Published: Tuesday 15 January 2013
NYPD’s medication-tracking initiative comes on the heels of earlier measures to track the distribution and sale of prescription drugs.

In an effort to curb the growing epidemic of Americans abusing prescription drugs, the NYPD will begin asking pharmacies in the city to mix in so-called “bait bottles” containing GPS locator chips into their stocks of prescription drug medications, CBS News reports.

According to NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, prescription drug abuse has become an unsustainable public health problem for the city. Police hope that putting locator chips in some medication bottles will allow them to effectively track stolen bottles and uncover large-scale prescription drug stash houses:

In prepared ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
One can easily get the impression that the US Senate lets no good deed (or idea) go unpunished.

 

December 4, 2012.  Mark this date on your calendar.  The somber day the U.S. Senate voted down the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty designed to extend the same rights disabled Americans already have to the rest of the world.  The treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority required for ratification because the extremists who now control the House Republican caucus hate the United Nations.

The headline in the Yakima Herald said it all: “Senate vote a profile in cowardice”.   If that's how it looks to folks in Yakima, imagine how it looks to people in Yakutsk (that's right, Putin's Russia ratified the treaty in September).  Or to the 114 nations that have ratified this treaty, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union.

Who cares how it looks to the outside world?  That's frequently the first question the anti-UN  globophobics ask of "bleeding-heart liberals" dumb enough to believe it matters what the rest of the world think of us.  The fact that the UN is made in America (rare these days), that it's located in New York City (within spitting distance of Wall Street), and that the US has a veto in the Security Council (one of 5 Permanent Members thusly privileged) is irrelevant.

With an original roster of 51 member-states, the UN today is a place where ambassadors representing 192 nations of the world meet and talk.  Irrelevant.

It's specialized agencies do all kinds of good in the world in quiet ways (think ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
Abu-Jamal, who was a young activist in the Black Panthers and later one of the most important radical journalists in Philadelphia, a city that a few decades earlier produced I.F. Stone, has long been the bête noire of the state.

I am sitting in the visiting area of the SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa., on a rainy, cold Friday morning with Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s most famous political prisoner and one of its few authentic revolutionaries. He is hunched forward on the gray plastic table, his dreadlocks cascading down the sides of his face, in a room that looks like a high school cafeteria. He is talking intently about the nature of empire, which he is currently reading voraciously about, and effective forms of resistance to tyranny throughout history. Small children, visiting their fathers or brothers, race around the floor, wail or clamber on the plastic chairs. Abu-Jamal, like the other prisoners in the room, is wearing a brown jumpsuit bearing the letters DOC—for Department of Corrections.

Abu-Jamal was transferred in January to the general prison population after nearly 30 years in solitary confinement on death row and was permitted physical contact with his wife, children and other visitors for the first time in three decades. He had been sentenced to death in 1982 for the Dec. 9, 1981, killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His sentence was recently amended to life without parole. The misconduct of the judge, flagrant irregularities in his trial and tainted evidence have been criticized by numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Abu-Jamal, who was a young activist in the Black Panthers and later one of the most important radical journalists in Philadelphia, a city that a few decades earlier produced I.F. Stone, has long been the bête noire of the state. The FBI opened a file on him ...

Published: Friday 30 November 2012
“This past weekend, it was reported that Obama and the generals at the Pentagon are planning on keeping at least 10,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan indefinitely after that 2014 deadline for ending the war and withdrawing from that war-torn land.”

 

It is amazing to watch politicians trying to weasel their way around their promises. President Obama is providing us with a good illustration of the art.

During the latest presidential campaign and in the final televised debates, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were adamant in asserting that the US would be leaving Afghanistan and ending the war in that country at the end of 2014--a goal most Americans profoundly want. Biden, in a heated debate with his Republican opponent Paul Ryan, said the US would “absolutely” be “out” of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Obama, a week later, said, “By 2014, this process of transition will be complete and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

I’m reminded of President Clinton, a lawyer who, when pressed under oath by a special prosecutor hounding him over the details of whether he had had sex with a young White House intern, said that the answer hinged on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

This past weekend, it was reported that Obama and the generals at the Pentagon are planning on keeping at least 10,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan indefinitely after that 2014 deadline for ending the war and withdrawing from that war-torn land.

Just to make it clear what we’re talking about here, 10,000 troops would represent an army half the size of the entire army of either the Netherlands or Denmark, two countries which currently have troops assigned to the NATO forces posted in Afghanistan as allies in the 12-year-long US war there.

The notion that these 10,000 post-2014 soldiers would just be “training” the Afghan military is simply absurd. Parris Island, the famed boot camp in South Carolina for the US Marine Corps, which boasts what ...

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House?”

Note: Professional ethics, if not bodily safety, entails keeping the source for this putative concession draft as secret as Mitt keeps his top bundlers (fundraisers), tax returns, offshore accounts, et al. Romney deviated from Barack Obama, George W. Bush and John McCain by refusing to identify his deepest pockets, sources so terrified of publicity the details of all meetings remain hush-hush.   

 

My true Americans:

 

Even if we fall short in the end, think what first-time, historic thresholds we've established: a self-made, self-effacing finance guy nearly dislodged Mr. Silver-tongued, Minority-loving, Incumbent Populist. One more week -- and one less darn super-storm -- and who knows?   Even Reagan might have lost if Carter had a hurricane behind him.

 

Of course, hats off it to any hustler who outscores my accomplished operation, even if one idiot advisor brought up Etch-a-Sketching. Heck, we'd have gotten plastered without being all things to all voters. So unselfishly, I agreed that neither my past nor principles would stand in the way of winning. I make no apology, however, for identifying that slothful 47% of yokels. I knew all along Obama only had to patch 3% liberals to the 47% losers to reach his gullible majority.  

 

But look how close we came, an outsider taking on huge odds and the two slickest incumbents to ever come down the pike, Obama and Bill Clinton. Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House? Never, and President Ryan in 2016 will acknowledge this breakthrough by naming me ambassador to France, or Treasury secretary, oh, Federal Reserve chiefdom would do.       

 

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Kafka was right: The modern world has made the irrational rational.

I learned at the age of 10, when I was shipped off to a New England boarding school where the hazing of younger boys was the principal form of recreation, that those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards. The bullies in the forms above me, the sadistic masters on our dormitory floors, the deans and the headmaster would morph in later life into bishops, newspaper editors, college presidents, politicians, heads of state, business titans and generals. Those who revel in the ability to manipulate and destroy are demented and deformed individuals. These severely diminished and stunted human beings—think Bill and Hillary Clinton—shower themselves, courtesy of elaborate public relations campaigns and an obsequious press, with encomiums of piety, patriotism, devoted public service, honor, courage and vision, not to mention a lot of money. They are at best mediocrities and usually venal. I have met enough of them to know.

So it is with some morbid fascination that I watch Barack Obama, who has become the prime “dominatrix” of the liberal class, force us in this election to plead for more humiliation and abuse. Obama has carried out a far more egregious assault on our civil liberties, including signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), than George W. Bush. Section 1021(b)(2), which I challenged in federal court, permits the U.S. military to detain American citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest struck down the ...

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Far-right politicians like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann are merely reading from a prepared script when they claim that deficit reduction is a moral issue.

 

Poll after poll has shown that the public rejects the millionaire-oriented, tax-cutting, government-slashing austerity plan known as “Simpson Bowles.” And yet politicians in both parties keep trying to force it through the legislative process under the banner of a “Grand Bargain.” Word is they're going to try again, either during the lame-duck session or when the new Congress convenes in January.

That plan was originally called “Bowles Simpson,” but its well-financed architects soon ran afoul of the “BS” acronym. But “BS” can stand for something else, too: “bait and switch.” That's exactly what they'll be doing if politicians force a “BS” austerity plan on the public after the votes have been counted.

For years voters didn't even consider the deficit a very important issue. They correctly considered job creation a much higher priority. Now, after years of media hype, some (though by no means all) of the polls say that this issue is a top READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
It would be insane to compound the damage by raising taxes on the middle class and not on the rich.

 

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded — and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down — the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. 

President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”).

Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. 

Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“What really matters to ordinary folk are wallet and pocketbook issues.”

 

Media commentary on the presidential election often focuses on controversial issues like Libya or the latest absurd claim made by some candidate about rape, and of course these are issues of some significance.

But judging by conversations I've overheard in my local barbershop and grocery store, what really matters to ordinary folk are wallet and pocketbook issues. They are also issues that presidents have limited (if any) control over, but that doesn't stop voters from assigning blame to the current president while placing their hope in a new guy, even if the latter's life experiences are completely divorced from their working-class, day-to-day struggles.

My neighbors complain about the price of gasoline and that to fill the large-capacity tanks in their pickup trucks can cost upwards of $100.00. They complain about the rising costs of groceries, which of course is partly related to high gas prices. Simply put, they're worried about paying the bills. They're worried about empty wallets and pocketbooks. Left unsaid is that they're worried about slipping a notch. They're worried about being considered lower class instead of middle class. They're worried about being, in a word, poor.

