You probably should start today’s reading with the New York Magazine interview with Hillary Clinton.
There’s a weightlessness about Hillary Clinton these days. She’s in midair, launched from the State Department toward … what? For the first time since 1992, unencumbered by the demands of a national political campaign or public office, she is saddled only with expectations about what she’s going to do next. And she is clearly enjoying it.
“It feels great,” she says, “because I have been on this high wire for twenty years, and I was really yearning to just have more control over my time and my life, spend a lot of that time with my family and my friends, do things that I find relaxing and enjoyable, and return to the work that I had done for most of my life.”
Relaxing, for a Clinton, especially one who, should she decide to run, is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016, does not seem exactly restful. The day before we speak, she was awarded the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia—presented by Jeb Bush, another politician weighted with dynastic expectations and family intrigue, who took the opportunity to jest that both he and Clinton cared deeply about Americans—especially those in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Afterward, Clinton stepped backstage, a red-white-and-blue ribbon around her neck pulled taut by a saucer-size gold medal. “It is really heavy,” she said, with that plain-home midwestern tone she deploys when she wants to not appear the heavy herself. In the room with her were some of her close advisers—Nick Merrill, a communications staffer and acolyte of Hillary’s suffering top aide, Huma Abedin; and Dan Schwerin, the 31-year-old speechwriter who wrote all the words she had spoken moments ago. Local policemen with whom Clinton had posed for photos milled about behind her.
Outside was the usual chorus accompanying a Clinton appearance, befitting her status as the most popular Democrat in America: news helicopters buzzing overhead and protesters amassed across the street who raised signs that read benghazi in bloodred paint and chanted antiwar slogans directly at her as she spoke at the outdoor lectern.
You may also want to check out this blog radio cast of an interview with digby and Susie Madrak on Virtually Speaking Sundays, You’ll recognize many of the VS panel names too.
Political & social commentators digby and Susie Madrak, offer a counter point to the Sunday morning talk shows. They compare notes from their observations, investigations and considerations of the past week. Culture of Truth satirizes the Sunday Morning talk shows. Sherry Reson moderates.
Chuck Todd – the relationship between gov’t, citizens and media
Grand bargain rising: Defunding Food stamp, Obamacare
Debt Ceiling Trainwreck
Guns as Acts of God
As the above chart suggests, the U.S. enjoyed a Golden Age from 1945 to roughly 1975 when the economy was growing strongly (as measured in Gross Domestic Product and stock market prices) while at the same time, inequality fell steadily. Some of this prosperity was sheer luck: the U.S., thanks to being separated by two oceans from the battlegrounds of World War II, had the only industrial capacity in the world that hadn’t been bombed into smoking ruins.
But, Reich points out, inequality fell as productivity rose for several reasons: Workers had strong negotiating power through unions. Globalization had yet to pit U.S. workers against low-cost foreign labor. Higher education (the key to economic advancement) was very affordable. And taxes at the top brackets were high: as much as a 70 percent marginal rate for much of this period.
But starting around 1980, much of this changed. Globalization and anti-union legislation drove down wages. College costs rose much faster than inflation. Marginal income tax rates at the top came down fast. Meanwhile, the taxes that mostly fall on the middle class (such as sales taxes and payroll taxes) went up.
As a result, all but the highest earners saw a decrease in inflation-adjusted take-home pay:
Here’s a recent study showing the impact of growing inequality and our billionaire bail-out mentality on this country.
We conclude that living standards in the middle of the distribution were and are falling during the Great Recession . Moreover, with faint prospects of a rapid recovery, the losses of the Great Recession increasingly mount. The forecast is that unemployment will not return to 6.5 percent levels for another three years or longer. While the trend in inequality i n the United States has been ever upward, we believe that i t will be politically and socially difficult for U.S. inequality to continue to grow at the top at the expense of the collapsing middle class, the majority of whom believe , perhaps rightly so, that their children will be worse off economically than they are. If so, we might expect some moderation in the growth of United States inequality in the next decade.
Go read the executive summary. It’s really talks about how wages have been falling steeply while all gains in productivity have gone to capital while showing the actual numbers.
Sounds like Senator Ted Cruz is making a rather bad impression on his Republican colleagues in the beltway. Look at this headline from Mediate: “Fox’s Wallace Stunned: GOP Leaders Sent Me Opposition Research on Ted Cruz“. Ouch!
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said Sunday morning that he’d received opposition research from other Republicans about SenatorTed Cruz (R-TX) in advance of Cruz’s appearance this morning, a serious indication of how upset the GOP is with the Senator leading the risky charge to defund ObamaCare.
“This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington,” Wallace said. “As soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz.”
