American Visa Rules Frustrate Foreign Performers

Fela - Oriental Theatre
Fela – Oriental Theatre

We are deprived of culture because of the morons in Washington, and their intricate, bureaucratic ballet supporting terrorism theatre. Many artists don’t even bother trying to come here anymore, it’s too costly, and too much of a hassle.

In the decade since the attacks on the twin towers, American visa procedures for foreign artists and performers have grown increasingly labyrinthine, expensive and arbitrary, arts presenters and immigration lawyers say, making the system a serious impediment to cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.

Some foreign performers and ensembles, like the Hallé orchestra from Britain, have decided that it is no longer worth their while to play in the United States. Others have been turned down flat, including a pair of bands invited to perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., last month, or have ended up canceling performances because of processing delays, as was the case last month with the Tantehorse theater troupe from the Czech Republic, which was booked to perform in suburban Washington.

Overall, according to Homeland Security Department records, requests for the standard foreign performer’s visa declined by almost 25 percent between 2006 and 2010, the most recent fiscal year for which statistics are available. During the same period the number of these visa petitions rejected, though small in absolute numbers, rose by more than two-thirds.

“Everything is much more difficult,” said Palma R. Yanni, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who also handles artists’ visas. “I didn’t think it could get worse than it was after 9/11, but the last couple of years have been terrible. It just seems like you have to fight for everything across the board, even for artists of renown. The standards have not changed, but the agency just keeps narrowing the criteria, raising the bar without notice or comment, reinterpreting things and just making everything more restrictive. We call it the culture of no.”

(click here to continue reading U.S. Visa Rules Frustrate Foreign Performers –

Chicago At Large
Chicago At Large

It isn’t a new problem:

For example, earlier this year [2010] the agency held up three applications for visiting musicians with the Chicago Opera Theater, requesting an unusual amount of evidence to corroborate the visa requirement that the artists have achieved sufficient renown. The company eventually went over its budget to hire an immigration lawyer, who got two of the musicians into the country at the 11th hour; the third had to be replaced, said Roger Weitz, the company’s general manager.

Many arts groups say that under Mr. Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant who was sworn in last August, their sometimes frosty relationship with Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun to thaw. Agency officials met with arts groups in April, and have recently begun soliciting comments about egregious experiences with the visa process.

Although the agency’s policies have not changed, some have been clarified for the benefit of visa applicants, and Mr. Mayorkas insisted that the commitment is genuine.

“When I make a commitment,” he said, “it is a benchmark that I am setting for our agency upon which the public should be able to rely.”

Artist representatives say that more work needs to be done to streamline the process. “This is a great start but not where we would like to see things end up,” said Tom Windish, a booking agent for independent rock bands.

And for fans, the bad news about cancellations is not likely to end anytime soon. On Thursday, for example, the reunited British ska band the Specials canceled its appearance next month at Central Park SummerStage. The reason: “visa issues.”

(click here to continue reading U.S. Seeks to Reassure Arts Groups About Visas –

Street Musician circa 1996
Street Musician circa 1996

Even international icon Ibrahim Ferrer was denied travel to the US to accept accolades from the Grammys, a travesty especially since Mr. Ferrer died soon after…

2004, HAVANA – The United States refused to grant visas to world-renowned Cuban musicians who were invited to Sunday’s Grammy music awards, Cuban officials said.

Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club, seen here in 2003, was denied a visa by the US authorities. (AFP/DDP/File) Ibrahim Ferrer, the 76-year-old singer from the Grammy-nominated Buena Vista Social Club, was dumbfounded to learn that, according to the Cuban Music Institute, the United States invoked a law that applies to terrorists, drug dealers and dangerous criminals to deny him a visa.

“I don’t understand because I don’t feel I’m a terrorist. I am not, I can’t be,” he said at a news conference.

Ferrer has won three Grammys in recent years and has traveled to the United States in the past.

The other celebrated musicians who were denied visas were guitarist Manuel Galvan, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba, percussionist Amadito Valdes, lute player Barbarito Torres and singer Eugenio Rodriguez.

