Pope Francis Hurts The Tender Feelings Of A Billionaire Republican

Pope Francis has hurt the delicate feelings of Home Depot billionaire and Republican Ken Langone just by preaching the message of Jesus. Awww… Image: jfxgillis

If Pope Francis ever finds himself in need of a hammer and some nails, he may want to consider avoiding Home Depot. Ken Langone, founder of the company, has been whining kvetching pissing and moaning grumpy about Pope Francis having the gall to promote the message of Jesus. In recent months, the Pope has been on a verbal rampage against the horrors that the unrestrained greed of “savage capitalism” has wrought across the globe. He’s been preaching that the message of Jesus was not to get rich by screwing the poor but to serve them. This has deeply offended poor Langone’s tender sensibilities.

Just who the hell does Pope Francis think he is? The Pope or something?
Via CNBC.com:

Langone said he’s raised the issue more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, most recently at a breakfast in early December at which he updated him on fundraising progress.

“I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’ ” he said.

Well, he’s right about that. The United States has some of the greediest rich people on the planet. And Pope Francis knows it. Not only did Wall Street executives destroy the economy and throw millions out of work, they gave themselves HUGE bonuses using tax payer dollars. And then spent the next several years screwing those very same tax payers in every conceivable way.

Read more at Addicting Info

Why the American Right Attacks the Poor

19th century engraving Via New York Public Library Digital Collection. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The defining philosophical argument being made on the American political right today should not be surprising. And that is because the need to make that argument is also not new.

In every society in human history, in which so many have been forced to live in states of perpetual poverty, violence and despair–in the midst of obscene opulence and privilege for a very few–there has been a compelling need to explain the relationship of these facts.

There has also always been a need for a counter narrative to be created and promulgated in order to deflect attention from the most obvious causes of social and economic injustices.

Poverty has often been explained as a consequence of individual moral failures. And the exploitation of the weak and the poor by the powerful and wealthy has also been denied as a possible cause of human suffering in society.

But an autopsy of every historic incidence of social decay and human degradation has revealed the same shockingly obvious and simple truth: that it is the poverty of the many that has always subsidized the wealth of a privileged few.

© 2013 by Paul Kennedy

Pope assures critics he’s no Marxist

Pope Francis last month called unfettered capitalism “a new tyranny.”Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis, responding to criticism from some conservatives that his economic and social ideas smack of socialism, said in an Italian newspaper interview Sunday that he is not a Marxist – but that Marxists can be good people.

Francis also denied reports that he would name a woman cardinal, said there had been good progress in cleaning up Vatican finances, and confirmed that he would visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next year, La Stampa said.

Far-right American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has a huge following in the United States, last month railed against the pope over the religious leader’s written comments on the world economy.

Limbaugh said the comments sounded like “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope,” and suggested that someone else might have written the papal document that contained the remarks. He also accused the pope of going “beyond Catholicism” and being “purely political.”

Read more at Al Jazeera America

Mexico’s tomato-farm workers toil in ‘circle of poverty’

Landowners make big money on tomatoes, but the hard work falls to armies of workers from Mexico’s poorest states, who labor for paltry wages.

Farmworker Ramiro Castillo stands in front of his living quarters near Villa Juarez in Mexico’s Sinaloa state. Half the tomatoes eaten in the U.S. this time of year come from Sinaloa. (Javier Valdez / For The Times / November 9, 2013)

VILLA JUAREZ, Mexico — They sure do have tomatoes here in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Elongated red ones. Round green ones. Cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, grape tomatoes.

Vast fields of tomatoes, lining the roads out of the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, miles and miles of mesh tenting shielding the plants from the sun.

Last year, Sinaloa exported 950,000 tons of vegetables, mostly tomatoes and mostly to California and other parts of the United States, worth nearly $1 billion. Half the tomatoes eaten in the United States this time of year are from Sinaloa. The tomato is the symbol on the Sinaloa license plate.

