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by John Nichols
The trouble with making "functional" government the great aspiration of the American experiment -- as so many pundits and politicians now do -- is that a smoothly operating Congress is not necessarily moral, humane or even economically smart.
It is important to remember this disconnect as we consider the budget deal announced late Tuesday by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, D-Washington.
by Dean Baker
As we passed the fifth anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis this fall, the giant insurance company AIG was prominently featured in the retrospectives. AIG had issued hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps (CDS) on subprime mortgage backed securities. When these mortgage-backed securities failed en masse, AIG didn't have the money to back them up.
This would have forced AIG into bankruptcy. However Lehman had declared bankruptcy the day before and the world was still engulfed in the aftershocks. The Bush administration and the Federal Reserve board decided that they would stop the cascade of failing financial institutions and bail out AIG. As a result, the government agreed to honor all the CDS issued by AIG and effectively became the owner of the company.
by Chase Madar
If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
by Jack Healy
FOUNTAIN, Colo. — As their children cooed from wheelchairs and rocked softly in their arms, the marijuana migrants of Colorado clasped hands, bowed their heads and said a prayer of cautious thanks.
They thanked God for the dinner of roast turkey and mashed potatoes, for their children and for the marijuana-based serum that has drawn 100 families to Colorado on a desperate pilgrimage to quell the squalls of seizures inside their children’s heads. They have come from Florida and Virginia, South Carolina and New York, lining up to treat their children with a promising but largely untested oil that is considered legal medicine in this cannabis-friendly state.
“Thank you for bringing us together,” said Aaron Lightle, whose wife and 9-year-old daughter, Madeleine, moved here after the girl’s neurologists suggested removing part of her brain to stop her relentless seizures. “In crazy ways, maybe. But hey, we’re here.”
Amen, they said.
by David Cay Johnson
Anyone in a public-sector job looking forward to retiring in comfort should look carefully at what is going on in Detroit and Springfield, Ill. Sherlock Holmes would call it the case of the missing pension money.
News leaking out this week from the Motor City tells how the enormous gap between the pensions workers earned and the money set aside to pay for them will be closed. By stealing from the workers.
Courts, legislatures, and corporations are all working in concert not to pay the full benefits owed. For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments.
This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside.
by John Atcheson
Within the next few weeks, as the budget and deficit ceiling deadlines come closer, conservatives will start unleashing their five standard economic bogeymen so they can call for austerity budgets. Let’s examine their bogeymen, one by one.
Bogeyman number 1: The deficit is exploding and needs to be reined in.
Fact: The deficit is shrinking. Deficit hawks and austerity mongers raise the specter of debts and deficits as if we were in uncharted territory. In fact, we are, but not the territory they warn about. Within the last year and a half, the US deficit has been shrinking faster than at any time since World War II. In fact, one reason our economic recovery has been so anemic is the collapse of public spending, at a time when banks and corporations are shipping money overseas, playing bingo on Wall Street with our money, and hoarding it for CEO bonuses and other non-productive uses.
by Richard Eskow
Something is happening. It’s beginning to look as if the fight for a livable minimum wage might – just might – alter our political future.
Makes sense, when you think about it. The minimum wage struggle is occurring at the intersection of powerful forces. It’s taking place at a time of growing economic inequality, the erosion of working people’s rights, and the globalization of an economic oligarchy whose scope of power is unprecedented in modern times.
And now it appears to be applying an old maxim from the early days of the environmental movement: Think globally, act locally.
The voters decide.