Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Month: December 2008 (page 1 of 3)

Hillary, It is Time to be Great!

Eight years ago, when many in the US thought that it really didn’t matter who was president and that the country could run on automatic pilot, George Bush was elected president. At the time, he was thought to have had the greatest foreign-policy team of all time. Colin Powell. Dick Cheney. Condoleezza Rice. Incredible credentials. Yet, over the last eight years, to describe President Bush’s foreign-policy as being a disaster is simply being kind. He’s made little or no progress in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, some may suggest that is actually taken the peace process backwards 5-10 years.
On January 20, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have to hit the ground running. The lack of American leadership is palpable in the world. Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip for the last four days. Israel did this in retaliation to multiple rocket attacks into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. This is a typical scenario. Israel takes a pounding then it disproportionately retaliates. The retaliation causes an international outcry. Sometime thereafter Israel stops the offensive and we go back to square one. Soon to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has to break the cycle.

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Personally, I think it is important that we support Israel. On the other hand, the Palestinians are living in abhorrent conditions. Their living standard must be raised. If you have something to live for, then you are less likely to want to turn yourself into a human bomb. Hillary Clinton must find a balance that has escaped George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and her husband, Bill Clinton. She must find a way to get all the parties involved to begin to discuss the problem and to find a solution. This would include Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. (Some of these Arab countries have treated the Palestinians like unwanted stepchildren.)

From political standpoint, this is a huge time bomb. If Barack Obama spends a lot of political capital early in his presidency on trying to fix the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and can’t find a solution then that will hurt some of his domestic agenda. On the other hand, we have seen what eight years of neglect will do. On the surface, this seems to be a lose-lose proposition. But, being an optimist, I think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will need to balance this with the many all the crises around the world. We do need to defeat Al Qaeda. We do need to do better in Afghanistan and make it a functioning nation. We need to help Pakistan, not only in its relationship to India, but also in its relationship to Afghanistan. We need to get out of Iraq. We need to develop a presence in Africa. We need to support and bolster Africa’s attempt to try to control some of its violence with in its own continent (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Darfur for come to mind). As a nation, we must not ignore the problems of South America and Central America. The growing challenges of Asia which include the vulnerability of some Asian countries to Al Qaeda may be as daunting as any challenge that I’ve yet mentioned. I have to make a special mention of North Korea since it was an original member of the axis of evil.

If history tells us anything, it shows us 2 paths which have not led to a settlement of this long conflict. The first path, was taken by President Clinton which was to wait to the end of his presidency than the throw his whole weight behind the peace process. He was a lame duck and because of that could not get an agreement. Then there is the President Bush way — ignore the problem and hope it will go away. This didn’t work either. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton must choose a different path. It is time for Hillary Clinton to be great.

What now?

(I wrote this before the election.)
At this time of year, I especially like to use football analogies. Leon Lett was a very talented defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys during the early- and mid-1990s. In the Super Bowl, Leon Lett picked up a fumble and ran towards a certain touchdown. Approximately five yards from the goal line, he began to celebrate and Don Beebe of the Buffalo Bills came out of nowhere and knocked the ball out of Leon Lett’s hand before he crosses the goal line. No touchdown.

There are a couple of ways to look at this story. One way is from Don Beebe’s perspective. The Buffalo Bills were losing and losing badly. The Bills were about to lose their third Super Bowl in a row. Beebe could’ve easily given up. Instead, he has become a part of football legend. With grit and determination, he prevented a touchdown. Leon Lett, on the other hand, is remembered for being a great player who made a boneheaded play.

As both presidential campaigns try to sprint to the finish line, we must remember that the world will not stop on November 4th. All the problems that existed on November fourth will still be around on November 5th. For almost two years, Barack Obama has asked us to be an active participant in his campaign. After the election results are announced, we cannot stop being activists.
For more than 30 years, the American people have been spectators. We have been busy either cheering or booing our politicians. It is time for us to help our candidate carry the ball over the goal line. Our goal must be more than just to win a presidential race but, to make a better America.
It is my opinion that we, the American people, need to accomplish five things in order to save our republic. First, we need to create jobs. Many of these jobs should come from the creation of a clean energy industry. Without good jobs, we are not going to get out of this economic recession. Secondly, we need to revamp our tax structure. We need to reward businesses that hire and pay a fair wage. Thirdly, we need to extricate ourselves from Iraq in an orderly fashion. Some troops will need to be redeployed to Afghanistan. We need to provide Afghanistan with an infrastructure so that the central government can be effective. Fourth, we truly need to invest in education. We need to do more than just throw money at the problem. We need to rebuild our crumbling schools, which would create more jobs. We need to create a system where the best and the brightest want to go into our public school system and teach our children. Last, but not least, we need to look seriously at health care. Doctors, nurses, patients, hospital administrators – almost no one is happy with the way our healthcare system is running. The system needs to be friendlier to everyone. Is excellent health care a right in this country? We need to have this discussion. The American people, not just our politicians, must be involved in this discussion. Whatever solution we come up with is one we’ll all have to live with.
If we are able to accomplish these five things relatively quickly we can save our wonderful country. Through letters and e-mails, phone calls and faxes, we must continue to be engaged with our politicians. We must demand town hall meetings where we see our politicians face-to-face. We need constantly to remind them that they work for us. They should carry out our wishes and our desires. Right now, we want change.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: 82% Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA, where we talked about the myriad of lame attacks against Barack Obama while he racks up phenomenal approval ratings by focusing on what matters, and how we should follow suit.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the show is below in four parts.
Part 1
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oseVHiySAno&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 2
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2ascad_tsE&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 3
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1mn9fMqvFw&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 4
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSkHOZvtuiE&hl=en&fs=1]