(click here to continue reading US Denies Travel Visas to Grammy-Nominated Cuban Musicians.)

The pavement was alive with the sound of music
The pavement was alive with the sound of music

There really is no excuse the US Government can make, other than an increase in jingoism…

The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles had to cancel scheduled performances last year of an Argentine music group because California immigration officials challenged whether its fusion of Jewish klezmer music and tango met the requirement to be “culturally unique.”

In other cases, California officials also challenged visa petitions in the last year that aimed to bring in an Indian group to perform at a California festival honoring the Hindu goddess Durga, a Chicago opera company seeking to bring in a Spanish singer and an African musical group.

“In the past year and a half, what we’ve seen is petitions that previously and typically were approved are being denied,” said Heather Noonan of the League of American Orchestras. “It impacts the whole range of arts disciplines. The cumulative effect makes the process of engaging international talent very challenging.”

Slow processing times had been a major concern. Chad Smith, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s vice president of artistic planning, said the delays began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but had worsened in recent years, forcing his organization to pay an extra $1,000 per case for expedited visa processing.

“The need for premium processing greatly impacted our bottom line,” he said.

Immigration experts also questioned whether California officials were sufficiently trained to competently evaluate their visa petitions.

Barnett, for instance, said immigration officials have challenged visa petitions from his world-renowned organization by asking for proof that Scripps is an educational nonprofit organization.

“Twenty seconds on the Internet could have shown you that,” Barnett said. “Is this just ignorance?”

Immigration attorneys have also complained that they have been repeatedly asked to provide evidence to meet standards that are not required by law.

For example, California officials asked for proof that an Indian dance group had been together for at least a year and that an African musical group would perform only at “culturally unique” venues that did not include its scheduled appearances at universities, said Andi Floyd, a legal assistant who worked on the petitions for Virginia immigration attorney Jonathan Ginsburg. Attorneys had to point out that neither requirement was in the visa law; officials eventually approved the African petition but have not yet acted on the Indian one, Floyd said.


(click here to continue reading Immigration agency working to fix visa denials to artists, others – Los Angeles Times.)

Incompetents in Charge

Gee, ya think?

Reserved Light

Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks — in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.

As recently as Sept. 23, senior officials had publicly derided proposals by Democrats to have the government take ownership stakes in banks.

The Treasury Department’s surprising turnaround on the issue of buying stock in banks, which has now become its primary focus, has raised questions about whether the administration squandered valuable time in trying to sell Congress on a plan that officials had failed to think through in advance.

It has also raised questions about whether the administration’s deep philosophical aversion to government ownership in private companies hindered its ability to look at all options for stabilizing the markets.

Some experts also contend that Treasury’s decision last month to not use taxpayer money to save Lehman Brothers worsened the panic that quickly metastasized into an international crisis.

[From White House Overhauling Rescue Plan –]

2009 can’t come fast enough. Everyone who lost value in their pension and their 401(k) should sign up to tar-and-feather Bush and his lightweight cronies who mismanaged every crisis they every met, including this one.

Economic Snake Oil

Thomas Frank notes the inherent cynicism contained within Republican politicians. Republicans of the last few decades got elected by running against Big Gomnet1, and once elected, proceed to gut, damage and otherwise destroy the mechanisms of the very bureaucracy they were supposed to be in charge of. Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, the current fiscal mess, these are all direct results of electing anti-government Republicans.

now we are supposed to vote for more conservative Republicans because we learned from the last bunch of conservative Republicans that government just doesn’t work.

That is the advice of Sarah Palin, Republican vice-presidential nominee, in last week’s debate with her Democratic counterpart, discussing the dread prospect of universal health care: “Unless you’re pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don’t think that it’s going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds.”

Conservative misrule, prompted by conservative disdain for government, proves that government cannot be trusted — and that the only answer is to elect another round of government-denouncing conservatives.

“Cynicism” seems too small a word for this circular kind of political fraud. One reaches instead for images of grosser malevolence. It’s like suggesting that the best way to recover from pneumonia is to stand in the rain for three hours. It’s like arguing that the way to solve nuclear proliferation is by handing out weapons-grade plutonium to everyone who asks for it.

