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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Friday-Sunday, August 3-5, 2007


The 35W Bridge and President Photo-Op

First Lady Laura Bush arrived in Minneapolis for what would have to be termed moral support, on Friday. President Bush will arrive on Saturday, a full three days after the 35W bridge collapsed killing and injuring dozens of such hour travelers in the Twin City. In contrast, it took just hours for the President to jump on Air Force One to sign a bill into law for just one person - Terri Schiavo - in what could only be considered a photo-op-patronizing moment.

But there's good reason for the delay in GW's arrival at the scene of this disaster: He had to wait and make sure that the bridge was safe enough to stand on for this new photo-op. And sure enough, President Bush was standing right there, with the fallen bridge in the background and the dead under his feet for his Photo-op.

PRESIDENT BUSH (from the scene of the 35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN): I'm here with the Secretary of Transportation, because our message to the Twin Cities is, we want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible...
MADMAN: I wonder of that's like how he wants to rebuild the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Well, at least Senator Trent Lott can still invite President Bush for Mint Juleps while they "set-a-spell" on his porch. I'm sure that Sen. Lott's house is now okay.

BUSH: There's a lot of paperwork involved with government. One of our jobs is to work with the Governor and the Mayor and the senators and the members of the Congress to cut through that paperwork, and to see if we can't get this bridge rebuilt in a way that not only expedites the flow of traffic, but in a way that can stand the test of time.
MADMAN: Already getting the blame machine going, President bush is pre-determining whose going to take the blame in case something comes in the way of federal assistance in rebuilding the 35W Bridge and helping the people of Minneapolis get an important artery back in action, not to mention their lives.

BUSH: I make no promises on the timetable.
MADMAN: I get it now! It isn't that President Bush is against helping people, he just can't work with "timetable". Those deadlines can be so pressure-filed.

BUSH: I do promise that Mary Peters, the Secretary of Transportation, is going to be in charge of this project. I do promise she's going to listen to the local authorities to find out what the folks here need. I do promise that when she sees roadblocks and hurdles in the way of getting the job done, she'll do everything she can to eliminate them.
MADMAN: Get ready for "...and Petey - you're doing a heck-of-a job."

-Noah Greenberg


Numbers Watching

There is a place to get the government's latest economic numbers at a glance that isn't talked about: www.bls.gov. The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor statistics is the one place where you can find out how well you're doing month-to-month, and noting the latest numbers, the only conclusion I can come up with is you're not going to like it.

CPI: the Consumer Price Index, or Inflation, as many of us know it, has risen again, up 0.2 percent. However, that number is dwarfed the second quarter of 2007's total of nearly five percent. In just three months, the CPI of our nation has risen 4.9 percent, with energy having risen by - get ready for this - sit down or something - 32.9 percent! Ouch!

Energy prices rise and fall quite curiously. Take a look at these numbers:

  Dec-06 Jan-07 7-Feb 7-Mar 7-Apr 7-May 7-Jun 2nd Quarter Ending June '07 12 Month Period Ending June '07
Increase In Energy CPI 4.2 -1.5 0.9 5.9 2.4 5.4 -0.5 32.9 4.6

-from www.BLS.gov

Notice how a 4.2 percent increase in December, 2006 was followed by a 1.5 percent decrease in January, 2007 and a three months of gigantic increases are followed by a miniscule drop of 0.5 percent to end out the 2nd quarter of 2007.

Cute, huh? Why one might think that they're doing it on purpose.

How many of you remember the days after Hurricane Katrina and the mini-gas shortage that followed? Allow me to refresh your collective memories: Using pictures of off-shore drilling platforms and oil refineries, the TV news organizations told us how Katrina effected all of the world's oil. They said that roads were damaged so bad that tanker trucks wouldn't be able to get gas to the depots and prices were going to be effected. THEY ROSE OVER ONE DOLLAR PER GALLON IN JUST A MATTER OF HOURS! Gas stations weren't getting deliveries while they ran out of supply. Lines were long like they were in the 1970's Arab Oil Embargoes. Driving along the northern part of New Jersey's Route 35, I personally watched as prices rose from station to station: $2.759; 2.919; $3.259, etc. I passed up getting gas at a station whose price was that $3.259 because the line was too long. By the time I got to a station not even a mile further north, I had the privilege of watching the price change from $3.459 to $3.659 as I waited in line. The attendant actually told me how lucky I was to get it at that price because, he said, the price was even going to go higher than that!

