February 14, 2011

Tell Congress: Don’t pull the plug on NPR and PBS!

This happens every time Republicans find themselves in any position of power, in the White House or any halls of government: their first priority is to defund public broadcasting as a way to start getting their nails into education, and of course to make sure they happily maintain an ignorant public that’s used to only taking news and reporting from the silver spoon of corporate media. And of course, it’s happening again now that the Rpeublicans have the gavels in the House – they’re already eager to slice and dice NPR and PBS’s paltry budgets, but you notice they shan’t dare touch tax breaks for the wealthy.

Lining the pockets of the rich is something America simply can’t afford NOT to do, but educate children and adults, and provide balanced reporting and in-depth analysis of the events of the day? That’s too much money.

Thankfully the fine folks at CREDO are making their – and by proxy, our – voices heard on the matter, and making sure that this Congress hears just as loudly as the Republicans who tried to do this last time heard, that it’s unacceptable:

We’re only a few weeks into the 112th Congress, and Republicans are already attempting to pull the plug on public media.

In a budget proposal made public on Wednesday, House Republicans announced plans to zero out all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the nonprofit responsible for funding public media including NPR, PBS, Pacifica and more.

If the Republicans are successful, it would be a tremendous blow to the entire public interest media sector.

We cannot allow Republicans to destroy public media.

Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media!

Republicans are disingenuously claiming that they need to cut funding for public media because of budgetary constraints. But what they fail to highlight is that national public broadcasting is remarkably cost effective, providing local news and information, free of charge, for millions of viewers while only receiving about .0001% of the federal budget.1

More to the point, it’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on the actual value of public broadcasting.

Public media is one of the last bulwarks against the corporate media, where the combination of consolidation and profit motive has long since shifted the focus to infotainment rather than substantive news. In many rural and less affluent communities, broadcasters rely on federal funding to provide the only available high-quality news and public affairs programming.

Without public media, corporate media monopolies would increase their already large control of what we see on television, hear on the radio or read in the newspaper.

This outcome should deeply worry all of us. The increased accumulation and consolidation of corporate power is a threat to our democracy. And nowhere is this more evident than in our media.

At a time when media consolidation is shrinking the number of perspectives we have access to over the airwaves and when newsrooms are shrinking, we need more diversity in our media not less. And we simply cannot afford to lose what public media brings to the table.

Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media!

Conservatives have longed for any opportunity to defund NPR, PBS and other public media. And with Speaker Boehner wielding the gavel, it looks like they may finally get their wish.

Don’t let Congress pull the plug on NPR and PBS! Tell them reject cuts to public broadcasting.

You can sign the petition at the link below. I strongly suggest contacting your Congressional delegation and let them know how appalled you are at the very notion, as well.

[ CREDO: Tell Congress: Don’t pull the plug on NPR and PBS! ]

January 3, 2011

Elizabeth Warren: Foreclosure Scams Show Need for New Consumer Agency

Thank goodness for the Consumer Protection Agency, and the work that Elizabeth Warren is making the new group do – which I might add, is another one of President Obama’s achievements, one that was created as a byproduct of the financial regulation that he and Congressional Democrats fought long and hard to get passed last year. Among the things that the new CPA is tasked with is sniffing out and investigating the rapidly growing number of home foreclosure scams, both from private companies that are preying on homeowners who are in trouble and want to stay in their homes as well as the actual reputable banks that hold these mortgages and are trying to kick people out of their homes without following due process.

In terms of the former however, Warren has all but said that the fact these scams even exist is proof that the CPA needs to exist, since prior to the foreclosure crisis there was no government agency, at the State or Federal level, tasked with making sure that these groups don’t take advantage of homeowners the way they do. Prior to the financial regulation law, a mishmash of government agencies were responsible for looking into the matter, and effectiveness could vary greatly depending on the one you approached with your concern.

Warren pointed out the need for the CPA and how critical this work really is in an op-ed in the Miami Herald just before the New Year:

No one has missed the headlines: Haphazard and possibly illegal practices at mortgage-servicing companies have called into question home foreclosures across the nation.