[From The GOP Peddles Economic Snake Oil –]

Snake oil, in other words, pure malevolent snake oil, containing mercury, BPA, perchlorate, and who knows what else.

  1. also known as Big Government, or worse []

President Bush goes AWOL

Roger Simon wonders, Where’s Georgie?

Bush Shoots Nation the Bird

Bush Shoots Nation the Bird

Where’s George? The president, I mean.

You remember him. Dubya. No. 43. Won a second term a few years ago. It was in all the papers.

But where has he been lately? Where has he been during America’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

Nowhere. AWOL. Every now and then, when the stock market takes yet another sickening plunge, a few words issue forth from the presidential lips. A very few words. Delivered with the greatest reluctance.

George W. Bush will continue to draw a paycheck until noon on Jan. 20, 2009. (If there is still any money left in the U.S. Treasury to pay him, that is.) But what has he been doing to earn his pay lately? Not calming fears among his fellow citizens about their life savings, that’s for sure.

On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 504 points, its worst drop since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But Bush did not address the nation that night.

Instead, he held a state dinner for the president of Ghana. Gratin of Maine lobster, late-summer corn pudding, ginger-scented farm lamb and graham cracker crumble with cocoa pod shell was served. Eleven members of the cast of “The Lion King” came down from Broadway and performed. It was quite a bash. The Washington Post described President Bush and Ghanaian President John Kufuor as “ebullient.”

[From President Bush goes AWOL – Roger Simon –]

On the one hand, George McBush has damaged the country enough over these seven years of famine, but on the other hand, he still is the putative head of our government, and should at least pretend to be working. Sets a bad example for the easily influenced. I thought he was worried about his legacy?

and then there’s this aspect:

The stock market swoons, home prices fall, job losses mount. But the president does not want to talk about it. Not really. And he certainly does not want to take any questions about it.

He has not taken any questions on anything since Aug. 6. On Wednesday his press secretary, Dana Perino, explained why. “If you guys [i.e., reporters] had him in here, almost everything would be geared towards the election, and he is cognizant of that,” Perino said. “I mean, every time that I would think about maybe having a press conference, the news of the day would be such that we might be talking about lipstick on a pig, and the president is just not going to get involved in it.”

In other words, the president is not going to get involved with restoring public confidence in our financial system because he is afraid somebody might ask him a question about politics. And because he doesn’t want to talk about politics (and why doesn’t he, considering he is supporting John McCain?), he won’t talk about anything.

McCain and His Spain gaffe

John McCain seems uncertain whether Spain is located in Latin America, or on some unnamed plain that gets heavy rainfall. Josh Marshall has the back story, if you missed it.

Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian UK writes:

So, to clarify matters for McCain: Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is the lefty prime minister of Spain. The Zapatistas are armed revolutionaries who have declared war on the government of Mexico. Zippy is an irascible non-human character in the children’s TV series Rainbow, and Captain Zep was the star of an awesome 1980s British children’s sci-fi drama. Franco Zeffirelli is a celebrated Italian film director who I once pretended to know the first thing about in order not to look stupid in a conversation in a restaurant.

By the way, this must be a truly depressing day for our friends at Spain For McCain. We can assume they’re not Zapatero fans, but still: their hero isn’t even sure where their country is located? How dispiriting.

[From Oliver Burkeman’s Campaign Diary: John McCain’s Spain gaffe | World news | ]

Foreign policy expert indeed, like his intellectually-challenged running mate, Sarah Palin. No wonder McCain hasn’t been doing many press conferences of late: either the election is tiring him to the point of mental exhaustion1; or he’s had some minor stroke or similar.


Frank Zappa

  1. which doesn’t bode well for his ability to be president – that’s a hard job []

The American Idol candidate

Roger Ebert has some astute thoughts about the inexplicable appeal of Sarah Palin to a certain portion of the electorate.

