Daily Archives: January 21, 2015


The State of the Union Speech and the President’s Credibility Gap 2

New Economic Perspectives has the article The State of the Union Speech and the President’s Credibility Gap by Robert E. Prasch, Professor of Economics, Middlebury College.  There is so much of the article that I would like to excerpt here, but my concept of fair use does not permit me to show any more than what I will show below.

While we are on this subject, I am in awe that in the State of the Union address Obama had the temerity to say, “We should write those rules [on trade]…That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe.” They say that if you have to lie, go big. After all, who is the “We” in that sentence? Not working Americans, we can count on that. Not civil society organizations concerned with workplace or environmental issues, to say nothing of people concerned with the cost of excessive patent or copyright protections that have become simple giveaways to firms. No, “We” does not include them, either. The “We” of that sentence refers to the hundreds of corporate lobbyists and trade lawyers who have been working, secretively, cheek-by-jowl with the most virulently anti-labor office in the entire executive branch, the Office of the United States Trade Representative. “We.” I love it. That’s real chutzpah.
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After six years in office, even the most loyal of Democrats can no longer feign to be ignorant of the substance and consequences of President Obama’s economic policies. Remarkably, the income of the median American household declined more during Obama’s recovery than during Bush’s recession! An optimist might describe the Obama Administration’s performance as pathetic or, as is the norm, present multiple excuses for it.
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… in this world of uncertainly and change, we can all rest assured that Hillary Clinton is not, and never will be, on our side. She and her long list of friends in the banks and amongst the defense contractors are opposed – adamantly – to our values and ideals. So, what are we to do?
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…Was all the prattle about “Hope and Change” simply a joke? Was it just a marketing gimmick? I believe that we can now answer that question, definitively.
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Let us be clear, what is being proposed here not about being “revenge” or “being in a huff.” It is a strategy, one that proposes to win by playing the “long game.” As the saying goes, first they will ignore us and then they will insult us, but if can hold the line and deny the time-servers in the DNC the things that they want, they will be forced to negotiate with us. The day after the professional insiders and boot-lickers of the DNC come to learn that they cannot win without their Democratic wing, is the day that they will begin to consider what we want, and actually begin to respond to it. This level of respect will not happen one day before our resolve has been forcefully demonstrated. Not one. So, the question is, for how long do we wish to forestall that day?

I  left a comment for the author on the web site.

Excellent article. Thanks for putting all these issues together. I just got off the conference call with Bernie Sanders. I am beginning to think that I can leave Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and switch to pushing Bernie Sanders for President. He, at least, has shown some interest and some executive skills.

His appointment of Stephanie Kelton as his Senate Budget Committee Chief Economist has given me hope. The hosts of the conference call did not choose to use my question to Sanders’ about what he and Kelton were planning to do. I guess asking about the impact of MMT would have been too specific a question for the conference call. I was just a tad disappointed that Sanders didn’t go into a tirade about needing an inflation constraint instead of a budget constraint on our government plans.


Twenty Pounds of BS in a Ten-Pound Bag

Here is Twenty Pounds of BS in a Ten-Pound Bag By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed.  I am just finding so much good stuff written about the SOTU last night.

The President of the United States gave a speech on Tuesday night that would, in parts, have gone over like gangbusters at any Occupy rally in the country, and then he turned on a dime to brag about our massively impressive oil and gas production, i.e. fracking and maybe the Keystone XL pipeline, and then went on further to give an impassioned aria about climate change, at which point my brain crawled out of my ear and slithered into the bathroom, where it wept piteously into the cold porcelain truth of the base of the toilet.

Stephen King, in several of his books, deployed a line I’ve never forgotten: “So full of shit you squeak going into a turn.” Between his cheerleading for fracking and his full-court press for the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which he championed again on Tuesday night out of the other side of his mouth – I honestly don’t know how the president sleeps at night, especially after coughing up so many demonstrably phony hairballs about protecting the environment.
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And then it got worse.

Wouldn’t you like to know what William Rivers Pitt really thinks about Obama and the SOTU?  You’ll have to follow the link above to see it in all its glory.


Obama Misleads on Trade

NPR has a Transcript: President Obama’s State Of The Union Address. I looked it up because I wanted to get his words that he spoke about trade agreements.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

Yes, China wants to write the rules in its part of the world like we want to write the rules for all of the world.  What they want is bad because they are China.  What we want is good because we are the USA. Our workers are at a disadvantage, not because of the rules that China wants to write.  They are at a disadvantage because of the rues that US corporations want to write.  Certainly our oligarchs who can purchase whatever rules they want from our government see no need to let someone else write the rules.  You might think that leveling the playing field might be a fair thing to do, but what it actually means is that a single corporation can overturn the rules that hundreds of millions of people voted to have their government enact.  Strong new trade deals as defined by what Obama is trying to do aren’t going to protect US workers.  What is  fair about taking away our workers protections to unionize, to take away their right to have pollution free air to breathe, and their right to have safe working places?  What is fair about taking away our product safety rules so that we  can buy products that won’t kill us? These are the kinds of rules that a corporation can overturn if they think that the rules hamper their making ever greater profits.