Obama angers many with choice of Warren

As everyone knows by now, Barack Obama has chosen the hugely successful but quite controversial Reverend Rick Warren to perform the opening invocation at his inauguration. The gay and lesbian community has been outraged over this choice. It has been noted that on his website he has stated that unrepentant homosexuals will not be accepted as members of his Saddleback Church. These harsh statements have disappeared from his website, but does this mean that the Reverend Warren has changed his mind about homosexuality? I doubt it.

This has become a very big deal in the Progressive community. The dustup over Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich really did not affect the Progressive community. Republicans were up in arms, but Progressives really did not believe that Barack Obama or anyone within his inner circle would be involved in selling Obama’s Senate seat. On the other hand, true Progressives believe in equality. We believe in equality amongst the races and in equality concerning sexual orientation. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have clearly stated that they also support gay rights but do not support gay marriage. (I’m not sure that I have yet resolved this conflict in logic but many “progressive” politicians have these illogical thoughts. “I support gay rights, but I can’t support gay marriage.” It doesn’t make a bit of sense to me, but then again, I’m not a politician.)

Here’s the problem. The gay and lesbian community embraced Bill Clinton and his presidency. In 1996, the Republican Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. Republicans were hoping to trap Democrats and a weakened President Clinton into arguing against this bill, but Democrats supported this bill overwhelmingly and President Clinton signed it into law. The gay and lesbian community thought that they were thrown under the bus, and they were. So now, 12 years later, the gay and lesbian community thought they had an ally in Barack Obama. (see Rachel Maddow’s video clip. She is really pissed at Obama for choosing Rick Warren.)

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Personally, I believe Barack Obama was caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of his choice in Jeremiah Wright, I think Obama and his team must have thought that choosing a well-known black minister would have brought Obama’s old Reverend again to the forefront. Choosing an unknown minister would have caused everyone to scratch their heads and ask why Obama couldn’t get someone with “star power.” I think that Barack Obama sought, therefore, the least offensive popular (white) minister. (I understand that “least offensive” is subjective and really depends upon who is being affected by it.) I’m not saying that this was the best choice or even someone I’d have considered. I’m just saying that I think I understand the reasoning behind it.
I also believe that Barack Obama continues to support legitimately the cause of equality for the gay and lesbian communities. I think that he supports 95% of the gay and lesbian agenda but that this is the way it’s going to go over the next four years. Not just for gays and lesbians, but for all Progressives. Obama is really going to try to walk the tightrope between progressive and conservative Americans. The black and Latino communities, as well as supporters of women’s rights, will get their (our) feelings hurt in the coming months and even years. In spite of some hurt feelings,though, I think Barack Obama will do more for our collective causes than any other president has over the past 30 years.

Progressive Breakfast: Oh, What a Reeling

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Toyota Losing Money Too
Toyota will lose money on cars for the first time in seven decades.
Emptywheel: “Richard Shelby and Bob Corker like to squawk about how the [US automakers] have a failed business model as compared to the wonderful Japanese automakers. Funny. I thought successful business models were profitable … Toyota’s woes demonstrate how ill-informed the debates over the auto relief have been.”
Progressive Blue: “can the Corporate Republicans in the Senate finally admit that it was not the evil, godless, pinko union workers that have caused so many problems in our economy, but the Corporate Republicans and Democrats that rubber-stamped every failed economic policy of a completely failed and disgraced President??”
CNN: “A new national poll suggests that a majority of Americans approve of recent loans to the big U.S. automakers, but fewer than three in ten would support any additional assistance if the domestic auto industry asked for such help. Sixty-three percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey support the roughly $13 billion loan package the White House is extending to American automakers to prevent them from going into bankruptcy, with 37 percent opposing the move.”
Support The Workers
Bob Herbert: “The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.”
KC Star’s Mary Sanchez worries the successful worker sit-in in Chicago won’t reverberate: “The danger is that the Republic settlement gained concessions for a few – to silence a protest that had gained too much embarrassing attention – while keeping in place the labor practices, business incentives and myriad of loopholes that allow companies to operate at the expense of their own employees.”
Conservative RedState expresses hope that “Democrats Going Wobbly” on easier unionization with the Employee Free Choice Act.
Economic Recovery Plan Update
CBS says “Capitol Hill sources” are talking $850B for Congress’ economic recovery package.
Media Matters pushes back on conservatives citing Japan to argue against infrastructure spending.
States Getting Whacked
LA Times on how cash-strapped states are scrimping on the justice system: “Justice is being delayed or disrupted in state courtrooms across the country.” (via Crooks and Liars’ Susie Madrak.)
Sac Bee: “State worker unions filed legal challenges Monday against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mandate of twice-monthly unpaid furloughs and potential layoffs next year … Schwarzenegger said in a Los Angeles news conference. “But we are running out of cash by February, so I have no other choice.”
W. Times’ Donald Lambro sees states — which are obligated to balanced budgets each year — responding with regressive tax hikes on the poor and middle-class. CAF’s David Sirota warned earlier against regressive state tax hikes and advocated progressive tax hikes on those who can still afford it.
Note: Federal aid to states is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy.
Bailout Reform?
AP reports Rep. Barney Frank has reforms in mind for the next phase of the financial industry bailout:

