Tag Archives: trillion

US to Shed 1.5 Million Jobs to Create New Recession

Right Wing Raising the DebtUpdate: 08.09.2011, 4:00 PM. President Obama has now signed the legislation to raise the debt ceiling and avert default. The bill immediately raises the debt ceiling by $400 billion. The additional steps that our country will have to endure to raise the debt ceiling for the balance of next year are described below. “Enough talk about the debt. We have to talk about jobs,” said Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Peloisi.

Only two days remain in this season’s final episode of the made-for-cable-news mega-series drama, “The Right Wing – Raising the Debt Ceiling”*. The whole world is watching. Whose jobs will be lost? Whose fortunes, real, imagined, hedge, shorted or political, will be wiped out? Who will blink or tear up? Will the T-Party take to the streets or is just too damn hot? Will the golf partners stick to their “deal” for an entire news cycle? What will Sarah tweet? Will a deminted Senator sabotage it all with a last minute filibuster? Can Pelosi be turned to the dark side? Will S&P downgrade the credit rating anyway leading to higher interest and a need for even greater cuts? Will we do this again before Christmas?

The stranger-than-fictional leaders of our government have leaked elements of their surprising planned finale where they use this totally made-up crisis to solve the nation’s, and the world’s, great problems. The markets have already rallied in anticipation. As has the dollar. As have oil prices. The pundits, blogmeisters, and spin doctors have already picked the winners and losers. The bottles of sparkling tea have been chilled.

The drama couldn’t have been cast with a more exciting backdrop:

  • Two official wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), one official unofficial war (Libya), two well-known secret wars (Yemen and Pakistan), revolutions underway or being brutally suppressed in Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, on-going and potential conflicts in Palestine, Iran and North Korea, and chaos, famine and human tragedy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa;
  • An earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan that will continue for a hundred thousand years;
  • A massacre of white people by a white, right-wing Christian anti-muslim lunatic;
  • Worldwide recession with grave concern for the Euro zone, specifically Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland;
  • A dismal 1.3% US GDP growth last quarter after only .04% first quarter growth;
  • The lowest percentage of Americans working in almost 30 years with 9.2% unemployment (20+% black unemployment) and at least 18.5% overall underemployment – more than 25 million Americans are out of work and glued to their TV sets;
  • More than 50 million Americans without health insurance;
  • 28% of US homeowners are behind on their mortgage, a backlog of six million US homes in foreclosure with more than three million homes already seized, and home prices continuing to decline;
  • Executive pay has risen 23% this year, plus, record earnings continue to be announced by our largest corporations – US companies have now accumulated and horded, depending upon who counts, $20-30 trillion in cash, while spending millions on lobbyists to whine about regulation, taxes and certainty;
  • The wealth gap continues to widen with whites now averaging 20 times the wealth of blacks, 18 times the wealth of Hispanics;
  • US worker productivity is at an all time high, yet real wages are lower than they have been in 41 years;
  • Federal, state and local taxes are the lowest per capita since 1954;
  • The number of government workers has gone down more than 500,000 since Obama took office;
  • And, it is hot, though not officially from global climate change even though the northern hemisphere is trying to endure a record-breaking heat wave.

For those who may have missed an episode, ignore the backdrop (above) – the crisis in America is clearly our deficit. With total government revenues, as a percentage of our economy, at their lowest level in more than 60 years, obviously, the only answer is to cut government spending.

The announced plans include an immediate $400 billion debt limit increase (whew) and $900 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. These cuts will be from the annual appropriations of the day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies (specific cuts will be determined by the Appropriations Committee after annual lobbying and whining by each agency and their related lobbyists), but largely the cuts will be from capping projected inflation-adjusted increases. These cuts do not include Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Another $500 billion debt limit increase would be allowed later this fall, which Congress could only disapprove, which President Obama could veto, which Congress could overturn by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate (I’m not making this up).

A third installment of debt limit increase of between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion would be available after enactment of the recommendations on November 23, 2011 by a 12-member super Congress (also to be announced) of three members from each party and each chamber.

The super Congress’s report to the mortal Congress could include tax code changes, maybe even revenues, and changes in any other program – including Social Security, Medicare, Pentagon spending. All dependent upon an up or down, no amendments allowed, vote in Congress on December 23, 2011.

