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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

October 14, 2007


Notes From the GOP

Question: What does the US economy and the New York Yankees have in common?
Answer: They both look great... on paper.

Last week's GOP debate focused on the economy, and it fell on the Republican candidates for president to defend their "paper economy".

MARIA BARTIROMO: (To former Senator Fred Thompson) The economy is America's greatest strength. In a recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, two-thirds of the American people said that we are either in a recession or headed toward one. Do you agree with that? And, as president, what will you do to ensure economy vibrancy in this country?
MADMAN: Before printing Thompson's rose-colored answer, allow me to point out Ms. Bartiromo's own view of the economy, remember that those on Wall Street still believe that it is booming. As Abraham Lincoln noted almost a century and a half ago (1861), "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could not have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." President Lincoln stated what those living in the Wall street bubble fail to see: That the fortunes of the investor class are dependent on the working class. And in this economy, the working class isn't doing too well. With real wages falling and less people employed (as seen in previous Note From a Madman issues) in relation to the number of able-bodied Americans, the great majority of Americans aren't doing so well. However, Ms. Bartiromo, who makes her living on CNBC, the cable channel created for the investor class, either felt it necessary to put that very special GOP spin on the economy as a preamble to the debate or truly believes that this economy is that rising tide lifting all boats.
Psst - Maria - it isn't.
FORMER SENATOR FRED THOMPSON: I think there is no reason to believe that we're headed for a recession. We're enjoying 22 quarters of successive economic growth that started 2001 and then further in 2003 with the tax cuts that we put in place.
We're enjoying low inflation. We're enjoying low unemployment. The stock market seems to be doing pretty well. I see no reason to believe we're headed for an economic downturn. As far as the economic prosperity of the future is concerned, I think it's a different story. I think if you look at the short term, it's rosy. I think if you look at a 10-year projection, it's rosy.
Everyone knows that we have to address that. And it's the fundamental and foremost challenge, I think, facing our country economically.
MADMAN: The Business Cycle Dating Committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that a recession needs to take into account "things like employment, industrial production, real income and wholesale-retail sales." Their definition states "a recession as the time when business activity has reached its peak and starts to fall until the time when business activity bottoms out."
Using these parameters, Thompson's statements are not only wrong, they're misleading and, apparently, intentionally so. First, those 22 quarters of "successive economic growth" were interrupted several times, the most recent by a loss of some 21,000 jobs to the economy this past August. it's just too bad that the debate moderators felt it necessary to let that one slip by.
Second, the "low unemployment" statement refuses to see the fact that fewer Americans are actually employed today under the Bush economy than were, as a percentage, under the failed economy of his father, who "boasted" an unemployment rate in excess of seven percent. It's called "spin", Sen. Thompson, and you're, apparently, no stranger to it.
But it was the "rosy" future comment that sticks in one's craw. Jobs have been in a steady decline since the Bushies took office. Even today, the increase in the number of jobs per month hasn't kept up with the increase in population. Real wages have fallen and the average American is in a negative savings situation. The cost for our health care eats up nearly 20 cents out of every dollar. And if that weren't enough, let's not forget what our currency is doing in real time: The Canadian dollar is now worth more than our US dollar - and they have national health care! Short term or long term, "rosy" is not the term I would use.
THOMPSON: But we are spending money we do not have. We are on a mandatory spending lockdown that is pushing us in a direction that is unsustainable. We're spending the money of future generations, and those yet to be born. That has to do with our mandatory spending problem.
MADMAN: Funny how Thompson left out Iraq in that statement. After all, isn't that the "mandatory spending" which he's speaking of? And if it isn't, just how many more programs that benefit the poor and the middle class will have to be scrapped?

BARTIROMO: Senator, you painted a very nice picture. The Dow and the S&P 500 today at new highs -- tonight -- record numbers.
MADMAN: See it now! See it live! See those living in the bubble of the investor class using the highly limited Wall Street standards (the Dow and the S&P) to spin how well the rest of us are doing. Both take small measurements of select, publicly traded companies and use that as a basis of deciding how well our nation is doing economically speaking. The real truth is that over seventy percent of all people employed are employed by small businesses owned by real people, not multi-national Globalist corporations. Those people who pay rent, mortgages, clip coupons and shop by price don't care much about the Dow of S&P because they spend their money as fast as they can make it - they have to. And how well those in the investor class' stocks perform make little difference to their bottom line.
BARTIROMO: And, yet, two-thirds of the people surveyed said we are either in a recession or headed for one. Why the angst?
MADMAN: Perhaps if Ms. Bartilomo were to drive through one of the tunnels or over one of the bridges which connect lower Manhattan, the area which houses Wall Street, to the rest of America (by way of New Jersey or Brooklyn), she would see just how the other 99 percent if us live. Living in the bubble of Manhattan's millionaire neighborhoods or their Georgetown (DC) counterparts can lead one to believe in Thompson's "rosy" scenarios. Reagan proved that "Trickle Down" doesn't work, and George Bush is re-proving it, Maria.
THOMPSON: Well, I think there are pockets in the economy that, certainly, they're having difficulty. I think they're certainly -- those in Michigan that are having difficulty. I think you always find that in a vibrant, dynamic economy.
I think that not enough has been done to tell what some call the greatest story never told, and that is that we are enjoying a period of growth right now and we should acknowledge what got us there and continue those same policies on into the future.
MADMAN: Just how out of touch does one need to be, Sen. Thompson? The "pockets" of those who aren't gaining from this "vibrant", as Bartilomo and Thompson call it, economy are more the norm than the exception. In truth, the "pockets" are of those making their fortunes even greater on the backs of the rest of us. The real "pocket" is the Bush "base" of "haves and have more" that pay less in taxes for each dollar they "earn" because they happen to have the extra money to invest rather than work for that dollar.

