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Following the money

The fight over predatory lending tells voters - which party is really in charge

In a time of uncertainty under the Gold Dome, many state lawmakers find themselves looking to their North Star: Big Money.

And no issue in the young legislative session illustrates this point better than the battle over the reform of Georgia's anti-predatory lending law — the Georgia Fair Lending Act. Lobbyists and heavyweight corporations have always held significant sway during the General Assembly, but with both parties struggling under completely alien circumstances and neither one in firm control, well-funded special interests have an opportunity to have more influence than ever. No one wants to wind up on the wrong side of the money.

So just forget parties. The predatory lending struggle sees Republican state Sen. Don Cheeks of Augusta leading a fight for consumers that includes Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, some members of the all-Democratic black caucus and a handful of other legislators. Meanwhile, lawmakers from both parties — Rep. Johnny Floyd, D-Cordele, and Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, chief among them — are vying to see who can best represent the interests of the banks.

Cagle, Cheeks and Floyd all have their own bills to reform the Fair Lending Act. The big difference is that the banking industry wrote both Cagle's and Floyd's bills, Cheeks says, a fact no one contacted for this story disputes.

Floyd's House bill 142 unanimously passed the House last week, but Cheeks' legislation is tougher, and unlike the Floyd bill, specifically addresses the problem that prompted Standard & Poor's to stop rating mortgage-backed securities Feb. 1.

Thus far, Gov. Sonny Perdue hasn't publicly stated a preference for either bill, and spokeswoman Kimberly King says he's content with letting the Legislature work it out.

But that's difficult to believe given the fact that the governor's deputy executive counsel, Robert Highsmith, spent at least an hour in Cheeks' office Thursday morning discussing the issue. It doesn't take an hour to reiterate the governor's position that the Legislature work it out.

When asked if Perdue was solely interested in addressing S&P's concern with the Fair Lending Act, as has been publicly stated, Cheeks paused for a few moments, half-smiled and then flatly repeated the question in the form of an answer: "Gov. Perdue is solely interested in addressing S&P's concerns."

Since winning election in November, the governor has accepted at least $142,000 from the banking industry.

Still, as of Friday, Cheeks looked like he might have the upper hand. House bill 142 was headed to his committee, said Senate President Eric Johnson, and as of Thursday afternoon, Cheeks was not optimistic it would move quickly for a vote of the full Senate.

"It will be awful difficult, and it will take some time to fix it," he said of Floyd's bill.

Cheeks' legislation should get a Senate vote Wednesday, and Johnson expects it to pass easily. From there, it will move to the House, and you guessed it, Floyd's committee.

It all makes for a final outcome that's difficult to predict.

"When you figure it out, you tell me," Johnson jokes.

Only one thing is certain, no one in the Legislature is getting more attention — much of it unwanted — than Cheeks. He says he's been working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, and he looks it. The Augusta lawmaker could even expect lobbying on Sunday, because three AARP volunteers are members of his Sunday school class, says AARP lobbyist Kathy Floyd, whose group supports the senator's bill.

So far, Cheeks seems to have stood his ground.

Floyd says the AARP plans to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers this week. The group sent out 20,000 postcards to members Saturday and is directing its membership to call their legislators to lobby for Cheeks' bill.

