Everyone Has Fallen for the Lies About Venezuela

By Lee Camp/ Truthdig/ February 19, 2019

 

There are three things I know for sure in this fanciful, sometimes inglorious experience we call life:

  1. You will never have a safety pin when you need one, and you will have thousands when you don’t need one.
  2. Wild animals are breathtakingly majestic until they’re crawling up your pant leg.
  3. A U.S. presidential administration will never admit that it invaded another country or backed a coup attempt in order to essentially steal the natural resources (oil) of said country.

This is why it was so very shocking last week when members of the Trump administration admitted they were backing a coup attempt in order to essentially steal the natural resources (oil) of another country.

That country is Venezuela. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

Let’s take a second to go over the big three. There are three things that seem to provoke the ornery United States into overthrowing or bringing down a foreign government, no matter how many innocent civilians may die in the process. (If enough die, the perpetrators often get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.) If your country has one of these things, the U.S. might screw with you. If your country has two of these things, the U.S. will definitely screw with you. If your country has three of these things, then look behind you, because the U.S. is currently screwing you:

1. Being socialist.

Pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have the same economic system as we do, we treat it like you have candy and we’re not allowed to have any, so we slip razor blades in yours and tell everyone your candy kills people.

2. Dropping the U.S. dollar.

Iraq dropped the dollar. We invaded.
Syria dropped the dollar. We invaded.
Iran dropped the dollar. We want to invade.
Libya dropped the dollar. We invaded.

Pakistan dropped the dollar in trade with China, and the following day the U.S. added them to the list of countries violating religious freedom. (I guess you could argue they did indeed violate our religion: The dollar.)

Basically, we do NOT take kindly to countries dropping the dollar.

In unrelated news, Venezuela dropped the dollar.

3. Having oil or other natural resources the U.S. needs.

In case you were curious, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the known world. (But we haven’t checked northern Wyoming yet, because it’s a long, cold drive with nary a 7-11.)

So these are the three ACTUAL reasons the U.S. has created an attempted coup in Venezuela over the past several weeks. And right now, you are falling into one of two categories. Either you’re saying to yourself, “Of course those are the reasons. Those are the only reasons the U.S. ever tries to bring down governments.” OR you still have some strange, deep-rooted faith in our Pepsi-and-pharmaceutical-owned media outlets, and therefore you’re thinking, “That’s not true. The U.S. supports the opposition in Venezuela because we want to help those poor starving people.” But if that were accurate, we would be tripping over ourselves to help starving and sick people around the world. Instead we (oddly) only seek to help them when they have oil under their feet. And in fact, data has proven this true. A study a few years ago from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex found that foreign intervention in civil conflicts is 100 times more likely if the country has a great deal of oil, versus none.

So who is feeding the average American the idea that our involvement in Venezuela is about helping people? Only EVERY mainstream media channel in America—from MSNBC to Fox News to NPR to Bill fuckin’ Maher. It’s truly mind-numbing to watch so-called “liberals” march in lockstep with the likes of John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Donald Trump and every neocon not currently in a coma.

These outlets froth at the mouth while presenting segments explaining that the Venezuelan people are starving, but they also purposefully avoid mentioning that a lot of Venezuela’s hardships are due to U.S. sanctions. This isn’t to say Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has done an awesome job. But whether he has or not, saying we must sanction them to help them is like if somebody fell through a plate glass window and you said, “Let’s help him! Let’s start cutting the glass shards out of his skin with this rusty flathead screwdriver I found in an abandoned mine! Then we’ll pour Mountain Dew and sewage water in the wounds to help them heal!”

But that’s what our sanctions are designed to do. They’re devised from day one to hurt poor and average people the most, in order to make them angry enough to rebel. Over a year ago, when Rex Tillerson was secretary of state, he publicly said we could tell our sanctions on North Korea were working great because poor fishermen were washing up on the beaches starved to death. (One is perplexed by how difficult it is at times to tell the difference between “helping other countries” and mass murder.)

