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NPR discusses Steve Bannon and his impact on Breitbart News.

I have written about left of center or centrist organizations writing in a manner which no longer reflects a liberal, progressive, or centrist view. NPR just went out on a limb with its recent conversation with Breitbart Senior Editor at Large Joel Pollak about newly elected Donald Trump’s selection of Steve Bannon as his administration’s Chief Strategist. It is not unusual to have this type of interview on Morning Edition; but, it did take a different direction then what I thought might happen.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep starts off;

Let’s hear a defense of Steve Bannon.”

Breitbart Senior Editor Joel Pollack glowingly describes Steve Bannon as “a national hero” adding;

“how great it will be to have someone in the White House who can remain so calm under pressure.”

Other evidence points to another Steve Bannon, a Bannon who has been accused of “domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and accused of being a verbally abusive bully who is prone to tirades” by former staffers.

When Steve Inskeep asks about Bannon’s efforts to turn “Breitbart into the Alt-Right program of choice,” Pollak distances the site from the Alt-Right diet of xenophobia, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism upon which Breitbart has been nurtured. He sidesteps the issue of various articles portrayed in Breitbart as being amongst thousands and do not necessarily tie Breitbart as a unifying force of the Alt-Right movement. Pollack also dismisses Steve Bannon’s point late last August of “Breitbart being the platform of the Alt-Right as simple journalism.” In no way does Pollack give credence to an association with the Alt-Right to Breitbart and Steve Bannon. It is here where Inskeep begins to miss the opportunity to strike back and challenge Pollack on these issues and Pollack’s answers.

What is different about the Breibart’s Editor Joel Pollack interview by NPR’s Steve Inskeep is not so much the topic as it is the seemingly lack of forceful challenges to Pollack’s statements. When there is a challenge, they are feeble. For example:

A Breitbart commentary about the Confederate flag “Hoist it High and Proud” is published two weeks after the Charleston massacre of nine black churchgoers. The story line encourages Alt-Right and other readers to proudly wave the Confederate flag as a symbol of the South the same what Dylann Roof is seen doing in countless photos. Here is where Inskeep could step forward and at least challenge the timing. Instead, it passes. Included in the Breitbart article is this passage:

“While your supporters are trashing the monuments and reputations of the forefathers of so many Americans; perhaps, you might want to remind us again which state of the Union, north or south, Barack’s ancestors resided in during the traumatic years 1861-1865? Or did Kenya not have a dog in that fight? The Confederacy was not a callous conspiracy to enforce slavery, but a patriotic and idealistic cause for which 490,000 men were killed, wounded or taken captive.”

Breitbart’s justification for the Confederate flag wave is focused on history and heritage rather than the flag of slaveholders, secessionists, and identificatists the flag has come to represent then and today in many cases. Huh? Where is Pollack taking us and why isn’t NPR’s Inskeep’s on top of this pulling it back to his agenda? Instead we get a feeble but factual rebuttal:

“Alexander Stevens, the vice president of the Confederacy, declared the Confederate cause was slavery.”

Answering the slavery part was a part of that battle, there is still the part of Barack Obama’s inclusion. Obama never had a dog in this fight that we know of today; however, where does President Obama’s heritage have a place in a discussion about Confederate flag waving by a mass murderer and a recommendation to others to take up a similar action of Confederate flag waving? Oh wait a minute, it doesn’t have a place in the dialogue and Inskeep misses an opportunity again to put Pollack and his deflection in its place. Pollack has just started to turn the discussion away from Bannon and Breitbart. At the least, Inskeep stomping on this might have given Pollack pause, kept the focus on the Alt-Right, Bannon, and Breitbart, and gain the NPR segment some credibility besides just a comment on what Confederate VP Steven’s had said.

Pollack does not stop there and proceeds to apply more of the strategy of “obfuscation and flipping” the script of totally justified accusations of bigotry, misogyny and anti-Semitism into reverse racism by the accuser. Take this standard complaint and deflection by the right.

NPR is taxpayer-funded (boy, this sounds familiar), and has an entire section of its programming and a regular feature called “Code Switch,” which from my perspective is a racist program by calling election results, ‘nostalgia for a whiter America.’” (Angry white America striking back at liberalism, sounds Star Warish as in “The Empire Strikes Back”) Some have called Breitbart’s “the history of the Confederate Flag program”racist, it is not racist and this was one opinion article in a 24-hour news website as compared to NPR’s Code Switch.

