Friday ReadsPosted: December 28, 2012
It’s Friday and there’s lots of end-of-year things on my mind. I have a to do list and the will but this aging body just wants to curl up, read and stay snug someplace warm. I’m lucky that I have a home and I’m working to refi it down about $250 a month which will really help my budget. You have to find every little thing you can these days because nearly every one in government is telling us that since they spent so much money or war and bailing out Wall Street, the poor are going to be the first to be shoved off the Fiscal Cliff. These days, the ranks of the poor includes me because I really don’t want to risk everything to move some place for a job that may or may not be there given the way most state governments are headed these days so I’m living on an adjunct’s salary.
As the deadline for reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff creeps closer, the pressure could build for the White House to eye programs for potential cuts that it has firmly and repeatedly taken off the table.
The two proposals put forth by both sides outline deficit reduction efforts in broad budget categories and are not entirely clear about whether cuts will hurt poor people or not. A small army of the nation’s leading business leaders have screamed loudly that a plunge over the fiscal cliff would be a disaster for business, wreck the nation’s credit rating and shove the United States back into deep recession. That must be avoided at all cost, they warn.
Obama’s consistent answer is that a deal can be cut by approving the tax hikes and revenue raising measures he’s proposed, as well as the major check that he wants to put on endless runaway military spending. This would bring the deficit under $1 trillion and would spare cutting programs that would devastate the poor and working class.
The political and social and economic consequences of the fiscal cliff debate on the poor are enormous. Surveys show that the ranks of the poor are still huge and that the wealth and income gap between the rich and poor is wider than in recent years.
Here’s a sincere New Year’s wish that Obama and the Democrats realize they have no reason to cave. My hope is history does not repeat itself.
I wanted to share this youtube with you of Vanis Varoufakis who is an economist from Greece teaching at the University of Athens. He’s my new hero. He argues very succinctly that there is not a debt crisis in the world today and he tells us why with some great metaphors including the name of his book “The Global Minotaur”. This is a version that you may listen to but CSPAN has the video of the speech itself on its website here.
Dr.Varoufakis has a wordpress blog. He has reprinted an interview with Spanish media about his theory here. He argues that capitalism died in 2008 and that the bail out of Wall Street was the pivotal event. The Global Minotaur is Wall Street. He also believes that this age of bailing out banks and forcing austerity on people ushers in the death of social democracy in Europe. He makes some very compelling arguments.
The Global Minotaur thought that the market can survive alone, without rules. Now we realise that isn’t so. But, is it necessary to begin with a planned economy? Is it the ‘planned economy’ the solution?
One of the great fallacies of our era is that an economy can exist without a state; without a degree of planning. Take the US. It is, supposedly, the least statist, the free-est market economy on the planet. And yet it is very much a planned economy. Without the military-industrial complex on the one hand and the whole gamut of federal planning authorities and institutions on the other hand, America’s economy would collapse tomorrow. More broadly, capitalism had its golden age after the war because Washington planned meticulously the world capitalist economy. So, the question is not whether there should be planning. The question is what kind of plan is implemented, who by, for whose benefit and with what effect. Currently, the banking sector is fully planned and relies entirely on social transfers and central bank operations. Planning is, therefore, used to prop up banks and to keep bankers in profit. What we need is some proper planning of labour markets so that workers’ labour is re-valued and power shifts from what I call today’s Bankruptocracy to society at large.
You worked with the president Papandreou before the ‘crash’. Did nobody see that the crisis coming? Did nobody make a comment about it?
No, they did not see and, moreover, they did not want to hear of it. Social democrats all over Europe, indeed the world, had come to the catastrophic conclusion that capitalism had been tamed, that crises were a thing of the past, and that society’s interests were best served if the financial sector’s wizardry was never questioned. This is, if you want, the main reason why this Crisis has killed of European social democracy.
Like many economists–including me Krugman, Stiglitz, etc.–he believes that today’s government’s failed to learn the lessons of the 20s and 30s and we are now living in a period of Herbert Hoover’s revenge. Take the time to listen or watch his speech. It’s not very wonky because he uses many metaphors and stories to make his point but make his point he does.
Ezra Klein uses his space at WonkBlog to examine gun deaths in the US. He has gleaned 12 facts about guns and mass shootings that will curl your teeth. They are all backed by actual, peer-reviewed studies and not myth. Some of them will not surprise you. Others will. This was one of the more surprising points for me.
Gun ownership in the United States is declining overall.
“For all the attention given to America’s culture of guns, ownership of firearms is at or near all-time lows,” writes political scientist Patrick Egan. The decline is most evident on the General Social Survey, though it also shows up on polling from Gallup, as you can see on this graph:
The bottom line, Egan writes, is that “long-term trends suggest that we are in fact currently experiencing a waning culture of guns and violence in the United States. “
Clinton’s ongoing recovery will still prevent her from flying abroad, but will allow plans to move forward for her to testify in open hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi, testimony that she was unable to give — as per her doctor’s orders — on Dec. 20. Her return to a public schedule could also end the weeks of conspiracy theorizing and wild speculation about whether or not she was faking or misrepresenting her illness to avoid testifying.
“The secretary continues to recuperate at home. She had long planned to take this holiday week off, so she had no work schedule. She looks forward to getting back to the office next week and resuming her schedule,” Clinton aide Philippe Reines told The Cable.
Reines declined to say whether Clinton was at her Washington home or her house in Chappaqua, New York, but he said she did spend the holidays with her family. There’s no definite schedule for her Benghazi testimony, but she has pledged to appear before both House and Senate foreign relations committees in January.
Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991 but kept a low public profile in controversies over the second Gulf War against Iraq, died Thursday. He was 78.
Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Fla., where he had lived in retirement, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to release the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as “Stormin’ Norman” for a notoriously explosive temper.
He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.
BB’s congressmen–Rep. Edward Markey–will run for Kerry’s Senate Seat in Massachusetts. Look out sexist and racist jerk of the decade: has been Republican Senator Scott Brown.
“The events of the last several weeks — from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary to the fiscal cliff debate over tax giveaways to the rich, have all made clear that Massachusetts needs a Senator with the right priorities and values,” Markey said in a statement. “I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate because this fight is too important. There is so much at stake.”
A “Markey for Senate” website was already up and running on Thursday and soliciting donations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Markey will begin his campaign with $3.1 million on hand.
President Obama’s nomination of Kerry for secretary of State has set off a scramble — particularly among Democrats — to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat in the special election next year. Markey is the first candidate from either party to formally declare his candidacy.
So, that’s my offerings today. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?