kevin.griffis@creativeloafing.com



More By This Writer

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  string(6144) "To find out what Atlanta City Council members really think about the lineup of candidates vying to fill the vacant slot of council prez, we've done a little snooping. After canvassing a half-dozen council members to see who they thought could be trusted to bring the notoriously dysfunctional group together, we came up with a sneak preview of the four candidates' ability to handle the often-thankless cat-herding job.The allure of the post is its heightened public visibility. The council president doesn't even vote, except in the case of a tie, but the job can be a springboard to higher office. In fact, former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard left last month to run for Congress.But an effective council president also wields quite a bit power when it comes to committee assignments and influencing votes. That's apparent in that none of the council members with whom we spoke were willing to let their names be used as they sized up the four candidates.On the July 20 ballot to replace Woolard are three former council members — Doug Alexander, Derrick Boazman and Michael Bond — and business executive Lisa Holmes Borders. To hear each of them describe themselves, their diplomatic skills and reservoirs of resolve border on Gandhi-esque. "Consensus builder" appears to be their middle name.Beyond that, there isn't much debate — not even about, say, the issues. All vaguely cite public safety, infrastructure and quality of life as top priorities.Borders, 46, is a senior vice president with mega-developer Cousins Properties who comes from a well-known political family. Her grandfather was the Rev. William Holmes Borders Sr., minister for five decades at the politically influential Wheat Street Baptist Church.Still, Borders' tallest political hurdle will be her lack of name recognition. Few council members with whom CL spoke know her well. But the one who did thinks she's a good fit for the position, and Borders is widely regarded as being the choice of Mayor Shirley Franklin. (The mayor's office did not return phone calls seeking comment.)Borders dismisses talk of her lack of political experience by noting that she's built relationships with state and federal agencies as a member of groups such as Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. At Cousins, she brings people to the middle ground by trying to take "people's emotions out of the equation, present the facts, set up the plan and execute against it," she says.Alexander, 45, served two terms on the council and stepped down in 2001. He then went to work for the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority. He's well liked and considered an affable character by the council members interviewed for this story. Yet his former colleagues say his lighthearted attitude during council meetings shows he might lack the "gravitas" necessary to lead."For some people, gravitas means imposing your will on the council," Alexander says. "That's where the problem lies. What I would like to do is help the council members achieve their agenda and maybe find some new ideas and new solutions along the way."As a former at-large council member and the only white candidate in the race, Alexander could make it into a runoff while the other three candidates split the black vote.Bond, 38, is making his second run for council president. He received the most votes in the general election in 2001, but Woolard beat him in the runoff. That time, it was widely believed that Bond's position in the NAACP — not to mention his father, civil rights icon Julian Bond — helped keep him visible. This time, Bond is recovering from the blow of being forced to step down as the deputy director of the NAACP's Atlanta chapter.As NAACP chapter director, Bond took positions that are popular with a lot of Atlanta voters. During the most recent General Assembly session, he joined the AARP and consumer group Georgia Watch to lobby for legislation to end predatory payday lending. And he recently fought against the construction of a garbage transfer station in west Atlanta."I was able to bring disparate interests together across race and class lines for a common issue," Bond says of the struggle against garbage giant BFI.He also points to the fact that he got more legislation passed when he was on council than any of his colleagues. But that's a bit misleading: He was Campbell's floor leader, and what the former mayor wanted, he usually got.Today, being tied to Campbell isn't quite so popular. Most of the six council members interviewed said Bond can be worked with, but they're still wary of the Campbell days.Boazman, 37, made his name as a council member by tackling crime along Metropolitan Parkway and going after strip clubs and prostitution. Though he represents a relatively poor district in south Atlanta, including the neighborhoods Capitol Hill and Lakewood, Boazman maintains that he can effectively represent all of Atlanta."I'm not a stranger to any part of the city," he says, noting that he went to high school in Buckhead.During the initial fight to close Atlanta bars early because of problems with noise and violence in Buckhead, Boazman opposed the initiative, and the fight took on racial overtones. He says he tried to play peacemaker, inviting people from his district and Buckhead to his home to "have a dialogue about race."But some of Boazman's recent actions suggest he would be less diplomatic in the president's chair. "He's the most opposite thing from a consensus builder that I can think of," says one councilwoman of Boazman. Recently, after Councilman H. Lamar Willis suggested that the council eliminate the president's position, Boazman, like an angry toddler, suggested the council eliminate its at-large posts, one of which Willis happens to occupy.None of the sitting council members interviewed had much faith that Boazman is the one capable of bringing them together.Editor's note: Kevin Griffis has left CL to join a political campaign — but not one having to do with city government. He's now the press and policy adviser to Democratic Senate candidate Cliff Oxford. This story was written before his departure."
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Most of the six council members interviewed said Bond can be worked with, but they're still wary of the Campbell days.%%%%%%__Boazman, __37, made his name as a council member by tackling crime along Metropolitan Parkway and going after strip clubs and prostitution. Though he represents a relatively poor district in south Atlanta, including the neighborhoods Capitol Hill and Lakewood, Boazman maintains that he can effectively represent all of Atlanta.%%%%%%"I'm not a stranger to any part of the city," he says, noting that he went to high school in Buckhead.%%%%%%During the initial fight to close Atlanta bars early because of problems with noise and violence in Buckhead, Boazman opposed the initiative, and the fight took on racial overtones. He says he tried to play peacemaker, inviting people from his district and Buckhead to his home to "have a dialogue about race."%%%%%%But some of Boazman's recent actions suggest he would be less diplomatic in the president's chair. 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That's apparent in that none of the council members with whom we spoke were willing to let their names be used as they sized up the four candidates.On the July 20 ballot to replace Woolard are three former council members — Doug Alexander, Derrick Boazman and Michael Bond — and business executive Lisa Holmes Borders. To hear each of them describe themselves, their diplomatic skills and reservoirs of resolve border on Gandhi-esque. "Consensus builder" appears to be their middle name.Beyond that, there isn't much debate — not even about, say, the issues. All vaguely cite public safety, infrastructure and quality of life as top priorities.Borders, 46, is a senior vice president with mega-developer Cousins Properties who comes from a well-known political family. Her grandfather was the Rev. William Holmes Borders Sr., minister for five decades at the politically influential Wheat Street Baptist Church.Still, Borders' tallest political hurdle will be her lack of name recognition. 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Yet his former colleagues say his lighthearted attitude during council meetings shows he might lack the "gravitas" necessary to lead."For some people, gravitas means imposing your will on the council," Alexander says. "That's where the problem lies. What I would like to do is help the council members achieve their agenda and maybe find some new ideas and new solutions along the way."As a former at-large council member and the only white candidate in the race, Alexander could make it into a runoff while the other three candidates split the black vote.Bond, 38, is making his second run for council president. He received the most votes in the general election in 2001, but Woolard beat him in the runoff. That time, it was widely believed that Bond's position in the NAACP — not to mention his father, civil rights icon Julian Bond — helped keep him visible. 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Thursday May 27, 2004 12:04 am EDT
Quartet of hopefuls vie for council presidency | more...
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  string(2614) "This week, Creative Loafing takes the unusual step of bestowing the Scalawag title on one of its own: me, Kevin Griffis.

