Joe Stiglitz at The New York Times writes—On the Wrong Side of Globalization:
The conflicting views about [trade] agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. [...]Cole Stangler at In These Times writes—Fighting for Fairness, One Budget at a Time:
Based on the leaks—and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts—it is easy to infer the shape of the whole [Trans-Pacific Partnership], and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.
Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.[...]
In spite of all this, there are those who passionately support the TPP and agreements like it, including many economists. What makes this support possible is bogus, debunked economic theory, which has remained in circulation mostly because it serves the interests of the wealthiest.
In today’s Congress, too often a grim landscape of neoliberalism in gridlock, the [Congressional Progressive Congress]’s Better Off Budget stands little chance of passing. But that’s not so much the point: The proposal is a broad statement of values, an effort to flush austerity out of the annual budget debates that are often dominated by the Right. By fashioning an alternative to Paul Ryan’s safety-net-slashing schemes, progressives hope to shift the conversation away from austerity and toward economic fairness.Below the fold are more pundit excerpts.
It’s the fourth year the CPC has released its own budget, and the latest variant has much in common with previous proposals. Like last year’s Back to Work Budget, it features a hodgepodge of progressive economic demands: a tax hike on the super-wealthy, the creation of a financial transactions tax and carbon tax, an end to generous tax loopholes for the fossil fuel industry and cuts in military spending, including a full withdrawal from Afghanistan. [...]
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, appreciates that the proposal draws the connection between public spending and job creation.
“The basic outlines make very good sense,” Baker says. “We still are way below full-employment by any reasonable measure. The best way to boost the economy is with more spending—we could wait for the private sector until our face turns blue, it’s not gonna happen.”
But Baker remains skeptical of what he views as an unwarranted emphasis on trimming the deficit.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times explains the still racist nature of the class war in That Old-Time Whistle:
There are many negative things you can say about Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.’s de facto intellectual leader. But you have to admit that he’s a very articulate guy, an expert at sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about.E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes that the president and Democrats are in trouble in The politics of hopelessness:
So it’s comical, in a way, to see Mr. Ryan trying to explain away some recent remarks in which he attributed persistent poverty to a “culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working.” He was, he says, simply being “inarticulate.” How could anyone suggest that it was a racial dog-whistle? Why, he even cited the work of serious scholars—people like Charles Murray, most famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Oh, wait. [...]
And since conservatives can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the reality of what’s happening to opportunity in America, they’re left with nothing but that old-time dog whistle. Mr. Ryan wasn’t being inarticulate — he said what he said because it’s all that he’s got.
Obama and his party are in danger of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the 2014 elections, just as they did four years ago. The fog of nasty and depressing advertising threatens to reduce the electorate to a hard core of older, conservative voters eager to hand the president a blistering defeat.Juan Cole at Informed Comment explains the Four Reasons Syria Refugees are a Bigger Story than Malaysian Air MH 370:
American politics has been shaken by two recent events that hurt first the Republicans and then the Democrats. Republicans have recovered from their blow. Democrats have not.
Last fall’s government shutdown cratered the GOP’s standing with the public and confirmed everything Democrats had been saying about a House majority in thrall to a far right uninterested in governing. Then the Obama administration threw its adversaries a lifeline with the disasters that befell HealthCare.gov, empowering Republicans to remount their favorite hobbyhorse. [...]
The recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll pegged Obama’s approval rating at 41 percent, his disapproval at 54 percent. But the most disturbing finding to him ought to have been the 20 percent disapproval he registered among Democrats. Winning back three-quarters of those discontented Democrats would, all by itself, bump up his overall approval rating by more than six points. It’s where he needs to start.
