Medicare and Social Security Targets of New Repug Tax Legislation

Ryan’s Goal To Eviscerate And Discard Medicare Is Closer Than Anyone Thinks

Before Bruce Barlett served in George H.W. Bush’s Treasury Department, he was a Reagan economics advisor and before that he worked as an advisor to Ron Paul. He labored away as a tax specialist for the Heritage Foundation. Since then he’s quit the Republican Party and is now an independent, although, he likes to say, an independent Reaganite. A few days ago David Sirota, writing for the International Business Times, interviewed Bartlett for a podcast on what the repercussions of the Ryan-Trump Tax Scam are likely to be, particularly in terms of Ryan’s goal to destroy the social safety net and end Medicare. Bartlett’s point was that the Scam was designed “not only to deliver big tax cuts to the wealthy, but also to create large budget deficits to manufacture the budget conditions that will justify cutting larger social programs… [T]his is the culmination,” he warned, “of everything the right has been trying to do, literally, for decades. I would compare it to, in terms of the right, to the Great Society, in terms of liberalism. It is they have been talking about these things for a long time, and finally had the votes and presidential leadership that they needed to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. And of course, one could characterize the right’s agenda, since that day, as trying to undo all of that.” He sounds like he’s been following Stephanie Kelton’s economics work, doesn’t he? He sees the tax bill as a deliberate step to create more debt, which can then be used as a justification to cut major social programs.

The right, a long time ago, figured out that they couldn’t assault the welfare state head on. It was too strong. So they’ve assaulted it through a back door, which is to systematically and consistently drain the government of revenues, and force, even Democratic presidents, such as Obama and Clinton, to do a lot of their dirty work for them by cutting spending, and holding back on new initiatives that are, in many cases, badly needed, and they’re simply continuing. The problem is, I think they’ve gone past the point of sanity. They’re simply doing things now that don’t even make sense.

…Many Republican presidents were willing to raise taxes if necessary to reduce the deficit. And Proposition 13 changed their philosophy because they could see that there was very large support from the general public for just slashing taxes and not giving a damn about spending. In fact, the authors of Proposition 13, [Howard] Jarvis and [Paul] Gann, said, “Cutting spending’s not our problem. We just want taxes cut. If you care about spending, if you care about government, you fix it.”

Immediately after that, Republicans glommed on to the idea that we should just cut taxes anytime, anywhere, anyway. And of course, Milton Friedman and other Republican economists agreed with them on that philosophy, but there was still a problem that some

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JIC NPR Hasn’t Made You Barf Yet (HASMYBRFY)

Lee Camp: How To Create NPR’s Propaganda – As Seen In a Hit Piece Against Me

Yves here. As this post and yesterday’s article by Mark Ames attest, we are now in the midst of a full-bore fake news onslaught against some well-known media figures who dare to be to the left of the fauxgressives. This incident, NPR’s attack on comedy host Lee Camp, is not what you’d see from a confident elite.

By Lee Camp, the host and head writer of the comedy news show “Redacted Tonight” that airs every Friday on RT America and at He’s a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post

I never thought I’d be the target of an NPR attack piece. Through my twenties I even looked to NPR as an outlet full of good, progressive, thoughtful reporting – You know, the soothing voices occasionally interrupted by music no one really listens to but that sounds good between soft-spoken ivy league journalists over the age of 50.  Everything about NPR subtly reinforced the idea, “Everything is fine. You’re probably a middle to upper class white person or you hope to be one day, and that’s just great. Everything is fine.” They might not SAY that, but they say that. And for a long time, I was cool with that message.

Then I woke up. About the time NPR was avoiding Occupy Wall Street – or when they did cover it, acting like those of us who supported it were brainless hippies without a point or at least none that would fit easily into the lives of suburbanites with two kids, one cat, and a robust retirement account. In hindsight I should’ve woken up sooner. I should’ve seen the truth about the time most NPR shows were pushing for war in Iraq, buying into the WMD lie. Or maybe I should’ve realized the truth when Kevin Klose took over as President of NPR in 1998. Klose came straight from a nice seat as director of the US Information Agency, described as “a United States agency devoted to ‘public diplomacy’ (AKA propaganda).” So when you have one of the top government propagandists as your president, one can assume your reporting is slightly biased.

Anyway, that leads me to today. A couple days after NPR’s Weekend Edition hosted by Scott Simon did a rather awesome attack piece on me and my TV show Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp which airs on RT America. I’d like to walk you through how to write such beautiful propaganda, as I did following the NY Times smear job against me, which sounded shockingly similar (more on that later).

STEP ONE: Create a subconscious association to old Cold War Russian propaganda

Scott Simon opens his show with “Russian programming is no longer breathless proclamations about tractor production or accolades to the Kremlin. Look at a show likeRedacted Tonight.” This opening sentence essentially tells the listener that everything they’re about to hear is modern Russian propaganda. Sure, he doesn’t use the word “propaganda” yet, but when you say something was ONCE accolades to the Kremlin and is now Redacted Tonight, you are priming your audience, giving them a subconscious opinion of the target

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The FCC Is Blocking a Law Enforcement Investigation Into Net Neutrality Comment Fraud

In addition, the agency told me there was nothing it could do after someone hijacked my identity to claim I falsely supported killing net neutrality protections.