I think I might be able to explain some of Sara Palin’s appeal. She’s the “American Idol” candidate. Consider. What defines an “American Idol” finalist? They’re good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they’re darned near the real thing. There’s a reason “American Idol” gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could almost be me up there on that show!

My feeling is, I don’t want to be up there. I want a vice president who is better than me, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn’t repeat bald-faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Someone who doesn’t appoint Alaskan politicians to “study” global warming, because, hello! It has been studied. The returns are convincing enough that John McCain and Barack Obama are darned near in agreement.

[Click to read more from The American Idol candidate :: :: People]


Personally, I despise the America Idol Caribou Barbie and all she stands for, but the ratings for McCain’s little Red Corvette remain disturbingly high. Don’t people realize she is a serial liar? A television talking head trained to read the words of others with phony sincerity?

Why this lifelong Republican may vote for Obama

Well, even if the operative word is may, Michael Smerconish’s column is food for thought, perhaps a brief sentence will suffice for that Republican blowhard you know is on the proverbial fence about this particular election.

I can’t help myself. So strong is my belief that we’ve failed in our responsibility to 3,000 dead Americans that I am contemplating voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my life. It’s the chronology I find so compelling.

We’re at the seven-year anniversary of 9/11, lacking not only closure with regard to the two top al-Qaida leaders but also public discourse about any plan to bring them to justice. To me, that suggests a continuation of what I perceive to be the Bush administration’s outsourcing of this responsibility at great cost to a government with limited motivation to get the job done. Of course, I may be wrong; I have no inside information. And I’d love to be proven in error by breaking news of their capture or execution. But published accounts paint an intriguing and frustrating picture.

To begin, bin Laden is presumed to have been in Afghanistan on 9/11 and to have fled that nation during the battle at Tora Bora in December of 2001. Gary Berntsen, who was the CIA officer in charge on the ground, told me that his request for Army Rangers to prevent bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan was denied, and sure enough, that’s where bin Laden went. Then came a period when the Bush administration was supposed to be pressing the search through means it couldn’t share publicly. But as time went by with no capture, the signs became more troubling.

[Click to continue reading Why this lifelong Republican may vote for Obama | Salon ]

Strange also how this Republican talking head is a long-time member of the so-called Liberal Media, but has no need to hide his long-term Republican bona fides. Almost as if Republican media is a given.

Half-Assed Vetting Process

John McCain and his impulsiveness is not what the country needs. He couldn’t even wait until the RNC finished vetting Sarah Palin before announcing her as his VP. Not good judgement, not good judgement at all.

A series of disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain’s choice as running mate, called into question on Monday how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.

On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.

Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge.

Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin.

[From Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process –]

One day before announcing her, and moments after meeting her the first time? That’s pretty pathetic.

[Evilution, Seattle, Washington]

Also worth noting1 is that John McCain wanted to select Joe Lieberman2 but was told by his bosses, Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh, that an wasn’t acceptable choice. Who is really making the decisions in the McCain campaign? Who would make the decisions if by some weird circumstance3 McCain snuck into the White House? Can the country afford another 4 years of a Karl Rove/Rush Limbaugh presidency?

Up until midweek last week, some 48 to 72 hours before Mr. McCain introduced Ms. Palin at a Friday rally in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. McCain was still holding out the hope that he could choose a good friend, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, a Republican close to the campaign. Mr. McCain had also been interested in another favorite, former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.

But both men favor abortion rights, anathema to the Christian conservatives who make up a crucial base of the Republican Party. As word leaked out that Mr. McCain was seriously considering the men, the campaign was bombarded by outrage from influential conservatives who predicted an explosive floor fight at the convention and vowed rejection of Mr. Ridge or Mr. Lieberman by the delegates.

Perhaps more important, several Republicans said, Mr. McCain was getting advice that if he did not do something to shake up the race, his campaign would be stuck on a potentially losing trajectory.

With time running out — and as Mr. McCain discarded two safer choices, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, as too predictable — he turned to Ms. Palin. He had his first face-to-face interview with her on Thursday and offered her the job moments later. Advisers to Mr. Pawlenty and another of the finalists on Mr. McCain’s list described an intensive vetting process for those candidates that lasted one to two months.

