Category Archives: Economic Policy

Quick! Who’s Position is This…Bush or Giuliani???

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Okay, time for a little fun. Can you guess who said the following regarding various issues??? 

U.S. Policy toward Africa

He said the United States should focus its policy toward Africa on increases in trade. “U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty.”

In May 2007, he was informed that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in companies that work in Sudan.

U.S. Policy toward India

He views India’s rapidly growing economy as a potentially lucrative market, saying the United States should “take advantage” (CNBC) of the “large number of consumers that are emerging in India.” In particular, he said, the U.S. stands to “make a lot of money in India” in new energy technology.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

He said he supports the detention camp at Guantanamo. He said in a June 2007 interview with the Wall Street Journal that he believes the allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo have “been grossly exaggerated, and many of the reports that I see are that it’s not terribly different from any other prisons.”

Domestic Intelligence

He defended the domestic spying initiatives, saying “he did it to protect our national security and to try to find out information about people that might attack us and might be preparing an attack on us, in order to secure us, in order to protect us.” He said in September 2007 that electronic surveillance should not be “unrealistically” limited.

War on Terror

He responded to John Edwards’ criticism of the war on terror, saying in June 2007, “This is not a bumper sticker; this war is a real war.” He generally refers to “the terrorist war against us,” lately, rather than the “war on terror,” he told TIME.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

He believes in a larger goal of a democratic (AFP) Iraq and Middle East. But, he says, stability takes precedence over democracy. “Democracy can’t flourish unless people are safe. You can’t have democracy when people are being killed,” he said in January 2007.

Energy Policy

He has ties to various energy companies, many of which are fossil fuel-oriented including Duke Energy Corp., the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, Valero Energy Corp, and FPL Energy. He has supported increased use of nuclear power.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

He has held up Israel as “the only outpost of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the only absolutely reliable friend of the United States.” (Haaretz) In a 2002 speech, he stressed that Jerusalem must “remain the undivided capital” of Israel. He also said at that time that the Palestinian Authority is not a “moral equivalent” to the Israeli government, because “there is a difference between a nation based on law and democracy and one that harbors terrorism.” He called on the Palestinian Authority to create “institutions of political and economic freedom and religious toleration.” More recently, he said that in his view it “makes no difference” whether the Palestinian Authority is run by Hamas or Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. At a March 2007 fundraiser, he also said that the United States should “not push any peace process” until the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist and condemns terrorism.

North Korea Policy

He supports the policy of China placing pressure on Pyongyang. “I think the strategy has produced enough results so far that you have to stick with it,” he said. He indicated it remains unclear whether Iran or North Korea is further along in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Cuba Policy

He is critical of Castro, which he made clear recently in a speech over whether or not to return Cuban child Elian Gonzales to Cuba in 2000 (He was an outspoken voice for keeping the boy in the United States).

He also attacked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for following Castro’s “model.” (AP) Speaking to a group in Florida, he said the United States must build an alliance with Mexico and Colombia to counteract the shift to the left of Latin American governments.

U.S. Policy toward China

He has not made many public statements on his views of China. However, he said in an CNBC interview that limiting China ’s ownership of U.S. debt is “generally a bad idea and generally self-defeating.” He said that the U.S. should build industries that we can sell” in China.

Defense Policy

He has called for an “offense-as-a-defense” (Journal-Register)strategy towards al-Qaeda, backing the U.S. troop surge and continued presence in Iraq.

He fully advocates the addition of thirty-five thousand troops to the army’s current level of 512,000 (AP).

In September 2007, he said the United States should pursue a nuclear missile defense system, as “America can no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as ‘mutual assured destruction’ in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes.”

Iraq

He says we need a plan by which to measure progress but that does not include troop withdrawals. “You need statistics,” (FOX) he said in January 2007. “You need to be able to determine whether or not you’ve brought the violence down. If it doesn’t work, then you got to put more people in.”

He opposes any “artificial timeline” for troop withdrawal from Iraq, which he says would be tantamount to giving America’s enemies “a printed-out list of how it’s going to retreat (ChiTrib) to its enemy.” He is steadfast in his support for the war, which he considers part of the larger global war on terror.

Trade

In October 2007 he spoke in support of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, saying they “would be good deals for the United States.”

Homeland Security

In a September 2006 he stressed the need for a nuclear material detection system in the United States.

Iran

He has the United States should proceed diplomatically with Iran, but that “we will use a military option if we have to.” He said a military strike would be “very dangerous”but nuclear arms in the control of “an irrational person” like President Ahmadinejad was more dangerous.

His supporters are vocal advocates for bombing Iran preemptively in order to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. 

Climate Change

He said he believes climate change exists (SFChron) and that something must be done to reduce pollution. However, he has not said outright that he believes climate change is caused by human activity. His statements with regard to policy on the issue have been rather vague.

Immigration

He supports some type of path (NYT) to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “If you have twelve million people, to thirteen to fourteen to fifteen million that are here illegally, it is much easier for terrorists and drug dealers to hide,” he said recently. He also said that he is in favor of a border fence and a database with which to keep track of all immigrants. 

