End Social Security as we know it? You should hope so

Actually … you need to feel a little sorry for the Democrats as they try to make their case for the reelection of Barack Obama. They have absolutely no record of accomplishment to run on. Obama has been a complete failure by any metric.

Here’s a new drinking game for you – and the longer Obama remains in office the more we need some good drinking games. Just watch any news interview program and wait for the panel discussion with the ubiquitous “democratic strategist.” At some point in the discussion the prog will start taking about Republicans “wanting to end Social Security as we know it.” When you have nothing going for your side try to frighten the old folks.

I don’t think that any GOP candidate has done a good job of putting this point across (though Perry tried last week). For people who are now eligible for Social Security benefits and people who are nearing retirement age — say those over 55 — there is simply no reason whatsoever for them to worry about their benefits either being reduced or stopping altogether. It’s just not going to happen. There is no Republican candidate out there who would allow that – and the voters would make sure it doesn’t happen. Those who talk of Social Security reform are looking into the future – not the present – and the future is where the collapse of our Social Security lies.

In 1981 the Galveston County Commission made a proposal to the county workers to ditch the Social Security system and go with a private plan they called the Alternate Plan. The county employees voted on the issue amidst great pressure from unions to turn it down and remain with Social Security. The Alternate Plan won, but not by a wide margin. The Social Security Administration was notified that Galveston County employees would no longer participate, and the private alternative was instituted.

Financially, nothing really changed with the county employee paychecks. There was still the 6.2% deduction from every paycheck for the employee’s contribution to the plan. The county still paid a matching contribution — actually a bit more. That’s where the similarity to Social Security pretty much ended. Galveston County hired a financial planner to set up the plan. The goal was to be a good replacement for Social Security .. with better benefits guaranteed. Every worker had his own account and account balance. The money was pooled into a private sector investment account with a guaranteed minimum rate of return.

So … now the payoff. How are the employees of Galveston County, Texas doing with their Alternative Plan vs. other Americans who were not lucky enough to get out of Social Security?

First … let’s deal with retirement income.

If you’re a low-income worker making about $26,000 a year when you retire you get about $1,007 a month from Social Security. Make that $1,836 per month under the Galveston plan. That’s a difference of $829 a month or almost $10,000 a year. Are you low-income workers out there glad you were able to keep Social Security “as we know it” and not become a part of a plan like Galveston County’s? Yeah — that’s costing you ten grand a year.

What about middle-income workers? The difference there is $1,540 from Social Security and $3,600 from the Alternative Plan. The monthly difference? Try $2,060 per month or almost $25,000 a year. That’s your penalty for letting the Democrats demagogue any attempt to privatize Social Security over the years; $25,000 per year. Don’t you just love your Democrat masters?

And now for the high-income Galveston County workers. These are the people who max out on their Social Security taxes. They get about $5,000 to $6,000 a month from their Galveston Plan vs. $2,500 from Social Security. That’s a difference of between $2,500 to $3,500 per month or $30,000 to $42,000 a year MORE from the Galveston private plan than from Social Security.

There’s something else we need to cover here. The death benefit. If you’re part of Social Security your survivors get the incredible sum of $255. That ought to pay for one spray of flowers for your casket, not much more. After that $255 payment the rest of the money you have paid into Social Security is pretty much gone. Wow! What a deal! But what if you’re part of the Galveston County Alternative Plan? You’re survivors don’t get the princely sum of $255. They get four times your salary tax free. There’s a maximum of $215,000. So there you go! Under Social Security, $255. The private plan? Four times your salary.

There are two other counties in Texas, Matagorda and Brazoria, who pretty much did the same thing that Galveston County did — pull out of Social Security for a private plan with similar results. So … you might wonder why more government entitles haven’t done the same thing! With spectacular results like this you would expect government workers would be clamoring for a private plan of their own. Well you can blame that on the Democrats too. They saw these local government entities bailing on their precious Social Security system and passed a little law in 1983 shutting that door for good. To put it just a bit differently — in 1983 the Democrats erected an economic Berlin Wall around Social Security; not to keep people from getting in on their wonderful ponzi scheme, but to keep people from getting out.

So … for all of your senior, wizened, wrinkled citizens out there just waiting to cast your votes for Obama next year so that you won’t lose your precious Social Security. Just think about the statistics you’ve read above.

Tarp Jr.

by Brian Darling

Remember all of those bold statements that the so called “Troubled Assets Relief Program” (TARP), the Bailout of Wall Street Bill, was a one time deal and our federal government should and will never do it again. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner testified in January of this year before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Many Americans look at what happened with AIG, and the rest of the financial rescue, and simply ask: Why was it necessary? Why was it fair for the government to take taxpayer money and put it into an institution that had mismanaged itself to the edge of collapse? The answer is that it was not fair, and it was not something our government should ever have to do. But those Americans, those families and business owners who played by the rules and played no role in giving rise to this recession, should understand that if the government had failed to act, that failure would have unleashed substantially greater damage upon them.

If TARP “was not fair” and not “something our government should ever have to do,” then why is Congress trying to impose the TARP model on small business? Congress will consider legislation this week to establish TARP, Jr. for small businesses to be administered and run by none other than Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. The House is considering H.R. 5297, the Small Business Lending Fund Act that provides “temporary authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to make capital investments to eligible institutions in order to increase the availability of credit for small businesses.”

The legislation creates a federally run new bureaucracy called the “Small Business Lending Fund. ” To qualify a financial institution has to have less than $10 billion in assets and the new creation would have up to $30 billion in new investment authority. This allegedly temporary program is set up “without further appropriation of fiscal year limitation,” i.e. not temporary, to purchase “preferred stock and other financial instruments” from small business as a means to infuse money into local banks with the condition that they lend to failing small business. Local banks will be lending in exchange for equity small business, therefore these banks will be using federal monies to buy equity in companies. This is an idea born from socialism and one that will harm the free market for small business, because failure will be rewarded by federal subsidies while success will be punished.