But while a short list of landowners make millions, the planting, weeding, pruning and picking of the vegetables fall to armies of workers from Mexico’s poorest states — Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas — who have little opportunity for schooling or other forms of legal employment.

So they are here in these fields, recruited by enganchadores — or “hooks” — who round them up in their home villages, and working in conditions that vary from producer to producer but that many critics say amount to indentured servitude.

Felipa Reyes, 40, from the violent state of Veracruz, has been toiling in the fields of Sinaloa for seven years. “You have to do the work they want, or you don’t earn anything,” she said. Complain? “And I’d end up with nothing.”

Carmen Hernandez Ramos is 52 and looks 80. She has been sticking tiny tomato plants into the earth, then harvesting the fruit months later, for 15 years, but still earns the same daily wage as Reyes: $10. Originally from a small village in Oaxaca, the mother of six works back-wrenching nine-hour days. “If we work, we have security,” she said, waving her thick-knuckled hands. “If we don’t, we have nothing.”

The two women live in tin-roofed adobe shacks set behind chain-link fences.

Conditions, the women said, have changed little over the years. They have electricity but no running water; some floors are tiled, others are dirt.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

GOP Food Stamp Cuts Would Kick 170,000 Vets Out of the Program

Republicans will salute America’s veterans Monday, while simultaneously trying to deny them benefits. In addition to reducing housing aid, and denying health care to vets, the GOP is also trying to remove thousands of vets from the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

At least 900,000 veterans rely on SNAP. The House Republican version of the farm bill, the five-year piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture provisions, would slash funding for the food stamps program by nearly $40 billion and boot 2.8 million people off the program next year. That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can’t find work or an opening in a job training program.

Read more at Mother Jones

Addicted to the Apocalypse

Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

Paul Krugman

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.

Consider, for example, Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor, who has lately made a splash with warnings about the burden of our entitlement programs. (Gee, why hasn’t anyone else thought of making that point?) He could talk about the problems we may face a decade or two down the road. But, no. He seems to feel that he must warn about the looming threat of a financial crisis worse than 2008.

Or consider the deficit-scold organization Fix the Debt, led by the omnipresent Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. It was, I suppose, predictable that Fix the Debt would respond to the latest budget deal with a press release trying to shift the focus to its favorite subject. But the organization wasn’t content with declaring that America’s long-run budget issues remain unresolved, which is true. It had to warn that “continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment.”

As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.

Obamacare and part-time jobs: The myth exploded (again)

Over the last month the number of workers in part-time jobs for economic reasons–slack demand, cutbacks in hours–has remained stable. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Tuesday’s tepid brew of jobs data, delayed more than two weeks by the government shutdown, wasn’t worth waiting for. It shows an increase in total nonfarm employment by 148,000 in September over August, which is consistent with economic growth crawling along in second gear.

The report’s most notable nugget is the change in part-time work. Over the last month the number of workers in part-time jobs for economic reasons–slack demand, cutbacks in hours–has remained stable. Over the last year, however, it has fallen by 681,000. Those part-timers also constitute a smaller share of all workers–5.5% in September compared to 6% a year earlier.

That puts the lie to the popular conservative meme that Obamacare has transformed America’s workforce into part-timers. The idea is that employers wishing to evade the law’s requirement that they offer health insurance to employees working more than 30 hours a week will cut their hours to 29 or less. The shorthand about this provided by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that one-stop shop for Obamacare disinformation, was “single parents who have been forced into part-time work.”

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

Obama Sets Conditions for Talks: Pass Funding and Raise Debt Ceiling

WASHINGTON — In their first meeting since a budget impasse shuttered many federal operations, President Obama told Republican leaders on Wednesday that he would negotiate with them only after they agreed to the funding needed to reopen the government and also to an essential increase in the nation’s debt limit, without add-ons.