The latest disclosures are deeply troubling, but they should not come as a big surprise. For years, both individual homeowners and consumer advocates sounded alarms that foreclosure processes were riddled with problems.

While federal and state investigators are still examining exactly what has gone wrong and why, two things are clear.

First, several financial services companies have already admitted that they used “robo-signers,” false declarations, and other workarounds to cut corners, creating a legal nightmare that will waste time and money that could have been better spent to help this economy recover. Mortgage lenders will spend millions of dollars retracing their steps, often with the same result that families who cannot pay will lose their homes.

Second, this mess might well have been avoided if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been in place just a few years ago.

The new consumer agency is one of the signature accomplishments of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law by President Obama this summer.

While the latter is definitely a “what if” kind of statement, there’s a lot of merit to the point. After all, if there were a government agency responsible for, you know, protecting consumers of products and services – including and especially financial services, the whole foreclosure mess could have been avoided.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that the CPA could have stopped banks from coming up with new and inventive ways to charm the pants off of home buyers with the smooth talk that homes are somehow great investments and simultaneously endless ATMs from which homeowners can draw cash – all available to them for a low low price of a sub-prime home loan. I do, however, think that the CPA could have been there earlier in the game when progressives were pushing against Congressional Republicans to allow judges to modify loan terms to let people stay in their homes.

Instead – and this is commonly forgotten – Republicans sided with their friends in the financial services industry and claimed that allowing judges to re-write mortgages would circumvent the negotiation process between homeowner and their lender, and in turn put undue pressure on lenders to lose money on home investments. Their usual rallying cry, that it would make home loans “more expensive and harder for average Americans to get,” which is tantamount to the whole “if you force us to be responsible we’ll make you suffer for it” line businesses usually lay down whenever someone tells them to clean up their act, was effective enough that a few flimsy federal programs to encourage negotiation and reward banks that helped homeowners stay in their homes were put in place and we all tried to move on.

An organization like the CPA could have been that group making the hard case for loan renegotiation, and if congressional Republicans didn’t want judges to do it, they could have gone for mediation or re-negotiation with the help of the CPA. Still, the whole thing is a case of “what if,” but it’s a “what if” I wish weren’t necessary to ask – as do the millions of homeowners who may be out of their homes sooner rather than later because there was no one to help them.

[ Elizabeth Warren: Foreclosure Scams Show Need for New Consumer Agency ]
Source: AlterNet

December 27, 2010

John Boehner’s Tea Party Nightmare

This is a showdown I simply can’t wait for. For all of the fanfare that the Tea Party thugs and their peanut gallery shared after the 2010 midterm elections, as soon as they get into office I’m eager to see how many of them settle into the political realities of office and how quickly they do it. How many of them turn on their campaign promises – the same way they’ve accused the people they’ve ousted – and how many of them take money from special interests, how many of them make sad excuses for their own misconduct, and how many of them are caught up in scandals because of their inexperience and ignorance. It’s just a matter of time.

One of those showdowns that I’m waiting to see is this one – a vote coming up on raising the Federal Debt Limit, a process that’s all but required for the government to continue functioning at this level. One that doesn’t imply that the government is borrowing more money or needs to borrow more money, but one that authorizes Congress to exercise their own borrowing power if necessary – something that won’t go over well at all with the Joe Six-Packs whose idea of news is the Drudge Report and what their friends forward to them via email without fact checking it.

From The Daily Beast, which has a great rundown on the scenario:

Rep. John Boehner owes no small part of his imminent promotion to the speaker’s office to the Tea Party, whose support he courted early and often en route to a landslide takeover of the House. But he may lose that support before he’s even begun to wield his new power.

The movement scored one of its first major substantive victories this week, rallying Republican lawmakers against a $1.3 trillion stimulus over its inclusion of $8 billion worth of earmarks—many of which they had proposed themselves.