“’NPR has racial and racist programming I am required to pay for as a taxpayer (a white listener at that – my emphasis). You can read Breitbart, you can read something else — I don’t think talking about the history of the Confederate flag is racist. There are people who disagree with it as a symbol; but besides that issue, you’re picking on one opinion article to judge Breitbart and it is a 24-hour news website providing coverage from within a conservative worldview.”

It is here I have a major problem with liberals and progressives in general. We have an out right supporter of the Alt-Right who has reversed the tables on us and we can not ever find the words to kick some major butt here in rebuttal and in telling the truth. This is why we lost an election because we could not put two words together to call out Trump and his “rabid” supporters on their beliefs. Not even Bernie touched this hot poker.

Blue collar, middle class, and white America was left with the idea that what Trump has said, what Pollack is saying, what Breitbart has said and stands for is ok, and what Trump rode into the Presidency represents the truth. Guess what, it is not ok and it is not the truth. Our failure to come back at these statements has reaped something no one really likes.

Trump’s Chief of Staff Steve Bannon has worked hard to build Breitbart into an Alt-Right Sky Club for Alties looking for comradery, a glass of beer, and an ideology rest stop. It is “a loose coalition of white nationalists, “identitarians,” neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, racists, and misogynists who were ecstatic over Bannon’s appointment.” The point man for the Alt-Right and Breitbart, Joel Pollack took the NPR segment in a different direction to distance Steve Bannon from Breitbart and ” flipped the script to turn totally justified accusations of bigotry, misogyny and anti-Semitism into ‘reverse racism.”

Truth be told as detailed by Kali Holloway at AlterNet;”Bannon has spent four years ensuring that Breitbart contains all the Sky Club hors deourves and drinks the Alt-Right can feast on, from an entire section tagged ‘black crime’ to frequent contributions from Jason Richwine, whom the Daily Beast notes ‘resigned from the conservative Heritage Foundation when news broke that his Harvard dissertation argued in part that Hispanics have lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites.’ That, Pollak should be told, is actual racism. Textbook.” NPR and Steve Inskeep were just not up to the task of rebutting Joel Pollack or cornering him to keep him on the defensive. As Kali might say and I will say, we missed the chance to pin the tail on this donkey.

And Steve Bannon will be wandering the halls of the Whitehouse as Chief Strategist advising a man who has no experience as a legislator and is a poor leader.

Normalizing the Abnormal: NPR Begins Its Whitewashing of Breitbart’s Racism Kali Holloway, AlterNet, November 16, 2016

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Michigan Lame Duck Legislature

The Republican controlled House and Senate has been largely busy passing bills in the few days left in 2016. This particular one caught my eye.

Michigan had put in place a new Unemployment System (Michigan Data Automated System or MiDAS) to help in detecting unemployment fraud. With the passage of Senate Bill 1008 by the Republican led House, $10 million is transferred from the Unemployment Contingent Fund to the General Fund to be done with in the General Fund as determined by the Republican held Legislature.

Just a little history; MiDAS was put in place (2013) by Governor Rick Snyder of Flint, Michigan fame to automate the system away from the manual process. The system sends out a series of questions, which the Unemployment Applicant has to answer picking from listed answers. There is no room for explanation. The claimants chosen answers from the list of answers are then loaded into the MiDAS data base and notification is sent to the former employer who then confirms the answers the claimant has listed in the system. If there is any discrepancy, MiDAS assumes the claimant has committed a potential fraud.

Another questionnaire is then sent to the claimant, which is also limited to listed responses. If you do not respond in 10 days, it is assumed a fraud has been committed as determined by MiDAS. A notice is “supposedly” sent out and the claimant has 30 days to answer. If no notice is sent out and the claimant does not answer, MiDAS assumes fraud and the issue goes to collections where just about anything can take place to collect the unemployment funds already given to the claimant. There is little or no human interaction throughout the process and little can be done to explain circumstance during the process.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, partly at the request of the federal government and partly on its own, reviewed 22,427 cases in which a computer determined a claimant had committed civil fraud between October 2013 and October 2015 and found that 20,965 of those cases did not involve fraud. Unemployment Insurance Agency spokesman Dave Murray said on Wednesday. That’s an error rate of more than 93%.”

