Posted: May 7, 2015 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Bill de Blasio, Charles Pierce, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Sexism, The American Dream
The American Dream – post-war abundance
What is the American Dream? Is it prosperity for everyone? Is it access to nature and a clean environment? Is it a good job, a house, a family? Is it a good education and the chance to be upwardly mobile? Is it a better future for your children and grandchildren? Is whatever it once was dead? Is it even worth talking about?
This morning there’s a Washington Post op-ed in which Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio describe their vision of “How to revive the American Dream.”
In this land of big dreams, there was never a dream bigger or more important than the one so deeply rooted in our values that it became known as the American Dream. Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life. America wasn’t perfect, but we invested in our kids and put in place policies to build a strong middle class.
We don’t do that anymore, and the result is clear: The rich get richer, while everyone else falls behind. The game is rigged, and the people who rigged it want it to stay that way. They claim that if we act to improve the economic well-being of hard-working Americans — whether by increasing the minimum wage, reining in lawbreakers on Wall Street or doing practically anything else — we will threaten economic growth.
They are wrong.
That thinking is backward. A growing body of research — including work done by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute — shows clearly that an increasing disparity between rich and poor, cronyism and an economic system that works only for those at the top are bad for the middle class and bad for our economy.
Warren and de Blasio are correct that the dream went terribly wrong after Ronald Reagan became president.
When the economy works for everyone, consumers have money to spend at businesses, and when businesses have more customers, they build more factories, hire more workers and sell more products — and the economy grows. For decades, our economy was built around this core understanding. We made big investments in the things that would create opportunities for everyone: public schools and universities; roads and bridges and power grids; research that spurred new industries, technologies — and jobs — here in the United States. We supported strong unions that pushed for better wages and working conditions, seeing those unions improve lives both for their members and for workers everywhere.
And it worked. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as gross domestic product went up, wages increased more or less across the board. As the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. That was how the United States built a great middle class.
Then in the early 1980s, a new theory swept the country. Its disciples claimed that if government policies took care of the rich and powerful, wealth would trickle down for everyone else. Trickle-down believers cut taxes sharply for those at the top and pushed for “deregulation” that hobbled the cops on Wall Street and let the most powerful corporations far too often do as they pleased.
All very true. But how do we return to fairness and prosperity for everyone, not just the wealthy few? Warren and de Blasio offer a familiar list of government policies that could turn things around–read them at the link–but they don’t explain how to accomplish these goals in the age of Citizens United, a Republican-controlled congress, and a Supreme Court that favors the rights of corporations over those of individuals. How do we get past the hopelessness and inertia and get Americans to get out and vote for candidates who will stand up for the bottom 99%? How do we even find those candidates?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m basically an optimist and I always have hope for change. But how do we get there from here?
I do think there are some positives signs.
Hillary Clinton is beginning to convince some folks that she’s really a separate person from her husband–a more liberal candidate than he was in the 1990s. In fact Bill Clinton might be more liberal now too. Despite what the Villagers preach, people can change and grow and develop new ideas an opinions. Imagine that Chris Cillizza!
One journalist who seems to be catching on is Charles Pierce. Here’s what he had to say yesterday: One Of These Is Not Like The Others: Two Clintons, No Waiting.
For all the noise about e-mails and honoraria, and all the passive-aggressive nostalgia for the Great Penis Chase of the 1990’s, something very interesting has been going on with Rodham Clinton’s campaign since she announced its official launch….
All during her husband’s administration, HRC was considered to be the more progressive of the two. She supported the accommodations he made to get re-elected, some of which were pretty damned ghastly. She also was one of the most vocal in defense of that administration against the organized ratfking that sought to destroy it. (The only mistake she made, as Calvin Trillin pointed out at the time was that she referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” rather than a creepy little cabal.) I once had a long conversation with a former Clinton lawyer. He told me that, if there were 1000 people in a room, and 999 thought Bill Clinton was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and one of them thought he was the spawn of Satan, Clinton would seek out that one person and spend the rest of the night and all the following day trying to change that person’s mind. That is not something anyone ever has said about Ms. Rodham Clinton. The edges of her triangulations are all sharp ones.