Should super Congress not agree (how likely is that?) or the mortal Congress does not act on the recommendations, we’ll face the poison pill of across the board spending cuts to be implemented by the White House including cuts to the Pentagon, domestic agency budgets and farm subsidies… beginning in 2013, after the next Presidential election. However, Social Security, Medicaid, veterans benefits and military pay would not be subject to cuts.

Oh, yeah, the House and Senate are also required to vote, but not pass, which they won’t, a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. The bill will establish at a cost of $1 billion, a “program integrity” initiative in an attempt to stem abuses in Social Security and federal health care programs. This bill will also preserve Pell Grant funding for 2012-2013 by cutting student loan subsidies. Go figure.

This is one terrific plan.

“The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President,” said President Obama in announcing the deal. “Now, this process has been messy; it’s taken far too long… We’re not done yet.”

“I know this agreement won’t make every Republican happy. It certainly won’t make every Democrat happy,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

“Now listen, this isn’t the greatest deal in the world. But it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town… There is nothing in this framework that violates our principles. It’s all spending cuts. The White House bid to raise taxes has been shut down. And as I vowed back in May – when everyone thought I was crazy for saying it,” said Speaker of House John Boehner (R-Oh.).

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “I would say … that symbolically, that agreement is moving us to the point where we are having the final interment of John Maynard Keynes… So here we are in the horns of a dilemma. In order to avoid the disaster that would occur August 2 if the United States defaulted for the first time in its history, we are being told we have to cut back on government spending and by cutting back on spending, we may also have a negative impact on our economy.”

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-Mo.) called it “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”

Over time, the combined cuts should add about 1.25 million to our unemployment rolls, and could bump unemployment over 10%. The cuts in spending will almost certainly turn our anemic GDP growth into negative numbers putting us back into official recession – this time, an official bipartisan recession. But don’t be fooled that the impact will stop there. The cuts will have dramatic impact on every state. Those laid off will be teachers, law enforcement and regulators. Food and medical care will be cut for our poorest children and their families. Transportation and infrastructure spending will also be cut.

When the series continues, we’ll get to watch who is to blame. How gerrymandered districts will make things even more partisan? How the T-party will get revenge on Boehner? How Obama will seek to mend fences with his base? And how all, but a few of us, will continue suffering and electing these fools? I wish I could change the channel.

 

*A sequel to the popular series, “The West Wing.”

Note: This story was updated at 5:45PM, August 1, 2011 to correct details once the bill was announced.

Preserving Social Security to Pay for Medicare

The Paul Ryan 2012 budget bill and “Path to Prosperity” sailed through House Friday on Republican votes. The GOP plans to spend $3.5 trillion next year, down a whopping $30 billion from 2011 (about eight days of current war spending), by cutting food stamps and Medicaid for the poor, children and the disabled. The Republican bill will still require the Government to borrow more than 40 cents of every dollar spent.

The bill passed is part of the Republican “roadmap” to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion* over the next ten years, while:

  • getting reelected;
  • providing $2.9 trillion in tax cuts for their wealthiest supporters;
  • gets rid of subsidies to develop alternative energy sources;
  • raising taxes for those making $20,000 to $200,000 per year;
  • repealing healthcare reform to make sure at least 52 million Americans are without health insurance;
  • in 2022, freezing and privatizing Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • and leaving it up to the states to deliver the bad news to our seniors, the disabled, children and the poor.

Except in calling for “reform,” the plan does leave Social Security intact, at least, so far** – and our seniors will need it. The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker is currently $14,124. In 2022, the additional out-of-pocket cost for Medicare will be $5,744. By 2030, it will increase to $8,833.

Impact of costs on seniors by Ryan budget bill - This was published by the Center for American Progress (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/04/ryan_medicare.html)

Of course, this assumes that a private health insurance company in 2022 will offer a policy to someone over 65 for $20,513. Best of luck with that —  especially if by that time you have one of those pesky pre-existing conditions.

*Just in case you are keeping track of the mundane things such as this, President Obama’s “Path to Austerity,” plans to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years.

**The Republicans have a separate bill making its way to the floor and endorsed by their leadership that will raise the retirement age to 70 and include a means test for benefits.

The Elephant in the Room

Elephant in the roomWe’ve all heard the mind-numbing numbers:  $14 trillion of national debt that will grow to $20 trillion by 2010, but is it real?