The coming vote on the debt limit promises to be even more contentious. The federal government will run out of money early next year unless more borrowing is authorized, and even the most extreme budget slashing proposals out there will still means deficits for at least the medium term. A failure to pass the bill could spark a financial crisis, shut down the government, and turn big business against the GOP, making it a must-pass measure. But it’s also a bill that’s easy to demagogue, as the many Republicans who attacked incumbent Democrats for their votes on increasing the debt limit on the campaign trail discovered this year. The Republican caucus voted unanimously against the last increase in the debt ceiling, and a number have already signaled they won’t authorize another once they’re in the majority. After two years of heated rhetoric on the issue, Boehner is already warning conservatives to cool it.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether Speaker Oompah-Loompah will be able to control the dogs in his own yard, but I’m less worried about that – I think it’s inevitable – than I’m curious to hear whether the far-right conservatives who burned effigies, threw racial slurs at black Congressmen and homophobic slurs at others, will be able to hold back their rage when they realize that Washington isn’t at all like their own back-woods, and when they realize that the realities of the political process requires a thought process that’s nothing like the kind of across-the-fence “this is what I would do if I were in Congress” nonsense that most Americans love to ignorantly gab disparagingly about the federal government.

The real test will come again in 2012, when this influx of Tea Partiers will be put under the microscope for their achievements – or rather more likely – their lack thereof.

[ John Boehner’s Tea Party Nightmare ]
Source: The Daily Beast

December 6, 2010

Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks

Literally moments after taking the seat of power, the Tea Party thugs who essentially elbowed and mud-slung their way into political office did exactly the thing they promised all of their so-called friends on the campaign trail they wouldn’t do: start hungrily collecting money for pork projects and personal pet projects in their home districts by taking over a billion dollars in earmarks.

Frankly, it’s not surprising – even people as ignorant as the Tea Party fanatics have to understand that the only way to stay in office is to make sure you bring home the pork -I mean bacon- for your home district, and the way to do that is to make sure you get as many pet projects approved in spending bills as possible, and that of course means earmarks. After all, the so-called “have it out on the house or senate floor” method of approving local spending would take time and then put their projects in the public light and subject them to scrutiny, something that the Tea Party simply can’t stand up to.

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.

Oh Bachmann – your ability to talk out of both sides of your mouth never ceases to amaze me. Let’s get to the proof though, shall we? Shine the light on the cockroaches, as it were:

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg’s office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.

More than one member can sign onto an earmark. Still, there are 29 caucus members who requested on their own or joined requests for more than $10 million in earmark funding, and seven who wanted more than $50 million in funding.

Most offices did not respond right away to a request for comment. Those that did said they supported Republicans’ new efforts to ban earmarks.

Walk the walk, but never talk the talk, eh, GOP?

So what does the Tea Party do when confronted with the reality of politics that they claimed was so broken and horrible? Break one of their first and primary campaign promises before they’re even really in power. I wonder how the torch-and-pitchfork mobs that elected them will respond to the news? Will they hang them too and claim they’re “spending too much” and that this is more “dirty tricks by big government,” or will they look the other way because after all, they’re more like them than that brown fella in the White House?

We’ll see.

[ Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks ]
Source: The Atlantic

November 22, 2010

GOP Rep Promises to Hold Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage–Unless the Rich Get a Permanent Break

Seriously, read that headline and think hard about it – now you know who the GOP represents in Congress. Not the angry, disillusioned, ignorant Tea Partiers who voted them in, and not you or I or anyone else in the reality-based community: they represent the millionaires who line their pockets, wine and dine them on the backs of the American people, and who shovel money into their campaign funds in return for the earmarks and pet projects and contracts that the GOP says they’re so opposed to but will likely flinch over.

So this is what it’s come to – if you’ve ever wondered if there’s really a class war in America, this is it, and sadly, there are a number of wealthy Americans who see this for what it is and are begging Congress to raise their taxes.

But no – the GOP claims that they’re doing us all a favor by hand-feeding more caviar to the rich while the middle class can’t afford to stay in their homes and small businesses can’t afford to hire even if they want to, so this is the result:

The Republican rich-people bias isn’t exactly a shocker, but finally someone’s had the gall to spell it out. In a speech to the pro-business Tax Council, House Rep. David Camp said that the Dem’s middle-class tax extensions–permanent breaks for those earning $200,000 or less, with temporary extensions on the wealthy–would be blocked during the lame-duck session unless the rich get the same permanent extensions. Wait–he’s demanding the rich get equal treatment as the middle class?

