Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Monday, August 28, 2006

Economy: REAL WAGES FAIL TO MATCH A RISE IN PRODUCTIVITY

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

The New York Times
By: treven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt
August 28, 2006

That situation is adding to the fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year's midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

***Only according to the information that the Bush administration would allow out. The real info was kept from the people.

The median hourly wage for American workers had declined 2% since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially noticeable, economists say, because productivity---the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation's living standards---has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began reporting the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "the golden era of profitability."

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising values of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers' benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

In a speech on Friday, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, did not specifically discuss wages, but he warned that the unequal distribution of the economy's spoils could derail the trade liberalization of recent decades. Because recent economic changes "threaten the livlihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms," Mr. Bernanke said, policy makers must try "to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared."

Political analysts are divided over how much the wage trends will help Democrats this fall in their effort to take control of the House and, in a bigger stretch, the Senate. Some see parallels to watershed political years like 1980, 1992 and 1994, when wage growth fell behind inflation, party alignments shifted and dozens of incumbents were thrown out of office.

"It's a dangerous time for any party to have control of the federal government---the presidency, the Senate and the House," said Charles Cook, who publishes a nonpartisan political newspaper. "It also feeds into 'it's a time for change' sentiment. It's a highly combustible mixture."

But others say that the war in Iraq and terrorism, not the economy, will dominate the campaign and the Democrats have yet to offer an economic vision that appeals to voters.

"National economic policies are more clearly in focus in presidential campaigns," said Richard T. Curtin, director of University of Michigan's consumer surveys, "When you're electing your local House members, you don't debate on those issues as much."

Moreover, polls show that Americans are less dissatisfied with the economy than they were in the early 1980s or early 90s. Rising stock and house values have lifted the net worth of many families over the last few years, and interest rates remain fairly low.

But housing is in for a free fall!

But polls show that Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy by wide margins and that anxiety about the future is growing. Earlier this month, the Univ of Michigan reported that consumer confidence had fallen sharply in recent months, with people's expectations for the future now as downbeat as they were in 1992 and 1993, when the job market had not yet recovered from a recession.

"Some people who aren't partisan say, 'Yes, the economy's pretty good, so why are people so agitated and anxious?'" said Frank Luntz, a Republican campaign consultant. "The answer is they don't feel it in their weekly paychecks."

Mr. Luntz predicted that the economic mood would not do significant damage to Republicans this fall because voters blamed corporate America, not government, for their problems.

***But who gave corporate America the power to do this? THE REPUBLICANS!

Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration, layoffs and technology---as well as the insecurity caused by them---appear to have eroded workers' bargaining power.

Trade unions are much weaker than they once were, while the buying power of the minimum wage is at a 50-year low. And health care is far more expensive than it was a decade ago, causing companies to spend more on benefits at the expense of wages.

***That's because Bush is a union-buster and many of your Republicans own stock in pharmaceutical companies and medical facilities. That's why the Republicans won't do anything about the prices they charge! (Well, mostly in someone in their families).

Together, these forces have caused a growing share of the economy to go to companies instead of workers' paychecks. In the first quarter of 2006, wages and salaries represented 45% of gross domestic product, down from almost 50% in the first qyarter of 2001 and a record 53.6% in the first quarter of 1970, according to the Commerce Department. Each percentage point now equals about $132B.

Total employee compensation---wages plus benefits---has fared a little better. Its share was briefly lower than its current level of 56.1% in the mid-1990s and otherwise has not been so low since 1996.

Over the last year, the value of employee benefits has risen only 3.4%, while inflation has exceeded 4%, according to the Labor Department.

In Europe and Japan, the profit share of economic output is also at or near record levels, noted Larry Hatheway, chief economist for UBS investment Bank, who said that this highlighted the pressures of globalization on wages. Many Americans, be they apparel workers or software programmers, are facing more competition from China and India.

In another recent report on the boom in profits, economists at Goldman Sachs, wrote, "The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past 5 years has been a decline in labor's share of national income." Low interest rates and the moderate cost of capital goods, like computers, have also played a role, though economists note that an economic slowdown could hurt profits in coming months.

For most of the last century, wages and productivity---the key measure of the economy's efficiency---has risen together rapidly through the 1950s and 60s and far more slowly in the 1970s and 80s.