Karl Bode

The FCC is blocking a law enforcement investigation into fraudulent comments designed to provide bogus support for the agency’s looming net neutrality repeal. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently announced his office has been conducting an investigation into who submitted millions of fraudulent comments (some using the identities of dead people) during the public comment period.

The FCC is already facing a lawsuit alleging the agency ignored FOIA requests pertaining to these fake comments. The agency similarly told me there was nothing it could do after someone hijacked my identity to claim I falsely supported killing net neutrality protections.

Detailed analysis of the record 22 million comments filed with the agency indicate the majority of the public overwhelmingly supports keeping the rules intact. But several analysts also found that some group or individual tried to counter this genuine opposition with fake support for the plan. Schneiderman’s office believes these comments were filed by a bot that pulled identities from a compromised database of some kind.

“We all have a powerful reason to hold accountable those who would steal Americans’ identities and assault the public’s right to be heard in government rulemaking”

According to Schneiderman, his office made nine attempts over a period of five months to obtain server logs, API key details, or other information that could aid his office’s investigation into the identity theft. But in a public letter to FCC boss Ajit Pai, Schneiderman noted that the agency simply refused to aid the investigation in any capacity whatsoever.

“We all have a powerful reason to hold accountable those who would steal Americans’ identities and assault the public’s right to be heard in government rulemaking,” argued Schneiderman. “If law enforcement can’t investigate and (where appropriate) prosecute when it happens on this scale, the door is open for it to happen again and again.”

Last week, the FCC doubled down on its refusal to cooperate in a more formal response to the AG.

In a letter to the AG’s office by FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson, the agency lawyer again makes it clear the FCC has no interest in helping law enforcement get to the bottom of whoever is behind the farmed support for its repeal. Throughout the letter, Johnson repeatedly tries to imply that the wholesale fraud that occurred is inconsequential.

Johnson told the AG’s office that “while your letter suggests that the public comment process was somehow ‘corrupted’ by the alleged submission of comments under false names, you offer no evidence that this activity affected the Commission’s ability to review and respond to comments in the record.”

Under the Administrative Procedures Act, the FCC is required to solicit and seriously consider relevant comments from the public whenever issuing what’s called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Consumer groups charge the current FCC is not only ignoring the massive public backlash to the rules’ repeal, but is turning a blind eye to comment fraud in order to raise doubts about the validity of the entire process—and therefore the value of legitimate public opposition.

In the letter, Johnson tries to argue that manipulation of the FCC comment process is routine, while subsequently downplaying the importance of the comment process itself.

“As in many important rulemakings, this proceeding carries the potential for advocates on either side to abuse the process to create an appearance of numerical advantage,” Johnson said. “But the Commission does not make policy decisions merely by tallying the comments on either side of a proposal to determine


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The American savings crisis, explained


Since the 1970s, our personal savings rate has fallen from 12 percent to just 3 percent today. Almost half of all households don’t have enough money socked away to meet a $400 emergency. At least one-third of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

It’s easy to blame this on failings of individual discipline, and plenty of people do. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently griped about Americans who “are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” And there’s a whole cottageindustry of personal finance scolds insisting that everyone could save massive amounts if they just had the willpower.

This is nonsense.

Americans didn’t magically suffer a collective collapse in self-discipline over the last four decades. So what changed? The economy, stupid.

Here are three crucial economic factors that make saving much, much harder than it used to be.

1. Stagnant incomes

Before you can save money, you actually have to earn a decent paycheck. But the growth in hourly compensation ground to a halt in the 1970s, and has barely budged upwards since.

Look at this stunning chart. As you can see, a few decades ago, low- and middle-income Americans used to reap the biggest percentage income growth, with the rich getting the lowest percentage growth. That trend is totally reversed today, with the richest of the rich pocketing enormous income growth while everyone else stagnates.

Is it any wonder the personal savings rate has plummeted from 12 percent to 3 percent? Most people simply don’t have any money to save.

2. Skyrocketing prices

Over the same time period that paychecks stagnated, the pricetags for things like health care, child care, and college educations all shot up much faster than inflation. The same is true for homes in the geographic areas where jobs are still available these days (i.e. big cities) — the price of housing and rent went through the roof.

Most families can’t just pay for less child care or education or health care or housing than it used to. The needs for these goods and services are fixed. The result is that paying for them inevitably chews upincreasingly enormous portions of family budgets. From 1972 to 2005, the median American family’s spending on health care rose by 74 percent. For mortgages, it rose 76 percent; for automobile expenses, 52 percent; and for child care and college expenses, it rose 100 percent.

Even though the median American household makes more now than in 1972, it actually has a bit less income left over after those critical needs are factored in: $19,560 in 1972 versus $18,140 in 2005.

Americans are squeezed between incomes that stopped rising and costs of living that kept rising a lot.

