Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement.


The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become. 

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can't be stopped.


This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core. You may prefer Obama to Romney but don't think there's a huge difference between the two, so you may not even vote.

Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all.

The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages -- all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel. 

Then America is entirely theirs.

The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can't be stopped.

We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.

I've spent years in Washington and I know nothing good happens there unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to put pressure on Washington to make it happen.

This isn't new. In the election of 1936, a constituent approached FDR with a list of things she wanted him to do if reelected. "Ma'am," he said, "I'd like to do all those things. But if I'm reelected, you must make me."

We must make them.

I suggest a two-step plan...

Step one: Vote for Barack Obama for President and vote for every Democratic senator and representative in Congress. Get off your ass and make sure your friends and relatives do the same.

Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who's elected, commit at ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
You, the citizens, use our common government to make this country what it is.

As Nate Silver, NY Times polling expert put it, “Instant polls conducted after the debate are suggestive of something between a tie and a modest win for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

Biden held his own and maybe a bit more. That was important. But President Obama has to do a lot better than that. He has to go beyond the policy wonk to be a moral leader once more. Here’s how Jennifer Granholm put it on her Current TV show video.

On the whole, the public and especially the undecided voters don’t keep track of policy details and which numbers are right. The worst thing the president can do is to just compare details of policy. That just elevates Romney to the status of an equal, who can come back with lies that will sound just as good if not better to most of the undecided.

The TV debates are not primarily about policy details and the numbers in themselves. As Ronald Reagan showed, the debates are about choosing a moral leader. And we do this through a performance.


Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

When it comes to tax policy, Mitt Romney is not merely a spinner, an equivocator or a run-of-the-mill dissembler. He's a liar. Hyperbolic and overwrought as that label seems, it is, alas, the only accurate description for someone who would, in February, promote a proposal to cut taxes "on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent" and then appear at an October debate and insist that the very same proposal "will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

For the most part, analyzing such hideous dishonesty is where political reporting has started and stopped. How big a liar is Romney? Was he lying in the first statement or the second one? These are, no doubt, important questions — and to answer but one of them, it's obvious Romney was lying in the most recent one. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported, the Republican nominee's proposal, if enacted, would "result in a net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."

However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.


Published: Friday 5 October 2012
So why didn’t the President play this winning card last night? Why aren’t more Democrats using it? It’s as if they’ve all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable.


There's a lot of post-debate analysis going on -- some would say too much -- but not enough is being said about the ace in the Democrats' deck: defending Social Security and Medicare. That's not just a winning card for the candidates who play it.Seniors, young people, the disabled, the jobless: Everybody at the table wins.

Everybody, that is, except the Republican in the race.

So why didn't the President play this winning card last night? Why aren't more Democrats using it? It's as if they've all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable - by not admitting they hold a better hand.

One-Sided Argument

Jim Lehrer asked the President, "Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?" The answer: "You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker -- Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But the basic structure is sound."

The President didn't mention the deeply unpopular Republican attempt to privatize Social Security, which was spearheaded by Romney's running mate and would have led to financial catastrophe for millions of people after the 2008 crisis. (Which, he might have added, was created by financiers not unlike Mitt Romney.)

The Reagan/O'Neill mention was also significant. It's been clear for a long time that the President almost venerates the Social Security agreement those two leaders made in the 1980s. But that agreement was striking because Reagan and O'Neill shared a characteristic which both the President and Mr. Romney lack: They were passionate and eloquent voices for their political philosophies.

The agreement between O'Neill and Reagan was remarkable, not because they weren't ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
If owning-class volunteers aren’t stepping forward in our movements, then movements need to learn how to support the visionaries wherever we find them.


One of the saddest things to watch is dedicated people in education and human services burn themselves out for lack of a winning strategy.

In the U.S. “playing defense” has dominated liberals and centrists since Ronald Reagan became President. Canadians started that disastrous policy more recently. This summer, I learned that in the United Kingdom the British have joined the defensive trend, along with too many places on the continent.

On its face, anyone who’s ever played checkers can see what’s gone wrong for advocates of public education, health care and other services. Gandhi said it long ago: you can’t win until you go on the offensive.

