Jan 262011

RAHM EMANUEL’s back on the ballot for the Chicago mayoral race, and as it’s been known, he won’t be hurting for dough — the former White House staffer raked in over $11.8 million in the final months of 2010, besting his main competitor Gery Chico by more than a whopping $9 million, Forbes reports. But where did his health coffers come from? That’s where it gets interesting.

Editor’s Note: By their friends you shall know them. That old adage is proven valid once again by the roster of “liberal” and neocon fatcats supporting one of the most disgusting figures in contemporary politics, Zionlib Rahm Emanuel.   [print_link]

Rahm’s donations roster, published late last week, reads like a who’s who of glammy businesspeople. Trumped up by pals of his brother Ari — you know, the fancy Hollywood agent who inspired Jeremy Piven’s Entourage character — Rahm’s list of supporters includes 14 billionaires, Steve Jobs, tinseltown power-movers Steven Spielberg, Aaron Sorkin and David Geffen and, you know, Donald Trump. In other words — a lot of people who totally do not live in Chicago!

The person who unleashed the most funds on Emanuel’s campaign was TV billionaire Haim Saban, who forked over $500,000 from money he made off hawking popular “Power Rangers” cartoons to kids. But Rahm’s got a friend in Facebook, too — co-founder Sean Parker dropped $100,000, while COO Sheryl Sandberg donated $25,000.

It’s interesting to note that the amount Haim Saban donated trumps the entire campaign coffer of the mayoral race’s third-in-line, former US Senator Carol Moseley Braun, who is working with a mere $450,000.

Forbes went through Emanuel’s lengthy list with a fine-toothed comb and picked out the richest and most high-profile of the donors — check it out here.

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | Sourced from AlterNet 

Posted at January 26, 2011, 7:29 am



Emanuel’s billionaire backers include:

- Donald Trump, who kicked in $50,000

- Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto

- Steven Spielberg, who gave $75,000

- TV tycoon Haim Saban, Emanuel’s biggest supporter; he and his wife gave $500,000 between them

- Steve Jobs, Apple CEO (his wife Laurene also donated)

- Hollywood’s richest man David Geffen

- Citadel’s Ken Griffin, who, along with his wife, gave $200,000

- Five members of the Pritzker hotel family, including Jay and Nicholas

- Philanthropist Eli Broad

- Media mogul Mortimer Zuckerman

- Nelson Peltz, chairman of fast food chains Wendy’s and Arby’s

- Buyout king Ron Perelman

- Hedge funder Marc Lasry

Emanuel’s other big-name backers include two prominent social media billionaires-in-the-making. Chicago-based Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and 30% owner of web coupon phenomenon Groupon, gave $100,000 via his private equity firm Blue Media LLC. Facebook co-founder Sean Parker also donated $100,000 – the same amount he gave towards his last high-profile political cause, California’s marijuana legalization bill, Prop 19. Emanuel seems to have other friends at Facebook: Sheryl Sandberg, the website COO, gave $25,000. And, in a surreal but telling display of Emanuel’s clout from Silicon Valley to Hollywood, Facebook frenemy Aaron Sorkin — the screenwriter who fictionalized the site’s founding for the big screen — gave $10,000.

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Jan 262011

By Patrick Martin 

26 January 2011  [print_link]

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama outlined a reactionary political agenda that amounted to a full-scale embrace of the policies of the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives

The speech was a demonstration of the bipartisan consensus of the American ruling elite. Both Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of the financial aristocracy, from whom they are taking their marching orders to cut domestic social spending and enact further tax breaks for the wealthy.

Obama displayed utter callousness and indifference toward the social distress of tens of millions of Americans. There was virtually no reference to unemployment or the staggering growth of economic inequality, and no proposals for creating jobs for the 17 million workers who are jobless or forced to subsist on part-time and temporary work.

The words “poverty,” “foreclosures,” “hunger” and “homelessness” were not uttered, despite sharp increases in all four during the first two years of Obama’s tenure.

Listening to Obama’s desultory remarks, one would never have guessed that just 28 months ago the American financial-corporate elite brought the American and world economy to its knees, precipitating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The speech was a paean to American capitalism and the very financial bandits who are chiefly responsible for the catastrophe facing the American people.

Obama boasted of the good fortune of corporate America, which is making more money than ever. “The stock market has come roaring back,” he declared. “Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” Under conditions of near double-digit unemployment, he claimed to have “broken the back of this recession.”

