Monday, June 23, 2014

Last Call For McCarthy Populism

The hard right of the McCarthy era in the House GOP begins with -- surprise! -- billions for the banksters.

In an interview with Fox News, incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) revealed leadership's first significant policy shift: opposition to reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank when its current charter expires on Sept. 30, a move that would shutter the credit agency. 
"One of the problems with government is it's going to take hard earned money so others do things that the private sector can do. That's what Ex-Im Bank does," he said. "I think Ex-Im Bank is one that government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it."

You've just read the entire raison d'etre of the GOP.  The private sector can do it.  It doesn't mean the private sector can do it well, can do it better than the public sector, or even should do it, but at every turn the GOP wants their private sector corporate donors involved in every step of the process, making them more and more profit at our expense.

The private sector certainly can teach our children, police our communities, put out fires, build and maintain our roads, and more.  But should they?  Should the driving mission of any of those be profit margins instead of providing for the common good?

It is in McCarthy's world.  And those profits go to his friends.  That's the real crony capitalism that Republicans are looking to create.

Infrastructure Rupture

When I repeatedly say that the Republican party in this country refuses to govern the country, this is exactly what I mean.

No state is needier than West Virginia when it comes to fixing crumbling highways, airports and water works, with annual repair needs of $1,035 per resident that’s three times the national average. 
Yet even with borrowing costs hovering close to four-decade lows, lawmakers rejected a January proposal to sell $1 billion of bonds to repair roads that run through the Appalachian Mountains. Budget cuts were a more immediate concern, they said. 
Across the U.S., localities are refraining from raising new funds in the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression left them with unprecedented deficits. Rather than take advantage of Federal Reserve (FDTR) policy that’s held benchmark interest rates at historic lows since December 2008, they’re repaying obligations by the most on record.

At a time when spending is needed the most and rates are at the lowest levels in 50 years, Republicans (and more than a few red state Democrats) are saying we need more cuts in bridges and highways.

State and local spending on roads, railways and other infrastructure crested as a share of the economy during the post-war population boom. In the first quarter, the expenditures accounted for 1.4 percent of the economy, less than a third of the 1967 level, according to data compiled by Moody’s Analytics. 
America’s governments would need to spend about $3.6 trillion through 2020 to put everything from roads and water to sewers and electricity networks into adequate shape, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, based in Reston, Virginia. That’s about $1.6 trillion more than governments are expected to dispense. 
“We are not investing adequately in maintaining our infrastructure,” said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington. “We are missing an opportunity to borrow at lower rates in order to do it.”

But we can't.  Spending on roads and bridges is now "wasteful extravagance" while traffic jams and delays cost American companies billions in lost productivity every year.   States won't spend the money, the federal government is blocked from spending the money, so who exactly is going to fix our highways?

Why, you are.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation to allow tolls on a new bridge over the Ohio River into Kentucky that will replace an overpass deemed "functionally obsolete." 
Kasich signed the bill Wednesday at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium. That's adjacent to the 51-year-old Brent Spence Bridge, which spans the river to northern Kentucky. 
The bridge carries about 172,000 vehicles a day. The reconstructed bridge would more than double its capacity and address safety and traffic concerns that have caused the National Bridge Inventory to label the Brent Spence as "functionally obsolete." 
The new bridge isn't yet built, and despite Kasich's approval, tolling is still far down the road. Kentucky also would have to approve legislation for tolling, and lawmakers in the commonwealth are vehemently opposed.

It would be Kentucky voters who would be paying the bulk of the tolls on this bridge, and that will cost people like Rep. Tom Massie their jobs.  Of course, a private toll collecting company would be contracted for the deal.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Republicans want to "maintain roads and bridges".

Keep that in mind.

Meanwhile, In Egypt...

For all the loud complaints by the right about Obama the "dictator" and from the left that the administration is "chilling free speech" here's a story out of Egypt that puts both of those ridiculous accusations into perspective as three Al Jazeera journalists were each sentenced to seven years in prison by the new Sisi government for "terrorism" charges.

Three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed for seven years in Egypt on Monday after a court convicted them of helping a "terrorist organisation" by spreading lies, in a case that has raised questions about the country's respect for media freedom. 
The three, who all deny the charge, include Australian Peter Greste, Al Jazeera's Kenya-based correspondent, and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English. 
The third defendant, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, received an additional three-year jail sentence on a separate charge involving possession of ammunition.

There was a loud gasp in the courtroom as the verdicts were read out. Shaken and near tears, Greste's brother Michael said: "This is terribly devastating. I am stunned, dumbstruck. I've no other words."

This is what real suppression of freedom of speech by the government looks like.  This is what dictatorships do in order to maintain power over the people.  None of these are present in this administration, and comparing this administration to the regimes that are making free speech and adversarial journalism a crime is both insipid and a disservice.

The ruling came a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and discussed the political transition the country. 
"This is a deeply disappointing result. The Egyptian people have expressed over the past three years their wish for Egypt to be a democracy. Without freedom of the press there is no foundation for democracy" Britain's ambassador to Egypt, James Watt, told Reuters after the verdict. 
Australia's ambassador Ralph King also said his prime minister would make his disappointment clear after entreaties made by his government in recent days appeared to make little difference.

Egyptian officials have said the case is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation. The trial began on Feb. 20. The journalists, known in the Egyptian media as "The Marriott Cell" because they worked from a hotel of the U.S.-based chain, appeared in metal court cages.

This is a terrible verdict and I hope that Sisi will get his head out of his ass and fix this.  I wouldn't hold my breath however.


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