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
“This is an economy where people are losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments.”

 

Bill Clinton is undoubtedly the greatest politician of his generation. He is also a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Last week he had the gall to complain to people in Wisconsin about “impatient voters.” According to news account, at an Obama rally in Green Bay he said:

"This shouldn't be a race … The only reason it is, is because Americans are impatient on things not made before yesterday and they don't understand why the economy is not totally hunky-dory again."

This is infuriating for two reasons. First, Clinton uses the term “impatient” like he is describing people waiting for their dinner to be served at restaurant. That’s not the story of the current economy. The story of the economy is people who do not have jobs or do not have jobs that give them enough hours or a high enough wage to allow them to pay their bills each month.

This is an economy where people are losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments. It is one where people can’t afford medical care or decent food and clothes for their kids. That is not story of impatience; it’s a story of real suffering.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Clinton can’t understand this reality. This is a guy who commented about his multi-million dollar book deal and six-figure speaker’s fee that he had never been financially secure until he left the White House.

Of course this is crap by any reasonable definition of “financially secure.” Clinton was guaranteed a pension of almost $200,000 a year, plus health care coverage, the day he left the White House. This would have put him far into the top 1 percent of retirees even if he never earned another ...

Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics.

Maybe I have been too harsh in judging Barack Obama’s economic performance. Instead of following George W. Bush’s lead in bailing out the bankers first, I wanted Obama to do more for beleaguered homeowners and less for the Wall Street swindlers who trafficked in toxic mortgages. But the president must have done something right, or the hucksters at Goldman Sachs wouldn’t hate him so. 

Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics. And the investment paid off big time when Clinton followed Rubin’s lead and teamed up with congressional Republicans to reverse the sensible restraints on Wall Street that had kept the economy sound for six decades. Thanks to that decision, Goldman, a high-rolling investment house, was allowed to suddenly become a commercial bank and avail itself of the cheap money provided by the Federal Reserve to bail out troubled banks.

The financiers thought the fix was in once again when Obama turned to Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers as his key economic adviser in the 2008 campaign. Summers had replaced Rubin as Clinton’s Treasury secretary and had been even more vigorous in destroying the regulations that had maintained a stable financial system for 60 years. Wall Street turned against the GOP and its candidate John McCain, much preferring Obama. It should burnish the president’s reputation in the eyes of ordinary voters that those merchants of greed now feel so betrayed. 

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday: “When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, no major U.S. corporation did more to finance his campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. This election, none has done more to defeat him.”

The high rollers at Goldman have given $900,000 to ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Obama, after winning the presidency, repaid all that campaign largesse, appointing bank industry lackeys and executives to top positions.”

 

One thing you can say about the financial industry. It has no sense of loyalty.

Back in 2008, most of the biggest contributors to presidential candidate Barack Obama were financial companies. According to the campaign fund tracking website Open Secrets, after the $1.65 million donated by a political action committee (PAC) for the University of California, the next biggest contributor was a PAC for the giant bank, Goldman Sachs, whose employees ponied up a reported $1 million. Right up there among the top contributors to the Obama campaign that year were two other of the nation’s top banks too: JP Morgan Chase, whose employee PAC gave $809,000, and Citigroup, which gave $737,000. Two more big banks, UBS and Morgan Stanley, as well as General Electric, which less than a year later bought a bank to enable itself to benefit from the government’s largesse in doling out billions of “rescue” dollars under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), were among Obama’s top 20 campaign donors, handing over $533,000, $512,000 and 530,000 respectively to support his election.

Obama, after winning the presidency, repaid all that campaign largesse, appointing bank industry lackeys and executives to top positions. He made Timothy Geithner, who as head of the New York Federal Reserve branch during the Bush administration, had ignored the scandalous derivatives scandals that brought on the financial crash, his Treasury Secretary, and Lawrence Summers, who as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, had pushed for the deregulation of derivatives, and for allowing banks to merge with investment banks, and who during the Bush years earned millions as a consultant to the hedge fund industry and from speaking fees provided by Wall Street banks, got the post of head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors. Meanwhile, GE's chairman and CEO, ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
To paraphrase the Occupy movement chant, “This is NOT what democracy looks like.”

Mitt Romney helped design a debate environment that would accommodate dishonesty. He exploited it by escalating a campaign strategy of false accusations and outright lies, knowing he was unlikely to be caught. For those who see American politics as sports entertainment, Romney crafted the rules and called off the refs, before cheating. Romney “won” the debate like Lance Armstrong “won” seven Tour de France races or the Cincinnati Reds “won” the 1919 World Series. But more than a gilded trophy is at stake. Now it’s America’s future.

The presidential debates weren’t always a ridiculous spectacle of “mini-speeches” and zingers. For several debates prior to 1988, the League of Women Voters invited and grilled two or three candidates. Then the major party candidates presented the League with stifling new rules, prompting League President Nancy M. Neuman to refuse to “perpetrate a fraud on the American voter” by adding debates to the list of “campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions.” Thus the Commission on Presidential Debates was born. It uses secret rules to hamstring the moderator, making calling candidates on their lies more difficult, and the questions easier. Third party candidates could play an important role in fact-checking and promoting alternate strategies like relying more on taxes and debt. Yet these parties are banned unless they poll over 15 percent in five national polls.

Thus Romney was left with only one fully capable presidential candidate or moderator. So he predicted President Obama would lie, implying he himself would personify integrity and the two should take the moral high ...
Published: Monday 8 October 2012
“Who’s paying for the $1 trillion of annual tax savings and tax avoidance for the super-rich?”

 

There is no shortage of reasons not to vote Republican. The litany includes tax cuts for the rich, cutbacks in government programs, obstructing needed legislation, disregard for the environment, denial of women's and other human rights, military escalation. 

 

But the following five reasons have to do with money -- specifically, who's paying for the $1 trillion of annual tax savings and tax avoidance for the super-rich? And who's paying for the $1 trillion of national security to protect their growing fortunes? The Republicans want that money to come from the rest of us. 

 

1. Economic Darwinism -- Republicans want the Poor to Pay

 

Paul Ryan's proposed budget would take about a half-trillion dollars a year from programs that support the poor. This is a continuation of a 15-year shredding of the safety net by Republicans. The GOP-controlled Congress of Bill Clinton created Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which has experienced a 60% drop in its caseload despite growing poverty, and which, according to the Urban Institute, provides "maximum benefits [that] even in the more generous states were far below the federal poverty level of $1,525 a month for a family of three." 

 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), another ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“In political terms, headlines are everything – and most major media are leading with the drop in the unemployment rate.”

 

The White House is breathing easier this morning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent – the first time it’s been under 8 percent in 43 months.

In political terms, headlines are everything – and most major media are leading with the drop in the unemployment rate.

Look more closely, though, and the picture is murkier. According to the separate payroll survey undertaken by the BLS, just 114,000 new jobs were added in September. At least 125,000 are needed per month just to keep up with population growth. Yet August’s job number was revised upward to 142,000, and July’s to 181,000.

In other words, we’re still crawling out of the deep crater we fell into in 2008 and 2009. The percent of the working-age population now working or actively looking for work is higher than it was, but still near a thirty-year low.

But at least we’re crawling out.

Romney says we’re not doing well enough, and he’s right. But the prescriptions he’s offering – more tax cuts for the rich and for big companies – won’t do anything except enlarge the budget deficit. And the cuts he proposes in public investments like education and infrastructure, and safety nets like Medicare and Medicaid, will take money out of the pockets of people who not only desperately need it but whose spending is necessary to keep the tepid recovery going.

Romney promises if elected the economy will create 12 million new jobs in his first term. If we were back in a normal economy, that number wouldn’t be hard to reach. Bill Clinton presided over an economy that generated 22 million new jobs in eight years – and that was more than a decade ago when the economy and working-age population were smaller than now.

Both Obama and Romney assume the ...

Published: Monday 24 September 2012
Published: Monday 24 September 2012
“In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.”

 

Since this is my version of an election piece, I plan to get the usual stuff out of the way fast.

So yes, the smartest political odds-givers around believe President Obama has a distinct edge over Mitt Romney coming out of the conventions, the Senate is trending Democratic, and who knows about the House.  In fact, it almost seems as if the Republicans put forward the only man in America incapable of defeating an economically wounded and deeply vulnerable president (other than, of course, the roster of candidates he ran against for the nomination).

In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.  Take those conventions: in each of them, the presidential candidate was introduced by a well-known figure who went on stage and ad-libbed.  One was an 82-year-old guy talking to an empty chair (and I still thought he was the best thing the Republicans had to offer, including his shout-out about withdrawing all our troops from Afghanistan) and the other was... well, Bill Clinton.

