Category: Extreme Political Correctness


Creating A Problem 

Inciting A Reaction

Implementing A Manufactured Solution

~Desert Rose~

US considers offering military help to Ukraine – Kerry advisor

Published time: April 14, 2014 18:50

AFP Photo / Dibyangshu Sarkar

AFP Photo / Dibyangshu Sarkar

An advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States may decide to send arms to eastern Ukraine as tensions continue to worsen there between pro-Russian protesters and supporters of the country’s interim government.

Reuters reported on Monday that US State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon — a senior diplomat and member of Sec. Kerry’s inner circle — said the possibility of providing arms to Ukrainian forces is indeed currently on the table.

“Obviously we are looking at that as an option … but at this point I can’t anticipate whether or not we are going to do that,” Reuters quoted Shannon as saying.

The counselor’s remarks come following yet another intense weekend in Ukraine, where government buildings, a military airport and other facilities in the east of the country were reportedly seized by armed pro-Russian protesters. Weeks after a similar standoff in the adjacent peninsula of Crimea led to the severing of ties with Ukraine and the subsequent approval of a referendum agreeing to join the Russian Federation, critics in the West are questioning whether or not Moscow has been involved in the latest series of events.

“From our point of view what we are seeing in a series of cities mimics what we saw in Crimea both in terms of the tactics and in terms of the people involved,” the State Department’s Shannon told Reuters early this week. “From our point of view there is a very obvious Russian hand in all of this and we consider these actions to be destabilising and dangerous.” William Hague, Britain’s foreign ministry, has made similar remarks as well.

Thomas Shannon (AFP Photo / Nelson Almeida)

Thomas Shannon (AFP Photo / Nelson Almeida)

But Vitaly Churkin — Russia’s envoy to the United Nations — has denounced rumors of his country playing any role in the unrest as false, and the Foreign Ministry has called allegations “irresponsible.”

Also on Monday this week, Moscow’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said he was worried about the possibility that force would be used against pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine, and said he strongly believes “it might lead to a civil war.”

 

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Kerry adviser says arming Ukraine forces is an option

BERLIN Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:30am EDT

(Reuters) – The United States is considering supplying arms to Ukraine, where unrest in eastern cities bears the hallmarks of a Russian destabilization drive, an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.

Ukraine’s president on Monday threatened military action after pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in the east ignored an ultimatum to leave and another group of rebels attacked a police headquarters in the troubled region.

Asked during a trip to Berlin whether the United States could arm Ukrainian forces, senior diplomat Thomas Shannon said: “Obviously we are looking at that as an option … but at this point I can’t anticipate whether or not we are going to do that.”

Republican Senator John McCain has suggested providing weapons to the Ukraine government, which says the occupations that began on Sunday are part of a Russian-led plan to dismember the country.

 

 

 

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MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA 8 minutes

Kathleen Sebelius Resigning as Health Secretary

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.

U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.

Image: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President's budget proposal for FY2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

As secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius was the public face of the bug-ridden rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care insurance initiative..

No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.

Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.

Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”

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Bloomberg

Sebelius Said to Resign as U.S. Health Secretary

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a Senate..

Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.

A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.

Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.

Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”

Enrollment Goals

Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.

The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”

Sluggish Start…

 

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This Is What Employment In America Really Looks Like…

By Michael Snyder, on April 6th, 2014

Warren Buffett - Photo by Mark Hirschey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The level of employment in the United States has been declining since the year 2000.  There have been moments when things have appeared to have been getting better for a short period of time, and then the decline has resumed.  Thanks to the offshoring of millions of jobs, the replacement of millions of workers with technology and the overall weakness of the U.S. economy, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is significantly lower than it was when this century began.  And even though things have stabilized at a reduced level over the past few years, it is only a matter of time until the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes and the employment level goes even lower.  And the truth is that more good jobs are being lost every single day in America.  For example, as you will read about below, Warren Buffett is shutting down a Fruit of the Loom factory in Kentucky and moving it to Honduras just so that he can make a little bit more money.  We see this kind of betrayal over and over again, and it is absolutely ripping the middle class of America to shreds.

