Henry Paulson offers good advice, possibly for the first time... Ross Douthat believes no good thought goes unpunished... Paul Greenberg looks at the tangled path fish take to your plate. But first...
Timothy Egan on corporations as a potential source of good.
For some time now, Republicans in Congress have given up the pretense of doing anything to improve the lot of most Americans. Raising the minimum wage? They won’t even allow a vote to happen. Cleaner air for all? They may partially shut down the government in a coming fight on behalf of major polluters. Add to that the continuing obstruction of student loan relief efforts, and numerous attempts to defund health care, and you have a party actively working to make life miserable for millions.The really sad thing is that so many Americans don't expect any better. In fact, people have developed a perverse pride in the meanness of the support we give our citizens. Many of them aren't worried about how we might fill basic gaps, they're fixated on stopping the little that we do.
So, our nation turns to Starbucks. And Walmart. In the present moment, both of those global corporate monoliths are poised to do more to affect the huge chasm between the rich and everybody else than anything that’s likely to come out of John Boehner’s House of Representatives.
As long as the Supreme Court says that corporations are citizens, they may as well act like them. Starbucks is trying to be dutiful — in its own prickly, often self-righteous, spin-heavy way — while Walmart is a net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure. ...
It’s a sad day when we have to look to corporations for education, health care and basic ways to boost the middle class. Most advanced nations do those things for their people. We used to — witness the G.I. Bill, which helped millions of returning soldiers get a lift to a better life. But you go to war against the income gap with the system you have, and ours is currently broken. By default, we have no choice but to lean on our corporate overlords.
This really is a kind of American exceptionalism — a burning desire, expressed loudly and often, to be exceptionally vile, exceptionally stingy, exceptionally heartless toward our fellow citizens.
Come on in. Let's be exceptionally hopeful.
Henry Paulson, the secretary of the treasury during the 2008 crash, sees an even bigger collapse approaching.
There is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage.I'm impressed that Paulson, along with his fellow former Secretaries, put this out there... though taking economic advice from Paulson, even when he's saying things I agree with, seems vaguely like asking Rumsfeld for advice on Iraq.
For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do.
We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.
Some members of my political party worry that pricing carbon is a “big government” intervention. In fact, it will reduce the role of government, which, on our present course, increasingly will be called on to help communities and regions affected by climate-related disasters like floods, drought-related crop failures and extreme weather like tornadoes, hurricanes and other violent storms. We’ll all be paying those costs. Not once, but many times over.
Steven Rattner welcomes our robot masters.
Just over 50 years ago, the cover of Life magazine breathlessly declared the “point of no return for everybody.” Above that stark warning, a smaller headline proclaimed, “Automation’s really here; jobs go scarce.”They've also been right. The original Luddites weren't worried that technology was going to eliminate jobs, they were worried that it was going to eliminate good jobs, replacing skilled craftsmen with low-wage machine operators. The machines generated profit for factory owners and the skilled workers were out of luck. It's a scenario that's been repeated many times, and while each new round of technology brings it's own skilled positions, the number of such positions tend to be much smaller than the area just replaced.
As events unfolded, it was Life that was nearing the point of no return — the magazine suspended weekly publication in 1972. For the rest of America, jobs boomed; in the following decade, 21 million Americans were added to the employment rolls.
Throughout history, aspiring Cassandras have regularly proclaimed that new waves of technological innovation would render huge numbers of workers idle, leading to all manner of economic, social and political disruption.
So far, of course, they’ve all been wrong. But that has not prevented a cascade of shrill new proclamations that — notwithstanding centuries of history — “this time is different”: The technology revolution will impair the livelihoods of millions of Americans.
Ross Douthat accuses the US of building gingerbread houses.
For years now, one side of the immigration debate — the side of billionaires, professional bipartisans, and all the great and good — has argued that an amnesty of some kind for illegal immigrants isn’t just a sensible policy choice but a crushingly obvious one: self-evidently wise, morally farseeing and a win for almost everyone, from corporations to labor unions to Republican politicians to the immigrants themselves.And now we're seeing more young immigrants, clearly because we harbored a momentary thought of being decent.