Sanctions are not smart bombs. They destroy everybody, except the rich—who have enough money to weather the sanctions. Come to think of it, sanctions are kind of like smart bombs. We’re told they’re only going to hit the bad guys, but in fact “smart bombs” kill all kinds of innocent civilians, just like sanctions do.

Furthermore, the U.S. “humanitarian aid” that we claim to be sending is not what it seems. Even NPR took a break from its traditional role as State Department stenographer-in-training to reveal that the “humanitarian aid” is actually meant to create regime change. And McClatchy last week uncoveredthat the North Carolina-based private freight company 21 Air LLC has made 40 secretive flights to Venezuela from the U.S. in the past month, and the Venezuelan government claimed the flights were filled to the brim with assault weapons and ammunition destined for opposition forces. (Apparently we thought the Venezuelans were going to cook up a fresh pot of bullet stew to ease their hunger pains.) To make matters worse, two executives at the company have ties to an air cargo company that helped the CIA “rendition” supposed terrorists to black sites for “interrogation” (read: torture).

The next piece of propaganda lovingly pedestalled by our mainstream media robot-heads is simply calling Juan Guaidó the “interim president” without mentioning that he was not elected to that position and only 30 out of 200 nations recognize him as such. He just declared himself president. Last I checked, that’s not really how governments work. But if it is—OK, I hereby declare myself governor of … let’s say, Idaho. No one will really notice. I’m pretty sure the current governor is a hedgehog in a bow tie.

(CONTINUED–CLICK HERE TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE)

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Does Your Vote Matter?

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So, We’re the Good Guys?

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Who Does Government Serve?

By Paul Craig Roberts/ OpEdNews.com/ February 14, 2019

Whose interests are served when Pelosi sells out health care and Pompeo sells out peace?

::::::::

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi

The US health system is the most high cost and dysfunctional health care system in the world. The reason is that it is privatized. In the rest of Western civilization the system is socialized.

The reason health care is socialized in civilized countries is not only to provide health care to citizens who otherwise could not afford it, but also to reduce the cost. In a privatized system, a profit has to be turned at every level: the general practitioner, the specialist, the diagnostic facility, the ambulance service, the emergency room, the hospital, the hospice, the health insurance company. All of these levels of profit build up the cost.

In the hybrid system with which the US is afflicted, regulation drives the cost even higher. It is not only government regulation because of Medicare and Medicaid, but also private regulation imposed by private insurance companies. In America, alone in the world, medical care comes second to paperwork.

Doctors working in medical clinics have to dictate the results of each patient seen, the diagnosis, the treatment, and so forth, in sufficient detail to satisfy the payer of the bill, whether public or private. The dictation time eats into the doctor’s treatment time. In other words, the paper work requirements reduce the amount of time the doctor has to see patients. The paperwork also requires nurses to organize and compile it. And this is not the end of it.

Health care corporations employ people to monitor the doctors to make sure the physican dictates enough to create a record that Medicare, Medicaid, or the private insurance company will accept as evidence of billable service.

Even a libertarian economist who views the massive costs upon costs of the American system cannot find any economies to attribute to private enterprise.

In a socialized health care system, none of the many levels require a profit in order to continue to operate. As there is no billing of Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies by private corporations, there is no need for the high cost of preventing fraud. Nurses and doctors can attend to patients instead of paperwork. Of course, in any system cost-saving regulations can expand cost-producing bureaucracies, and no system will work well without moral and virtue rules that instill a compassionate and responsible attitude on the part of health care providers.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the cost of health care in the US would diminish dramatically if the US had a socialized health care system in which there is no profit, no paperwork, only health care. And this is why it will not happen.

In the US system, health care is profitable to private interests. They are concerned with their profits, not with the cost of health care to people. It is profitable to all the fraud prevention, public and private, bureaucracies. It is profitable to the members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, as private health care companies are major donors.

If you doubt this, consider that Democrats, or many of them, say that they are for a single payer health care system, by which they mean a socialized health care system in which there is no profit and no regulatory cost. But they are not really in favor of such a system as the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s health policy aide made clear to private insurance company executives. Pelosi’s health care adviser, Wendell Primus, pledged Democratic Party support to the insurance industry in the fight against single-payer health care.

