via Jared Bernstein
via Jared Bernstein
The Socialist Party USA is skeptical of Rick Perry’s claim Sunday that President Obama is a socialist.
“The notion that Barack Obama is a socialist ranks among the greatest fairy tales in American society — right up there with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the idea that if you work hard enough your children will live a better life than you,” Socialist Party spokesperson Lynn Lomibao said in an email. “Socialists know what Obama is: another corporate funded politician placed in the White House to protect the wealth and status of the 1%.”
During a Sunday morning debate, Perry said, “I make a very proud statement and a fact that we have a president that’s a socialist.” Perry said states could do a better job than the federal government in delivering education, health care, and environmental regulations.
The Socialist Party, which The New York Times reported last year has 1,000 members, doesn’t see much socialism coming from the Obama administration.
“When Americans needed a solution to mass unemployment, Obama gave away billions in cash to bail out the banks,” Lomibao continued. “When Americans needed a single-payer healthcare system, Obama promoted a pro-health insurance healthcare ‘reform’ package that forced millions into junk healthcare plans subsidized by public funds. And when American workers asked for the right to join a union without employer harassment through the Employee Free Choice Act, Obama showed who he really answers to by betraying the promises he made to working people during his campaign.”
— Arthur Delaney
LAKEWOOD, N.J. — It was not long ago that most Americans would envy Marilyn Berenzweig.
A textile designer, she earned $100,000 a year and lived a comfortable New York City life with her husband, a former radio producer. They paid $2,000 month for their apartment, kept a vegan diet, and had had a soft spot for pet birds — ultimately collecting so many that they devoted a room to housing them.
But her world came crumbling two years ago when she lost her job in the recession. Like many of the jobless, Berenzweig couldn’t fund her old lifestyle with meager unemployment payments. She downsized. She moved from place to place. Eventually, she left the city altogether.
Today, Berenzweig eats, sleeps and entertains in a two-person tent in the middle of the woods. On her recent 61st birthday, she was one of dozens of people, from the chronically homeless to former professionals like herself, who have come to call such places home.
“We’re too young for Social Security and too old to to be trained for another job,” she said recently, standing by a makeshift kitchen table under a tarp outside her tent. “So here we are.”
Five years before members of the “Occupy” movement began camping across the country in parks from Wall Street to Main Street, a handful of the downtrodden and jobless set up in secluded woods on the outskirts of Lakewood, a township just 70 miles south of New York City near the Jersey Shore. They didn’t do it by choice, but as a last resort.
Today, the camp is home to almost 80 people, led by a former electrical contractor-turned-pastor who left a modest life to take his ministry on the dirt road. They live with little electricity and without a modern sewage system. Instead, they use propane tanks for heat and a pump that sends water to a generator-powered washing machine and shower housed in a shack.
The camp runs on donations from churches and temples whose members visit daily, and has survived on a budget of around $1,000 a month. In this thriving community, complete with a chapel, a TV room and bi-monthly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, new residents arrive every few weeks.
“This camp is for the homeless. It doesn’t matter what caused you to be homeless,” said the Rev. Steve Brigham, who lives in a converted school bus with a desk, twin-size bed and bookshelves from which he doles out supplies like food and propane tanks to residents. Yet, for all the hospitality he’s received from local churches and temples, he has started to have “trouble with the powers that be.”
A Lakewood resident since childhood who was ordained at a local nondenominational congregation, Brigham is talking about his hometown’s government. For most of its years, he said, the township largely ignored the tent city, but now Lakewood is taking Brigham to court to get the camp shut down.
A lawyer for Lakewood did not reply to a request for comment from The Huffington Post, but the township said in court filings that the campers are living illegally on public land. Brigham has responded by suing the township and the Ocean County, saying neither provide any other adequate shelter for the homeless. An eviction hearing is set for Friday, Jan. 6.
“In New York, if it’s below freezing outside, you can go to a shelter. In Ocean County, there is no shelter,” said Jeffrey Wild, an attorney with Lowenstein Sandler, a law firm that has taken up the case pro bono. Wild argues that the county is “required by New Jersey law to provide emergency shelter” and that the homeless have “a right to survive” on public land.
The county contends that it does its part for the downtrodden by renting motel rooms for hundreds of the homeless and running programs offering programs assisting with rent, mortgage and utility payments.