Technically, and by the political definition, yes. It is the cumulative difference between actual revenues and spending. But by any reasonable accounting standard, our definition of national debt is hoax. More precisely, it is a political hoax within a hoax.

Almost two-thirds of the national debt is owed to us – mostly to our own government and its agencies. So when the pundits of doom talk about the impending explosion of interest on the national debt, one should smirk, a bit. We have systematically plundered Social Security, Civil Service and Military retirement funds (and other trusts) – like corporate America, we are never going to pay our pensions back, we’re going to change the rules. The Federal Reserve has purchased trillions of our national debt (quantitative easing) – in effect, it has already been paid by devaluing our currency. We have also allowed “banks” to go to the Fed money window for trillions of dollars at almost no cost that they have turned around and used to buy huge amounts of our debt making incredible profits – paying them back is little more than accounting.

Only about one-third of our national debt is owned by American and overseas investors. Were the Fed sponsored debt already paid with imaginary dollars subtracted from the $14 trillion, we owe far less than than the 76% to GDP ratio we hear so often. It would be more like 25% – an amount that would rank us among the most solvent countries in the world.

How did we get in this situation? You know. The Bush, now Obama, tax cuts for the rich when combined with the unfunded wars, the bailout of Wall Street and the stimulus bill, total almost all of it. To their credit, the Dems, in passing the “Affordable” Health Care Act and losing the mid-terms, will save a couple of trillion in the next decade, but we trillions on the table as bribes to health insurance companies and big pharma to get the bill passed. The surplus to debt happened in less than ten years. It could be undone in less than 151.

Except… for the non-debt debt – the elephant2 in the room – our unfunded liabilities. It would take, perhaps, $100 trillion to fully fund our pension and veterans obligations while continuing to fund Medicaid and other off-the-book obligations. A $38 billion cut, which almost forced a government shutdown, is stomping on ants while the elephants are jumping over the wall. Silly politics. Televised sport and nothing else. Look for the reruns to begin airing in a few days.

The only responsible way to address the real debt, is to get politicians out of our accounting and health care3. Treat Social Security, Disability and Medicare as tax financed programs – without a cap, not pretend trust funds. Require all tax cuts, breaks and subsidies have a sunset provision that forces a new and separate vote to continue. Stop treating earned and unearned income differently. Plug the loopholes. Send all corporate lobbyists to Guantanamo subject to military tribunals. Pass legislation limiting political contributions so they can only be made by individuals. Require competitive bidding for all government contracts. Give the states access to the Fed money window. Get out of the wars, slash the Pentagon, NSA/CIA budgets, require a two-thirds vote in Congress to wage war and support the UN to be the world’s peace keeper. Pass immigration reform to get the 20 million here undocumented, to pay legal taxes and Social Security and have access to better paying jobs. Create a Roosevelt-like works program that offers an alternative to long-term unemployment. Require two years of community or military service for our young people and offer college as a reward. Invest in a national system of medical clinics, private or public, to implement much of Medicaid. Do something. Don’t just cut something. The systems, political, economic and accounting, are unsustainable and broken.

 

____________________

1 By going back to historically low top rates, getting the hell out of the wars, requiring those too big to succeed without taxpayer funds to fail and getting people back to work. Duh.
2 Yes, it is ironic that the elephant is the symbol of the GOP.
3 I know, I know, I know, you are thinking, what the hell does he want to go and write about this for? Ignorance is bliss. Leave it to Nobel prize winning economists and people running for office to make this stuff up. Just couldn’t help myself.

Tell Congress to Go to Hell

fuck-youWednesday’s Democrat victory / compromise / cave-in is a harbinger. A public option won’t be able to negotiate for lower costs. Hmmm. Who benefits. Hospitals? Check. Big pharma? Check. Insurance companies? Check. People, sick or otherwise? Wonnnnnk. The smart money on Wall Street has been betting we’d be screwed and they’d get richer. Enough to make me hope nothing passes.

Not. Can’t go there. This is the most important thing this Congress and this President can do for about a hundred million of us who duck doctors and hospital bill collectors while we wince in pain. Not the most important thing this year … they’ve already shafted us on that — the stimulus (aka: bailout for the gloriously happy rich). No, this is life and death and they have chosen profits and to pretend (CNN wants you to believe that, too) that Wall Street mirrors America.