The $10 million will be transferred from the Unemployment Contingent Fund which had already grown by 400% after the MiDAS caused spike in fraud cases of which nearly all of them unfounded. Senate Bill 1008 is balancing the state budget on the backs of innocent citizens wrongfully accused of false unemployment claims.

Governor Rick Snyder spent $47 million of taxpayer funds to install MiDAS which has been shown to be correct in determining fraud < 7% of the time. Rather than give the funds to those who were unjustly denied Unemployment Compensation by MiDAS, the Republican led Michigan legislature and Republican governor Rick Snyder are keeping much of it in the Unemployment Contingent (used to train workers and for rainy days) and will also transfer $10 million of it to the General Fund to help balance the budget. This is the same as using the additional Medicaid funding received from the expansion to balance the budget rather than set it aside for later years which would have kept Michigan from having to add to Medicaid funding till 2027. It too was used to balance the budget. By doing so in both cases, the Republicans do not have to raise taxes on the rich in income.

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Topical Comments and Open Threads

It appears many of the “Topical Posts”are being used to discuss anything and everything. It is important to keep to the main topic of the post. It also shows courtesy to the poster by being topical and not hijacking the post for other topics.

AB does have “Open Thread Posts where just about any Topic can be discussed. Please use them for this purpose.

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Just Rumor(s) Today in Detroit

- Chrysler Fiat sold the car division sans Jeep, MiniVan and Trucks to the Chinese. They also closed production on Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart June of this year. It will be the first time Chrysler/Dodge have not had Cars if this is true. 200 (UF) and Dodge Dart (PF) never did met forecast so it closing down production for these two cars is not a surprise. Overall, cars were not a Chrysler strong suit. Trucks and Jeeps were followed up by MiniVans.

- Yazaki (Tier 1) in Canton Michigan supposedly laid off 150 at Corporate Headquarters which is about a 10% workforce reduction. Yazaki is about $20 billion in size and a Japanese company.

I heard it from pretty good sources; but, one never knows. We will have to see if it is real or not. I wonder if Trump/Congress will intercede for this one?

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“America Belongs to White Men”

A Leading Intellectual according to Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and founder of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer “We won . . . .” I am playing the entire newscast rather than just the abbreviated version of the speech which is popping up all over. Sorry about the commercial. This took place at Texas A&M at the same time the University was holding a Unity meeting

America

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Tom Price for Healthcare and Human Services

For those of you who may have missed it, Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) is Pres. Trump’s pick to be the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price is an Orthopedic Surgeon (former?) and has been in the House for 12 years now and a member of the Congressional Healthcare Caucus. It appears he has all of the required qualifications to be the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The minority representative American Medical Association for doctors has endorsed Tom Price as an excellent choice.

AMA “strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS. Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs,” said AMA Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Patrice A. Harris.”

The choice of Tom Price is a no brainer for Pres. Trump as he is also in line with Republicans wanting to repeal the PPACA and put in its place vouchers for healthcare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s jobs suddenly became easier. Mr. Price’s 2009 bill “would allow refundable, age-adjusted tax credits with amounts tied to average insurance for people who buy insurance on the individual market and don’t have access to a government or employer plan.” One can see the widow-peaked Paul Ryan smiling all the way to the House floor.

The AMA in 2012 represented ~17% of all practicing doctors and students. Overall numbers have been in a downward slide over the years. Does the AMA represent the majority view of doctors and how they view the PPACA? “Only 26 percent of all primary care physicians viewed the law ‘very unfavorably’. So it might be said that just one out of four primary care physicians “hate” Obamacare.” Indeed, all the scare tactics of decreased care put forth by the opposition about the PPACA have failed to materialize (Kaiser). It does not matter to Republicans what the finding are and to some on our side of the table can only speak of “crapification” due to the PPACA as it is a bill signed by Pres. Obama

A growing number of doctors have come out in opposition to the AMA as led by Doctor Manik Chhabra, Navin Vij and Jane Zhu on their new blog Clinician Action. At the time (December 1, 2016) of Neil Versel’s article “Pushback begins against controversial HHS pick Tom Price”, 2500 doctors had signed their petition. As of December 4, 2016; >4600 doctors have signed the petition in opposition.