Below I have posted a chart that you never hear any of our politicians talk about.  It is a chart that shows how the percentage of working age Americans with a job has steadily declined since the turn of the century.  Just before the last recession, we were sitting at about 63 percent, but now we have been below 59 percent since the end of 2009…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

We should be thankful that things have stabilized at this lower level for the past few years.

At least things have not been getting worse.

But anyone that believes that “things have returned to normal” is just being delusional.

And nothing is being done about the long-term trends that are absolutely crippling our economy.  One of those trends is the offshoring of middle class jobs.  As I mentioned above, Fruit of the Loom (which is essentially owned by Warren Buffett) has made the decision to close their factory in Jamestown, Kentucky and lay off all the workers at that factory by the end of 2014

Clothing company Fruit of the Loom announced Thursday that it will permanently close its plant in Jamestown and lay off all 600 employees by the end of the year.

The Jamestown plant is the last Fruit of the Loom plant in a state where the company had once been a manufacturing titan second only to General Electric.

This isn’t being done because Fruit of the Loom is going out of business.  They are still going to be making t-shirts and underwear.  They are just going to be making them in Honduras from now on…

The company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway but headquartered in Bowling Green, said the move is “part of the company’s ongoing efforts to align its global supply chain” and will allow the company to better use its existing investments to provide products cheaper and faster.

The company said it is moving the plant’s textile operations to Honduras to save money.

So what are those workers supposed to do?

Go on welfare?

The number of Americans that are dependent on the government is already at an all-time record high.

And doesn’t Warren Buffett already have enough money?

In business school, they teach you that the sole responsibility of a corporation is to maximize wealth for the shareholders.

And so when business students get out into “the real world”, that is how they behave.

But the truth is that corporations have a responsibility to treat their workers, their customers and the communities in which they operate well.  This responsibility exists whether corporate executives want to admit it or not.

And we all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens.  When we stand aside and do nothing as millions of good paying American jobs are shipped overseas so that the “one world economic agenda” can be advanced and so that men like Warren Buffett can stuff their pockets just a little bit more, we are failing our fellow countrymen.

Because so many of us have fallen for the lie that “globalism is good”, we have allowed our once great manufacturing cities to crumble and die.  Just consider what is happening to Detroit.  It was once the greatest manufacturing city in the history of the planet, but now foreign newspapers publish stories about what a horror show that it has become…

 

Read More Here

 

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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Division of Labor Force Statistic

 

Employment Situation Summary

Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until                    USDL-14-0530
8:30 a.m. (EDT) Friday, April 4, 2014

Technical information: 
  Household data:         (202) 691-6378  •  cpsinfo@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/cps
  Establishment data:     (202) 691-6555  •  cesinfo@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/ces

Media contact:	          (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov


                              THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- MARCH 2014


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March, and the unemployment rate
was unchanged at 6.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining
and logging.

Household Survey Data

In March, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million,
and the unemployment rate held at 6.7 percent. Both measures have shown little movement
since December 2013. Over the year, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment
rate were down by 1.2 million and 0.8 percentage point, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women increased to 6.2
percent in March, and the rate for adult men decreased to 6.2 percent. The rates for
teenagers (20.9 percent), whites (5.8 percent), blacks (12.4 percent), and Hispanics
(7.9 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.4 percent
(not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2,
and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 3.7 million,
changed little in March; these individuals accounted for 35.8 percent of the unemployed.
The number of long-term unemployed was down by 837,000 over the year. (See table A-12.)

Both the civilian labor force and total employment increased in March. The labor force
participation rate (63.2 percent) and the employment-population ratio (58.9 percent)
changed little over the month. (See table A-1.) The number of persons employed part
time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was
little changed at 7.4 million in March. These individuals were working part time because
their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work. (See
table A-8.)

In March, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed
from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not
in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime
in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched
for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 698,000 discouraged workers in March, down 
slightly from a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged
workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are
available for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor
force in March had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family
responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March. Job growth averaged 183,000
per month over the prior 12 months. In March, employment grew in professional and business
services, in health care, and in mining and logging. (See table B-1.)