It wasn’t even a contest.  As for the upcoming debates, if you think Romney can out duel Obama without wandering in among the thorns, I have a Nigerian prince I'd like to introduce you to.  In other words, it should really all be over except for the usual shouting and the gazillions of dollars of attack ads that will turn swing-state TV screens into a mind-numbing blur of lies. Even there, however, some Super PAC and dark-money types may evidently be starting to consider shifting funds from beating up on Obama to beating up on Democratic senatorial candidates.  It's a sign that the moneybags of the Republican ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.”

 

Can Romney possibly recover? A survey conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16 by the Pew Research Center — before the “47 percent victim” video came to light – showed Obama ahead of Romney 51% to 43% among likely voters.

That’s the biggest margin in the September survey prior to a presidential election since Bill Clinton led Bob Dole, 50% to 38% in 1996.

And, remember, this recent poll was done before America watched Romney belittle almost half the nation.

For the last several days I’ve been deluged with calls from my inside-the-beltway friends telling me “Romney’s dead.”

Hold it. Rumors of Romney’s demise are premature for at least four reasons:

1.  Between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – October 5 and November 2. If they’re as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it’s on the mend harder to defend.

With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

2. Also between now and Election Day are three presidential debates, starting October 3. It’s commonly thought Obama will win them handily but that expectation may be very wrong – and could work against him. Yes, Romney is an automaton — but when ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“As bad and deceitful as Clinton may be he pales in comparison to the blood lust of the Republicans.”

I received an email from a friend yesterday morning discussing the two political conventions and touting the brilliance of Bill Clinton’s speech and how amazing he is.  Well, I have a few things to say about Bill Clinton and the two political parties and their Hollywood spectacles err I mean conventions.

But first, let’s give credit where credit’s due.  Clinton has massive amounts of charisma otherwise he couldn’t have achieved the political things he did.  Clinton is a masterful politician and for more insights into his character and how he uses his gifts I recommend watching “Primary Colors.”  But let’s be fair, no matter what’s said about him he did balance the budget, no small feat, and left us with a surplus.  I acknowledge and commend him for that. 

However, he also managed to:

Deregulated Wall Street by getting rid of the Glass Steagall Act (Banking Act of 1933), which was put into place after the stock market crash of ’29 to prevent that kind of catastrophe from ever occurring again and once those regulations were removed allowed the recent global meltdown to occur.

He also signed NAFTA into law and swore up and down on a stack of Bibles NAFTA would be great for creating jobs and we believed him and yes, it created millions of slave labor jobs overseas.  This so called “free trade” agreement sent millions of our jobs to China, India, Vietnam, etc. never to return home again and left our factories to rot, collapse and decay and now millions of Americans find themselves without a job and with no hopes of ever getting another one unless they want to work some menial service sector job–McDonalds comes to mind.

What else?  Oh yeah, he gutted welfare all the while feigning his “I feel your pain” rhetoric.  This guy’s good.  He’s a topnotch politician and brilliant at his craft.  ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Obama has followed the examples of Summers and Geithner instead of those of Warren and Harris, and that is what has made the election a tossup as voters continue to suffer in an economy that Democrats as well as Republicans wrecked.

 

Bill Clinton bears as much responsibility as any politician for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the wild applause for his disingenuous speech at the Democratic National Convention last week is a sure sign of the poverty of what passes for progressive politics.

Do those convention delegates, and the fawning media that were wowed by the former president’s rhetorical seductions, not recall that just before he left office Clinton signed off on the game-changing legislation that ended the sensible rules imposed on Wall Street during the Great Depression? It was Clinton who cooperated with the Republicans in reversing the legacy of FDR’s New Deal, opening the floodgates of unfettered avarice that almost drowned the world’s economy during the reign of George W. Bush. 

How convenient to ignore the Financial Services Modernization Act, which Clinton signed into law to summarily end the Glass-Steagall barrier against the commingling of investment and commercial banking. Do the Democrats not remember that Citigroup, the first too-big-to-fail bank made legal by the law Clinton signed, became the $15 million employer of Robert Rubin, the Clinton treasury secretary who led the fight for the law that legalized the creation of Citigroup? Or that Citigroup—led by Sanford Weill, to whom Clinton gave one of the souvenir pens he used to approve that onerous legislation—went on to be a major player in the subprime mortgage swindles and had to be bailed out with more than $50 billion of taxpayer funds?

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
In short, the Clinton-era policies sent the U.S. economy on a seriously wrong path. They created an absurd obsession with budget deficits, a pattern of bubble-driven growth, an incredibly bloated financial sector and an unsustainable trade deficit.

 

Bill Clinton is clearly the most talented politician of our era. It is difficult to imagine Clinton losing an election to any of the people who have run for office in the last two decades.  But his skills as a politician should not prevent us from understanding the track record of his economic policies. In fact, until we get a clear understanding of these policies, it unlikely that we will be able to restore the economy to a path of sound economic growth.

The mythology of Clintonomics is that Clinton took the hard steps to bring the deficit down. He cut spending and raised taxes. This supposedly shifted the budget from large deficits to large surpluses and led to a booming economy. In the late 90s we had the lowest unemployment in three decades, and we saw real wage growth up and down the income ladder for the first time since the early 70s. There was in fact much here to celebrate.

However the reality is quite different from the mythology. The reduction in the deficit was supposed to lead to an increase in investment and a fall in the trade deficit. These are the two components of GDP that increase our wealth for the long-term, the former by increasing out productive capacity and the latter by giving us ownership of more foreign assets.

It turns out that the investment ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted Fluke on his program, calling her a “slut” and saying she should be required to post sex videos online.

Sandra Fluke became famous after Republicans barred her from testifying at a congressional hearing in favor of insurance coverage for contraception. Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted Fluke on his program, calling her a "slut" and saying she should be required to post sex videos online. The episode prompted President Obama to personally call Fluke to offer words of encouragement. Six months later, Fluke took center stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention with a prime-time address. Fluke joins us to discuss the fight for reproductive rights, her support for Obama’s re-election, and her future plans as a women’s health activist.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," Democracy Now!'s special daily two hours of coverage from the Democratic and Republican National Convention, inside and out. I'm Amy Goodman.

Speakers on the second night of the Democratic National Convention Wednesday included Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Bill Clinton, who gave the keynote. But the speaker who took center stage at the top of the 10:00 prime-time hour ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies.”

 

Bill Clinton’s speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention was very long but it was masterful — not only in laying out the case for Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, but in giving the American public what they most want and need in this election season: details, facts, and logic. 

Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies. 

Therein lies the importance of what Bill Clinton accomplished tonight. But, just as importantly, it wasn’t a wonky talk. He packaged the facts in a way people could hear. This is the highest calling of a public educator.

The question is not how many undecided voters saw the speech (I doubt many did) but whether it galvanizes Democrats — giving them the clarity of conviction and argument they need over the next nine weeks to explain why Obama must be re-elected, and why a Romney-Ryan administration would be a disaster for this country. 

I believe Clinton’s speech accomplished this perfectly. We shall see.

Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
They’re certainly talking about the economy at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, which calls itself “the Wall Street of the South.” But, nobody’s talked about stronger oversight of Wall Street and other corporations,and nobody’s promised to defend Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

Here's a new Zen riddle: What is the sound of money not talking?

Sure, it talks sometimes. We heard it loud and clear at the Republican Convention. But sometimes the sound of money in politics is the sound of silence. It's the sound of crooked bankers being let off the hook, of economies left at risk, of Social Security and Medicare being weakened, of growing inequity being ignored. Wall Street is spending record amounts on this year's election, and sometimes the best response is silence.

They're certainly talking about the economy at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, which calls itself “the Wall Street of the South.” But as of this writing (mid-day on Wednesday), nobody's talked about stronger oversight of Wall Street and other corporations,and nobody's promised to defend Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

Published: Monday 3 September 2012
“This is a rare case of a lie that the campaign felt obliged to retract.”

 

On Wednesday, Jonathan Cohn asked if Paul Ryan's address was "The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?" Now that Mitt Romney had his turn, I decided to answer the question.

After reviewing presidential and vice-presidential nominee acceptance speeches throughout the era of the modern Republican Party, back to 1980, I present to you: the Top 13 Republican Convention Speech Lies.

To make this list, the candidate had to deliver a stone-cold, unequivocal, shameless brazen lie. Being misleading but technically true, or using disingenuous qualifiers wasn't good enough.

For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney does not make the cut for saying in 2004 that "we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein" shortly after saying "the president made clear that the terrorists would be dealt with". Sure, he's suggesting a false connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but he didn't explicitly state the lie--at least, not on the convention stage.

With that in mind, here we go.

13. Bush 2000: The Gore Invented The Internet Lie

George W. Bush wrapped the lie in a joke, but it's still a lie.

After riffing about all the inventions in history Gore would call a "risky scheme," -- a way to deflect criticism of his own conservative proposals -- Bush said, "if he'd been there when the Internet was invented ... well, I understand he actually was there for that."

It's about as good as a ...

Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
“Last July’s announcement that the convention would be held in the staunchly anti-union city of  Charlotte, North Carolina—the least unionized state in the country—set off a firestorm of protest in the labor movement.”