Sad, isn’t it?

[ GOP Rep Promises to Hold Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage–Unless the Rich Get a Permanent Break ]
Source: AlterNet

November 15, 2010

One Million Reasons the Millionaire Bailout is a Bad Idea

Cracks are starting to show that President Obama and Congressional Democrats may flinch on the issue of the Bush-era tax cuts for the super-wealthy, and let them become permenent instead of allowing them to expire into the nothingness that they should be – they did nothing for the economy when they were passed, despite the loving praise that Republicans lavished on them when they gleefully passed them when they had majorities in the House and the Senate, and Americans didn’t see a single job created thanks to them.

Now, Republicans are claiming that if their best friends don’t get to continue to enjoy the disproportionate tax breaks and the fact that even without them the wealthy have the smallest tax burden they’ve ever had in the United States, second only to the absolute poorest among us, the sky will fall and the economy will grind to a halt.

They may have some leverage there actually – you do have to wonder why so many businesses have decided to only hire very very slowly over the past two years, and why so many businesses are suddenly interested in squeezing as much as they can possibly get from their current employees rather than bring on new ones. Everyone’s trying to hold the government accountable for job growth, but no one seems willing to hold the millionaires and the business owners accountable – the people who are shredding resumes by the thousand. And as illogical as that seems, Tea Party thugs and Republicans of multiple stripes are interested in giving these same people tax breaks, rewarding them for their gross mistreatment of the rest of America.

The folks at MoveOn.org are collecting a list of reasons why the Millionaire tax breaks are a bad idea. I encourage you to submit your own:

[ One Million Reasons the Millionaire Bailout is a Bad Idea ]
Source: MoveOn.org

October 25, 2010

Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day

If you read Not So Humble at all, you know what’s at stake in the upcoming elections and how important it is for progressives and liberals everywhere who care about the future and continued progress of our country – incremental as it is – to get to the polls on November 2nd. The far-right wingnuts and Tea Partyists are definitely headed to the polls, and you bet they’re hoping you don’t go because they know full well they’re in the minority.

Do you need more convincing that a lot of the nonsense we’re hearing in the media amount to little more than right-wing talking points? Check out this fabulous list from Dave Johnson over at the Campaign for America’s Future that I have to lift in its entirety because they are, point for point, critical to be read together:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.

Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.

Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.

Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.

Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8 ) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

If people want to make this a referendum on President Obama, they’d do well to head over to one of our previous articles where we highlight the Obama Achievements Center – where, even if you don’t particularly think President Obama is progressive enough or effective enough, you have to acknowledge the things he’s done so far and ask the question of whether or not you’d get the same from John McCain if he had won the election.

Great example – President Obama participated in the It Gets Better Project. Would John McCain have done that? Would any of these Tea Party nuts who claim to defend the constitution but have never read it (Christine O’Donnel’s “where in the constitution is freedom of religion” and Sharron Angle’s “There’s a second amendment?” comment prove it) have participated? Never – they’re too busy blaming everyone else for the problems they and their financial backers caused while draping themselves in American flags and claiming to be “of the people.”

Be wary my friends, that Trojan Horse is right outside the door, and there are a lot of clueless people willing to let them in.

[ Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

October 18, 2010

Officials in All 50 States Launch Foreclosure Probe

What’s this? Could it be? The very same banks that taxpayers had to rush to save in order to stave off economic disaster could very well be using the same money that the government supplied to them so they could stay afloat to kick people out of their homes without even doing them the due process of filing the legal documents correctly, much less work with those homeowners to keep them in their homes?

No way, couldn’t be.

Seriously, does this surprise anyone at this stage? Banks are so eager to reduce their risk that they would rather cut off their own noses to spite their face to eliminate any and all risk by having money in the housing sector at all, even though that risk could pay off big if they were only willing to work with homeowners to help them stay in their homes. Homeowners who stay in their homes are going to build equity, spend that equity in their homes, and eventually sell those homes at a profit to themselves and the banks who will fund the next buyer who wants that same upgraded home. Getting bargains on foreclosures are great for home buyers, but when a bank is paying a pittance for a home that used to be worth a fortune, it’s no bargain for them. So what’s the deal?