Professional and business services added 57,000 jobs in March, in line with its average
monthly gain of 56,000 over the prior 12 months. Within the industry, employment increased
in March in temporary help services (+29,000), in computer systems design and related
services (+6,000), and in architectural and engineering services (+5,000).

In March, health care added 19,000 jobs. Employment in ambulatory health care services
rose by 20,000, with a gain of 9,000 jobs in home health care services. Nursing care
facilities lost 5,000 jobs over the month. Job growth in health care averaged 17,000 per
month over the prior 12 months.

Employment in mining and logging rose in March (+7,000), with the bulk of the increase
occurring in support activities for mining (+5,000). Over the prior 12 months, the mining
and logging industry added an average of 3,000 jobs per month.

Employment continued to trend up in March in food services and drinking places (+30,000).
Over the past year, food services and drinking places has added 323,000 jobs.

Construction employment continued to trend up in March (+19,000). Over the past year,
construction employment has risen by 151,000.

Employment in government was unchanged in March. A decline of 9,000 jobs in federal
government was mostly offset by an increase of 8,000 jobs in local government, excluding
education. Over the past year, employment in federal government has fallen by 85,000.

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail
trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, changed
little over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.2
hour in March to 34.5 hours, offsetting a net decline over the prior 3 months. The
manufacturing workweek rose by 0.3 hour in March to 41.1 hours, and factory overtime
rose by 0.1 hour to 3.5 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory
employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.3 hour to 33.7 hours. (See
tables B-2 and B-7.)

In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged
down by 1 cent to $24.30, following a 9 cent increase in February. Over the year,
average hourly earnings have risen by 49 cents, or 2.1 percent. In March, average
hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged down
by 2 cents to $20.47. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised from +129,000 to
+144,000, and the change for February was revised from +175,000 to +197,000. With these
revisions, employment gains in January and February were 37,000 higher than previously
reported.

_____________
The Employment Situation for April is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 2, 2014,
at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).



 

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Another Fraudulent Jobs Report — Paul Craig Roberts

Another Fraudulent Jobs Report

Paul Craig Roberts

The March payroll jobs report released April 4 claims 192,000 new private sector jobs.
Here is what John Williams has to say about the claim:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) deliberately publishes its seasonally-adjusted historical payroll-employment and household-survey (unemployment) data so that the numbers are neither consistent nor comparable with current headline reporting.  The upside revisions to the January and February monthly jobs gains, and the relatively strong March payroll showing, reflected nothing more than concealed, favorable shifts in underlying seasonal factors, hidden by the lack of consistent BLS reporting.  In like manner, consistent month-to-month changes in the unemployment rate or labor force simply are not knowable, because the BLS cloaks the consistent and comparable numbers.”

Here is what Dave Kranzler has to say: “the employment report is probably the most deceptively fraudulent report produced by the Government.”

As I have pointed out for a decade, the “New Economy” jobs that we were promised in exchange for our manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs that were offshored have never shown up. The transnational corporations and their hired shills among economists lied to us. Not even a jobs report as deceptive and fraudulent as the BLS payroll jobs report can hide the fact that Congress, the White House, and the American people have sat sucking their thumbs while corporations maximized profits for the one percent at the expense of everyone else in the United States.

Let’s look at where the alleged jobs are. The BLS jobs report says that 28,400 jobs were created in March in wholesale and retail sales. March is the month that Macy’s, Sears, JC Penny, Staples, Radio Shack, Office Depot, and other retailers announced combined closings of several thousand stores, but more retail clerks were hired.

The BLS payroll jobs report claims 57,000 jobs in “professional and business services.” Are these jobs for lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, and managers? No. The combined new jobs for these middle class professional skills totaled 10,400. Employment services accounted for 42,000 of the jobs in “professional and business services” of which temporary help accounted for 28,500.

 

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Why Did FBI Monitor Occupy Houston, and Then Hide Sniper Plot Against Protest Leaders?