The bill also creates a “Small Business Credit Initiative” with $2 billion of your tax dollars to be given to states that have created programs to provide funds to banks to bailout small businesses in trouble. This would provide an incentive for states to adopt the crony capitalism programs of the federal government exemplified by the federal takeover of General Motors and the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Setting up a system with private profits, yet socialized losses, will diminish capitalism and the American free market system. This legislation, TARP, Jr., extends the failed and free market offensive TARP model to small business. Considering that the original TARP program was “not fair, and it was not something our government should ever have to do,” Congress might want to heed the advice of Secretary Geithner of January 2010 and pause before creeping a few more steps toward American socialism.

Going “Green” Is Bunk

By: John Stossel

I ride my bike to work. It seems so pure.

We’re constantly urged to “go green” — use less energy, shrink our carbon footprint, save the Earth. How? We should drive less, use ethanol, recycle plastic and buy things with the government’s Energy Star label.

But what if much of going green is just bunk? Al Gore’s group, Repower America, claims we can replace all our dirty energy with clean, carbon-free renewables. Gore says we can do it within 10 years.

“It’s simply not possible,” says Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy.” “Nine out of 10 units of power that we consume are produced by hydrocarbons — coal, oil and natural gas. Any transition away from those sources is going to be a decades-long, maybe even a century-long process. … The world consumes 200 billion barrels of hydrocarbons per day. We would have to find the energy equivalent of 23 Saudi Arabias.”

Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: “I educated myself about math and physics. I’m a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics.”

Bryce mocked the “green” value of my riding my bike to work:

“Let’s assume you saved a gallon of oil in your commute (a generous assumption!). Global daily energy consumption is 9.5 billion gallons. … So by biking to work, you save the equivalent of one drop in 10 gasoline tanker trucks. Put another way, it’s one pinch of salt in a 100-pound bag of potato chips.”

How about wind power?

“Wind does not replace oil. This is one of the great fallacies, and it’s one that the wind energy business continues to promote,” Bryce said.

The problem is that windmills cannot provide a constant source of electricity. Wind turbines only achieve 10 percent to 20 percent of their maximum capacity because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.

“That means you have to keep conventional power plants up and running. You have to ramp them up to replace the power that disappears from wind turbines and ramp them down when power reappears.”

Yet the media rave about Denmark, which gets some power from wind. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says, “If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark.”

“Friedman doesn’t fundamentally understand what he’s talking about,” Bryce said.

Bryce’s book shows that Denmark uses eight times more coal and 25 times more oil than wind.

If wind and solar power were practical, entrepreneurs would invest in it. There would be no need for government to take money from taxpayers and give it to people pushing green products.

Even with subsidies, “renewable” energy today barely makes a dent on our energy needs.

Bryce points out that energy production from every solar panel and windmill in America is less than the production from one coal mine and much less than natural gas production from Oklahoma alone.

But what if we build more windmills?

“One nuclear power plant in Texas covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Manhattan. To produce the same amount of power from wind turbines would require an area the size of Rhode Island. This is energy sprawl.” To produce the same amount of energy with ethanol, another “green” fuel, it would take 24 Rhode Islands to grow enough corn.

Maybe the electric car is the next big thing?

“Electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be.”

There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, “Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they’re within reach of the average family.”

That was in 1915.

In 1959, The New York Times said, “Electric is the car of the tomorrow.”

In 1979, The Washington Post said, “GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical.”

I’m still waiting.

“The problem is very simple,” Bryce said. “It’s not political will. It’s simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There’s no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It’s a conspiracy of physics.”

Examiner Columnist John Stossel is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

Does This Regime Want America To Become Like Greece?

by Brad Schaeffer

General strikes in Greece have brought much of the country to a halt as trade unions and government workers stage more protests over austerity measures. A 24-hour work stoppage last week closed much of the country’s public sector and shut down ferries, trains and public transport.

So here is one unfunded social utopia’s score card so far: Three have died already this month in massive riots in the streets of Athens which are in danger of re-erupting anew. Paralyzing strikes from civil servants, so used to getting so much largess for doing so little for so long. A $145 billion bailout is in jeopardy with the big dogs of the EU, Germany chief among them, expressing serious concerns that the austerity measures demanded of Greece as a condition to merit the loans will ever come to fruition. Given the revised deficit projections and a public that seems unwilling to admit that their free ride brand of socialism as expressed in a financially unsustainable pension structure is collapsing, who can blame Europe?

Greece is bankrupt. Their debt is 108% of GDP and will climb to almost 150% by 2013 when the bailout loans would come due. 25% of Greek taxes will go to service its debt — to mostly foreign investors. Currently that nation’s government spending amounts to 50% of its GDP.

Consider then that in 2009 US debt was 86% of GDP and climbing. It will go past 100% by 2012. 20% of U.S. federal taxes go to service the interest on the national debt. That number too will rise. Our major social entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are bankrupt. We are waging foreign wars almost entirely on our own—so that Europe doesn’t have to. And now we have just enacted the mother of all entitlements in Obamacare that only the most wishful of thinkers (or a cynical Democratic Congress and White House) would argue is anything but a multi-trillion dollar debt dog pile on top of an already strained budget.

Of course our gargantuan economy is much more vibrant, diverse and robust than Greece’s. But we are already seeing within our borders mini-Greeces popping up at the state level. 41 states currently face budget shortfalls and the effects are already being felt. Here in New Jersey, school districts have suffered state aid cuts of 95%. (And in a little taste of the new entitlement mentality, our teachers’ union insisted on ramming through a contractually obligated pay raise anyway that would benefit the union bosses most of all; Trenton’s financial woes be damned. So to make the numbers work, several teachers and other staff got the axe—fortunately without any rioting.)

What is currently unfolding on the chaotic streets of Athens is an immovable force of a deep-seeded entitlement culture unwilling to give up its government goodies standing up to the irresistible force of simple mathematics. Care to bet on what side will ultimately prevail?

