Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mission: Failure

By Bill Maher

Obviously, last month’s jobs report sucked. Only 69,000 new jobs were created – about half what economists expected – and the worst number in a year.  The economy has to create about 120,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the increase in population.

That’s just the hard data.  But here’s how I know the news was really bad: Republicans on TV could barely contain their smiles.  To them, an economy back in the shitter means only one thing: “Woo hoo! President Romney!”

The biggest problem they have with this jobs report is that 69,000 jobs created is 69,000 too many.

Since day one, Republicans have cock-blocked any effort to create jobs. They tried to filibuster the stimulus – one thing that did create a ton of jobs – even though roughly one third of it was tax cuts. They filibustered last summer’s American Jobs Act. They took the government hostage over the debt ceiling, which led to our credit rating being lowered and destroyed any potential for recovery last summer.

This is worse than rooting for failure – it’s ensuring failure. People don’t like it when I bring up the “t word” – treason – but I haven’t heard any convincing arguments suggesting Republicans have done anything but try to thwart efforts to create jobs since Obama became president.

We know where the worst job losses are coming from: the public sector. We could hire back the 300,000 teachers who lost their jobs because of the recession right now.

We can also accelerate private sector jobs by doing the massive infrastructure projects that we need to do sometime anyway – why not now, when borrowing money is free? It doesn’t make any sense not to do that unless you’re rooting for the economy to remain stalled. And no, don’t say the deficit. What really hurts deficits is a stalled economy.

Also, when Democrats would criticize the war in Iraq, they got accused of hurting the morale of the troops. What about hurting the morale of the economy? Talking it down definitely creates negative animal spirits that make the economy sucking a self-fulfilling prophecy. On this front, the worst is yet to come: Romney’s Super PACs are going to spend a billion dollars over the next few months telling us how much the economy sucks.

By the way, as bad as the jobs report was, if you watched the news, it was like Lehman Brothers collapsed again. Yet, 69,000 jobs were created. You know how many on average per month were created under Bush, even after you take out his worst months from the Great Recession? 66,000. You know how many for Bush if you include the recession months? 11,000. And ALL his job creation came from public sector growth. He lost private sector jobs, where Obama has created about 3.8 million.

That’s the truly horrible news – as bad as this job report was, it was much better than the average over the last decade. Though it would be nice if both parties were interested in doing something about it. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Endth Degree

The Endth Degree

By Bill Maher

Is going to college still even worth it? College grads are coming out with degrees, yes – and herpes – but also with student loan debt totaling $60,000, $80,000, $100,00. These kids haven’t even gotten started in their careers and they’re already saddled with what’s tantamount to a full mortgage. In this sucky economy, graduates find themselves back in their old bedrooms at their parents’ homes, taking jobs in the service industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.

The cost of higher education in the US has soared in recent decades while median incomes have stagnated. The California State University schools raised their tuitions for the second time in less than a year, making this year’s tuition over 23% higher than the previous fall’s. And those are just the most recent increases. Attending a Cal State school now costs twice what it cost just back in 2007. And that’s not even counting the price of weed.

The old canard is that people with bachelor’s degrees make twice as much as high school graduates over their careers. But average starting salaries for college graduates just fell 10% and, if you take into account the higher income taxes paid by college grads and the four to six years they spend out of the job market getting their degrees, is that $60,000 to $100,000 in college loan debt really worth it?

And is the degree really worth it? A new comprehensive study of college grading over the decades finds that just about everybody who pays their tuition bills is deemed exceptional. 43% of letter grades awarded today are A’s as compared to just 15% back in 1960. By 2008, A’s and B’s represented 73% of all grades awarded at public colleges and 86% of all grades awarded at private colleges. It’s Lake Wobegon, “Where all the children are above average.” And that’s in spite of studies that show college students spend far less time studying today than they did decades ago.

If everybody is a genius, aren’t you paying $100,000 to $150,000 just to get your ticket stamped? You’re not buying an education so much as you’re buying a degree with a commendable GPA. Has the college degree with a B average become just a consumer product you can buy with a $100,000 loan? Wouldn’t a bright, industrious kid be better off in this economy to just jump into the job market and try to excel through merit?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Right Shift

By Bill Maher

Good news: last month, for the first time in weeks, Congress passed a bill! And wait until you hear what you get: by a vote of 78 to 20, the Senate voted to extend the life of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. …People, please! Control yourselves!