The shadowy group that uses its black arts to pick the Scalawag chose me for its dubious "honor" because I'm leaving my post as the paper's political reporter for a life in — surprise, surprise, everyone — politics.

The paper has a right to be angry. This is a crushing blow to Atlanta's venerable alt-weekly. More than Hollis Gillespie's weekly tales of dysfunction, Andisheh Nouraee's cheeky coverage of Atlanta society or Felicia Feaster's sharp-eyed criticism of the arts, people pick up Creative Loafing to read the genius that leapt from my fingers to this keyboard with such stunning regularity lo these three years. Once just a repository for concert listings and the odd movie review, I made the news section the first pages Georgia turned to each week when it picked up the state's most important paper. Needless to say, I drove circulation to stratospheric heights.

Faulkner-esque in ambition, Dickey-esque in lyricism and Russell-esque in sheer intellectual rigor, my political writing made me a titan among my peers, and not just in Atlanta or even the Southeast. Let's face it. I put this paper on the national map.

I was fawned over and feared by the left and the right, respectively, and there are politicians across this great land who will finally sleep tonight knowing that the most thorough and tough-minded journalist they ever crossed swords with is laying down his pen.

I clearly care nothing for the rest of the Loaf staff, for their well-being, indeed, for the paper's very financial survival. I'm mercenary scum, a gun for hire. And I pity the guy who's got to follow my footsteps, as well as the U.S. Senate candidate whose campaign I'm joining, because I know that this candidate will someday feel the pain and loss that Creative Loafing feels now. I'm a love 'em and leave 'em kinda guy.

In case you're wondering, I'm departing primarily because of my daughter. Politicians need babies to kiss, and I finally have one. (In fact, she's willing to freelance for a reasonable fee.)

But does the staff think otherwise? Do they believe I've let my success, of mythic proportion though it is, persuade me that I can make a difference on a political campaign? Do they fancy me a fool, one who hasn't learned anything about the cynicism of politics from my own reporting?

"Goodbye, Kevin," they're probably saying, "and good riddance." And a good riddance to them! It would take 10 reporters to replace me — and try as they might, they will fail!"
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Thursday May 20, 2004 12:04 am EDT
For rivaling the spinelessness of the politicians he's covered | more...
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  string(1710) "The campaign may be dead, but it seems the political legacy of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is still kicking.

The reason the Dean campaign mattered, despite its spectacular implosion, is that it brought new people into politics and connected them to one another at the community level, teaching them grassroots organizing along the way. The Dean campaign also has spawned something else: a new group of candidates and local party leaders.

"We're actively encouraging people to run for office," Dean tells CL. "We have 600 people around the country, at least. ... We are very aggressively trying to move forward in states that are not on the battleground list, and Georgia is one of those."

Two former Deaniacs are running for the state Legislature. Camille Kokozaki contends for the empty District 40 state Senate seat, which spans northern Gwinnett and western DeKalb counties. Kokozaki, 48, who owns his own business, faces Democrat Rick Garnitz in the primary.

The Dean experience gave Kokozaki confidence that he could run a race and introduced him, through Internet interest-matchmaker Meetup.com, to like-minded neighbors. Deaniacs wound up using Meetup in an unprecedented way to build their movement.

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"I've lived in the district eight years, and I've never seen my representative or received any communication from him," McDaniel says. With the Dean campaign, "we were building a community, not just a candidate." He plans to try to duplicate that face-to-face political model in his bid for the state House."
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The reason the Dean campaign mattered, despite its spectacular implosion, is that it brought new people into politics and connected them to one another at the community level, teaching them grassroots organizing along the way. The Dean campaign also has spawned something else: a new group of candidates and local party leaders.