I am not saying that the United States is making the exact mistakes as the Greeks. But we are on a parallel course in that we are spending more on government programs than we are taking in in revenue. So whereas Greece is collapsing under the weight of unfunded pensions and ridiculously generous retirement packages and entitlements, while at the same time suffering a shrinking tax base, we have our own issues as I said before with Social Security (bankrupt seven years earlier than predicted just two years ago), Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

Edwin LeFevre once wrote that:

“A man, if he is both wise and lucky, will not make the same mistake twice. But he will make any one of the ten thousand brothers and cousins of the original mistake.”

As we watch the inevitable fissures in European style socialism breaking wide open for all to see, this is a most propitious time to turn inward and ask ourselves if the model that American left seems so stubbornly intent on replicating here even works, let alone is best for our nation? The Tea Partiers are but one expression of this necessary dialog — shameful left-wing race-baiting notwithstanding. Ponzi schemes always come to the same dismal end, leaving some poor unfortunates to pay the bill.

I would just like to know what makes liberal Democrats think that the inevitable reality of a seriously flawed socio-economic dogma now violently on display in the streets of Athens (and poised to spread throughout Europe) will somehow pass us by if we follow the same path? And if we continue down their road who do they believe will bail us out when the bill comes?

Maryland keeps orphans’ Social Security benefits

By: Barbara Hollingsworth

Public officials in Maryland often justify their excessive spending of other people’s money by pretending to be champions of the poor and downtrodden. Don’t fall for it. Maryland is just one of many states that apply for — and keep — Social Security benefits that legally belong to children in foster care.

This is happening to tens of thousands of foster kids nationwide, says Dr. Daniel Hatcher, associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Child welfare agencies regularly file for Social Security benefits that should go to orphaned or disabled foster kids, then pocket the money in their budgets, leaving their young charges with no financial resources when they leave the system at age 18.

Since Social Security benefits legally belong to the minor child, whoever receives the money has a fiduciary responsibility to spend it in the child’s best interest. This is a broad standard, but padding bureaucratic budgets doesn’t even come close.

Ninety percent of the Social Security Administration’s “representative payees” are government agencies, even though they’re supposed to be the least preferred custodians of foster children’s benefits.

The SSA even set up an automated “kiddie loop” to expedite the transfer of funds so bureaucrats don’t have to work so hard to get at the dough. “Picking the state agency is the easiest choice,” Hatcher points out, adding that there’s nothing in SSA regulations that allows for this practice.

Not only do foster children get no benefit from their own benefits, they often have no idea that child welfare agencies are keeping their money. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this despicable practice in Washington State Department of Social and Health Services v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler, Hatcher says.

But, he notes, the Court did not address the breach of fiduciary duty or the violation of foster children’s property and equal protection rights without due process.

So in 2008, he filed a lawsuit on behalf of then-21-year-old Alex Myers of Dundalk, Maryland, who was 11 when his mother died in 1999. While in foster care, Myers was moved to at least 20 homes, none permanent.

In 2001 when his father died, he became eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. Unbeknownst to him, the Baltimore County Department of Social Services applied for — and kept –$16,000 that should have gone to him. He only found out when he aged out of foster care at age 18, penniless and on his own.

The motion to dismiss submitted by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office sums up the state’s attitude. Assistant attorney general Julia Bernhardt argued in court that Myers’ complaint should be thrown out because of his “failure to file … within the applicable period.”

In other words, the State of Maryland thinks that a teenaged orphan should have figured it out all by himself that the adults in charge of taking care of him were secretly stealing his Social Security checks, and then found a lawyer to assert his rights in court before the statute of limitations ran out. He didn’t, so too bad for him.

Bernhardt did not return a call from The Examiner asking whether she thought it was right or appropriate for bureaucrats to divert Social Security benefits away from orphans to government.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Mickey J. Norman accepted this legalistic nonsense and dismissed the case, thus allowing Maryland’s soulless bureaucrats to use the same foster children forced by a cruel fate to depend on them for their sustenance as a revenue stream.

Dr. Hatcher expects his appeal to be heard this summer. But should anybody be surprised that a government so devoid of common decency has no problem fleecing taxpayers as well?

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Examiner’s local opinion editor.

Obama’s Thuggocracy

By Andrea Tantaros- FOXNews.com

From the G.M. bondholders, to the Black Panthers at polling stations, to ACORN to the mobs showing up at the homes of private citizens, Obama is running a Hugo Chavez-style thuggocracy.

This past Sunday, in one of the most aggressive and offensive intimidation tactics to date, hundreds of members of the largest union – the SEIU – stormed the front yard of Bank of America deputy general counsel Greg Baer’s home. The angry mob had bullhorns, signs and even broke the law by trespassing to bully Baer’s teenage son, the only one home at the time, who locked himself in the bathroom out of fear.

This is what unions do. They pressure politicians into spending too much. They push government into bad policy decisions. They sacrifice the private sector for the public sector. And now, they trespass and break the law only to scare the children of private citizens to get their way.
If you think the unions are working along, think again.

These protests, the ones storming Wall Street bank lobbies and now the private homes of bankers, are likely being carefully coordinated with the White House to increase their profile against the financial fat cats and help pass disgraced Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s financial regulatory bill.

Remember, when the White House visitor records were finally made public, it was SEIU boss Andy Stern who was the most frequent guest.

There are also no coincidences in politics. The bill passed the Senate last night.

From the G.M. bondholders, to the Black Panthers at polling stations, to ACORN to these assaults on private citizens, Obama is running a Hugo Chavez-style thuggocracy. Like Chavez, he gets non-official “allies” to act as his henchemen and do the intimidation work. Obama provides the narrative and tells the story of “greed” while the SEIU provides the muscle. This is about power, not prosperity.

This time it’s gone too far.

Unions see the writing on the wall. The goose that laid the golden egg is bleeding on the operating table – and they’re the ones who killed it. They are bankrupting local and state governments, and putting a strain on the federal budget. Unions have also put us at a major trade imbalance. The stimulus has gone to create more public sector union jobs. These jobs cost on average, 30K more than their private sector equivalents.

