robert reich

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Robert Reich is Mr. Cool and… da man! See and hear him explain what this Public Option is:

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Just finished Robert Reich’s great piece on AIG. He sums it up: AIG, being “too big to fail”, is accountable to no one. The “accountable to no one” is the really scary part. This sure is an example of capitalism run amok. We have a competition between the government and the big corporation. All these anti-government people take note. Who would you prefer run the country?

We just had a lovely corn beef dinner over at daughter Kate’s prepared by Don. Absolutely scrumptious!

Looks like the weather is finally moderating. Can spring soon be on the way?

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Populist Rage

Frank Rich hits a nerve today with his Op-Ed Slumdogs Unite! His 2nd paragraph:

The tsunami of populist rage coursing through America is bigger than Daschle’s overdue tax bill, bigger than John Thain’s trash can, bigger than any bailed-out C.E.O.’s bonus. It’s even bigger than the Obama phenomenon itself. It could maim the president’s best-laid plans and what remains of our economy if he doesn’t get in front of the mounting public anger.

And here’s his next to last paragraph:

This is why “Slumdog Millionaire,” which pits a hard-working young man in Mumbai against a corrupt nexus of money and privilege, has become America’s movie of the year. As Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary, wrote after Daschle’s fall, Americans “resent people who appear to be living high off a system dominated by insiders with the right connections.”

Frank concludes with this:

The neo-Hoover Republicans in Congress, who think government can put Americans back to work with corporate tax cuts but without any “spending,” are tone deaf to this rage. Obama is not. It’s a good thing he’s getting out of Washington this week to barnstorm the country about the crisis at hand. Once back home, he’s got to make certain that the insiders in his own White House know who’s the boss.

For a good discussion of the Frank Rich piece see Frank Rich: The Surging Populist Rage. I fear there’s a defining moment in the Obama presidency coming up and we’re less than three weeks into it.

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I’ve been getting pissed at what’s going on. Here we have Obama trying to make nice with the Republicans, and you know? They could care less*. Some of them are masters at speaking out of both sides of their mouths simultaneously, while others don’t even bother to hide their sanctimonious nastiness. Mitch McConnell would be in the former camp, John Boehner in the latter.

Oh, but Obama’s just as bad as the rest of them! Look at all these tax swindlers he’s appointed to high office. Sure, squeaky clean you’ve got to be to get into high office these days, especially if you’re a Democrat. Tom Daschle’s tax problems seem large to the “ordinary person”, and they are. However, he is not a crook! He would have been the best choice to beat back the Republican machine which will pull out all the stops, along with the insurance industry, to beat back any attempts to establish what they’ll call “socialized medicine”.

The best guy for Daschle’s job would be Arnold S. Relman, M.D., but nobody’s ever heard of him and he’d have zero political clout amongst the hyenas. That’s why we needed Tom Daschle, tax warts and all.

I’m so sick of the news media, especially the sanctimonious news anchors, you know, Katie, Brian, Chris and Charlie, not to mention that slime journalist Maureen Dowd of the NYT. Oh, I’m pissed alright!

I try to read people who really know what the hell’s going on like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, plus a lot of financial blogs all over the place. Hey, Robert Reich’s latest blog entries are really great!

Many economists feel the stimulus plan isn’t large enough! Even the conservative well-known economist, Martin Feldstein, Ronald Reagan’s chief economist, told Congress that the stimulus should be $800 billion.

I could rattle on but why don’t you just read Barney Frank’s latest comment? Frank to bankers: People hate you! OK, I’ll stop now!

* Well, according to this article he is making some progress.

Here’s Josh Marshall on Denial As Political Strategy:

Behind all the back and forth over the Stimulus Bill is a simple fact: the debate in Washington is rapidly moving away from any recognition that the US economy — and the global economy, for that matter — is in free-fall. The range of outcomes stretches from severe recession to something closer to a replay of the Great Depression, though that label is perhaps better seen as a placeholder for ‘catastrophic economic collapse’ since the underlying place of the US economy in the world economy is very different from what it was in 1929. This reality was palpable in the political debate until as recently as a few weeks ago. But Republicans are using a strategy of conscious denial to push it off the stage.

Take stock of the last few weeks and you can almost visualize the two conversations — path toward economic calamity and debate over Stimulus Bill — diverging.

The other key into the current debate is that the Republican position is ominously similar to their position on global warming or, for that matter, evolution. The discussion of what to do on the Democratic side tracks more or less with textbook macroeconomics, while Republican argument track either with tax cut monomania or rhetorical claptrap intended to confuse. It’s true that macro-economics doesn’t make controlled experiments possible. And economists can’t speak to these issues with certainty. But in most areas of our lives, when faced with dire potential consequences, we put our stock with scientific or professional consensus where it exists, as it does here. Only in cases where it goes against Republican political interests or economic interests of money-backers do we prefer the schemes of yahoos and cranks to people who study the stuff for a living.