The strategy of the right wing is to put the left on the defensive by using every opportunity to cut the budget. In Reagan’s day it was the so-called necessity of buying missiles to prevent the Soviets from invading. Under George W. Bush we heard the arbitrary claim that Amtrak should pay its way, while in Canada at the same time there was a similar claim for the postal service. A long time ago the strategy of the U.S. auto industry was to buy public transit companies, cut the service and therefore force frustrated riders to buy a car.

Now we are told (in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.) that the 2007-08 economic crisis has left our nations poor, although the 1 percent has never been ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign.”

For Democrats caught up in the race for U.S. presidential power, Mitt Romney’s description of “the 47 percent” is a great chance to pile on. Here is a super-rich Republican showing his contempt for the working class, many people are thinking — let’s make the most of it!

But sometimes the “caught in the act” statements of politicians are worth more than a quick dismissal. Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign. He told people in a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to explain their economic frustrations.

The two remarks are different. Romney’s is contemptuous, while Obama’s is only condescending. As someone brought up working class, I can tell the difference; I voted for Obama because I’ve been condescended to a lot in my life, and that doesn’t stop me from making reasoned choices. I’ll vote for him again. But my point here is that both remarks reveal the striking lack of agency that is assigned by leaders of political parties to the working class.

What made Obama’s remark condescending was that he made it as a leading Democrat. If the Democratic Party had been fighting for the agency of working class people, then the labor movement would be so strong that we would now be enjoying full employment, universal health care, and low or no college tuition. The financial sector would have been too regulated to throw us into the current recession, and if it somehow had done so anyway, the priority in 2008 and 2009 would have been Main Street, not Wall Street.

In other words, the economic frustrations that Obama linked to certain cultural expressions in small-town Pennsylvania were exacerbated by his own party. His remark ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
“These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney told his well-heeled audience in Boca Raton, suggesting that voters who don't pay income taxes comprise the same alleged 47 percent who will vote in lockstep for the president.

While Mitt Romney may well wish he had expressed himself more “elegantly” at the swanky Boca Raton fundraiser where he denounced half the voting population as shiftless, government-entitled moochers, he isn't backing away from those secretly recorded remarks — although what he said was entirely inaccurate, as well as obnoxious.

Watching him on video, the Republican nominee sounds not only vulgar and arrogant, but profoundly ignorant about the nation he hopes to govern. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” said the Republican nominee, who proceeded to describe those people.

“All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government ... Those people,” he went on, “believe that they are victims ... believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Let's stop right there: Whatever percentage of Americans plan to vote for the president, there is no plausible evidence that they all think of themselves as entitled to government benefits. Nor is there any evidence that all of Obama's supporters are in fact "dependent on government." And there is plenty of evidence that Romney supporters — Obama supporters and like many Americans who will not vote at all — receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, housing vouchers, veterans benefits and other forms of federal assistance.

The Republican-leaning moochers, as defined by Romney, can easily be found in the red states, which contribute far less in federal taxes than they receive in per capita benefits. Alabama, for instance, receives almost $4,000 per capita in federal spending on retirement and disability, while contributing just over $1,000 per capita in federal income taxes. Kentucky receives ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“Nowhere was this more clear than when the 800-member House of Delegates — empowered teacher representatives from each CPS school — called a two-day timeout to carefully review the tentative agreement that had been initialed by the Chicago Teachers Union leadership on Sunday.”


A few hours before the Chicago teachers’ strike was suspended on Tuesday, I had a chance to chat with Mary Zerkel, a colleague and longtime antiwar campaigner at the American Friends Service Committee, whose daughter attends a Chicago public school. Mary had been on the picket line every day since the strike began on September 10, and when we talked she had just returned from a “Parents 4 Teachers” march to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters, where teachers and their allies tried to deliver 1,000 postcards to CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard supporting the strikers’ demands. Though Brizard did not appear — and no one else from CPS bothered to come down to collect the bundles of messages — Zerkel’s enthusiasm was not dampened. For her, this was another exercise in people power — one more small step in a long campaign to save the soul of public education in Chicago and, quite possibly, the nation.