“We are practicing physicians who deliver healthcare in hospitals and clinics, in cities and rural towns; we are specialists and generalists, and we care for the poor and the rich, the young and the elderly. We see firsthand the difficulties that Americans face daily in accessing affordable, quality healthcare. We believe that in issuing this statement of support for Dr. Price, the AMA has reneged on a fundamental pledge that we as physicians have taken ?—? to protect and advance care for our patients.

We support patient choice. But Dr. Price’s proposed policies threaten to harm our most vulnerable patients and limit their access to healthcare. We cannot support the dismantling of Medicaid, which has helped 15 million Americans gain health coverage since 2014. We oppose Dr. Price’s proposals to reduce funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a critical mechanism by which poor children access preventative care. We wish to protect essential health benefits like treatment for opioid use disorder, prenatal care, and access to contraception.”

The rest of their stetment can be found on their blog; Clinician Action.

Whether Tom Price carries some of his views beyond an agenda to reform healthcare and repeal the PPACA, we will not know until he is appointed and has spent some time in the position. It is worthwhile to point out;

“Tom Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group that publishes a journal that has promoted discredited views — including the supposed link between ‘vaccines and autism.’”

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons also came out with a statement on Living Wills:

“Living wills are not needed to prevent overtreatment in days when hospital procedures have ‘produced the imperative to ‘move things along.’” Death is usually “orchestrated by professionals in hospitals, … a transition that has markedly shortened the ‘waiting time’ for dying.”

The “Tucson, Arizona-based AAPS is also listed on Quackwatch (“Your Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud and Intelligent Decisions”).”

There is more to be said here and I hope you take a moment to read Neil Versel’s article, some of the other references, and visit Clinician Action.

“Pushback begins against controversial HHS pick Tom Price” MedCity News, Neil Versel, December 1, 2016

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Crony Capitalism

Teabagger and maybe Trump nominee for something (hopefully other than the Sec. of the VA), Sarah Palin slams Trump and Pence in a Randian manner on bailing out Carrier and Carrier workers calling it as an intrusion on free enterprise. Afterwards she gushes; “I am ecstatic for Carrier employees! Their bosses just decided to keep shop onshore. What a relief for hundreds of workers. Merry Christmas Indiana!”

Foundational to our exceptional nation’s sacred private property rights, a business must have freedom to locate where it wishes. In a free market, if a business makes a mistake (including a marketing mistake that perhaps Carrier executives made), threatening to move elsewhere claiming efficiency’s sake, then the market’s invisible hand punishes. Thankfully, that same hand rewards, based on good business decisions.

But this time-tested truth assumes we’re operating on a level playing field.

When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets. Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.

Sarah is correct, incentives to business interests to not leave the country and layoff Labor only leaves the country hostage to corporate interests in the future. Trump’s actions and promises leave the door open for other companies to come through asking for a similar deal to save Labor. If he does not keep the company in the US, Labor will also see his promises to change the country as political rhetoric (if they haven’t already) to get elected and not worth much in the end. It will be interesting to follow his actions.

Come to Michigan which has a tough time fixing roads and infrastructure and yet can spend $billions in subsidies to business. Indiana had RTW laws, had multiple subsidies to business including Carrier, and had tax abatement of which none of it stopped companies from leaving Indiana. Under Pence, Indiana gave $Millions to companies that offshored jobs Companies come and go to states or other countries for other reasons which states can not prevent. Poorly spent money bribing companies to stay can also be hard to get back from the companies who had a change of heart. Indiana has had difficulty in getting the incentives back when companies still leave and the incentives are so poorly written they also do little or nothing to stop the company from closing an unspecified nearby plant.

Sarah Palin: But… Wait… The Good Guys Won’t Win With More Crony Capitalism YC Young Conservatives, December 2, 2016

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Taking the CEO Salary Fight Local

Portland, Oregon’s government will be the first to test the legislative waters on excessive CEO pay by companies if passed the city board December 7, 2016. If the pay of a CEO exceeds 100 times of what a typical company employee makes, a surtax will be assessed the corporation. More than 500 corporations do enough business within Portland to be affected by the new tax. Since the Republican led Congress has failed to act on CEO excessive pay based upon Risk, many states and cities are looking at taking it upon themselves to assess companies who pay their executives in stock options and similar performance methods as it is taxed at a lower level than regular income. With the new tax, Portland is expected to generate up to $3.5 million, which will be used to care for the homeless.