This same nonsensical mentality applies to jobs too – everyone’s so eager to hold the government accountable for the high jobless rate in America – and don’t get me wrong, the government has some strings to pull and are indeed pulling them – which is why we’re seeing increased private sector hiring – but someone, at some point, especially my Republican and Libertarian and other free marketeer friends who trust the private sector more than anyone else – someone has to ask why those businesses just don’t feel like hiring.

After all, they’re seeing great productivity out of the terrified and scared employees they have that are all worried about being laid off, why add more to the payrolls? 9.6% unemployment? Balance sheets don’t care, so why not keep off that hiring frenzy for a while till you get some politicians in office that are willing to shovel you some more cash in exchange for a few measley jobs?

See the pattern? How’s that for “following the money?”

But back to the foreclosure issues at hand:

oint investigation by every state and the District of Columbia could force mortgage companies to settle allegations that they used flawed documents to foreclose on hundreds of thousands of homeowners.

It could take months, at least, for any settlement to be reached. But legal experts say lenders could be forced to accept an independent monitor to ensure they follow state foreclosure laws. The banks could also be subject to financial penalties and be forced to pay some people whose foreclosures were improperly handled.

For banks, “the most efficient way for them to get out from under this is to settle across the board,” said Kathleen Engel, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston.

Employees of several major lenders have acknowledged in depositions that they signed thousands of foreclosure documents without reading them as required by state laws.

“This is not simply about a glitch in paperwork,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who’s leading the probe announced Wednesday, said in a statement. “It’s also about some companies violating the law and many people losing their homes.”

Whoa, banks breaking the law in order to alleviate their own risk and reduce the assets on their balance sheets in exchange for cash…cash that they refuse to lend, that even new financial rules don’t even require they keep on hand? That’s unpossible.

Then again, after Republicans derailed efforts last year to force banks into binding legislation to make them settle across the board, maybe now the states will do what Congressional Republicans were too afraid to do: what’s right for the American people.

[ Officials in All 50 States Launch Foreclosure Probe ]
Source: The Washington Post (courtesy of Reader Supported News)

October 11, 2010

Obama’s Courageous Stand on Foreclosure

In an excellent post outlining one of President Obama’s most daring and uplifting actions in the White House that just simply hasn’t seen nearly enough attention from the mainstream media, Marc Ash, writing for Reader Supported News, has this to say, which I simply can’t cut:

President Barack Obama today made good his pledge to use the power of the Oval Office to help American homeowners. Obama refused to sign legislation specifically crafted to protect lenders involved in record numbers of home foreclosures, and stymie efforts by homeowners and their attorneys to challenge documents in those foreclosure actions.

While public attention and media coverage has been drawn in recent days to the issue of foreclosure document-doctoring by mortgage lenders, including some of the nation’s largest, Congress was quietly crafting legislation that would have given the protection of federal law to the very documents at the center of the storm.

The “Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act,” first passed by the House in April of this year, sat quietly in the Senate Judiciary Committee until the day before Congress recessed for their midterm-election break. On September 27, with little media coverage, public attention or public debate in the Senate, the bill was unexpectedly brought to the floor and passed.

Reminiscent of modifications made in 2008 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that provided retroactive immunity to giant American telecommunications companies for their participation in Bush-era domestic electronic surveillance, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act appears custom-crafted to validate retroactively mortgage foreclosure documents that many states’ attorneys general fear may be fraudulent.

At the center of the recent firestorm are what are alleged to be flawed foreclosure documents. Challenges to those documents are the basis for foreclosure defense actions in many states. The Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act would have forced state courts to ignore many of the most commonly cited flaws in foreclosure documents, potentially streamlining and accelerating the already record pace of US families’ home foreclosures.

Flawed documents, experts say, may only be a symptom of the larger, more tangled web of so-called “securitized mortgages,” mortgage notes bundled into Wall Street investments – the very investments at the heart of the nation’s economic crisis.

In refusing to sign the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act, President Obama broke with his own party’s leadership on legislation successfully passed by both Democratic-controlled houses of Congress. It was a bold and principled stand by a president often maligned by party activists for failing to act forcefully enough on issues of passionate concern to the party’s base, and often touted by the president himself.