Take New York State, for example, once upon a time there was manufacturing, a robust Wall Street engine of growth, Fortune 500 companies aplenty. That “Empire State” is no more. The unions lobbied to ensure that these companies were taxed to death and made it extremely challenging to do business — so much that it became easier to do business in communist China.

Let’s be clear, I’m not defending Bank of America. I’m defending the American tax payer from organized labor who has bled them dry and the politicians who have been too weak to stand up to their gangster ways.

Unsurprisingly, the SEIU has made no apology for their behavior toward Baer’s family. Their spokespeople argue that the protest was over home foreclosures under Bank of America’s watch, but that still doesn’t give them the right to break the law. It also doesn’t allow them a carve out like they demanded in the health care bill for their costly Cadillac insurance plans. It’s absurd that in a recession, the unions feel they deserve special treatment because they are connected to the party in power. If that’s what they’re arguing they need to stand up and say it.

In this economy, you can’t punch someone without feeling it yourself. Punch the bank, they stop making loans, thus hurting the private sector. Punch the private sector, you hurt the markets. Hurt the Street and you hurt the pensions funds, in fact, the very same ones unions are going gangster to protect.

We now know, there is nothing they won’t do, nobody the unions won’t intimidate. And the president, who promised to preside over an administration free from special interest influence, should be held accountable. As long as we continue to feed the unions, the country will continue to decline. It’s time to stand up to this behavior with the same muscle they’ve used to bully our country all these years and send a message loud and clear: we will not be intimidated.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative columnist and FoxNews.com contributor.

SEIU Thugs Becoming Terrorists?

by Liberty Chick

By now, you’ve probably seen the mob-scene that developed on the front lawn of the private residence of Greg Baer, deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America. This was planned for some time by the SEIU as part of a larger national event, their Showdown on K Street, which was shared with National People’s Action and thousands of other activists from MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups.

Prior to the main event on K Street in Washington DC, SEIU and company made a little pit stop. According to Fortune magazine Washington editor Nina Easton, 14 busloads of riled up protesters unloaded on Baer’s private property and stormed up to his doorstep, while his teenage son was home alone. Easton is a neighbor of Baer’s and had called to check on her neighbor’s son when she heard and saw all the commotion outside. Easton writes,

“Waving signs denouncing bank “greed,” hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer’s steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer’s teenage son Jack — alone in the house — locked himself in the bathroom. “When are they going to leave?” Jack pleaded when I called to check on him.

Baer, on his way home from a Little League game, parked his car around the corner, called the police, and made a quick calculation to leave his younger son behind while he tried to rescue his increasingly distressed teen. He made his way through a din of barked demands and insults from the activists who proudly “outed” him, and slipped through his front door.

“Excuse me,” Baer told his accusers, “I need to get into the house. I have a child who is alone in there and frightened.”

Imagine what you would have done if your child were inside that house and that mob was on your front lawn as you tried to reach him.

Amazingly, the SEIU has actually taken aim at Easton for reporting on this incident. Their defense? Easton’s husband is a Republican strategist and has a lobbyist as a client – oh, the horror! (Especially considering that the SEIU itself is also a lobbyist). In their post “Nina Easton & the Bank Lobbyists: Too Close for Comfort,” SEIU’s crack Googlers researchers break the case wide open:

“The really interesting question here is: why is Ms. Easton so angry? And why has she decided to use her position as a member of the media to air her own personal rant at the people who showed up to share their foreclosure stories?

Nina Easton’s husband’s firm has Business Roundtable as a client, a special interest group that counts giant banks like Bank of America as members.

One Google search clears it up pretty quickly. Her husband is Russell Schriefer, Republican strategist and consultant to several big corporate interest groups. In fact, her husband’s client list includes the Business Roundtable, a special interest group that counts Bank of America and other Wall Street banks among its members.

Ms. Easton’s husband used to be a corporate lobbyist himself, before he started his own consulting firm for Republican politicians and corporate interest groups like the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce. Now, according to his website, he helps garner positive media for “a wide range of corporate clients including Fortune 500 companies and national associations.”

Wow. Amazing. That kind of muckraking puts my time working at LexisNexis to shame. Perhaps I should take SEIU’s employment recruiters up on one of their recent job offers sitting in my email inbox. (really, they are hiring, and they did email…can you imagine that job interview?)

But what’s even more interesting, to use SEIU’s phrase, is the labor union’s odd relationship with its own business and advocacy partners. They specifically mention above their disdain for Business Roundtable, for their part as what they term as a Republican corporate interest group. But, just like Bank of America – which is a lender to SEIU, mortgage partner to ACORN, and is also the leading lending partner to SEIU advocacy partner, Center for Responsible Lending – one of SEIU’s own partners is also Business Roundtable.

“Today, three of the nation’s leading consumer, business and labor organizations announced that they will work together to urge action from political leaders in a partnership called Divided We Fail. AARP, Business Roundtable and SEIU will use the influence of their over 50 million combined memberships to amplify the message that attaining health and long-term financial security is vital for all Americans and these issues must be included in the national political debate.

Divided We Fail is a national effort designed to engage the American people, elected officials and the business community to find broad-based, bi-partisan solutions to the most compelling domestic issues facing the nation – health care and the long-term financial security of Americans.”

Ouch, talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

The current circumstances are also rather interesting because recently, Tea Party and 912 Project groups have been protesting Bank of America, too. For SUPPORTING the financial regulatory reform bill currently in Congress. You know, the one that Big Labor is supporting with Democrats – the one that proposes the big banks and government spy on your bank accounts and report your loan info to a big government database for all to see? Yeah, that bill. Bank of America lobbyists have been busy lobbying Democrats and donating money to Democrats.

I think the folks at SEIU may be a bit confused over there – first they storm private property and intimidate a teenage child, then they bite the hands that feed them, and they overlook all the money flowing into the Democratic coffers on this bill and selectively go after only seemingly Republican targets. Only, their targets aren’t Republican at all. This one in particular – definitely not a Republican, as Easton describes Baer:

“Instead, a friendly Huffington Post blogger showed up, narrowcasting coverage to the union’s leftist base. The rest of the message these protesters brought was personal-aimed at frightening Baer and his family, not influencing a broader public.