Lawmakers have criticized Treasury for not using any of the initial $350 billion to prevent additional home foreclosures. Up to 2.25 million Americans could lose their homes to foreclosure this year, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has warned.
Frank said his legislation would include a version of a plan, supported by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, to spend $24 billion to give lenders financial incentives to modify more loans and help more borrowers keep their homes. Bair has estimated it could prevent 1.5 million foreclosures.
His proposal also would include a measure, under consideration by Treasury, to use government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce mortgage rates to 4.5 percent or lower to stimulate more home buying.
Frank also wants to revamp the Hope for Homeowners program, which was launched Oct. 1. It was intended to let 400,000 troubled homeowners swap risky loans for conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans with lower rates. The early results have been disappointing, with only 312 applications so far, and officials are looking at ways to expand the program’s use.

John Holdren, The Science Guy
Politico’s Ben Smith: “…among scientists who worry about climate change, Holdren’s in the group who see it as a more urgent, and dangerous, matter. A memorable expression of that view: He published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled, ‘The Sky Is Falling.'”
Wonk Room’s Brad John says NYT’s John Tierney “appear[s] to go off the deep end” in criticizing’s Obama new science adviser John Holdren for supporting strong measures to avert a climate crisis.
Public Plan Option Picks Up Grassroots Steam
NYT drops in on an Obama supporter house party and gets on earful on healthcare: “Dr. Lawrence M. Nelson, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health who emphasized that he was speaking as a private citizen, said: ‘The incentives in the current health insurance system are upside down. The less care you provide, the bigger your profits.’ Dr. Nelson said he liked Mr. Obama’s proposal to create a new public plan, similar to Medicare, that would compete with private insurance companies.” (More on such a plan from the IAF report, “The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform.”)
Meanwhile, Joe Paduda, Bob Laszewski and Ezra Klein react to a recent CBO report on health care reform options.
Breakfast Sides
The Nation’s Ari Berman showers credit on DNC Chair Howard Dean for the 50-state strategy.
La Vida Locavore: Last day to comment on proposed USDA rules that would mean “half of legitimate organic dairy farmers will no longer qualify as organic.”
The Pump Handle: “President-elect Obama’s news release on Sunday, Dec 21 said that VP-elect Joe Biden will be chairing a new White House Taskforce on Working Families. I was surprised, but thrilled to see that workplace safety standards are part of this group’s charge. ”

Progressive Breakfast: Wages Falling, Jobs Vanishing, Econ Package Growing

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Calls For Even Bigger Economic Plans
W. Post reports Obama is upping his jobs target to 3M, as advisers now fear unemployment could surpass 9%. “Congressional aides said they have talked with Obama’s team about tacking on initiatives that could drive the overall price tag as high as $850 billion, a figure more in line with economists’ recommendations. But with resistance expected from Senate Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats, an Obama adviser said the team has settled for now on $775 billion as the highest figure likely to win congressional approval and be ready for Obama’s signature soon after he takes office Jan. 20.”
Might Obama be expecting Congress to increase it above $775B? NYT: “It would be the largest stimulus package in memory and would most likely grow as it made its way through Congress, although Mr. Obama has secured Democratic leaders’ agreement to ban spending on pork-barrel projects.”
Economists say more is necessary. NYT: “[Obama economic adviser Christine] Romer … laid out recommendations from private sector analysts and liberal to conservative economists for a government stimulus that ranged from $800 billion to $1.3 trillion over two years.”
Economic Populist: “Boehner desperate to find economists against stimulus”
Obama economic adviser Summers quoted by W. Post: “I don’t think you can regard this simply as a numbers game. It’s really going to depend upon the quality of the spending programs that we’re able to identify. If we’re able to identify spending programs and effective tax measures that really can do the job, I think there would be a lot of receptiveness.”
In W. Post, congressional aides <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/20/AR2008122001395_pf.html"outline "three pots" of investment:

…at least $100 billion going to the states, primarily to cover the rising cost of health care for the poor.
Roughly $350 billion would be invested to rebuild roads and bridges, modernize schools and help hospitals and doctors switch to computerized patient records. That category also would include projects aimed at improving energy efficiency, such as weatherizing buildings, as well as aid to the poor through expanded unemployment and food-stamp benefits.
Obama’s team has also laid out a substantial tax-cutting agenda that will include a $1,000 tax credit for working families … estimated to cost about $140 billion over two years. Other tax provisions could include tax breaks for businesses, an expansion of the earned-income tax credit for the poor and new credits for tuition and alternative energy…