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Article

Thursday May 13, 2004 12:04 am EDT

The campaign may be dead, but it seems the political legacy of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is still kicking.

The reason the Dean campaign mattered, despite its spectacular implosion, is that it brought new people into politics and connected them to one another at the community level, teaching them grassroots organizing along the way. The Dean campaign also has spawned something else: a new...

| more...
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  string(8451) "In April 1953,  Dwight Eisenhower — Republican president, West Point graduate, former Allied commander, liberator of Europe — spoke to newspaper editors about the coming arms race."Every gun that is made," he said, "every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense."Fifty-one years later, George W. Bush — Republican president, Yale graduate, former National Guard pilot — presides over a federal budget that is almost $500 billion in the red. This is thanks in part to a massive tax cut, but it was helped along by unprecedented military expenditures. Almost 20 cents of every federal tax dollar goes to defense. The Pentagon budget is currently $460 billion, and that doesn't even count the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Of course, that brings up a good point. We are at war and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has repeatedly been invoked to justify massive military spending. The problem is that many of the weapons and defense projects taxpayers fund have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Worst of all, no one is talking about it — not Republicans certainly, and not even Democrats, who have just as much at stake in propping up a military-industrial complex that includes plenty of union employees.To find an example, you need go only as far as Marietta.For more  than a decade, Lockheed-Martin has been designing and building a new breed of jet fighter to replace the F-15. When the F-22, called the Raptor, went into production at Lockheed's Marietta plant in 2001, it was supposed to be able to fly two hours between maintenance checkups. Instead, the plane could fly barely a half-hour before it needed maintenance, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group famous for exposing the Pentagon's $436 hammer. What's more, F-22s have exhibited "260 types of failure," according to the POGO, which two years ago recommended to Congress that the program be scrapped.In response to continuing criticism of the Raptor, Bush's director of management and budget, Josh Bolten, called earlier this year for an in-depth study of the program with an eye toward figuring whether it's really needed and whether its problems can be fixed. His directive was leaked to the press in February.But although the Air Force has scaled back its initial order of 750 jets to 218, it already has spent more than $36 billion on the program, about half the projected final costs.Cost per jet? $329 million. The original projected cost? $50 million per jet."F-22 proponents are pushing very hard, because they figure once the tap is turned on, it will be impossible to stop," says Christopher Hellman, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.Where's the outrage? You obviously won't find it in Bush. So maybe you'd find it in his challenger, John Kerry. Think again. Desperate for the support of union workers, he's not likely to speak out for abolishing programs like the Raptor. After all, the plant's International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is well aware of the Raptor's precarious position and is very politically active. It organizes letter-writing efforts, contributes to campaigns and lobbies Congress. Next week, the union will host its annual legislative conference in Washington.Denise Majette, Democratic congresswoman and U.S. Senate hopeful, tries to strike a balance. She says the current administration favors defense. And she stresses a more holistic approach to federal spending that would invest money on economic development abroad in hopes of eroding fertile ground for terrorists.Still, Majette stops short of recommending any specific budget cuts. After all, some of her constituents work at Lockheed-Martin.The Raptor is just one of a host of dubious defense initiatives. Since Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech in 1983, the U.S. has spent $125 billion on systems that would defend the nation against nuclear missiles. In September, two months before Election Day, a missile defense system should be in place in Alaska and California. But, just last month, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, flagged ballistic missile defense as a problem project."Bush will say, 'Look — we're protecting the United States from missile attack,'" says Victoria Samson, a senior policy associate with the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "Never mind the fact that it doesn't work."In eight tests of the system against incoming missiles, only five have been successful, and that's with information being fed to the system about where the missile will come from — something a terrorist or belligerent nation won't likely provide."What they're deploying this year is an initial defense with operational capability, which means nothing really," Samson says. "They don't have plans to ever operationally test the program. It's important because, by law, a weapons program is supposed to go through operational testing before it goes into high rates of production."So the West Coast will be equipped with a missile shield that probably won't work. Yet, this year, it will cost taxpayers $9 billion.If you want  to hear serious talk about defense spending, you often have to seek out third party candidates. They have less to lose."It's the sort of thing that you can defend, and anybody who dares oppose it is un-American," says Gary Nolan, a frontrunner for the Libertarian presidential nomination.To counter that attack, he concludes, you have to make your arguments just as emotional. "There are Americans every day who are trying to feed their families ... and we're doing what with this money?" Nolan says. "We're taking their tax dollars to build weapons systems that we don't need for an enemy that doesn't exist."Nolan's argument isn't just rhetoric. Many economists are warning that America is undergoing a fundamental structural shift in its economy as jobs flee the country. Meanwhile, our per capita defense spending outpaces Europe's by five times. Even our ally in Iraq, the United Kingdom, devotes only 7 percent to 8 percent of its budget to the military. As trade barriers come down and jobs move overseas, the U.S. is less equipped to retrain or re-educate its workforce. And, economists fear, our global competitiveness will suffer."It's going to come back to haunt