Previous trade deals have not only impoverished American workers, but they have also done so for foreign workers.  95% of the world’s customers may live outside our borders, but if we keep them in poverty, they aren’t going to be able to afford to buy anything from us anyway.  For years we have been giving corporations tax breaks for shipping our jobs overseas.  If we just stop doing that, the businesses will have plenty of incentive to stop outsourcing.

Past trade deals have not lived up to their hype, not because other countries have broken the rules.  They failed to live up to the hype because the hype from the corporations always covered up the facts that were in the deals.  So Obama is negotiating a trade deals authored by the corporate oligarchs, and will not let our elected officials even see the deals until they are done.  A leak about the secrets in the trade deal indicates that some of what is in the trade deal will even be kept secret for years after it is implemented.  How are our elected Representatives going to oversee the enforcement of rules they aren’t even allowed to know about?  Have you ever heard of rules that only the people who are supposed to abide by them are allowed to know what they are?

Even Ronald Reagan said “trust, but verify.”  So does this make Obama a greater fool than a guy who had Alzheimer’s disease while he was dispensing his pearls of wisdom?  Or does it make Obama more dishonest?

Are we fools to trust anything else in the SOTU, when Obama would tell such blatant lies to us in this part of the speech?  If only we could get the Republicans to impeach the President for this crap.


Bernie Sanders Responds to the State of the Union 1

YouTube has a snippet from MSNBC respectfully titled Bernie Responds to the State of the Union. There is a post on The Friends Of Bernie Sanders Facebook page where you can join the conversation about this video.


In Sander’s answer about TPP, he failed to mention that if Obama would respond to Sanders’ request and let Sanders have a peek at what was in the TPP, then at least he could make judgments about the TPP from more than just leaks about what is in it. Middle-class friendly Obama will let the titans of industry write the treaty, but he won’t let members of Congress see it. Makes me pretty sure Obama is hiding something that he knows the Progressives and the American public cannot accept.

The treaty is so bad that Obama has to twist the arms of our trading partners to the point of breaking, and they still don’t want it. I guess this is called diplomacy in Obama’s eyes. (Why do they hate us so?)

Morning Joe really only wants answers to question framed in a way that makes Republicans look good and Progressives look bad. Even though Sanders was too polite, he did manage to turn those questions upside-down.

Why were they interested in who might run for President on the Republican side, but seemingly uninterested on who would run on the Democratic side?


The Politics of Gesture

The American Prospect has the article The Politics of Gesture by Robert Kuttner. “None of Obama’s proposals will fundamentally change the distribution of wealth and power in America.”

These initiatives are welcome. It probably sounds churlish to say that measures such as these should have come much earlier in his presidency, and could have been a lot stronger. Late in the game, when there is no risk that his proposals will be enacted, Obama is belatedly pursuing policies that seek to underscore the differences between Democrats and Republicans in terms of the practical situation of regular people.
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The White House policy of business-as-usual for Wall Street plus marginally increased help for working families calls to mind a very useful British expression—”horse and rabbit stew,” a supposedly equal ragout made from one horse and one rabbit.

When you add it all up, it still amounts to Rubinism, the ideology associated with America’s most influential Wall Street Democrat, Robert Rubin. The former Goldman Sachs co-chair, later chair of the executive committee of Citigroup—with a stint as Clinton economic policy czar and later treasury secretary in between—had a neat formula for serving the interests of Wall Street while signaling concern for America’s struggling working families.

The policy was one part financial deregulation and trade deals crafted to enable banks and corporations to outrun the constraints of domestic law. The other part was small-bore initiatives to signal help for ordinary working families. Such proposals are unobjectionable, except for the fact that they don’t fundamentally change the political economy of American inequality.

If Hillary Clinton should be the next president, we run the risk of having Rubinism as the dominant Democratic economic ideology for three successive Democratic presidencies—and we will keep wondering why working people increasingly give up on Democrats and on government itself. (While Obama is cautiously proposing some modest spending initiatives, Bill Clinton keeps on showing up at events sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, sounding the alarms about the federal deficit.)

Kuttner is right.  The concept of horse and rabbit stew is quite useful.  In this country we are getting elephant and donkey stew.


State of the Union: Imagine if President Warren gave it? 1

I just got an email from Democracy For America with the subject “State of the Union: Imagine if President Warren gave it?”

I am too lazy to post it all here, so I will just give you some selected excerpts.

Wow. That might have been the most progressive State of the Union speech that President Obama has ever given.

Tonight, President Obama used his State of the Union to promote a number of unabashedly populist, progressive ideas, from cutting taxes for middle class families to giving workers more paid time off and making some college tuition-free.

“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come,” he said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

Elizabeth Warren has been leading the charge on issues like income inequality and student debt for years. Now, finally, the rest of the Democratic Party — and even the President — seem to be catching up.

That’s why Democracy for America, along with our friends at MoveOn, launched our Run Warren Run campaign. Because if Elizabeth Warren has this much influence over the Democratic Party agenda as a Senator, just imagine the progressive changes she could make happen as president.