“They didn’t seriously consider her until four or five days from the time she was picked, before she was asked, maybe the Thursday or Friday before,” said a Republican close to the campaign. “This was really kind of rushed at the end, because John didn’t get what he wanted. He wanted to do Joe or Ridge.”

Dont Bring Yer Guns to Town
[Don’t Bring Yer Guns to Ketchikan, Alaska, at least to Trident Seafoods]

  1. explicitly, that is, we did mention this in passing previously []
  2. Whiny Joe, the former Democrat who has since been married to John McCain – a civil union, of course []
  3. Diebold related perhaps []

Experience Muh Arse

Don’t know who either of these people are, but Tucker Bounds is unembarrassed to lie and evade the question about Sarah Palin’s vast experience taking over the Alaskan National Guard:

Campbell Brown interviews Tucker Bounds on Sarah Palin’s national security experience



McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds on CNN with a new line on Gov. Palin’s foreign policy experience: McCain and Palin have more combined military command experience than Obama and Biden put together.

Palin And The Alaska Independence Party

The unfunny Palin is chummy with a super right wing group of separatists who want Alaska to secede from the Union. She’ll fit right in when touring the Deep South.

This seems worth digging into a bit. The Alaska Independence Party, which was formed with the goal of seceding from the union and establishing Alaska as an independent state, says that Palin addressed their 2008 convention.

The AIP has posted video of what it claims is her address on its Web site.

It’s hard to gauge how fringe the group is. Its Website features this quote from one of its founders:

“The problem with you John Birchers’ is that you are too damn liberal!”
— Joseph Vogler, Founder Alaskan Independence Party

[From TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Sarah Palin And The Alaska Independence Party]

via Greg Sargent who has an excellent roundup of this weekends bad news for McCain/Palin, including the fact that there is a team of 10 lawyers being dispatched to Alaska by the Republican Party to cover-up as much scandal as possible, and do a proper vetting of Palin, presumedly before she is officially nominated. I bet the RNC is happy they had a good excuse to cancel their speeches scheduled for today. Might have been awkward for Republican Party regulars to mention Palin so many times before cutting her loose ala Thomas Eagleton in 1972.1

The faux-pregnancy story turned out to be just a family affair, and perhaps a Rovian play for sympathy.

Bush and his buddy McCain celebrate Hurricane Katrina

Bush and his buddy McCain celebrate Hurricane Katrina

Regardless, heck of a job on selecting your VP, McSamey.

  1. Eagleton wasn’t thoroughly vetted by George McGovern’s staff, and the press had a field day discussing Eagleton’s mental hospital visits []

Sarah Palin Is NOT The Mother of Trig

Looks like Ms. Palin has some ‘splaining to do…

Sarah Palin was not pregnant with child.

Her sixteen year-old daughter was.

Checking with the Anchorage High School that Bristol Palin attended, reporters were given word that her family had taken Bristol out of school due to contracting infectious mononucleosis. The amount of time Bristol was absent shifts from five to eight months.

Mono can last anywhere from two weeks to three months, but an eight month infection is a freak oddity. Yet it remains a common excuse given by girls in private & Catholic schools around the nation when pregnancy comes into play. Not the first time, not the last time.

[Click to see photographic evidence Daily Kos: Sarah Palin Is NOT The Mother [Photos+Video]]

In a perfect world, news like this deception by Sarah Palin would not matter one iota, but Republican “family values” hypocrites need to be called out on their hypocrisy so they can leave the rest of us hypocrites the frack alone. Also, knowing what we know about the conservative faux-Christian Republicans, you would think John McCain would exercise good judgement, and properly investigate Governor Palin for any such indiscretions before announcing her as the VP. The real John McCain is too impulsive to be President.