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, here in Detroit, Michigan, alone, one in every 29 homes went into foreclosure in the first six months of the year. Whose job is it to fix this problem? The government or private enterprise?
FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: It's everybody's job. It's inexcusable that Michigan is undergoing a one-state recession, that the rest of the country is growing and seeing low levels of unemployment, but Michigan is seeing ongoing, high levels of unemployment, almost twice the national rate.
MADMAN: A one-state recession? Perhaps Gov. Romney should take a look at the other 49 states in the union, and their unemployment rates (from August): Alaska: 6.3 percent; Arkansas: 5.5; California: 5.5; District of Columbia: 5.6; Illinois: 5.4; Kentucky: 5.6; Mississippi: 5.9; Ohio: 5.7; Oregon: 5.4; South Carolina: 5.6; and Wisconsin: 5.3. Michigan's rate was a staggering 7.4 percent without any clear change in sight. So, Gov. Romney, maybe it isn't so great n the "rest of the country", as you suggest?
It's just too bad that Bartiromo could only offer up a "thank you" in response to Romney's statements. It deserved more. like calling him out on his lies.

CHRIS (softball) MATTHEWS: Mayor Giuliani, the private equity firms are making billions of dollars. I guess it's a mystery to me -- and you can explain it, as a New Yorker -- where these billions of dollars come from; where were they before; and is there any downside to this amazing bonanza in the hedge fund and the private equity firms?
FORMER NYC MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I mean the market is a wonderful thing.
MADMAN: Especially with the GOP in the White House. But it certainly doesn't help the rest of us.
GIULIANI: And make sure you do something about legal reform so that our legal system doesn't -- it's 2.2% of our GDP now, is spent on all these frivolous lawsuits. It's double any other industrialized nation. If we don't get control of that, that's another way in which we're going to eat up our future.
MADMAN: 2.2 percent? Is that all? Health care, which is the scourge of most of the middle class, has risen to almost 20 percent of the GDP, or nearly ten time that of your frivolous lawsuit numbers, Mayor Giuliani. And in the case of lawsuits, the loser generally pays the court costs. Do you know who pays for those unpaid health care bills? The American middle class, Rudy, that's who.

And finally, a question that goes to the heart of the matter by Ms. Bartiromo. And, of course, it had to come after Rep. Ron Paul brought out the disparity of the tax rate between the "haves and have mores":

BARTIROMO: (to Senator John McCain) Wall Street executives are making millions of dollars every year, paying tax rates of 15 percent, while the average guy out there is paying 30% in taxes. Is this system fair?
MADMAN: McCain used this question to tell us "everybody pays taxes" and to state the obvious that we are "losing industrial jobs", McCain continued his rant without answering the question, prompting Ms. Bartiromo to ask this follow-up:
BARTIROMO: So you're saying, Senator -- so you're saying the system is fair? My question was: Is the system fair?
MCCAIN: Sure, it's fair.
MADMAN: And therein lies the problem. In a system where everybody is supposed to contribute to the common good at an incremental level in relation to their wealth, the "haves and have mores" are paying less in taxes per dollar than the rest of us. And McCain believing that it's fair is the problem. It's time for this Maverick to be put out to stud (or brought to the dog track) for good.

And the debate went on much in the same manner. Lies and spin; leaving out all of the data in favor of the data you require to make your point. If that doesn't sound familiar, perhaps it should: It's the same tactic used by the Bush administration which got us into the Iraq war in the first place. It's called putting the cart before the horse, or picking the facts you need to prove your pre-determined conclusion. And it has become a GOP favorite.

In truth, if a Republican gets into the oval office again in 2008, we will, in fact, stay the course, not only in Iraq, but in our failing economy as well. There will be no health care for all; there will be no fairness in taxes; and there will continue to be a great scasm between the Bushies "haves and have mores" and the other 99 percent of us stuck with the bills.