Will Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus get in the way? McClatchy reports: “Baucus, however, thinks that any stimulus plan should be split evenly between taxes and spending, while other congressional leaders lean toward having twice as much spending as tax cuts.”
Odd Sunday NYT piece warns of “A Trap in Obama’s Spending Plan,” that because of the weak economy, public spending may not spark private investment. Yet, it cites no examples, while showing how FDR “was inventive … and found a way around the problem by subsidizing … purchases.” Further, “in 1937, Roosevelt, thinking that the private sector could sustain itself, pulled back on public spending. Some historians say this was a big reason the economy sank again.”
Dean Baker takes W. Post to task for asserting “The boldness of the economic rescue is already straining the government’s finances.” Baker retorts: “The piece never presents any evidence for the claim that the government’s finances are being strained. Economists would usually look for high interest rates on government bonds as evidence for such strain, the argument being that excessive borrowing is causing lenders to view the U.S. government as a questionable credit risk … [But] The short-term rates on Treasury debt are near zero. The 10-year Treasury rate is just over 2.0 percent, the lowest in more than fifty years.”
DailyKos’ devilstower calls for less roads, and less maintenance, in any infrastructure plan. While The Overhead Wire scolds the Boston Globe for assuming road v. transit advocate tensions: “Ahem. Advocates are not split Boston Globe. We want transit, walking, and biking projects. There is no dichotomy of we have to build roads because they will create jobs and the other projects won’t. That is complete and utter bs.”
Biden To Head Middle-Class Task Force
NYT: “[Obama] announced the creation of a task force to bolster the standard of living of middle-class and working families in America, tapping [VP Biden] to lead the effort with four members of the cabinet. ‘Our charge is to look at existing and future policies across the board and use a yardstick to measure how they are impacting the working- and middle-class families,’ Mr. Biden said in a statement on Sunday. ‘Is the number of these families growing? Are they prospering?'”
Yglesias: “It’s good to see these questions getting asked. Over the past eight years to a remarkable degree the focus has been on trying to put as good a spin as possible on things rather than on trying to actually improving wages and living standards for the bottom 80 percent of Americans.”
Note that Biden’s chief economic aide is Jared Bernstein, formerly of EPI.
Not Just Unemployment. Watch For Underemployment
NYT: “A growing number of employers, hoping to avoid or limit layoffs, are introducing four-day workweeks, unpaid vacations and voluntary or enforced furloughs, along with wage freezes, pension cuts and flexible work schedules. These employers are still cutting labor costs, but hanging onto the labor.”
Calculated Risk: “employees working part time (for economic reasons) is an important part of the weak employment picture.”
Naked Capitalism: “falling wages produces a nasty spiral. Not only do consumers have less to spend, but worse, even if they keep their jobs, they can be legitimately worried about even lower pay packages down the road … the Times candy-coats this development, presenting it as a ‘win-win’ that saves jobs, as opposed to a further grinding down of workers who have had stagnant real wages since the mid-1970s.”
…Good Thing Those Auto Workers Will Now Earn Less
NYT: Uncertainty Grows Over Parent’s Role in Chrysler Responds Emptywheel: “[Private equity firm and Chrysler owner] Cerberus appears to be seeking to capitalize on the woes of the auto industry to do two things: first help its Republican buddies break the UAW, and after doing so, pawn off its unwanted “investment” in Chrysler onto the same union.”
OpenLeft’s Paul Rosenberg: GOP vs. UAW
The Back Forty’s Miryam Ehrlich Williamson: “When corporate executives bargain for the best deal they can get, that’s business. When unions do it for their members, that’s greed.”
DailyKos’ Trapper John: “the UAW made America work the way we want it to work. And while the union has undoubtedly also made mistakes throughout its history, you’d be hard-pressed as progressives to identify an institution that has done more for working Americans of all stripes. So I support an a auto industry bailout, because I’d like to see us help the UAW keep making things: making cars, making a decent and dignified living for its members, and making change for all of us. God knows the union’s done a helluva lot more for us than Goldman Sachs.” (More UAW history at Progressive Blue.)
Union-bashers dream headline at W. Post: “UAW’s Sacrifices Look to Some Like Surrender”
Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer says shady auto dealer lending practices need fixing.
EFCA Watch
D-Day on re-framing the EFCA debate:

Too often Democrats let Republicans define the debate, even during this era of epic conservative decline. In the traditional media, the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act has consistently been about whether or not unions want to “eliminate the right to a secret ballot election” for workers.
Now of course, this isn’t true. In fact, even under EFCA, if 30% of the workforce calls for a vote, they get a vote. But this is not the real problem in labor-management relations. That argument is about the implications of EFCA passing. In fact, the current circumstances of labor elections is the problem that needs to be solved by EFCA. I finally found the best and most coherent argument around that at the AFL-CIO site (h/t Ezra). The truth is that the system for labor elections, the vaunted “secret ballot,” is broken…
…think of it as your “secret ballot” Presidential election marred by: mandatory pro-McCain training sessions held across the country, mandatory meetings where “Obama is a Muslim” propaganda is foregrounded, threats to take away your job if you vote for Obama, and threats to close your workplace entirely if Obama wins.