Of course, HuffPost readers responding to the coverage assumed that Baer was an evil former Bush official. He’s not. A lifelong Democrat, Baer worked for the Clinton Treasury Department, and his wife, Shirley Sagawa, author of the book The American Way to Change and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is a prominent national service advocate.”

Just imagine if the union of We the People mobilized its own protests to put a stop to the tactics of domestic terrorism of today’s leftist unions.

——–

Also be sure to catch this related post from LaborUnionReport titled “The SEIU, the NPA & Organized, Premeditated Intimidation“.
The really interesting question here is: why is Ms. Easton so angry? And why has she decided to use her position as a member of the media to air her own personal rant at the people who showed up to share their foreclosure stories?
bizroundtableb.jpg

Nina Easton’s husband’s firm has Business Roundtable as a client, a special interest group that counts giant banks like Bank of America as members.

One Google search clears it up pretty quickly. Her husband is Russell Schriefer, Republican strategist and consultant to several big corporate interest groups. In fact, her husband’s client list includes the Business Roundtable, a special interest group that counts Bank of America and other Wall Street banks among its members.

Ms. Easton’s husband used to be a corporate lobbyist himself, before he started his own consulting firm for Republican politicians and corporate interest groups like the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce. Now, according to his website, he helps garner positive media for “a wide range of corporate clients including Fortune 500 companies and national associations.”

Big Banks, Big Government and Big Labor, Oh My….

by Liberty Chick

The financial reform bill is finally in its home stretch in the Senate, but Americans have yet to fully engage on the issue. In fact, in recent weeks as I’ve worked with various grassroots leaders across the country to discuss the bill, its impacts on our economy and on us as American citizens, I must admit, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever found myself frustrated at the progress of activism.

It’s a complex issue, and let’s face it, not exactly an exciting one either. But that’s precisely what the left is counting on. So, whenever I find myself feeling frustrated that others might not share my same level of fervor on the issue, I remind myself of its complexity and lackluster appeal. And then, I proceed directly to the source – the bill itself.

I hone in on a few key points in three categories that resonate with most activists I know: Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Brother. Put those together in the context of Big Banks, and they spell out big disaster.

As the left goes on demonizing Wall Street and big bankers on one hand, Democratic lawmakers on the other hand are busy making sweetheart backroom deals with them up on Capitol Hill, promoting their legislation to the public as “consumer protection.” But really, such measures are nothing more than payback to the likes of three-way mortgage entitlement partnership stronghold of the Bank of America, Center for Responsible Lending and Fannie Mae.

Meanwhile Democrats and Obama allies like Organizing for America are also using the issue as a shameless fund-raising opportunity.

The banks actually SUPPORT this bill – so don’t let that “Main Street Not Wall Street” message fool you, no matter which side of this issue you’re on.

Once many people learn about some of what’s in the bill, their reaction of immediate remorse followed by outrage is completely understandable. Remorse – for some – for not having engaged their grassroots groups earlier. Outrage over just how much this bill would push the country head first toward socialism. That’s right, I said the “s” word. Let’s stop pretending and just call it for what it is, shall we? Even old school Democrats I talk to feel the same outrage and see the “s” word coming as the result of this bill. Facing down the inevitable is the only way we’re going to be able to tackle what the radical left has snuck into this thing. All the while, they have been counting on the apathy of average citizens on BOTH sides, and on the burnout of Tea Party and other patriot group activists.

The reality is this: If we sit back and allow this bill to pass the Senate in its current form, then we deserve the destruction of our privacy, our liberties and of our free market system that will follow. WE will be the only ones to blame. Because as bad as we all thought the Health Care bill was for our freedoms, the Financial Reform bill makes Health Care pale in comparison. No level of remorse could suffice if we failed to engage every last patriot, every last Paul Revere and Sam Adams , during these final days of the legislation.

I’ve found that one way to help other activists digest this bill has been to put all of the actual financial details aside and focus solely on some of the parts of the bill that demonstrate the erosion of our personal liberties and the free market system as we know it.
Big Labor: Dismantling the Free Market System

Under the American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (S 3217), several provisions tucked away in the bill will give labor bosses unprecedented powers that, especially if abused, could threaten the very structure of our free market system.

* Financial institutions and other covered businesses could be required by law to give labor unions “Proxy Access”, enabling union bosses to potentially abuse the system to force unrelated agenda items, like unionizing the firm’s employees, before the shareholders
* New regulations will control how board of director elections are conducted – at private corporations!
o The SEC would be granted the power to force the names of outside nominees onto the corporate ballot (as reported by Politico)
o Directors running in an uncontested election would now be required to win a majority of votes cast, rather than only by the current plurality(as reported by Politico)
* Similar rules will also determine whether an individual may serve as both the CEO and Chairman of the Board – at a private corporation!
* Government and labor unions will have “say on pay” for the annual salaries and bonus compensation of executives and other employees. Essentially, like Obama himself, they can determine at what point “someone has made enough money”

I don’t think anyone’s against shareholders having their proper say and representation in the corporate management process. But that’s not really what’s behind these pieces of the legislation. We’ve seen how today’s labor bosses are abusing their powers and using the shareholder resolution as a hostage weapon to bully corporations into unionization and special union concessions. Just read my prior post, “SEIU’s Secret Weapon: If Obama’s Plan Fails, Brandish the Shareholder Resolution” for a taste of that tactic.

It’s been known for some time that labor bosses are now organizing on a global scale, and as such, have taken to the Participative Management style common in European workplaces. In the U.S., private corporations might typically achieve a similar democratic process of employee participatory management when the company enters into a direct employee ownership plan. The difference here however is that we’re talking about companies that do not belong to the labor unions – these are companies in which the union might have a pension fund investment, or perhaps some of its workers unionized on premise. These are private companies that the unions attempt to overtake through such smaller connections to earn a place on the board, and then change it from the inside out until a Participative Management environment is achieved. If that achievement were to occur, US corporations would quickly fold and restructure under a more socialist model. Eventually, the free market system would erode away as labor unions take over the boards of once privately owned corporations.