In total, 2,200 people take part such programs and other social services in Ocean County each night. But homeless advocates say many of the homeless aren’t accepted into the programs, whether due to disqualification or lack of resources. Between January 2009 and August 2011, 3,774 applications for emergency assistance were denied by the county, which has a total population of 576,567. A January count found 45 people who were unsheltered and homeless in the county, but advocates believe the number is higher.
“The county is not saying homelessness is not an important issue. We spend millions on the homeless,” said Jean Cipriani, an attorney who represents the Ocean County Board of Social Services. She added that the county, which spends $20 million each year on services for the poor, also has its hands tied because of the same recession that has led many to reside in the tent city to begin with.
Tim Wible is one of those residents. After 17 years, he recently lost his position as a carpenter. Living on $140 a month in general assistance and $200 a month in food stamps in addition to his meager savings, he barely made ends meet until he missed an evaluation appointment. Then, the money was cut off and he had nowhere to go.
“I’m looking for work every day, but it’s hard because I don’t have my IDs. So first I’m trying to get those,” said Wible, 43.
On a recent night, a Wible held hands with campers as Brigham led them in prayer after a visitor donated roasted chicken and pumpkin pies for dinner.
“Father, we thank you for this food that you have given us today. We ask you that you would bless the hands that made it. We ask that you would bless us all that we may accomplish thy will and pleasure,” the group chanted.
Wible said being a part of the camp has brought him closer to God.
“I’m not really a religious man, but I’ve started to go to services here with Steve. You wouldn’t believe how many people he’s helped,” he said. “I haven’t a clue what I would do if they shut this place down.”
Private employers added 220,00 jobs, moving the total of private-sector jobs created in 2011 to 1.9 million. Governments, particularly at the local level, cut jobs, holding overall job growth for the year to 1.6 million.
The improvement in the labor market is surely welcome news for President Obama, who has been widely criticized for the nation’s poor labor market. With the 2012 presidential campaign intensifying, Obama has struggled to win public approval for his handling of the economy, and steady job creation can only boost his political standing.
The upbeat jobs report capped an up-and-down 2011 for the U.S. labor market.
After brisk growth in the beginning of the year, the labor market stalled in the wake of higher energy prices, the Japanese earthquake and the political fight over raising the nation’s debt limit. But the job market improved significantly in the final quarter of the year.
Even with the positive report, stubborn problems remain. Some 5.6 million Americans — 42.5 percent of the unemployed — have been jobless for more than six months, a figure that was unchanged in December.
Also, minority joblessness remained at catastrophic levels: the black unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in December, and the jobless rate for Hispanics was 11 percent.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) cheered the report, even as he noted that the nation’s labor market remains troubled.
“It’s good news that more Americans found work last month despite a sluggish economy, but both parties must come together and do more to address the ongoing uncertainty that small businesses face,” he said in a statement. “Today marks the 35th consecutive month of unemployment above eight percent, and too many Americans continue to struggle to find their next job.”
The jobs report builds on a several new indicators pointing toward an economy on the upswing.
The government reported Thursday that claims for unemployment benefits declined in the final week of December, moving the average over the past four weeks to its lowest level in more than three years.
The Institute for Supply Management reported this week that its employment index for December was 55.1, the highest reading since June. A reading above 50 means that more companies are creating jobs than cutting them.
The nation’s factories have added more than 300,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010 — about 13 percent of what was lost during the recession — marking the first sustained increase in manufacturing employment since 1997, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Auto sales in December were up, continuing their substantial improvement from the summer. And for all of 2011, vehicle sales rose 10 percent.
On Thursday, several analysts cautioned not to make too much of the good news too soon.
Bernard Baumohl, chief economist for the New Jersey-based Economic Outlook Group, said that regardless of what happens with the December unemployment number, the economy faces major hurdles in 2012.
Europe’s economy is teetering on the edge of recession, and China’s roaring economy is beginning to cool, he said, developments that pose substantial risk to U.S. economic and employment growth. In addition, he said, oil prices are likely to rise next year as tension increases in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East.
Meanwhile, he added, business and individual consumers are likely to cut back, after a relative spending binge that helped increase economic growth by an estimated three percent in the final months of 2011. “The recent uptick in shopping, while cathartic, is simply unsustainable,” the firm wrote in its 2012 economic forecast.
Any or all of those factors could slow job growth in the early months of 2012.