Hold Fast: “The terms of the debate have been set against us. Redefining how we talk about the Employee Free Choice Act is critical.”
FiveThirtyEight looks at EFCA’s Senate prospects: “Most likely, then, the Democrats will need to hold both [Senators] Lincoln and Specter, as well as win the seat in Minnesota. If any of these contingencies fall through, EFCA faces an uphill battle.”
As does Marc Ambinder: “maybe — EFCA will have to wait until the summer of 2010, after the primaries, when Republicans in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be more vulnerable to pressure from unions. In the meantime, the unions have to figure out a way to be patient, and Obama’s team has to figure out exactly how many votes in the Senate they have.”
Tapped’s Tim Fernholz: “Did the VP just become labor czar? And if you were going to pick someone to find 60 votes for EFCA in the Senate, wouldn’t you want that person to be Joe Biden?”
TPMCafe’s Nathan Newman finds some good ol’ fashioned “redbaiting” directed at Obama’s Labor Secretary nominee. Crooks and Liars spots Lou Dobbs attacking her as well.
“Free” Traders Panic
Dean Baker: “The Washington Post had a front page article decrying the growth of protectionism today, but somehow managed to overlook the huge subsidies to the U.S. financial industry recently given by Congress and the Fed. The $700 billion in below market loans are a huge subsidy to the U.S. financial industry in the same way that government loans at below market rates would be a subsidy to the U.S. auto or steel industry. In addition, the government is granting guarantees of bank and money market deposits at no cost to the financial institutions who are benefiting … the article also used the term ‘free trade’ to describe the recent trade agenda of selective protectionism in which workers without college degrees are subjected to foreign competition, while the most highly educated professionals remain largely protected.”
Krugman: “A more plausible route to sustained recovery would be a drastic reduction in the U.S. trade deficit, which soared at the same time the housing bubble was inflating. By selling more to other countries and spending more of our own income on U.S.-produced goods, we could get to full employment without a boom in either consumption or investment spending. But it will probably be a long time before the trade deficit comes down enough to make up for the bursting of the housing bubble.”
For The “This Must Be Good For Republicans” File
Politico interviews Republicans wishfully speculating that they’ll be able to exploit intra-party tensions, yet does not explore political risks for Republicans acting as obstructionists in the midst of economic crisis.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Eye On The Ball Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Frederick Clarkson, founder of Talk To Action who discussed his new book, Dispatches From The Religious Left and the choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural Invocation.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the opening monologue — how about we shouldn’t let the intensity around Warren prevent us from focusing on the major effort ahead to enact an economic recovery program — is below in two parts.
Part 1
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WANYTMS1NUw&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 2
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbzLt1XR_MQ&hl=en&fs=1]

Progressive Breakfast: Bush Serves Up Auto Rescue

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Auto Rescue Finally Announced
NYT reports this AM:

President Bush on Friday announced $13.4 billion in emergency loans to prevent the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, and another $4 billion available for the hobbled automakers in February…
Mr. Bush also said that bankruptcy was not a workable alternative for the troubled automakers. ‘Chapter 11 is unlikely to work for the American automakers at this time,’ he said, noting that consumers would be unlikely to purchase cars from a bankrupt manufacturer.
The loan deal also requires the companies to quickly reduce their debt obligations by two-thirds, mostly through debt-for-equity swaps, and to reach an agreement with the United Auto Workers union to cut wages and benefits so they are competitive with those of employees of foreign-based automakers working in the United States.

The plan announced on Friday by Mr. Bush offered a compromise … making the requirements non-binding, allowing the automakers to reach different arrangements with the union, provided that they explain how those alternative plans will keep them on a path toward financial viability. To gain access to the emergency loans, GM and Chrysler must also agree to a wide range of concessions, including limits on executive pay and the elimination of their private corporate jets.
…Mr. Bush essentially handed off to President-elect Obama what will become one of the first, most difficult calls of his presidency: a political and economic judgment about whether General Motors and Chrysler are financially viable.

While there as been much talk of “orderly bankruptcy” in the last 24 hours, Bloomberg reports: “While the option of placing Chrysler and GM into a prearranged bankruptcy has been considered, the administration decided that such a move would put Ford at a competitive disadvantage, the person said.”
Obama Cabinet Split on Trade?
Both NYT and WSJ portray upcoming cabinet picks Ron Kirk for USTR and Rep. Hilda Solis for Labor as creating a “split” on trade policy
But David Sirota and yesterday’s Progressive Breakfast note Kirk’s trade record is thin and mixed, so the jury remains out on how he’ll approach the issue. Notions of “split” are premature.
Tapped’s Harold Meyerson raves about Solis: “In the House, Solis has continued to champion labor causes, immigrants’ rights, women’s health and environmental protections. She also worked closely with Rahm Emanuel in recruiting Democratic House candidates from the Southwest and Latino-dominated districts, so she brings to her new job a strong relationship with Obama’s incoming chief-of-staff. Now, she’s in the key position to promote the Employee Free Choice Act, which seems likely to be the most contentious issue on Obama’s agenda. But Solis has never been deterred by controversy.”
As does HuffPost’s Van Jones: “New Labor Secretary is Brown and Green.”
New EFCA Attack: Free Speech!
Hoover Institution’s Richard Epstein makes the latest ridiculous conservative attack on the Employee Free Choice Act in the WSJ, arguing that employers’ free-speech rights would be violated if employee have the choice to unionize via card-check or ballot instead of employers’ having that choice.
Epstein concedes in the oped that the Supreme Court does not share his unique interpretation of free speech under current labor law.
Will Paulson Get Another $350B?
Miami Herald editorializes:

As the chairwoman of a congressional oversight panel on the $700 billion bailout plan, [Elizabeth Warren is] the top watchdog named by lawmakers for the rescue package approved in October. The package gave the executive branch a lot of leeway in how to use the money to get the economy back on track, but the administration was also obliged to accept oversight to keep lawmakers informed. The complaint by Ms. Warren that she’s being stiff-armed by the Treasury Department adds to worries about what progress — if any — is actually being realized.