But in recent years, the productivity gains have continued while the pay increases have not kept up. Worker productivity rose 16.6% from 2000 to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2%, according to Labor Dept. statistics analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. Benefits accounted for most of the increase.

"If I had to sum it up," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the institute, "it comes down to bargaining power and the lack of ability of many in the work force to claim their fair share of growth."

Nominal wages have accelerated in the last year, but the spike in oil costs has eaten up the gains. Now the job market appears to be weakening, after a protracted series of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve.

Unless these trends reverse, the current expansion may lack even an extended period of modest wage growth like one that occured in the mid-1980s.

The most recent recession ended in late 2001. Hourly wages continued to rise in 2002 and peaked in early 2003, largely on the lingering strength of the 1990s boom.

Average family income, adjusted for inflation, has continued to advance at a good clip, a fact Mr. Bush has cited when speaking about the economy. But these gains are mainly a result of increases at the top of the income spectrum that pull up the overall numbers. Even for workers at the 90th percentile of earners---making about $80,000 a year---inflation has outpaced their pay increases over the last three years, according to the Labor Dept.

"There are 2 economies out there," Mr. Cook, the political analyst, said. "One has just been white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefited from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings.

"And then there's the working stiffs," he added, "who just don't feel they're getting ahead despite the fact they're working very hard. And there are a lot of people in that group than the other group."

In 2004, the top 1% of earners---a group that includes many chief executives---received 11.2% of all wage income, up from 8.2% a decade earlier and less than 6% three decades ago, according to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.

With the midterm election expected to heat up after Labor Day, Democrats are saying that they will help workers by making health care more affordable and lifting the minimum wage. Democrats have criticized Republicans for passing tax cuts mainly benefiting high-income families at a time when most families are failing to keep up.

Republicans counter that the tax cuts passed during Mr. Bush's first term helped lifted the economy out of recession. Unless the cuts are extended, a move many Democrats oppose, the economy will suffer, and so will wages, Republicans say.

But in a sign that the Republican's may be growing concerned about the public's mood, the new Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, adopted a somewhat different tone from Mr. Bush in his first major speech, delivered early this month.

"Many aren't seeing significant increases in their take-home pay," Mr. Paulson said. "Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others."

At the same time, he said that the Bush administration was not responsible for the situation, pointing out that inequality had been increasing for many years. "It's neither fair nor useful," Mr. Paulson said, "to blame any political party."













Education: JEFFCO DISCIPLINES TEACHER OVER FOREIGN FLAGS IN THE CLASSROOM

Lakewood---A seventh-grade geography teacher at Carmody Middle School was suspended with pay today when he refused to take down three foreign flags on display in his classroom.

Rocky Mountain News
By: Berny Morson
August 23, 2006

Eric Hamlin said the flags of China, Mexico and the United Nations were relevant to the unit of the fundamentals of geography he teaches during the first 6 weeks of the semester. He's used the same display for most of the nine years he's taught in Jefferson Country, Hamlin said.

The foreign flags are in addition to the standard U.S. flag found in all classrooms.

Hamlin said principal John Schalk escorted him from the building before classes began. He was handed a letter saying the matter is under investigation and warning him to remain off school property.

Jeffco Public Schools spokewoman Lynn Setzer believed Hamlin was in violation of a state law on display of foreign flags on public property.

Schalk interprets the law as allowing foreign flags as part of a specific lesson, but not for the duration of the six-week unit.

Hamlin has more than 50 flags that he uses during the course of the year. He asks students to consider the symbolism different countries put on their flags, such as the stars and stripes on the U.S. flag.

***What is this administration doing to this country? Do we now have to remove the pages in our schoolbooks that show flags of a foreign country? Will we have to burn those books altogether? This teacher has been using the same system for almost 9 years in that same school. What brought about the changes? Don't think that the U.S. government doesn't have anything to do with state government either! Just because you have a Democratic Goevernor, that doesn't mean that you still don't have Republican Senators and Congresspeople. Yet, you still have a lot of Republican operatives working in Democrats offices.

Politics: THE CHENEY PRESIDENCY



George W. Bush has faulted in some quarters for taking an extended vacation while the Middle East festers. It doesn't much matter; the man running the country is Vice President Dick Cheney.