“I have my concerns that the pace of job growth will likely slow in the first half of this year as the economy slows,” Baumohl said. “We just do not have a basis for optimism that the economy or job market has turned the corner.”
When he returns Wednesday afternoon, expect a different tone.
The Cleveland-area visit, which the White House bills as remarks on the economy, is likely to present Obama in a new, election-year narrative. Where he once sought compromise, Obama now aims to distance himself from a Congress with historically low approval ratings.
“In terms of the president’s relationship with Congress in 2012 . . . the president is no longer tied to Washington, D.C.,” a deputy press secretary told reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post during a briefing in Hawaii, where Obama was vacationing last week.
Signs of the shift became apparent before Christmas when the Democratic-controlled Senate approved a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut set to expire Jan. 1. House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, balked at the deal and called for a full-year extension.
With senators already on holiday recess, Obama and fellow Democrats cast the Republicans’ unwillingness to forge a short-term deal as a willingness to raise taxes. On Dec. 22, the House GOP agreed to the two-month extension, handing a political victory to the president.
Further elevating the political stakes of Wednesday’s speech is the fact Obama will deliver it hours after the Iowa caucuses, the first Republican presidential nominating contest.
Obama is scheduled to speak at 1:15 p.m. Beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the school district’s administration building on Parkland Drive.
Ohio, which holds its primary March 6, remains a state key to winning in November; the Shaker Heights visit will be Obama’s 16th to the Buckeye State since taking office in January 2009. Yet Obama’s poll numbers show he has a challenge ahead. In a Quinnipiac University survey last month, 55 percent of Ohioans disapproved of the president’s job performance.
Obama won here by four points in 2008 and saw promising signs last fall after a Democratic-backed coalition led the repeal of a labor law championed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. A week after the measure went down, Obama’s re-election campaign sent Vice President Joe Biden to Euclid to celebrate with firefighters and other unionized public employees.
But Republicans were equally encouraged by last fall’s vote on Issue 3, which delivered a strong rebuke to Obama’s health care plan and passed by a greater margin than the labor law failed. On Monday, upon hearing where Obama would speak Wednesday, those Republicans were quick to recall what he discussed the last time he visited Shaker Heights High School.
A Republican National Committee spokesman emailed reporters a link to a story about the Issue 3 vote. And Ohio GOP spokesman Christopher Maloney criticized Obama for holding “political pep rallies and swing-state speeches that don’t create jobs.”
Via email, Maloney added: “The students at Shaker Heights High School and all Ohio families deserve a president who will place their needs and opportunities for a brighter future, before the focus of his own re-election.”
Congressional Republicans have acted shocked and offended at Democrats’ suggestions that they are intentionally sabotaging the economy to try to win back the White House in 2012. Republicans have refused to pass President Obama’s jobs plan — which experts estimate will create at least 1.9 million jobs — and proposed an alternative plan that Moody’s says “will likely push the economyback into recession.”
Now influential Tea Party leaders are throwing caution to the wind and openly lobbying business owners to stop hiring in order to hurt Obama politically. This week, Right Wing Watch picked up on a message Tea Party Nation sent to their members from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone.
In a rambling letter titled “Call For A Strike of American Small Businesses Against The Movement for Global Socialism,” Brookstone urges businesses “not hire a single person” to protest “this new dictator”:
Resolved that: The current administration and Democrat majority in the Senate, in conjunction with Progressive socialists from all around the country, especially those from Hollywood and the left leaning news media (Indeed, most of the news media.) have worked in unison to advance an anti-business, an anti-free market, and an anti-capitalist (anti-individual rights and property ownership) agenda. […]
I, an American small business owner, part of the class that produces the vast majority of real, wealth producing jobs in this country, hereby resolve that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped.
Brookstone cites Democrats’ support of the Occupy Wall Street movement as proof that Obama, media elites, and the like are “against business, private property ownership and capitalism.” Although she fails to explain how a freeze on hiring would send a bold pro-business message, given that such a boycott would further damage the economy and exacerbate high national unemployment.
But these Tea Partiers are only too happy to put politics ahead of the well-being of 14 million unemployed Americans, not to mention the businesses who are looking for qualified workers
House GOP leaders have decided to delay a vote on the Senate payroll tax bill until midday Tuesday, abandoning tentative plans to hold votes as late as 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The party whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), attributed the delay in the vote to the Republican pledge to not pass legislation in the middle of the night, as they had criticized House Democrats for doing. The votes on Tuesday, he said, will occur “in the light of day.”