Pelosi’s plan is to achieve “universal coverage” via the Obama Affordable Care Act. This misnamed legislation achieves health coverage for Americans by mandating that they purchase private insurance policies for their health insurance. Many Americans have not, because the premium, together with the deductible and co-pays are so high that few can afford to use the policy. The perfect deal for a health insurance company is to collect a premium on a policy whose deductibles and copays make it too expensive to use.

What we need to ask outselves is: Why can’t we Americans get affordable health care? A socialized system could pay high salaries to doctors and nurses to guarantee their commitment. Their education could be subsidized. Pharmaceutical companies can be nationalized. Scientists dedicated to finding cures don’t care who they work for. The entrepreneurial argument is a red herring.

The answer is that government does not serve the citizens. Government is just another private business that serves those whose campaign contributions put senators, representatives, and presidents in office. What liberals, conservatives, and libertarians do not understand is that government is a private activity like a capitalist business, not a public organization.

Government is just another privatized sector. It serves those who pay. As people needing health care can seldom pay, the system is in the hands of the private insurance companies.
The only “health care reform” that America will ever have is the reform that drives the cost of healthcare even higher.

Pelosi’s sellout to the insurance companies is more evidence that the concept of “public goods,” that is, the government’s provision of goods and services to citizens, needs rethinking. For example, consider national defense. In what sense is the massive US military/security complex budget a public good as contrasted with taxpayer-provided profit to a small number of subsidy-seeking private corporations? In what sense does US foreign policy serve the public as opposed to the armaments corporations, oil companies, and Israel Lobby? It is impossible to look at the US government budget and not see that it feeds private interest groups with strong lobbies.

Consider the symbiotic relationship between foreign policy and the military/security budget. The massive Pentagon budget and the massive power of the CIA and NSA require a dangerous enemy. Thus, US foreign policy creates the “Russian threat,” the “Chinese threat,” the “Iranian threat,” the “Al Qaeda threat,” the “ISIS threat,” the “Saddam Hussein threat,” the “Gaddafi threat,” the “Assad threat,” and now the “Maduro threat.” In order to maximize profits, the military/security complex increases the risks of war. In other words, the profits come at an expense greater than the budget imposed on taxpayers. In the case of war with Russia, the cost is the destruction of life on earth.

Propaganda serves the same role in democracies as it does in dictatorships. The public have to be deceived in order for citizens to accept an agenda that serves others than themselves. The public’s patriotism and gullibility pave the way for propaganda’s success. Currently Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are preparing the public for US military intervention in Venezuela with false claims that Cuba has taken control of Venezuela’s security apparatus, and Hezbollah and Iran have active cells operating in Venezuela. This alleged risk to America has “to be taken down” in Venezuela and “all across the globe.”

All over the Western world the public has been sold out by government; yet only in France is there effective protest.

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War: Good For the Military-Industrial Complex

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Governor Northam: Don’t Resign!

By Arlen Grossman

It appears I must be the only progressive Democrat around who thinks Governor Ralph Northam deserves to stay in office. It appears most Democrats are leaping over each other to pile onto Governor Northam and demand that he resign.

 

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference in the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The amount of hysterical reaction seems to me to be way over the top. There was a racist photo on his yearbook page that he claims he doesn’t know about and is not a part of. Who can say otherwise and be sure? The photograph was on his page in his medical school yearbook 35 years ago, and his career record on race has been good. He hasn’t lynched anyone or called anyone the n-word.

One questionable photo which he denies knowledge of should not the the basis or ruining a man’s life and career. Hang in there, Governor, and don’t be a victim of knee-jerk PC like Al Franken was.

Unless I see clear evidence of racist feelings and action from Governor Northam, I hope he gets the benefit of the doubt and remains in the office he was elected to.

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Zing!

Dear : Many people say you get your facts from fictional sources. We are concerned you may not understand the difference between our intelligence agencies and movies/entertainment shows. Here is a memo that explains the difference. –Rep. Ted Lieu

ted

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News We Need to Lose

4 Reasons the Corporate Media Refuses to Talk About Things That Matter

By Thom Hartmann/ Common Dreams/ January 10, 2019

msnbc

The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.