For weeks now, Ive been searching for the resources to help me describe this threat in simple terms, and just as fate would have it, my friend Peter List over at LaborUnionReport and RedState pens the perfect post describing this with clarity and precision, in his post titled “Changing America Forever: Behind the AFL-CIO’s Push for Financial Reform.”
Big Government: Power, Control and Everlasting Entitlements

* A new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, or CFPA, would serve as massive bureaucracy that would control everything from defining the types of loans consumers may be permitted to purchase, to expanding redlining provisions and subsequent mortgage entitlement programs. (And let’s not forget that the head of this agency would be Eric Stein, who ran the Center for Responsible Lending, and before that worked at Fannie Mae)

* The CFPA’s authority goes far beyond banks or financial institutions. This new bureaucracy would have the power to regulate hundreds of thousands of businesses. Examples of small businesses that would be subject to CFPA oversight (as outlined by the US Chamber of Commerce):
o A nonprofit organization that provides financial literacy education
o A software company that creates products to help consumers manage their money
o An advertising company that provides services relating to financial products
o Utilities companies, retailers and even doctors that extend credit to their customers.

* The Consumer Financial Protection Agency, or CFPA, created in the bill would be housed within the Federal Reserve, an already secretive and unchecked force of power in our financial system that insists on going unaudited
* A government agency will have unlimited executive bailout authority, including the power to pick and choose which companies are saved and which are left to fail. This creates serious potential for abuse, as private corporations could literally live or die based upon political decisions
* This bill contains the same language used by groups like the Center for Responsible Lending in the redlining laws and changes to the Community Reinvestment Act in 1995 for special research centers and programs “that promote awareness and understanding of the access of individuals and communities to financial services, and to identify business and community development needs and opportunities”

And we all know what happened as the result of those redlining laws and subsequent CRA changes in 1995.
Big Banks: Empowered by Big Government, Become Big Brother

Finally, in order to justify all these entitlement programs, all this forced unionization, all this takeover of private companies’ boards of directors, the government needs research. Not to worry, the bill creates vehicles for that, like the “Office of Financial Research” and a national database for the collection of your personal bank account and loan information, and various deposit account data.

Fannie Mae and Bank of America will be so thrilled when this passes the Senate (as will ACORN and SEIU). Thanks, of course, to years of lobbying by organizations like the Center for Responsible Lending. After all, they pioneered the use of banking research to mandate mortgage entitlements. Just imagine all the new entitlements that will be created once they can analyze all of that *new* banking information and data on what we’re purchasing. Someone will find some injustice somewhere in there. You can count on that.

If you haven’t been as interested in all the complex language about things like financial derivatives and credit default swaps in this bill, then all of this above should be plenty for you to be concerned about.

Welcome to the Era of Expensive Energy

By Ed Lasky

Gas prices are marching steadily upwards — past three dollars at my local suburban station and a couple of dimes more than that in Chicago. Why? Part of the rise is seasonal in nature: demand increases going into summer to fill up those cars going on family vacations. Also, as summer proceeds into fall, refineries start refining more heating oil from crude and less gasoline. Part of the rise can be attributed to the lack of refineries in America — government rules and regulations (and the NIMBY-Not In My Backyard dynamic) have halted the building of American refineries. Our country is more reliant than ever on refineries located in foreign nations. They can turn the faucet on and off at will.

States, such as my own Illinois, have very arcane rules regarding the blends of gasoline permissible to sell and that increases cost. Demand for energy is increasing around the world as some signs of economic recovery take hold, especially in booming China.

Years of governmental obstruction in tapping our offshore and onshore stores of black gold have played a role. A little-mentioned cause is the fact that our Federal Reserve and the Democrat-led government is printing so much cash that our dollar is becoming is becoming Weimar Wallpaper — an increasingly worthless slip of paper that retains value against the Euro only because the EU is farther along, for now, into socialism than we are.

Here is my question.

Why are Democrats silent about the gas rise? After all, aren’t oil companies their favorite bogeymen? They like to bully Big Oil every now and then — especially when gas prices rise. This certainly occurred a great deal when we had a Texan as President and a Vice-President with leadership links to Helliburton (misspelling intended). But they have always done so when Republicans have any degree of power — be they Texans or not. Bullying oil companies is a nice tool in the partisan tool belt.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal noticed a dynamic at work years ago. When Democrats are in control, homelessness is forgotten as an issue. However, when Republicans lead the government (particularly when Ronald Reagan was President) homelessness became the topic of the day. He dubbed this the “homelessness watch.”

How about calling this the “Gas Price Rise” watch? Democrats do not want to be on the watch when bad things happen because then the public may blame them. People may point out that Democrat policies — such as the ones that led to a weak dollar, or that shut off vast areas of America to oil development and refinery building — have created the conditions that give rise to oil prices. Democrats and their friends in the liberal media just don’t like people pointing out bad things happening when they have the keys to power.

Many liberals live in high rises in urban areas, so they don’t commute long distances to work and/or use public transportation to do so. They don’t empathize with suburban or rural Americans or care about their troubles. Certainly our President is outright disdainful towards them (suburbs bore me, rural people are bitter and cling to their guns and religion). After all, suburban and rural people are Tea Partying racists who deserve no respect.

But one more factor may be at work.

Democrats really like it when gas prices rise. They just use it as a bludgeon to whack Republicans when it is politically useful to do so.

After all, people such as New York Times columnist Tom Freidman have long advocated higher taxes on gas to reduce demand and make “renewable energy” less foolish. Haven’t we been told for years by the nattering nabobs of the nanny nation that gasoline price rises are good for us? Why are these powers-that-be also trying to shut down the development of shale gas, a clean burning domestic resource that our nation has in vast abundance?