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Harry Reid: People Are Not Educated On How To Use The Internet

 

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By

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — MIKHLIF AL-SHAMMARI has been jailed repeatedly, declared an infidel, ruined financially and shot four times — by his own son — all for this: He believes his fellow Sunni Muslims should treat Shiites as equals.

In a Middle East torn by deepening sectarian hatred, that is a very unusual conviction. He has made it a kind of crusade for eight years now, visiting and praying with prominent Shiites and defending them in print, at enormous personal cost. The government of this deeply conservative kingdom continues to file new accusations against him, under charges like “annoying other people” and “consorting with dissidents.”

But Mr. Shammari, a gaunt 58-year-old with an aquiline nose and a jaunty smile, is not easily discouraged. “I’m not against my government or my religion, but things must be corrected,” he said in a furtive interview in a hotel lobby (he has been banned from talking with the news media). “We must all encourage human rights and stop the violence between Sunni and Shia.”

Photo

‘I’m ready to pay with my life for my beliefs.’ MIKHLIF AL-SHAMMARI Credit Abdurahman al Shammari

 

Mr. Shammari is not Saudi Arabia’s best-known human rights activist, and others have put in more time and suffered much longer prison terms. But he has a rare distinction: No other member of the kingdom’s Sunni Muslim majority has made it a mission to demand equal rights for the Shiite Muslim minority.

Even the most educated and cosmopolitan Saudis often look down on Shiites, who make up about 10 percent of the Saudi population, as closet Iranians or undesirables. Some of the religious conservatives who wield great influence here go much further, saying Shiites are worse than Jews because, unlike genuine infidels, they have been exposed to the truth of Islam and nevertheless choose to pervert it. Shiites have long complained of discrimination of various kinds, as well as the vitriolic abuse hurled at them by government-employed clerics.

Mr. Shammari believes this is not just ancient religious prejudice, but a deliberate strategy by the Saudi monarchy to keep its subjects divided and therefore less likely to demand a voice in their government.

Whatever the reasons, it is clear that the sectarian divide helps to tamp down dissent in the kingdom. In 2011, for instance, even liberal and democratic-leaning Saudis were frightened off by protests in the kingdom’s eastern province and in neighboring Bahrain because they were carried out mostly by Shiites, the majority population there. Street protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia.

MR. SHAMMARI says his protest derives partly from his origins: He is a leader of the Shammar tribe, which includes both Shiites and Sunnis and straddles the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The Shammar suffered discrimination in the early days of the Saudi kingdom, because they were viewed as having divided loyalties.

 

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National Endowment for Democracy

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The Stealth Destabilizer

The National Endowment for Democracy in Venezuela

 

 

by KIM SCIPES

As protests have been taking place in Venezuela the last couple of weeks, it is always good to check on the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Empire’s “stealth” destabilizer.  What has the NED been up to in Venezuela?

Before going into details, it is important to note what NED is and is not.  First of all, it has NOTHING to do with the democracy we are taught in civics classes, concerning one person-one vote, with everyone affected having a say in the decision, etc.  (This is commonly known as “popular” or grassroots democracy.)  The NED opposes this kind of democracy.

The NED promotes top-down, elite, constrained  (or “polyarchal”) democracy.  This is the democracy where the elites get to decide the candidates or questions suitable to go before the people—and always limiting the choices to what the elites are comfortable with.  Then, once the elites have made their decision, THEN the people are presented with the “choice” that the elites approve.   And then NED prattles on with its nonsense about how it is “promoting democracy around the world.”

This is one of the most cynical uses of democracy there is.  It’s notable even in what my friend Dave Lippmann calls “Washington Deceit.”

Read More Here

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THE WRONG KIND OF GREEN 

Capital-driven Civil Society

john-d-rockefeller

Originally published on State of Nature, May 19, 2008.

Republished by Michael Barker with additional links.

by Michael Barker

“It is the more subtle support that democracy manipulators provide to progressive activist organizations that are the most important yet least understood part of their activities.”

