Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce, one of rock's greatest bassists, as well as a powerful lead vocalist and blues harmonica player, died at 71 on Saturday. The Scottish-born Bruce was a member of Cream, the ultimate rock power trio, with Eric Clapton, guitar, and Ginger Baker, drums. Afterward, Bruce continued his career with rock, jazz and fusion groups. At a 2005 Cream reunion above in Royal Albert Hall, London, the group performed "White Room," one of the hits, including "Sunshine of Your Love," that Bruce wrote with poet Pete Brown. The lyrics contain an intimation of mortality: "I'll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd; Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves."

Report: Stagnant Middle Class Leads To Stagnant Economy

Trickle-down economics contends that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, along with deregulation, will result in economic growth. This theory ignores the fact that a middle class with money to spend is the ultimate force that stimulates the economy, increases demand and creates job. In a report, the Center for American Progress has found that corporate America and Wall Street are actually concerned that a stagnant middle class is leading to a stagnant economy. Regardless, conservative politicians and institutions such as the Heritage Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce continue to insist upon discredited trickle-down economics and are fixated on aiding the supply side of the equation, not the demand:

...This report gathers new evidence to show that middle-class weakness and stagnant wage growth are holding the economy back. We use the financial statements, known as 10-Ks—the annual report required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC—of the top 100 retailers in America and words of some of Wall Street’s top economists to underscore the point.

Time and again, America’s leading corporations warn investors that “decreased levels of consumer spending” (Kohl’s), “a renewed decline in consumer-spending levels” (Sears), and “decreased salaries and wages” (Burger King) could have a huge negative impact on their financial performance. The corporate consensus is clear: It is this cycle of stagnation—low wages, leading to weak demand, leading to slow growth, leading back to low wages—that is hurting companies, their consumers, and the U.S. economy at large.

...The evidence assembled in this report directly repudiates “trickle-down economics”—the idea that the only way to produce economic growth is to redistribute money to the rich, who will create jobs for everyone else. Conservative politicians, lobbyists, and commentators may still be stuck in the trickle-down mindset of the 1980s, but corporate America and the Wall Street analysts who closely follow it know better.

While it may at first seem obvious that low consumer demand impedes growth, conservative think tanks and other believers in trickle-down economics ignore the evidence. Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, approvingly quotes Arthur Laffer, the father of trickle-down economics, who said, “All economic problems are about removing impediments to supply, not demand.”

...If the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber, and other proponents of trickle-down economics refuse to believe the overwhelming academic evidence that clearly shows low consumer spending and income growth are holding the economy back, they should listen to corporate America and Wall Street when they say that a consumer base with large, growing discretionary incomes—in other words, a strong middle class—is the vital ingredient for job growth and a strong economy. Or, as Ellen Zentner, executive director and senior economist at Morgan Stanley, explained, “faster employment and wage growth for those at the bottom, were it to have staying power, would help lift consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Powell: GOP Must Appeal To More Than Its Base

General Colin Powell, a Republican, spoke to Bill Maher about his party's sharp turn to the right. He said that if it wants to win presidential elections, it has to appeal to more than just its base; it must appeal to minorities, who will be the majority in 20 years. In addition, the GOP must learn to compromise. Will Republicans listen to Powell? Watch:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

José vs. Joe: Who Gets A Job?

Still think we live in a post-racial society? In his job search, Jose Zamora sent out 50 to 100 resumes daily. He wasn't getting any responses. So he decided to make just one change. He dropped the "s" in his name and became Joe Zamora. Within a week, he was flooded with responses. "I had to drop a letter to get a title," Zamora concluded. Watch:

Jose Zamora's experience is backed up by a study, "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination." Also see the New York Times: "'Whitening' the Resume" and "In Job Hunt, College Degree Can't Close Racial Gap."

Sarah Palin's PAC Funds Mostly Go To...Sarah Palin

Despite the fact that Sarah Palin has no chance of running as a viable candidate for anything in 2016, her SarahPAC has donated a minuscule amount of money to fellow Republicans. So where has all the money gone? The vast majority of the proceeds has gone to Sarah Palin. Are her contributors aware of this? Open Secrets provides the figures:

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC continued to perform underwhelmingly as a source of funds for other candidates in 2014′s third quarter, a report filed with the FEC this week showed. Out of $1.4 million the PAC had available in the third quarter — $978,000 sitting in the bank at the beginning of the July 1-Sept. 30 period, plus another more than $433,000 raised during that time — SarahPAC managed to donate just $45,000 to fellow Republicans running in the midterms. That’s a little more than 3 percent.

