Staying Home

Just made the mental decision not to go to Netroots Nation in Vegas. I really do enjoy it, but between the airfare, the hotel room and the travel stress, it wasn’t doable. In previous years, I got some assistance but I wasn’t eligible this year. (Last year, it was in Pittsburgh and I drove.)

This was complicated by the fact that I got invited to attend a two-day PTI training session for media spokespeople, held in the same hotel before the conference starts. I really wanted to go to that, but it’s just not working out.

So I’m not going to fight to make it work. And really, I feel a great sense of relief. It’s still difficult for me to get around (just those few days in D.C. really exhausted me) and I’m just as happy to be staying home.

That said, it really is a wonderful conference and if you’ve never been, do check it out. It’s a lot of fun to meet all those people you’ve been reading for years.

UPDATE: No, I’m not asking for contributions for this. Honestly, I’m happy to stay home.

ACORN Cleared

And the Democrats, of course, were quick to throw their longtime allies and effective poverty fighters under the bus because some right-wingers said “Boo!”:

When a duo of right-wing provocateurs posing as a pimp and prostitute released selectively-edited videos trying to impugn the community activist group ACORN, both Democrats and Republicans condemned the organization.

Congress then voted to cut off federal funding for the group (a decision that was later ruled unconstitutional). Following negative press and Congress’ vote, ACORN effectively disbanded Apr. 1 and reorganized under new names.

But a just-issued report by the Government Accountability Office that reviewed ACORN’s federal funding at the behest of Congress found little grist for the mill for politicians or right-wing bloggers looking to bash the now-defunct advocacy group for the poor.

The 38-page report surveyed over 31 federal agencies, probing how ACORN used federal funds and whether adequate controls on spending existed.

The report found no evidence of fraud, lax oversight or misuse of federal funds.

In fact, the report discovered that ACORN had adequately accounted for spending $40 million worth of major and minor grants awarded by the federal government to the group since 2005 to combat a variety of problems afflicting poor Americans, including lead poisoning, housing discrimination and lack of adequate job training.

National Security Deficit Hawks

Jamie Galbraith on how the deficit hawks are using national security as a rationale for cutting Social Security and Medicare:

“Everything must be on the table,” we’re told, as the Simpson-Bowles commission prepares to explain why Social Security and Medicare must be cut.

But why? Social Security and Medicare are not broken. They are successful, popular programs that protect America’s elderly from poverty. Cutting them would be devastating. Today, at a time when people have lost jobs, investments and equity in their homes — the very things that an aging population counts on for economic stability — Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever. They are the most important bulwarks of middle-class life in America. And we can afford them. A rich nation can always afford modest retirement benefits and decent healthcare for its old. Cutting them would be, in fact, totally inconsistent with the spirit of the National Security Strategy, which correctly equates human security with national security around the world.

The real cause of our deficits and rising public debt is our broken banking system. The debts our economic leaders deplore were largely due to the collapse of private credit, and to the vast giveaways the federal government made to banks to prevent their failure when credit collapsed. Yet those rescues have failed to reanimate private credit markets and job creation, as the latest employment reports show. And so long as that failure persists, public deficits and rising public debt must remain facts of life.

Are broken banks a national security threat? Let’s avoid going that far. But the only way to reduce public deficits eventually is to revive private credit, and the only way to do that is build a new financial system to replace the one that has failed. The “national security” case for cutting Social Security and Medicare is bogus. In economic terms, it’s just a smokescreen for those who would like to transfer the cost of all those bank failures onto the elderly and the sick.

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