According to, the once progressive, now neo-conservative commentator, David Horowitz, Professor Stephen Zunes is a member of a select group of leftist activists that he refers to as The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (2006). Horowitz is infamous for co-founding the Center for the Study of Popular Culture – which has been ominously renamed as the David Horowitz Freedom Center. More recently though, in 2005, this Center launched DiscoverTheNetworks, an online project that has been accurately referred to as “Horowitz’s Smear Portal”. The relevance of this background is found in the fact that I have also assessed Zunes’ connections to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (where he chairs the board of academic advisors). While both I and Horowitz have criticised Zunes’ background and affiliations, needless to say Horowitz’s “Smear Portal” attacks Zunes for very different reasons than my own. [1] Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that DiscoverTheNetworks approach to investigating Zunes is very similar to my own, as it identifies the “individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it”. The crucial difference, between these two parallel analyses, however, is that I criticise the Left in an attempt to strengthen it by causing it to reflect on the elite manipulation and co-option of civil society, while DiscoverTheNetworks simply aims to undermine the Left. [2]

Unfortunately, my attempts to produce reflection did not bear fruit from Professor Zunes who, rather than addressing the substance of my criticisms, ‘responded’ with accusations of “absurd leaps of logic”, concluding that he “wonder[ed] whose side Barker is really on”. This was disappointing as the criticisms of Zunes’ connections with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict had been explicit and my intention had been to promote this vital critical reflection amongst the Left, especially with regards to their reliance upon funding from The Power Elite. [3] Such funding questions are especially relevant with regards to the work of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, as their work is funded by Peter Ackerman and his wife Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, whose work has anti-democratic aspirations.

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The legitimate questions to ask at this point in time  would  be …….

Exactly  what money  would  the low and  middle-income  earners  be  putting aside for  savings?

Considering the  unemployment  rate  and the  rising  number of the homeless how realistic or  honest  would this  proposal  be?  

In a  world where the  working  middle class are disappearing and the poor can barely feed themselves and their  families , are retirement  savings accounts truly an achievable reality?

 

~Desert Rose~

 

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New Geography . com

The U.S. Middle Class Is Turning Proletarian

drill-press.jpg

The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.

The decline has less to do with the power of the “one percent” per se than with the drying up of opportunity amid what is seen on Wall Street and in the White House as a sustained recovery. Despite President Obama’s rhetorical devotion to reducing inequality, it has widened significantly under his watch. Not only did the income of the middle 60% of households drop between 2010 and 2012 while that of the top 20% rose, the income of the middle 60% declined by a greater percentage than the poorest quintile. The middle 60% of earners’ share of the national pie has fallen from 53% in 1970 to 45% in 2012.

This group, what I call the yeoman class — the small business owners, the suburban homeowners , the family farmers or skilled construction tradespeople– is increasingly endangered. Once the dominant class in America, it is clearly shrinking: In the four decades since 1971 the percentage of Americans earning between two-thirds and twice the national median income has dropped from 61% to 51% of the population, according to Pew.

Roughly one in three people born into middle class-households , those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of income, now fall out of that status as adults.

Neither party has a reasonable program to halt the decline of the middle class. Previous generations of liberals — say Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Truman, Pat Brown — recognized broad-based economic growth was a necessary precursor to upward mobility and social justice. However, many in the new wave of progressives engage in fantastical economics built around such things as “urban density” and “green jobs,”  while adopting policies that restrict growth in manufacturing, energy and housing. When all else fails, some, like Oregon’s John Kitzhaber, try to change the topic by advocating shifting emphasis from measures of economic growth to “happiness.”

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Feb. 21, 2014, 5:00 a.m. EST

Obama plan: Cut tax breaks for richest retirement savers

Plan designed to spur saving by low-, middle-income earners

By Robert Powell, MarketWatch

President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress in early March, as part of his fiscal 2015 budget, to reduce some of the tax advantages for employer-sponsored retirement plans for higher-income earners, according to published reports.

Plus, the president wants to limit the value of all tax deductions, defined contribution exclusions and IRA deductions to 28% of income — and include an overall cap on all retirement accounts, including pensions, that could bring in $1 billion a year in new tax revenue, according to a Pensions & Investments report. Read Companies bracing for 1-2 retirement punch .

According to the report, the proposals are designed to direct more of the tax preference for retirement savings toward getting more low- and middle-income people into the habit of saving.

