Published: Sunday 8 January 2012
“Republicans have been blocking confirmation of the President’s nominees to government agencies, the courts, even keeping ambassadors from being confirmed.”

After years of conciliation and one-way "bipartisanship," with Republicans refusing to meet even partway, the President got fed up. The President is finally taking the necessary steps to get the government up and running, doing government's job of protecting citizens from the exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. Republicans say the President taking executive action to keep the government operating is "unprecedented" and a "power grab." Let's take a look at what Republicans have been doing to trigger this action.

Filibusters

Since the President took office Republicans have used the filibuster an unprecedented number of times. Ezra Klein, in Government by loophole, explains that this was "more filibusters between 2009 and 2011 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined."

The corporate media likes to say that "it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate." That is ...

Published: Saturday 13 August 2011
“Just this week alone, Limbaugh repeated a number of falsehoods.”

Rush Limbaugh complained recently that critics constantly accuse him of "lying" and "making [things] up," a charge he steadfastly dismissed. However, Media Matters has rounded up some of the whoppers he's told this week alone.

 

Limbaugh Whined That Critics Accuse Him Of "Lying"

Limbaugh Complained About Critics Who Accuse Him Of "Lying" And "Making [Things] Up." On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:

LIMBAUGH: I'm wondering if maybe these emails are coming from actual supporters disguised as critics, because my email box gets flooded every time I make an assertion: "You're lying about it, just like you lie about everything. You're just making it up." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/11/11]

But Just This Week Alone, Limbaugh Repeated A Number Of Falsehoods

Limbaugh: "The Public Does Not Want Compromise." During a discussion with a caller about a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and tax increases, Limbaugh said:

LIMBAUGH: The public does not want compromise. That is the biggest misnomer. A majority of Americans -- I don't think it's any question about it now -- wants Obama defeated. They don't want him to compromise, and they don't want any more of Obama's ideas. And we don't want any more tax increases. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/12/11]

Click here for the truth about Americans supporting tax and revenue ...

Published: Friday 12 August 2011
To award AAA ratings to those securities was “unconscionable and unbelievable, but it created the market that led to this collapse.”

With world markets suddenly sagging under the weight of the Standard & Poor's Aug. 5 downgrade of Treasury bonds, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is disturbed by the monopolistic power of the ratings agencies — and still determined to curb their abuses, as he tried to do last year with an amendment to the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill.

In an exclusive Monday interview for The National Memo, the Minnesota Democrat said that the misconduct of the ratings agencies led directly to the economic catastrophe that S&P's rating decision has made even worse. Franken wondered aloud why his proposed reforms of the ratings industry should still be subject to "study" rather than action by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

By setting up an independent federal board to assign ratings jobs to the agencies — rather than letting them be paid by those who issue the securities they grade — his proposal would have severed the industry's gross conflicts of interest. Known as the "issuer pays" model, that traditional relationship let the banks reward S&P and Moody's for awarding rubber-stamp AAA ratings to worthless mortgage-backed securities (as they did for years before the housing bubble burst).

It was those abuses, he said, that left taxpayers, workers and government "holding the bag" while the bankers and ratings firms walked away with huge profits. "What I was trying to do was open this business to more competition," Franken said. "And then ultimately, as time went on, the track record of accuracy would be the thing that determined who got what (contract) and who got to grade (which securities). You'd be rewarded for accuracy instead of bribery. Put those alongside each other ...

Published: Thursday 11 August 2011
"A little less conversation, a little more action."

There's been a great deal of complaining today about Standard & Poor's downgrade of the US government's creditworthiness, but the time for talking about credit rating agencies is long past. There are four steps that can be taken now to end the rating corporations' reign of error.

These "agencies" aren't government entities, but they derive great power from authority conferred by the government. Yet banks and other institutions are allowed to hire the "agency" that rates them.

Picture a situation where the IRS has been "privatized," and taxpayers are allowed to hire the accountants that will review their payments for accuracy. (I know - I shouldn't give them ideas.) Everybody would hire the accountant that says they're due a huge refund, and pretty soon the entire system would collapse. That's not too different from the way the rating game works.

The moment for change was in 2008, when we learned of their key role the global financial crisis. But it's not too late to act now. Here's some background and a clear plan for ending the rating racket once and for all.

Bad Sheriffs

Is it fair to call them a "racket"? Merriam-Webster's definition of a "racket' includes "a usually illegitimate scheme made possible by bribery or intimidation," and "an easy and lucrative means of livelihood." Running a rating agency is ...

Published: Wednesday 10 August 2011
By downgrading the government's credit rating, S&P adds to the absurd hysteria over the deficit.

As Lily Tomlin noted, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

Many of us view the deficit ceiling brouhaha between the Obama White House and the laissez-fairy extremists in the Republican House as some combination of farce and fiasco. So much political playacting around a made-up deficit "crisis" in order to avoid dealing with the real deficit that's crushing America's middle class and draining the lifeblood from our economy: the jobs deficit.

But wait — before I could work out my anger over that fiasco, here came an even more incredible farce. Last Friday, a Wall Street credit rating firm, Standard & Poor's, thrust itself onto the national stage by arrogantly, recklessly and wrongly downgrading the sovereign credit status of the United States of America from AAA to AA+.

Lest you think that this is an unimpeachable judgment by solid  READ FULL POST 19 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 9 August 2011
"The federal government still has $100 billion to $150 billion in stimulus money left to spend."

The nation's top economists are already giving odds on a double-dip recession. The Federal Reserve has only a few bullets left in its gun. And Congress seems politically paralyzed to come up with any new infrastructure or tax cut plan that would fire up the economy.

READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Tuesday 9 August 2011
"Regardless of where we live, any of us who are either in the middle class or struggling to get into the middle class and are appalled by the right-wing assault on fundamental American values can say, "We are Wisconsin."

This morning Wisconsin voters will stream to the polls in a historic recall election that pits defenders of working people against six incumbents who backed a right-wing legislative assault on workers. It is not too late to give those working-class fighters a massive outpouring of last-minute support to counter the torrent of right-wing cash that is buying millions of dollars' worth of attack ads and robo-calls in defense of the Republican state Senate incumbents.

Through the "Call Out The Vote" campaign by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, and the "virtual phone bank" set up by the Wisconsin Democratic Party, anyone with a telephone can persuade voters to go to the polls and elect middle-class champions to replace the incumbents who backed an all-out assault on the state's working people.

Regardless of where we live, any of us who are either in the middle class or struggling to get into the middle class and are appalled by the right-wing assault on fundamental American values can say, "We are Wisconsin." Joining a phone bank today is one way to show it.

Though it may take several hours to determine if any of the challenged Republican legislators have been unseated, it is not too early to declare one important victory for progressive ...

Published: Monday 8 August 2011
"Instead of basing its argument on economics, S&P made an ill-advised foray into political analysis."

The so-called analysts at Standard & Poor's may not be the most reliable bunch, but there was one very good reason for them to downgrade U.S. debt: Republicans in Congress made a credible threat to force a default on our obligations.

This isn't the rationale that S&P gave, but it's the only one that makes sense. Like a lucky college student who partied the night before an exam, the ratings agency used flawed logic and faulty arithmetic to somehow come up with the right answer. No, life isn't always fair.

And no, I can't join the "we're all at fault" chorus. Absent the threat of willful default, a downgrade would be unjustified and absurd. And history will note that it was House Republicans who issued that threat.

There is no plausible scenario under which the United States would be unable to service its debt. If political gridlock were to persist, our government would be able to pay bondholders with a combination of tax revenues and funds raised by selling more Treasury bills. And in the final analysis, as Alan Greenspan noted Sunday on "Meet the Press," the United States "can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that."

I know this kind of talk is horrifying to Ron Paul and others who believe we should be walking around with our pockets full of doubloons, but most of us find paper money more convenient.

What happened this summer is that Republicans in the House, using the tea party freshmen as a battering ram, threatened to compel a default. More accurately, they demanded big ...

Published: Sunday 7 August 2011
China: "mounting debts and ridiculous political wrestling in Washington have damaged America's image abroad."

China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, issued a scathing condemnation of American economic practices on Saturday, saying that "mounting debts and ridiculous political wrestling in Washington have damaged America's image abroad."

Following the decision by the Standard & Poor's rating agency to downgrade the United States' credit rating a notch from AAA on Friday evening, the editorial in China's official Xinhua newswire warned that Beijing "has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets."

China currently has no other obvious options for the $1.1 trillion-plus that it holds in U.S. Treasuries, a fact that links Chinese interests to the stability of the dollar and makes the prospect of drastic action by Beijing highly unlikely.

The strong wording of the Xinhua piece, however, suggested a fraying patience.

The editorial began with the line "The days when the debt-ridden Uncle Sam could leisurely squander unlimited overseas borrowing appeared to be numbered." It ended at: "All Americans, both beltway politicians and those on Main Street, have to do some serious soul-searching to bring their country back from a potential financial abyss."

In Washington, the White House issued a statement from the press secretary, JayCarney. It said: "The president believes it is important that our elected leaders come together to strengthen our economy and put our nation on a stronger fiscal footing.

"The bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction was an important step in the right direction. Yet, the path to getting there took too long and was at times too divisive. We must do better to make clear our nation's will, capacity and commitment to work together to tackle our major fiscal and economic challenges....Over the coming weeks the president will strongly encourage the ...

Published: Sunday 7 August 2011
"Media outlets should carefully examine S&P's credibility."

When reporting on Standard & Poor's recent downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and its assessments of the U.S. fiscal situation, media outlets should carefully examine the rating agency's credibility.

Congressional Commission: Rating Agencies "Key Enablers Of The Financial Meltdown." From the January 2011 Financial Crisis Inquiry Report:

We conclude the failures of credit rating agencies were essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction. The three credit rating agencies [Standard & Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch Ratings] were key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval. Investors relied on them, often blindly. In some cases, they were obligated to use them, or regulatory capital standards were hinged on them. This crisis could not have happened without the rating agencies. Their ratings helped the market soar and their downgrades through 2007 and 2008 wreaked havoc across markets and firms. [The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, Final Report of the ...

Published: Saturday 6 August 2011
"S&P said its calculations indicated that under the deal, U.S. debt would total 88 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2021, making buying the government's long-term debt a riskier investment."

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the AAA credit rating the United States has enjoyed for 70 years late Friday night in a move that had been expected, but still left the Obama administration angry and combative.

In announcing its rating downgrade to AA+, S&P said the recent debt-ceiling compromise that President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday had not done enough to trim the country's burgeoning debt load, currently $14.3 trillion.

S&P said its calculations indicated that under the deal, U.S. debt would total 88 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2021, making buying the government's long-term debt a riskier investment. It also said the recent battle over the debt-ceiling had shaken its confidence that American political institutions were capable of managing the U.S. deficit and economy.

"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics," S&P said. "More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011."

The Obama administration angrily accused S&P of sloppy mathematics and a politically tainted assessment, saying the calculation overstated by $2 trillion estimated future spending. As a result of the error, the rating agency overstated the ratio between the U.S. debt load and its economy, the administration said.

Sources familiar with conversations between S&P and the Obama administration, who spoke to reporters on the condition that they not be identified otherwise, said S&P ...

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