Ever since the media began, in a big way in the 1980s, to ignore actual news and go for highly dumbed-down or even salacious stories, many of us who work in the media have been astonished by this behavior by the network and cable news organizations and the major newspapers.

They used to report the details of policy proposals in great detail (see this report from the 1970s about Richard Nixon’s proposal for universal health care, comparing his with Ted Kennedy’s, for example). But since the Reagan era, the networks have largely kept their coverage exclusively to personality, scandal, and horse race.

Why would that be? Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?

For example, on January 3, the House of Representatives passed one of the most sweeping political reform bills since the Nixon era, including automatic voter registration, 15 days of nationwide early voting, and an end to gerrymandering. Not to mention a totally revolutionary code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

But was there any coverage of these details—or even of the bill itself—in the media? Even though there’s no way it would pass the Senate, it’s worthy of discussion and debate.

This is just one example of dozens of events that happen every day and are completely ignored by the media in favor of “who’s up and who’s down” horse-race reporting, and gotcha or scandal coverage.

Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever.

Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever. Every issue is instead framed in the horse-race format of “who’s going to win this fight”—leaving Americans uninformed about the consequences to themselves of the issues being fought over.

But the networks love scandal and conflict. So, to get issues on TV, maybe it’s time to make them obscene.

Imagine if the Democratic Party were to enlist a dozen or so members of Congress to go on national TV and say things like:

Alas, it’s just a dream.

Even if the Democrats did this, the only dimension of it that would get covered would be how much political damage (or benefit) the profanity may be doing to the politicians who are the source or butt of it, as happened with Representative Tlaib. In other words, they’d turn the issues aside and focus on the personalities and the horse race.

Which brings us back to the media refusing to actually discuss or inform the American public about actual issues.

Why would it be this way in 2019, when there’s such a demonstrable thirst for issues-based discussions, as we can see with the ratings of the few top cable network shows that actually do discuss issues and don’t spend half their hour with a “panel”?

Trying to figure out why this is, I’ve come up with four possible reasons (none of which are mutually exclusive; it may be all or a combination of them). Let me know on Twitter or call into my show if you have additions to the list.

 

media

1. The End of the Fairness Doctrine

In 1987, Ronald Reagan ordered his FCC to cease enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. This much-misunderstood regulation required radio and TV stations, in order to keep their licenses, to “pay” for their use of the public airwaves (the property of We the People) with actual news. It was called “broadcasting in the public interest.”

Because of the Fairness Doctrine, every one of the networks actually lost money on their news divisions, and those divisions operated entirely separately from the entertainment programming divisions of the networks.

CBS, ABC, and NBC had bureaus all around the world and employed an army of reporters. At the little radio station where I worked in Lansing, Michigan, in the 1970s (WITL), we had, as I recall, five people staffing the newsroom, and it was a firing offense if we were caught hanging out with the sales staff. While stations lost money on news, the payoff was the much larger sums they could earn with entertainment during the rest of the hour or day.

The Fairness Doctrine also encouraged a discussion of the issues of the day with the “balanced commentary” (probably not the official name; it’s what we called it in the ’70s) requirement. This did not say that if a station carried an hour of Limbaugh, they’d have to balance it with an hour of Hartmann. “Entertainment” programming (see Joe Pyne, William F. Buckley, etc., etc.) could have any tilt it wanted.

But when a station ran an editorial on the air that conveyed the opinion of the station’s owners, they then had to allow a member of the community to come on the air and present a balancing and different perspective. If this provision was still in the regulations, every time Sinclair Broadcast Group requires their local stations to air their “must-carry” right-wing editorials, they’d have to follow them with a left-wing perspective rebutting their points.

2. The Rise of “Reality TV”

Reality TV grew out of the twin writers’ strikes of 1988 and 2001. In each case, the networks had to figure out a way to offer compelling programming with shows that didn’t require union writers. In 1988, they mostly did documentaries on policing like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”; in 2001 they rolled out the full-blown reality programming we know today, starting with “Survivor.”

