Best-selling author and broadcaster Laura Flanders hosts the The Laura Flanders Show, where she interviews forward thinking people from the worlds of politics, business, culture and social movements about the key questions of our day. The LF Show airs weekly on KCET/LinkTV, FreeSpeech TV, and in English & Spanish in teleSUR. Flanders is also a contributing writer to The Nation and Yes! Magazine (“Commonomics”) and a regular guest on MSNBC. She is the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). The Laura Flanders Show first aired on Air America Radio 2004-2008. You can find all her archives and more at Lauraflanders.com.
I just don't get it. When Congress approves gifts worth billions of dollars to people who don't deserve a dime, why isn't it front page news?
On Nov. 6, when President Obama signed the Worker, Home-ownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he extended unemployment benefits and renewed the first-time home-buyer tax credit for a while, but hidden deep inside the law was a tax break for businesses that did well in the boom years -- and the resulting refund-checks will be huge.
The tax break would help struggling businesses, Obama declared, but the act actually affects big companies as well as small. Businesses are allowed to offset losses incurred in the bad years of 2008 and 2009 against profits booked as far back as 2004. Those with the biggest boom followed by the biggest bust are exactly the companies like to benefit the most. Among them, you guessed it, home-builders, exactly the folks who overbuilt and over-lent us into a mortgage and credit meltdown.
Armistice Day reminds us that when wars end, the winners and losers are supposed to make peace. For the first time, in 2009, leaders of World War II enemies, Germany and France, commemorated the date together as a sign of new mutual respect. But this week also marked the ten-year anniversary of a different kind of war -- a war on Americans' assets and the poor. Ten years later, while the winners and losers are obvious, there's no armistice in sight.
On November 12, 1999, after decades of banking deregulation, congress repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which up until that point had kept Main Street banks and commercial financial speculation apart. Glass-Steagall's repeal unleashed a wave of derivative marketing that rewarded shameless loan sharks for selling the most vulnerable Americans into a bubble of debt.
The bubble having burst, now the stock market is up. Companies are reporting strong earnings and Wall Street's clearly at peace. The top three banks announced this week that they'll be giving out their biggest bonuses yet. But this week's news also brought US double-digit unemployment and regardless of those good earnings, the layoffs just don't stop; Sprint says it's cutting another 2,500 jobs; Pfizer, 2,000 jobs; even supposedly new and growing parts of the economy aren't growing -- software developer Adobe's cutting 6 percent of its workforce, game-maker Electronic Arts is cutting 1,500 jobs. And that's just this week.
"If women are denied a chance to develop their full human potential, including their potential to lead healthier and at least somewhat happier lives, is society as a whole really healthy? "
It's not my question -- it's the question raised by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization which just finished up it first -- first? -- study of women's health.
Their verdict? Societies are still failing women. While women provide the bulk of health care, they rarely receive the care they need. Sound familiar?
The House passed its version of health-care legislation Saturday night by a vote of 220 to 215 after the approval of an amendment which amounts to a not-very-back door abortion ban for everyone but the very rich. Presented by Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan with the strong backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the amendment would prohibit abortion coverage in the government-run plan and any private plan on the new marketplace that accepts people who are using government subsidies to buy coverage.
[There'll be an interesting conversation about this with Frances Kissling and others today on GRITtv.org]
One week before Election Day, the special election to fill a vacant House seat in New York's North Country is heating up. It's a three-way split, pitting a Republican, a Democrat, and a Conservative against one another. It's close.
And the conservative on the ticket has the kind of support the Democrat running against him must love.
Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has already received the backing of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the anti-public-spending Club for Growth. On Monday he was endorsed by another beauty: Dana Rohrabacher, the senior Orange County (CA) Republican who began his career as a speechwriter for President Reagan. Said Rohrabacher "We don't need Tweedle-Dum or Tweedle-Dee, we need Hoffman. He's not afraid to stand up and speak the truth."
According to the Associated Press, Iraq's deadliest bombing in more than two years killed at least 155 and wounded more than 500 Sunday. Two suicide car bombs blew up almost simultaneously outside the Justice Ministry in downtown Baghdad having passed through multiple check points. At least 25 staff members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city, are among the dead.
Security issue? Not for those watching US TV.
An attention grab that held millions of Americans transfixed. A story that seemed to be about life in the balance. It dominated the airwaves, the social networks, held Americans in its clutch. And then it turned out to have been nothing but a hoax. A play for attention that distracted the entire country.