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani opposed a law (NYT) that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security, food stamps and health care benefits.

United Nations

He has been extremely critical of the United Nations, which, he said, “proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years.” He says the institution’s primary capabilities are in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, but “we should not expect much more of it.”

Specifically, he said the United Nations must hold accountable states that support or condone terrorism. “Otherwise, you will fail in your primary mission as peacekeeper,” he said. “It must ostracize any nation that supports terrorism. It must isolate any nation that remains neutral in the fight against terrorism.”

U.S. Policy toward Russia

He advocates commercial engagement with Russia, but has also expressed support for the planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. In October 2007 he called for an increase in military spending to “send a heck of a signal” to Russia.

Recently he traveled to Moscow to promote U.S.-Russian business relations.

And the answer is [dramatic pause…]

Rudi Giuliani

So if you vote for him, you clearly vote for more of the same neo-con nonsense. 

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World-Wide Recession Looming???

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From: Foreign Policy Passport 

U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s pessimistic testimony to Congress on Thursday has caused increased handwringing around the world, with new reports questioning whether the sub-prime fallout will lead to a worldwide recession. The general consensus is no — the damage will be contained to the housing sector and hedge funds, which irresponsibly invested in sub-prime.

But what if sub-prime’s use were actually more widespread? Some mutual funds have acknowledged small investments in the funds. This isn’t a big deal, as some risk is to be expected in those vehicles. But what about money-market funds, where most personal savings are invested? They offer a low rate of return and are considered one of the safest investment. But according to a recent Bloomberg article, money-market fund managers have invested $11 billion in sub-prime, including managers at Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. In other words, about $11 billion worth of personal savings are at risk.

In the grand scheme of things, $11 billion is a drop in the bucket. But as we’ve seen over the last few months, small problems like this tend to be more widespread, so it’s likely more money-market funds will be forced to acknowledge sub-prime investments, and peoples’ savings, which are already at historic lows, could disappear. If this happens, recession would be inevitable, and depression a real possibility.

Lenders Collude with Appraisers to Push Overpriced Homes Fueling Sub Prime Mess…

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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recented initiated a lawsuit against a real estate appraisal unit of the Fortune 500 company First American Corp.He says the appraiser colluded with Washington Mutual, one of the largest savings and loan companies, to inflate home values. According to Cuomo, the practice is widespread and has contributed to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

I’ve known that for 15 years Andrew…thanks for the update.

It is no secret that Realtors, appraisers, and lenders have been colluding for years to drive an over-inflated housing market, by selling over-valued homes to people who couldn’t afford them. Result? A giant crap sandwich.

Cuomo claims that during the housing boom, mortgage companies started leaning harder on appraisers to basically lie about home values. “We believe this is a problem all across the industry,” he says. “We believe the federal government has not been effective at regulating it. We believe it has serious consequences long-term.”

As usual, your governing bodies are behind the learning curve. All they needed to do was pick up a newspaper at any point over the past ten years or so and begin reading the classified section in large cities like Atlanta, Dallas, New York, and L.A. To their collective amazement, they would have found hundreds of ‘small’ three bedroom ranch homes selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond their fair-market-value.

Who pays $890,000 for a two bedroom condo? Who pays over $1 million for a three bedroom ranch with no garage at a whopping 2300 square feet?

The foolishness was as plain as day, but no one flinched…not Realtors, not the banks, not the government…no one. Why? The reason is simple. We are living a valueless debt driven economy that is only being precariously propped up by a few vital sectors – over inflated health-care, over inflated housing, and over inflated energy commodities…that’s it.

If any of these cogs few out of the U.S. economy, we would be looking depression right in the face. The sad part is that at the core of this nonsense is the gullible American consumer. As a nation, we are starry eyed and foolish when it comes to consumption. We spend beyond our means and the sky is the limit. As long as we can put hot dogs on the table and keep the cable on, we’ll spend…no matter what. Even if it means abandoning that home you couldn’t afford in cities like Phoenix, where 10,00 homes stand vacant – too embarrassed to face family and friends with your failure…willing to eat your mistake and take the debt to your grave. We’ve been programmed and it’s pathetic. 

Predatory lenders simply identified the stupidity and took advantage of it. Their practices made it easier for people to overpay for a home, or to borrow too much against their current house, or even to borrow on a second and even third mortgage! And now, with home prices falling, homeowners are getting creamed. Some homeowners are taking losses as high as 30%, as they are unable to refinance out of their high-interest sucker loans, that they were fully aware of at closing time. 

I’ve been a landlord for 10 years and I’ve seen more criminal activity at the hands of shady Realtors and lenders in the last five or six years than I’ve ever seen before. These people should be punished and I applaud Cuomo for pursuing them, however, in the end, I believe that a good portion of these homeowners should be left to burn if only to set an example to other sheep in the herd. They knew full well what they could afford or not afford and they knew of the potential consequences. Time to be grown ups, face the music, and learn that the land of milk and honey can turn sour if you buy more than you need.

The New Poverty…

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Poverty isn’t what it used to be. If one takes the time to characterize the modern poor vs. the historical poor, they would find that the avenues out of poverty are quickly being closed by the new world economy and the dynamic that is ‘globalism.’