“This was a strategy laid out by Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz without any consultation with their colleagues,” said Karl Rove. “With all due respect to my junior Senator from Texas, I suspect this is the first time that the end game was described to any Republican Senator. They had to tune in to listen to you to find out what Ted’s next step was in the strategy.”
I’m not sure if you’ve been following the mall take over and shootings in Kenya. Some of the information coming out of thereis very disturbing including a link to citizens of Canada, the US, and the UK.
Late Sunday, the Kenyan military announced that it had retaken “most” of the Westgate mall — the attackers had been confined to the third floor since their initial assault on Saturday — and freed more hostages, though details could not be confirmed. Helicopters circled the mall building through the night, and occasional explosions and bursts of gunfire were heard above a rainstorm in the area.
“This will end tonight — our forces will prevail,” the police command center said in a Twitter post. “Kenyans are standing firm against aggression, and we will win.”
The Shabab, a militant group mostly based in neighboring Somalia, answered with messages of their own, including warning that “Kenyan forces who’ve just attempted a roof landing must know that they are jeopardizing the lives of all the hostages at #Westgate.”
Later, officials said that at least four members of the security forces had been wounded. But there were no other details about additional casualties on either side.
The attack on the mall deeply distressed Kenya, a nation that has grown in stature as a force against terrorism in East Africa. As the toll mounted — at least 68 were reported dead by late Sunday, with several people still unaccounted for — the potential for even greater loss of life seemed tangible.
So, that’s my suggested reads this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
One of the things that really amazes me when I talk to folks on either ends of the political spectrum is that both think that our republic is falling prey to self-dealing politicians and corporations that exist only to take from tax payers. The themes are somewhat different when it comes to the associated concerns but the overall vision of a country and great democracy in decline appears shared. I often wonder why very few of either see the real dangers but focus more on the silly stuff. We have had some pretty astounding portends of our Huxleyian future. It seems we have met the enemy and he is indeed us to borrow from that old Pogo cartoon.
I read this astounding take on the collapse of the building in Philadelphia by William Bunch at his blog at The Inquirer. It is called “When Things Fall Apart”. It’s an apt lede for nearly everything these days from our infrastructure to our national security policy.
To be clear. the collapse here in Philadelphia of the four-story building was no metaphor — it was a senseless, heartbreaking tragedy that was all too real for people who were shopping for bargains in a Salvation Army thrift store one minute and trapped in a mountain of rubble the next. But the building collapse did seem to be the the epitome, at least here in Philadelphia, of a week that had the feel from start to finish of things falling apart, of the old foundations collapsing and no one sure exactly which of the many suspects is to blame — or what, if anything, will replace them.
Much like the Santa Monica shooting, the news locally that some 3,700 Philadelphia school employees are getting pink slips, the first step in transforming the remaining schools from places of learning to oversized child warehouses, floated away into the weekend ether, In the past, such a move would be seen as a mere bargaining ploy, but in 2013 the sense is growing that no one can stop this tragedy, that Philadelphians have become powerless bystanders watching our schools fall down in slow motion — very much like the citizens who called help lines and begged for someone to stop the shoddy demolition at 22nd and Market.
Nationally, the news was dominated by a serious of revelations — initiated, we now know, by a courageous whistleblower named Edward Snowden — that the U.S. government’s scooping up of data about its everyday citizens — who we’re calling on the telephone, now long we talked for, and possibly whom we’re talking to overseas on the Internet via sites like Facebook or Google — is much more extensive than all but the most cynical among us expected, or feared.
Nothing about the deadly demolition of a blighted four-story building at the edge of downtown looked right. That’s what the people who had watched it in the days and weeks before the collapse told me.
In fact, everyone I spoke with said something seemed off – way off.
Everyone, apparently, except the city that issued a demolition permit for a building owned by infamous king of porn and serial slumlord Richard Basciano. The permit was issued to Philadelphia architect Plato Marinakos for Griffin Campbell Construction – led by a demolition boss who in addition to a criminal record, also has a history of violations on other properties he’s worked on.
Despite obvious red flags, the city is claiming everything was on the up and up, the demolition company had proper permits, the workers were certified, blah, blah, blah.
But I wonder how workers can be vetted when permits are issued through a middleman? And I wonder what, if any, oversight the project had? And I wonder if anyone from L&I ever inspected the site?
If anyone was monitoring the site, neighbors and construction workers said they missed some obvious signs of trouble.
Workers weren’t wearing hard hats.
They were trying to tear down the building in the dark with sledgehammers and flashlights.
And union carpenters working nearby said the wall that eventually collapsed wasn’t braced properly.
The demo was so screwed up, they said, they were literally waiting for the building to collapse.
And it did, apparently killing six people and hurting 13 others who had to be rescued from the rubble.
Yup. We see it all coming and then we watch as it keeps happening. Joan Walsh believes we Americans are a passive lot these days.