The Democratic National Convention is less than a week away, and liberals are getting fired up. But at least one of the party's key constituencies isn’t quite so excited.

That group is organized labor.

Last July’s announcement that the convention would be held in the staunchly anti-union city of  Charlotte, North Carolina—the least unionized state in the country—set off a firestorm of protest in the labor movement. A year later, dissatisfaction still simmers, and there's a case to be made for an unprecedented move. The message is simple: maybe labor should sit this one out.

To a large extent, politics is about resources. How an organization decides to deploy those it has available says a lot about its values and priorities. So why would labor want to channel limited funds into bolstering a local economy organized around avowedly anti-union principles? By opting for North Carolina as a convention destination, rather than a swing state with stronger union infrastructure such as Ohio or Wisconsin, the Democratic Party created an entirely avoidable disaster.

Anti-Union Territory

Unions have already scaled back their involvement in the convention. If the labor movement decided to altogether avoid devoting members' time or money to attending, the Democrats could not claim they hadn't been warned. The party did not seek union input or prioritize supporting organized workers when selecting the convention location, and as soon as the news went public labor pointed to some glaring shortcomings: North Carolina is a so-called “right to work” state; Charlotte has virtually no unions among its building trades, construction firms, or service workers; and Charlotte has not one unionized hotel.

Four years ago, labor contributed heavily to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, including a $100,000 donation ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
The US-led campaign to squeeze Iran economically is an effort to pressure the Iranian public to make their country’s leaders shut down a completely legal effort to develop a domestic nuclear fuel enrichment program.

 

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright should be a happy camper: Another campaign of sanctions and embargoes by the US is about to start killing children, this time in Iran.

Albright, as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, when interviewed on CBS’s news magazine program “60 Minutes” back in 2000, was asked by reporter Lesley Stahl about reports that US sanctions on Iraq had led to the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children because of shortages of medicine and things like chlorine for treating water supplies. Stahl asked Albright if such a dreadful toll was “worth it.” Albright famously responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.”

Albright must be happy then that apparently the same kind of heartless logic is at work once more, this time orchestrated by the Obama administration and the current Secretary of State, It Takes a Village author and self-styled child advocate Hillary Clinton.

According to a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by the head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, the current US-led sanctions campaign against Iranian financial institutions and efforts to prevent western banks from doing business with Iran have made it next to impossible for Iranian doctors and hospitals to obtain medicines from abroad for such relatively rare but serious diseases as hemophilia, Multiple sclerosis (MS), various cancers, kidney failure and thalassemia.

The tightening of international screws on Iranian financial transactions has also made it hard for domestic makers of some of these medicines in Iran to obtain the raw materials needed to manufacture needed medicines locally, according to the letter.

Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the author of the ...

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As Bill Clinton is resurrected by the Democrats, George W. Bush is being erased by the GOP — as if an entire eight years of American history hadn’t happened.

While Bill Clinton stumps for Obama, Romney has gone out of his way not to mention the name of the president who came after Clinton and before Obama.

Clinton will have a starring role at the Democratic National Convention. George W. Bush won’t even be at the Republican one – the first time a national party has not given the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for reelection.

The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice. As whoever-it-was once said, “fool me once …” (and then mangled the rest).

Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history; handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefiting the vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out the Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.

Besides, the resemblances between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are too close for comfort. Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to ...

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“Pro-cyclical fiscal policy worsens the dangers of overheating, inflation, and asset bubbles during booms, and exacerbates output and employment losses during recessions, thereby magnifying the swings of the business cycle.”

The world’s advanced economies remain divided over whether to strengthen budget balances in the short term or to use fiscal policy to promote recovery. Those worried about the short-run contractionary effects on the economy call the first option “austerity”; those concerned about long-term sustainability and moral hazard call it “discipline.”

Either way, the debate is akin to asking whether it is better for a driver to turn left or right; depending on where the car is, either choice might be appropriate. Likewise, when an economy is booming, the government should run a budget surplus; when it is in recession, the government should run a deficit.

To be sure, Keynesian macroeconomic policy lost its luster mainly because politicians often failed to time countercyclical fiscal policy – “fine tuning” – properly. Sometimes fiscal stimulus would kick in after the recession was already over. But that is no reason to follow a destabilizing pro-cyclical fiscal policy, which piles spending increases and tax cuts on top of booms, and cuts spending and raises taxes in response to downturns.

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Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
Obama Administration looking to reform the presidential pardon.

The Obama administration has asked for a fresh review of an Alabama federal inmate's commutation request and directed the Justice Department to conduct its first ever in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons, according to several officials and individuals involved.

The Office of Pardon Attorney has been at the center of growing controversy since December, when stories published by ProPublica and The Washington Post revealed a racial disparity in pardons. White applicants were four times more likely to receive presidential mercy than minorities. African Americans had the least chance of success.

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Published: Wednesday 11 July 2012
“Everyone gets a one-year extension of the Bush tax cut on the first $250,000 of income.”

To hear the media report it, President Obama is proposing a tax increase on wealthy Americans. That’s misleading at best. He’s proposing that everyone receive a continuation of the Bush tax cuts on the first $250,000 of their incomes. Any dollars they earn in excess of $250,000 will be taxed at the old Clinton-era rates.

Get it? Everyone is treated exactly the same. Everyone gets a one-year extension of the Bush tax cut on the first $250,000 of income. No “class warfare.”

Yet regressive Republicans want Americans to believe differently. The editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal say the President wants to extend the Bush tax cuts only “for some taxpayers.” They urge House Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for “everyone” and thereby put Senate Democrats on the spot by “forcing them to choose between extending rates for everyone and accepting Mr. Obama’s tax increase.”

Pure demagoguery. 

Regressives also want Americans to think the President’s proposal would hurt “tens of thousands of job-creating businesses,” as the Journal puts it.

 More baloney.

A small business owner earning $251,000 would pay the Bush rate on the first $250,000 and the old Clinton rate on just $1,000.

Congress’s Joint Tax Committee estimates that in 2013 about 940,000 taxpayers would have enough business income to break through the $250,000 ceiling – and, again, they’d pay additional taxes only on dollars earned above $250,000.

All told, fewer than 3 percent of small business owners would even reach the $250,000 threshold.

A third lie is Obama’s proposal will “increase uncertainly and further retard investment and job creation,” as ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
Holder says that his office already released thousands of documents, and that the others that Issa wants are internal communications protected by executive privilege

 

Yesterday, the Obama administration invoked executive privilege to prevent the release of certain documents to Congress related to Operation Fast and Furious, the arms-trafficking sting gone awry that came to light last year. (As we've detailed, federal agents lost track of hundreds of guns they sold to suspected gun smugglers, many of which later turned up at crime scenes in Mexico).

The fall-out from the failed operation has been an ongoing battle between Attorney General Eric Holder and congressional Republicans, in particular Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa wants documents related to the Department of Justice's investigation of the operation.

The committee voted yesterday to recommend that Holder be held in contempt of Congress for not turning over some documents. Holder says that his office already released thousands of documents, and that the others that Issa wants are internal communications protected by executive privilege.

In the midst of all this back-and-forth, we lay out exactly what the executive privilege is, and what it means in this case.

So what is executive privilege?

The president can invoke executive privilege in order to withhold some internal executive branch communications from the other branches of government. The privilege is based on the separation of powers between the branches.

Executive privilege has been invoked ...

Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
“The state is flush right now with gas and oil money, but energy-based economies can go bust as well as boom.”

America is not going the way of Greece, and North Dakota has shown us why. Residents were given the opportunity Tuesday to vote their property taxes out of existence, and they chose not to take it.

Why? Property taxes fund local government. Without it, communities would lose power to set their spending priorities. Lawmakers in Bismarck would have had to come up with over $800 million to replace the property tax revenue lost in 2012. The state is flush right now with gas and oil money, but energy-based economies can go bust as well as boom. Anyway, serious tax reform should be done in a comprehensive fashion, with personal income taxes, corporate incomes taxes and sales taxes also taken into account.

North Dakota's voters snubbed a ploy by anti-tax forces to grab a tax cut with little thought for the immediate consequences or the future. Let's be clear: Accepting taxation as a reality of modern civilization in no way implies that we like paying taxes or think they're fair or approve of everything they support.

If only self-described conservatives in Washington were so grown-up. Leading Republican voices blame only spending for our debt. They warn that if America follows the Democrats' vision, it will end up broke like Greece.

But spending does not cause debt if enough revenues are raised to cover it. During the George W. Bush era, Republicans engaged in the double insanity of manic spending and reckless tax cuts. By demonizing the surplus left by Bill Clinton as over taxation, they fed an anti-tax culture that has also made us more like Greece.

Greece's economic crisis stems both from heedless spending and a proud tradition of tax evasion. For example, when a tax collector on the island of Naxos recently went looking for cheats, a radio station reportedly broadcast his car's plate number.