For the two-year 2014 cycle, the former Alaska governor’s PAC, a vehicle that helps her stay in the game amid talk that she may run in the 2016 presidential contest, has raised $2.5 million on top of more than $1.1 million that was in the bank at the start of the cycle. It has spent $2.7 million, with about $150,000 — or 5.5 percent — going to candidates.

That’s right about on par with the PAC’s parsimoniousness in 2012. Of the 417 leadership PACs that made at least one contribution in that cycle, SarahPAC was one of only 19 to give less than 10 percent of its total expenditures to candidates, other PACs or party committees. And it was one of only three of those spending more than $1 million to do so — the others being Rep. Ron Paul‘s (R-Texas) Liberty PAC and Sen. Marco Rubio‘s (R-Fla.) Reclaim America PAC. Paul was a presidential candidate, and Rubio may be one in 2016.

What did SarahPAC spend most of its money on, then, in the third quarter? Many of the same consultants she has used all along — for speechwriting, fundraising, logistics and research. There’s even someone paid to consult on “coalitions.” Travel, presumably for Palin, is part of the equation; a PAC like this is useful for keeping a high profile nationally without having to pay those pesky airline and hotel tabs out of personal funds. And the PAC sent $10,885 to HarperCollins — publisher of all three of Palin’s books — for “books for donor fulfillment.” That wasn’t the only book purchase by the committee: A lump sum of $13,000 was listed as being spent for “lodging, SUV rental, books for donors.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jan Brewer Is Wrong: Same-Sex Marriage Cannot Be Voted Upon

Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona is unhappy that U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled in favor of marriage equality in her state. She stated, "It is not the role of the judiciary to determine that same-sex marriages should be allowed. Historically and traditionally, that power belongs to the states, and to the people. If society wants to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, that decision should be made through our elected representatives or at the ballot – not the courts." Jan Brewer is wrong.

"States' rights" is the same argument that was used by segregationists in their resistance to full civil rights for African Americans. Rights, however, are inalienable; they are a legal matter that cannot be decided by popular vote. Further, minority rights must be protected from the tyranny of the majority under the principle of equal justice under the law. No one reasonable today would consider putting interracial marriage up for a vote. Voting on same-sex marriage is equally unjustifiable. Same-sex marriage can only be decided in the courts-not through a ballot. Arizona apparently has a governor who doesn't understand this.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"How Do We Know What Is True?" By Stephen Fry

Last week, we listened to Stephen Fry, English comedian, actor, writer and activist, provide the humanist response to finding happiness and meaning in life. In the following animated video, Fry states that the use of observation, experimentation and the testing of theories against evidence–the scientific method–is the best way to discover truths about how the world works. Watch:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Norah Jones Live

Over the past few weeks, we've watched Dhani Harrison, Paul Simon and Beck perform on Conan's week-long tribute to George Harrison. Let's conclude with Norah Jones' rendition of "Behind That Locked Door," which appeared on Harrison's classic solo album "All Things Must Pass" (1970). Jones is the daughter of the late sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, under whom Harrison studied.

Friday, October 17, 2014

GOP Senate Candidate Blames Single Women For His Failing Campaign

Today's Republicans are always ready to blame immigrants, gays, minorities and women for whatever ails the nation. Jeff Bell, New Jersey Republican Senate candidate, fits right in with this ethos. He's behind by over 20 points in his race against incumbent Democrat Cory Booker. Bell doesn't blame his socially conservative views, such as his opposition to abortion, for the state of his campaign. The fault, according to him, is with single mothers who depend on government support. In fact, even single women without children–and, ultimately, declining marriage rates–are to blame for his faltering run. Bell did his whining to the Asbury Park Press:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bell said he is behind in the polls by double digits because single mothers are "wed" to the social benefits like food stamps that Democrats hand out.

Bell said his 20-plus percentage point deficit among women in public opinion polls isn't due to his socially conservative views, such as opposition to abortion rights, but rather the result of demographic boost in the number of unmarried women.

"I've done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women," Bell told the Asbury Park Press. "Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party.

"But single women who have never married and don't have children are also that way," he continued. "If you take married women, they aren't that different from married men. So it's really a problem with the decline in marriage rates. The Democrats do benefit from that."

Photo: Facebook

Thursday, October 16, 2014

College GOP Leader Doesn't Want Campus Voting Registration

Leigh Thomas, chairwoman of the High Point University College Republicans in North Carolina, expressed the GOP's negative attitude toward the right to vote. Bree Binder, a representative of Turning Point, a conservative non-profit student group, asked Thomas for permission to conduct a voter registration drive on campus. Thomas responded, “I understand the registration process. I’m just not sure if this is something I would want to have on this High Point University campus, the registration of voting.” Finally she gave her bottom line: “I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus with students.” She was also upset that the exchange was recorded. Watch: