Visual source: Newseum
First, the brutal news:
The recent recession wiped out nearly two decades of Americans’ wealth, according to government data released Monday, with middle-class families bearing the brunt of the decline.
The Federal Reserve said the median net worth of families plunged by 39 percent in just three years, from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. That puts Americans roughly on par with where they were in 1992.
According to the data, the richest families saw an increase in their net worth. Despite these shocking numbers, many Democrats on the Hill are still on the fence about whether to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Some Democrats, however, are advocating a different approach. Greg Sargent
at The Washington Post
looks at the dynamic in the debate about renewing those ill-advised Bush tax cuts:
As you’ve heard, Senate Democrats are reported to be divided and uncertain about how they will approach the coming standoff over the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts. With that whole “fiscal cliff” looming, some Dems are disagreeing over the proper threshold for the high end cuts ($250,000, or $1 million?) and others are skittish about whether to let them expire at all — even the ones on the rich.
But a few progressive Dems seem to be quietly floating another scenario entirely: letting all the tax cuts expire, coming back and voting on recutting middle class tax rates, and challenging Republicans to vote against the Dem-proposed tax cuts.
Remember: If Democrats do nothing, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire. And Dems recognize that their leverage turns heavily on whether they appear willing to let them all expire. So progressives like Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley are suggesting, in interviews with David Dayen, that perhaps it should come to that, if necessary.
at The New York Times
explains why it would be remarkably stupid to continue Bush's economic policies:
Republicans assert that Barack Obama assumed sole responsibility for the budget on Jan. 20, 2009. From that date, all increases in the debt or deficit are his responsibility and no one else’s, they say.
This is, of course, nonsense – and the American people know it. As I documented in a previous post, even today 43 percent of them hold George W. Bush responsible for the current budget deficit versus only 14 percent who blame Mr. Obama.
The American people are right; Mr. Bush is more responsible, as a new report from the Congressional Budget Office documents.
at the Times Union
points out the correlation between decreased union membership and less opportunity for the working class:
[W]e regard as self-evident has changed considerably since the 1930s. While we once thought that regulatory legislation and government mediation in labor-management conflicts advanced the interests of the majority, we now see this as a danger to freedom. Today we believe that we need to be left alone so that we can freely sell our labor to the highest bidder. The popularity of organized labor, meanwhile, once seen as the guarantor of opportunity for the working class, has declined to a historic low.
The attack on public-sector unions is only one battle in a longer war for political influence between organized labor and organized management. The outcome will affect us all. What we increasingly see in retrospect is that the end of union strength was also the beginning of the shrinking of the middle class and growth in wealth inequality not seen since the Gilded Age.
We are in danger of becoming a nation of worker drones ruled by quasi feudal lords. It is this sorry state of affairs, rather than the idea of collective bargaining or activist government, that should be considered hopelessly out-of-date and un-American.
examines why the Obama campaign has embraced Bain attacks, even though they may be out of character for the President:
If he were not in the White House right now, there's a good chance Senator Obama would be among the growing number of dissident Democrats -- Cory Booker and Bill Clinton among them -- expressing unease with the Bain line of attack by his party's presidential nominee. He is a self-proclaimed "New Democrat," a business-friendly moderate who often rhapsodizes about the magic of free enterprise.
But Obama's re-election team apparently did the polling and testing -- and saw how Ted Kennedy's brutal, relentless campaign against Romney in 1994 worked so well -- and decided the attacks were just too promising to pass up.
at The Nation
profiles another Republican attempt to scratch corporate America's back:
If you held a contest to determine the most important government agency nobody’s heard about, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would be a strong gold medal contender. Charged with overseeing commodity futures and options markets—which, when the CFTC was created in 1974, mainly involved agricultural futures—the agency now oversees the absolutely massive financial derivatives market on Wall Street, as well as oil futures markets.
This means that the relatively tiny agency has tremendous influence over the financial sector’s biggest money machine—one that has already helped bring down the world economy once within the past few years. And oil speculation is a significant factor in driving the prices Americans pay at the pump.
But perhaps taking advantage of the CFTC’s obscurity, Congressional Republicans have made a brazen attempt to slash the agency’s budget and reduce staff. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture sent out a budget that provides only $180.4 million to the CFTC, which is a $24.6 million cut from last year’s already anemic funding level. This is well below the $308 million in President Obama’s budget request, which supporters of Wall Street reform universally agree is still too low anyhow. The Republican request would likely lead to lay-offs at the agency, according to Congressional staffers familiar with the matter.
at the Associated Press
Keeping his secrets, Mitt Romney tends to lift the veil on his finances and campaign only if the law says he must.
The Republican presidential candidate refuses to identify his biggest donors who "bundle" money for his campaign. He often declines to say who's meeting with him or what he's doing for hours at a time. He puts limits on media access to his fundraisers. And he resists releasing all of his tax returns, making just a single year public after facing pressure to do so.
"We've released all the information required by law and then some," Romney said last month about his tax returns.
He's indicated that part of the reason for his secrecy is to avoid political problems in his race against President Barack Obama.
looks at the White House's terrible month:
This has been one of the worst stretches of the Obama presidency. In Washington, there is a creeping sense that the bottom has fallen out and that there may be no second term. Privately, senior Obama advisers say they are no longer expecting much economic improvement before the election.
Carney had the unenviable task of confronting the full arsenal of gloom at Monday afternoon’s briefing.
The AP asked about the president’s unfortunate private-sector-is-fine remark. The Reuters correspondent asked about the economic “head winds” from Europe. Ed Henry of Fox News Channel asked about the looming contempt-of-Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News asked about the Supreme Court striking down Obamacare. Norah O’Donnell of CBS News asked about calls for a special prosecutor to probe leaks. Victoria Jones of Talk Radio News asked about the stalled talks with Pakistan.