Based on current tax brackets, Pensions & Investments reported that the 28% limit would reduce the tax advantages of retirement savings for people earning more than $183,000 or couples earning more than $225,000. And the overall cap for all tax-preferred retirement accounts would limit them to providing an annual retirement income of $205,000, which would currently cap tax-preferred accounts at $3.4 million, but could go lower as interest rates rise.

So, who might feel the effects of this proposal? Largely, the top 5% of tax payers. According to the Tax Policy Center, a partnership between the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, there are about 6.07 million Americans who earned above $200,000 in 2011 and they make up the top 4.2% of taxpayers, according to published reports. Read more about the president’s tax proposal here: Who makes more than $250k, and are they rich?

And what do experts have to say about what the president might propose? In the main, they say the rich need not worry that their tax breaks for saving for retirement will be cut.

“We’ve heard these kinds of proposals being discussed in policy circles for a couple of years now,” said Skip Schweiss, president of TD Ameritrade Trust Co. and managing director of TD Ameritrade Institutional. “It would not surprise me to see these ideas become more formalized through President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal.”

But even though experts expect the president to propose reductions to some of the tax advantages for employer-sponsored retirement plans for higher-income earners, few expect any congressional action. “Given the congressional divide, it’s hard to see something like this becoming law, but of course one never knows,” said Schweiss.

 

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The Nuns and the President

When the Framers were putting together the Constitution in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they knew the states would not adopt it without written guarantees that the new central government would respect natural rights. The supporters of the Constitution promised political leaders in the states that the written guarantees would soon be added as amendments, and they were. By late 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and added to the new Constitution.

The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to assure all in America that their natural rights — areas of human choices for which a permission slip from the government cannot be required and in which the government cannot coerce compliance with its wishes — would not be impaired by the federal government. Since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the natural rights protected in the Bill of Rights generally have been insulated from interference by the states, as well.

All natural rights are of paramount importance to all persons. They are individualized personal gifts from the Creator and have been recognized as such in American law since Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed with them by Him.

One of those rights guarantees the free exercise of religion. Indeed, the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment was written to ensure that the new government could not coerce persons to behave differently than their religious views informed their consciences or punish them for not conforming to a government-mandated religious orthodoxy. Generally, for almost 230 years, the federal government left us alone to choose freely our religious practices and to worship as we believe. Until now.

Today, the free exercise of religion is under attack by the government. When Congress enacted the Affordable Health Care Act — I prefer to call it Obamacare because it is President Obama’s brainchild, his signature legislation, and because there is nothing affordable about it — members of Congress must have known that the law would impose obligations upon persons that would force them to engage in behavior in violation of their religious beliefs. Obamacare, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court under a superficial and novel theory that permits the feds to regulate natural rights by taxing us when we do not do as they have commanded, requires all employers of 50 or more persons to obtain health insurance coverage for all of their employees that pays for birth control via contraception, sterilization and abortion.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an order of Roman Catholic nuns who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They operate nursing homes for those who cannot afford them and employ more than 50 persons. The sisters have objected to the requirement that they must pay for health insurance coverage that provides for birth control, as those payments directly violate Catholic teachings and beliefs.

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NSA mass collection of phone data is legal, federal judge rules

• Dragnet program deemed ‘controversial but lawful’

• Lawsuit brought by ACLU dismissed

NSA phone data collection deemed legal: full ruling

Cell phone data records
Judge said the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the 9/11 attacks. Photograph: Lucas Jackson /Reuters

A legal battle over the scope of US government surveillance took a turn in favour of the National Security Agency on Friday with a court opinion declaring that bulk collection of telephone data does not violate the constitution.

The judgement, in a case brought before a district court in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, directly contradicts the result of a similar challenge in a Washington court last week which ruled the NSA’s bulk collection program was likely to prove unconstitutional and was “almost Orwellian” in scale.

Friday’s ruling makes it more likely that the issue will be settled by the US supreme court, although it may be overtaken by the decision of Barack Obama on whether to accept the recommendations of a White House review panel to ban the NSA from directly collecting such data.