Democracy For America is not just a cheerleader.  They also have a discerning eye.

The speech had its shortcomings, of course. President Obama’s request for trade promotion authority to pass the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership is tremendously disappointing. Previous trade deals haven’t just failed lived up to the hype, they’ve cost Americans’ jobs, destroyed communities, and ripped apart families. Elizabeth Warren opposes that bad trade deal — another reason why we need her to run for president.

Finally, the bottom line:

We believe that income inequality is the greatest crisis we face as a nation today, and we’re thrilled to see the president proposing bold steps to address it. But President Obama won’t be president for much longer.

We can’t afford to go backwards: We need to make sure that we have a candidate in 2016 who will fight for working families, even when — especially when — that means making deep-pocketed Wall Street donors and corporations uncomfortable. We need Elizabeth Warren.

Now, imagine if President Hillary Clinton gave the speech.  What do you think she would say?  Do you have any evidence from her previous behavior to back that up?

 


Allies Line Up Against Obama’s State of the Union Plea on Trade

Bloomberg News has the article Allies Line Up Against Obama’s State of the Union Plea on Trade.

The difficult battle ahead to win the so-called fast-track authority he is asking for was illustrated by opponents — including Democrats and labor leaders — who began issuing statements before Obama had even finished speaking.
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The Asia trade agreement is a sweeping deal covering not only tariffs but other policies affecting trade such as intellectual property protection and data flows. It could eventually benefit companies as diverse as International Business Machines Corp., Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), Boeing Co. (BA) and Pfizer Inc. (PFE)

Labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, and other groups have attacked the legislation on a variety of fronts. They have argued the deals reflect a corporate agenda rather than one supported by the public, that they are negotiated in too much secrecy, and that they underpin a global economy that has dragged down wages in the U.S.

At least Bloomberg acknowledges that there are issues with the “trade” pact.  However, we can’t expect much more from a big corporate business news source that helped make Michael Bloomberg into a billionaire.

It is a pretty good example of how to lie with balanced reporting.  The term intellectual property protection is a seemingly laudable goal.  In reality it is euphemism for giving US corporate oligarchs an unfair advantage that other countries refuse to give them.

Not reported in this story is the power that the TPP gives to corporations to overturn environmental, labor, health, and safety laws and regulations in any signatory country.  That’s the definition of a corporate agenda that would not be supported by the public if the public knew about it.

I guess that Bloomberg doesn’t see any point  in bothering you with the details.

Here is a simple BS detector that you can apply to this issue.  If this treaty is so great, then why won’t the Obama administration let progressive Democrats see what is in the secret treaty, but he readily allows corporate titans to not only see the treaty, but to write the treaty itself? If Obama has nothing to hide, then why is he trying so hard to hide it?  Doesn’t it make you even a little suspicious  that all you have to go on is his word that it is great, but he doesn’t want you to see it?


We Build It Together

Here is an email I just received from Elizabeth Warren.

Subject: We build it together
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:39:21 +0000
From: Elizabeth Warren <info@elizabethwarren.com>
To: Steven Greenberg

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Steven,

Nobody got rich on their own. Nobody.

Sure, people who built great businesses worked hard. Most successful entrepreneurs worked their tails off. But those businesses need good soil to grow – and that meant they need roads and bridges to get their goods to market, dependable and affordable power grids, access to clean water and safe sewers, up-to-date communications – the kind of basic infrastructure that we build together.

Coming out of the Great Depression, we built those roads and bridges and power grids that helped businesses grow right here in America. We plowed money into our future, and as those businesses grew, they created great jobs here at home.

But by the 1980s, our country sharply cut back on making those investments in our future, and now we’re getting left behind. Today China spends 9% of its GDP on infrastructure. Europe spends about 5% of its GDP on infrastructure. They are building a future for their businesses – and better jobs for their people. But the United States is investing only 2.4% and looking for more ways to make cuts. Today, the American Society of Civil Engineers says we have about $3.6 trillion worth of deferred maintenance, repairs and upgrading – and every day we’re falling behind.

That’s why my colleagues and I are calling on Congress to make improving our infrastructure a top priority this year. Will you join us?

Focus for a minute on just one piece of this: highways and mass transit. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says a highway bill would create 8 million jobs over the next four years.

A highway bill could put people to work in good jobs right now and fix crumbling roads and bridges that will support future businesses and future jobs – right here in America.

We know how to create the basic building blocks for a strong economy and a strong middle class. We celebrated success, but we always paid ahead, making sure that the basic conditions would be right so the next generation could do even better. We did it before, and we can do it again.

Join me in calling on Congress to invest in American infrastructure in 2015. Sign our petition now.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

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I like this sort of campaign better than the one that the Democratic Party and Barack Obama has been waging lately. This is a single issue that I can get behind and support. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party want me to sign a petition saying that I support everything Obama stands for. They don’t give you a chance to even tell them about the parts of Obama’s plan that you cannot support. Therefore, the only vote I can take on their pleas is NO.