* FIRST THEY CAME FOR YOUR PENSIONS …
By Mark Summer
Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across. — Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu breaks The Art of War into 13 chapters. There are sections on maneuvering an army in hostile terrain, advice on maintaining supply lines, and instructions on using incendiary weapons against massed forces. However, if you pick up the text expecting to find nothing but battles, you’ll be disappointed. Most of the Art of War is actually concerned with defeating your opponent without firing a shot. It’s exactly that property that has made the book so attractive to readers and applicable to many disciplines over the last 14 centuries.
For Sun Tzu, real victory comes when you defeat your enemies without risking your own resources in battle. Best of all, it comes when you destroy your opposition without even letting them realize they’ve been defeated. Such a victory may seem unlikely, but there’s one example that most of us lived through, a massive defeat that many Americans still don’t want to acknowledge.
Three decades ago, most workers in corporations could look forward to retiring under the terms of a defined benefit pension plan—a plan that guaranteed these workers a steady and secure payment in retirement. The money that most workers got in retirement was not great, often around half of what they had made toward the end of their working years, but it was sufficient that most workers could look forward to a life after the workplace without fear of losing what they had built for themselves and their families. Even when the amount wasn’t enough to live a life of luxury, it was a known quantity at a known date, allowing workers to plan for how they would get by…
* THE SHOCKING GRAPHIC DATA THAT SHOWS EXACTLY WHAT MOTIVATES THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
By Les Leopold
What are the Occupy Wall Street protesters angry about? The same things we’re all angry about. The only difference is the protestors turned their anger into public action. Occupy Wall Street lit the embers and the sparks are flying. Whether it turns into a genuine populist prairie fire depends on all of us.
Now is not the time for wonky policy solutions, as the media meatheads are calling for. Rather, it’s time to air our grievances as loudly as possible, which is precisely what Wall Street and its minions fear the most. Here’s a brief list of why we should be angry and the charts to back it up.
* THE SENATE MOVES TO SUBSIDIZE HOMES FOR THE RICH
By Daniel Indiviglio
Anyone who hoped that we would begin to see how the mortgage market might function with a tiny bit less government support should be pretty disappointed today. The Senate approved a measure that would reinstate the high-cost mortgage limits that expired on September 30th. The move seeks to ensure that relatively affluent Americans will get slightly cheaper mortgages, while keeping the training wheels on the housing finance market.
For anyone who hasn’t been following along, here’s a detailed explanation. For a quick refresher, the government agreed to back bigger mortgages in 2008 when the credit markets froze up. At that time through September of this year, the mortgage limit was 125% of the metro area’s median home price in 2007 or $729,750, whichever was smaller. Prior to this jump, the limit was set at just $417,000. As of this month, that limit declined to 115% of the metro area’s median home price in 2010 or $625,500, whichever is smaller.
You can see that this policy is specifically geared towards relatively expensive mortgages. It isn’t meant to lend a helping hand to Americans on the cusp of home ownership. It isn’t even meant to assist the average homeowner, who will have an income above the metro area’s average. In any city, those who raising the limit would benefit will be relatively affluent. The old limits should be allowed to expire.
* SENIORS ARE ALSO PART OF THE 99%
By David Atkins
… Word is that this COLA increase will the last for some time as we enter a new era of bipartisan austerity. It’s incredible that a nation that can seem to afford multiple simultaneous overseas wars and tax cuts for the insanely wealthy would consider balancing its budget on the backs of these people.
* UNEQUAL INFLUENCE: THERE ARE POLITICIANS WHO WORK ON BEHALF OF CORPORATIONS AND THOSE WHO WORK ON BEHALF OF HUMANS
By Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler Publishers/Book Excerpt
… Similarly, as somebody involved in education issues (I’m on the board of directors of a private school in New Hampshire and have written seven education-related books), I had wondered why the Bush administration would propose doubling the testing burden on public schoolchildren when both good science and common sense say that decreasing classroom size, increasing teacher training and resources, and other less expensive and more local methods are far more effective at helping children learn.3
Then the office of Senator Jim Jeffords gave me a study from the Congressional Research Service from July 9, 2001, titled “Educational Testing: Bush Administration Proposals and Congressional Response.” The report, produced for members of Congress and not generally available to the public, noted, “Estimated aggregate state-level expenditures for assessment programs in FY2001 are $422.8 million.”4
Suddenly, it all made sense: most standardized tests are sold to schools by a small number of very large corporations, and those corporations would make hundreds of millions more dollars under the Bush proposals.
In fact, the report notes that the Senate version of the Bush plan would “authorize a total of $400 million for state assessment development grants for FY2002”; “authorize $110 million for expansion of NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] state assessments”; and “authorize $50 million for state performance awards”—all in addition to the current $422 million that the states were already spending on testing. The testing industry would more than double in size in a single year, helping a handful of large corporations get very much richer from this redistribution of tax dollars, whether it helps kids learn or not.
George W. Bush’s brother, Neil, in fact, was then getting into the education business. And educational testing, now in 2010, as a result of No Child Left Behind, is a more than $2 billion a year industry.
* THE GLORY THAT IS RAHM
By David Atkins
… Rahm Emanuel is one of the key leaders of the anti-progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
When he was elected mayor of Chicago, I breathed a sigh of relief that at least his pernicious influence was gone from the White House. It’s too bad the fine citizens of Chicago have to put up with him now, but hopefully they’ll get rid of him next election as well.
* AN IGNOMINIOUS FIELD
By Steve Benen
… And yet, Steve Kornacki this week accurately described Romney as “one of the weakest front-runners either party has ever seen” who’s still very likely to win the GOP nomination.
Put it this way: Mitt Romney was a one-term governor so disliked by his constituents he was afraid to run for re-election; the head of a vulture-capitalist firm known for breaking up struggling companies and firing their employees; an uncontrollable flip-flopper who’s taken both sides of every issue; and is widely disliked within his own party, despite having been a non-stop presidential candidate for nearly six years.
If President Obama had an 80% approval rating and was a near-lock for a second term, this would make a lot more sense. Real candidates would take a pass and focus their efforts on 2016, when a wide-open cycle could offer better odds. But that’s clearly not the case — President Obama is vulnerable and the Republican nomination is worth winning.
But who’s running? The now-set field is made up of Romney, another befuddled Texas governor, a guy who ran a mafia-themed pizza company, a radical libertarian House member, a wild-eyed conspiracy-theory House member, a disgraced former House Speaker, a defeated former senator who doesn’t even want you to Google his name, a libertarian former governor who can’t get invited to debates, and a former Obama administration official who’s credible but has been deemed beyond consideration by the party faithful. Most of these nine are hard pressed to explain why they’re still even bothering to run.