For Zerkel, this week of picketing, meetings and downtown marches and rallies was a bracing experience of democracy. Nowhere was this more clear than when the 800-member House of Delegates — empowered teacher representatives from each CPS school — called a two-day timeout to carefully review the tentative agreement that had been initialed by the Chicago Teachers Union leadership on Sunday. The devil is in the details, and this agreement, being more devilishly detailed than many, warranted a thorough going-over.

Democracy is not snapping fingers. It is sometimes slow and messy and doesn’t always follow the plan. This, however, does not seem to be Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s take on the democratic process. When the delegates decided to take their time to get clear on what the union was gaining — and what it was giving up — the mayor’s lawyers briskly strode into court on Monday morning looking ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
In today’s United States we can ask, if the battered labor movement were not still a progressive force, then why is it so important to Scott Walker and the rest of the 1 percent to destroy the unions?


“Why do working class people vote against their own interests?” I’ve heard that question dozens of times from middle class activists trying to navigate the mysteries of social class and politics. I’ve heard it so many times — often more as a complaint than as an honest question — that I’m tempted to retort, “Why do middle class people vote against their own interests?”

After all, the Republican-leaning middle class has been hammered by Republican policies for quite some time. Just to remind us: Corporations are subsidized to export middle class jobs, as well as working class jobs, and consultants from Bain Capital can tell you how. Then there is Republican tax policy, by which the super-rich gain a larger share of the national income at the expense of the middle class. Still, a large part of the middle class votes Republican.

But this column is about working class politics. Let’s start, therefore, by distinguishing between “politics” and “elections.” For at least two big reasons, elections don’t teach us much about the political wants of workers.

In the first place, working class people tend to be deeply cynical about electoral politics. Most believe that the major parties can’t be trusted because of the 1 percent’s control. So a large percentage of working class people don’t bother to vote.


Published: Wednesday 12 September 2012
“Incomes for the middle fifth of American households—the heart of the middle class—would have been an average of $19,000 higher per year by 2007 if the share of growth claimed by the richest households had not grown so much over the past 30 years.”

The latest edition of the Economic Policy Institute's "State of Working America" report, out today, documents in sharp detail what has been for the middle-class economy a "lost decade" in which working people have fallen behind. But what's more disheartening is its prediction that without radical change "nearly two decades likely will pass before American incomes regain lost ground and return to their 2000 levels."

The report makes clear what has been robbed from low- and middle-income people as a result of conservative policies that have their roots in the early 1980s, as the country turned from balanced growth policies in which labor and capital profited more or less in tandem to government policies that advantaged corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers.

As a result of these policies, the report notes, "the business cycle preceding the recession [of 2008-2009] was already shaping up as a lost decade for American

incomes," with median household incomes falling 6 percent during that period. But when the Great Recession hit, median income of working-age families fell another 7.1 percent between 2007 and 2010.

"This is an underappreciated economic calamity," the report says.

These key slides from the report help tell the story:

From State of Working America Upload by Isaiah J. Poole

The report notes that this calamity is not caused by a lack of overall economic growth. National income, the report notes, has grown enough to substantially improve the fortunes for ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“These were the last months of the George W. Bush administration. It was when Bush launched both the Wall Street and Detroit bailouts, not because he found them ideologically agreeable, but because it was that or the abyss.”


Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign zinger is back in 2012.

Let's see. Four years ago ... four years ago. That was September 2008. Oh yes, I remember it well.

It was a time of white-knuckled panic that a new Great Depression was upon us. The banks were teetering, then insurance companies, then other big corporate names, notably General Motors. Stock prices were plunging along with house values. But even before that craziness started, the federal budget was snowing blizzard-condition deficits — the inevitable pile-up from reckless tax cuts and accelerated spending.

These were the last months of the George W. Bush administration. It was when Bush launched both the Wall Street and Detroit bailouts, not because he found them ideologically agreeable, but because it was that or the abyss.