People like to think the vetting process is secure, and completed months ahead of time, but ABC News has reported otherwise, painting a picture of a quick vetting process for Sarah by a small, but secretive group of McCain’s legal staff. A proper vetting process under those circumstances would only go so far, and the true media vetting process has just begun.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this story was never properly researched. Palin was never on the National scene for more than a few minutes at a time, and local reporting only goes so far on a governor with an 80% approval rating. However, the motivation to cover daughter’s pregnancy aligns with her political standings. She valiantly did not perform an abortion, but fell into the fundamentalist way of thinking, and covered up for the illicit (but natural) action’s of her daughter.

There could be calls below to delete this information. Calls that this type of information is muckraking and ‘below us’. The truth is not below any progressive, nor any citizen of the world that is one heartbeat away from having Palin as leader of the free world. We simply ask that she be forthright, honest, and not waste our time with such juvenile games that anyone with eyes can see as fabrication.

Bristol Palin rightfully should be able to embrace her child in public as her own, with no shame, and no quarter. And a mother should be just as accepting.

Terrorism Theater Database Boondoggle

I feel so much safer knowing that such incompetents are in charge of national security. I bet an open-source MySQL database or similar would run rings around the current implementation, costing a fraction of budget. Of course, results don’t necessarily matter to defense contractors, only long term contracts.

The government’s main terrorist-watch-list system is hobbled by technology challenges, and the $500 million program designed to upgrade it is on the verge of collapse, according to a preliminary congressional investigation.

The database, which includes an estimated 400,000 people and as many as 1 million names, has been criticized for flagging ordinary Americans. Now, the congressional report finds that the system has problems identifying true potential terrorists, as well.

Among the flaws in the database, which was quickly built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is its inability to do key-word searches. Instead, an analyst needs to rely on an indexing system to query the database

When tested, the new system failed to find matches for terrorist-suspect names that were spelled slightly different from the name entered into the system, a common challenge when translating names from Arabic to English. It also could not perform basic searches of multiple words connected with terms such as “and” and “or.”

Because the format of the data in the current database is “complex, undocumented, and brittle,” some significant data will be lost when the system is replaced by Railhead, according to the congressional report. For example, scraps of information such as phone and credit-card numbers found when law-enforcement and intelligence officials empty a suspect’s pocket, often called “pocket litter,” will not be moved to the new system.

Railhead was supposed to be completed by year’s end but has been delayed. Nearly half of the 72 so-called “action items” for the program were delayed as of June, congressional investigators found.

[From Flaws Found In Watch List For Terrorists –]

More info here (Miller letter to Inspector General Maquire Regarding Technical Flaws in Terrorist Watch List), here (11 page PDF from the Subcommittee Staff, Investigations and Oversight Committee on Science and Technology), Railhead System Concept Definition (28 page PDF) and 79 page PDF

Financial Pity

From Clive Crook of The Financial Times:

It is worth remembering where the blame for this neutering of fiscal policy lies: squarely with the Bush administration. At the start of this decade, the budget stood in surplus to the tune of 2.4 per cent of GDP. On unchanged policy, this was expected to grow to a surplus of 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2008. This year’s actual deficit of 3 per cent of GDP therefore represents a worsening of more than 7 per cent of GDP, or roughly $1,000bn. Almost all of this deterioration is due to policy: to tax cuts, spending increases, and their associated debt-service costs.

That projected surplus was a priceless gift to the White House. It offered the Bush administration ample scope for outlays on homeland security and other unforeseen priorities, and moderate tax cuts as well, all within a budget balanced over the course of the business cycle. Instead, the administration knowingly opted for outrageous fiscal excess – adding insult to injury with its phony tax-cut sunset provisions, designed for no other purpose than to disguise the long-term fiscal implications. Eight years on, this startling record of fiscal irresponsibility has all but taken fiscal policy off the table as an available response to the slowdown.

The US economy had better have luck on its side. Luck is about all it has left.

[From Media Matters – Follow that dream … ]

Depressing, indeed. And yet, somehow, the Republican Party still sells itself as the party of fiscal rectitude and financial propriety. George Bush even had the benefit of a compliant Congress for most of his disastrous term, and still managed to destroy the economy. Let us hope we can recover in our lifetime.