Of course, at some level, why would Republicans be trying to drive the country off a cliff? Well, not pretty to say, but they see it in their political interests. Yes, the DeMints and Coburns just don’t believe in government at all or have genuinely held if crankish economic views. But a successful Stimulus Bill would be devastating politically for the Republican party. And they know it. If the GOP successfully bottles this up or kills it with a death of a thousand cuts, Democrats will have a good argument amongst themselves that Republicans were responsible for creating the carnage that followed. But the satisfaction will have to be amongst themselves since as a political matter it will be irrelevant. The public will be entirely within its rights to blame Democrats for any failure of government action that happened while Democrats held the White House and sizable majorities in both houses of Congress.

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Cas says

Here’s what Cas says in a comment on Robert Reich’s post, The Logic of Keynes in Today’s World.

I was thinking of a deeper problem that’s related to this. We hear a lot of talk about the class differences between the banking and auto bailouts. What that reveals is that there’s no sense of common destiny between different parts of the country. It’s true that working people need a functioning banking system, but it’s also true that bankers need a functioning manufacturing system. The banks have long operated as if the capital they play with has no relation to anything made in the real world. So when they’re in trouble, most Americans don’t care because the financial world is so apparently irrelevant to most of us. And the bankers don’t care about the rest of us because our fate is not clearly intertwined with theirs.

What we need is a new social compact that explicitly links us to a common fate. The first thing we do is index all executive salaries to the lowest wages in society. No executive should make more than X times the lowest employee of the company or any of its subcontractors and outsourcers. What’s more, executives as a class should get bonuses only in years where other workers as a class get proportional bonuses. As for capital, whenever government bails out private industry it should get common shares that in the long run are held 50/50 by workers and the public at large. That means that a fully “nationalized” company would be 1/3 private management, 1/3 workers, and 1/3 public control. Everyone would have a stake. Regardless of whether there is public control, companies should be required to give stock to employees above and beyond a liveable salary proportional to executive stock bonuses using the same X:1 ratio used for income.

With this arrangement, profits would go to everyone in profitable years. Losses would be shared. No one would get a bonus or bailout without everyone getting a bonus or a bailout. We would have a common interest, and there wouldn’t be fully isolated classes living in different conceptual worlds.

What’s good for GM should be what’s good for its workers, and what’s good for America. And what’s good for workers should be good for GM and America. And what’s good for the country should be what’s good for its workers and companies like GM.

This would also lead to a reconsideration of reforms such as single-payer health insurance. We’re all in this together, so we should all have access to quality health care instead of creating a two or three-tier system that in th end fails almost everybody.

Monday, 15 December, 2008

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I’ve been following Robert Reich’s blog in recent days. He’s the incredibly short but friendly and articulate guy who once was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor. You can see him every so often as a political commentator on various TV pundit shows.

Bob’s post for today, Friday, December 5, 2008, is captioned Shall We Call it a Depression Now? Here’s the final paragraph from that post:

Two things are needed: First, the massive Treasury bailout of the financial industry must be redirected toward Main Street — loans to small businesses, distressed homeowners, and individuals who are still good credit risks. Second, a stimulus package must be enacted right away. It needs to be more than $600 billion — which is 4 percent of the national product. It should be focused on job creation in the United States — infrastructure projects as well as services. Construction jobs are critical but so are elder care, hospital, child care, welfare, and countless other services that are getting clobbered. Service businesses accounted for two-thirds of the job cuts in November, meaning that the weakness in labor markets has shifted from the goods-producing sector of the economy to the far larger services sector.

I’d say he is right on with that. Reich is right! Not politically to the right, but simply right. The over half a million jobs lost in November should be enough to wake up even the most far right wing nut in the U.S. Congress.

But will it? There are still obstructionists in the Republican party. They’d rather have the whole country go down the tubes in order to embarrass Obama and have a chance for some votes come next elections.

Barney Frank is right too. Do we want an unmitigated disaster on our hands by not bailing out the auto companies? No. We’re forced to bail them out at this point, or the country really really goes over a cliff.

Hey, just my opinion. Of course I could be wrong. Any other opinions or alternatives out there?

UPDATE: Here’s an interesting little blogginheads debate between two guys, Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright. One is for the bailout of the big three autos, Kaus, while Wright is against it.

FURTHER UPDATE: Missy has a great post on The Myth of the Overpaid Union Auto Worker. Great cartoon and great comparison of the auto companies treatment with that of the banks. Check it out!

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