In fact, Democrats do like high gas prices because it allows them to justify the irrational and costly subsidies and tax breaks they give to their friends in the “green movement” and their cronies who benefit from the drip, drip, drip of tax dollars going from the government IVs into their bank accounts. As I have written before, General Electric is a prime beneficiary of this government corporate welfare-hence, MSNBC and NBC’s devotion to Democrats.

Are liberals actually maneuvering to increase gas prices at the pump?

This Washington Times editorial may lead one to believe so:

Long-anticipated climate-change legislation is scheduled to be unveiled in the Senate today. The ostensible purpose is to clean the air by cutting carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. If the bill becomes law, though, consumers will get smoked as they are forced to pay more for a fill-up.

Backers of this measure are more beholden to ideology than reality. As scientific data shows the Earth is actually cooling, the only thing heating up is alarmist rhetoric. On Friday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president believes “now more than ever is the time to act,” indicating White House complicity in the push for higher gas prices. Attempting to impose new burdens on American families struggling in a buckling economy in hopes of mitigating an unproven climate theory says a lot about the O Force’s warped priorities.

The widely reviled cap-and-trade plan would institute a Wall Street-type market for carbon permit exchanges. Cap-and-dividend would prohibit the marketing of carbon permits and instead collect revenues in a government account that would – in theory – be rebated to consumers. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that check.)

Whatever the taxing mechanism is called, the end result would be the same: the imposition of increased costs on all carbon-based energy products, which would be passed on to consumers. Americans would see steeper prices at the gas pump.

Is this the Democrats’ dream? To finally be able to take advantage of gas price rise (that they have engineered) in order to force radical changes upon the American way of life? We have seen over the last 17 months of Democratic rule, that they couldn’t care less about what Americans as a whole want (see ObamaCare). They are determined to waterboard us with a bundle of new laws and regulations that will be shoved down our collective throats — whether, to borrow a phrase from Barack Obama, “we like it or not”.

This is the essence of liberal fascism. Americans are just dumb..we don’t know what is good for us. We have deluded Don Quixotes tilting at windmills (and wind energy is disastrously inefficient and costly and have many problems associated with them-unreliability of wind, transmission lines, medically related complaints from neighbors) while the rest of us would rather see oil pumps (that occupy a very small footprint) on the horizon pumping out cheaper crude to fill our tanks.

The only pumps the Obama team and their allies in Congress like are the ones pumping our green tax dollars to their pals and donors in the “renewable energy” racket of the jolly Green Giant with the big carbon footprint: Al Gore.

A digression. When I was young the Burt Lancaster movie The Rainmaker made a powerful impression on me. Lancaster played a con man Bill Starbuck, who comes into a drought-stricken small town promising to bring forth water from the skies like so much manna. His appeal was almost religious in nature; he promised and preached salvation. But he was just a con man — a trickster who promised to change the weather for a price. We have a quite the crew of Bill Starbucks bellying up to the governmental trough. He was a fake — and so are they.

Americans suffer, as lefty Thomas Frank reminds us, from false consciousness; we just are too ignorant to know what is good for us, what is pure and high-minded. Hence the need for our masters to take control.

Actually, I think liberals feel that suffering is good for us. That it makes us better people. After all, didn’t Barack Obama hector us that we can’t drive big cars or keep our thermostats in the comfort zone (while he makes the White House all but a Hawaiian like sauna, according to David Axelrod; meanwhile, he takes that big plane on overseas jaunts to help his cronies land the Olympics for Chicago; and flies to Broadway shows for a night on the town with Michelle). They want to punish us for all types of past transgressions against the liberal creed: colonialism, imperialism, materialism, for living in suburbs, for racism.

We have to consider the rest of the planet — which couldn’t care less about Americans — and Mother Earth, the patron Goddess of all that is good and wonderful. Humanity — particularly the American variety — is bad.

We have utopian leaders with very little experience in the real world but plenty of experience in Ivy League classrooms, where high minded platitudes substitute for empiricism and pragmatism. But they have the keys to the kingdom. For now.

They may try to silence Americans as they stuff policies down our windpipes-but Americans will not remain silent. Never have; never will.

Liberation is coming-not in the form of the Trinity of Pelosi, Reid and Obama-but in the form of a ballot box.

November, here we come.

Depression 2010?

By Robert Samuelson

WASHINGTON — It is now conventional wisdom that the world has avoided a second Great Depression. Governments and the economists who advise them learned the lessons of the 1930s. When the gravity of the financial crisis became apparent in late 2008, the response was swift and aggressive. Central banks like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank dropped interest rates and lent liberally to threatened financial institutions and rattled investors. The United States and many countries approved “stimulus” programs of tax cuts and additional spending. Panic was halted. A downward spiral of falling private spending and rising unemployment was reversed. The resulting economic slump was awful. But it was not another Great Depression. The worst has passed.

Or has it? Greece’s plight challenges this optimistic interpretation. It implies that celebration is premature and that the economic crisis has moved into a new phase: one dominated by the huge debt burdens of governments in advanced societies. Comparisons with the Great Depression remain relevant — and unsettling. Now, as then, we may be prisoners of deep and poorly understood changes to the world economic system.

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Historians increasingly attribute the Depression to broad geopolitical upheavals. World War I shattered the existing global economic order. Dominated by Great Britain, it fostered vibrant trade and rested on the gold standard. (Under the gold standard, paper currencies could be converted into gold coins or bullion.) The war also spawned huge international debts, reflecting German war reparations and large U.S. loans to Britain and France. It was impossible to reconstruct the prewar order. Britain was too weak, the gold standard was too constricting, and the debts were too heavy. But countries tried, because the prewar order had delivered prosperity. This futile effort brought on Depression. Only when economic hardship became unbearable were unrealistic goals (keeping the gold standard, repaying debts) abandoned.

There are eerie, if crude, parallels now. The welfare state is today’s equivalent of the gold standard. With aging societies, advanced countries have promised more benefits than their tax bases can support. Hence, high government debt. Greece is merely the canary in the coal mine. But politicians resist cutting popular benefits except under extreme pressure. It takes a crisis. Greece, again. Another unsettling parallel is the global economy. The United States’ leadership since World War II is eroding before China’s ascent. There’s a danger now, as then, of a power vacuum. Witness the long delay in coming to Greece’s aid. No one country acted decisively, even as markets grew nervous.