Italy is also plagued by a culture of tax dodging.

"Only fools pay," goes an ...

Published: Thursday 7 June 2012
“Here’s the truth: If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps, child nutrition, federal aid to education, and more.”

 

I was on CNBC Tuesday when Bill Clinton gave an interview saying that, given the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, it seemed likely the Bush tax cuts would be extended in 2013 along with all spending. When asked to comment, I said Clinton was probably correct.

But, of course, Republicans have twisted Clinton’s words into a pretzel. They say the former president came out in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy – in sharp contrast to President Obama’s position that they should not be.

It’s typical election-year politics, except for the fact that the Republican megaphone is larger this time around due to all the Super PAC and secret “social welfare” organization bribes, er, donations that are filling Republican coffers.

Here’s the truth. America has a huge budget deficit hanging over our heads. If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
One has to ask: how did Scott Walker win so easily and what happens now?

 

There was an expression among activists that went “One year longer, one year stronger” a year after the beginning of the “Wisconsin Uprising” here in Madison, WI. The reality is that one year+ longer, the left as an organizing force is “one year weaker.”

The truth? People, as a mass movement in the United States, are attracted to right-wing populism, embodied by the likes of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who recently won the recall election by an astounding 7-percent landslide.

Sure, there are refrains, such as “this was an auction, not an election,” and that “money won this election.” But people still voted and have agency. And Walker won by a long-shot.

Many important questions arise for those who consider themselves, ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“One way or the other, the outlook for Joe Blow, Barack Obama, and Uncle Sam is all gloom and doom.”

Recent news headlines are a clear intimation that the gods are not on our side.  “Our” in this case can be read as the U.S., the West, or the Planet we call Earth – all apply.  Here’s a sampling:

“Dismal Job Market Pushes Dow into 275-Point Plunge”
 (DailyFinance)

“Obama Ordered Cyber Attacks on Iran”
 (New York Times)

“American Nuns Fight Back Against Vatican Crackdown”
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Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
“Trump signifies everything Romney presumably doesn’t want people to associate with himself — conspicuous wealth, arrogance, hubris, and a distinct preference for money over all other human values.”

What could Romney’s handlers be thinking when they hyped his connection with Donald Trump — fundraising with Trump, offering supporters the possibility of a meal with Trump, relishing Trump’s attention and endorsement? 

Trump signifies everything Romney presumably doesn’t want people to associate with himself — conspicuous wealth, arrogance, hubris, and a distinct preference for money over all other human values.

Trump, like Romney, represents almost everything that’s wrong with the American economy today — an unprecedented amount of wealth and power at the very top, widespread insecurity and declining real wages for everyone else, and a form of casino capitalism that places huge bets with other peoples’ money and depends on everyone else to bail it out when the bets turn sour.

But wait a minute. Perhaps Romney’s handlers are smarter than they seem. Maybe Mitt has decided to let it all hang out. Rather than try to hide what’s obvious to everyone, the new strategy is to make Romney’s liabilities into assets by flaunting them. Be even bigger and bolder. Money rules!

In fact, they’re mulling an even bigger and bolder move. They recall how Bill Clinton’s choice of Al Gore as running mate in 1992 — someone very much like Clinton — accentuated Clinton’s youthful energy, the new generation he represented, and the new start Clinton wanted to give America.

So they figure Mitt’s choice of Trump as running mate will allow Mitt to celebrate his boundless capacity to make money, the “I’ve got mine and the hell with you” financiers and CEOs he represents, and the social Darwinism that he and the regressive right are convinced will be good for America.

The new bumper-sticker: ROMNEY-TRUMP IN 2012. YOU’RE FIRED!

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent.

 

For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent. On Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee drew the contrast for an audience in Iowa, harking back to a famous Clinton speech in 1996.

“Almost a generation ago,” said Romney, “Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over. Even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 18 May 2012
“Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.”

 

Mitt Romney is full of praise for Bill Clinton even as he heaps scorn on Obama.

“Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over,” says Romney, “Clinton was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.” By contrast, President Obama has “tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas.”

It’s politics at its stupidest. Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.

But it won’t work. It might even backfire.

I was in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. I was in charge of Clinton’s economic transition team even before he became President. I’ve known Bill Clinton since he was 22 years old.

Romney doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Clinton doctrine? As president, Bill Clinton raised taxes. Government receipts as a percent of gross domestic product rose from 17.5 percent in 1992, when Clinton was elected, to 20.6 percent in 2000, when he left office. Supply-siders screamed. They predicted the end of civilization as we know it.

In 2011, President Obama’s third full year in office, government receipts were down to just 15.5 percent of GDP.

Does Romney really prefer Clinton’s approach?

Under Bill Clinton, the top income tax rate was 39.6 percent. It’s now 35 percent, courtesy of George W. Bush. Obama wants to return to the 39.6 percent rate, but he doesn’t want to restore the Clinton rates on the middle class. Obama wants a lower rate on the middle class than the rate under Clinton.

(Romney doesn’t even mention George W. Bush, by the ...

Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Ryan proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy.”

In Washington all serious people routinely write columns in which they set themselves above the political fray and pronounce the Republicans and Democrats equally to blame for political gridlock and all that they see wrong with the world. Today, it is my turn.

Of course beating up on the Republicans is pretty easy these days; you mostly just have to repeat what they say. Their standard bearer, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, has proposed a budget that eliminates the national park system, the Justice Department and federal courts, the Food and Drug Administration and most other areas of the federal budget over the next four decades.

According to the analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan budget, which was endorsed by the Republican House and Governor Romney, shrinks non-Social Security and non-health care spending to 4.75 percent of GDP by 2040 and to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. With the military budget taking up 3-4 percent of GDP, everything else goes to zero somewhere in this period.

Ryan also proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy. He wants to reduce the top tax rate on high-income earners by more than one-third compared with its baseline level. He proposes to maintain revenue neutrality be eliminating tax deductions that benefit the middle class, like the mortgage interest tax deduction and the deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

How many people will feel good about a budget that eliminates most of the governmental functions that we take for granted – drug safety, courts, a State Department and passport office? How will people feel about paying higher taxes so that Mitt Romney can pay less? These are the questions raised by the Republican budget. Hopefully they will be presented clearly in the campaign so that the public can make an informed ...

Published: Monday 30 April 2012
Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“It’s important to remember that Obama began his presidency with economic recovery, not health care.”

Representative Barney Frank, who is not seeking re-election, gave a memorable exit interview this week to New York magazine suggesting that President Barack Obama "underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the health care with poor people."

 

The Democratic Party "paid a terrible price for health care," Frank said. "I would not have pushed it as hard."

 

Frank's take is self-serving. He argued that Obama should have proposed financial reform first, which is convenient considering that he was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee at the time and would have loved all eyes on his bill.

 

But the question remains: Is Frank right? We know what Republicans unanimously think. What's surprising is how many Democrats, with the benefit of hindsight and speaking sotto voce, agree with Frank. Although they support the substance of the law, they are appalled by its political fallout and wish they had a do-over. Their thinking was summarized this week in the National Journal by Michael Hirsh, who wrote that by embracing health care reform amid the economic crisis, Obama confused his priorities and took his eye off the ball, much as President George W. Bush did when he invaded Iraq instead of worrying more about al-Qaida.

 

This analysis has new resonance because of the recent Supreme Court oral arguments over Obamacare (a term, by the way, that the Obama campaign now embraces). Democrats are wondering if it was worth it to lose the House in 2010 and perhaps the White House in 2012 over a bill that may be declared unconstitutional anyway.

 

The answer is yes. To understand why, we need to be clear about the purpose of politics.

 

It's not to win elections — hard as that may be to believe in the middle of a campaign. Public approval as expressed in ...

Published: Friday 20 April 2012
“Sanford Weill, the banker most responsible for the nation’s economic collapse, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.”

How evil is this? At a time when two-thirds of U.S. homeowners are drowning in mortgage debt and the American dream has crashed for tens of millions more, Sanford Weill, the banker most responsible for the nation’s economic collapse, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

So much for the academy’s proclaimed “230-plus year history of recognizing some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders.” George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Albert Einstein must be rolling in their graves at the news that Weill, “philanthropist and retired Citigroup Chairman,” has joined their ranks.

This article was originally posted on Truthdig.

Weill is the Wall Street hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law, which long had been a barrier between investment and commercial banks. That 1999 reversal permitted the merger of Travelers and Citibank, thereby creating Citigroup as the largest of the “too big to fail” banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.

Those restrictions were initially flouted when Weill, then CEO of Travelers, which contained a major investment banking division, decided to merge the company with Citibank, a commercial bank headed by John ...

Published: Friday 13 April 2012
“I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the “progressives” who dare not use the word “liberal” because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.”

Who will speak for the rights of the unborn now that Rick Santorum is gone from the race? Let me give it a whirl from the perspective of one whose own unwed mother had several abortions before yours truly was permitted to emerge.