The postmodern American economy is in utter disarray and social safety net policies used throughout the 20th century, have de-evolved, resulting in a new demographic of poor people. The most visible result of this disarray is that poor children are relatively worse off now than at the beginning of the 20th century despite all of the political rhetoric through the years. More alarmingly, their opportunities out of poverty are slim and none. Maanufactuing jobs that could be had on a high school diploma have evaporated to a large extent, and many are simply priced out of trade school or college.

What is so dangerous about the new poverty is the sense of surprise it brings. Poverty can hit so suddenly, that people can fall so far behind so fast, and lose everything they’ve worked for in a matter of a few months, because they are literally living paycheck by paycheck. The new poverty is about our loss of faith in relationships we once had with companies and the government. It seems nothing is guaranteed anymore. Many people work for several companies in their lifetime because they are simply burned out or pushed out or outsourced out of their old one. Workers cannot depend on a pension, savings, or even Social Security. The new poverty is a complex sociological issue that has many causes and seemingly fewer and fewer solutions. 

Globalism has clearly not helped the situation. For years talk of free trade and the benefits of that trade, was standard political speak. Bob Zoellick, a U.S. trade representative at a recent press conference said, “If one is concerned about developing countries, both history and recent studies would suggest an open system is going to be the formula for them. Others like Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School, claim that globalization “has improved the lot of hundreds of millions of poor people around the world.” I do not agree.

I would argue that globalization has been a losing proposition for most of the countries, including the U.S. When you talk to people like Robert Reich or anyone else that supports free trade, and express concerns, you’re labeled as an isolationist. However, I’m not arguing for an isolationist position – merely to construct free trade in a common sense fashion that softens the broad sword that usually comes down on the world’s poor with brutal consequences. Reich and others suggest that these people must simply get themselves re-educated and lift themselves up. The problem is they often do not have the resources to do so, so they are simply cast aside as a necessary evil of global economic expansion. 

The visible results of globalism do not appear to be as positive as supporters would have us believe. The vast majority of countries, over the last two decades, have experienced slower growth than was seen in the previous two. Moreover, poorer countries have generally suffered the worst declines in the growth of income per person. 

Then there is China. Supporters of free trade point to China as a beacon of progress – but at what cost? China has highly protected domestic markets that close off foreign import across broad sectors of their economy, illegal currency manipulation, and a state owned banking system…remember…they are a Communist nation. As a result, China has been able to resist import pressure from the West especially in the areas of durable goods and technology, as they jail anyone who dissents and poison they’re rural inhabitants with a level of pollution the world has never seen. It begs the question – is this free trade or trade for free?

There is clearly something wrong with the prevailing orthodoxy. Strategies for common sense economic development have been abandoned in the name of profit, and it is generally assumed that open markets, privatization, and attracting foreign investors will do the job in a humane fashion. So far this is not the case. 

The last two decades of globalization have also shown substantially diminished progress in health outcomes for infants and older children, as well as life expectancy, which has also dropped in the U.S. recently. The same is true for other social indicators, including education and literacy, with the slowdown in progress far worse among lower-income countries.

A world in which many third world countries enslave poor children for the purpose of making consumer goods, and where half of all people survive on less than $2 a day, speaks volumes to the failure of globalization, especially whens world trends are moving in the wrong direction from a human rights perspective. The U.S., nor can the rest of the world, afford not to re-think economic policy simply because free trade is fashionable, or to bow to the whims of special interests and their paymaster multinational corporations. No one is arguing to quell the expansion of trade to international markets, however it must be done with humanity as a primary concern, not a socio-economic afterthought.

In short, the globalists have it wrong, and people are beginning to wise up…finally.

Bush vs. Jackson…The Similarities are Striking…

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Andrew Jackson to George Bush – do they represent bookends of a centuries old ideology? Can the history of Native Americans in the United States offer any ideological understanding to the occupation of Iraq? Have we simply butchered other cultures in the name of ‘what we need or what we want?’To answer this question, one must define the framework and motives of American Imperialism.

The basic foundation of what I call ‘Resource Imperialism’ is comprised of capitalism, imperialism, and Christian fundamentalism. These three socio-cultural forces have slowly shaped American into a state that has greatly modified it’s political ideology over the past 100 years in order to preserve a way of life, often by eliminating whole cultures of people through war. The catalysts are quite apparent really. Capitalism constantly requires new markets and resources to survive, imperialism is present to secure those markets and resources via land grabs, and Christian fundamentalism provides a convenient veil for the true selfish reasons behind the violence – that is, the conquered must be made to understand that they are ignorant and thus must convert to a more culturally pure ideal in order to save themselves from damnation – Christianity.     

Since Gorbachev began dismantling the Soviet Union, the U.S. has engaged in a variety of military interventions including attacks against Bosnia, Sudan, Haiti, Yugoslavia, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the pillage of Palestine and now threats of new wars with Iran and Syria, as well as the attempted destabilization of Turkey which has resulted in recent Congressional debate regarding the Armenians. Throughout the 20th century, there have also been actions against Cuba, Vietnam, Korea – the list is long. George Bush’s current dominant political ideology of American Power is complex and aggressive. It covers up motives for war with abstract slogans and rationales such as building civil societies, opening free markets, instituting human rights, spreading democracy and freedom, national interests, security, and terrorism – much like the founding fathers did during the settlement of the West. In fact, one could argue that American violence directed at others cultures and nations surpassed more notorious regimes like Nazi Germany simply because the violence has taken place over a longer period of time. 

In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the “Indian Removal Act.” Many Americans were against the act, including Davy Crockett – his non-support of the act would cost him his career. The bill passed and President Jackson quickly signed it into law. The Cherokees attempted to fight removal legally by challenging the removal laws in the Supreme Court and by establishing an independent Cherokee Nation. The court ruled against the Indians. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court refused to hear a case extending Georgia’s laws on the Cherokee because they did not represent a sovereign nation. Native Americans were simply shut out in the name of land lotteries, rumored gold on Indian lands, and natural resources.   The Bush administration is simply applying the aforementioned ideology to modern times. 

The U.S is not interested in uplifting the Iraqi people from oppression. We invaded Iraq to secure scarce resources and entrench ourselves in Iraqi culture with the purpose of regional monopolization of power. Much like the Native Americans, the Iraqi government is not recognized as ‘legitimate’ in the strictest sense of the word. The United States, much the same way we took over all Indian territories in this country by imposing our culture and will on them, has done the same in Iraq. We are only interested in manipulating Iraq for position and power. In 250 years, nothing has changed.   Another equally important fact is that the U.S. virtually immune from international prosecution, that is to say that, the U.S. is unaccountable for all crimes it has committed since the time of the founding fathers. The U.S. has exterminated or killed Native American Indians, Africans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Panamanians, Serbians, Afghans, and Iraqis, or anyone else unwilling, afraid, or incapable of making the United States pay for its crimes or force it to change its policy of perpetual violence. As long as this dynamic is in place, this phenomenon will continue.

It begs the question…are the terrorists the first group in history willing to fight this continued exploitation, while being fueled by the current negative international sentiment regarding U.S. foreign policy? 

 

Bush Continues to Ignore What the American People Want in the Name of Corporate Profit…

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A few days ago I posted on to this blog on recent developments in the Republican party in regards to globalism and free trade. In short, support among Republicans for free trade is ebbing…and quickly at that. However, president Bush once again seems to be rallying around a narrow minded ideology of trading American jobs and prosperity for profit, rather than listening to the cries of help from the middle class and his own party! Business as usual at the White House. 

In the last six years, the Bush administration has signed 11 free trade agreements, including seven new agreements in Latin America, and in spite of the under current of opposition to new deals, is pushing new agreements with Peru, Colombia, and Panama. To defend his position, Bush argued just days ago that free trade is necessary because “More exports support better and higher-paying jobs — and to keep our economy expanding, we need to keep expanding trade.”

The problem is, these high paying jobs aren’t materializing. 

Bush said these three agreements would lower agricultural and industrial tariffs on American businesses as well, while providing 75 million new consumers for American goods. Although the President acknowledged that many Americans are questioning free trade, he added that “the federal government is providing substantial funding for trade adjustment assistance that helps Americans make the transition from one job to the next.”

Another problem is, the program is filled with massive loopholes that make it almost moot to most Americans.

Link here for AFL-CIO congressional testimony regarding (TAA) loopholes.

In spite of all these outcries, the administration is currently working toward a new trade agreement with South Korea that will be closed to beef autos, and steel, according to analysts. 

What Bush continues to struggle with is the fact that the very foundation of globalism and free trade, as well as the benefits that it was supposed to bring to this country, have been proved false. Globalists insist, as echoed by Bush, that free trade creates new jobs and keeps consumer goods cheap. Thus, free traders claim markets will continue to expand.

The opposite is happening.

Granted, some jobs have been created, but the jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, are mainly service sector jobs that are not exposed to outsourcing, unlike manufacturing and high tech jobs that are. The caveat here, is that these service sector jobs pay up to 60% less than the manufacturing and high tech jobs that have been lost. The job creation is simply not an apples to apples comparison, and that fact is conveniently left out of free trader dialog. Also, many college graduates are finding it difficult to find gainful employment than even warrants going to college or justifying the ever increasing tuition costs and student loan interest rates, which this administration has allowed to sky rocket.  

Simply put, Republicans cannot and traditionally have not been able to manage the economy. Unfortunately, we have been at the mercy of Reagan and two Bush’s – all big time spenders, all incompetent in the area of macro economics and trade policy. If you look at economic records and rates of job creation and unemployment going back to Harry Truman, the data proves this out. During Carter’s administration for example, the economy added 10 million jobs and reduced government spending, all in the face of high inflation. George H.W. Bush holds the dubious honor of having both the poorest GDP growth and income growth for working class Americans on record. The deficit also exploded by $100 billion in only four years. Bush Jr. is even worse than daddy.