The networks learned two big lessons from this. The first was that “reality” programming actually pulled an audience, and thus was profitable. Extremely profitable, in that it didn’t require union writers and generally didn’t even require union actors.

The second was that it was incredibly cheap to produce.

If you tuned into TV prior to the Reaganification of the news, you may still have heard “experts” discussing things, but there were several differences. First, they were usually actual experts on actual issues that were before Congress. Second, they were a very, very small part of the overall program.

In the years since the rise of reality TV, the news networks have discovered that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to have four or five or six “pundits” join a host for an hour and “discuss” the issues of the day than it is to pay for actual salaried reporters and news bureaus around the nation and the world.

So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long.

So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long. (One wonders why the networks don’t encourage their talent to do more of the kind of in-depth reporting and analysis found on Rachel’s show, particularly since it’s profitable and draws killer ratings. Perhaps the answer is found in reasons three and four.)

Guests like you see on the panels that fill daytime news programming start out working for free, and if they become an “analyst,” “contributor” or some other title for the network are paid between $500 and $2,500 an appearance. In a world where on-air personalities often start with seven-figure salaries, this is incredibly cheap programming.

Even cheaper for the networks is to have politicians on as guests—they show up for free!—which may be why they’re almost never held to account in any serious way. After all, if you piss off a politician on your network and they refuse to ever come back on the air, you’ve lost another bit of “free” talent. And if you piss off an entire political party, and your programming model doesn’t work without “balance,” you’re really screwed.

There’s a reason people all over America are screaming at their TVs every Sunday morning: the majority of guests are conservatives or Republicans, and much of what they offer as “fact” or “opinion” is merely lies and propaganda. Which leads us to number three.

3. Media Corporations Are Corporations, Too

It’s easy to postulate that the absolute lack of coverage of the death, at GOP hands, of net neutrality is because two of the big three cable TV networks are (or soon will be) owned by internet service providers (NBC/MSNBC is owned by Comcast, AT&T is trying to buy CNN), and other big corporations see all sorts of financial advantage if they can use their financial and programming muscle to dominate a newly sliced-and-diced corporatized internet.

Consider: When was the last time you heard an intelligent discussion on TV about taxing the rich? Or holding corporations accountable when they break the law? Or how destructive oligopolies and monopolies are to workers? Or how big pharma scams us about their R&D expenses and price fixing, buying up generic companies, etc.? The list could go on for pages.

Back in the day, the big joke in corporate America was, “You know it’s going to be a bad day when you get to work in the morning and there’s a ‘60 Minutes’ news truck outside the building.” The last time this was seriously considered was in the late 1980s, as in this article about “60 Minutes” doing an exposé of the meat industry. Now, not so much.

The simple fact is that TV “news” organizations are now for-profit operations, and, lacking regulation like the Fairness Doctrine, thus have the same natural and inherent biases toward protecting corporate power and privilege, and the wealth and privilege of their management and largest shareholders.

They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.

They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.

All those campaign ads represent hundreds of millions of dollars going right into the pockets of the networks and their affiliates, along with other corporate advertising revenue. Lacking a regulation like the Fairness Doctrine to require actual “programming in the true public interest news,” who’d bite those hands that feed them?

4. Corporations Like Republicans

The final possibility that occurs to me (and others in media with whom I’ve discussed this over the years) is that the large TV and radio news operations simply like what the GOP stands for. They also know that if GOP policies were widely understood, the Republican Party would fade into the kind of powerless obscurity it enjoyed for most of the FDR-to-Reagan era, when working people’s salaries were growing faster than management and the middle class was solid and stable.

TV networks don’t like unions or uppity workers or regulation any more than any other billion-dollar corporation. They’d prefer the salaries of their senior corporate management weren’t debated (or even known). They prefer to live in today’s semi-monopolistic system where they’re only minimally held accountable, and want to keep it that way.

This is the core of GOP ideology that media shares: Cut taxes on rich people, kill off the unions, cut welfare so more of that money can go to rich people’s tax cuts, deregulate big corporations so they can act without regard to the public good, and subsidize big corporations with government funds whenever and wherever possible.