On Thursday night the National Journal released a poll showing that 85 percent of those surveyed believed it was “likely” that their “communications history, like phone calls, e-mails, and Internet use,” was “available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to access without your consent.” The steady drip, drip, drip of detail about our ever-expanding national security state has led all of us to protect ourselves a little with a kind of tired cynicism about it.
And I think there’s more to the indifference, even by a lot of liberals, to this latest news than just “it’s OK when our guy does it.” Partly, we blame ourselves. Probably every one of us has thought from time to time about how exposed we all are, from our cellphones to email to the Internet “cloud” to all of social media — and then we go about our business using all of it because it’s all so damn awesome. And so, on some level, we feel partly culpable. We always knew, or suspected, all of this was possible — and went on doing it anyway.
We know our cellphone signal lets us be tracked, which sometimes seems creepy, but seems excellent when you can activate “Find My Phone” to locate your iPhone in the cab where you dropped it last night, or find the best Japanese restaurant near your current location on Yelp. We all scream when Facebook changes its privacy settings without notice – but very few of us close our accounts in protest. We are tweeting our outrage from our Sprint smartphones, Googling to find out whether Sen. Obama really flip-flopped and voted to authorize the way the Bush administration was using FISA in 2008 (he did), then G-chatting with our editors about when we’re filing our stories on all of it.
There’s a strong Calvinist impulse in the American psyche: So often, Americans blame themselves for their troubles. If I worked harder, maybe I wouldn’t have lost my job. I should have stayed in school. If I hadn’t gotten so drunk, I wouldn’t have been date-raped. If I wasn’t strutting all over social media like a strumpet, and so tied to my iPhone, addicted to my email, they wouldn’t have so much data on me. We shouldn’t have walked down that dark data alley; it’s not like we weren’t warned.
Again, it’s like people have the sense of something going all wrong but have their focus on the wrong thing. Walsh talks about the blinders of partisan democrats above. Republicans have a brand that denies more of reality. Lloyd Green–at the Daily Beast–calls it a “Modernity Gap”.
… a report issued this week by the College Republican National Committee, Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation, indicted the Republicans for being “closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned;” for singularly attacking government; for hostility toward gay marriage, and for acting like the “stupid party.” But too many in the GOP seem to embrace that label.
Limiting the evidence to just the past two weeks, Exhibit No. 1: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a GOP member of House Judiciary Committee, told a witness — who had ended her pregnancy after having been advised that the fetus was brain dead, that she should have carried the “child” to term.
Exhibit No. 2: Erik Erickson, the founder of RedState, mansplained to Fox News’ incredulous Megyn Kelly this week that “when you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society, and other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.”
Exhibit No. 3: Phil Bryant, Mississippi’s first-term governor, blamed working mothers for American illiteracy.
Exhibit No. 4, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss attributed rape in the armed forces to hormones.”
The real problem, though, is not stray and scatterred comments. Rather it is that such comments speak to the party’s discomfort with modernity.
Notice how much of these examples are aimed at women and have a distinct religious fanaticism about them. I wanted to actually not make this a depressing post, but I find myself ending with more than a bit of a nihilistic headline from Noam Chomsky who asks: “Are We on the Verge of Total Self-Destruction?” However, his post looks at places where people are doing something.
In fact, all over the world — Australia, India, South America — there are battles going on, sometimes wars. In India, it’s a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences. In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand. The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the “rights of nature.”
Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it — and the ground is where it ought to be.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil. He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting. Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer. Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product. In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use. That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer. You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background. Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.
Perhaps it is time we here in the US took similar action. Rather than accepting this march to the destruction of our privacy, our identities and our freedoms, we should do what we can where we are. Here are the things we need to change via Robert Reich. Most are the result of the Reagan mindset that our government is the problem. However, his list shows that the red states are getting worse while the blue states are showing signs of moving the other direction. Is geography destiny in this country once again?
Federalism is as old as the Republic, but not since the real Civil War have we witnessed such a clear divide between the states on central issues affecting Americans.
Some might say this is a good thing. It allows more of us to live under governments and laws we approve of. And it permits experimentation: Better to learn that a policy doesn’t work at the state level, where it’s affected only a fraction of the population, than after it’s harmed the entire nation. As the jurist Louis Brandies once said, our states are “laboratories of democracy.”
But the trend raises three troubling issues.
First, it leads to a race to bottom. Over time, middle-class citizens of states with more generous safety nets and higher taxes on the wealthy will become disproportionately burdened as the wealthy move out and the poor move in, forcing such states to reverse course. If the idea of “one nation” means anything, it stands for us widely sharing the burdens and responsibilities of citizenship.