All of this is to point out that not only is the whole “two for the price of one” trope beloved of people whose politics came of age in the 1990’s outdated and inadequate, but so is the political strategy of the first Clinton Administration. Clinton herself seems to be acknowledging this political reality. She started talking on economics like Elizabeth Warren. Her speech on criminal justice reform was aimed at excesses many of which have roots in her husband’s law-and-order compromises in the mid-1990’s. (So, it should be noted, do many of the Patriot Act’s more controversial provisions.) For the moment, I choose to believe this is not merely a bow to political expedience, but something genuine and, if progressives are smart, infinitely exploitable.
Most of them will never get it, but maybe, just maybe Hillary can get her message out to the people who count–voters–and get them fired up enough to go to the polls in November 2016.
I also think it’s a good sign that Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president. No, he has no chance in hell of getting the nomination, but he might be able to get the media to publicize some of his ideas. He could also be a foil for Hillary, giving her an opportunity to draw attention to her more innovative and liberal ideas. Some of the latest news about Bernie’s efforts:
Reuters: Why socialist Bernie Sanders may just shake up the 2016 presidential race, by Robert Borosage.
Sanders is a funhouse mirror image of Clinton. She has universal name recognition (by her first name), unlimited funds, national campaign experience and a powerhouse political operation. He has scant name recognition, paltry funds, no national campaign experience and hasn’t begun to build a campaign staff. With a net-worth ranking among the lowest in the Senate, Sanders can be an authentic populist — the real deal. As one supporter said, he is the candidate of the “12-hour filibuster and the $12 haircut.”
Sanders’s announcement was treated with respect by a press corps eager for any kind of race on the Democratic side. Pundits dismiss his chances in part because Clinton is expected to raise a billion dollars or more for her campaign. Sanders hopes to raise $50 million.
But Sanders is likely to do far more than exceed low expectations. His candidacy could have a dramatic effect in building an already growing populist movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.
As Sanders made clear in his announcement, his focus will be on the central challenges facing this country: an economy that does not work for the vast majority of its citizens and a politics corrupted by big money and entrenched interests.
Sanders refuses to take part in politicians’ usual, incessant pursuit of large donations. So he is a political rarity: Someone free to speak forcefully to the often insidious connection between the two.
Will people pay attention? I think it’s possible. So does David Horsey of the LA Times: Bernie Sanders’ ‘socialism’ may have mainstream appeal.
Finally, conservatives have a real socialist to go crazy about. Instead of concocting dark fairytales about how Barack Obama, a very conventional liberal Democrat, is a secret Marxist who wants to destroy the American way of life, they can shriek about Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who has never shied away from the socialist label.
Sanders is now the first person to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton, though, is not his real adversary, Sanders says. He refuses to make disparaging comments about Clinton and insists he has never run an attack ad in any campaign and will not do so against her. Sanders wants to take on the billionaires, not Hillary.
Nobody gives the 73-year-old Sanders a chance of stopping the Clinton political juggernaut, but some think he could make it veer to the left. If the Vermonter gets traction in debates and primaries with his unabashedly progressive positions, Clinton might be forced to match at least some of his rhetoric. Would that be a bad thing for Democrats? Not if enough beleaguered middle class voters get a chance to consider what Sanders’ version of “socialism” entails and like what they see.
Go to the LA Times link to read Horsey’s list of Sanders’ ideas that could interest voters.
Sam Stein at Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Raises $3 Million In Four Days.
With the help of a crew of former aides to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign has raised $3 million in four days for his presidential campaign — a dramatic indication that he won’t be confined simply to a long-shot role in the Democratic primary.
Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that he has retained the services of the firm Revolution Messaging to run digital ads and online fundraising. The staffers with the firm who will be working on Sanders’ campaign include Revolution Messaging’s founder, Scott Goodstein, who ran the 2008 Obama campaign’s social media and mobile programs; Arun Chaudhary, who was the first official White House videographer; Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director on Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Walker Hamilton, who was a lead programmer for that campaign.
“Like a lot of Obama supporters, we were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing — even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests. A candidate who could inspire a movement,” said Goodstein. “Bernie Sanders is that candidate.”