-Noah Greenberg

Flush Rush in Philly

Last evening (Oct. 11) from 7 PM to about 8:45 we held a "HONK FOR PEACE", "HONK TO BOYCOTT CBS AM RADIO 1210" (the sponsor of Rush Limbaugh's visit), "HONK IF YOU THINK RUSH IS A LYING PHONY", etc. sign-waving anti-Rush Limbaugh vigil across Broad Street from the Philadelphia Academy of Music. How the mighty have fallen; now that it no longer houses the Philadelphia Orchestra or anything important, this old Philly landmark has descended to the level of selling its stage time to cockroaches like Rush Limbaugh, who is now insulting our troops, 12-year-old kids and their money-strapped parents, not to mention Donovan McNabb and other folks much nicer than himself.

I'd hoped for a larger crowd, but most of our activist vets from Delaware Valley Veterans for America showed up--even from as far away as Atlantic City, NJ--plus a few from non-vet groups, although most of them left earlier than the vets did. Gold Star mother and antiwar spokesperson Celeste Zappala received a major activism award from Bread & Roses yesterday evening, and she and a couple of friends came and joined us after the ceremony. We all hugged her (as you can see from the picture below, with Celeste and Terry Perry).

When that group joined us, and before some of the first-arrivals left, we were taking up most of the sidewalk anyway, at the corner of Broad and Locust, since we were unable to spread out to both sides of the street and the median strip. Some of the uppah-uppah anti-Americans in their mink stoles and thousand dollar suits who were lined up to kiss Rush's YouKnowWhat were threatening us, being intellectually & morally handicapped, and thus unable to accept the American Way of Life. For our protection the cops shooed us to the opposite sidewalk to hold up our signs and holler in the good old-fashioned American way. From the standpoint of attracting pedestrians and stopped traffic, this was the better side anyway, since the stop light was right there at our corner, so the vets and a few others stayed for over an hour after the Super-Rich goons went inside to hear Rush. Amplified by Doc Bjornson's bullhorn (thanks, Doc!), RW Dennen used his loud Boatswain's Mate voice to explain our viewpoint to the people across the street, waiting to get in. (Way to go, RW! Naval salute!)

That was when we began to notice that Rush's audience weren't all sociopaths or brain-dead. We got a few V signs, waves, grins and thumbs up from people going in. They were probably reporters or opponents of Rush gathering info for local political groups--at $79 a ticket??!! Some group or newspaper or magazine must have paid for them. Nancy and Ray Smith opined that maybe half the dolled-up ones, the ones who weren't hostile to us, had been given gratis tickets by the corporations they work for, to provide employees an evening of brainwashing. (Veree eenteresting, jawohl. . . ?)

It was a very productive rally, since there was a lot of pedestrian traffic on our side of the street. Nearly all of them (and some who came over to see what we were doing) stopped to thank us and take our literature. A couple of veterans we didn't know came by and shook hands, and some people burst into tears because we were doing something positive for our country, which often happens, at least to me, maybe because I'm female. A huge group--busloads of School Board members from around the country attending their national convention--got off at our corner to return to their hotel. They flocked around us for 10 minutes or more. The School Boardians included a passel of folks from Mississippi. All of them, especially the Mississippians, were absolutely delighted with our activity, said they couldn't do what we were doing in the Police State of MS, and I got some Southern Comfort (hugs and kisses) from a couple of those guys. From dozens and dozens of passers-by and people in cars we got hand-shakes and promises to take the actions we recommend. See the attached action items, go thou and do likewise.

Anyhow, more than half of us stayed for over an hour after everyone went inside, and all but 16 of our 250 handouts were given out to pedestrians and people in "honking" cars who had stopped at the traffic light. The cops who protected us against the screaming, incoherent, radical fanatic mob eagerly took our literature. We have good relations with most of the Philly police, and the ones last night were great. The tall guy who was our personal guardian angel whispered his personal opinion of Rush Limbaugh into my ear, which sent me into a fit of laughter but which I can't put into print!

-Jenny Hanniver

In response to "More on the Frosts", Jenney Hanniver writes:

To clear up the truth about the Frosts, Robert Scardapane gave their real story in NATIONAL VIEW.

USA TODAY, which I'd always thought was a worthless rag, actually reported the truth!! Amazing.

Looks like NeoCons don't want anybody to try to start up a small business any more--and will dump on ANY person who tries to, especially a good family man, which most of them aren't. They probably have secret information that the big monopolists won't allow it! Mr. Frost tried and --like about 80% of U.S. small business startups -- went out of business. I'd sure like to know where he ever found a commercial building so cheap! I never heard of a commercial property selling as low as $160,000, not even back in the 1970s and certainly not nowadays. It really must have been a fix-up mess.

I'M SO GLAD WE GOT FOLKS TOGETHER TO "FLUSH RUSH" OUT OF PHILLY LAST NIGHT! He's the one who's been circulating the drivel about the Frosts. (Which is all that he ever does.)

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-Noah Greenberg