Boston dot com
By: Robert Kuttner
August 26, 2006


When historians look back on the multiple assaults on our constitutional system of government of this era, Cheney's unprecedented role will come in for overdue notice. Cheney's shotgun mishap, when he accidentally sprayed his host with birdshot, has gotten more media attention that has his control of the government.

Historically, the vice president's job was to ceremonially preside over the Senate, attend second-tier foreign funerals, and be prepared for the president to die. Students are taught that John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt's first vice president, compared the job to a bucket of warm spit (and historians say spit was not the word the pungent Texan actually used).

Recent vice presidents Walter Mondale and Al Gore were given more authority than most, but there was no doubt that the president was in charge.

Cheney is in a class by himself. The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney---sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove.

Cheney has planted aides in major Cabinet departments, often over the objection of a Cabinet secretary, to make sure his policies are carried out. He sits in on the Senate Republican caucus, to stamp out any rebellions. Cheney loyalists from the Office of the Vice President dominate interagency planning meetings.

The Iraq war is the work of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The capture of the career civil service is pure Cheney. The disciplining of Congress is the work of Cheney and Rove. The turning over of energy policy to the oil companies is Cheney. The extreme secrecy is Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If Cheney were the president, more of this would be smoked out because the press would be paying attention. The New York Times' acerbic columnist Maureen Dowd regularly makes sport of Cheney's dominance, and there are plenty of jokes (Bush is a heartbeat away from the presidency). But you can count serious newspaper or magazine articles on Cheney's operation on the fingers of one hand. One exceptional example is Jane Meyer's piece in the July 3 New Yorker on Cheney operative David Addington.

Cheney's power is matched only by his penchant for secrecy. When my colleague at the American Prospect, Robert Dreyfuss, requested the names of people who serve on the vice president's staff, he was told this was classified information. Former staffers for other departments provided Dreyfuss with names.

So secretive is Cheney (and so incurious the media) that when his chief of staff, Irving Lewis Libby, was implicated in the leaked identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, reporters who rushed to look Libby up on Nexis and Google found that Libby had barely rated previous press attention.

Why does this matter? Because if the man actually running the government is out of the spotlight, the administration and its policies are far less accountable.

When George W. Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry in 2004, many commentators observed that Bush was the fellow with whom you would rather have a beer. It's an accurate and unflattering comment on the American electorate---but then who wants to have a beer with Cheney? The public may not know the details of his operation, but voters intuitively recoil from him.

Bush's popularity ratings are now under 40%, beer or no beer, reflecting dwindling confidence in where he is taking the country. But Cheney's ratings are stuck around 20%, far below that of any president.

If Cheney were the actual president, not just the de facto one, he simply could not govern with the same set of policies and approval ratings of 20%. The media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England.

Yet the press buys the pretense of Bush being "the decider," and relentlessly covers Bush---meeting with world leaders, cutting brush, holding press conferences, while Cheney works in secret, largely undisturbed. So let's take half the members of the overblown White House press corps, which has almost nothing to do anyway, and send them over to Cheney Boot Camp for Reporters.

THEY MIGHT LEARN HOW TO BE JOURNALISTS AGAIN, AMD WE MIGHT LEARN WHO IS RUNNING THE GOVERNMENT.


***Next time you answer any polls about Bush, remember that he is wimpy enough to allow Cheney to run the country! Do you want this wimp running the country? Let's give Bush, Cheney's poll ratings. I'm counting on you!







NEOCONS DREAMS, AMERICAN NIGHTMARES



Taking what might be considered the moderate position on the Israel/Hezbollah war, the editors of 'The New Republic' demand that the Bush Administration "move ruthlessly to prevent Iran from acquiring the deadliest arsenal of all," while their contributor Michael Oren calls only for an Israeli, rather than an American, attack on Syria. Next door at 'The Weekly Standard,' William Kristol sees no point in playing coy. Having already called for an American attack on Syria 20 months ago, he is now beating his bongo for an immediate "military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities." Concerned about retaliation against American citizens in the form of terrorist attacks around the world? Don't worry. Any and all "repercussions," he promises "would be healthy ones." Kristol even imagines that such an attack could cause the Iranian people "to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power," as if the natural reaction of people who see their country attacked, their families killed and their property destroyed is to side with the people who are bombing them (just like in, um... Iraq).