The economy is the worst it has ever been under the current president. The Bush administration’s annual loss stands at three-quarters of a trillion dollars and he has only managed a net gain of 5.6 million jobs – the worst ever. The numbers of ‘working poor’ and unemployed are creeping up as well, while the income gap between the rich and poor is the widest it has been since the 1920’s – great for lords at the top, not so much for the serfs at the bottom. The trade deficit with China speaks for itself.

So, what does it all mean? On a macro level, it means our current policies are not working. Short-sighted conservative corporate fat cats are gutting the economic fish for a seemingly final meal. Real economic growth comes from the bottom – via a thrifty working class that is able to save and rely on affordable health-care, guaranteed retirement, and reasonable consumer prices. Free trade was supposed to provide all of this. Instead, we have gotten currency manipulation from China, higher prices on essential goods like home energy, garbage consumer products, trade deficits, an insurance crisis, an evaporating manufacturing and high tech sector, and a cash strapped middle class who cannot even escape the crunch through re-education, because there’s nothing to re-educate to. And then when you’re in your senior years, you get to coast to the finish line with a reverse mortgage. All of this smells to me.

Can someone explain this to Bush please…and Robert Reich while you’re at it?  

Republicans Seem to Be Falling Off the Globalist Bandwagon…

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There are signs of increasing resistance to globalization in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll. Sixty percent of Republican respondents said they agreed with the statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports.

Now that is interesting to say the least. 

While Bush continues to call for continued global trade expansion, the rest of his party is having second thoughts which reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago when King George could say or do no wrong. Leading Republican candidates are still trying to promote free trade though. “Our philosophy has to be not how many protectionist measures can we put in place, but how do we invent new things to sell” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “That’s the view of the future. What protectionists are trying to do is lock in the inadequacies of the past.”

No Rudy – what protectionists are trying to do is save he middle class from ruin. 

President Clinton championed a less-protectionist bent by promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during his administration, however his wife, and the current Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, uses more skeptical rhetoric, going as far as coming out against a U.S. trade deal with South Korea altogether. Other leading Democrats have been harshly critical of trade expansion as well. In a March 2007 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 54% of Democratic voters said free-trade agreements have hurt the U.S., compared with 21% who said they have helped. This, along with eroding support among Republicans represents a fresh challenge to free-market conservatives and greedy American companies that benefit from cheap labor abroad, and unrestricted wage leverage when dealing American workers.

On Chris Matthew’s show Hardball recently, Robert Reich, a longtime supporter of the globalist ideal, had difficulty deflecting barbs from Pat Buchanan when dealing with the subjects of worker security, real living wages and the eroding dollar. To be perfectly honest, Reich’s answers seemed a bit trite and somewhat academic in tone. He had no real answers regarding what has happened. 

Even relatively small trade deals are facing resistance. Trade pacts with Peru and Panama still have a chance of passing in the current congressional term, however deals with South Korea and Colombia are in serious jeopardy. Some legislators believe South Korea isn’t opening its market wide enough to American beef and autos. Presidential “fast track” trade negotiating authority has lapsed as well. Without such authority, which requires Congress to take an up-or-down vote on trade deals, the next president would have trouble pursuing large trade agreements at all. 

Beyond trade, Republicans appear to be seeking a move away from the president on everything else, and with good reason. Everything else is a mess. Asked in general terms, a 48% plurality of Republicans said the next president should “take a different approach” from Bush, while 38% wanted to continue on his ideological path. In that poll, Giuliani maintained his lead in the Republican field with support from 30% of respondents. Former Sen. Fred Thompson drew 23% in the survey, and 15% for Sen. John McCain. 

“We’re seeing a lot of jobs farmed out,” said Mr. Pirtle, whose father works for General Motors Corp., – concerned by reports of safety problems with Chinese imports, he added, “The stuff we are getting, looking at all the recalls, to be quite honest, it’s junk.”

In the Republican campaign so far, elevating populist trade concerns has been left to the long shots. “The most important thing a president needs to do is to make it clear that we’re not going to continue to see jobs shipped overseas….and then watch as a CEO takes a $100 million bonus,” said Mike Huckabee, “If Republicans don’t stop it, we don’t deserve to win in 2008.”

We can only hope that the tide of anti-globalism takes firm root and some of the front runners begin to wise up.

Fred Thompson Looks Old, Tired and Stupid…

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The Republicans debated in Michigan last night and it was the first, long anticipated appearance, of candidate Fred Thompson. I watched for about five minutes, and wasn’t impressed.

Thompson did not look too enthused to be at the debate at all and seemed relatively disinterested in the questions. Many of his answers were predicated with long pauses – much like the pauses of one George Bush, as his feeble mind fishes for an answer. Of course, Chris Matthews really didn’t press him much. He did field a question about the Canadien prime minister, and got it right, but I was thoroughly taken aback at what he got wrong, namely the economy and Social Security.

When asked if though the country was heading to recession, Thompson resoundingly said no. He pointed to 22 straight quarters of growth and low inflation among other things. However Thompson forgot he was in Michigan. Of all the states in the north, Michigan is in the toughest economic shape – maybe the toughest shape in 30 years. The auto industry is crumbling slowly and unemployment is rampant. Thompson was obviously catering to a national audience, but he really should have dug deeper into the facts surrounding the Bush economy before he lept at that answer.