3. Saving no longer pays

Half the point of saving is that you earn interest on your money. But over the last three and a half decades, the interest rates people can earn on their savings also went right into the ditch. As my colleague Matthew Walther recently pointed out, savings instruments called certificates of deposit (CDs) used to earn 11 or 12 percent for a six-month or one-year maturity, respectively. Our grandparents understandably considered them goldmines.

Not so much today. “A five-year CD taken out in 2017 is due to yield a whopping 0.86 percent,” Walther wrote.

How did that happen?

Interest rates are basically a function of how much aggregate demand there is in the economy. If there’s a lot of untapped market potential out there, demand for investment capital will be high relative to the supply. And interest rates can typically be understood as the “price” of investment capital. If banks are hungry to invest in a demand-heavy economy, they’re more likely to pay you a high interest rate for your money.

At the same time, if aggregate demand is high, then businesses will be desperate for workers, and will outbid each other on wage offers to attract enough labor. That can bleed into price increases, at which point the Federal Reserve steps in with interest rate hikes to keep inflation in check.

Since 1980, America has been struggling with chronicshortfalls in aggregate demand.

The federal government can raise aggregate demand, either through direct public investment or by getting more money into consumers’ pockets through welfare state spending. But the conservative turn in American governance inaugurated by Ronald Reagan pulled way back on that. The Fed itself also went nuclear to fight inflation around 1980: It jacked interest rates into the stratosphere, causing a massive recession and a wipeout for the working


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And while I’m at it, I don’t think Al Franken has done enough to deserve anything like the treatment he is getting.

In these economically challenging times, is it unlikely there could be some gold digging going on?

Here is the text I sent to Minnesota Public Radio on Keillor’s behalf.  I invite you to read the story and comment to MPR at the links provided.


MPR Comment Form:

My Text:

Given the strong possibility that the accusation against Mr. Keillor could be entirely petty in nature, I think he deserves some benefit of the doubt. This harassment craze has gone over the edge into an irrational witch hunt that is doing much more damage than good. Mr. Keillor has been a HIGHLY positive influence in our national culture and in the hearts and minds of millions of individuals. At the very least, he deserves to be reinstated to desk duty until the investigation of the accusation has been concluded.



Ocean plastic a ‘planetary crisis’ – UN

By Roger Harrabin BBC environment analyst, Nairobi

Plastic on Ivory Coast beachImage copyright AFP
Image caption Plastic waste has a variety of detrimental effects on the environment

Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, the UN oceans chief has warned.

Lisa Svensson said governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution.

“This is a planetary crisis,” she said. “In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean.”

She was speaking to BBC News ahead of a UN environment summit in Nairobi.

Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.

Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.

She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.

Plastic waste was immediately suspected, because if turtles have eaten too much plastic it bloats their bellies and they can’t control their buoyancy.

Kai was given laxatives for two weeks to clear out her system, and Ms Svensson witnessed an emotional moment as Kai was carried back to the sea to complete her recovery.

‘Heart-breaking’ reality

“It’s a very happy moment,” she said. “But sadly we can’t be sure that Kai won’t be back again if she eats more plastic.

“It’s heart-breaking, but it’s reality. We just have to do much more to make sure the plastics don’t get into the sea in the first place.”

Caspar van de Geer runs the turtle hospital for the group Local Ocean Conservation at Watamu in eastern Kenya.

He had demonstrated earlier how uncannily a plastic film pulsating in the water column mimics the actions of the jellyfish some turtles love to eat.

“Turtles aren’t stupid,” he said. “It’s really difficult to tell the difference between plastics and jellyfish, and it may be impossible for a turtle to learn.”

On a pin board he’s compiled a grid of sealed clear plastic bags like the ones used at airports for cosmetics.

Here they contain the plastic fragments removed from the stomachs of sick turtles. Half of the turtles brought here after eating plastics have died.

A huge table at the hospital is laden with an array of plastic waste collected off local beaches – from fishing nets and nylon ropes to unidentifiable fragments of plastic film.


There’s waste from down the coast as far as Tanzania – but also from Madagascar, the Comoros Islands, Thailand, Indonesia and even a bottle from far-away Japan.

There’s a score of mysterious white plastic rings which staff speculate are the rims of yoghurt pots, a plastic lighter. There are disintegrating woven plastic fertiliser bags, plastic straws – and much more.

Bite marks show some items like small suncream bottles have clearly been nibbled at by fish, because they look like potential food.

Local people scour the beach daily for plastic waste. They want clean beaches, and they’re aware that local hotels want the same.

But along the high water line millions of the fragments of plastics are mixed in with dried sea grass, too small to be collected.

countries producing most plastic waste worldwide

Gaining momentum?

“The scale of the challenge is absolutely enormous,” says Ms Svensson. She’s backing a resolution by Norway this week for the world to completely eliminate plastic waste into the ocean.

If all nations agree to that long-term goal it’ll be considered a UN success.

Certainly, it sounds more ambitious than the current commitment to substantially decrease waste inputs into the sea by 2025.

But some environmentalists argue that the absence of a timetable for preventing waste is a huge failing.


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