There is no reason for the secrecy. Mr. Paulson and his colleagues at Treasury have an obligation to be more forthcoming about their plan — unless they’re just making it up as they go along. In one of the few wise decisions Congress has made in this process, it withheld the second $350 billion installment of the plan until lawmakers get a satisfactory progress report.
If Mr. Paulson doesn’t cooperate with the congressional overseer, he shouldn’t get the rest of the money. Congress should not micromanage the plan, but lawmakers should insist on more openness, and they should also insist that banks on the receiving end start using the money to improve the mortgage market.

Warren appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show yesterday insisting that a plan for the next $350B be made public before any approval.

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D-Day, points to LA Times report on congressional oversight and adds: “So how’s that financial bailout going? Depends on who you ask. Richy McRicherton, CEO of Globo-Capital, thinks it’s the straight awsom!!1! Regular folks across the country, not so much … Meanwhile, that homeowner relief program the White House put into place? Designed to help 400,000 homeowners, so far it’s received 312 applications, because it’s way too expensive and requires too many forms that lenders and borrowers want nothing to do with it … This is theft.”
$850B and Holding
WSJ reports Obama’s economic team is eyeing $850B for its economic recovery plan, and trying to avoid hitting $1T:

President-elect Barack Obama’s economic team is crafting a stimulus package to send to Congress worth between $675 billion and $775 billion over two years, according to officials familiar with the package, and it expects a final price tag to be even larger.
The transition team has conveyed the figures to Capitol Hill, where the package is likely to grow as it works its way through the House and Senate. An Obama adviser familiar with the planning said the package could top out around $850 billion. Democratic leadership aides said it could easily exceed that before the package gets back to Mr. Obama’s desk in final form.
“The biggest fear is that people will do too little,” said one Democratic leadership aide, “like a start-up that fails because it didn’t do enough.”
Obama aides hope to keep the package below the trillion-dollar mark, a psychological threshold that could carry political consequences, as they fear being accused of adding too much to the country’s long-term budget deficit.

Politico reports Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is on board with $850B. Earlier, Speaker Pelosi spoke of a House plan between $500-$600B.
NYT has the latest on what will make up the package:

About a fifth of the Obama package could go toward health care, Democrats say. The biggest piece would be up to $100 billion to subsidize the states’ growing Medicaid caseloads of the poor. Mr. Obama also will call for a down payment on the $50 billion he proposed during his campaign to help medical providers buy information technology and save costs on health records.
Mr. Obama is considering roughly $200 billion in tax relief for low-wage and middle-class workers, including a payroll tax holiday to fatten paychecks and encourage Americans to spend more and spur economic activity, according to several people with knowledge of the options he is weighing.
The Obama plan has five main parts, according to Democrats in Congress and the Obama transition office. Besides the health care financing, it would propose billions of dollars for energy-saving programs, public works projects, school construction and renovation, and expanded jobless aid and food stamps for “the most vulnerable,â€? as well as tax cuts.

The Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery formally kicked off yesterday, with “More than 20 leading progressive organizations and unions with millions of members have signed onto run a major campaign to pass a significant jobs and economic recovery package to create millions of jobs and help the economy grow in the near and long term.”
A big grassroots push may be needed. Obama aides worry to NYT about conservative obstruction: “President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers hope to finish an economic recovery blueprint by Dec. 25 so that Democratic Congressional staff members can draft legislation by the new year … Some Obama advisers have sought to tamp down expectations that Mr. Obama could sign a package immediately after he is inaugurated. The opposition of some Senate Republicans and House and Senate negotiations on a final compromise could force delays into February.”
CNN kicks off right-wing attack on infrastrucuture making knee-jerk assessments from the conservative NTU on one-half of one percent of the infrastructure requests from the US Conference of Mayors to declare it “full of pork.” Nirmalm.com adds: “What’s most striking to me is CNN’s lack of perspective. They propagate a ‘drown government in a bathtub’ group’s argument against a stimulus program unchallenged, and express incredulity at its proponents without putting their cherry-picked objections into context. However, the three trillion dollar cost of the Iraq war dwarfs any proposed investment program, yet it’s hardly put up to the same scrutiny.”
Boston Globe looks at brewing tension between road and mass transit in the economic recovery plan. House Transportation Chair Jim Oberstar, a green transportation advocate gives reassuring compromise quotes: “Our priority is to create jobs and to get people working in the shortest possible time … To do that, we have to rely on projects that are ready to go to bid under existing formulas … We’re going to rewrite the whole book on this thing, but that has to wait.”
As right-wingers whine about public investment, hunger in America spikes. USA Today: “…36% of low-income households say they ate less or skipped meals because they didn’t have enough money for food, and 40% say they chose between food or paying for utilities in the past year. ‘We’ve never seen anything like this,’ says Vicki Escarra, [Feeding America] president. ‘We’re seeing more people come (to food banks) who’ve never come before.'”
Breakfast Sides
USA Today looks at why health care reform may or may not happen quickly.
Juan Cole: ” Top 10 Reasons Obama Should Resist Military Plans for American Bases in Iraq”