A recent poll by Zogby suggests that 60% of Americans feel the economy is the number one issue going into 2008. That same poll shows that most people feel the economy is slumping, are worried about their jobs, think globalism is hurting us, and feel that there will indeed be a recession. Some believe we are already in a mini-recession as well.

On Social Security, Thompson feels that the system COLA’s should be indexed to inflation rather than wages. That would be convenient given the fact that inflation has been very low for twenty years or so. However, Thompson’s policy may be short-sighted given the fact that if the economy, that he believes is so strong, does indeed begin to ebb and inflation does rise rapidly, the Social Security system could take a destructive blow and maybe decisive death blow.

Overall, Fred Thompson seems like another old school nit-wit much like Reagan and Bush, who has not thought out all of his policy ideas, rather offering the same old warn out conservative platitudes that are working to squeeze the middle class into oblivion right now. Conservative ideals regarding the economy and Social Security do not work. Reagan and Bush have proved that beyond a doubt. Just talk to working people – they’ll tell you. Of course rich conservatives don’t mingle with the serfs.

Should the H-1B Visa Cap be Raised? Absolutely Not…

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By continually flooding the labor market in the U.S. with inexpensive foreign workers, we are destroying our own talent pool in a long run. What would motivate a prospective college student go into a technology, spent years of time, money and effort and keep on developing his own skills if he can see how quickly the market could be flooded with a cheap replacement? This will only compound an ongoing issue, as we continue to create tremendous downward pressure on wages, and force businesses to complete based on the dependency of foreign workers. I can see corporate America’s view I suppose, if you can’t have slavery, this is the next best thing. These are people who routinely work overtime for free under the threat of their visa being ‘revoked’ and universally accept lower wages for equal work being done by their American counterparts.

Moreover, large corp[orations like Microsoft, want us to buy into the idea that there is such a shortage of skilled tech workers, that HB-1 workers are needed. Places like Monster are loaded with resumes of American IT workers who can’t buy a job with their soul – and if you’re over forty, you may as well hang it up. It also takes longer for unemployed IT people to find jobs than ever before – just talk to people like myself (MCSE, MCDBA, A+, Net+, Linux+, 15 years experience, etc.) It took me 17 months to find gainful employment at a reasonable wage. In fact, during the last economic downturn (that Bush said never happened), IT people were among the hardest hit, and many had to leave the industry all together as IT budgets sank to just 3% of total sales on average, while training dollars went up in smoke. The real effort should be to re-claim these workers and get them back into the industry, not replace them with lower paying HB-1 Visa holders. Any other explanation is a smoke and mirrors tactic by the corporate fat cats who need to pad the almighty bottom line at the expense of American workers.

Equally important, given how many resources a local IT worker invests in their skills, they should be carefully protected so we might keep our economy moving. It is one thing to jerk around an employee who has just couple of months of formal training at the entry level, it is quite another to push someone out who has spent 10 years and $100,000 on education and skills development, like myself and many of my colleagues did. Where do these fools, who are perpetuating this nonsense, think this is all going? When did corporations stop caring about American born workers and begin sacraficing them for profit?

Lastly, the quality of foreign workers is mostly a myth. Many companies put foreign workers through internal training and there is absolutely no reason why this training should not be offered to American born workers instead. In fact, many IT advocate groups for American workers have found that few foreign workers start providing high quality, high volume output from the first day on the job.

Many bloggers are questioning whether HB-1’s should be regulated or levels allowed to be dictated by the market. Some question whether or not supply and demand laws have been artificially manipulated. I say they have and that manipulation is causing a back-log of foreign workers which ultimately results in brain-drain as often higher skilled and more experienced American workers are forced to exit in the name of lower wages and profit.

Check this study…

 http://www.globalizationresearch.com/

Companies have overloaded the market with foreign labor while American workers struggle, it is as simple as that. From that situation, the market works to force domestic workers out of the industry. Meanwhile, foreign workers are getting subsidized education in their home countries, addition training by their new American employers, and ultimately hired for much less – sometimes up to 25% less.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected job growth in Core IT (Information Technology) jobs of 110,000 a year through 2007; it also estimates that about 35,000 degrees in IT per se are earned a year. That may sound at first like a worker shortage in IT. A closer look at the situation, however, suggests otherwise. What people don’t realize is that as many as half of all IT professionals do not IT degrees. Many American IT workers are industry certified like myself and as many as 80,000 more per year get certified without getting a college degree. These people are competent and no better or worse off than any HB-1 worker from an entry level knowledge standpoint. So what are we being fed here by cry babies like Bill Gates? And if foreign IT workers are so much more qualified, why did the Indian company Wipro just announce plans to build a new facility in Atlanta, hiring American workers? Check out link here…

 http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/28/ap4059658.html

We’re being lied to by the greedy.   

According to the BLS, changes in the earnings of Core IT Professionals have been similar to those for all professionals and only marginally higher than those for the entire civilian labor force.