My arrival came during the U.S. economy’s previous great crash, back in 1936. My father, who was already supporting an earlier family with two teenage children, had every intention of providing well for me, but he was laid off that very day and informed my mother of the unhappy fact within moments of setting eyes on me in a Bronx hospital. My father held on to part-time jobs in garment industry sweatshops (where my mother, too, worked), but it would be four years before he had a full-time paycheck again. He stood by both families during that dark period, seizing every opportunity to work, mostly in government-sponsored employment. And yes, we lived in part on government welfare—or home relief, as it was then called. All of which made President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the New Deal he fashioned to save tens of millions of impoverished folks just like us throughout the country, objects of veneration.

So why am I bringing all this ancient history up now? Because I was dumbfounded by a headline Saturday in The New York Times that reminded me of how far we have gone wrong: “Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit.” And by “we” I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the “progressives” who dare not use the word “liberal” because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.

The death of American liberalism as a significant moral force can be traced to the point in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation that effectively ended the main federal anti-poverty program and turned the fate of welfare recipients, 70 percent of whom were children, over to ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
“Iran hasn’t always been deemed a ‘nuclear threat’ by U.S. policymakers.”

Iran’s alleged "nuclear threat" has taken center stage among diplomats, military men, and politicians in Washington, Tel Aviv, and the West at-large.

Despite the fact that investigative journalists Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter and others have meticulously documented the fact that Iran, in fact, poses no nuclear threat at all, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress have laid down multiple rounds of harsh sanctions as a means to "deter" Iran from reaching its "nuclear capacity."

The most recent round featured a call to boycott Iran’s oil industry by President Obama.

While rhetorical attention remains focused on Iran’s "threat", there is an "elephant in the room": Kazakhstan’s booming uranium mining and expanding nuclear industry -- a massive effort involving U.S. multinational corporations and an authoritarian regime increasingly tied to Washington.

Double standards have long reigned supreme in U.S. foreign policy. Few examples illustrate that better than the contrast between Washington’s stance toward the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Kazakhstan.

The Seoul, Korea Dog and Pony Show

 

The alleged Iranian "threat" was a central concern at the Nuclear Security Summit, which occurred in Seoul, South Korea between March 26-27.

Published: Friday 23 March 2012
The hype that led Washington honchos to name this tragic bill the “JOBS Act” is the same brand of patented b.s. that inspired lawmakers to call Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the law that overturned Glass-Steagall, the “Financial Services Modernization Act.”

Here we go again. Once again the 'bipartisan' consensus in Washington, fueled by an intoxicating brew of conventional wisdom laced with campaign cash, has repealed some of those 'cumbersome regulations' that do nothing of value - nothing, that is, except prevent catastrophes. There will be celebrating on both sides of the aisle when the President signs this bill.

And when disaster strikes a few years from now, as it inevitably will, they'll all say "Nobody could have seen it coming." Plus ça change, plus c'est la même crap. Creationism can't disprove the theory of evolution - but a little time in Washington will make you think twice.

Here we are, surrounded by still-smoldering financial wreckage, and almost everyone in Washington is falling over themselves to repeat exactly the same kinds of actions that got us into this mess. Last time around it was the repeal of Glass-Steagall, introduced by Republican Sen. Phil Gramm and enthusiastically signed by President Clinton in the presence of Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

This time it's the deceptively named "JOBS Act," introduced by the far-right Republicans in Congress and passed overwhelmingly by members of both parties. The President indicated his eagerness to sign the bill early on. Once again basic protections for investors, including individuals and families, are being recklessly overturned in a deregulating frenzy. Some of those protections were enacted in the wake of the Enron scandal, in which sociopathically unscrupulous business people conducted a hoax that ruined thousands of families and deprived many of their life's savings.

We haven't learned a damn thing.

The hype that led Washington honchos to name this tragic bill the "JOBS Act" is the same brand of patented b.s. that inspired lawmakers to call Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the law that overturned Glass-Steagall, the "Financial Services ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“The atrophy of the social welfare state and the growth of the penal state represent a double criminalization of poverty.”

On August 22, 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law his now infamous Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act thereby “end[ing] welfare as we have come to know it.” The Act replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF establishes a lifetime limit of 60 months (5 years) for federal assistance, mandates that single parents participate in work activities for an average of 30 hours per week, and caps federal block grant contributions to states at $16.6 billion per year. (As a result of inflation the real value of the TANF block grant has already fallen by 28%.)

And despite few fluctuations in the poverty rate since TANF supplanted AFCD, the participation rate among eligible families has plummeted by 52% since 1995.

Over the same time period—and despite flat to declining crime rates— the U.S. prison and jail population has increased by 44%. Perhaps a quickly expanding prison population is precisely the unspoken foundation upon which “welfare to workfare” rests. We haven’t “ended welfare;” instead we’ve invisiblized it by shifting its beneficiaries from the public square to the prison yard.

The atrophy of the social welfare state and the growth of the penal state represent a double criminalization of poverty. Considering TANF/AFDC data alongside trends in incarceration is necessary for rethinking the role of the state in provisioning basic social services. The transition from welfare to workfare and the proliferation of bodies behind bars taken together “work to marginalize populations—by forcing them off the public aid rolls, on the one side, and ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
“Even Clinton, in a rare moment of honest appraisal of his record, conceded that his signing of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), legalizing those credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations, was based on bad advice.”

That Lawrence Summers, a president emeritus of Harvard, is a consummate distorter of fact and logic is not a revelation. That he and Bill Clinton, the president he served as treasury secretary, can still get away with disclaiming responsibility for our financial meltdown is an insult to reason.

Yet, there they go again. Clinton is presented, in a fawning cover story in the current edition of Esquire magazine, as “Someone we can all agree on. ... Even his staunchest enemies now regard his presidency as the good old days.” In a softball interview, Clinton is once again allowed to pass himself off as a job creator without noting the subsequent loss of jobs resulting from the collapse of the housing derivatives bubble that his financial deregulatory policies promoted.

At least Summers, in a testier interview by British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News, was asked some tough questions about his responsibility as Clinton’s treasury secretary for the financial collapse that occurred some years later. He, like Clinton, still defends the reversal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, a 1999 repeal that destroyed the wall between investment and commercial banking put into place by Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.

READ FULL POST 14 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
“Obama previewed his election arguments in a philosophically aggressive way.”

It was to be expected that, in the course of his State of the Union address, President Obama would mention the killing of Osama bin Laden, whose death represented the culmination of the battle against terrorism that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

Far less expected was Obama’s use of the bin Laden episode to present a community-minded worldview that contrasts so sharply with the highly individualistic and anti-government message that has been heard over and over from the Republicans seeking to replace him.

 

At the very beginning of his speech, the president pivoted from “the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s armed forces” to the post-World War II nation of his Kansas grandparents. If the war against fascism was followed by “a story of success that every American had a chance to share,” surely we can find our way again to “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 28 January 2012
“It would have been far better if Obama had simply read out selected portions of Mitt Romney's tax returns, which the Mormon millionaire released yesterday with spectacularly bad timing.”

Does one await a presidential State of the Union address with keen anticipation? It's like saying one looks forward to taking a niece to "The Nutcracker." The last time I truly enjoyed one — the speech, not the ballet — was Bill Clinton's in 1998, and it wasn't because of anything he said. It was his terrific aplomb, despite the fact that the Monica Lewinsky scandal was breaking over his head. He got a bounce of 10 points, from 59 to 69 percent popular approval.

The message was clear. We the people couldn't care less about Lewinsky. In fact, we the people thoroughly approved. The following year, the U.S. Senate was trying him for impeachment, after months of steady servings in the press of Lewinsky's semen-stained dress, and here was Clinton as bouncy as ever, rock solid at 69 percent.

Normally, the American people don't set much stock by State of the Union addresses. Half the times Ronald Reagan — "The Great Communicator" — gave the annual speech across his two terms in office, he promptly sank in the polls by three or four points.

By all rights, Obama should be a natural at the job. The desired mix is inspirational — his forte — and notionally programmatic, though the history books are knee-deep in empty pledges made on such occasions. But somehow the methodical ...

Published: Friday 27 January 2012
“As revealed by the deeds of OWS, promoting a dialog between individual and cultural forces leaves one receptive to the transformation that unfolds when enjoined in the conversation of the times.”

When Bill Clinton and his scary, scary libido stalked the public realm, Republicans warned his presence was so anathema to all things holy that his hot breath served to salt the wings of choirs of angels.

Yet Newt Gingrich's booty calls are forgivable.  Stones shall not be cast. His transgressions humanize him and the balms of forgiveness of Christian believers rising from this sin-buffeted earth cause the Baby Jesus to coo into the dawn of a coming golden age.

When Bush/Cheney sat at the helm of empire and plundered foreign lands and breached the rule of law, Democratic partisans insisted that constitutional order be reestablished by having Bush et al marched in shackles from the halls of power. To do anything short of this was to risk the foundation of the republic being crushed to rubble and silt beneath the boot of tyranny.