Due to his long-standing criticism of the influence of big-money interests on government, Sanders has strong online and grassroots appeal, which he hopes to leverage to raise the money needed to fund a presidential campaign. And so far, the strategy looks savvy. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43. According to a campaign adviser, 99.4 percent of the donations have been $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website BernieSanders.com.
What do you think? What does the American Dream represent for you?
As always, this is an open thread. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!
Posted: June 18, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Great Britain, morning reads, NSA, National Security Agency, Real Life Horror, Russia, Syria, U.S. Politics | Tags: Carol Morley, Charles Pierce, checks and balances, Dick Cheney, Dreams of a Life, Edward Snowden, FISA court, G-8 summit, Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Joyce Carol Vincent, leakers, mysterious deaths, Richard Nixon, Vladimir Putin, whistleblowers
I’m going to begin with an article I came across yesterday while reading the Guardian. It’s about a story from 2006 that I remembered and sometimes think about–a woman whose skeletonized body was found in her apartment three years after she died.
On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.
Joyce Carol Vincent
How could such a thing happen? So often we hear sad stories like this and never get any answers to our questions. In this case, filmmaker Carol Morley decided to find out who Joyce Carol Vincent was, and she has made a documentary about her quest called Dreams of a Life. She writes:
In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone’s absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?
News of Joyce’s death quickly made it into the global media, which registered shock at the lack of community spirit in the UK. The story ran on in the British press, but still no photograph of Joyce appeared and little personal information.
Soon Joyce dropped out of the news. I watched as people discussed her in internet chatrooms, wondering if she was an urban myth, or talking about her as though she never mattered, calling her a couch potato, and posting comments such as: “What’s really sad is no one noticed she was missing – must have been one miserable bitch.” And then even that kind of commentary vanished.
But I couldn’t let go. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I decided I must make a film about her.
She began by placing advertisements in newspapers asking anyone who knew Joyce to come forward. It turned out that Joyce had lots of friends over the years. She had been engaged to be married before she died, and she had also spent some time in a battered women’s shelter. Eventually, Morley was able to talk to many people who had known Joyce. She describes her journey in the Guardian article. It’s an amazing story, and I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.
Follow me below the fold for some news and opinion…
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Posted: May 16, 2013 Filed under: Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama, Crime, Drone Warfare, Hillary Clinton, Media, morning reads, Psychopaths in charge, Republican politics, Senate, Surreality, The Media SUCKS, the villagers, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, unemployment, We are so F'd, WE TOLD THEM SO | Tags: Boston Marathon bombings, Charles Pierce, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, establishment Democrats, Greg Sargent, Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, Politico, Texas tornadoes, Watertown MA shootout, West Tx fertilizer plant explosion
It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.
What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?
Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:
Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.
(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)
Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.
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Posted: March 28, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, Republican politics, SCOTUS, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, Vagina | Tags: Airline horrors, airport weigh-ins, Breitbart, capital controls, Charles Pierce, Chief Justice John Roberts, Cyprus crisis, DOMA, Joan Walsh, journalistic ethics, marriage equality, Matthew Boyle, Racism, Rep. Steve King, Sasha and Malia Obama, Simon Johnson, Too big to fail banks
Banks reopen in Cyprus and media jostle to get the best view – posted by Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ)
The banks have opened in Cyprus with controls on how much depositors can withdraw.
Joe Weisenthal posted updates at his Business Insider blog:
At 6:00 AM ET, banks in Cyprus reopened their doors for the first time since March 16.
Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson reports that only eight people are being allowed in at a time at one Bank of Cyprus branch.
However, the crowds have been orderly.
Everyone is wondering whether there will be a huge run on the banks.
So far? Not yet.
This is likely due to a set of capital controls that have been imposed on the banks. Specifically, Cypriot depositors cannot withdraw more than 300 euros per day from any one bank. Also, checks cannot be cashed.
These controls will be in place for seven days.
See more Twitter updates and photos at the link. International Business Times has some details about the capital controls that are supposed to prevent bank runs. In addition to the withdrawal limit, depositors can’t cash checks unless they come from another country.