There is evidence, in part, that the “labor shortage” has been artifically created by the IT industry. The alleged worker shortage is at least partly due to the stinginess of the American corporations and the general practice of cutting forcing wages downward. Check out a very informative article complete with references regarding the ‘artificial shortage.’

http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecenters60e9

Finally, a quick story I found on a blog. Five years ago, an American IT worker in New York City needed some additional training and approached a school that provided programs in Oracle. The coordinator there was frank and told the truth, “You shouldn’t take this class. Most of the Oracle people in New York are workers from India. You will not be able to break into a shop because they tend to hire their own. So don’t waste your time.” 

Is this what we want in the long-term? Congress and American corporate greed farms are wrong. I am not anti-immigrant – I am born of first generation immigrants. I simply want to make sure Americans don’t suffer due to bad policy, and that is exactly what the HB-1 program is. We must build from within to ensure high paid jobs for all, including our immigrant friends, not the least common denominator so one group is under-paid and the other not paid at all. This is what corporations want, and they must challenged on it. 

Reverse Mortgages are Just Another Marketing Scheme…

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A “reverse” mortgage is a loan against your home that you do not have to pay back for as long as you live there. With a reverse mortgage, you can turn the value of your home into cash without having to move or to repay the loan each month. The cash you get from a reverse mortgage can be paid to you in several ways:

  • all at once, in a single lump sum of cash;
  • as a regular monthly cash advance;
  • as a “credit-line” account that lets you decide when and how much of your available cash is paid to you; or
  • as a combination of these payment methods.

No matter how this loan is paid out to you, you typically don’t have to pay anything back until you die, sell your home, or permanently move out of your home. To be eligible for most reverse mortgages, you must own your home and be 62 years of age or older.

On the surface it sounds too good to be true…that’s because it is. The problem with these products is that they assume the consumer will be thrifty with their lines of credit. Lenders say that people must simply be ‘prudent’ with their money and not get carried away with spending. The problem is nobody conducts themselves like that. You can’t trust the average starry-eyed American consumer. What usually happens is that reverse mortgages wind up becoming a titanic burden in a few short years because people who enter into them spend the equity on such necessities as vacations, SUV’s, and gambling. Furthermore, not all mortgage products are HUD approved so there is truly no recourse for borrowers or lenders in some situations.

With all the recent talk of lending reform, reverse mortgages have not been mentioned at all. Congress continues to ignore the fact that predatory corporations will try just about anything to write mortgage paper, even if that means bankrupting an unsuspecting middle class. No help there as usual. However, something does need to be said about the people who pursue these loans.

There is no free lunch America. If you buy an over-valued house that you ultimately cannot pay for, then you should be held accountable and suffer long-term consequences. This may be the only thing to wake consumers up to the reality of this economy. Recent legislation that proposes bailouts and guarantees for people who were caught in predatory ARMs is a slap in the face to responsible people like myself, who don’t look for the ‘quick fix’. I say let at least some of these people burn in the name of reeducating American consumers in the area of spending and finance.

Since when has it become a right for American consumers to heap their bad judgement on the government? Since when is acceptable for people to make consciously destructive short-term decisions in the name of luxury they cannot afford? Why is it that people in this country can’t see twenty years into the future and realize that what they are doing will drive them to eat dog food for dinner when they can’t work anymore because they refuse to save a nickel for retirement?

I contend that reverse mortgages are just another scam with an eye on propping up a  hopelessly debt-driven economy that will crumble in our lifetimes, as more and more people face a penniless retirement. Leaning o equity and needless spending is not the answer.     

The True State of the American Workforce on Labor Day 2007…

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Corporate America continues it’s war against the labor movement. After a long period of prosperity from 1948 to 1973 in which unions and corporations both prospered, most corporations have adopted a hostile attitude toward unions, spurred on by a series of anti-union presidents, including Reagan, Bush #1 and Bush #2. Where unions are present, large employers, like Wal-Mart and others, seek break them. In workplaces without unions, employers are prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent workers from organizing, even if that means violating the law.

The anti-union drive has largely enjoyed the support of the government. According to a study by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, one in five organizers will be fired during an average organizing drive. Such firings are illegal, but enforcement is painfully slow, and the penalties ineffectively small. As evidence shows, most anti-union employers eagerly embrace this blatantly anti-union loophole.

Government policies have also supported anti-union practices in other ways. The main purpose of trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), no matter what supossed advantages of this destructive policy you are spoon fed by short-sighted globalists, is to make it as easy as possible to relocate factories overseas and allow corporate fat cats to stuff their pockets on the back of American workers. This, coupled with incompetent management of the economy by the Bush administration has resulted in a 30 percent over-valued dollar which in turn effectively imposes a 30 percent tariff on goods exported from the United States.

The result of these dog-and-pony-show policies is that much manufacturing, and in once manufacturing powerhouse places like Buffalo NY – virtually all manufacturing – has been moved overseas in the last quarter century, giving the country a trade deficit of more than $700 billion annually that continues to grow. These lost jobs have been disproportionately union jobs. While the unionization rate in manufacturing was more than 40 percent in the sixties, in 2007 it is just around 12.0 percent. And, with the loss of these union jobs has come weaker, watered down benefits because workers simply do not have the muscle to negotiate for fair treatment against collossal, well financed anti-union employers, who are prepared to hurt American workers at the prodding of stockholders.  