Yet, we critics of duopoly are accused of being impractical sorts who don't dwell in this world, the world of the possible. Although, it seems that political partisans give themselves permission to dwell, simultaneously, in two worlds: This one, as well as a Bizarro World—the parallel universe limned in comic books—where all things are done in reverse, where true is false and false is true, as well as, apparently, a realm where Newt Gingrich is a shining standard bearer of moral rectitude and a defender of faith and family and President Obama is a protector of constitutional law and a friend of the downtrodden.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 77% of the citizens of the U.S. expressed the belief that the massive power imbalance in place in the nation is a direct result of the vast wealth inequity between the 1% and the 99%. In addition, according to a poll by Time Magazine, 86% of Americans held the conviction that Wall Street and its lobbyists exert undue influence over the U.S. political class.

Still, both major U.S. political parties remain unmoved by the ...

Published: Friday 27 January 2012
“Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.”

I’ll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans ... until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton’s faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the “good guys” for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.

Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons? 

Why hasn’t he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton’s deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents “new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again”? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?

When Obama declared Tuesday evening “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving ...

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
“Are news organizations letting a vengeful Marianne Gingrich exploit Newt’s moment, or are they performing a public service?”

“By definition, if you run for president, anything is on the table. Ask Grover Cleveland. Ask Andrew Jackson. Anything is on the table. I accept that, but I don’t have to participate in the conversation.”

That was Newt Gingrich, in May, when I asked him about whether intrusion into candidates’ personal lives had gone too far. At the time, Gingrich’s biggest headache was his Tiffany shopping habit, but Gingrich obviously had issues of sexual misconduct on his mind as well: Cleveland was assailed for his out-of-wedlock child, Jackson over a possibly bigamous marriage.

And I thought Gingrich had it about right: When you run for president, you open yourself to the kind of searching scrutiny that a finger-pointing, voice-raised Gingrich condemned at Thursday night’s debate.

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Gingrich 

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
“Senators Graham, Levin, McCain and Congressman McKeon–along with the US Senate and House of Representatives are in ‘good company’with other alleged ‘republics’—mandating the suspension of civil liberties in the name of national security.”

December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively  sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.  Ironically, the abuse of civilian Iraqis by our military and by military contractors is coming to a locale near you.  Theoretically, armed squads of US soldiers might be knocking on your door in the dead of night to take away Auntie Mame for her alleged ‘terrorist’ activities—at the ACLU.  This bill potentially allows for the blatant political prosecutions of any dissenter using the military as a bully club to instill deep fear in any who dare to question our government’s motives.

No proof of wrongdoing is required and those accused are denied the due process right of trial by their peers, or the services of an attorney– and are subsequently relegated to the ‘military commissions justice system.’  As a result–the accused are reduced to the status of ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ and are subject to the following actions: ‘extroardinary rendition’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ procedures, ‘indefinite detention to possibly a  life sentence, and ‘presidential assigned extermination of target’ .  These powers are then ‘given’ to the President to use at will, fully codified in law,while requiring in reality no proof other than presidential whim.

It is at this juncture that I ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
“The real history: Reagan was forced to raise taxes because his cuts didn’t ‘pay for’ themselves, as the mythology also insists — and he didn’t raise taxes enough to avoid a legacy of deficits that only Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax increase on the top tier began to remedy.”

Politicians and their flacks lie every day, but it is unusual for someone prominent to utter a totally indefensible falsehood like the whopper that just sprang from the mouth of Eric Cantor's press secretary on national television.

While interviewing the House majority leader, "60 Minutes" correspondent Leslie Stahl suggested that he might consider compromise because even Ronald Reagan had raised taxes several times. Cantor's flack then burst out in protest, saying he couldn't allow her remark "to stand."

The premise of Stahl's perceptive question was perfectly accurate, of course. But the rude Hill staffer is scarcely alone in promoting this super-sized lie about Reagan's tax purity. And it would be worth discovering which of the Republican candidates likewise reject a fundamental truth about their party and its idol.

That video exchange is revealing for several reasons, not least because it shows Cantor trying to suggest that he was always willing to "cooperate" with President Obama and the Democrats during the current session of Congress. The public's distaste for the obstructionism spearheaded by Cantor and supported by the tea party faction is evident in polling data, which may well worry the ambitious Cantor, who almost openly hopes to depose Speaker John Boehner.

The argument began when Stahl asked, "What's the difference between compromise and cooperate?"

Cantor replied: "Well, I would say cooperate is let's look to where we can move things forward where we agree. Compromising principles, you don't want to ask anybody to do that. That's who they are as their core being."

Then Stahl noted, "But you know, your idol, as I've read anyway, was Ronald Reagan. And he compromised."

Cantor retorted, "He never compromised his principles." And Stahl recalled, "Well, he raised taxes, and it was ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
The Haitian government – with the full backing of the U.S. government, as recent Wikileaked cables revealed – remains the lowest wage in the hemisphere-wide “race to the bottom”.

"Haiti is open for business." That's what President Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly said at a recent ceremony as he and former U.S. president Bill Clinton laid a cornerstone for a giant industrial zone being built in northern Haiti.

Across the country and abroad, Martelly, his government, and their advisors – like Clinton – have been pushing the island nation as a foreign investor's dream come true.

They have good reason to say Haiti is "open for business". With 15- year tax holidays and – in some cases – massive subsidies, there are deals to be had. Airplanes and hotels are full of foreign investors looking to get in on the ground floor of the post-earthquake reconstruction. Hundreds poured into the capital at the end of November for a two-day conference.

Apparel makers, especially, want to set up shop, according to factory owner Georges Sassine, head of the Association of Haitian Industries.

"I remember somebody saying a crisis is a terrible thing to waste," Sassine told National Public Radio in 2010. "It is true, the opportunity has been thrust upon us."

The crisis hasn't been wasted, at least not by clothing-makers.

The new government's showcase project is the Caracol Industrial Park, being built with 124 million dollars of U.S. taxpayer funds, and another 55 million dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank. [See story #2]

"This is the kind of change we want," Martelly said the Caracol ceremony last month. "This is what they call 'sustainable development.'"

But a new report from Haiti Grassroots Watch shows that the focus on assembly industries does not represent a big "change", nor will it necessarily deliver "sustainable ...

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
A former Soviet specialist who served in top Middle East positions under former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross was initially brought into the Obama administration as the State Department's special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia, a post he held from February to June 2009.

Dennis Ross, President Barack Obama’s top Middle East aide who has attracted criticism for his allegedly strong pro-Israel sympathies, will leave his post at the end of this month, the White House announced here Thursday.

He will rejoin the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an Israel-centered think tank that was spun off in 1985 from the powerful lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ross served as WINEP’s counselor and a fellow during the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2009.

“An institution that believes sound policy lies at the intersection of scholarship with statesmanship is especially proud that Dennis is returning to his intellectual home,” said WINEP’s executive director Dr. Robert Satloff.

Despite the generally hawkish views of WINEP’s fellows and their frequent criticism of Obama’s approach to the Middle East, Ross said in a statement that his departure from the White House was due to family reasons. It offered no hint of major policy differences between him and Obama or his colleagues on the National Security Council.

“Obviously, there is still work to do but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise,” added Ross.

“I am grateful to President Obama for having given me the opportunity once again to work on a wide array of Middle Eastern issues and challenges and to support his efforts to promote peace in the region,” he said.

But coming as it does as Republicans in the 2012 presidential primary race and in Congress have been hammering away at what they have characterized as Obama’s “hostility” toward Israel and its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ross’s departure could give them more ammunition.

Because of Ross’s unusually close ties to leaders in the Jewish community and the ...

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
As an alleged harasser of women, at least Herman Cain was a classier act then Bill Clinton.

As he prepares to follow Gov. Rick Perry into the oubliette of history, Herman Cain can at least console himself that as an alleged harasser of women, his was certainly a classier act than that of a man who not only got elected president in 1992, but was triumphantly re-elected in 1996 by 47.5 million Americans armed with the knowledge that if you left your wife at the table next to Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas in Macdonald's, by the time you got back from ordering another round of fries, Bill would be ensconced in your seat, his hand already hovering above your wife's thigh.

Sharon Bialek, one of the women accusing Cain of seeking to take advantage of her when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in 1997, says that her apprehensions were aroused when in his car, having offered to drive her home, Cain told her he'd called Washington's Capital Hilton and upgraded her accommodations to a luxury suite. It was only after this material demonstration of his high regard that Cain put his hand up her skirt and then sought to guide her head towards his lower regions. Bialek says the minute she said, "No," Cain abandoned his advances and drove her home.

A luxury suite! One of Clinton's targets, when he was governor of Arkansas, would have been lucky to get a ride home in the troop car, after a brusque encounter in the governor's office, with bruises on her arms when she resisted the guiding hand. Who says this isn't the land of progress? Seventy years ago, a black man making the sort of advances of which Cain is accused tended to end up swinging from the branch of a tree, not running for president with a hefty quotient of Americans saying they don't give a fig about the harassment charges.