Do you remember Sept. 29, 2008, when Republican hotheads in the House, helped by some on the left, rejected the bank bailout? As they cast their votes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 800 points. Minds changed quickly after that.

By October, credit had tightened up so that even great corporations couldn't borrow. Unemployment started rising fast.

The following February, the new Obama administration had to run stress tests to see whether the too-big-to-fail banks could survive a worsening downturn on their own. At the same time, it was laying out the conditions for extending further taxpayer assistance to GM. The terrifying possibility existed then that the American auto industry would collapse and the industrial Midwest with it. By August 2009, unemployment hit a peak of 10 percent. Remember all this? My stomach remembers, as do many other stomachs.

Reports started coming in of mounting health and emotional ...

Published: Friday 24 August 2012
“The large portion of it really deals, as the title says, with the FBI’s attempts to—through surveillance and repression of student radicals and university professors.”


Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld's new book, "Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power," is based on more than 300,000 pages of records Rosenfeld received over three decades through five Freedom of Information lawsuits against the FBI. The book tracks how then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover ordered his agents to investigate and then disrupt the Free Speech Movement that began in 1964 on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. The protests prevailed and helped spawn a nationwide student movement. Rosenfeld outlines in great detail how FBI records show agents used "dirty tricks to stifle dissent on the campus." In the book's more than 700 pages, he uses the documents to explore the interweaving stories of four main characters: the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover; actor and politician Ronald Reagan, who was running for governor of California at the time; Clark Kerr, then the University of California president and a target of scorn from both Reagan, Hoover and student activists; and legendary Free Speech Movement leader and orator, Mario Savio.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We want to continue our conversation with Seth Rosenfeld, longtime investigative reporter and author of Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Seth, we’ve had a long discussion on Richard Aoki, but he really is a small portion of your book. The large portion of it really deals, as the title says, with the FBI’s attempts to—through surveillance and repression of student radicals and university professors. You go into—in depth about the efforts of the agency against Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and even against the president of the University of California system at the time, Clark Kerr. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Published: Tuesday 21 August 2012
The union people found that “know-it-all” middle class people can actually listen, and the activists found that “rigid hierarchical” working class people sometimes work with a different set of responsibilities.


The hardest job I ever had in a half century of social change work was coordinating a multi-class coalition. It didn’t simplify things that it was also cross-racial. Nor that it was composed of people who had substantially different politics.

I led the Pennsylvania Jobs With Peace Campaign for seven years, in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s White House was trying its best to undo the progress made in the 1960s and ’70s. Our chapter was part of a national campaign pressing to take money out of the military and use it for human needs. Our local chapter also pushed for decentralized people’s planning for economic conversion of military industries.

An advantage I had was that our campaign included a collective of the Movement for a New Society (MNS), a radical network that was already figuring out how social class influences the way activists do and don’t work together for change.

Sociologist Betsy Leondar-Wright has listed major social movements in the U.S. and identified their class composition. (See her website,, and her book Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists.) She asked how successful they were in achieving their goals. Betsy found that the movements most likely to succeed were those that crossed class lines. The ones who achieved less were single-class, like blue collar trade union campaigns, or middle ...

Published: Monday 20 August 2012
“Oddly enough, while poll after poll shows that most Americans no longer trust our basic institutions, they continue to believe the people who run them got where they are on basis of superior merit and talent.”


How Romney Could Win the Presidency And Save the Republic (And Why He Won’t)


At this perilous moment in the nation’s history, nobody is better positioned to restore public trust  - or take the White House back for the Republicans – than Mitt Romney. My prediction is that he won’t do either because he believes he can do one (win the presidency) without the other (restoring public trust).


Oddly enough, while poll after poll shows that most Americans no longer trust our basic institutions, they continue to believe the people who run them got where they are on basis of superior merit and talent.  This belief flies in the face of mounting evidence of corruption and incompetence at the top.


Despite a steady stream of news about scandals in business (WorldCom, Enron), banking and finance (Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase), journalism (Iraq War, WMD, and Judith Miller), sports (Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and doping), and, of course, politics (Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Keating Five, NSA warrantless surveillance), the public is still being gulled into believing what corporate media shills say about everything from global warming to health care.