Now that the Balloon Boy's story is blown, can we call out the health care hoax?
The anti-health care lobby is taking all our attention hostage and a nation's hopes (and votes) for quality health care are floating away.
Months ago, a former chief economist at the IMF called it mind control. Talking to Simon Johnson of the Atlantic Monthly, he explained that one of the most alarming truths laid bare by the economic crash was that the finance industry had effectively captured the thinking of government.
"That's going too far," said reasonable people. "This is no Banana Republic run by crony cartels."
The G20 summit wrapped up in Pittsburgh Friday with pledges but little punch. Except in the streets.
On climate change, world leaders vowed "strong action" and on the economy, "balanced economic growth." The summit endorsed granting more voting rights at the IMF and World Bank to ‘underrepresented' countries like CHINA. With a billion people and the world's second largest economy -- China may budge up from having 3.6% of all votes.
Underrepresented booming countries may get a bigger voice in global finance. Nice. But under-represented people? Well there's the rub.
Around 200 people were arrested during the two-day Pittsburgh summit. Heavy policing seems to be the only plan world leaders have come up with for shutting reality out.
Reality, for those in the streets, not the suites, of the world, is a whole new economy -- way more than a downturn -- and the prospect of long-term, possibly permanent, unemployment.
Read the papers, and the stats are all there. In the US, job seekers now outnumber job openings six to one. Official unemployment stands at 9.7 percent, its highest level in 26 years. If you're a teenager, it's over 25 percent. No reason there to shun protest for fear of ruining your job prospects, they're grim and only getting grimmer. That's if radicals like Paul Craig Roberts, a former officer of the Reagan Administration, are to be believed.
If measured according to the methodology used when he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Roberts says "the unemployment rate today in the US is above 20%. Moreover, there is no obvious way of reducing it."
Consumer spending -- the engine that drove 70 % of the US economy and by extension much of the world's -- isn't coming back. And that's just the way it's going to be, President Obama's chief economic adviser Larry Summers told the BBC (my sister, actually) in Pittsburgh.
"The US can't, shouldn't and won't continue to experience the consumption-led growth of the past few years." said Summers. And the world -- and we -- should just adjust...
The message is pledge-on! Endorse "strong action" on climate and "balanced growth." But all those poor people out of work? They'll just have to adjust.
While banks are doling out cash by the millions to kill any new regulation of Wall St. (which clearly has its heart set on making another buck off all that poverty...) There is one part of the economy that seems actually to be getting stimulated: Policing. If ever civil society finds a voice and decides actually to wield it, they'll be ready. How else to reign in reality, for lawd's sake?
Laura Flanders, is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.
Continuing the GOP's attack on the poor people's organizing group ACORN, the House and Senate -- by wide margins -- have voted to bar ACORN from receiving federal funding on account of fraudulent activity.
Let's hope the legislators enjoy their gloat and then get right back to business. Passed in a flurry of bloviating bluster, The Defund ACORN law is written so broadly that it just could come in very handy.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D of Florida) has already asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to find out which other contractors might be caught in the ACORN ban-net.
When it comes to fraud felons receiving federal funds -- Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman top the list, with 20 fraud cases between them. Where military contractors go, the cash-for-killers at Blackwater (now XE) are rarely far behind. (Indeed, see Jeremy Scahill's story.) And then there's Halliburton and the magically disappeared federal cash for troop services and Iraq reconstruction. (Has anyone seen that $9 billion? )
Fraud by recipients of the $750 billion financial bailout program is bound to show up soon. Earlier this year, federal investigators said they had opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax violations, insider trading and other crimes by TARP recipients.
If Congress - including scores of Democrats -- can get this hot and bothered over the $50 million ACORN's supposed to have received over the past 15 years they're going to become hysterical about the BILLIONS received by banks in the blink of a brokers' eyelid.
Not to be left out, several supposedly faith-based groups, recipients of federal grants, currently stand accused of misspending taxpayer cash to cover for child-molesting clergy.
To name just one, in at least two cities Catholic Charities stands accused of using federal funds to settle or cover up sex abuse charges, but that didn't stop Catholic Charities from receiving a federal government contract this August for $100 million to work with victims of natural disasters.
Bankers, brokers, bomb-makers, and let us not forget the child molesters... This could all get very interesting very fast. I can hardly wait to turn on the television. Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck. Who's going to be first with the outrage?
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.