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Insulting Workers, Coddling the Rich: Obama’s ‘Raise’ for Federal Workers is a Bad Joke

By Dave Lindorff


President Obama, five years late, decried the terrible income gap in the US, which has worsened during his years in the White House, and offered the puny “fix” of raising the minimum wage paid to employees working on federal projects from its current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. This executive order, which could have been done when he took office in the depths of the Great Recession back in 2009 would be not immediate but would be phased in over the next three years.


Playing the Defense Jobs Card Isn’t Working Anymore

By William D. Hartung, DefenseOne.com

The history of Pentagon spending is rife with examples in which programs have been saved from the budget cutter’s axe because of the jobs associated with them.  From the revival of the B-1 bomber in the 1980s to the current effort to keep the M-1 tank line open, jobs in key states and districts have provided powerful leverage to contractors seeking to save or extend major procurement programs. But those days may be coming to an end.

For the past two and one-half years, the Aerospace Industries Association, or AIA, has repeatedly played the jobs card in an effort to spare the Pentagon budget from automatic cuts called for in 2011’s Budget Control Act.  The association sponsored studies claiming that a million jobs would be eliminated if sequester level cuts took effect at the Pentagon, and spread the word far and wide.  But despite the partial reprieve supplied by December’s budget agreement, the bulk of the cuts called for by the Budget Control Act are taking effect and the widespread economic damage claimed by the AIA has not occurred. The jobs card didn’t work, and the massive job losses never materialized.

Even if the jobs argument didn’t save the Pentagon top line from reductions, it can still play a role in determining the future of specific weapons systems. The determination of the Congress to continue funding for programs like the M-1 tank and the Global Hawk is evidence that job-driven pork barrel politics is a alive and well. But even in fights over specific programs, the jobs argument isn’t as powerful as it used to be

The termination of the F-22 combat aircraft — known as the Raptor — is a case in point. When the Pentagon decided to end the program at 187 planes, Lockheed Martin and its partners on the project claimed that the program was supporting 95,000 jobs in 44 states. Over 200 members of the House, 44 Senators, 12 governors and the leadership of the International Association of Machinists sent “Save the Raptor” letters to the president, emphasizing the jobs argument. But when the showdown vote came in the Senate, a bipartisan anti-F-22 coalition led by Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., carried the day. While liberal Democrats like Patty Murray, D-Wash., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. — with significant F-22 work in their states — voted for the program, their votes were offset by Republican budget hawks like Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., John Ensign, R-Nev., and Mike Enzi, R-Utah, who voted against the F-22. The jobs argument failed.

A similar logic played out when Congress finally ended General Electric’s bid to be a second engine supplier for the F-35 combat aircraft. A bipartisan effort led by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., ended the second engine program despite the fact that the work would have been done near fellow Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio district.

The F-35 is the latest big project that is being touted as a major jobs creator as a way to fend off critics and ensure a steady flow of funding. But if the program is to be fully funded, it may have to win on the merits, not by emphasizing how many jobs it could create.

In a new report by the Center for International Policy, we have found that Lockheed Martin has exaggerated the number of jobs associated with the F-35 by a factor of two. In addition, the jobs generated by the program will be much more concentrated than F-35 boosters would have us believe, with over half of the jobs in just two states, Texas and California. And large portions of the aircraft will be built overseas.

In short, there just aren’t enough F-35 jobs in enough key locations to make the jobs argument a decisive factor in funding decisions about the plane. If the F-35 is to be fully funded, the contractors and the Air Force will have to prove that the planes can overcome current, serious cost and performance problems, and that they are needed to address the most urgent 21st century threats. Given that the F-35 is slated to be the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken by the Pentagon, that could be a hard sell. And if recent history is any indication, making exaggerated claims about the jobs the F-35 program will create won’t be much help in making the case for the plane.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of a new report, “Promising the Sky: Pork Barrel Politics and the F-35.”

Short-term profits trump survival: Washington and the Oil Industry Know the Truth about Climate Change

By Dave Lindorff


Climate skeptics in Congress, and oil and coal industry lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council may be preventing any significant action in the US on reducing this country’s emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, but at the Pentagon, and in the executive suites of the oil industry giants, there is no doubt about the reality of climate change.


Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law. 

Time to invite Occupy back to Wall Street: Is New York’s New Mayor De Blasio Really a Lefty or Just Another Progressive Poseur?

By Dave Lindorff


There is no question but that New York’s new mayor, Bill De Blasio, owes his landslide victory in the November election to the Occupy Movement.


Exclusive: Missouri Permit Shows Exploding ND Oil Train Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly

Warren Buffett Buys Stake in Pipeline Company on Same Day as North Dakota Oil Train Explosion

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

Optimistic Thought for the New Year: The Looming Battle for Real Social Security Can Spawn a New Progressive Movement

By Dave Lindorff


I don’t care if you are 75 and retired, 61 and just about to reach the age when you become eligible for Social Security, 50 and looking out 15 or 20 years to the time when you’ll need to retire, or 25 with grandparents collecting retirement benefits and wondering what will be there when you get old. Whatever your age, don’t let anyone tell you Social Security is in trouble, or that it “won’t be around” when you need it.


Mourning 100 Years of Usury under The Fed

December 23 marks the tragic 100th anniversary of the private Federal Reserve System, when the U.S. government gave to a private banking cartel that which no government has the right to give away--the sovereign right of a people to create and control their own money, the very lifeblood of a free and independent people. 