It is a tragedy that the 239 passengers on Malaysian Air MH 370 never made it to Beijing, and appear to have been the victims of a hijacking that went horribly wrong. But the hours and hours of US cable television speculation about the fate of the flight during the past seven days are a Daily Show parody waiting to happen. There has been some genuine breaking news in the mystery worth covering, but much of that air time was spent in fruitless speculation. One guest told CNN that ‘funny-sounding’ but ‘very deadly’ Uighurs could be at fault. Even over-the-top CNN commentator Richard Quest reacted with horror at the sheer speculation and shut the guest down.Yasmin Alibhai Brown at The Independent writes With Britain becoming ever more unequal, we need the likes of Tony Benn and Bob Crow more than ever:
I last saw Tony Benn at the Friends Meeting House in Euston. We were both invited to speak about the austerity measures and their impact on the voiceless. Before the event started, I asked him what had made him give up his inherited privileges and become a ferocious warrior for fairness and justice. His reply: “Nothing special. A conscience and simple, common humanity. We all have that.”Danny Vinik at The New Republic delves into why Economists Do Not Agree About How To Measure Unemployment and why it matters:
If only. Our government has neither and nor did the Blairites who came before them. They put on those faces, they poured honeyed libations when Benn passed away and even after Bob Crow suddenly died. But the ritual utterances meant nothing. For the ravenous rich and their political champions (or slaves), that’s two more lefty nuisances dead and gone. Relief and champagne all round. Now back to big business as usual.
There’s a big debate playing out right now at the Federal Reserve, and it focuses on a seemingly simple question: Is the unemployment rate correct? The argument, from a geeky point of view, is really interesting. But what worries me is that the central bank might misread the conclusions and embrace policies that could choke off an already weak recovery.Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. at The Nation explains Why We Need a New Church Committee to Fix Our Broken Intelligence System:
But first, the debate: At issue is not whether someone’s been fudging the official unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. Rather, it’s the more arcane issue of whether that rate accurately represents the current state of the labor market.
Economists currently have two warring theories of the case.
Almost forty years ago, a Senate select committee known as the Church Committee for its chair, Idaho Senator Frank Church, investigated America’s secret government. The committee’s investigation remains the most extensive of its kind in this nation’s history. Now it is time for a new committee to examine our secret government closely again, particularly for its actions in the post-9/11 period.S.E. Cupp at theNew York Daily News gives Hillary Clinton GOP advice on how to run in 2016 in Can the pendulum swing for Hillary?:
This need is underscored by what has become a full-blown crisis, with Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein accusing the CIA of spying on the committee, possibly violating the Constitution’s separation-of-powers principles, the Fourth Amendment and other laws.
The Church Committee uncovered shocking conduct by numerous agencies, including the FBI, CIA and NSA. For example, the FBI tried to get Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the CIA enlisted the Mafia in its attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro; and the NSA and its predecessor, the Armed Forces Security Agency, obtained copies of most telegrams leaving America for a period of thirty years.
But in her messaging she should, without saying it outright, be everything Obama was not in 2008. Where he was a fresh, new face, she should be the face of experience. Where he was naïve, she should be sober. Where he capitulated, she should be strong. Where he was idealistic, she should be pragmatic.Nomi Prins at Truthdig writes —The Inevitability of Income Inequality:
In short, she should run the way a Republican would—as the antidote to Obama. [...]
Don’t get me wrong, I want a Republican in the White House—and if the party runs a good race, one of them will surely end up there.
But if Hillary wants to win amidst stiff competition from the right (and potentially the far-left), she’ll resist the temptation to be Obama 2.0 and instead choose to be the Obama alternative—the candidate at the end of the country’s pendulum swing.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the historically high levels of income and wealth inequality lately—mostly from people on the shorter end of that stick — with good reason: There’s no end in sight.
In his new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” economist Thomas Piketty argues that worsening inequality is inevitable in a mature capitalist system, based on his analysis of 200 years of data. But inequality isn’t just an evolving condition like a crippling allergy that comes and goes, or just grows, enumerated by horrifying statistics. Nor is it just the result of a capitalist-utopian idea of free markets in which everyone gets a fair shot armed with equal information (which simply don’t exist in the real world, where markets are routinely gamed by the biggest players). Inequality is endemic to the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in the hands of a few families. [...]
Today, the focus of this power structure is so skewed that any notion of “public good” is mere campaign fodder for presidents or presidential hopefuls, and nonexistent for the banking elite. That’s why inequality for the rest of the population has leapt back up to 1928 levels and will continue to rise from there. That’s why Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton or both may run for president, while JPMorgan Chase, J.P. Morgan’s legacy, remains the most powerful bank in the world, as it was designed to be more than a century ago.