Second, it doesn’t take account of spillovers — positive as well as negative. Semi-automatic pistols purchased without background checks in one state can easily find their way easily to another state where gun purchases are restricted. By the same token, a young person who receives an excellent public education courtesy of the citizens of one states is likely to move to another state where job opportunity are better. We are interdependent. No single state can easily contain or limit the benefits or problems it creates for other states.
Finally, it can reduce the power of minorities. For more than a century “states rights” has been a euphemism for the efforts of some whites to repress or deny the votes of black Americans. Now that minorities are gaining substantial political strength nationally, devolution of government to the states could play into the hands of modern-day white supremacists.
A great nation requires a great, or at least functional, national government. The Tea Partiers and other government-haters who have caused Washington to all but close because they refuse to compromise are threatening all that we aspire to be together.
Just some things to think about. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It’s really hard for me to focus on much other than the bombing that’s going on between Gaza and Israel at the moment. The carnage is getting to me.
An Israeli bomb pummeled a home deep into the ground here Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people, including nine in three generations of a single family, in the deadliest single strike since the cross-border conflict between Israel and the militant faction Hamas escalated on Wednesday.
The airstrike, along with several others that killed civilians across this coastal territory and hit two media offices here — one of them used by Western TV networks — further indicated that Israel was striking a wider range of targets.
Gaza health officials reported that the number of people injured here had nearly doubled to 600 by day’s end; the Palestinian death toll climbed to 70, including 20 children. Three Israelis have been killed and at least 79 wounded by continued rocket fire into southern Israel and as far north as Tel Aviv, as Israeli cities were paralyzed by an onslaught of relentless rocket fire out of Gaza for the fifth straight day.
In the Israeli strike on Sunday morning, it took emergency workers and a Caterpillar digger more than an hour to reveal the extent of the devastation under the two-story home of Jamal Dalu, a shop owner. Mr. Dalu was at a neighbor’s when the blast wiped out nearly his entire family: His sister, wife, two daughters, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren ages 2 to 6 all perished under the rubble, along with two neighbors, an 18-year-old and his grandmother.
At around 2 a.m. today, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at the Al-Shawa Wa Hassri Tower, a building in the Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal that houses local and international media organizations. Around 15 reporters and photographers wearing vests with the word “TV Press” were on the building’s roof at the time, covering the Israeli air strikes.
Five missiles destroyed the 11th-floor offices used by Al-Quds TV. The station said six journalists were injured, four of them Al-Quds employees – Darwish Bulbul, Khadar Al-Zahar, Muhammad al-Akhras and Hazem al-Da’our. The other two were identified as Hussein Al-Madhoun, a freelance photographer working for the Ma’an news agency, and Ibrahim Labed, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency SAFA. Zahar’s condition was described as critical after one of his legs had to be amputated.
At around 7 a.m., three Al-Aqsa TV employees were seriously injured when two missiles were fired at the Al-Shourouk building, also known as the “journalists’ building.” A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces said on the @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account that the air strike had targeted a Hamas communication centre.
Among the local and international media whose offices were damaged by Israeli missiles were Sky News Arabia, the German TV station ARD, the Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and the Ma’an news agency.
Information was also one of the victims of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009 (read the RWB report). At the time, Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” and deny access to journalists working for international media. The IDF also targeted pro-Hamas media during Operation Cast Lead.
On Sunday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, indicated that he intended to take on additional targets. “We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he said, referring to the 75,000 reservists who have been put on call for what many believe is a planned ground invasion. Meanwhile, Israel’s Iron Dome defense system successfully deflected another Hamas rocket aimed at Tel Aviv.
Obama continues to defend Israel’s free hand in Gaza, causing commentators like Jeffrey Goldberg to gloat , not inaccurately: ” Barack Obama hasn’t turned against Israel. This is a big surprise to everyone who has not paid attention for the last four years” (indeed, there are few more compelling signs of how dumb and misleading US elections are than the fact that the only criticism of Obama on Israel heard over the last year in the two-party debate was the grievance that Obama evinces insufficient fealty – rather than excessive fealty – to the Israeli government). That the Netanyahu government knows that any attempt to condemn Israel at the UN would be instantly blocked by the US is a major factor enabling them to continue however they wish. And, of course, the bombs, planes and tanks they are using are subsidized, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer.
If one wants to defend US support for Israel on the merits – on the ground that this escalating Israeli aggression against a helpless population is just and warranted – then one should do so. As I wrote on Thursday , it’s very difficult to see how those who have cheered for Obama’s foreign policy could do anything but cheer for Israeli militarism, as they are grounded in the same premises.
I agree with Robert Reich who says we should stop obsessing over the Federal Budget Deficit.
The best way to generate jobs and growth is for the government to spend more, not less. And for taxes to stay low – or become even lower – on the middle class.