In a rare move, the GOP leaders sought to align themselves with President Obama, saying their push for a yearlong extension was “exactly what the president asked us to do.”
House leaders also appear to be looking to avoid a separate, up-or-down vote on the Senate payroll tax bill.
House freshman are adamant in their opposition to the Senate bill and favor a year-long extension of the payroll tax holiday, but centrist Republicans in the conference would not come out against the short term bill when asked about it after a GOP conference meeting on Monday night.
The Senate approved the measure in an overwhelming bipartisan 89-10 vote, and several Senate Republicans on Monday urged the House to approve the measure.
With Democrats planning to support the measure, Republicans cannot afford many defections on an upcoming vote.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted the House would defeat the bill, however, and Republicans at the Monday meeting said few in any of their colleagues spoke out in favor of the two-month extension at the meeting.
One exception was Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), who told The Hill, “I’m thinking about it, I really am.” Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) earlier on Monday said he would support the Senate bill.
Another possible question-mark, centrist New York Republican Rep. Peter King told The Hill that he would support the leadership’s course of action on the extenders package.
A vote just on a motion to convene a conference committee could give politically vulnerable members the wiggle room to support Boehner without entirely voting against a two-month extension of the payroll tax.
“I think we have to vote down what the Senate sent back but there is a way to do it where we are voting yes,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).
House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he could not say if his committee would consider a rule for that up-or-down vote.
House Republican leaders emerged from the closed-door meeting determined to force the Senate into a conference committee. “Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month, short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters. “We’re here. We’re willing to work.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said House Republicans “outright reject the attempt by the Senate to kick the can down the road for 60 days. It’s an unworkable solution.”
Boehner was pressed on why he did not warn Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) that the compromise he struck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would not fly with the House GOP.
“I made it clear to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell that the House was not going to enter into negotiations until such time as the Senate did its job,” Boehner said. “It was time for the Senate to produce something. We disagreed with what the Senate produced.”
He did not answer directly when asked if McConnell had struck “a bad deal.”
“They did their job. They produced a bill. The House disagrees with it,” the Speaker said.
WASHINGTON — The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, in a new report likely to figure prominently in the escalating political fight over how to revive the economy, create jobs and lower the federal debt.
In addition, the report said, government policy has become less redistributive since the late 1970s, doing less to reduce the concentration of income.
“The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes,” the budget office said.
Also, it said, federal benefit payments are doing less to even out the distribution of income, as a growing share of benefits, like Social Security, goes to older Americans, regardless of their income.
The report, requested several years ago, was issued as lawmakers tussle over how to reduce unemployment, a joint committee of Congress weighs changes in the tax code and protesters around the country rail against disparities in income between rich and poor.
In its report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. For others in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent.
By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent.
And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent.
The findings, based on a rigorous analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau, are generally consistent with studies by some private researchers and academic economists. But because they carry the imprimatur of the nonpartisan budget office, they are likely to have a major impact on the debate in Congress over the fairness of federal tax and spending policies.
Also cited as factors contributing to the rapid growth of income at the top were the structure of executive compensation; high salaries for some “superstars” in sports and the arts; the increasing size of the financial services industry; and the growing role of capital gains, which go disproportionately to higher-income households.
The report found that higher-income households got a larger share of the pie, while other households got smaller shares.
Specifically the report made these points:
¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.
¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.
¶ People in the lowest fifth of the population received about 5 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, down from 7 percent in 1979.
¶ People in the middle three-fifths of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 to 3 percentage points from 1979 to 2007.
The study was requested by Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, when he was the senior Republican on the panel.
Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said the report was “the latest evidence of the alarming rise in income inequality.”
House Republicans pushed back Tuesday against President Obama’s complaint that they were blocking bills to create jobs. Speaker John A. Boehner said he agreed with Mr. Obama’s new slogan, “we can’t wait,” and he said that 15 House-passed bills were “sitting over in the Senate, waiting for action.”
On Tuesday, the White House endorsed another bill, which is likely to be passed by the House this week with bipartisan support. The bill would repeal a requirement for federal, state and local government agencies to withhold 3 percent of certain payments to suppliers of goods and services and to deposit the money with the Internal Revenue Service.