There was no acknowledgement that the revival of the financial sector and corporate profits is the byproduct of shoveling trillions in public funds to bail out Wall Street. Now Obama is joining with the Republicans in a bipartisan drive to force the American people to pay the price for these bailouts—and the ensuing record federal deficits—by slashing spending on vitally needed social programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” Obama declared, and proceeded to argue that government intervention was necessary to subsidize corporations that otherwise would not invest in basic research because it is not profitable. Aside from maintaining the military and national security apparatus, Obama suggested that propping up big business with taxpayer funds was virtually the only legitimate function of the federal government.

The State of the Union speech exemplified the state of contemporary American politics, where neither the representatives of the two big business parties nor the commentators in the corporate-controlled media can speak honestly about social reality. There were constant invocations of the greatness of America and its exceptional character, which contrasted absurdly with Obama’s scattered allusions to the devastating failures of the United States in all social spheres.

Thus, for instance, Obama appealed to the idealism of young people, urging them to become teachers, ignoring the fact that public schools are being closed down all over the country, tens of thousands of teachers are being laid off, and teachers are being scapegoated by the White House for the government’s policy of starving and undermining the public school system.

He pledged to make the United States number one in the world in the proportion of the population with a college degree, even as state colleges and universities are raising tuition rates and fees and financial aid is a major target of both state and federal budget-cutting.

He called for investment in infrastructure programs such as high-speed rail and nationwide wireless access, without providing any explanation for the devastating decline in the country’s basic infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, for which, he admitted, “engineers now give us a D.”

The actual policy measures proposed in the speech were right-wing and pro-corporate. Obama called for lower corporate tax rates, a five-year freeze in annual domestic spending to be carried out through “painful cuts” in social programs, and a bipartisan effort to slash spending on the major entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Equally significant were the policy issues Obama avoided. There was no mention of the budget crisis in the 50 states, where Democratic and Republican governors alike are proposing unprecedented cutbacks in public services, from education to mental health.

He made no reference to the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but instead reiterated his desire to join with the Republicans in a crusade to free the giant corporations of regulations that in any way inhibit their ability to increase their profits.

RIGHT: Tea Partier rips Obama’s speech, policy… everything

Rep. Michele Bachmann attacks Obama’s policies, particularly health care. Attacking a rotten bill for the wrong reasons only adds further layers to the grotesque confusion attending American politics. 

Above all, he covered up the responsibility of the capitalist system for the economic devastation of the last three years. He hailed the United States as “the largest, the most prosperous economy in the world,” although living standards for working people in the US have fallen sharply and now trail significantly behind those of workers in Western Europe and Japan. He declared that the goal of his administration was to make America “the best place to do business.” And he suggested that unemployment was the fault of the unemployed, since in the new global economy it was no longer possible for American workers to find good-paying and secure jobs if they lack sufficient education.

The general tone of the speech was at once complacent and provocative. It was a demonstration that the vast majority of the American people, those whose focus is the labor market, not the stock market, are entirely disenfranchised by the two-party system.

Obama made a series of appeals to the Republican Party. He began with a declaration that “the people” had decided that the Republicans should share responsibility for determining government policy, although the election debacle last November was the product of a collapse in the Democratic vote. It was a manifestation of disappointment and disillusionment with the Obama administration because of its right-wing policies, not an expression of confidence in the reactionary nostrums of the Republicans.

Obama called for intensifying the assault on education conducted under the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law and his own “Race to the Top” program, both of them predicated on promoting charter and private schools, undermining public schools, and driving down wages, working conditions and job security for teachers.

He invited the Republicans to propose changes in the healthcare program adopted by the Democratic Congress last year, and endorsed the traditional right-wing hobby horse of “malpractice reform”—i.e., depriving patients of the right to sue over injuries inflicted by drug companies, medical equipment companies, hospitals or doctors.

He fully embraced the Republican claim that deficit reduction is the central issue facing Washington. “Now that the worst of the recession is over,” he said—a remarkable statement with nearly ten million people unemployed for six months or longer—the “final critical step” was to address the federal deficit. He declared that his proposed five-year freeze on annual domestic spending would save $400 billion.

This is only the opening bid for much larger cuts. Only a few hours before Obama’s speech, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution endorsing a rollback of current domestic social spending to 2008 levels, a cut of almost $100 billion this year.