Few public policy issues are more confusing and convoluted that our bizarre federal income tax code. The system, like the political and business elites who created it and now shamelessly perpetuate it, is designed to deceive most of the people most of the time.


Most middle-class taxpayers know the system is rigged in favor of corporate interests and wealthy individuals, but few understand when or how it happened – or the real reasons why. Indeed, the winners like it that way and reward politicians and journalists ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“The Republican definition of what it means to be a liberal is false and fictitious but has now become so infused into the political vernacular and fixed in the public mind that simply setting the record state requires a Herculean effort.”


Democrats have allowed the Republican Party to brand liberals and liberalism as a radical ideology rather than a mainstream alternative to the extreme right-wing ideology that now passes for conservatism in this country. 

The Republican definition of what it means to be a liberal is false and fictitious but has now become so infused into the political vernacular and fixed in the public mind that simply setting the record state requires a Herculean effort.

As a first step, here is a short list of big lies about liberals.     

Big Lie #1:  Liberals are all alike – tree hugging clones who agree about everything from abortion and arms control to Zoloft and Zoroastrianism.

No, in fact that would be the new Republicans – the folks who watch FOX News religiously, follow the party line like lemmings, and are not in the least troubled by the tawdry methods that FOX uses to distort the words and views of those it opposes. 

One of the reasons why liberals are so astonishingly ineffectual at hammering home specific messages is precisely because, unlike today’s knee-jerk conservatives, liberals do not march in lockstep on much of anything, including the burning issues of the day. 

Unlike the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, liberals tend to treat people of all hues and views with respect.  That respect, however, is put to the extreme test when we are constantly bombarded with toxic untruths extolling the trickle down theory (purporting to show how the extreme concentration of wealth in society benefits us all) or the dickish idea that greed is good – dickish as in Dick Cheney, Dick Armey, and Dick Tuck. 

Big Lie #2:  Liberals and progressives are wannabe European socialists (and as all “real Americans” know in their bones, that’s a bad ...

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.


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.


Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“Only if young people are reminded that the large response that sprang up in Wisconsin and Occupy last year is really there waiting for their talent, will they learn the craft that can actually make a difference: the nonviolent direct action campaigns driven by people power.”

Billionaire businessman Warren Buffett reminded us in his 2006 interview withThe New York Times, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” This year, the Koch Brothers and others decided that Wisconsin should be one of the battleground states for escalating the class struggle. They planned to decimate the largest and most organized force for economic justice, the labor unions, especially the public employee unions.

In 2010, the 1 percenters won the first round of their planned escalation, which was to send Scott Walker to the governor’s mansion. It was a comfortable win for them because the contest was in one of their favorite arenas, the Electoral Game.

The 1 percent probably didn’t expect hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites to fight back in 2011. The people refused to cooperate and turned to a different arena, the People-Power Game. In a harbinger of the Occupy movement, they occupied the state’s Capitol and drove their legislative allies to leave the state to prevent Governor Walker from implementing his union-busting plan. The 1 percent had no reason to expect mass direct action because, after all, labor leadership seemed firmly in the pocket of the Democratic Party, the other party controlled by the 1 percent and ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“Since the launch last month of a major campaign by big business, the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry to gain LOST’s ratification, some two dozen Republican senators have signaled their opposition.”

The fact that it isn't testifies to the degree to which forces of the U.S. far right have maintained or strengthened their hold on the Republican Party and to the abiding strength of the kind of aggressive and unilateral nationalism that dominated the first terms of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. 


Since the launch last month of a major campaign by big business, the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry to gain LOST's ratification, some two dozen Republican senators have signaled their opposition. 


Only 34 are needed to kill it. The U.S. constitution requires that two-thirds of the 100-member chamber must vote "aye" to ratify a treaty. 


The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has so far been silent. But in his 2008 campaign, the former Massachusetts governor, who was then running as a "moderate", said he had "concerns" about the treaty's "giving unaccountable international institutions more power". 


If pressed to take a position before the election, treaty supporters are worried he'll oppose it. 