This requirement was originally adopted as a tax-compliance measure, and the Congressional Budget Office said its repeal would reduce federal revenues by $11 billion over 10 years.
House Republicans would offset the cost with a bill that reduces federal spending on Medicaid under the 2010 health care law. The White House said it supported the bill, intended to fix an apparent error in the law, under which hundreds of thousands of middle-income early retirees can get Medicaid coverage meant for the poor.
The joint Congressional committee on deficit reduction is considering changes in a wide range of benefit programs.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said Tuesday that he was hopeful but not entirely confident that the panel would succeed in reaching a bipartisan agreement to reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
“Hopeful is not confident,” Mr. Hoyer said.
So if you’re really, really stupid and want to suggest a way to revitalize the economy, what do you do? As our most prominent stupid candidate proposes, incentivize marriage! It’s stupid as it gets, but it’s just what you’d expect of Rick Santorum(R-PA) and exactly what he proposed the other night at Bloomberg/The Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate at Dartmouth College.
I know…take a deep breath.
Yes, incentivizing marriage will fix the economy and put an end to poverty. And here we thought all we had to do was kill all the gay people and a wholesale genocide of the middle class. Who knew?
But no, says the anti-genius: He told debate moderator Charlie Rose that “the biggest problem with poverty in America, and we don’t talk about here, because it’s an economic discussion — and that is the breakdown of the American family.”
“You want to look at the poverty rate among families that have two — that have a husband and wife working in them? It’s 5 percent today. A family that’s headed by one person? It’s 30 percent today. We need to do something, and we need to talk about economics. The home — the word ‘home’ in Greek is the basis of the word ‘economy.’ It is the foundation of our country. We need to have a policy that supports families, that encourages marriage, that has fathers take responsibility for their children. You can’t have limited government — you can’t have a wealthy society if the family breaks down, that basic unit of society. And that needs to be included in this economic discussion.”
In the long, long history of stupidity, this proposal has to be one of the most absurd and it cements Santorum’s place at the bottom of an already dismal Republican heap. The Democrats offer Barack Obama, and this is the best Santorum can come up with? Incentivize marriage? Really?
Given the Republican inability – and complete lack of desire – to create jobs, it’s difficult to imagine adding a jobless mate to an already jobless mate and expecting that a small monetary incentive will revitalize the single family in question let alone the entire economy. Low wage Republicans don’t seem to realize that 0+0=0. Nothing plus nothing is still nothing. It will always be nothing. And nothing is all they want us to have.
But hey, we’ll be married!
And as they say, misery loves company.
And of course, Santorum isn’t proposing gay folks get married. We’ve seen how he feels about marriage equality:
In fact, according to Santorum, speaking earlier this year, same-sex marriage actually destroyed the economy. Somehow, a principle of morality comes into play here – a moral marriage will be good for the economy but an immoral marriage won’t – you have to wonder where Santorum studied his economics because they didn’t discuss that when I was studying economics in college.
Republicans, including Santorum, can’t admit that class warfare is the problem, that our economy was destroyed by unregulated moneyed interests, and not by single-parent families. He’s right in saying families need to succeed but he can’t seem to wrap his feeble little mind around the idea that maybe giving people jobs would actually accomplish that – even for single parent families. And it’s incredible that if his thesis is that marriages will fix the economy that he isn’t also supporting marriage equality.
The broad message of Republicans is resonating, with 57 percent of the country saying the best way to create jobs is to cut taxes and government spending. That hasn’t stopped the party’s brand from deteriorating, and the public rejects many specific Republican policy prescriptions.
From far away, voters buy the tough-love premise. Up close, they want Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy before cutting Medicare or Social Security. They also like health reform — just 34 percent agree with Republicans that it should be repealed.
Another new survey, this one not tweeted by Speaker Boehner, says that Americans prefer President Obama’s approach to the economy over Republicans. They like the American Jobs Act by 43-35, and when you break it down into parts, Steve Benen notes, they like it even more:
[T]he more important results show strong support for individual provisions of the plan: clear majorities Americans support cutting the payroll tax (65% support), providing state aid to protect jobs for teachers and first responders (74%), and infrastructure investments (64%).
Republicans oppose all of these ideas.
We saw something of the same thing in the health reform fight — even people opposed to it on principle really liked the particulars.