The weakening of the labor movement is not just bad news for the workers who lose union jobs. According to polling data, there are tens of millions of workers who would like to be represented by a union at their workplace, but don’t have that option. Right to work laws in many Southern conservative states make it all but impossible to organize. While public sector managers are not generally friendly to unions either, they are more restricted when it comes to firing union organizers or using other harsh anti-union tactics that are now standard practice in the private sector. As a result, more than 36 percent of public sector employees are members of unions, while private sector unions languish. When polled regarding the freedom to choose, data suggests that as many as sixty percent of American workers would join a union if they could. 

Congress is currently debating a bill that would take an important step toward re-establishing the right of workers to join a union. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would require a company to recognize a union once a majority of workers have signed a card indicating they want to be represented by a union. This gets around the election process, which gives employers a chance to intimidate workers and fire the leaders of an organizing effort. (Under the EFCA, workers can still request an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.) The bill passed by the House by is currently being blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. While the EFCA is not likely to become law under this Congress (anti-worker President Bush would almost certainly veto the bill even if it did pass), pro-labor groups should recognize the importance of legislation. The right to organize is not the concern of just a small special interest group as many conservatives would have the American electorate believe, it is a basic and essential right that should concern every American that wishes our country continued prosperity. 

Unions have also been essential to a wide range of political initiatives over the post-war World War II period. Programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start would not have been possible without the strong support of the American labor movement. Big labor has also prevented President Bush from privatizing Social Security and it will be difficult to make more progress on other key social and economic legislation without the support of a strong labor movement.

This Labor Day weekend, make an effort to say thanks to all of those who have built and continue to make America the greatest place on earth in which to live – call out conservatives for the short-sighted, anti-American worker, political hypocrites that they are – support organized labor.

The Facade of Mutually Beneficial Globalist Theory Crumbling…

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Popular backlash against globalisation is sweeping rich countries around the globe according to a recent Harris poll. Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and pay caps for corporate executives to offset the perceived unjustified rewards to the priveledged few and the negative effects of globalisation on working people. It’s about time.

  

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Leaders in the World Trade Organization call anti-globalism hate speech, I call it predictable outrage.

In the U.S., Congress is awash with anti-globalist sentiment as the Senate prepares to vote on new trade restrictions aimed at China. I have been blogging about the destructive effects of unrestricted globalism since 1990 and continue to oppose unrestricted free trade at the expense of our way of life. Conservative pundits, many economists, and some analysts have been peddling globalism and what they believe to be the necessary melding of economies into one international marketplace in order for our way of life to continue. This argument in fact was championed and still defended by former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich.

Reich, and these other globalist ideolouges are short-sighted and ultimately incorrect in their conclusions.

Many assumptions were made that have proven fatal to the globalist theory. For instance, the theory assumes that more education, at least according to Reich, equals higher income. This might be true if “higher end” jobs are made available to these eventual skill empowered graduates. The fact is, countries like China have been handed or more appropriately, stolen proprietary technology in aerospace, computer technology, and other areas that has led to manufacturing and capital flight from this country with a destination of China. In turn, the corresponding jobs within such sectors of the U.S. economy have evaporated. The original globalist theory had countries like China making sneakers and toasters, not complex microchips and high-tech aerospace parts. Meanwhile we brush our teeth with poison Chinese toothpaste, our pets die of tainted dog food, our kids play with lead based Chinese toys, and factory workers burn to death in Chinese steel mills with no consequence.

Another assumption did not account for developing countries to simply violate international trade policy at the expense of countries like the U.S. For example, China artificially devalues its currency to gain a trading advantage. Overtly unfair trade barriers are thrown up that make selling goods by U.S. companies in the Pacific Rim almost impossible. Couple this with some good old fashioned American coporate greed and you have a situation that has seen Chinese imports to the U.S. increase ten-fold since 1995 while real wages in the U.S. and exports steadily stagnate or even decline. We remain productive but we work like packmules to acheive that productivity as corporate management holds the baton of globalism and the threat of job loss over our collective head if we do not continue at the current breakneck pace. Yet, our most cherished and longest standing companies like General Motors and Ford suffer, and in the background, our corrupt politicians and unscrupulous corporate culture slowly sell our economy down the river. Where does it end?

If continued growth in GDP and a robust tax base is to continue, this country must be willing to protect certain industries for the sake of propping up a middle class that is being squeezed to the limit. If we do not, we may very well find ourselves in a shrinking economy as countries like China, Korea, Brazil and the European Union surpass U.S. productivity and per capita income. It may not be as outlandish as it sounds. I am not making an argument for unilateral protectionism, but when U.S. workers are made to compete against workers producing steel in China who earn $2500.00 American dollars per year and are expected to do it with no health care, no retirement security and a crumbling education system…something must change if modern Western culture is to survive.