Towards the end of the speech, Obama devoted a few minutes to foreign affairs, which was confined to salutes to American troops (producing a series of bipartisan standing ovations) and pledges to continue the war in Afghanistan and US threats against Iran. He made reference to the rescinding of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” hailing the right of gays to enlist openly in the military, and used this to demand that all college campuses open their doors to military recruiters and ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) programs.

PATRICK MARTIN scans the political landscape for the World Socialist Web Site

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Jan 262011

“I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes,” Obama said in his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. “A parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries.”  At the same time, Obama said the nation cannot afford to make permanent lower tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. The president has proposed cutting tens of billions of dollars in corporate tax preferences in his first two budgets, and on Tuesday he repeated his call for eliminating what he terms loopholes.—Reuters

What is one to make of the cynicism and plain demagoguery packed in the above performance?

By Robert Scheer  | [print_link]  Posted on Jan 26, 2011

WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE UNION? You certainly couldn’t tell from that platitudinous hogwash that the president dished out Tuesday evening. I had expected Barack Obama to be his eloquent self, appealing to our better nature, but instead he was mealy-mouthed in avoiding the tough choices that a leader should delineate in a time of trouble. He embraced clean air and a faster Internet while ignoring the depth of our economic pain and the Wall Street scoundrels who were responsible—understandably so, since they so prominently populate the highest reaches of his administration. He had the effrontery to condemn “a parade of lobbyists” for rigging government after he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase to be his new chief of staff.

The speech was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and a debt that spiraled out of control while the government wasted trillions making the bankers whole. Instead the president conveyed the insular optimism of his fat-cat associates: “We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” How convenient to ignore the fact that this bubble of prosperity, which has failed the tens of millions losing their homes and jobs, was floated by enormous government indebtedness now forcing deep cuts in social services including state financial aid for those better-educated students the president claims to be so concerned about.

His references to education provided a convenient scapegoat for the failure of the economy, rather than to blame the actions of the Wall Street hustlers to whom Obama is now sucking up. Yes, it is an obvious good to have better-educated students to compete with other economies, but that is hardly the issue of the moment when all of the world’s economies are suffering grievous harm resulting from the irresponsible behavior of the best and the brightest here at home. It wasn’t the students struggling at community colleges who came up with the financial gimmicks that produced the Great Recession, but rather the super-whiz-kid graduates of the top business and law schools.

What nonsense to insist that low public school test scores hobbled our economy when it was the highest-achieving graduates of our elite colleges who designed and sold the financial gimmicks that created this crisis. Indeed, some of the folks who once designed the phony mathematical formulas underwriting subprime mortgage-based derivatives won Nobel prizes for their effort. A pioneer in the securitization of mortgage debt, as well as exporting jobs abroad, was one Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, whom Obama recently appointed to head his new job creation panel. 

That the financial meltdown at the heart of our economic crisis was “avoidable” and not the result of long-run economic problems related to education and foreign competition is detailed in a sweeping report by the Democratic majority on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to be released as a 576-page book on Thursday. In a preview reported in The New York Times, the commission concluded: “The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again.”

Just the warning that Obama has ignored by continually appointing the very people who engineered this crisis, mostly Clinton alums, to reverse its ongoing dire consequences. As the Times reports: “The decision in 2000 to shield the exotic financial instruments known as over-the-counter derivatives from regulation, made during the last year of President Bill Clinton’s term, is called ‘a key turning point in the march toward the financial crisis.’ ”

Obama appointed as his top economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who as Clinton’s treasury secretary was the key architect of that “turning point,” and Summers protégé Timothy Geithner as his own treasury secretary. The unanimous finding of the 10 Democrats on the commission is that Geithner, who had been president of the New York Fed before Obama appointed him, “could have clamped down” on excesses by Citigroup, the subprime mortgage leader that Geithner and the Fed bailed out along with other unworthy banking supplicants.

Profligate behavior that has hobbled the economy while running up an enormous debt that Obama now uses as an excuse for a five-year freeze on discretionary domestic spending cuts that small part of the budget that might actually help ordinary people. Speaking of our legacy of deficit spending, Obama stated, “… in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets. But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in.”

Why now? It is an absurd demarcation to freeze spending when so many remain unemployed just because corporate profits, and therefore stock market valuations, seem firm. Ours is a union divided between those who agree with Obama that “the worst of the recession is over” and the far larger number in deep pain that this president is bent on ignoring.

ROBERT SCHEER is a veteran political analyst. 

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