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Joe Heller | Recession's Last Meal / CagleCartoons.com

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How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century

Joshua Holland's new book shows how the corporate Right obscured how they've rigged the "free market" so they always come out on top.

Joshua Holland, AlterNet

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AlterNet Editor's note: AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland's new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland's research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won't read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It's one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It's a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they've rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.

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The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans' household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

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But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

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The Myth Of A 'Christian Nation'

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That the US is not a Christian nation is historical fact--not an opinion--worth remembering.

A. James Rudin, Religion News Service/Huffington Post

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying that "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

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Some leaders of the religious right would have us believe that America was founded as a "Christian nation." The facts, however, say otherwise.

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While the Founding Fathers, with their diverse Christian backgrounds, had every opportunity to make the fledgling United States into a "Christian nation," the factual record reveals they consciously refused to do so.

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The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing, The Progress Report

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  • "If the prospect of losing our Constitution to religious government frightens you, don't worry about the tiny Muslim-American minority. Worry about the anti-mosque majority Gingrich is working to mobilize." --Slate Magazine's Will Saletan
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  • Zero Tolerance
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The 100 Vote Senate

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The Senate does not operate by majority rule; It does not really even operate by supermajority rule. Increasingly, the Senate can only act unanimously.

Progress Report, Think Progress

It's common wisdom that nothing gets done in the U.S. Senate without a 60 vote supermajority, but this common wisdom is entirely too optimistic. Although only a small minority of senators object to any one of President Obama's judicial nominees, confirmations have slowed to such a glacial pace that Republican control over federal trial courts increased since Obama took office.

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Likewise, a massive 372 bills that passed House during the Obama presidency have yet to receive a vote in the Senate. Only a handful of these bills were even remotely controversial in the House, and 44 of them passed the House unanimously. Such obstruction works, even against uncontroversial bills and nominations, because the Senate's system of filibusters, delay tactics and secret holds empowers just one senator to bring the institution to a standstill. The Senate does not operate by majority rule; It does not really even operate by supermajority rule. Increasingly, the Senate can only act unanimously.

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Policy Lessons from Canada’s Deficit Slashing Days Are Limited

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  • Country’s Experience Shows Austerity Measures Didn’t Generate Growth
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  • Nobel LaureateKrugman: The Myths of Austerity
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  • Nobel Laureate Stiglitz: EU Austerity Is Wrong Bet
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Jordan Eizenga, Center for American Progress

Under Finance Minister Paul Martin, above, Canada's Liberal Party made large spending cuts in the 1990s in an effort to reduce Canada's deficit and bring down the debt.

Recent claims that 1990s Canadian fiscal policy should serve as a model for other countries trying to achieve stronger economic growth show a misunderstanding of what actually happened in Canada’s economy during that decade. The bottom line is that Canada’s budget cutting was appropriate under a unique set of circumstances, and in fact had little to do with the growth that ensued.

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In 1993, following a prolonged economic recession, Canada’s Liberal Party took over a federal government that had incurred historically high debt and deficit levels. Government debt was over 60 percent of gross domestic product, and deficits were running at 8 percent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average. Under Finance Minister Paul Martin’s helm the Liberal Party made large spending cuts in an effort to reduce the deficit and bring down the debt. Martin’s 1995 budget slashed departmental spending by 20 percent to cut the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 1998. By 2000, government debt levels had dropped, the deficit was eliminated, and economic growth had increased.

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George Osborne, British chancellor of the exchequer, calls 1990s Canada a “striking example” of cuts leading back to prosperity and recently sought the advice of Mr. Martin. The British Government has even gone so far as to establish a Canadian-style “cuts committee” in which cabinet ministers must justify every dollar of expenditure to a panel of their colleagues.