"The Congress shall have The Power To...coin Money...", Article 1, Section 8, U.S. Constitution. 

Contrary to what most Americans think, the Federal Reserve System is not a part of the U.S. government.  Rather it is network of private banking corporations, wholly controlled by a handful of Wall Street mega "too big to fail" banking corporations.  Anyone doubting their absolute power should hearken to Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois 2009 statement following the financial crash and the inability of Congress to regulate these banking corporations, "frankly they (banks) own the place (Capital Hill)." 

Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

Keystone XL Fork in the Road: TransCanada's Houston Lateral Pipeline

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Only Barack Obama knows the fate of the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  But in the meantime, TransCanada is preparing the southern half of the line to open for commercial operations on January 22.

A Holiday Fantasy: If I Were Emperor of the USA

By John Grant


It’s that time of the year again. Ho. Ho. Ho. There’s the urge to celebrate the Winter Solstice (AKA Christmas) with family and friends. It’s also time for end-of-the-year assessments concerning the absurdities of life in a fading empire in denial.

New "Frackademia" Report Co-Written by "Converted Climate Skeptic" Richard Muller

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of "frackademia," and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled "Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking" and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth "Liz" Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed "converted skeptic" on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study "about two years ago."

"We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player," he said. "The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking."

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

"They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes," he said. 

This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas." 

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

The Fight For 15

Originally posted at AcronymTV.com

Fast Food workers walked off their jobs in over 100 cities on Thursday, demanding a living wage. The actions were part of a movement to seeking the right to form a union without retaliation and for a $15 an hour wage. Chanting “We can’t survive on $7.25” workers and their allies took to the streets.

Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations' Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status. 

Making good news out of bad: BLS 7% Jobless Rate for November is Nothing to Cheer About

By Dave Lindorff


The White House, and most headline writers around the country, are crowing that the November jobless rate of 7.0%, reported Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the lowest since 2009 when President Obama took office, when it was 7.3% and rising.


But is this number really something worth cheering? 


Tar Sands' Next Frontier: Shipments on the Great Lakes

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Great Lakes, drinking water source for over 40 million North Americans, could be the next target on tar sands marketers' bullseye according to a major new report out by the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Firm with History of Spill Cover-Ups Hired to Clean Up North Dakota Oil Spill

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Tesoro Logistics — the company whose pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of fracked Bakken Shale oil in rural North Dakota in September — has hired infamous contractor Witt O'Brien's to oversee its clean-up of the biggest fracked oil spill in U.S. history.

The oil was obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale basin.

Talk Nation Radio: I'm Thankful We Can Abolish Debt

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-im-thankful

RollingJubilee.org has abolished over $14 million worth of people's debt to make the point that debt can be abolished.  Aaron Smith explains how.  Aaron Smith has been a participant in several initiatives of Occupy Wall Street, from park maintenance to research on the financial system. Currently, he is primarily involved in the Rolling Jubilee, a project to purchase defaulted debt on open markets and abolish it.  The Rolling Jubilee is meant to demonstrate the injustice of the debt system and make lives better in the process.  Aaron is a host of Occupy Wall Street Radio on WBAI.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Switzerland Shows U.S. How to Handle CEOs

In Switzerland a petition from 100,000 people, or about 1.25% of the population, creates a public referendum.  By this means, last March, Swiss voters created strict limits on executive pay.

On November 24, the Swiss will vote on whether to take a further step -- limiting executive pay to no more than 12 times the lowest salary in the company. Such a maximum wage policy allows the CEO pay increases, but only if workers get at least a twelfth as much.

A movement in the U.S. is asking: If Switzerland can do it, why can't we?

The Swiss are also set to vote, on a date yet to be set, to create a guaranteed basic income of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) per month for every adult. That's about $16 per hour for a full-time worker, but it's guaranteed even for those who can't find work.

You know what country can afford such a measure even more easily, given its vast supplies of wealth? The United States of America.

Here in the United States, had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since the 1960s it would now be $21.72 an hour, or $3,722 a month. The Congressional proposal of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama now says he supports, equals $1,751 a month for a fulltime job. The actual U.S. minimum wage of $7.25, which does not apply to all workers, makes $1,242 a month. But only if you can find work.

That's less than half what the Swiss are voting on, and Swiss workers also have their healthcare paid for, public transportation widely available, quality education and higher education free or affordable, 14 weeks paid parental leave, and a nearly endless list of other advantages provided by the government.

A basic income guarantee, currently practiced in Alaska and once supported by President Richard Nixon and the U.S. House of Representatives, would be far more efficient than targeted support programs, because every individual would receive the exact same check, with no stigma attached to it; and, yes -- believe it or not -- people who could find work would still work.

Switzerland has a greater percentage of its population made up by immigrants than the United States does. Switzerland has four national languages.  What allows Switzerland to practice democracy so much more effectively?

Two major parts of the answer are obvious. Switzerland doesn't fight wars, and it doesn't redistribute its wealth upward creating an overclass of multibillionaires.

Perhaps its time to begin moving our own country in a peaceful, prosperous direction. A growing number of people have decided to try.
 

Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending

By Dave Lindorff


A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.


Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

In the US Social Security’s ‘just a floor’: In Finland Saunas are Hot, Retirement is Cool

By Dave Lindorff


Helsinki—Mikko Kautto, impeccable in a blue suit and open-collared shirt, was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the modern Centre for Pensions building on the outskirts of Finland’s capital city, answering questions about the operation of his Nordic country’s retirement system.


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