Firms that do business in Portland would owe a 10 percent surtax on the city’s existing business tax if they pay their CEOs more than 100 times what their workers receive. For example, if a large company owes the city $100,000 and has a pay ratio of 175-to-1, its surtax would be $10,000. Other cities such as San Francisco are considering taking similar action.

Peter Drucker had strong feelings on the subject and he once termed sky-high CEO compensation ‘a serious disaster,’ which was well worth revisiting in light of the news that the men who sat atop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FRE) (BusinessWeek, 9/10/08) could be eligible for as much as $24 million in severance and other benefits after being ousted from their positions. Last week the federal government was forced to step in and rescue the faltering mortgage giants in a move that could cost taxpayers billions.”

Around that time CEO’s had income packages worth $10.5 million or about 344 times what the average worker was making. Peter Drucker felt a CEO’s pay should not exceed 20 times (1984) what the average worker was making in income. As of 1993 the problem has worsened as companies dodge corporate income tax by paying their CEO is stock options which can be deducted from corporate income tax and are tax at a lower rate than ordinary income tax at ~39%.

References:

“Put A Cap on CEO Pay” , Rick Wartzman, Bloomberg, September 12, 2008.

“Take The CEO Pay Fight Local”, Sarah Anderson, US News, October 21, 2016.

Institute for Policy Studies — Talking Points —, Sarah Anderson, October, 2016.

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Wall Street CEO Bonus Loophole

Sarah Anderson at Institute for Policy Studies writes about how the 1993 reform to rein in runaway CEO pay by capping tax deductions of executive compensation at $1 million created a loophole as it did not apply to stock options and other performance pay methods. More-performance-measured-income to executives paid out, the lower the company income tax presently.

What was the impact?

CashingInOnTheCrisis-Graphic-1-1[1]
$2 billion in fully deductible performance bonuses by top 20 U.S. banks to their top five executives over the past four years at a 35 percent corporate tax rate resulted in a taxpayer subsidy of > $725 million or $1.7 million per executive per year.

CashingInOnTheCrisis-Graphic-2-1
On-the-hot-plate Wells Fargo Bank between 2012 and 2015 received $54 million in tax subsidies for CEO John Stumpf bonuses. During those years, CEO John Stumpf’s bank faced $10.4 billion in misconduct penalties.

CashingInOnTheCrisis-Graphic-3-1-400x200[1]
The same top 20 executives received ~ $800 million in stock-based “performance” pay, before stockholders were out of the red and the bank’s stocks returned to pre-2008 levels.

CashingInOnTheCrisis-Graphic-4-1[1]
Jamie Dimon CEO of JP Morgan cashed in fully deductible $23 Million in bonuses in Feb/March 2010 while the nation was still reeling from the crisis. Since 2010 JP Morgan has received $28 billion in penalties for mortgage misconduct.

The same as Main Street bailing out Wall Street for their malfeasance, Main Street was also subsidizing Wall Street Executive bonuses. Some potential solutions:

Implement Sec. 956 of Dodd-Frank: Rigorous limitation by regulators of Bank excessive risk taking and the banning of excessive bonus based upon risk – “not yet been implemented and this proposal does not go far enough to prevent the type of behavior that led to the 2008 crash.” Sec 956 allows lenient bonus deferrals, weak stock-based pay restrictions, and discretionary enforcement left to bank managers.

Close the hedge and private equity loophole which allows private equity and hedge fund managers to pay a 20 percent capital gains rate on the bulk of their income rather than the 39.6 percent ordinary income rate. The Carried Interest Fairness Act of 2015 (HR 2889/S 1689) requires that the “carried interest” compensation received by private equity and hedge fund managers be taxed at ordinary income rates. Due to a lack of activity by Congress some states such as New York are implementing their own legislation to close the loop hole generating $3 billion in new revenue.

The Stop Subsidizing Multimillion Dollar Corporate Bonuses Act (S. 1127 and HR 2103) eliminates “performance pay” exemptions and caps the deductibility of compensation at $1 million for every employee.

Reference:

Executive Excess 2016: The Wall Street CEO Bonus Loophole, Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati, Institute for Policy Studies, August 31, 2016. “The first report to calculate how much taxpayers have been subsidizing executive bonuses at the nation’s largest banks.”

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