Nested inside that debate has been a smaller one, over the Dream Act, a measure opening a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who arrived as minors. If comprehensive reform has been cast as a no-brainer, the Dream Act has been portrayed as a test of basic moral fitness: To oppose welcoming these young men and women is to oppose all that’s decent, humanitarian and just.
The young migrants are not, obviously, deeply familiar with the ins and outs of U.S. politics; they’re following smuggler-spread rumors, for the most part. But the rumors exist for a reason: They’re fueled by a sense that “if you want to get into the U.S., now is the time,” a scholar of Latin America told The Washington Post. And the Obama White House has conceded that a “misperception of U.S. immigration policy” is playing a role — one significant enough to dispatch Vice President Joe Biden to Central America to clarify that we are not actually opening our borders to any minor who reaches them.See, they're coming because of rumors, and don't understand that we're actually not being decent.
Dana Milbank says that at least the Republican establishment can count on the establishment.
If this week’s House Republican leadership elections told us anything, it’s that we should put to bed this tired meme about a civil war between the tea party and establishment Republicans.Ruth Markus on Elizabeth Warren.
On June 10, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was toppled by a libertarian challenger in the Republican primary, the word went forth throughout the land that the tea party was resurgent and that House Republicans would tack even more to the right.
Nine days later, Cantor’s colleagues held an election to replace him, and the winner was California’s Kevin McCarthy — who has a voting record more liberal than Cantor’s. McCarthy became majority leader by clobbering a tea party challenger, Raúl Labrador (Idaho). A more reliable conservative, Steve Scalise (La.) won the No. 3 leadership slot by beating not only a more moderate challenger but also a tea party opponent who regarded him as too cozy with the establishment.
How to explain the contradiction? Simple: Ideology had little to do with the elections.
Some politicians know they want to be in public office and scramble to come up with the reason why. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is an accidental, improbable politician — a self-described “outsider” — who knows exactly what she wants to accomplish on the inside.We can all stay hopeful.
The Massachusetts Democrat insists that she’s not running for president, and there’s little reason to doubt her — although, interestingly, Warren sticks doggedly to the present tense to describe her intentions.
I asked Warren about this phrasing the other afternoon over iced tea mixed with lemonade at a restaurant near her Capitol Hill office. In these precincts, senator sightings are commonplace but, even here, Warren enjoys celebrity status; the manager promptly presented Warren with a copy of her memoir, “A Fighting Chance,” to sign.
Why not simply declare that she will not run for president in 2016? “I am not running for president in 2016,” Warren responded. Yes, I pressed, but why not say, I am not running and I will not run ?
“Because we can’t get so deeply involved in the politics of 2016 that we miss the importance of the issues in front of us today in July of 2014 and the 2014 election,” Warren replied, jumping slightly ahead of the calendar. “It is absolutely crucial to stay focused right now on this set of issues and that’s what I’m doing.”
Paul Greenberg Goes fishing for reasons that we outsource fish.
In 1982 a Chinese aquaculture scientist named Fusui Zhang journeyed to Martha’s Vineyard in search of scallops. The New England bay scallop had recently been domesticated, and Dr. Zhang thought the Vineyard-grown shellfish might do well in China. After a visit to Lagoon Pond in Tisbury, he boxed up 120 scallops and spirited them away to his lab in Qingdao. During the journey 94 died. But 26 thrived. Thanks to them, today China now grows millions of dollars of New England bay scallops, a significant portion of which are exported back to the United States.This is a story of unique local resources turned into international commodities not just at the expense of jobs, but to the detriment of whole ecosystems, and of fish criss-crossing the seas... in boats.
As go scallops, so goes the nation. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, even though the United States controls more ocean than any other country, 86 percent of the seafood we consume is imported.
But it’s much fishier than that: While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.
The seafood industry, it turns out, is a great example of the swaps, delete-and-replace maneuvers and other mechanisms that define so much of the outsourced American economy; you can find similar, seemingly inefficient phenomena in everything from textiles to technology. The difference with seafood, though, is that we’re talking about the destruction and outsourcing of the very ecological infrastructure that underpins the health of our coasts.