us," Ravi Kalakota, CEO of E-Business Strategies and author of Offshore Outsourcing, said at a recent forum on globalization at Georgia Tech. "We're investing in government and not investing in the future sufficiently."So, is the sky falling? That depends on whether you had one of those jobs that were shipped overseas and have to count on little help from a government ill-prepared to deal with a changing economy.It comes back to Eisenhower's tradeoffs. Defense spending increased from 17.3 percent of the federal budget in fiscal 2002 to 19.6 percent this year. It's projected to move slightly lower next fiscal year — to 18.8 percent — but, again, that doesn't count Iraq or Afghanistan. Combine defense spending with the tax cuts and you've got a government that doesn't have the resources the European Union or Asian nations have to deal with a rapidly changing job market.History seems to warn against America's formula. Seventeen years ago in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale scholar Paul Kennedy tied war and defense spending to the crumbling of empires. His examples were of nations that exploit the resources  of the lands it conquers, something the U.S. purports not to do."If ... too large a proportion of the state's resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a state overextends itself strategically — by, say, the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly wars — it runs the risk that the potential benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it all."Isn't it time some of our leaders mentioned this?kevin.griffis@creativeloafing.com
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The Pentagon budget is currently $460 billion, and that doesn't even count the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.%%%%%%Of course, that brings up a good point. We ''are'' at war and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has repeatedly been invoked to justify massive military spending. The problem is that many of the weapons and defense projects taxpayers fund have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Worst of all, no one is talking about it -- not Republicans certainly, and not even Democrats, who have just as much at stake in propping up a military-industrial complex that includes plenty of union employees.%%%%%%To find an example, you need go only as far as Marietta.%%%%%%__For more __ than a decade, Lockheed-Martin has been designing and building a new breed of jet fighter to replace the F-15. When the F-22, called the Raptor, went into production at Lockheed's Marietta plant in 2001, it was supposed to be able to fly two hours between maintenance checkups. Instead, the plane could fly barely a half-hour before it needed maintenance, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group famous for exposing the Pentagon's $436 hammer. What's more, F-22s have exhibited "260 types of failure," according to the POGO, which two years ago recommended to Congress that the program be scrapped.%%%%%%In response to continuing criticism of the Raptor, Bush's director of management and budget, Josh Bolten, called earlier this year for an in-depth study of the program with an eye toward figuring whether it's really needed and whether its problems can be fixed. His directive was leaked to the press in February.%%%%%%But although the Air Force has scaled back its initial order of 750 jets to 218, it already has spent more than $36 billion on the program, about half the projected final costs.%%%%%%Cost per jet? $329 million. The original projected cost? $50 million per jet.%%%%%%"F-22 proponents are pushing very hard, because they figure once the tap is turned on, it will be impossible to stop," says Christopher Hellman, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.%%%%%%Where's the outrage? You obviously won't find it in Bush. So maybe you'd find it in his challenger, John Kerry. Think again. Desperate for the support of union workers, he's not likely to speak out for abolishing programs like the Raptor. After all, the plant's International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is well aware of the Raptor's precarious position and is very politically active. It organizes letter-writing efforts, contributes to campaigns and lobbies Congress. Next week, the union will host its annual legislative conference in Washington.%%%%%%Denise Majette, Democratic congresswoman and U.S. Senate hopeful, tries to strike a balance. She says the current administration favors defense. 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Combine defense spending with the tax cuts and you've got a government that doesn't have the resources the European Union or Asian nations have to deal with a rapidly changing job market.%%%%%%History seems to warn against America's formula. Seventeen years ago in ''The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers'', Yale scholar Paul Kennedy tied war and defense spending to the crumbling of empires. His examples were of nations that exploit the resources  of the lands it conquers, something the U.S. purports not to do.%%%%%%"If ... too large a proportion of the state's resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. 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  string(8702) "    America's military spending is out of hand, at our economy's peril   2004-05-06T04:04:00+00:00 The F-22's hidden cost   Kevin Griffis 1223654 2004-05-06T04:04:00+00:00  In April 1953,  Dwight Eisenhower — Republican president, West Point graduate, former Allied commander, liberator of Europe — spoke to newspaper editors about the coming arms race."Every gun that is made," he said, "every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense."Fifty-one years later, George W. Bush — Republican president, Yale graduate, former National Guard pilot — presides over a federal budget that is almost $500 billion in the red. This is thanks in part to a massive tax cut, but it was helped along by unprecedented military expenditures. Almost 20 cents of every federal tax dollar goes to defense. The Pentagon budget is currently $460 billion, and that doesn't even count the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Of course, that brings up a good point. We are at war and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has repeatedly been invoked to justify massive military spending. The problem is that many of the weapons and defense projects taxpayers fund have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Worst of all, no one is talking about it — not Republicans certainly, and not even Democrats, who have just as much at stake in propping up a military-industrial complex that includes plenty of union employees.To find an example, you need go only as far as Marietta.For more  than a decade, Lockheed-Martin has been designing and building a new breed of jet fighter to replace the F-15. When the