The president’s position reflected the White House view that the Republicans’ strategy is failing. His meeting with Congressional leaders, just over an hour long, ended without any resolution.

As they left, Republican and Democratic leaders separately reiterated their contrary positions to waiting reporters. The House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said Mr. Obama “will not negotiate,” while the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said Democrats would agree to spending at levels already passed by the House. “My friend John Boehner cannot take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Mr. Reid said.

The meeting was the first time that the president linked the two actions that he and a divided Congress are fighting over this month: a budget for the fiscal year that began on Tuesday and an increase in the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, when the Treasury Department will otherwise breach its authority to borrow the money necessary to cover the nation’s existing obligations to citizens, contractors and creditors.

Only when those actions are taken, Mr. Obama said, will he agree to revive bipartisan talks toward a long-term budget deal addressing the growing costs of Medicare and Medicaid and the inadequacy of federal tax revenues.

Read more at The New York Times

The Failure of Republican Economics

Those clinging to Bush-era ideologies and illusions show they simply do not understand economics.

Last Modified: 06 Aug 2012 18:51

Former US President George W Bush’s new book might be poorly timed [GALLO/GETTY]

What’s wrong with this picture? The George W Bush Institute has just released a book, The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs with a foreword by former President George W Bush. A better question would be, what’s not wrong with this picture? It’s not just the matter of timing – the former Republican president releasing a book just as the current Republican nominee is struggling to establish his own identity and political bona fides. Nor is it simply the additional embarrassment that the book’s subject is economics, which Mitt Romney pretends to be an expert on. It’s not even just the fact that Bush had his chance at producing four per cent growth for eight long years and never once managed to even come close. In fact, he only managed three isolated quarters when the economy grew that rapidly.

It’s all that and much, much more. Because Republicans in general are downright terrible at producing four per cent growth, while Democrats are relatively good at it. In fact, since FDR took office in the depths of the Great Depression, Democratic presidents have produced four per cent annual growth an average of three out of every five years – 60.5 per cent of the time – while Republican presidents have only managed it a little more than one year out of every four – 27.8 per cent of the time. With figures like that, it’s a no-brainer: the best thing you can do to produce four per cent growth is to vote for a Democrat for president.

Fastest years of economic growth

The five fastest years of economic growth all took place under a Democratic president. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, the 11 fastest years of economic growth all took place under Roosevelt or Truman. Democrats presided over 16 of the 20 fastest-growing years, 22 of the fastest-growing 30 years, and 28 of the fastest-growing 40 years. There have only been 36 years in which growth has actually topped four per cent, and Democrats were in charge during 26 of them.

“Republicans love to idolise Ronald Reagan – even though they’d never nominate him if he were running today.”

George W Bush was in charge during zero of them. His best year clocked in at 3.5 per cent growth – in 41st place.

Bill Clinton did it five times out of eight. And Clinton produced that better record while turning massive federal deficits into a surplus, while Reagan almost tripled the federal deficit during his two terms.

In fact, since Reagan took office in 1980, Republican presidents have only produced four per cent growth or better 20 per cent of the time, compared with 45.5 per cent of the time under Democrats.

Republicans like to argue that they are the party of business and therefore the party of economic growth. Democrats are the party of economic redistribution. Republicans grow the pie, Democrats cut it up. This is what Republicans argue, and the so-called “liberal media” largely echoes their message. But the facts simply don’t add up.

Since 1932, growth under Democrats has averaged 4.8 per cent annually, while growth under Republicans has averaged just 2.7 per cent. For a two-term presidency, this amounts to a growth rate almost double under the Democrat: 45.5 per cent growth, compared with 23.8 per cent growth under the Republican. And if it’s sustained growth, year after year that you’re looking for – the sort of growth that Bush is dishonestly promising, the results are even more lopsided.