All to save a hundred billion over ten years? Sure. There is not a human being on the planet that believes any of it. Many trillions to make sure Ben Bernanke’s friends stay super-wealthy and the US government needs to screw me and my hundred million peers? F-them..

As God is my witness (oops, God left on the last train to the coast and is now on a slow-boat to China where they bailed-out people instead of banks), I will spend every moment I can afford (Hah! When this is passed, I won’t afford anything) working to defeat every single-sniveling-cowardly-corrupt-lobby-sucking-dickhead-congress-person I can find. I’ll march. I’ll picket. I’ll write. Email. You-tube. Twitter those [expletive deleted by editor] assholes the rest of my life. (Note to the Secret Service: strictly metaphorical threats.)

Folks, this ain’t over, but it will be soon.

I know. I know. I know. We just need to pass health care reform and will fix it in post (a video and audio production term that allows you to record something really badly and use various computer techniques — like Photoshop —  to make it seem better when people see it). Not this time. We’ll be dead broke and mostly dead before they take the power out of the cold live hands of the lobbyists.

I don’t have any power except to write you. If you can reach out and touch one, just one of the cretins we called leaders, please do it for me — or for one of the hundred million others who are more likeable.

Dinosaurs should be extinct

2ijpxr4Try living with them and you’ll trampled or eaten. One of the many notable dinosaurs surviving today is the health insurance industry. They are really big. Have voracious appetites. And their sole purpose is keep you alive just long enough to eat every dollar you have.

Way back in the World War II era (before the internet began recording history), these dinosaurs began roaming the US as result of the wage freeze during the war. Employers saw it as way to scam the freeze and attract employees when employees were scarce. By the end of the war, employees loved these cute little scaly creatures (Yabba-Dabba Do). They didn’t eat much back then, but as we started feeding them, they started growing and got bigger and bigger. They began eating each other and fighting over the food supply – us. Thick skinned, with no known predators, lots of lobbyists and seemingly impervious to regulation, they have continued to grow to their enormous present-day size. They also seem to have a particular love for the food in the South.

Quoting researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Click here for the full report), SouthernStudies.org, says the “Health insurance industry monopolizes the South. According to the report, insurer consolidation also disproportionately disadvantages rural states. In several rural states across the nation the two largest health insurers control at least 80% of the statewide market. In Alabama, for instance, the biggest insurer holds 89% of the statewide market, the highest rate in the nation for a single company. Even more populous states in the South have serious market concentration problems; Virginia’s largest health insurer, for example, controls a 50% share of the statewide market.

The combined market share percentage of the top two insurers in each state in the South:
Alabama – 88
Arkansas – 81
Florida – 45
Georgia – 69
Kentucky – 69
Louisiana – 74
Mississippi – n/a
North Carolina – 73
South Carolina – 75
Tennessee – 62
Texas – 59
Virginia – 61
West Virginia – 54

”In the past 13 years, more than 400 corporate mergers have involved health insurers, and a small number of companies now dominate local markets“ – HCAN

“94 percent of insurance markets in the United States are now highly concentrated, and insurers are thriving in the anti-competitive marketplace, raking in enormous profits and paying out huge CEO salaries“ – The American Medical Association

”Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, going up more than 87% on average over the past six years“ – The Department of Justice

From blog.AFLCIO.org and quoting a letter to the Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust Division, Richard Kirsch, HCAN national campaign manager, and David Balto, former policy director of the Federal Trade Commission and now senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes: “Simply put, the private insurance companies have secured monopolies or tight oligopolies and exercised that power to put profits ahead of patients….There were no actions taken against anticompetitive conduct by health insurers in the last administration, in spite of the fact that cases by state attorneys general have secured massive fines against these insurers. A lack of antitrust enforcement has enabled insurers to acquire dominant positions in almost every metropolitan market.”

Extinct in most of the world, the cost of maintaining these dinosaurs has soared.

