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This evening's music features Irish bluesrocker Rory Gallagher.
Rory Gallagher - Out On The Western Plain
"At the end of February we were a congeries of disorderly panic-stricken mobs and factions. In the hundred days from March to June we became again an organized nation confident of our power to provide for our own security and to control our own destiny."
-- Walter Lippmann, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, The coming of the New Deal
News and Opinion
Sequestration - Fourth Austerity Shoe DropsAlmost everything you need to know about the administration's intentions with regard to the sequester is revealed in one paragraph of Gene Sperling's email to Bob Woodward:
JAY: So, just to remind everybody, the sequestration formula deal was a proposal by President Obama.
BLACK: Well, indeed it was created by President Obama—now, under, of course, Republican pressure, where they were threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, but it was an Obama idea. And the principal framer of it was Jacob Lew, the president's selection to be Geithner's replacement as a disastrous Treasury secretary. And then the president blocked a Republican effort to get rid of sequestration. And then the president went so far as to threaten to veto any bill that got rid of sequestration when the Republicans tried to get rid of it again.
Now, you shouldn't think too well of the Republicans in all of this. What they were worried about, pretty much solely, was defense spending and making sure there'd never be a drop in defense spending. ...
And we can't even get the president, who, you know, on day one will say, the sequestration—disaster, insane; and on day two refuses to put forward a clean bill to stop it; and on day three says, hey, that Jake Lew, the guy that created this disastrous scenario that is going to potentially hurl us back into recession, he should be our Treasury secretary and create our financial policies.
The Woodward, Sperling emails revealed
The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
Higher Wages Will End Recession
JAY: If you look at the arguments coming from the right, their principal argument against higher wages is that it's inflationary. Their principal argument against stimulus is that it's inflationary because it might cause higher wages. And they're also—they don't like stimulus 'cause it will increase the deficit and the debt, they say, and that could result in lack of confidence in the U.S. dollar and could also increase the money supply, and thus that's also inflationary. And in the final analysis, they see inflation as the principal, you could say, enemy of the global economy. And Mr. Flassbeck, I don't think you agree with that. What's your take, first of all, on what's their theory and what you make of it?
FLASSBECK: Well, first of all, we have two reliable theories of inflation. One is cost-push, the other is demand-pull. Cost-push would be indeed the wages-induced inflation, which doesn't exist in the whole world, because what we have is falling wage shares and we have stagnating unit labor costs. The most important determinant, indeed, of inflation is unit labor cost, but unit labor cost means nominal wages, so to say, minus productivity. Nowhere in the world nominal wages exceed productivity by a huge margin.
And what we're asking for, what the reasonable people, reasonable economists in this world are asking for is that unit labor costs should increase like the inflation target. So we do not want to have overshooting over the target, but we just say like the inflation target. But that implies that the real wage rises like productivity. And this is the crucial point. Everybody misses in this debate or tries to dismiss the point of productivity. Productivity is the core.
JAY: So, Heiner, let me ask you a question. If that formula was applied to wages in North America or Europe, where would wages be now? How much of a rise in wages would we see?
FLASSBECK: In nominal terms, in nominal terms it would be a wage rise, say, in United States of something like 4 percent, something like 3.5 percent in Europe. That's it. That's—not more. There's nothing inflationary in that. That would be just—and that would just—you see, the crucial point is we're talking about income distribution. We're talking about inequality.
Obama confident Republicans will cave on budget cuts
As the blame game over a stinging package of deficit-reducing spending cuts grinds on, the White House said Sunday that as voters start to feel the pain, Republicans will pivot and seek compromise.
But the Republicans did not sound like they were in a mood to budge.
The administration of President Barack Obama also denied suggestions it is hyping the consequences of the so-called sequester — $85 billion in military and domestic spending cuts crammed into the seven remaining months of the fiscal year.
"Golden Age for Corporate Profits" As Workers Get Whacked
Quoted in a New York Times article on Monday that describes the current economy as a "golden age for corporate profit," Savita Subramanian, who heads the equity and quantitative strategy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that despite the terrible times for working people and warnings that nearly three-quarters of a million jobs could be lost this year in the US, "the market wants more austerity."
Reading the article prompted journalist and book author Naomi Klein to tweet:
For workers, the "recovery" looks more like a stick-up. Profits way up, but no jobs nyti.ms/VYAkmj— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) March 4, 2013
Responding directly to Subramanian's remark that a market push for "austerity" was a good thing for the overall economy, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said such a comment made "no sense at all." ...
As the Times points out, most of the profit gains made by multinational corporations since the 2008 crash have come because of increased productivity and government-backed lending that only larger firms can leverage. Neither of these gains, however—or the profits derived from them—are being shared with workers or lower-income, struggling Americans.
'Screw the Troika!' Portugal's Streets Flooded With Message: 'Austerity Kills'
Over 40 cities across Portugal on Saturday were filled with calls by the hundreds of thousands denouncing the austerity imposed by the Troika—the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
Carrying banners reading "Screw the Troika" and "Austerity Kills," protesters marched under the slogan, "It is the people who lead," a line from Grandola, Vila Morena, a song that became the anthem of the 1974 "Carnation Revolution" against dictatorship.