And yet, driving along with my family, my wife noticed a gas station selling their brand for a "mere" $2.559 just the other day. Her exact words were, "Wow! Gas prices are going down." It was then I had to remind her that we were paying about a buck a gallon in New Jersey at the end of 2000. Additionally, I had to point our her consistent reminders to me about how high our twelve-month energy plan (which keeps our home energy bill consistent throughout the year, then adjusts it at year's end) keeps going up and how she complains about it (she pays the bills).

"Petroleum-based energy costs increased at a 48.3 percent annual rate and charges for energy services rose at a 5.5 percent annual rate,"
-The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Summary

48.3 percent! And that's just gas (and related) prices.

Taking all items into consideration, the last 12 months has shown a moderate CPI rise of 2.7 percent. However, that same chart tells us of a troublesome rise in 2007's 2nd quarter overall where prices have now risen a total of 5.2 percent. And it isn't just limited to energy. Food has risen almost five percent alone (4.9), which included a whopping rise of nearly fifteen (14.8) percent rise in dairy products alone. That's "dairy" as in "mike", people. And it gets worse.

"Consumer prices increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.2 percent in the second quarter after advancing at a 4.7 percent rate in the first three months of 2007. This brings the year-to-date annual rate to 5.0 percent and compares with an increase of 2.5 percent in all of 2006,"
-The BLS CPI summary

And to add insult to injury, Medical Care has risen nearly four percent (3.8) in the 2nd quarter as well.

And as the prices for our staples of life trend higher and higher, one has to ask how are our salaries and such faring? Well, as it turns out, not so good. US worker salaries rose six cents and hour, thanks in part to a new minimum wage bill. At the same time, only 92,000 jobs were created (remember that it takes 150,000 jobs per month to keep up with the increase in population). Even the skewered numbers of unemployment have risen to 4.6 percent. However, what makes these numbers so scary is that they included a .6 percent drop on teenager unemployment as they gained 15, 200 (16.5 percent) of those new jobs created.

In all, 274,000 Americans lost their jobs in the period from June through July, 2007. 188,000 have joined the unemployment ranks while 86,000, according to the government stats, don't need, want or care to work any longer (the highly suspicious "not in labor force" figure). The BLS says that 78.7 million Americans now fall into the "I don't want to work" category.

And while this trend of low pay for less jobs and higher prices continue, the Bush administration points to their "base" of "have and have mores'" signs to tell us all how well the economy is doing. They point to the stock market - the rich man's barometer of economic health - and how well it is doing to tell us all how well we are doing. And the irony is that all of those products which now costs us all more are filling the pockets of Bush's very rich "base" while emptying ours.

I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign question: Are we better of now than we were seven years ago? Sure don't look that way.

-Noah Greenberg

Rudy Giuliani "health care plan" is absolute nonsense

Failure of the press aside, let's examine this "vision." What Giuliani offered is this: A tax exclusion of up to $15,000 for families, and $7,500 for individuals, to help pay for health care. What Giuliani is relying on is people reading those numbers -- $15,000 and $7,500 -- without noticing that they don't denote the amount of money he's offering them, but the amount of money he's not taxing them on. And when we plug it into my magical Rudy Translation Machine (constructed with the help of friendly neighborhood economist, Dean Baker), we can watch how $15,000 can easily become. Zero.
Let's stipulate a family of four -- a mom, a dad, and two children. The type of family Republicans like. And let's say your household income is $30,000 a year. Giuliani's tax exclusion will save you . nothing. Your income isn't taxable anyway. Bring it up to $40,000 . and it's still nothing. Your child tax credits are crossing out your taxable income. Indeed, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 55 percent of the uninsured don't earn enough money to have any taxable income. This proposal -- unless changed from a straight exclusion to a refundable tax credit -- will do literally nothing for them.
-from Ezra Klein (http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=a_man_with_a_nonplan)

I am disgusted by the lack of analysis and fairness in the mainstream media.

When Democrats make health care proposals, they are blasted as "socialists".

Giuliani comes up with complete rubbish and with the exception of Ezra Klein no one says anything. Giuliani's proposal is essentially identical to Bush's; it's completely worthless and incredibly dangerous because the real impact is that millions of Americans would lose the health care plans they have through employers and be unable to afford insurance even with this tax deduction.

-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane

And in response to "Rudy Hates Health Care", Robert Scardapane writes:

Have you noticed that Giuliani is reading from the Bush-Cheney playbook? The only difference I detect is that he promises to be even tougher than Bush-Cheney. After 8 miserable years of Bush-Cheney, do Americans really want someone who promises to be even worst?

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-Noah Greenberg