When’s the last time since 1929 that a Republican president presided over four straight years of four per cent GDP growth? The answer is simple: Never. When’s the last time a Democrat did it? Bill Clinton, from 1997 through 2000. Democrats also put together four or more years of four per cent + GDP under Kennedy/Johnson (five years: 1962-66) and FDR – twice. First was a four-year stretch from 1934-1937, followed by a six-year stretch, 1939 to 1944.

The only year FDR missed four per cent + GDP growth over an 11-year span was 1938, the year he fell prey to the rhetoric of deficit hawks and cut back spending to try to balance the budget. It scared the bejesus out of folks, fearful that the Great Recession would return full force and Roosevelt never considered it again. But that budget-slashing disaster is exactly the same “solution” that Republicans are pushing today – and demonising Obama because he’s reluctant to go along with them.

Obama recently told CBS News that there was a significant difference between running a business and running an economy:

“When some people question why I would challenge his Bain record, the point I’ve made there in the past is, if you’re a head of a large private equity firm or hedge fund, your job is to make money. It’s not to create jobs. It’s not even to create a successful business – it’s to make sure that you’re maximising returns for your investor. Now that’s appropriate. That’s part of the American way. That’s part of the system. But that doesn’t necessarily make you qualified to think about the economy as a whole, because as president, my job is to think about the workers. My job is to think about communities, where jobs have been outsourced.”

Tax cuts for high earners

This is a valid point, and economist Paul Krugman justly backed him up, his point that “business is not economics” linking to a 1996 paper where he makes the larger argument about the systemic differences between a micro-economic and a macro-economic view of the economy – that is, that “a country is not a company”.

In fact, Democrats are so much better at growing the economy that even super-wealthy Republicans do better when a Democrat is in the White House. Attention has repeatedly been focused on the Bush tax cuts for high-income Americans. But those tax lower tax rates pale in comparison to the much stronger income growth under Clinton. So what if you’re paying four per cent more in taxes, if you’re earning way more than you otherwise would?

Paul Rosenberg is the senior editor of Random Lengths News, a bi-weekly alternative community newspaper.

Read more at Al Jazeera

Why the French Economy Works Surprisingly Well – SPIEGEL ONLINE

New French President François Hollande performs his patriotic duty.

The journalists’ visit to the Paris-based headquarters of French automaker Renault kicked off in a very French way: with an almost two-hour lunch. It was naturally not a simple affair in the company cafeteria. The meal at the nearby Cap Sequin restaurant boasted three artery-clogging courses, a bottle of white wine and a wonderful view of the Seine River followed by coffee and chocolates. At about half past two, it was finally time to get back to work, though it was somehow difficult to do so.

For decades, France’s economy has violated established laws of economics and not just because of the cholesterol-packed lunches. There’s also the fact that France is the world leader in terms of vacation days, has a nationwide 35-hour work week and allows its citizens to retire at 65, two years earlier than in Germany. On top of that, France has strict regulations regarding employee termination and a swollen public sector. Nearly 57 percent of France’s economic performance flows through state hands. That figure is about 10 percent higher than in Germany and a record level among industrialized nations.

Now France has elected François Hollande, a Socialist president whose most important pledge was “More of the same!” He has called for public-sector jobs financed with a 75 percent tax on top earners, and more time to enjoy retirement. Indeed, while Germany just boosted its retirement age to 67, its western neighbors might soon be able to leave the working world at 60 with a full pension.

Given these facts, it should come as no surprise that France is struggling with a few economic problems: major budget shortfalls, persistently low economic growth and a high youth-unemployment rate. Even more astounding, however, is just how good the French are doing despite their idiosyncratic economic model. Admittedly, per capita economic performance is 8 percent lower in France than Germany, after adjusting for differences in purchasing power. But considering that the French have been the world champions of savoir vivre for decades, while the Germans have been self-denying work horses, that 8 percent difference doesn’t really seem so big.

In other words, a country that according to established economic laws should be playing in the same league as Greece has defied the odds to keep pace with Germany. How did this happen?

Read more at Der Speigel

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