Actually, Cain has never had a prayer of getting the Republican nomination. He didn't have the money or the big backers. His star began to rise when the Tea Party crowd figured Gov. Rick Perry of Texas as ...

Published: Monday 7 November 2011
“This was not only war against the poor, but the very “class war” that Republicans now use to brand just about any action they don’t like.”

We’ve been at war for decades now -- not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but right here at home.  Domestically, it’s been a war against the poor, but if you hadn’t noticed, that’s not surprising. You wouldn’t often have found the casualty figures from this particular conflict in your local newspaper or on the nightly TV news.  Devastating as it’s been, the war against the poor has gone largely unnoticed -- until now.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has already made the concentration of wealth at the top of this society a central issue in American politics.  Now, it promises to do something similar when it comes to the realities of poverty in this country.

By making Wall Street its symbolic target, and branding itself as a movement of the 99%, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem.  Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behavior, or the personal behavior of presidents.  Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp.

Now, in what seems like no time at all, the fog has lifted and the topic on the table everywhere seems to be the morality of contemporary financial capitalism.  The protestors have accomplished this mainly through the symbolic power of their actions: by naming Wall Street, the ...

Published: Friday 4 November 2011
“Rubin’s destructive impact on the economy in enabling these giant corporate banks to run amok was far greater than that of swindler Bernard Madoff, who sits in prison under a 150-year sentence while Rubin sits on the Harvard Board of Overseers, as chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a leader of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.”

Can we all agree that a $1 billion swindle represents a lot of money, and the fact that Citigroup agreed last week to pay a $285 million fine to settle SEC charges for “misleading investors” demonstrates a damning admission of culpability? 

So why has Robert Rubin, the onetime treasury secretary who went on to become Citigroup chairman during the time of the corporation’s financial shenanigans, never been held accountable for this and other deep damage done to the U.S. economy on his watch?

Rubin’s tenure atop the world of high finance began when he was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, before he became Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and pushed through the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act, an action that legalized the formation of Citigroup and other “too big to fail” banking conglomerates.

Rubin’s destructive impact on the economy in enabling these giant corporate banks to run amok was far greater than that of swindler Bernard Madoff, who sits in prison under a 150-year sentence while Rubin sits on the Harvard Board of Overseers, as chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a leader of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.

Rubin was rewarded for his efforts on behalf of Citigroup with a top job as chairman of the bank’s executive committee and at least $126 million in compensation. That was “compensation” for steering the bank to the point of a bankruptcy avoided only by a $45 billion taxpayer bailout and a further guarantee of $300 billion of the bank’s toxic assets.

Those toxic assets and other collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps were exempted from government regulation by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Rubin helped design while he was ...

Published: Tuesday 18 October 2011
“When the economy gets better, people somewhat lower down on the income scale probably should pay something more. But let’s start with the rich.”

Demands to let taxes rise for Americans topping the income charts have led to charges of "class warfare" by the usual Republican suspects. To move the conversation forward, here are some questions and answers:

Question: Do ...

Published: Tuesday 4 October 2011
“Many people look back with fondness on Clinton years and there is good cause: The economy grew at an annual rate of almost 4.5 percent during his second term and the unemployment rate fell to a 4.0 percent as a year-round average in 2000.”

The New York Times reported last week that former President Bill Clinton is working on a new book on economic policy to be released in time for next year’s election. This is unfortunate, since Clinton stands alongside Alan Greenspan as one of the last people who should be giving the country and the world advice on economic policy.

Many people look back with fondness on Clinton years and there is good cause. The economy grew at an annual rate of almost 4.5 percent during his second term. The unemployment rate fell to a 4.0 percent as a year-round average in 2000. And the country saw strong real wage growth up and down the income ladder for the first time since the early 70s.

This was all good news. However, it was unsustainable and Clinton’s economic team should have known it at the time. The immediate cause of the prosperity was the demand created by a $10 trillion stock bubble. While this gave some boost to investment, its main impact was on consumption. People spent based on their newly created stock wealth, causing the savings rate to fall below 2.0 percent, which at the time was the lowest level of the post-war era.

Bubbles of course burst, and when this one did it gave the country a severe downturn in 2001. While the official recession was short and relatively mild, ending in just seven months, the economy didn’t start to generate jobs again until September of 2003.

It is not easy to recover from a recession caused by a collapsed asset bubble, as is becoming more evident every day. The country did not regain the jobs lost in the 2001 downturn until 2005, and even then it was only due to growth driven by the housing bubble.

One of the factors that made it harder to recover from the 2001 downturn was the sharp increase in the country’s trade deficit. Demand was diverted abroad from domestically produced goods and services. This was in turn a direct result of the high dollar policy that was put in place ...

Published: Thursday 15 September 2011
The Census Bureau reported that there are now 46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line—the highest number in the 52 years since that statistic was first measured—and median household income has fallen back to the 1996 level.

It’s getting too late to give President Barack Obama a pass on the economy. Sure, he inherited an enormous mess from George W., who whistled “Dixie” while the banking system imploded. But it’s time for Democrats to admit that their guy bears considerable responsibility for not turning things around. 

He blindly followed President Bush’s would-be remedy of throwing money at the banks and getting nothing in return for beleaguered homeowners. Sadly, Obama has proved to be nothing more than a Bill Clinton clone triangulating with the Wall Street lobbyists at the expense of ordinary folks. 

That fatal arc of betrayal was captured by a headline in Tuesday’s New York Times: “Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade.’ ” The Census Bureau reported that there are now 46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line—the highest number in the 52 years since that statistic was first measured—and median household income has fallen back to the 1996 level. As Harvard economist Lawrence Katz summarized this dreary news: “This is truly a lost decade. We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we’re looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s.”

The late 1990s, it should be noted, is when President Clinton, working with Phil Gramm, the Republican head of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed through two critical pieces of legislation ending effective regulation of the banks. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act smashed the wall between high-flying Wall Street investment firms and the once staid commercial banks entrusted with the deposits and mortgages of America’s innocent souls. The next year Clinton signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, banning any ...

Published: Saturday 3 September 2011
The Constitution gives Congress primary power over taxes and spending

President Barack Obama's own job may be on the line as he presents his plan for job creation next week, with the nation's unemployment rate mired at 9.1 percent and his popularity at a record low.

He'll call on Congress to back him on a package of proposals that the White House says will put Americans back to work. Earlier this summer he tried to rally public pressure on Congress to do as he wished, and he may do so again, exercising his power of "the bully pulpit." This week he threatened to bash Republicans on the campaign trail if they fail to follow his lead.

But Republicans in Congress are dead set against any big new spending program, and they control the House of Representatives, so the prospect of no big new jobs program rolling out of Washington before 2013 looms large.

In light of that, is there anything else Obama can do on his own to spur job creation?

Probably nothing significant.

The White House says there are some steps the executive branch can take without congressional approval, but independent analysts — even those who are pressing Obama to make an ambitious case in his address next Thursday for a sweeping job-creation package — say the magnitude of the nation's problems is so large that it's beyond anything the executive branch can do on its own.

"I know it's tempting to look for a man-on-a-white-horse response to this situation as a way out of the gridlock between the two parties ... but we have to solve this as a country," said William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a center-left policy research center.

Galston said presidents had executive power they could use to "speed things up or slow things down" within existing programs, "but if you try to do things that go beyond what Congress has authorized, particularly right now with the partisan ...

Published: Wednesday 3 August 2011
"President Obama ,as was Bill Clinton before him, is clearly one of those “New Democrats” who welcomes the opportunity to jettison the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as outmoded political baggage."

The die has been cast. Obama’s “nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists,” as an editorial in the normally sedate New York Times described the deal to raise the debt ceiling, is a disaster in the making. It rules out a vigorous government response to the persistent economic stagnation in which joblessness, housing foreclosures and an ever-widening gap between the top 2 percent and the rest of Americans have become the norm.

But to use the word “capitulation” is too kind, since this president, as was Bill Clinton before him, is clearly one of those “New Democrats” who welcomes the opportunity to jettison the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as outmoded political baggage. Otherwise, why would Obama have reached for a “grand bargain” in which he even put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table before the Republicans rolled him?

That same opportunistic reasoning got us into the Great Recession, thanks to President Clinton joining with congressional Republicans to destroy the sensible controls on Wall Street greed that FDR had put in place in order to prevent a repeat of the Depression. That was also the rationale of the Clinton alums that Obama appointed to clean up the mess they themselves had created. Instead of worrying about jobless workers and swindled homeowners, they bailed out the swindlers, following the example set by George W. Bush.

Those policies caused the 50 percent run-up of the national debt between 2007 and this week, when the debt ceiling had to be raised. While the trillions wasted made the bankers whole, it did nothing for the 50 million Americans losing their homes or the 20 percent of the workforce that can’t find the full-time employment for which they are qualified. The economy has zeroed out in the past ...

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