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The Myths of Austerity, Paul Krugman, New York Times | NY

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  • The next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.
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  • This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters.
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Nobel Laureate Stiglitz Says EU Austerity Is Wrong Bet, Reuters, in Common Dreams

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  • 'If that (austerity) happens I think it is likely that the economic downturn will last far longer and human suffering will be all the greater,' he said.
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  • The Myths of Austerity
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Insanity Is Deja Vu All Over Again

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  • With the present so radically departing from our past, history has become a damning package of inconvenient truths.
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  • Building a Nation of Know-Nothings
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David Sirota, In These Times

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Out of all the famous quotations, few better describe this eerily familiar time than those attributed to George Santayana and Yogi Berra. The former, a philosopher, warned that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The latter, a baseball player, stumbled into prophecy by declaring, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

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As movies give us bad remakes of already bad productions (hello, Predators), television resuscitates ancient clowns (howdy, Dee Snider) and music revives pure schlock (I’m looking at you, Devo), we are now surrounded by the obvious mistakes of yesteryear. And it might be funny—it might be downright hilarious—if only this cycle didn’t infect the deadly serious stuff.

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Building a Nation of Know-Nothings, Timothy Egan, New York Times | NY
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

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"Hope-and-Change," A Hoax

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  • We believe that Obama’s rhetoric was a complete fabrication aimed at diverting real energy for change into a cul de sac of Democratic apologetics. It was, in short, a hoax.
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  • A post-9/11 betrayal endures
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Michael Rectenwald and Lori Price, Citizens for Legitimate Government

In our encounters on various social networking sites and political blogs, we consistently encounter the faithful remnants of the “hope-and-change” believers. To combat the onslaught of evidence and opinion that leads one to the conclusion that Obama is a fraud at best and represents a hoax at worst, they point to lists of his accomplishments and the ways he has delivered on his campaign promises. Such lists, we believe, are generally misrepresentations and fail to rise to the level of credibility. They are misleading because they represent minor deeds that might very well have been accomplished otherwise. We have characterized them as delivering on promises to “sharpen the pencils in the White House --mission accomplished.” There are some notable changes, but are they commensurate with Obama’s euphuistic campaign rhetoric? We think not. We believe that Obama’s rhetoric was a complete fabrication aimed at diverting real energy for change into a cul de sac of Democratic apologetics. It was, in short, a hoax.

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By “hoax” we mean that it represents a corporate takeover of the dissent that bubbled up in the country against the Bush administration, including his economic but mostly his imperialist agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presenting Obama as a candidate of amorphous “hope-and-change,” the corporate sponsors of Obama intended to divert this dissent into acceptable (Democratic) channels. Some if not most of it had, indeed, arisen from Democratic channels, but the meaning of this dissent far exceeded anything that the Democratic Party represented either in its stated platform, or its actual practices, especially the consistent and over-riding support of the wars. The corporate and military backers of Obama bet on Obama’s oratorical skill and civil-rights-sounding rhetoric to effect a prestidigitation of incredible proportions. The intention of the magic was to fool tens of millions of voters, small-scale individual contributors, and campaigners into believing that Obama was the genuine article, that he represented change from the very policies and practices that had made Bush so virulently despised and vehemently opposed. These policies include first and foremost the war.

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A post-9/11 betrayal endures, Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times | CA

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  • President Obama and his administration have embraced the secrecy and usurpations of power that made possible the Bush-Cheney betrayal of American values
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  • A step backwards on privacy
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  • Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.
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  • The Self-Inflicted Wounds of 9/11
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Fellow Americans' suspicions frustrate US Muslims

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There is no simple way for American Muslims to move forward.
Top 10 Myths About Islam

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, in Washington Examiner | DC

Nine years of denouncing terrorism, of praying side-by-side with Jews and Christians, of insisting "I'm American, too." None of it could stop a season of hate against Muslims that made for an especially fraught Sept. 11. Now, Muslims are asking why their efforts to be accepted in the United States have been so easily thwarted.

"We have nothing to apologize for, we have nothing to fear, we have nothing to be ashamed of, we have nothing that we're guilty of — but we need to be out there and we need to express this," said Imam Mohammed Ibn Faqih in a sermon at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, Calif., the day before the 9/11 anniversary.

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Top 10 Myths About Islam, Huda, About.com

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  • Introduction to Islam
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  • The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing
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  • Five myths about mosques in this country
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