The demonstrations, BBC News reports,coincide with a visit by inspectors from the EU and the IMF, which demanded austerity measures as a condition for a 78bn-euro (£64bn) bailout in 2011."This government has left the people on bread and water, selling off state assets for peanuts to pay back debts that were contracted by corrupt politicians to benefit bankers," Fabio Carvalho, a movie-maker taking part in the protest in Lisbon, told Reuters.
U.N. investigator urges U.S. to pursue Bush-era abuses
A United Nations investigator called on the United States on Monday to publish its findings on the CIA's Bush-era program of rendition and secret detention of terrorism suspects.
Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, voiced concern that while President Barack Obama's administration has rejected Central Intelligence Agency practices conducted under his predecessor George W. Bush, there have been no prosecutions.
"Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States," Emmerson said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which he will address on Tuesday.
Obama taps Walmart Foundation chief to lead budget office
President Barack Obama will nominate on Monday Sylvia Matthews Burwell, current chair of the Walmart Foundation, to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a senior official told CNN on Sunday evening. ...
Burwell, a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, also worked for the Clinton administration in several capacities, including deputy chief of staff, chief of staff at the Treasury and finally deputy chief of staff at the Office of Management and Budget.
"After Aaron": Late Activist’s Campaign for Open Internet Continues at Freedom to Connect Conference
Activists fear return of AT&T ‘monopoly
A plan telecom giant AT&T pitched to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November to shift from old landline networks to Internet-only communications could dramatically change federal regulations of telecom services ... The company proposed to the FCC (PDF) that it be allowed to fully rely upon Internet protocol (IP) tech for its communications services in certain areas, saying the change is already happening because consumers are increasingly switching from landlines to smartphones. ...
Because IP networks are regulated differently, they are not subject to rules that encourage universal access by making low-cost options available in under-served communities. The FCC also does not yet have rules for what reasonable exchange costs are with Internet-based communications.
Rules governing the networks that make landlines work prevent AT&T from telling smaller companies that connection exchange rates will suddenly double or triple for calls coming onto AT&T’s network. Without such regulation, AT&T could run an abusive monopoly with these exchange charges, leaving smaller carriers with no choice but to pay up and pass costs onto consumers. This means AT&T’s plan has the potential to drive up prices and drive down competition.
Movie streaming service Netflix experienced the pinch of a similar tactic employed by Comcast in 2010, when the company erected what amounts to an online toll booth for connections coming from a Netflix partner company called Level 3 Communications. Level 3 passed the cost on to Netflix, and Netflix ultimately raised its subscription price.
State Dept. Releases Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement
The US State Department on Friday afternoon released a newly updated draft of its Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, would dramatically increase the extraction and transfer of Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf coast.
And as Sierra Club's Michael Brune said in a late afternoon press call, "You know the news is bad when it comes out at 4pm on Friday."
In response to the SEIS' release, Brune released the following statement:"The Sierra Club is outraged by the State Department’s deeply flawed analysis today and what can only be interpreted as lip service to one of the greatest threats to our children’s future: climate disruption.
"We’re mystified as to how the State Department can acknowledge the negative effects of the Earth’s dirtiest oil on our climate, but at the same time claim that the proposed pipeline will ‘not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.’ Whether this failure was willful or accidental, this report is nothing short of malpractice.
"President Obama said that he’s committed to fighting the climate crisis. If that is true, he should throw the State Department’s report away and reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline."
Enbridge Refuses to Pay for Onoing Damage Study of Michigan Tar Sands Disaster
As Keystone XL tar sands pipeline gets boost to move forward, Kalamazoo River still reeling from 2010 tar sands spill
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is refusing to pay for an independent review designed to the ongoing environmental impacts caused by the nearly one million gallons of tar sands oil that spilled into Michigan's Kalamazoo River following a pipeline rupture in 2010.
Trustees of the National Resource Damage Assessment group—which includes state and federal agencies—has repeatedly requested that the Canada based company help pay for two needed reviews of the vegetation and recreational areas affected by the spill. ...
"If spilled into the environment, oil produced from tar sands is just as damaging as oil produced by other means, as residents along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan learned in 2010. Cleanup of that oil spill is still under way nearly three years later. Surely, producers of oil from tar sands should help contribute to the costs of cleaning up these spills -- just like producers of other oil must do," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
A proposal for a cross-country pipeline by Keystone XL, which would carry the highly toxic and corrosive tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, remains an imminent possibility. On Friday, a draft of an environmental impact assessment, approved by the Obama administration, was released and quickly and came under fire from environmental groups over the assessment's blatant inadequacies.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Rory Gallagher - Too Much Alcohol
Rory Gallagher - Want Ad Blues
Rory Gallagher - Messin with the kid
Rory Gallagher - Bullfrog Blues
Rory Gallagher - Pistol Slapper Blues
Rory Gallagher - Off The Handle
Rory Gallagher - Going To My Hometown
Rory Gallagher - Walk On Hot Coals
Rory Gallagher - Tore Down
Rory Gallagher - Walkin' Blues
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