Yes, the Import-Export Bank. It’s been around for 80 years. They re-upped it for another three. Now, what do you 80% of Americans who disapprove of the job Congress is doing have to say about that?? Hit the links, Speaker Boehner! You’ve earned it.

Now, if I were a Washington pundit, I’d launch into some boring speech about how both sides are equally to blame, and then I’d call it a day and we’d all meet at Katherine Graham’s house for cocktails. Which is weird because Katherine Graham is dead. But this is why you never see us booking George Will and Peggy Noonan on my show (besides the fact that they wouldn’t do it): Because the same old Washington pundits haven’t said anything interesting since disco. Also because the idea that the blame for our government’s dysfunction is equally shared by the parties just is a giant, steaming mound of horseshit and anyone who has paid attention to politics over the last 20 years knows it. Or as I like to call it, “The Rise of the Party of the Apes.”

In fact, recently Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two old wonks who have been in Washington as long as the Potomac, wrote a book called “It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” in which they basically say, flat out, what I say every week: it’s the Republicans who are crazy. And they wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post to go along with the book called, “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.”

They write: “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.” And they’re not saying Democrats are blameless and perfect. We all know there’s only been one perfect man in human history. And that’s David Beckham.

But it reminded me of something Barney Frank recently said: “…people have said to me, well, why can't you work things out with the Republicans, and my answer to my friends has been: Exactly on what issues do you think Michele Bachmann and I can compromise?” Basically Barney is saying, look, how do you expect me to work on the 2+2=4 bill when their side believes math is a liberal plot to turn your kid queer?

Take Dick Lugar. Who was always a staunch conservative, just not the modern-day insane variety. He was just throttled in the Republican Senate primary in Indiana by a Tea Party guy named Richard Mourdock. And after Mourdock won he said this about working with the other side: “I certainly think bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.” Which is sort of like saying to your girlfriend, “I think both our sexual needs will best be fulfilled by you blowing me.”

Or take Allen West. Seriously, take him to the padded cell and give him 20 CCs of the high test. Ornstein and Mann start off their Post op-ed by noting that recently Rep. Allen West said that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. And not one Republican said, “Allen, come on. You’re making us look dumb.” Not one of the Republican candidates for president said anything. Because in today’s Republican Party, that’s not even edgy anymore. They probably saw him later on and were like, “Word, Allen. Word.” Because that’s how they think black people talk.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Supreme Contort

The Supreme Court will soon rule in the case of Arizona v. United States: Turn That Damn Music Down, We're Trying to Sleep. It's a hot tamale, because it's about Latinos, who are an important voting block, and because it looks like the second case this year -- along with Obamacare -- where the Supreme Court could hand the President his ass. Here's what's at stake: 

In 2010, Arizona -- land that was Mexican, after it belonged to Spain, after it belong to the Anasazi -- passed a law designed to make life as unpleasant as possible for anyone whose skin is less pink than gum. The law was pretty openly intended to make illegal aliens self-deport, and take the legal aliens with them, while they're at it, so that Arizona can be what God intended -- a nice sunny place for angry white people to get skin cancer and die. 

Another irony? The Spanish also gave us the word "vamoose."
The law encourages cops to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in America illegally. Nothing racist about that. Your suspect could be an illegal Canadian, giving himself away by wearing cross-country skis. The law requires all non-citizens to carry a federal registration card at all times, and produce the document on demand. The law authorizes Arizona cops to arrest any immigrant without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe the immigrant committed a deportable offense. 

The law has only two exceptions: Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. Some Mexicans have a little Canadian in them. 

It’s a repulsive law that redefines "probable cause" as "not being white." Latino Americans hate it, for good reason, and the Obama administration filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction against it. A federal judge agreed, the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and now the Supremes get their say. A decision is expected very soon.
It could be bad for Obama if he loses, because it makes him look like a weakling and a fuck-up. It could be good for Obama, if it reminds Latinos that Republicans aren't their friends. We'll see.

-Bill Maher