chairmen Michael Evans and John Weinberg, Global Head of Human Capital Management Edith Cooper, Chief of Staff John Rogers, General Counsel Greg Palm, Global Head of Compliance Alan Cohen, and Chief Accounting Officer Sarah Smith, got a total of 508,104 shares, according to multiple filings late Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

These executives sold 245,838 of those shares to cover tax obligations, and held on to the rest, which were worth $33.1 million. The shares were sold at a price of $126.24 on Monday.

Notice how the Bloomberg article frames this -- they say that the latest deal undid the tax increases that happened when the Bush tax cuts expired.  This is how Republicans will frame this.  Since the vote happened after the Bush tax cuts expired, they voted for a tax cut.  This is why Norquist blessed the deal and this is why the House vote was delayed until Jan. 1.  So the hyperpartisan spin about how Norquist is a defeated man, or whatever the latest nonsense is, is just political sports fan junk.  You'll see this (technically accurate) fact in the campaign ads of every Republican who voted for this deal.  Those who voted against it - it will be interesting to see how long before they drop the "it's a tax increase" line (probably after the factional war/vote for Speaker thing dies down).    "Congressman So-and-So voted to cut taxes and restore the Bush tax cuts!"  Anyway, Wall Street loves this deal, so it's great for the ownership class, and the U.S. media continues the charade about how when the stock market goes up, America prospers, except it has no impact on most Americans.
U.S. Stocks Rally as Lawmakers Pass Budget Agreement

The House of Representatives passed a bill just after 11 p.m. in Washington yesterday by a vote of 257-167, undoing income tax increases for more than 99 percent of households. The S&P 500 surged 1.7 percent on Dec. 31, the biggest rally on the final day of a year since 1974, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers made last-minute concessions to finalize the deal.

Top 20% of Income Earners Hold About 90% of Stocks

Listen to this conversation, especially from Fink, the head of Blackrock Security.  These are the people who reflect the thinking of neoliberal Democrats.  Fink talks about how we have to educate the public and companies about how they need to work longer.  In this conversation, cutting "old age" entitlement programs is a given.  Fink talks about how a couple who reaches 62 years of age can't think about retirement anymore since one of them is statistically likely to live to age 92.  So the spin is that because of longevity, Americans can no longer retire at age 65.  There is no mention of the expected longevity of different demographics.  
Fink: If Economy Sputters Now, Blame Obama
Pretty good quick summary of the deal with charts, put in context of lower and higher income earners.  They don't do an analysis of people who get most of their income from investments though.  There's a lot of neoliberal crap/Wall Street spin in there too that I  ignored.
House Passes Cliff Deal, Debt Ceiling Looms

Economic Outlook for 2013

Bob Pollin: With austerity policies in Europe and the USA and slow down in China and India, 2013 needs innovative policies or more recession is likely

What Boehner did was despicable and the justified outrage toward him is coming from both parties.  He really screwed himself with this tantrum move.  I wonder if he will pay the price by losing his speakership.  
Boehner under growing pressure to allow vote on Sandy relief bill

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came under intense pressure Wednesday from Republicans in New York and New Jersey to allow a vote on legislation providing relief to the states hit by Hurricane Sandy in October.

New Jersey and New York lawmakers from both parties blasted Boehner's decision not to take up a Hurricane Sandy relief bill in speeches on the House floor, with New York Republican Rep. Pete King suggesting he might not support Boehner for Speaker in a Thursday vote.

All kinds of odd political bedfellows are standing together and aiming their anger at Boehner.  It's a rare day for me to take common ground with Chris Christie and Peter King but on this issue, I will do so and so will most New Jerseyeans and New Yorkers.  You can bet on that.  Boehner is in for a world of trouble now.   Enough is enough.  If he doesn't hold that vote ASAP, this will get louder and louder, worse and worse for him.  It's been more than two months and there have been $0 appropriated for Sandy victims by Congress, and NY and NJ are some of the biggest donor states, always, year after year paying much more into the federal coffers than we receive in federal spending, and always standing up for other states, welfare states or not, when they need disaster money.  Everybody has been pretty patient, but we are pissed off now.  It's a bad idea to piss off New York and New Jersey.
Chris Christie On Sandy Aid: House Republicans Were 'Disappointing And Disgusting To Watch' (VIDEO)

"There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," he said. "This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch."

Peter King is back pedaling already.  I don't think the others will until the vote actually happens given that they had been promised the vote and Boehner canceled it at the last minute.  
Rep. King: Boehner will keep gavel, made ‘right decision’ on Sandy aid

Boehner on Wednesday reversed course though after meeting with lawmakers from the affected states, and the House is slated to hold two votes on Sandy later this month. Members are expected to vote to provide $9 billion in flood insurance on Friday with another vote on Jan. 15 to authorize $51 billion in supplemental recovery aid.

King on Thursday said that the disagreement was in the past and that he and Boehner had patched up their differences. But he also defended his tough criticisms from the day before, saying that he felt his anger was justified.

Okay the news coming out gives specifics about the timing of the vote, and it's now broken up into two votes, so maybe this was not just a temper tantrum after all and there was something else going on? Curious to know why it's now two votes since there was no talk of two votes promised on Tuesday night.  Everybody was talking about one vote.  And why are the votes on different days?
Boehner sets Sandy vote under pressure

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The House will vote on $9 billion to help Northeastern U.S. states hit by Hurricane Sandy, Speaker John Boehner said after getting an earful from his own party.

The Friday vote for flood assistance would be followed by another vote Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the new Congress in the House, on an additional $51 billion, Boehner said.

There is a lot more to be said about this.  Marcy Wheeler has some theories and analysis on it and I expect she will have more. She uses a Cheshire Cat metaphor, playing off of the judge's Alice in Wonderland metaphor.  What was the judge trying to convey to the public here?  
NY Times loses bid to uncover details on drone strikes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times' bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the Obama administration did not violate the law by refusing the Times' request for the legal justifications for targeted killings, a strategy the Times said was first contemplated by the Bush administration soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the "vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty."

Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.

"The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me," McMahon said in her 68-page decision.





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


Oh look, Matt Yglesias is on the austerity propaganda train! I'm shocked!




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