(Higher taxes on the rich won’t slow the economy because the rich will keep spending anyway. After all, being rich means spending whatever you want to spend. By the same token, higher taxes won’t reduce their incentive to save and invest because they’re already doing as much saving and investing as they want. Remember: they’re taking home a near record share of the nation’s total income and have a record share of total wealth.)
Why don’t our politicians and media get this? Because an entire deficit-cutting political industry has grown up in recent years – starting with Ross Perot’s third party in the 1992 election, extending through Peter Petersen’s Institute and other think-tanks funded by Wall Street and big business, embracing the eat-your-spinach deficit hawk crowd in the Democratic Party, and culminating in the Simpson-Bowles Commission that President Obama created in order to appease the hawks but which only legitimized them further.
Myanmar (Burma) has had some terrible human rights violations in its recent past. President Obama is visiting the tiny Southeastern Asian nation and will be urging the country’s power brokers to change their ways.
“You gave us hope,” Obama will say in a speech in Myanmar, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House during his visit to Bangkok, Thailand, the first stop on a three-day trip to the region. “And we bore witness to your courage.”
In a daytime stop expected to last only six hours, Obama is set to meet with President Thein Sein in the former capital of Yangon. He’ll also visit opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most popular political figure, at her lakeside home where she spent more than 15 years confined under house arrest.
Obama eased sanctions on Myanmar this year after Thein Sein engaged with his political opponents and eased media restrictions since his party won a 2010 election that ended five decades of direct military rule in the country, formerly known as Burma. The visit also reflects a legacy-building goal for a president about to enter a second term, whose early efforts at engagement and democratization have yielded mixed results.
He made a point of not only scheduling a meeting at the government headquarters with President Thein Sein but also a personal pilgrimage to the home of the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, where she was confined under house arrest for most of two decades before her release two years ago. Amid the manicured lawn and well-tended garden outside the elegant two-story lakeside house, the president and the Nobel-winning dissident planned to stand side by side celebrating change that once seemed unimaginable.
While local leaders attribute the changes so far to internal factors and decisions, Mr. Obama was eager to claim a measure of credit. He has played nursemaid to the opening of Myanmar, formerly and still known by many as Burma, by sending the first American ambassador in 22 years, easing sanctions and meeting with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington.
Later Monday he was to announce the return of the United States Agency for International Development along with $170 million for projects over the next two years, noting that in his inaugural address he had vowed to reach out to those “willing to unclench your fist.”
“So today, I have come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship,” read the text of prepared remarks to be delivered at the University of Yangon. He promised to “help rebuild an economy” and develop new institutions that can be sustained. “The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished — they must become a shining north star for all this nation’s people.”
So, this was a bit of a headline dump this morning, but I have to admit that my eyes have been fixed on what’s going on in the world right now. Hopefully, we can all stay up to date on these important headlines. I’m going to go light some candles and burn some incense and think peace. Hopefully, if enough of us do that, some of those world leaders will get the message.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
The news has gone to the dogs and the dogs don’t want it! I’d suggest Ed Gillespie retire. This has to be the most stupid talking point that I’ve ever heard. Twitter was abuzz with #retroactive all day yesterday. How will Romney get away with all these dives, dodges, and distractions? Show us your taxes Mitt Shady!!!!
Democrats have raised questions about when exactly Romney left Bain. Romney has said he left in 1999 to oversee preparations for the Salt Lake City Olympics, but SEC documents show him listed as Bain’s CEO beyond that time.
Gillespie on Sunday sought to clarify the matter, saying that Romney initially thought he would be leaving Bain on a temporary basis, but the challenges of the Olympics led him to “retire retroactively.”
“There may have been a thought at the time that it could be part time, but it was not part time,” Gillespie said.
“He took a leave of absence and in fact he ended up not going back at all, and retired retroactively to 1999 as a result,” he added. “He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City and help a country he loves more, and somehow Chicago… is trying to make it something sinister.”
Bill Kristol and the Obama campaign agree on something: Mitt Romney should immediately release his tax returns.
“He should release the tax returns tomorrow. It’s crazy,” Kristol said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You gotta release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two.”
The conservative commentator said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee then should give a speech on Thursday calling for a “serious” debate with President Barack Obama on capitalism, allowing the campaign to turn the page and put the focus back on the president’s record.
So either Ed Gillespie and Romney are lying now, or Romney and his lawyer were lying then. Which is it? They were and are obviously trying to have it every which way to suit whatever purpose at the moment. But legally, CEOs are responsible for their companies, whether they are managing them full time, part time or even retroactively retiring while managing them. Period. The buck stops with the CEO, just as much as it stops with a president. As a Bain partner at the time said today:
“Mitt’s names were on the documents as the chief executive and sole owner of the company,” Ed Conard, who served as a partner at Bain Capital from 1993 to 2007, said in an exclusive interview with Up w/ Chris Hayes. Asked again if Romney was chief executive officer of Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002, Conard said, “Legally, on documents, I suppose, yes.”