But if any of these issues were ever explicitly discussed on TV, all hell would break loose. Can you imagine if Bill Kristol or Rick Santorum or any of the other dozens of right-wing trolls who inhabit cable TV were ever asked about their actual positions on policy?

Should we sell off (privatize) Social Security to the big New York banks as the GOP has wanted to do since the 1930s? Should we end Medicare and Medicaid and turn everybody over to the tender mercies of the insurance industry? Should we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry? What should we do about the audit that found $21 trillion (yes, with a T) missing from the Pentagon? How do we break the stranglehold monopolistic drug corporations have on the pricing of our pharmaceuticals?

The networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.

Similarly, the networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.

Imagine how things would go down if the networks started having actual discussions and debates about free college education, free national health care, the environmental impact of big oil, how well publicly owned utilities and internet services (like Chattanooga) work?

The simple reality is that the media oligopoly and the GOP work hand-in-glove, and the Democrats (and particularly the progressives) have been locked out since the Reagan era.

Solutions

The solutions to these problems are not particularly complex, although the GOP will fight them tooth-and-nail.

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, put back into place ownership rules, and break up the big media monopolies so there’s a diversity of voices across America. Overrule the Supreme Court’s (by legislation or constitutional amendment) Citizens United (and similar) ruling to regulate money in politics, diminishing the power of big corporations and billionaires (and foreign governments).

In other words, restore to America a rational media landscape.

Today, you can drive from coast to coast and never miss a moment of Hannity or Limbaugh on the radio, so complete and widespread is the nation’s network of corporate-owned radio stations that will only carry right-wing talk. You’ll be hard-pressed, outside of a few major cities, to find any progressive or even moderate talk programming.

This has corrupted America’s politics and led to a nation divided.

We can do better.

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Freefall Economy

The US is on the edge of the economic precipice – Trump may push it over

By Robert Reich/ The Guardian/ December 23, 2018

Dream

On Friday, Donald Trump said: “We are totally prepared for a very long shutdown.” It was one of his rare uses of the pronoun “we” instead of his preferred and in this case far more appropriate “I.”

The shutdown is indubitably his. Congress offered him a way to continue funding the government without the money to build his nonsensical wall along the Mexican border, but Trump caved in to the rabid right-wing media and refused.

Don’t count on American consumers to come to the rescue. Most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009.

More Americans have jobs, to be sure, but their pay has barely risen when adjusted for inflation. Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare and education.

Trump has added to their financial burdens by undermining the Affordable Care Act, rolling back overtime pay, hobbling their ability to join together in unions, allowing states to cut Medicaid, and imposing tariffs that increase the prices of many goods.

America’s wealthy, meanwhile, have been taking home a growing portion of the nation’s total income. But the rich spend a small fraction of what they earn. The economy depends on the spending of middle-, working-class and poor families.

The only way these Americans have continued to spend is by going deeper into debt. By the third quarter of this year, household debt had reached a record $13.5tn. Almost 80% of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

This isn’t sustainable. Even if the Fed weren’t raising interest rates — an unwise move under these circumstances — consumers would still be in trouble. Mortgage, auto and student-debt delinquencies are already mounting.

The last time household debt was nearly this high was in 2007, just before the Great Recession. Similarly, between 1913 and 1928, the ratio of personal debt to the total national economy nearly doubled. Then came the Great Crash.

See a pattern?

The problem isn’t that Americans are living beyond their means. It’s that their means haven’t been keeping up with the growing economy. Most gains have gone to the top. If the majority of households had taken home a larger share of national income, they wouldn’t have needed to go so deeply into debt.

Without wage growth, American workers can’t continue to buy without going into deeper debt. Unless they continue to buy, the economy can’t continue to move forward.

It’s the same sort of trap that preceded the 2008 and 1929 crashes.

After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost the wages of most Americans — social security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage — the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called the second world war.

By contrast, after the 2007 crash, the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to stop the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

Ten years after the start of the Great Recession, we face another economic precipice.