F-22, called the Raptor, went into production at Lockheed's Marietta plant in 2001, it was supposed to be able to fly two hours between maintenance checkups. Instead, the plane could fly barely a half-hour before it needed maintenance, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group famous for exposing the Pentagon's $436 hammer. What's more, F-22s have exhibited "260 types of failure," according to the POGO, which two years ago recommended to Congress that the program be scrapped.In response to continuing criticism of the Raptor, Bush's director of management and budget, Josh Bolten, called earlier this year for an in-depth study of the program with an eye toward figuring whether it's really needed and whether its problems can be fixed. His directive was leaked to the press in February.But although the Air Force has scaled back its initial order of 750 jets to 218, it already has spent more than $36 billion on the program, about half the projected final costs.Cost per jet? $329 million. The original projected cost? $50 million per jet."F-22 proponents are pushing very hard, because they figure once the tap is turned on, it will be impossible to stop," says Christopher Hellman, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.Where's the outrage? You obviously won't find it in Bush. So maybe you'd find it in his challenger, John Kerry. Think again. Desperate for the support of union workers, he's not likely to speak out for abolishing programs like the Raptor. After all, the plant's International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is well aware of the Raptor's precarious position and is very politically active. It organizes letter-writing efforts, contributes to campaigns and lobbies Congress. Next week, the union will host its annual legislative conference in Washington.Denise Majette, Democratic congresswoman and U.S. Senate hopeful, tries to strike a balance. She says the current administration favors defense. And she stresses a more holistic approach to federal spending that would invest money on economic development abroad in hopes of eroding fertile ground for terrorists.Still, Majette stops short of recommending any specific budget cuts. After all, some of her constituents work at Lockheed-Martin.The Raptor is just one of a host of dubious defense initiatives. Since Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech in 1983, the U.S. has spent $125 billion on systems that would defend the nation against nuclear missiles. In September, two months before Election Day, a missile defense system should be in place in Alaska and California. But, just last month, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, flagged ballistic missile defense as a problem project."Bush will say, 'Look — we're protecting the United States from missile attack,'" says Victoria Samson, a senior policy associate with the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "Never mind the fact that it doesn't work."In eight tests of the system against incoming missiles, only five have been successful, and that's with information being fed to the system about where the missile will come from — something a terrorist or belligerent nation won't likely provide."What they're deploying this year is an initial defense with operational capability, which means nothing really," Samson says. "They don't have plans to ever operationally test the program. It's important because, by law, a weapons program is supposed to go through operational testing before it goes into high rates of production."So the West Coast will be equipped with a missile shield that probably won't work. Yet, this year, it will cost taxpayers $9 billion.If you want  to hear serious talk about defense spending, you often have to seek out third party candidates. They have less to lose."It's the sort of thing that you can defend, and anybody who dares oppose it is un-American," says Gary Nolan, a frontrunner for the Libertarian presidential nomination.To counter that attack, he concludes, you have to make your arguments just as emotional. "There are Americans every day who are trying to feed their families ... and we're doing what with this money?" Nolan says. "We're taking their tax dollars to build weapons systems that we don't need for an enemy that doesn't exist."Nolan's argument isn't just rhetoric. Many economists are warning that America is undergoing a fundamental structural shift in its economy as jobs flee the country. Meanwhile, our per capita defense spending outpaces Europe's by five times. Even our ally in Iraq, the United Kingdom, devotes only 7 percent to 8 percent of its budget to the military. As trade barriers come down and jobs move overseas, the U.S. is less equipped to retrain or re-educate its workforce. And, economists fear, our global competitiveness will suffer."It's going to come back to haunt us," Ravi Kalakota, CEO of E-Business Strategies and author of Offshore Outsourcing, said at a recent forum on globalization at Georgia Tech. "We're investing in government and not investing in the future sufficiently."So, is the sky falling? That depends on whether you had one of those jobs that were shipped overseas and have to count on little help from a government ill-prepared to deal with a changing economy.It comes back to Eisenhower's tradeoffs. Defense spending increased from 17.3 percent of the federal budget in fiscal 2002 to 19.6 percent this year. It's projected to move slightly lower next fiscal year — to 18.8 percent — but, again, that doesn't count Iraq or Afghanistan. Combine defense spending with the tax cuts and you've got a government that doesn't have the resources the European Union or Asian nations have to deal with a rapidly changing job market.History seems to warn against America's formula. Seventeen years ago in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale scholar Paul Kennedy tied war and defense spending to the crumbling of empires. His examples were of nations that exploit the resources  of the lands it conquers, something the U.S. purports not to do."If ... too large a proportion of the state's resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a state overextends itself strategically — by, say, the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly wars — it runs the risk that the potential benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it all."Isn't it time some of our leaders mentioned this?kevin.griffis@creativeloafing.com
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Thursday May 6, 2004 12:04 am EDT
America's military spending is out of hand, at our economy's peril | more...
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  string(33) "Outsourcing 101: How to save jobs"
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  string(3494) "Academic economic forums have the tendency to be deadly boring: Think Carl Sagan reading the tax code on Vicodin.