For Obama, locked in a pitched battle to preserve congressional majorities for his party and his agenda, this decisive stand is sure to resonate with homeowners across the nation, regardless of party affiliation. For a presidency struggling to define itself, Mr. Obama’s demur is a gauntlet thrown down.

Most people didn’t even know that this legislation was quietly working through Congress – and not so much thanks to the Democratic majorities in both chambers, but because of the phenomenon that most Americans simply don’t understand: a great deal of legislation is crafted by lobbyists and then presented to lawmakers with a candy coating, regardless of whether it’s actually good for America or not. Even some of the best legislation winds up being written by special interest groups.

President Obama, seeing the nation’s foreclosure crisis for what it was, simply refused to sign the bill. He didn’t veto it, he didn’t reject it, he simply refused to allow it to become law. He told Congress that in a time when our priorities should be towards keeping Americans in their homes, even at the cost of the bottom line of the greedy banks that made them unsustainable loans using unsustainable financial practices, now is not the time for another bank bailout, and now is not the time to give the banks another helping hand when the American people are drowning at worst and treading water at best.

Thank you, Mister President, for standing up for us, yet again.

[ Obama’s Courageous Stand on Foreclosure ]
Source: Reader Supported News

Ayn Rand Conservatism at Work — Firefighters Let Family’s House Burn Down Because Owner Didn’t Pay $75 Fee

The beauty (and subsequently the horror) of this story is exactly how real it is and how much this is exactly the kind of world the Web-ertarians and their ilk would see us all living in: one where only the privileged or those willing to pay for social services get to benefit from them: a world where every person is somehow an island, where the well-being of their communities is irrelevant when compared to the desire for individual determination.

A world that ignores that the property values of an entire neighborhood goes down when a few homes in the neighborhood are foreclosed on, where an entire city is less desirable to business, development, and people looking for a new place to live when the citizens would rather recoup money in their pockets to spend on their own sundries than collectively share the burden of better schools, roads, and hospitals.

Here’s the story:

hanks to 30 years of right-wing demagoguery about the evils of “collectivism” and the perfidy of “big government” — and a bruising recession that’s devastated state and local budgets — we’re getting a peek at a dystopian nightmare that may be in our not-too-distant future. It’s a picture of a society in which “rugged individualism” run amok means every man for himself.

Call it Ayn Rand’s stark, anti-governmental dream come true, a vision that last week turned into a nightmare for Gene Cranick, a rurual homeowner in Obion County, Tennessee. Cranick hadn’t forked over $75 for the subscription fire protection service offered to the county’s rural residents, so when firefighters came out to the scene, they just stood there, with their equipment on the trucks, while Cranick’s house burned to the ground. According to the local NBC TV affiliate, Cranick “said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning.”

The fire chief could have made an exception on the spot, but refused to do so. Pressed by the local NBC news team for an explanation, Mayor David Crocker said, “if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.”

How horrifying is that? The worst part is that the firefighters rushed to the scene to help, and then stood there doing nothing because those are “the rules.” What’s that about evil winning when good men do nothing?

Granted, the homeowner in this story hadn’t paid the fee, and I’m sure most libertarians will be quick to blame him for that – but frankly, aren’t taxes and fees essentially the same thing? Money that leaves your pockets to go to government coffers to provide for the common good? Yeah – you can call it whatever you want, but taxes and fees are the same (we’re seeing this debate in the Maryland gubenatorial debate, where the previous Republican governor is trying to claim he never raised taxes when in reality raising taxes would have been more fair: he just raised fees on goods and services that specifically targeted the middle class, and wound up being nothing more than pocket change to his upper-crust friends.) and if the community in Obion county had simply remembered this, Mr. Cranick wouldn’t have had to stand there and beg the firemen to do something about his burning home – something they decided not to do.

Welcome to Libertarian America, ladies and gentlemen: where the privileged have it all and the disenfranchised have nothing.

[ Ayn Rand Conservatism at Work — Firefighters Let Family’s House Burn Down Because Owner Didn’t Pay $75 Fee ]
Source: AlterNet