Despite Romney’s statements that he left in 1999, Conard’s new remarks suggest that, in fact, Romney’s continued ownership of the firm enabled him to negotiate a better exit deal. “We had to negotiate with Mitt because he was an owner of the firm,” Conard said.
Romney, in other words, doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He has been running a campaign against the “Obama economy” insisting that the president own every single month he has been in office in order to condemn his economic management all the more – despite at least a first year in which Obama cannot really be held responsible for the fallout of an economic collapse he inherited. So Romney insists on maximal responsibility for Obama and the economy.
But responsibility for Bain? Think about it.
Okay … sit down and drink plenty of coffee before you read this one. Dubya is releasing a book on what to do to improve the economy. For humanity’s sake, hasn’t the man done enough damage??
For the first time since leaving office three and a half years ago, Mr. Bush is advancing a variety of ideas about how to jump-start economic growth by restructuring taxes, expanding trade, encouraging innovation, fixing immigration and overhauling Social Security. He wrote the foreword for the book, a collection of essays from an array of economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, and he proposes a national goal of expanding the economy by 4 percent a year on a sustained basis.
“The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs,” to be unveiled by the former president in Dallas on Tuesday and published by Crown Business, is neither campaign template nor partisan screed. It is a wonky paean to free enterprise.
It is also the next step in a gradual return to the public stage by a president who has largely remained out of the limelight since turning over the White House to President Obama.
Robert Reich continues his roll. He believes we’ve got the perfect storm and that our democracy is being sold. I love the title of his new book: “Beyond Outrage”.
It’s a perfect storm:
The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.
Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.
Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.
Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.
Want some alternative Journalism? Here’s a conversation with Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks on Journeyman TV on the Arab Spring.
Then, you can listen to AlterNetRadio: The GOP’s Slow-Motion Coup; America’s Workplace Bondage; Did Mitt Bait NAACP?
First up is The Atlantic‘s James Fallows, who tells Joshua Holland that even when they stick to the rules, Republicans pay no heed to the long-standing norms that once made the institutions of our democracy function. The veteran reporter also takes political reporters to task for obscuring this reality by writing generically about Washington’s “dysfunction.”
Then AlterNet’s own Lynn Parramore joins us to discuss her recent piece, “Fifty Shades of Capitalism: Pain and Bondage in the American Workplace.” It’s a provocative discussion.
Finally, did you hear about Mitt Romney going to the NAACP convention this week? It didn’t go well! Imani Gandy, better known as the Angry Black Lady, surveys the wreckage.
Yet because he retained technical control of Bain Capital’s management and because his wealth remained heavily tied up with the firm, Mr. Romney’s name or signature appears on dozens of documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission between February 1999 and August 2001, when he finalized a retirement deal with the active Bain partners and transferred to them his shares of Bain’s management entity.
“Mitt’s name were on the documents as the chief executive and sole owner of the company,” Edward W. Conard, a Bain partner at the time, said during an appearance on MSNBC on Sunday. “And it took several years for us to sort out how to put the management team in place.”
All told, Mr. Romney’s name appears on at least 142 such forms, some of which have been the subject of news coverage in recent days, fueling questions about whether Mr. Romney ever really left. One such form, posted last week by Talking Points Memo, lists Mr. Romney’s “principal occupation” as “managing director” of Bain Capital Investors VI Inc., a private equity fund.
It certainly has been a tough few years for reasonable people. We’ve had to endure a repeat of the same old things that didn’t end the Great Depression the first time remixed and put into failed policies in both Europe and the U.S.
The very act of believing something doesn’t make it real or true. Yet, a group of so-called conservatives have been recently led by blind faith in tropes and canards. They followed all the failed policies instead of what we’ve learned that works when dealing with market economies and their cycles over the last 100 years.
It seems voters in a lot of countries are waking up and voting out all those second comings of Herbert Hoover. Austerity economics hasn’t worked for the majority of us.
Paul Krugman has been outspoken about the wrong thinking that’s contaminated the political class here and Europe. There appears to be a group of people out there determined to un-write the history of the 1920s and 1930s. His new book tries to outline what we’ve known since the Roosevelt years and why the plans foisted on us by so-called conservatives were bound to fail. I have no idea why discredited economic thoughts were brought back into vogue by the banking classes, the investment classes, and pushers of bad pulp fiction narratives like Paul Ryan and his slavish Randian/Austrian ideology. Why do modern politicians pick up the economic version of flat-earth geology and then expect the economic equivalent of a successful launch of a rocket to Mars?
