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The Morning Grumpy – 12/4/12

4 Dec

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy. Sure, the grumpy has been a little hit and miss lately, but it’s still free and it’s still awesome. So, give me a break.

The Erie County Legislature Republicans are ready for the budget battle

1. The Rust Belt, home of innovation and entrepreneurship.

In November, an initiative called RustBuilt.org was launched by Mr. Mueller, a veteran tech entrepreneur and co-organizer for Pittsburgh Startup Weekend, along with marketing specialist Paul Burke, attorney Adam Kelson and Carnegie Mellon University masters program administrator Ellen Saxon.

“We saw other people in other cities suffer from a similar fate as Pittsburgh’s. It’s been revolutionized in terms of its economy, it continues to be a fantastic city, but ends up seeing challenges in early-stage innovation circles,” said Mr. Burke, a managing partner at Thinktiv.

“If everyone’s doing good things by themselves, what would happen if we all think about doing [things] together?”

Thinking collaboratively, what a remarkable concept. Huge venture capital investments are being made throughout the region and we’ll soon see the fruits of the labor.

2. In case you missed it, corporate profits just hit an all-time high. And wages hit an all-time low. How is this Obama’s fault, again?

Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. (And some people are still saying that companies are suffering from “too much regulation” and “too many taxes.” Maybe little companies are, but big ones certainly aren’t).

Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. One reason companies are so profitable is that they’re paying employees less than they ever have before.

Also, a little thing called the “Great Speed-Up

How can we get the economy moving again? It’s simple.

If American companies were willing to trade off some of their current earnings growth to make investments in wage increases and hiring, American workers would have more money to spend. And as American workers spent more money, the economy would begin to grow more quickly again. And the growing economy would help the companies begin to grow more quickly again. And so on.

But, that wouldn’t make the shareholders (obsessed with short term returns) very happy, now would it?

3. The best article I’ve read on the “fiscal cliff” thus far.

Congress has structured the rules so that only an agreement on long-term deficit reduction—a grand bargain—can prevent the growth-killing, short-term deficit reduction of the fiscal cliff. But that’s no coincidence. Proponents of the grand bargain to resolve long-term fiscal questions don’t favor a bargain because they want to avoid the fiscal cliff. They deliberately created the fiscal cliff in hopes that the emergency would set the stage for a grand bargain. It’s a strategy they hit upon only after their previous hope that the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis would force a bargain proved futile.

The problem is that the quest for the grand bargain is essentially a quest for the impossible. Whereas ginning up crises to force Congress to strike that impossible bargain is wreaking real tangible harm on the country. Whatever happens during the lame-duck session, the best thing for America would be for the great and the good in Washington and corporate America to drop their fixation with the grand bargain.

During the Bush years, the grand-bargain crowd was an amusing curiosity. But in the Obama years they’ve become actively dangerous.

This issue illustrates the intractability of American government in its current form, can the problem be solved?

4. The President has called the Republican bluff and refuses to negotiate with himself in public. Essentially forcing Congressional Republicans to produce their counter-offer in the fiscal cliff debate. What did they come up with? Preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy, slash Medicare and Social Security.

House Republicans negotiating with President Barack Obama on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff are proposing to increase the eligibility age for Medicare and to lower cost-of-living hikes in Social Security benefits.

The proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans comes in response to Obama’s offer last week to hike taxes by $1.6 trillion over the coming decade but largely exempt Medicare and Social Security from budget cuts.

The GOP plan also proposes to raise $800 billion in higher tax revenue over the decade but it would keep the Bush-era tax cuts – including those for wealthier earners targeted by Obama – in place for now.

By the way, raising Medicare’s eligibility age saves the federal government $5.7BN while costing us $11.4BN. “Please proceed, Republicans”

5. As we await a report from the NYS Department of Health on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, take a look at this story.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and also with cancers, birth defects and organ damage. Her well tested high for sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium; her blood tested positive for acetone, plus the heavy metals arsenic (linked with skin lesions, cancers and cardiovascular disease) and germanium (linked with muscle weakness and skin rashes). Both she and her husband, who works in oilfield services, have recently lost crowns and fillings from their teeth; tooth loss is associated with radiation poisoning and high selenium levels, also found in the Schilkes’ water.

State health and agriculture officials acknowledged Schilke’s air and water tests but told her she had nothing to worry about. Her doctors, however, diagnosed her with neurotoxic damage and constricted airways. “I realized that this place is killing me and my cattle,” Schilke says. She began using inhalers and a nebulizer, switched to bottled water, and quit eating her own beef and the vegetables from her garden. (Schilke sells her cattle only to buyers who will finish raising them outside the shale area, where she presumes that any chemical contamination will clear after a few months.) “My health improved,” Schilke says, “but I thought, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing to this land?’”

Purely coincidence, I’m sure..

Fact Of The Day: The second person ever to go down Niagara Falls in a barrel survived the feat. Later, he tripped on an orange peel and died.

Quote Of The Day: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – Anonymous

Springsteen Of The Day: “Workin’ On The Highway” – Philadelphia 2012

Christmas Song Of The Day: I know we’re inundated with Christmas music on the radio and in stores, but I’m feeling pretty fucking festive this year. I’m a lucky guy with a wonderful family and everyone is healthy and happy. So, I’m picking my favorite Christmas songs for the next few weeks to share the spirit. This is my favorite Christmas song, by a mile, sung by a woman who is a national treasure, Ms. Darlene Love.

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