But the ruling from Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee to the Southern District of New York, will provide important ammunition for those within the intelligence community urging Obama to maintain the programme.

Judge Pauley said privacy protections enshrined in the fourth amendment of the US constitution needed to be balanced against a government need to maintain a database of records to prevent future terrorist attacks. “The right to be free from searches is fundamental but not absolute,” he said. “Whether the fourth amendment protects bulk telephony metadata is ultimately a question of reasonableness.”

Pauley argued that al-Qaida’s “bold jujitsu” strategy to marry seventh century ideology with 21st century technology made it imperative that government authorities be allowed to push privacy boundaries.

“As the September 11 attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a threat can be horrific,” he wrote in the ruling. “Technology allowed al-Qaida to operate decentralised and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection programme represents the government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaida’s terror network.”

 

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The New American

N.Y. Judge: NSA Spying “Imperils Civil Liberties of Every Citizen” but “Legal”

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Southern District of New York Judge William Pauley III declared in a December 27 decision that the NSA surveillance program — which draws in every American’s telephone records without a warrant or probable cause — was “legal” even though it “imperils the civil liberties of every citizen.” The decision contrasts sharply with a decision two weeks ago by Washington, D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon that termed the warrantless surveillance program unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian.”

 

Almost Orwellian was no problem for Pauley, who found that the Constitution should not get in the way of programs the government claims have worked: “The question for this Court is whether the Government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This Court finds it is.”

 

Pauley dismissed the lawsuit by the ACLU despite acknowledging that “This blunt tool works because it collects everything. Such a program, if unchecked, imperils the civil liberties of every citizen.”

 

 

Metadata is the record created by a telephone call, and includes the number calling and the number called, as well as the time and duration of the call. The NSA also has other programs to collect Internet traffic and other data on Americans, but these other programs were not the subject of the lawsuit dismissed by Pauley.

 

Pauley claimed, however, that “Bulk telephony metadata collection is subject to extensive oversight by all three branches of government. It is monitored by the Department of Justice, the Intelligence Community, the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court], and Congress.”

 

Pauley’s claim is not backed up by the facts, nor even by the text of his own 54-page decision. The public record is devoid of any serious restrictions on NSA created by the intelligence community or the Justice Department. And the FISC has turned out to be an NSA lapdog, not a watchdog. The Wall Street Journal reported back on June 9 that “From 1979 through 2012, the court overseeing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has rejected only 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance applications by the government, according to annual Justice Department reports to Congress.”

 

Indeed, Pauley’s decision — despite touting “extensive oversight” from FISA courts — acknowledged “there is no way for the Government to know which particle of telephony metadata will lead to useful counterterrorism information. When that is the case, courts routinely authorize large-scale collections of information, even if most of it will not directly bear on the investigation.”

 

As for Congress’ surveillance of the NSA, most members didn’t even know about the program until Edward Snowden revealed it to the public. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) noted that NSA briefings of Congress amounted to “a totally ridiculous game of twenty questions.”

 

The court decision read more like an op-ed by NSA chief Keith Alexander than a neutral court ruling, as Pauley derided “judicial-Monday-morning-quarterbacking” by the Leon court. Throughout the wordy 54-page decision, Pauley never articulated any objective restriction on a search that would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Not, at least, an argument on the Fourth Amendment that would be even a “substantial” burden on the government. Pauley noted that “To obtain a section 215 order [under the Patriot Act], the Government must show (1) ‘reasonable grounds to believe the tangible things south are relevant to an authorized investigation.’” But the “reasonable” standard is one defined by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. Pauley argued that “Under section 215, the Government’s burden is not substantial.” But the Fourth Amendment explicitly defines a “reasonable” search as one with a warrant supported by an oath, probable cause and particularity in describing what will be found and where it will be found.

 

Pauley claimed in his decision that “The collection of breathtaking amounts of information unprotected by the Fourth Amendment does not transform that sweep into a Fourth Amendment search.” Of course, all searches are subject to the Fourth Amendment; the amendment makes no exceptions for non-Fourth Amendment searches. The text of the Fourth Amendment reads:

 

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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