To borrow from both Beyonce' and Yogi Berra, it really is deja vu all over again. Roughly 4 years, 2,600 American deaths and $1T and one murderous civil war ago, the same William Kristol predicted that a US invasion would inspire "the principles of liberty and justice in the Islamic world." Richard Perle, his comrade in armchair warfare, suggested that the impending US invasion would "transform the thinking of people around the world about the potential for democracy, even in Arab countries."

Today, despite the lack of available troops owing to these delusional predictions, neocons are looking into Israel's war in Lebanon as an excuse for attacks on Syria and Iran---coincidentally, also Israel's enemies. Also coincidentally, four years ago many neocons were looking to exploit an attack on America as an excuse to attack Israel's enemies. Writing in the 'Wall Street Journal' in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Seth Lipsky called for US attacks "from Afghanastan to Iran to Iraq to Syria to the Palestinian Authority." Echoes of today's war cries go back even further. Kristol insists that Israel's problems with Lebanon demonstrates that "what's under attack is liberal democratic civilization."

Twenty-four years ago, in a now infamous commentary essay titled "J'Accuse," Norman Podhoretz accused those who dissented from Israel's catastrophic invasion of Lebanon "of faithlessness to the interests of the United States and indeed to the values of Western civilization as a whole."

One does not need to take a position on the wisdom---or lack thereof---of Israel's current invasion of Lebanon to question whether Israel's interests are in fact identical to America's. Kristol can title his editorial "It's Our War," but Hezbollah was not shooting missiles into Manhattan. And while we may not like its sponsor, Iran, last I checked we were not at war with that nation either. (In fact, we're doing its dirty work, destabilizing antagonist Iraq and preparing the way for a Shiite ascendancy led by an Iranian cleric). But whenever one raises the issue of just how large Israel's perceived well-being looms in the minds of those who seek to risk America's blood and treasure for actions that happen to be at the top of AIPAC's wish list, one is immediately accused of either anti-Semitism or, as the case may be, self-hatred. 'New York Times' columnist David Brooks, for example, has argued that those who use the very term "neoconservative" are anti-Semites, "full-mooners" living on "Planet Chomsky." 'TNR' senior editor (and William Kristol's writing partner) Lawrence Kaplan claims that "invoking the specter of dual loyalty to quiet criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse."

Things can become a little confusing when the same neocons who insist it is 'ipso facto' anti-Semitic to ask what role Israel plays in their calculations instruct American Jews that they are paying too much attention to their own country's best interests and not enough to Israel's. Writing in---of all places---'The Weekly Standard,' David Gelernter attacks American Jews for their "self-destructive nihilism" in remaining "fervent supporters of an American left that is increasingly unable or unwilling to say why Israel must exist." (This is nonsense about the vast majority of the left, of course, but ignores that for a moment). Gelernter argues that "grassroots Democrats are increasingly dangerous to the Jewish state (not to mention the American state)." Note that the question of the "American state" is literally a mere parenthetical to Gelernter's principal concern---the well being of Israel. Over at 'National Review's' "The Corner," Mona Charen can be found making the same sneering argument. She calls American Jews "Stubborn and downright stupid" because they "despise George W. Bush and will donate time and money to any Democrat in 2008, while Bush is indisputably the most pro-Israel president in the history of the U.S." Again, it's highly "disputable," but never mind that. More to the point is the fact that Bush's presidency---a complete and utter failure by virtually any empirical measurement---is also deemed irrelevant. It's Israel alone that matters, according to these anti-American conservatives. (And woe unto American Jews when Christian America is paying attention to their unpatriotic perfidy).

What's most immediately worrisome about the neocons' long march through our institutions of government is the possibility that they may succeed a second time. According to Sidney Blumenthal's reporting in 'Salon,' neocon staffers for Dick Cheney and the NSC's point man on the Middle East, Elliott Abrams (Norman Podhoretz's son-in-law), "have discussed Syrian and Iranian supply activities as a potential pretext for Israeli bombing of both countries." They are looking, according to this NSC source, "to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war."

FOUR WARS SIMULTANEOUSLY? LED BY THIS CREW? AFTER WE'VE SEEN IRAQ AND AFGHANASTAN? IS IT ME, OR ARE THE PEOPLE WHO RUN THIS COUNTRY DANGEROUSLY OUT OF THEIR MINDS?

