Time to Write Your Representatives!

Dianne FeinsteinWith a new filibuster fight before us, I knew that it was time to contact my problem Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is one of the old Democrats who always stands in the way of filibuster reform. If Harry Reid is having a hard time finding the votes to counter the Republicans, you can count on Feinstein being missing from his caucus.

For the umpteenth time, writing to your Senator or Representative is really easy. Just go to Who Is My Representative. You enter your zip code (depending upon where you live, you may need your extended 9-digit code), and it will tell you who represents you in Congress. But more than that, it will give you links that take you right to where you can contact your representative. If you care enough to vote, you should definitely care enough to write your representative, because doing so gives you extra influence because most people don’t write.

What’s more, you don’t have to say much. I try to dash off a couple of breezy paragraphs. But a sentence or two is all you really need to do. This is what I wrote to Feinstein today:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I know you are not keen on filibuster reform. But look: the little things that have been tried, have not worked. If anything is going to happen, you must at least support Harry Reid in his showdown with the Republicans. The current situation with the DC Court nominees is totally unacceptable.

You are cautious. I get that. But what I want is the end to the filibuster altogether (which I think we will get as soon as the Republicans are back in control, anyway). But moving forward on nomination filibusters must be done. Please support real filibuster reform and not more of the weak tea that hasn’t done anything to help the situation.

Thank you!

-Frank Moraes

But like I said, you don’t even need to do that much. Just say, “You need to support Harry Reid in his fight against the Republican misuse of the filibuster!” It’s not going to mean any less than what I write. And remember that you have two Senators in this case. I will go and send a nice note to Barbara Boxer now. (My letters to her are always nice because she mostly does what I want.)

Inequality From Birth in the United States

Fifteen Biggest Lies About the EconomyNow the idea that “dependency” is what makes people poor might make some sense if we were all born with the same opportunities to get ahead. Tragically, however, that American dream is dead, or, at the very least, it lies broken and bleeding on the side of the road. In today’s economy, the single greatest predictor of how much an American child will earn in the future is how much his or her parents take home. Working Americans have essentially bought into a unique social contract: they forgo much of the economic security that citizens of other wealthy countries take for granted in exchange for a more “dynamic,” meritorious economy that supposedly offers them plenty of opportunities to succeed. Of course, this is never explicitly stated, and most of us don’t know about the deal, but it’s reinforced all the time in our economic discourse…

When the Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill and John Morton looked at four generations of income data for men alone, they came up with a very different picture. They compared men ages thirty to thirty-nine in 1994 with their fathers at the same point in their careers and found that median incomes had increased by only 0.2 percent annually during the last three decades. But, they noted, “the story changes for a younger cohort.” Men in their thirties in 2004 had a median income that was, on average, 12 percent less than that of their father’ generation at the same age. The scholars concluded, “The up-escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working very well.” …

Isabel Sawhill looked at the relationship between education and mobility and concluded, “At virtually every level, education in America tends to perpetuate rather than compensate for existing inequalities…

Ultimately, the take-away from the decline in American upward mobility is that the existence of a middle class is not a natural phenonenon. It was created by providing good-quality public education, mandating minimum wages, and guaranteeing working people the right to organize.

Conservatives have spent the last three decades unraveling those kinds of protections—all have been subjected to death “by a thousand small cuts” since Reaganomics hit the United States. As a result, it has once again become true that the accident of one’s birth dictates one’s life chances to a very large degree, and that is a wholly predictable result of the rise of the conservative backlash.

—Joshua Holland
The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy

McDonald’s Helpful Worker Website!

McDonald'sThis just in via The Real News, McDonald’s Website Tells Underpaid Workers to Sell Holiday Gifts on Craigslist and Quit Complaining. And yes, it really does say that. The video below is fun with the kind of cheery music that they like in places like McDonald’s and North Korea. To be fair, the website itself has a different feel to it. For example, it isn’t telling employees to stop complaining because management isn’t interested. It is just being helpful. It seems that people who complain are less healthy. Of course, that might have something to do with people complaining about not having access to healthcare.

As I’ve discussed in the past, McDonald’s really could afford to pay their employees more without raising prices much. Most of the big businesses could afford to do this. It would cut into their profits, of course. But clearly, corporate America is making too much: more than ever before. They are sitting on piles of cash and doing nothing with it. Of course, we have one and two-third political parties who think their primary mission is to protect the rich and powerful. (See how the Washington Post took a bold stand for the rich on Sunday!)