That is one reason why Kerry intends to delay a vote on the treaty in his committee until after the November election when partisan passions - currently on the boil and rising fast - may cool. 


The product of some 15 years of negotiations, LOST, which has been ratified by 161 countries and the European Union, sets rules governing most areas of ocean policy, including navigation and over- flight rights, exploitation of the seabed, conservation and research. 


Successive administrations – both Democratic and Republican – led negotiations for the treaty from the late 1960s onward. But when completed in 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan, under pressure from big U.S. ...

Published: Monday 4 June 2012
Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
The debt-ceiling absolutists grossly underestimate the massive adjustment costs of a self-imposed “sudden stop” in debt finance.


Many, if not all, of the world’s most pressing macroeconomic problems relate to the massive overhang of all forms of debt. In Europe, a toxic combination of public, bank, and external debt in the periphery threatens to unhinge the eurozone. Across the Atlantic, a standoff between the Democrats, the Tea Party, and old-school Republicans has produced extraordinary uncertainty about how the United States will close its 8%-of-GDP government deficit over the long term. Japan, meanwhile is running a 10%-of-GDP budget deficit, even as growing cohorts of new retirees turn from buying Japanese bonds to selling them.

Aside from wringing their hands, what should governments be doing? One extreme is the simplistic Keynesian remedy that assumes that government deficits don’t matter when the economy is in deep recession; indeed, the bigger the better. At the opposite extreme are the debt-ceiling absolutists who want governments to start balancing their budgets tomorrow (if not yesterday). Both are dangerously facile.

The debt-ceiling absolutists grossly underestimate the massive adjustment costs of a self-imposed “sudden stop” in debt finance. Such costs are precisely why impecunious countries such as Greece face massive social and economic displacement when financial markets lose confidence and capital flows suddenly dry up.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Kenneth Rogoff, click here.

Of course, there is an appealing logic to saying that governments should have to balance their budgets just like the rest of us; unfortunately, it is not so simple. Governments typically have myriad ...

Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012
“The Reagan Recession Ended With Interest Rate Cuts, Which Aren't Possible Now.”

Fox has attacked the economic recovery under President Obama by claiming that if Obama just adopted the policies of former President Ronald Reagan, there would be a stronger recovery. But as economists have pointed out, the Reagan recession ended not because of Reagan's fiscal policies but because the Federal Reserve drastically cut interest rates. Because interest rates are already at zero, such a rate cut is not a possible option now.


Fox Invokes The Reagan Recovery As A Model Of Comparison

Fox's Kelly Wright: "What Did Reagan Do To Turn The Recession Around? Does President Obama Need To Embrace These Strategies As Well?" From the May 5 edition of Fox News' America's News Headquarters:

KELLY WRIGHT (co-host): President Obama facing stiff economic headwinds as he officially launches his re-election bid. President Ronald Reagan faced a similar challenge you'll recall back in 1984. Take a look at this: Under Reagan, a recovering economy added more than 360,000 jobs, this compared to President Obama's April jobs number coming in at 115,000.

So what did Reagan do to turn the recession around? Does President Obama need to embrace these strategies as well? Joining me now, founder and managing partner of Cargile Investments, Mickey Cargile. Mickey, it's good to have you sir, and ...

Published: Monday 20 February 2012
“Citizens for Tax Justice reports that the 280 most profitable U.S. corporations sheltered half their profits from taxes between 2008 and 2010.”

A cynic might argue that business leaders and their friends in Congress weren't expecting different results.

In either case, we've become a bipolar nation, 1% manic and 99% depressive. Our affliction is caused by a 30-year experiment in the dismal economics of delusion. Deregulation for corporations and tax cuts for the wealthy have defined conservative policy since the 1970s, when University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer convinced Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue.

Ronald Reagan complied in the 1980s by dramatically reducing the top marginal tax rate. And while declaring government "the problem" he eased a half-century of protective regulations on mortgage lending.

In the Clinton years, Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan and Phil Gramm and others lobbied against regulations on the derivatives that evolved into toxic assets a decade later. A lonely voice of opposition, Commodities Trading Commission head Brooksley Born, was denounced by the powerful Treasury men, who were shocked by her affront to the nation's "financial stability."