But a globalization roundtable last week at Georgia Tech proved the exception. If you've happened by a television or glanced at a newspaper in the last couple of years, you know that outsourcing American jobs to India and China has become the scourge celébre of the mainstream press and the cause celébre of financial papers; how many jobs you've moved overseas says just how well a company's doing. Journalists don't have any trouble putting their fingers on the problem. It's as obvious as your local unemployment line.

EarthLink, for instance, recently laid off 2,600 employees, some of whose jobs were outsourced overseas, and went from a $100 million loss to a $100 million gain in a single quarter — though some  take issue with those numbers. But solutions to globalization and outsourcing are tough to find in your local newspaper.

The panelists at the April 22 forum at Tech — Georgia State University Professor Emeritus Donald Ratajczak, former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Ravi Kalakota, author and CEO of eBusiness Strategies — made it clear that globalization and outsourcing can't be stopped, even as the three represented different points on the political spectrum. It's a basic, albeit unpopular, economic principle: Where labor is cheapest, jobs follow.

As Kalakota explained, an American company with a 100-man IT team can save nearly $9 million annually by moving operations to India, and that includes benefits. So there are no quick fixes. Outsourcing is "going to create a lot of short-term problems," Kalakota says. Translated, that means more job losses. And no one has a clue where job growth will bloom in the U.S. economy.

But there are solutions, and not just the unrealistic campaign promises of renegotiating trade treaties or trying to ramrod trade terms down the throats of Third World countries.

Here's the shorthand version offered by the panelists:

- Eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource. The current problem is that major U.S. corporations managed to change the tax code to give themselves breaks for moving jobs overseas, and American taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it.

- Do away with the 28-week unemployment benefit. That worked in the old days, but when faced with having to get more education or retraining to find a  new job, 28 weeks doesn't cut it in this job market. And the change to, say, a 52-week benefit could be funded by companies that move jobs overseas — with  the companies paying into a pool that's matched by the  federal government.

- Increase consumer information. Consumers deserve to know where their products are made and what the work conditions are like in those countries. That could create more demand for U.S.-produced goods. Also, add a healthy dose of morality to the government's own purchasing policies by simply requiring it to buy products from countries where employees aren't subject to exploitative conditions, for example.

We're not yet far enough into the political season that candidates are offering much in the way of specifics on outsourcing. But when the campaigning heats up, it will be up to voters to make sure their would-be officials talk about real solutions like the ones discussed at Tech — and not the feel-good B.S. we've heard from U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and President Bush.

After all, your job may be next."
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(3473) "__Academic economic forums __have the tendency to be deadly boring: Think Carl Sagan reading the tax code on Vicodin.

But a globalization roundtable last week at Georgia Tech proved the exception. If you've happened by a television or glanced at a newspaper in the last couple of years, you know that outsourcing American jobs to India and China has become the scourge celébre of the mainstream press and the cause celébre of financial papers; how many jobs you've moved overseas says just how well a company's doing. Journalists don't have any trouble putting their fingers on the problem. It's as obvious as your local unemployment line.

EarthLink, for instance, recently laid off 2,600 employees, some of whose jobs were outsourced overseas, and went from a $100 million loss to a $100 million gain in a single quarter -- though some  take issue with those numbers. But solutions to globalization and outsourcing are tough to find in your local newspaper.

The panelists at the April 22 forum at Tech -- Georgia State University Professor Emeritus Donald Ratajczak, former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Ravi Kalakota, author and CEO of eBusiness Strategies -- made it clear that globalization and outsourcing can't be stopped, even as the three represented different points on the political spectrum. It's a basic, albeit unpopular, economic principle: Where labor is cheapest, jobs follow.