Regardless of all this, the following video is great. And McDonald’s is even worse than we thought:

Washington Post Defender of the Rich

Washington PostThe Washington Post is at it again with an all new attack on Social Security and the long con that retirees are perpetuating against the young, Social Security Proposals Are Wrongheaded. It starts by bemoaning the fact that the Holy Grail of the Very Serious “Centrists” have not and probably will not come to pass. This, of course, is the lauded Grand Bargain: cuts in Social Security and Medicare in exchange for mythical tax increases that would be a bad idea even if they were real.

But the editorial waits until the second paragraph to get to its point. You see, there has been some pushback recently on entitlements by liberals. Finally, people are looking around at other advanced economies and seeing that they treat their seniors a hell of a lot better than we do. As much as the Very Serious Choir would have us believe that we are drowning our older citizens in benefits, it turns out that we are actually stingy. You fought in World War II? Who cares?! What have you done for us lately?!

Senator Tom Harkin (Happy 74th birthday!) and Representative Linda Sanchez have proposed increasing Social Security benefits. But the Washington Post calls this “a case study in how not to redefine liberalism for the 21st century.” That’s rich! Over the last 20 years (and to a large extent 37 years), the Democratic Party has moved further and further to the right. But the Post thinks that liberalism needs to be further “redefined”?! How is that possible unless the Post’s idea of liberalism is unusually defined like this:

lib·er·al·ism  noun  \ˈli-b(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm\


Origin: 2013 or earlier. From Washington Villager speak. Originally meaning “more like conservatism” but eventually simply “conservatism.”

“Supporters tout it as courageous pushback against austerity; in fact, it’s a case study in how not to redefine liberalism for the 21st century.”Washington Post Editorial Board

After explaining the proposal, the Post gets down to the real problem (even though they claim it isn’t), “It’s a massive transfer of income from upper-income Americans to the retired.” Don’t be fooled, this is always the reason that the Very Serious People want to cut entitlements. It isn’t about the kids or the survival of the program. The concern about debt is that it may reach a point where taxes have to go up on the rich. And that is totally unacceptable to these people.

Both Dean Baker and Paul Krugman lashed out at the editorial. I think that Baker is pretty tired of this. It is like a daily battle between him and Fox on 15th as he describes the paper. You can see his weariness in the title, The Washington Post Wants to Kick Seniors Yet Again. Nonetheless, he does put the editorial in the broader context, “However, the greatest absurdity of the Post’s crusade is that its obsession with austerity and budget deficits is denying income to both the young and old…”

This goes back to my main point about the whole deficit scold industry: these people don’t care about high levels of unemployment and millions of wasted lives. They don’t care about improving the economy. They don’t even care about debt as is clear by the fact that they don’t believe in raising taxes. All they care about is protecting the rich from any social demands at all. And this is all coming from a respected mainstream newspaper. People like Harkin and Sanchez are right to pushback against the austerity crowd, because clearly the “centrists” in the mainstream press have been co-opted by the right.

Charlie, Donald, and All Us Kaufmans

Charlie KaufmanOn or about this day in 1786, Carl Maria von Weber was born. He was one of the founders of the Romantic period of classical music. As you all know, not one of my favorite periods of music. But the early Romantic period stuff isn’t so bad. Von Weber is known primarily for his operas, but here is the first movement of his Clarinet Concerto No 1, which will give you a brief and clear idea of his music:

Other birthdays: French painter Eustache Le Sueur (1617); bandleader Tommy Dorsey (1905); business theorist Peter Drucker (1909); Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1917); two talk show hosts: one mediocre, Larry King (80); and one great, Dick Cavett (77); businessman Ted Turner (75); actor Meg Ryan (52); and actor Jodie Foster (51).

The day, however, belongs to the great screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who is 55 today. I don’t really know anything about his life and I don’t especially want to know anything. He has written some of the best films in the last decade and a half: Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York, which he also directed. I don’t want to overstate it, because a lot of writers are only ever allowed to write crap. But there is no doubt that most screenwriters seem to think that crap is all that is worth writing. And Kaufman has a unique style that would stand out even if Hollywood hadn’t become the animation arm of Marvel Comics.

Here is the best scene from Adaptation. The whole film is great way to deal with those awful internal dialogues that we all have. All of us are both Charlie and Donald:

Happy birthday Charlie Kaufman!