The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 removed long-held protections for commercial bank deposits, as the newly liberated financial institutions now coveted the unprecedented profits in high-risk investments. Soon after, the 2000s brought us the Bush tax cuts, which have cost the nation over two trillion dollars, and a further assault on the Securities and ...

Published: Monday 13 February 2012
“But Scott Walker is not the next Reagan. Not yet.”

In February, 2011, Scott Walker was just another Republican governor. A favorite of Newt Gingrich, billionaire Tea Partisans Charles and David Koch and wealthy advocates for privatization of education, the Wisconsinite had his national fans on the conservative circuit. But he was not a player, and no one (except perhaps Walker) thought he was headed for the national spotlight. Among the Republican governors ushered into power by the Republican wave of 2010, he was ranked with the “assistant Walmart manager” group of drab mandarins, along with Iowa’s Terry Branstad, South Dakota’s Dennis Daugaard and Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin. He didn’t have the national stature of Ohio’s John Kasich or Kansan Sam Brownback, nor the wild-eyed “say anything” appeal of Arizona’s Jan Brewer or Maine’s Paul LePage.

Yet, when the nation’s most prominent right-wing operatives and reactionary Republicans gathered for the Friday night keynote speech that is always the centerpiece of a Conservative Political Action Conference, it was not a Republican presidential candidates, nor a Congressional leader who was standing at the podium. It ...

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.”


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: 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: Monday 12 December 2011
“A White House that just a few months ago was obsessed with the political center is now not at all wary.”

President Obama has decided that he is more likely to win if the election is about big things rather than small ones. He hopes to turn the 2012 campaign from a plebiscite about the current state of the economy into a referendum about the broader progressive tradition that made us a middle-class nation. For the second time, he intends to stake his fate on a battle for the future.

This choice has obvious political benefits to an incumbent presiding over a still-ailing economy, and it confirms Obama’s shift from a defensive approach earlier this year to an aggressive philosophical attack on a Republican Party that has veered sharply rightward. It’s also the boldest move the president has made since he decided to go all-out for health insurance reform even after the Democrats lost their 60-vote majority in the Senate in early 2010.


The president’s speech on Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kan., the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s legendary “New Nationalism” speech 101 years ago, was the Inaugural address Obama never gave. 

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: Wednesday 26 October 2011
“A rising tide,” as President Reagan put it, “lifts all boats.” The sum of his wisdom being: it is in your interest when the rich get richer.

As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? The answer is not obvious. After all, severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States. In fact, it could reasonably be claimed that this form of inequality is part of the design of the American founding -- indeed, an integral part of it.

Income inequality has worsened over the past several years and is at its highest level since the Great Depression.  This is not, however, a new trend. Income inequality has been growing at rapid rates for three decades.  As journalist Tim Noah described the process:

“During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth -- the ‘seven fat years’ and the ‘long boom.’ Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80% of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1%. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20%. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.”

The 2008 financial crisis exacerbated the trend, but not radically: the top 1% of earners in America have been feeding ever more greedily at the trough for decades.

In addition, substantial wealth inequality is so embedded in American political culture that, standing alone, it would not be sufficient to trigger citizen rage of the type we are finally witnessing. The ...

Published: Wednesday 24 August 2011
“Conservative outlets took it upon themselves to finesse the fact that Barack Obama just helped overthrow a terrorism-sponsoring tyrant into their preconceived notions about foreign policy.”

The success of the Libyan revolution and toppling of Muammar Qaddafi has put conservative commentators in an awfully tough position. President Reagan had unsuccessfully bombed Libya in order to kill Qaddaffi, and had failed at exacting any revenge for Libya’s murder of hundreds of American civilians on Pan Am flight 103. President Bush had worked to normalize relations with Libya and claimed Qaddafi’s willingness to give up weapons programs as evidence of the Iraq invasion’s success at scaring the bad guys straight.