According to the National Coalition on Health Care:

  • In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.
  • Total spending was $2.4 TRILLION in 2007, or $7900 per person
  • Total health care spending represented 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) – compared to 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France.
  • U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4.3 TRILLION in 2017, or 20 percent of GDP.
  • The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700.
  • The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,700.
  • Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
  • Health insurance cost in the United States have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 1999.
  • The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.
  • National surveys show that the primary reason people are uninsured is the high cost of health insurance coverage.
  • A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. The study noted that 68 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses.Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.
  • A new survey shows that more than 25 percent said that housing problems resulted from medical debt, including the inability to make rent or mortgage payments and the development of bad credit ratings.
  • Retiring elderly couples will need $250,000 – $300,000 in savings just to pay for the most basic medical coverage.
  • The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.

64022626_711ca081eeWe obviously need a dragon slayer. We need to kill these evil beasts off once and for all. We cannot afford to wait. They will eat us all. Write your congressperson. Demand single payer and enforcement of our anti-trust laws. If for no other reason, do it because dinosaur farts contribute to greenhouse gases and some believe brought on the last ice age.



The Emperor’s Accounting Rules

The 3 trillion dollar question

A house was purchased a couple of years ago for $100,000 and got a $100,000 mortgage. If the homeowner sold it today, they could get about $75,000. The $3,000,000,000,000+ question is, how much is the “asset” worth?

Scenario #1: Every mortgage payment has been made on time.

  • The homeowner knows that their house is worth $75,000, even though, they owe $100,000.
  • Under current rules, the banks and the mortgage backed securities which own the mortgage, are required to say the house is worth about $75,000. Since banks have strict capital requirements by the Fed (unbelievably complicated), writing down this asset by $25,000, generally, means the bank will have to raise capital to make it up by selling about $1,000 in new stock or attracting subordinated debt (or other methods) which may be really hard to do when your stock is in a spiral.
  • Meanwhile, investors in the banks and the mortgage backed securities which own the mortgage, buy or sell based on their guess whether they think the companies are telling the truth on a timely basis, and, generally, don’t believe anything leaving the stock and securities prices in the toilet.
  • The banks, Wall Street firms, the Treasury and the Fed want to value it at $100,000 and have our government guarantee that it is. The mortgage is performing as if it is worth it is worth $100,000 and if held until maturity it would be, therefore, it is.

Scenario #2: The mortgage is behind, but not technically in default.

  • Same as above.

Scenario #3: The mortgage is in default.

  • The homeowner is probably living somewhere else, thieves have gutted the house for appliances and copper and the house is no longer inhabitable and has a market value of about $40,000.
  • Under current rules, the banks and the mortgage backed securities which own the mortgage, are required to say the house is worth about $40,000, but they really don’t know what the market is or the condition of the house and would likely just take their time reporting an optimistically guess to the value. When the Fed finally finds out, the bank would be required to write down the asset, and, if the bank had enough of them and can’t raise enough capital, the bank would become insolvent forcing the Fed to “nationalize” it or force a merger with another bank to big to fail until we run out of banks.
  • Investors left the house, the bank and the securities long before the former homeowner and isn’t planning to come back until something fundamentally changes.
  • If the bank was lucky enough to be one of the 13 banks with more than $100 billion in assets, the Treasury and the Fed (announced yesterday – see: Giethner’s Remarks and the new FinancialStability.gov website) would give the banks “a carefully designed comprehensive stress test” and mortgages, or, in this case, the asset, would be purchased for about $75,000 by the Public-Private Investment Fund they call the “Financial Stability Trust” which they plan to capitalize with $500,000,000,000 of tax-payer money. The banks and the mortgage backed securities which own the mortgage would be out about $25,000, but no longer have the mortgage and could go back to doing whatever really big banks and and really big mortgage backed securities do.
  • If the bank was one of the 9,446 small banks that haven’t yet been forced to merge with one of the lucky 13, the house would eventually be sold for about $40,000 and the bank and the mortgage backed securities which owned the mortgage would be out about $60,000.

Now if my simple answers made this seem incredibly complicated, which it is, you might be wondering why the Fed and the Treasury didn’t just tell the banks to re-work the mortgages, send the government the bill (let’s use the term stock so it could be sold later when things are better), so consumers could stay in their homes? Me, too.

Here’s the simple math:

  • Total US Mortgages: $12 trillion
  • Mortgages that are 60 days or more late: 4% or $480 billion
  • Cost to re-work/write down mortgages by 30%: $144 billion

Even if my figures are off by 1,000 per cent, the cost would be far less than what we are doing, but this is the path we’ve gone down and is better than letting the house of cards we live in, fall on us.