In the meantime, non-cash payments or money transfers are banned unless they are related to a number of conditions.
These conditions include commercial transactions, payroll, living expenses and tuition fees.
If commercials transactions are less than €5,000, there are no restrictions, but payments above this amount and up to €200,000 will be subject to a 24-hour decision making process, in order to determine whether the liquidity of the bank would be able to incur such a withdrawal.
Transfers for paying employees will also still be allowed but relevant documents would have to be presented in order to prove the money is being used to pay staff.
Transactions on credit or debit cards are also capped at €5,000 euros per month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some large depositors seemingly had advance knowledge of what was going to happen in Cyprus and moved their money out of the country weeks before the crisis.
The chairman of the Committee for Institutions in the Cypriot Parliament, Deputy Dimitris Syllouris, said he had submitted a letter to the Central Bank of Cyprus demanding an investigation into account holders who moved large sums of cash out of the country in the weeks ahead of Cyprus’s chaotic bailout talks…
He said he had received information about individuals and businesses moving money out of Cyprus weeks ahead of the bailout deal—a move that wouldn’t be illegal but could imply that some depositors had warning that negotiations for a bailout could, for the first time in the financial crisis that has rattled the euro zone, take a cut out of regular bank deposits.
Asked whether his suspicions focused on one specific group of depositors, he said “politicians, all sorts of people, and bankers themselves are no better.”
Outflows from Cyprus were increasing from moderate levels from January until March 15, the officials said. Last week—especially after March 19, when the Cypriot Parliament rejected the first bailout deal that would have imposed a one-time levy on large deposits—the outflows under the central bank’s exemptions went up significantly, they said.
Several hundred million euros, but less than a billion euros, left the country despite the bank closures, according to one official.
At Bloomberg, Clive Crook says Cyprus’ Plan B is Still a Disaster.
The new deal has removed the craziest part of the agreement reached March 16 — the plan to default on deposit insurance. Let’s not dwell any further on that insanity. But the new plan still has features that, seen in any other context, would surely arouse surprise.
For instance, the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wanted to be sure that the new debt Cyprus is about to take on will be sustainable — meaning, presumably, that Cyprus will be able to repay it. Yet, by writing down high- value deposits, the revised plan will also cause a sudden contraction of the Cypriot banking system, and thus of the whole Cypriot economy, which depends on banking to an unusual degree.
He concludes that,
Bailout fatigue says: “The Cypriots got themselves into this mess, and they should get themselves out. We’ll lend them a bit more, but only if we’re sure they’ll pay us back.” Cyprus didn’t get itself into this mess. It joined the euro system in 2008 with low public debt and a clean bill of health from EU governments (back then, not a word was said about shady Russians). Its banks are in trouble not because they accepted too many overseas deposits but because they bought too many Greek bonds — an investment sanctified by international banking rules (which called such investments riskless) that was destroyed by the EU’s ham-fisted resolution of Greece’s threatened default.
Europe’s sense of “we’re all in this together” seems to have evaporated entirely. Now one has to ask not merely what the euro is for, but what the EU itself is for.
Back in the U.S.A.,
Simon Johnson has an interesting post at the NYT’ “Explaining the Science of Everyday Life” blog: The Debate on Bank Size Is Over.
While bank lobbyists and some commentators are suddenly taken with the idea that an active debate is under way about whether to limit bank size in the United States, they are wrong. The debate is over; the decision to cap the size of the largest banks has been made. All that remains is to work out the details.
To grasp the new reality, think about the Cyprus debacle this month, the Senate budget resolution last week and Ben Bernanke’s revelation that — on too big to fail — “I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem.”
Policy is rarely changed by ideas alone and, in isolation, even stunning events can sometimes have surprisingly little effect. What really moves the needle in terms of consensus among policy makers and the broader public opinion is when events combine with a new understanding of how the world works. Thanks to Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; Senator Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and many other people who have worked hard over the last four years, we are ready to understand what finally defeated the argument that bank size does not matter: Cyprus.
I can’t briefly summarize the gist of Johnson’s piece, so if you’re following this story, please read the whole thing. Could he really be right about limits on “to big to fail or prosecute banks.” I sure hope so!
In other news,
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