The Nation
By: Eric Alterman
[from the August 28, 2006 issue]

Veterans Issues: VETERAN CONVOY SUPPORTS BOYDA

Topeka---Democratic congressional candidate Nancy Boyda emphasized veterans issues and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder as Kansas veterans stopped in three cities Saturday.

LJWorld dot com
By: Marshanna Hester
August 27, 2006

"When our young soldiers look at the way we are treating our veterans, we're finding we're having trouble recruiting at a time when we need it most," Boyda said.

Many participants criticized Congress and Boyda's opponent, incumbent Jim Ryun.

"When it comes to ratings by the Disabled American Veterans, Nancy's opponent received a zero for legislation regarding veterans," said Randy Barnes, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD.

About 30 people attended the Leave No Veteran Behind Convoy in Topeka. The group also traveled to Manhattan and Leavenworth.

Boyda and Ryun are campaigning for the 2nd District seat, which includes west Lawrence.

Boyda presented information during a news conference saying that the government compensation for PTSD was declining and that almost 10% of Vietnam veterans suffer from the disorder.

Ryun's chief of staff, Mark Kelly, released a statement Saturday titled "Veterans Funding that Jim Ryun supported." The statement mentioned his support for $41.4B in total mandatory veterans benefits and $24.4B for veterans medical care, which were both 11% increases from the previous year, for fiscal year 2007.

***There go the Republicans again using the increase as a campaign talking point. Those are "fuzzy numbers." It "appears" that Bush gave a big increase to the VA, but he didn't give them even enough to make up for all of the years that he didn't give them anything at all! Come on....quit making the American people look stupid. As for the mandatory funding Ryun claims he supported, that's a spin! If Ryun supported MANDATORY FUNDING, which he DIDN'T when it came down to the vote for it, he wouldn't have to support the "funding" for the VA. It would automatically have been given to the VA. That's what Mandatory Funding means!

"Since 2001, the veterans medical care budget has increased by 69%. Jim Ryun voted for an amendment to the fiscal year 2007 Budget Act that increases veterans funding by $795M every year for the next 5 years," the statement said.

***So! That was just an election year tactic! These are the fuzzy numbers I was telling you about. What he supported wasn't even enough to cover for everything that was owed from previous years. And with all of the miscalculations by the Bush administration, they didn't allow for all of the injured that are coming home now from conflicts in the Middle East. These Republicans find it easy to fund the "super-rich." Why not our "veterans?" And besides, Randy Barnes said that Ryun received a zero rating when it came to "writing up" legislation for the veterans. nobody asked about what he supported.

Kelly's statement also emphasized that Ryun voted for the Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2007, which would block the defense department's proposed Tricare insurance fee increases for military retirees.

***Yeah, so! That happens every year and usually everyone votes it down. That's so the politicians can use that in their campaigning routines. Otherwise, they got nothing else!

Participants in Sunday's convoy said it's also about being patriotic.

"I think we need to think about being Americans first and voting to get our country straightened out instead of letting it go on like this," King said.



Hurricane Katrina: BROWN SAID WHITE WANTED HIM TO LIE

Washington, DC (UPI)---The ousted head of FEMA says the White House wanted him to lie about the response to Hurricane Katrina.

UPI News
August 27, 2006

Former Director Michael Brown told ABC News,' 'This Week with George Stephanopolous' Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for the bungling.

"The lie was that everything was ready and that everything was working as a team. Behind the scenes, it wasn't working at all." Brown said. "There were political considertions going into all the discussions. There was the fact that New Orleans did not evacuate and the mayor (Ray Nagin) had no plan."

Brown said it was natural to "want to put the spin on that things are working the way they're supposed to do. And behind the scenes, they're not. Again, my biggest mistake was just not leveling with the American public and saying, 'Folks, this isn't working.'"

The former FEMA chief cited what he called an e-mail from a very source in the White House that says the president at a cabinet meeting said, "Thank goodness Brown's taking all the heat because it's better that he take the heat than I do."

Also on 'This Week,' U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), said the administration still doesn't understand the magnitude of the reconstruction problem; but the president's Gulf Coast coordinator, Don Powell, said the federal government's No. 1 priority is to rebuild this area in a businesslike way.