The Austerian desire to slash government spending and reduce deficits even in the face of a depressed economy may be wrongheaded; indeed, my view is that it’s deeply destructive. Still, it’s not too hard to understand, since sustained deficits can be a real problem. The urge to raise interest rates is harder to understand. In fact, I was quite shocked when the OECD called for rate hikes in May 2010, and it still seems to me to be a remarkable and strange call.
Why raise rates when the economy is deeply depressed and there seems to be little risk of inflation? The explanations keep shifting.
Back in 2010, when the OECD called for big rate increases, it did an odd thing: it contradicted its own economic forecast. That forecast, based on its models, showed low inflation and high unemployment for years to come. But financial markets, which were more optimistic at the time (they changed their mind later), were implicitly predicting some rise in inflation. The predicted inflation rates were still low by historical standards, but the OECD seized on the rise in predicted inflation to justify a call for tighter money.
By spring 2011, a spike in commodity prices had led to a rise in actual inflation, and the European Central Bank cited that rise as a reason to raise interest rates. That may sound reasonable, except for two things. First, it was quite obvious in the data that this was a temporary event driven by events outside of Europe, that there had been little change in underlying inflation, and that the rise in headline inflation was likely to reverse itself in the near future, as indeed it did. Second, the ECB famously overreacted to a temporary, commodity-driven bump in inflation back in 2008, raising interest rates just as the world economy was plunging into recession. Surely it wouldn’t make exactly the same mistake just a few years later? But it did.
Why did the ECB act with such wrongheaded determination? The answer, I suspect, is that in the world of finance there was a general dislike of low interest rates that had nothing to do with inflation fears; inflation fears were invoked largely to support this preexisting desire to see interest rates rise.
The Europeans have had it with the nonsense. They’ve watched their economies and jobs be drained by bankers drunk on casino style betting in financial markets that pass their chits to taxpayers. The first major European leader–Nicholas Sarkozy–has been replaced. Will the French be able to put the out-of-control financial sector back into its proper place?
Mr Hollande – the first Socialist to win the French presidency since Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s – gave his victory speech in his stronghold of Tulle in central France.
He said was “proud to have been capable of giving people hope again”.
He said he would push ahead with his pledge to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to “growth”.
“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option,” he said.
After his speech in Tulle, Mr Hollande headed to Brive airport on his way to Paris to address supporters at Place de la Bastille. His voice hoarse, he spoke of his pride at taking over the mantle of the presidency 31 years almost to the day since Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand was elected.
“I am the president of the youth of France,” he told the assembled crowd of tens of thousands of supporters, emphasising his “pride at being president of all the republic’s citizens”. “You are a movement that is rising up throughout Europe,” he said.
Mr Hollande has called for a renegotiation of a hard-won European treaty on budget discipline championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.
Robert Reich writes that this is a chance to reform capitalism. It is highly unlikely that France will move to make public any private assets. What it will do is turn its economic future to what works for growth for a country and not the enrichment of the wealthy and powerful few. Financial Markets should not be turned into gambling casinos via government engineering.
During the Depression decade of the 1930s, the nation reorganized itself so that the gains from growth were far more broadly distributed. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 recognized unions’ rights to collectively bargain, and imposed a duty on employers to bargain in good faith. By the 1950s, a third of all workers in the United States were unionized, giving them the power to demand some of the gains from growth. Meanwhile, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation spread a broad safety net. The forty-hour workweek with time-and-a-half for overtime also helped share the work and spread the gains, as did a minimum wage. In 1965, Medicare and Medicaid broadened access to health care. And a progressive income tax, reaching well over 70 percent on the highest incomes, also helped ensure that the gains were spread fairly.
This time, though, the nation has taken no similar steps. Quite the contrary: A resurgent right insists on even more tax breaks for corporations and the rich, massive cuts in public spending that will destroy what’s left of our safety nets, including Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, fewer rights for organized labor, more deregulation of labor markets, and a lower (or no) minimum wage.
This is, quite simply, nuts.
Krugman reminds us that Spain was a prudent and financially responsible government prior to the speculative mortgage bubble brought on by banks. It did them no good in their current downturn.
For this is really, really not about fiscal irresponsibility. Just as a reminder, on the eve of the crisis Spain seemed to be a fiscal paragon:
What happened to Spain was a housing bubble — fueled, to an important degree, by lending from German banks — that burst, taking the economy down with it. Now the country has 23.6 percent unemployment, 50.5 percent among the young.
And the policy response is supposed to be even more austerity, with the European Central Bank, natch, obsessing over inflation — and officials claiming that the incredibly foolish rate hike last year was actually something to be proud of.
Greece too has voted against the Austerity Agenda.
Alexis Tsipras became the surprise package of the Greek election by telling Angela Merkel to get lost.