As Kalakota explained, an American company with a 100-man IT team can save nearly $9 million annually by moving operations to India, and that includes benefits. So there are no quick fixes. Outsourcing is "going to create a lot of short-term problems," Kalakota says. Translated, that means more job losses. And no one has a clue where job growth will bloom in the U.S. economy.

But there are solutions, and not just the unrealistic campaign promises of renegotiating trade treaties or trying to ramrod trade terms down the throats of Third World countries.

Here's the shorthand version offered by the panelists:

- Eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource. The current problem is that major U.S. corporations managed to change the tax code to give themselves breaks for moving jobs overseas, and American taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it.

- Do away with the 28-week unemployment benefit. That worked in the old days, but when faced with having to get more education or retraining to find a  new job, 28 weeks doesn't cut it in this job market. And the change to, say, a 52-week benefit could be funded by companies that move jobs overseas -- with  the companies paying into a pool that's matched by the  federal government.

- Increase consumer information. Consumers deserve to know where their products are made and what the work conditions are like in those countries. That could create more demand for U.S.-produced goods. Also, add a healthy dose of morality to the government's own purchasing policies by simply requiring it to buy products from countries where employees aren't subject to exploitative conditions, for example.

We're not yet far enough into the political season that candidates are offering much in the way of specifics on outsourcing. But when the campaigning heats up, it will be up to voters to make sure their would-be officials talk about real solutions like the ones discussed at Tech -- and not the feel-good B.S. we've heard from U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and President Bush.

After all, your job may be next."
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  string(3701) "       2004-04-29T04:04:00+00:00 Outsourcing 101: How to save jobs   Kevin Griffis 1223654 2004-04-29T04:04:00+00:00  Academic economic forums have the tendency to be deadly boring: Think Carl Sagan reading the tax code on Vicodin.

But a globalization roundtable last week at Georgia Tech proved the exception. If you've happened by a television or glanced at a newspaper in the last couple of years, you know that outsourcing American jobs to India and China has become the scourge celébre of the mainstream press and the cause celébre of financial papers; how many jobs you've moved overseas says just how well a company's doing. Journalists don't have any trouble putting their fingers on the problem. It's as obvious as your local unemployment line.

EarthLink, for instance, recently laid off 2,600 employees, some of whose jobs were outsourced overseas, and went from a $100 million loss to a $100 million gain in a single quarter — though some  take issue with those numbers. But solutions to globalization and outsourcing are tough to find in your local newspaper.

The panelists at the April 22 forum at Tech — Georgia State University Professor Emeritus Donald Ratajczak, former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Ravi Kalakota, author and CEO of eBusiness Strategies — made it clear that globalization and outsourcing can't be stopped, even as the three represented different points on the political spectrum. It's a basic, albeit unpopular, economic principle: Where labor is cheapest, jobs follow.

As Kalakota explained, an American company with a 100-man IT team can save nearly $9 million annually by moving operations to India, and that includes benefits. So there are no quick fixes. Outsourcing is "going to create a lot of short-term problems," Kalakota says. Translated, that means more job losses. And no one has a clue where job growth will bloom in the U.S. economy.

But there are solutions, and not just the unrealistic campaign promises of renegotiating trade treaties or trying to ramrod trade terms down the throats of Third World countries.

Here's the shorthand version offered by the panelists:

- Eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource. The current problem is that major U.S. corporations managed to change the tax code to give themselves breaks for moving jobs overseas, and American taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it.

- Do away with the 28-week unemployment benefit. That worked in the old days, but when faced with having to get more education or retraining to find a  new job, 28 weeks doesn't cut it in this job market. And the change to, say, a 52-week benefit could be funded by companies that move jobs overseas — with  the companies paying into a pool that's matched by the  federal government.

- Increase consumer information. Consumers deserve to know where their products are made and what the work conditions are like in those countries. That could create more demand for U.S.-produced goods. Also, add a healthy dose of morality to the government's own purchasing policies by simply requiring it to buy products from countries where employees aren't subject to exploitative conditions, for example.

We're not yet far enough into the political season that candidates are offering much in the way of specifics on outsourcing. But when the campaigning heats up, it will be up to voters to make sure their would-be officials talk about real solutions like the ones discussed at Tech — and not the feel-good B.S. we've heard from U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and President Bush.

After all, your job may be next.             13014449 1247446                          Outsourcing 101: How to save jobs "
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Article

Thursday April 29, 2004 12:04 am EDT

Academic economic forums have the tendency to be deadly boring: Think Carl Sagan reading the tax code on Vicodin.

But a globalization roundtable last week at Georgia Tech proved the exception. If you've happened by a television or glanced at a newspaper in the last couple of years, you know that outsourcing American jobs to India and China has become the scourge celébre of the mainstream press...

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