But Qaddafi remained a dictator and a routine violator of human rights. Conservatives say the United States has an obligation to intervene militarily to depose hostile regimes such as Qaddafi’s. But it’s awfully embarrassing for them when it turns out that it is a Democrat who does so, and at considerably lower cost than we paid in Iraq. So how did the conservative media respond on Monday?

One approach is to avoid the subject. Visitors to this afternoon were treated to sizable headlines about Vice President Biden’s comments on China’s one-child policy and Representative Maxine Waters’s distaste for the Tea Party, but could be forgiven for not realizing anything had happened at Libya at all. An Associated Press story relegated to a small side box was the extent of their Libya coverage.


Published: Friday 19 August 2011
“Perry has exactly the wrong approach when he says the federal government needs to stop “dictating” school policy when this is precisely what needs to be done.”

Watching the emergence of Rick Perry over the weekend was instructively nostalgic. Here again was a governor declaring for the presidency and some very wise people cautioning us on the air and in print that what worked in Texas might not work in the nation. Perry is too conservative, too much a cowboy, too religious and, while we’re at it, too handsome. This, more or less, was what was said about Ronald Reagan. He’s nearly on Mount Rushmore.

Perry stands a pretty good chance of being the next president of the United States. Like Reagan, Perry is gaffe-prone (he once suggested that Texas could secede from the union) and, again like Reagan, appallingly conservative on social and economic issues. But the similarity that matters most is that both men were elected governor of mini-nations — California and Texas.

Texas is the second-most populous state — a bit more than 25 million people. It is not merely the West, which Perry personifies, but the South and the vast suburbanized rest as well. It is a big part of America, and Rick Perry is the longest-serving governor in the state’s history. It’s just plain folly, as some have already suggested, to think that he cannot campaign effectively in the rest of the nation. This man was born for the stump.

I can think of no reason why anyone who, for some unaccountable reason, supports Michele Bachmann will not move over to Perry. He is her equal in social issues, which is her strength, but he is a much better campaigner — as he showed the other day in Waterloo, Iowa. He retailed a GOP dinner, going from table to table, while Bachmann made a Lady Gaga entrance — rock music, lights, phalanx of security — and just perfunctorily met with the ordinary people she claims both to be and to represent. Perry, who actually looks like a president (also the late Rory Calhoun), will raise far more money and breeze by her. Au revoir, Michele.

That leaves Mitt ...

Published: Saturday 6 August 2011
From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?"

From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."

Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

And they've succeeded.

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.

It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?

Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President ...

Published: Wednesday 27 July 2011
"Obama long ago recognized the power of dropping Reagan’s name, and Reagan did say many reasonable things that hard-righters wouldn’t love today."

Michael Gerson, who knows a thing or two about presidential speeches, says that President Barack Obama’s Monday night address to the nation about the debt ceiling really wasn’t about anything at all. The president was merely getting a jump on the blame game rather than advancing a new argument or reframing the debate. 

Gerson, chief speechwriter for George W. Bush, may know of what he speaks, but I respectfully beg to differ. Obama wasn’t just blaming, though he did plenty of that. He was also clearly auditioning for his post-presidential Act II as a Fox News commentator. How else to explain the sudden injection into his lexicon of the words “fair” and “balanced?”


As we enter the whirlwind of the 2012 presidential election cycle, Obama is distancing himself from hope and change, a campaign slogan that requires exhausting emotion and radical movement, and shifting to a homey, market-tested message that, if cable news is your guide, resonates better in the American parlor.

Forget the polls. Show me the ratings!

Obama mentioned the word “balanced” seven times, including thrice in one paragraph about his “balanced approach.” He’s just a compromising, Henry Clay sort of fellow, while those Richie Riches on the other side of the aisle are obstruction-loving, average-American haters. (I’m translating here.)

The word “fair” made four appearances. Obama is just trying to be fair by asking the richest Americans (who already pay all the taxes) to pay “their fair share.” This may, indeed, be necessary in the final analysis, but demonizing “the wealthy,” putting the family of four that earns $250,000 in the same category as billionaires is disingenuous and hardly the way to cooperative, compassionate hearts.

He also mentioned Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson. Obama long ago recognized the power of ...

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