It’s important to understand that the root cause of those former collapses wasn’t a banking crisis. It was the growing imbalance between consumer spending and total output brought on by stagnant wages and widening inequality.That imbalance is back.

Trump is making it worse.

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$21 Trillion–Poof! It’s Gone.

The Pentagon Failed Its Audit Amid a $21 Trillion Scandal (Yes, Trillion)

By Lee Camp/ Truthdig/ December 18, 2018

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New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ruthlessly attacked recently, and I feel a bit responsible. I might have accidentally tainted her Twitter feed with truth serum.

But that sounds weird—so let me back up.

A few months ago, I covered the story of the $21 trillion that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. That’s right—trillion with a T—an amount of money you can’t possibly come to terms with, so stop trying. Seriously, stop. It’s like trying to comprehend the age of the earth.

(The earth is 4.5 billion years old. To put that into context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to completely change our ways or climate change will make the earth uninhabitable. If you were to take the age of the earth and lay it out on the span of a calendar year, this means we would have less than a millisecond left on Dec. 31 to utterly change our ways or all is lost.)

Anyway, the $21 trillion includes $6.5 trillion unaccounted for at the Pentagon in 2015 ALONE. When I covered all this a few months ago, very few people were talking about it. David Degraw investigated it for his website (which has since been destroyed by hackers), and Mark Skidmore, the economist who discovered the unaccounted adjustments, co-authored a single Forbes articleon the subject. And by “discovered,” I don’t mean that Skidmore found a dusty shoebox in Donald Rumsfeld’s desk underneath the standard pile of baby skeletons. I mean that he took a minute to look at the Defense Department’s own inspector general’s report. So really he just bothered to look at the thing that was designed for the public to look at.

Anyway, my column on this topic went viral, as did the Forbes article, each garnering hundreds of thousands of views. Yet despite all that, still not a word from Congress, and not a word from the hacks at your mainstream media outlets. But then again, getting important news about the corruption of our military-industrial complex from the mainstream media would be like getting a philosophy lesson from a strip-club dancer (in that it would be most unexpected, and it’s not really why you’re there).

But just a few weeks ago, something significant happened. It took place in a quiet news dump during a Pentagon press conference that TRULY began like this:

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN: So you guys know why I came down here today?

REPORTER: To see if we ate the donuts?

Yes, Pentagon press conferences apparently begin in much the same manner as a “Three Stooges” sketch. (Unfortunately the subsequent bonks on the head usually involve Tomahawk missiles.)

During that wacky press conference, the deputy secretary of defense casually mentioned halfway through that the Pentagon had failed its first-ever audit.This is the first time the Pentagon has ever been audited, even though it has been legally required to do so since the early 1990s. Don’t you wish you could put off your tax returns for 20 years? (I once put them off for two years, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It was simply the period of my life when I discovered that Netflix had every episode of “The West Wing.”)

After Shanahan dropped this bombshell, here was what followed:

REPORTER: What part did the Pentagon fail in the audit?

SHANAHAN: How about I give you, like, the technical version of that—there are a considerable number of areas where we kind of had a pass, then there’s some other ones where they went through and they said we went into your inventory system and we didn’t find these things; therefore that’s a finding, so you don’t have a clean assessment. So—and—in a lot of these audits, it’s the type of finding that matters.

Yes, the Pentagon’s official response to why it failed its audit is a word salad after it has gone through an industrial-grade militarized Slap Chop. It’s the type of response you get when a fraud has been filtered through a cover-up, then filtered through a publicist, then filtered through a public official who probably doesn’t know that much to begin with.

It’s the corrupt feeding the blind feeding the stupid feeding the disingenuous.

And yet even THAT didn’t get much press coverage. As far as I can tell, The New York Times didn’t report on the audit failure until two weeks later, and even that column contained this caveat:

But audits are hard work; most defense officials aren’t business experts; and to some, bookkeeping and other management operations just aren’t a priority in wartime, which since Sept. 11, 2001, has been a permanent state.