“The people of Europe can no longer be reconciled with the bailouts of barbarism,” Tsipras, 37, said on state-run NET TV late yesterday after his Syriza party unexpectedly came second in the country’s election. “European leaders, and especially Ms. Merkel, should realize that her policies have undergone a crushing defeat.”
Tsipras’s calls to tax the rich, delay debt repayments and cut defense spending struck a chord with voters angry at austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for bailouts. As far as euro membership is concerned, Tsipras told voters that a Greek exit would put the currency itself in jeopardy and they shouldn’t feel “blackmailed” into more austerity.
The result put Syriza ahead of the Socialist Pasok party, potentially derailing efforts to implement the terms of the country’s financial lifeline. Syriza, which means Coalition of the Radical Left, won 16 percent of the vote, projections showed. That exceeded the 13 percent won by Pasok, one of the two pillars of the political establishment since 1974. New Democracy, led by Antonis Samaras, topped the poll with 20 percent.
Rachel Maddow borrows some analysis from Ezra Klein to show how the UK has been tanking its own economy with its austerity agenda and how closely our own problems resemble the UK government induced recession.
Once President Obama took office and the Recovery Act/stimulus began putting capital back into the economy, the U.S. economy began growing again. In the U.K., the economy started to improve, right up until British officials began implementing an austerity agenda — at which point the national economy stagnated and slipped back into a recession.
Obama rejected austerity, and as a result, American growth, while fragile and insufficient, is easily outpacing Europe’s and UK’s, where austerity measures have ruled the day.
Americans should care about this, if for no other reason because of interconnectivity of the modern global economy. But there’s also a purely political perspective to keep in mind: namely, the problem of Republican predictions.
In short, American conservatives got everything backwards. When Obama’s policies began, Republicans said they wouldn’t generate economic growth, but GOP officials got it backwards. When David Cameron’s austerity policies began, Republicans were not only certain they would work, they pleaded with American policymakers to follow the Tories’ lead.
And we now know GOP officials had this backwards, too.
The remarkable thing is, Republicans aren’t the least bit chastened by their track record of failure.
They said Clinton’s economic policies would fail miserably, but that’s not what happened. They said Bush’s economic policies would produce extraordinary prosperity, but that’s not what happened. They said Obama’s economic policies would make the Great Recession worse, but that’s not what happened. They said Cameron’s economic policies in the U.K. would work brilliantly, but that’s not what happened.
And now these same Republicans are saying they deserve Americans’ votes in 2012 because they have credibility on the economy.
Here’s one last Krugman analysis of what the austerity agenda has done in the U.S. Private employment has recovered to pre-recession levels. That’s not true for public employment.
Here’s a comparison of changes in government employment (federal, state, and local) during the first four years of three presidents who came to office amid a troubled economy:
That spike early on is Census hiring; once that was past, the Obama years shaped up as an era of huge cuts in public employment compared with previous experience. If public employment had grown the way it did under Bush, we’d have 1.3 million more government workers, and probably an unemployment rate of 7 percent or less.
Here’s evidence that Obama is not growing the public sector as Mittens claims. These numbers represent thousands of teachers, health workers, scientists, highway workers. and public safety officials.
AMERICANS have watched austerity sweep Europe with a certain Schadenfreude. But eight months from now they may get a dose of the same medicine. The political compromises that have produced much of America’s deficit of 8% of GDP are programmed to go into reverse at the end of the year, two months after the election. A stimulus package consisting of a payroll-tax cut, investment tax credit and enhanced unemployment insurance expires then, as do George W. Bush’s tax cuts (which have already been extended by two years from their original end-date of 2010). At the same time an automatic, across-the-board cut in domestic and defence spending, called a “sequester”, takes effect, cutting about $100 billion from government spending next year.
The economic impact of this fiscal cliff is a matter of some debate. The Congressional Budget Office reckons that the combined effects of the sequester and the expiring tax cuts would add up to 3.6% of GDP in fiscal 2013. But David Greenlaw of Morgan Stanley, which puts the total effect at almost $700 billion at an annual rate, argues that the calendar-year impact is much larger, at around 5%. Others think the effect would be smaller, noting that some people will not experience the full tax hit until they file their returns in 2014.
Even the lower estimates could easily be enough to tip the economy back into recession.
These tax cuts have not been as successful as other forms of fiscal policy might have been. However, austerity measures taken in many states has been somewhat offset by these Federal Policies. It will be interesting to see how long the economy will hold out under current conditions if and when these things expire. It’s simply been a mind boggling process to watch so many countries unleash unregulated financial innovations and low interests rates then bail out for the financial sector after its bets went bad. It’s been even worse to watch the victims of this excess be forced to pay for the results of government supported speculative bubbles. I’m wondering exactly what the results of these elections will bring to Europe and how our own electorate will act in the fall.
So, I depressed you with a lot of dismal science stuff today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?