Of course, these parallels do not preordain a second Depression. But they at least clarify today’s confusing economic outlook. There’s a tug-of-war. The normal mechanics of the business cycle signal recovery, while deeper economic weaknesses threaten it. In late 2008 and early 2009, fear and hysteria were almost palpable, especially in the United States. Consumers and companies cut spending anywhere they could. From September 2008 to June 2009, the U.S. economy lost 6 million payroll jobs. In 2009, American car sales were almost 40 percent lower than in 2007. Governments’ frenetic interventions stabilized confidence. People and firms are opening their wallets again, here and abroad. The world economy will grow almost 4.3 percent in 2010 and 2011, with the United States expanding at an average of nearly 3 percent, reckons the International Monetary Fund.

But the deep-seated problems remain. Three stand out: first, the weight of the welfare state and aging populations; second, the burden of huge private debts (mortgages and consumer loans in America and elsewhere); and finally, huge imbalances in global trade, with some countries — notably China — running massive surpluses and others — notably the United States — having large deficits. Each threatens a vigorous recovery that could conceivably plunge the world back into a protracted slump.

To cope with big budget deficits, developed countries would cut spending or raise taxes. These steps would weaken recovery. The problem is that failing to do so might have the same effect by creating a financial crisis. Lenders, scared by mounting debt, would insist on higher interest rates. The value of older government bonds, issued at lower interest rates, would drop. Banks around the world, which are big holders of various countries’ bonds, would suffer huge losses. So would other investors and financial institutions. The financial system might again seize up.

The dilemma posed by Greece isn’t unique. It’s different only in degree. In 2009, Greece’s budget deficit was almost 14 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) — its economy. Its accumulated debt was 115 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, Italy’s deficit was 5 percent of GDP and its debt 116 percent of GDP. Spain’s deficit was 11 percent of GDP and its debt 53 percent. Germany’s deficit was 3 percent and its debt 73 percent. The U.S. deficit — calculated slightly differently — was 9.9 percent of GDP; the debt, 53 percent of GDP. Most developed countries, representing about half the world economy, are caught in the same trap.

The same is true, though to a lesser extent, of heavily indebted households in the developed world. As they pare back, or lenders tighten lending standards, consumer spending will remain subdued, depriving the recovery of another powerful propellant. It wasn’t just Americans who enjoyed years of easy credit. In the United States, household debt reached 138 percent of disposable income in 2007, reports the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Elsewhere, comparable figures were also high: 138 percent in Canada; 128 percent in Japan, 186 percent in Britain; 102 percent in Germany. There is no precise threshold as to what constitutes too much debt; but these levels suggest restraint and retrenchment, not exuberant spending.

On paper, the escape from these problems seems plain. China, India, Brazil and other “emerging market” countries would become the world’s engine of growth. Their appetite for advanced goods from the developed world — airplanes, power plants, earth-moving equipment, medical instruments — would raise their living standards and sustain production and employment in advanced countries. This could be happening. The latest IMF forecasts have poorer countries (“emerging and developing economies”) growing at about 6.5 percent in 2010 and 2011 compared with 2.4 percent for all developed countries. The trouble is that this shift requires that China and other Asian countries permanently renounce export-led growth. It’s not clear that they can or will.

Everywhere countries face changes of policies, practices and habits that are deeply woven into their social, political and economic fabrics. Can developed countries gradually rein in their welfare states? Will Asia’s relentless export economies shift to domestic-led growth? Will Americans save more and spend less — and the Chinese do the opposite? As after World War I, reverting to what’s familiar, comfortable and understood may be hazardous. It was the inability to see and adapt to change in the 1920s — a process complicated by the war’s animosities — that fundamentally caused the Great Depression, economic historians Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, Berkeley, and Peter Temin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have argued.

The case that we have dodged a second Great Depression rests on a narrower notion: that the Depression was preventable; and that advances in economic knowledge allowed us to do so. If we knew then what we know now, governments could have averted the tragedy. Despite some disagreements, economic scholars subscribe to a broad consensus about what went wrong in the 1930s. Government central banks, like the Fed, were too passive. They didn’t halt bank panics. Intervention at decisive moments (perhaps the failure of the Bank of the United States in late 1930 or Austria’s Credit Anstalt in spring 1931) could have changed history. Instead, mounting unemployment and falling prices fed on each other. Debtors couldn’t repay loans, leading to more bank failures, a contraction of credit and deposit losses. But this time the mistakes were not repeated. Despite criticism, banks were “bailed out.” Money was pumped into credit markets to pre-empt a downward spiral.

By this reading, the world has bought itself time to deal with underlying problems. As the economic recovery strengthens and lengthens, the politics of confronting unstable export-led growth (for Asia) or unsustainable welfare spending (for developed countries) will grow easier. People will be more optimistic about the future; they will be more open to necessary, if not popular, adjustments. This could happen. The world may muddle through, making gradual and messy changes that ultimately defuse another large crisis.

But there is another more sobering reading of the Great Depression. It is that painful and once unthinkable changes are made only under the pressure of acute crisis. One reason that central banks were so passive is that they clung to the gold standard: Relaxing credit policies too dramatically to rescue banks might lead to a loss of gold; people would demand metal to replace paper money. Gold was abandoned in various countries only after it seemed untenable. Similarly, the post-World War I debt problem wasn’t “solved” until repayment was impossible. As for Britain’s place as global leader, the United States assumed that role only in World War II.

Against that backdrop, today’s unresolved problems — over the welfare state, leadership in the global economy — become more ominous. They suggest that major adjustments won’t be made until they’re compelled by some sort of crisis. This possibility defines the present economic drama. Will the recovery encourage conscious changes? Or is recovery providing a false sense of security? The stakes are, of course, enormous, because — as everyone knows — the economic suffering of the Great Depression transformed many countries’ politics for the worse and led to World War II.