In the Times’ defense, there are different genres of reporting, and in this case, journalists were working in the genre of “shit reporting.” So should we really be surprised? If they want to learn what real reporting looks like on this same topic, they can read The Nation’s investigative exposé. That article stated:

For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher. … DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions … according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. (The following page in the magazine was simply an image of a hand dropping a mic.)

So here’s how this fraud works: Every year, the Pentagon tells Congress how much money it needs. It submits the financial reports from the year before, filled to the brim with heaping, steaming bullshit. Trillions of gallons of bullshit, called “adjustments.” Those adjustments cover up the fact that it didn’t necessarily spend all the money the year before.

However, instead of returning such unspent funds to the US Treasury, as the law requires, the Pentagon sometimes launders and shifts such moneys to other parts of the DoD’s budget,” The Nation’s Dave Lindorff wrote.

And this is no mistake. This is straight-up fraud. How do you know when something is fraud? Well, one way is when the paper trail is covered up, as Lindorff noted:

Indeed, more than 16,000 records that might reveal either the source or the destination of some of that $6.5 trillion had been “removed,” the inspector general’s office reported.

Sixteen thousand records! By my calculations, such a cover-up would require multiple shredder operators working in shifts, only stopping once every five hours to use the bathroom and briefly giggle at their villainy.

One congressional staffer [said] … “We don’t know how the Pentagon’s money is being spent. … We don’t know how much of that funding gets spent on the intended programs, what things actually cost, whether payments are going to the proper accounts. If this kind of stuff were happening in the private sector, people would be fired and prosecuted.”

Here’s more analysis from The Nation:

The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.

But apparently, disappearing at least 16,000 documents wasn’t enough. Somebody might still connect the dots. So the Pentagon took the next step:

[T]he most recent report for the DOD on the OIG website … summarizes unsupported adjustments for fiscal year 2017. However, this document differs from all previous reports in that all the numbers relating to the unsupported adjustments were redacted. That is, all the relevant information was blacked out.

Right after The Nation article came out, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about it—basically saying that these unaccounted trillions at the Pentagon could help pay for “Medicare for all.”

Clearly things are ramping up. People are finding out about the $21 trillion, and that means it is now time for the true hacks—the military-industrial complex defenders—to jump in and chastise anyone who dares speak out about this fraud. Enter Vox-which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a cross between HuffPost and an NPR tote bag filled with rotting raccoon carcasses.

Vox ran an article titled, “The $21 trillion accounting error that can’t pay for Medicare-for-all, explained.” You know how to tell for sure that you’re a nitwit spraying idiocy like a Super Soaker? When you find yourself saying the phrase “$21 trillion accounting ERROR.

Error?! Yeah, and Timothy McVeigh just had a faulty carburetor.

Vox “journalist” Matthew Yglesias tried to push this idiotic justification: “The Pentagon’s accounting errors are genuinely enormous, but they’re also just accounting errors—they don’t represent actual money that can be spent on something else.”

Sorry, but no. These are not “accounting errors.” It’s impossible to have trillions of dollars of “accounting errors.” Since I have now saturated my keyboard with my anger-saliva, I’ll let Laurence Kotlikoff at Forbes answer this:

Let’s recall that this is not simply a matter of boring accounting. Trillions in unaccounted outlays, if that’s what’s involved here, is trillions of our tax dollars being spent without our knowledge. If that’s the case, we’re talking about the biggest government financial deception in the history of the country.

Long story short, this $21 trillion story is starting to gain traction. People can finally see the truth. And right now, it is the corporate media puppets who are trying to make sure you think, “It’s just a few accounting errors. Pay no mind to the fact that it amounts to the largest theft ever perpetrated against the American people.”

If you think this column is important, please share it. Also check out Lee Camp’s new comedy special, which one review called “the new standard for political stand-up comedy.” It’s only available at LeeCampComedySpecial.com.
This column is based on a monologue Camp wrote and performed on his TV show “Redacted Tonight.”

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for…

 

Yes, this is complicated. Here is another View: Washington Post fact-checker sees the numbers differently.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/04/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-trillion-mistake/?utm_term=.16f38afa242a 

We Report. You Decide.

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