Progressive Breakfast: Lines Drawn In Health Care Fight

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Today’s Number is $850B
Bloomberg cites one Obama aide to report the new administration will ask for an $850B economic recovery package: “Obama’s transition team believes the amount, about 6 percent of the U.S.’s $14 trillion economy, is needed to reverse rising unemployment…”
AP reports Obama has begun to deliver that message to Congress: “Obama has not settled on a grand total, and the final figure could be smaller [than $850B]. But after consulting with outside economists of all political stripes, his advisers have begun telling Congress the stimulus should be bigger than the $600 billion initially envisioned, congressional officials said Wednesday.”
LA Times reports Obama is still looking at a range between $600B and $1T, and notes Pelosi and Reid have come in lower so far.
LA Times also rounds up emerging conservative attack lines: “Republicans are wary of some of the proposals put forward by groups that are talking to Obama’s transition team. They cite a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors listing myriad projects cast as vehicles to create jobs and boost the economy. Those include a dog park in Hercules, Calif.; a bike path in San Diego; and a $1.5-million push to curb prostitution in Dayton, Ohio. ‘My fear is it will be a tool for all kinds of pet spending projects, for wasteful pork barrel projects and redistribution of wealth,’ said Pat Toomey, president of Club for Growth, which promotes fiscal conservatism. Toomey said the group may run ads opposing the stimulus package.”
As Ambinder warned earlier: “Watch for Republicans to settle on a handful of objectionable items and create the impression that the entire enterprise is suspect.”
Furthermore, 1) This is just a mayoral wish list, not even the actual proposal.
2) These small-dollar items may well have positive economic impact for those areas, if they are part of an overall revitalization strategy.
3) They may not, but conservatives have shown no ability to make good assessments regarding what investments are economically sound. Obama has proposed an “infrastructure bank” to make these calls on the merits. (See our “Investment Deficit In America” report for more.)
Stateline: “The nation’s cities and counties are asking Obama transition officials to give them most of the infrastructure money from the multibillion-dollar economic stimulus package, setting off a dispute with the states over who can launch transportation projects the fastest.”
Open Left promotes the $40B broadband plan from Free Press as part of economic recovery.
Ambinder reports “The Democratic coalition is ready to fight. [Today,] liberal interest groups and unions will unite under the Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery Now (C-JERN) banner to pressure Congress to pass Barack Obama’s economic recovery package.”
Public Plan Option Is Non-Negotiable
ABC’s The Note reports on an Institute for America’s Future news conference (audio here) releasing a new report from Prof. Jacob Hacker: “The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform.”
ABC cites Rep. Pete Stark, key House subcommittee chairman: “‘In the absence of a public plan you would have to so strictly regulate [private] health plans that they would all have to become public plans,’ said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Health sub-committee. Stark spoke out on Wednesday because he is concerned that any effort to reform the private health-insurance market will prove ineffective if Americans are not offered the kind of Medicare-style government option contained in Obama’s 2008 campaign proposal.”
Hacker’s report concludes: “Private insurance and public insurance have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and thus should be encouraged to compete side by side to attract enrollees on a level playing field that rewards plans that deliver better value and health to their enrollees. Public insurance has a better track record at reining in costs, while preserving access; it has pioneered key quality and payment innovations that have often set the standard for private plans; it is essential to set a standard against which private plans must compete to drive value and can be a source of stability for people.”
The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “A public plan … because of its lower administrative costs and ability to bargain for better rates, lowers prices and saves Americans money. ‘The clearest evidence of the savings produced by the public plan is its premiums, which are estimated to be about 23 percent lower than comparable private insurance for the same set of benefits for the same population,’ the [Hacker] analysis found.
Health Care For America Now! Blog: “Advocates of real health care reform need to make sure that this critical part of the solution is not bargained away in a misguided attempt to placate those who see health care reform as a business opportunity, not a matter of the health of our families and our neighbors. This would be a tragic mistake.”
HealthBlawg’s David Harlow has some wonky follow-up Q&A with Hacker.
Government Executive’s Alyssa Rosenberg’s item on Hacker emphasizes how a public plan should be constructed: “Medicare’s relatively low overhead makes it a better model for a publicly run health insurance option for people without employer-provided coverage than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, [Hacker] said on Wednesday.”
Single-payer advocates Ian Welsh from FireDogLake and Dr. Don McCanne from PNHP remain unswayed.
Auto Industry Crumbles Some More
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) had thought an auto rescue would be done by Wednesday. He was wrong. NYT tries to take a peek inside the opaque negotiations between Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the auto industry.
Meanwhile, plants are shutting down and suppliers are going bankrupt.
HuffPost’s Steve Parker: “Chrysler has announced that 30 factories – all of their North American production plants – will close and remain that way until at least January 19th. In the meantime, the White House says President Bush is still ‘gathering information and looking at options,’ with some expecting an announcement this Friday, while two major carmaker suppliers have filed for bankruptcy.”
Earth2Tech: “General Motors has put the brakes on construction of a $349 million plant slated to produce engines for the extended-range electric Chevy Volt and compact Chevy Cruze in Flint, Mich. by 2010 … ‘It’s temporarily on hold as we assess our cash situation,’ GM spokesperson Sharon Basel told the Detroit Free Press today.”
ABC: “Chrysler says its union employees will not receive regular salaries for at least a month, forcing the workers to rely on state unemployment benefits and union-negotiated payments from Chrysler during the layoff. White-collar employees will likely get paid. The Chrysler shutdown comes on the heels of a warning to dealers that the automaker may halt financing for stocking showrooms.”
Naked Capitalism worries: “popular opinion seems to be moving to [bankruptcy] as the only way to get out of existing arrangements. The parallels to Lehman are scary. Outcomes are being driven by sentiment, not by analysis.”
Also notes: “…Cerberus has revived merger talks for Chrysler with GM … introduc[ing] an element of delay for two companies that have said they need a cash infusion in very short order.”
Balloon Juice’s John Cole and Emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler flag that Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford does not scapegoat unions for the industry’s problems.
Salon.com’s Michael Lind describes the regional split in the Senate as a North-South economic civil war: “The non-Southern states, through their representatives in Congress and the executive branch, and with the help of enlightened Southerners, need to use the power of the federal government to put a stop to the Southern conservative race-to-the-bottom strategy once and for all.”
While conservative Senators try to lower wages for workers in a recession, Congress gets a raise.
Ron Kirk for USTR?
McClatchy reports Obama is “expected” to pick former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. Trade Representative, while other news orgs simply deem him a new “front-runner.”
Where does he stand on trade? Unclear.
Dallas Morning News:

“The jury’s out,” said Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO.
As mayor from 1995 to 2001, Mr. Kirk touted free trade. In a series of overseas trips, he pitched the Dallas area as an ideal trading partner.

A Dallas Morning News article from 3/7/02 (via Nexis) describes Kirk’s trade views during the primary campaign for the U.S. Senate against Ken Bentsen:

With just days to go, the Bentsen campaign contended that Mr. Kirk has sent mixed messages about his position on free trade … Mr. Kirk was in favor of free trade as Dallas’ mayor, even leading a contingent of civic leaders on a 10-day trade mission to China in May 2000, shortly after the House voted to normalize trade ties with that country.
But in a televised debate last week, Mr. Kirk suggested that he would have voted against a bill opposed by organized labor that would give President Bush unilateral authority to negotiate free-trade agreements.

On the Labor Secretary front, WSJ reports (via Political Wire) that “Harley Shaiken, a prominent expert on unions, Detroit and the U.S.-Mexican border, has emerged as a top candidate for the post of secretary of labor … Rep. Rosa DeLauro is also a top contender…”
UPDATE: More background from Sirota on Kirk, concurs that the “jury is out.”
GOPer for Transportation Secretary
Ryan Avent expresses disappointment over Obama’s choice of GOP Rep. Ray LaHood for Transportation Secretary: “It’s possible that Obama wants him for GOP outreach, or that the bold moves will come elsewhere — out of another department or a national infrastructure bank. And we don’t yet know who’ll be running the FTA, or what resources they’ll have. But this does seem to be strongly at odds with the adminstration’s language on energy, environmental, and transportation issues.”
Progress Illinois reviews the record: “So what can we glean about LaHood’s record on this issue? The moderate Republican has broken with his party over Amtrak funding, voting yes last summer to expand passenger rail service. In 2005, he told the Peoria Journal-Star that ‘we’ve got a good Amtrak system in Illinois and I don’t think we want to destroy it by talking about privatization.’ In 2006, he received a 66 percent rating from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a major transportation construction lobby. He also voted in favor of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, a bill to promote increased public transportation use that garnered string bi-partisan support. Other than that, we know very little.”
Michael Tomasky reviews the strategy: “What ‘transportation’ really means here in the nation’s capital is a never-ending battle between rail advocates and highway advocates … LaHood has relationships on the Hill — in that sense, it’s similar to the Daschle appointment — and can maybe bring a few moderate Republicans into the mass-transit fold. I suppose that’s the thinking. We’ll see how it works.”
EFCA Update
Marc Ambinder reports Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) may not oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, and is “undecided,” contrary to an earlier report.
RBC’s Mark Kleiman rips Al Sharpton for opposing EFCA. “I wonder who greased Sharpton’s palm. Or is he merely desperate for attention…”

Progressive Breakfast: Bailing Out The Bailout

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
ALERT: The Conservative Attack Strategy On Economic Recovery
Marc Ambinder: “A trillion dollars worth of government spending over the course of a few years is a ripe target for conservatives. Think back to the (Bill-Clinton/Joe Biden!) crime bill of 1994, when Republicans rallied their base against the legislation by ridiculing a tiny part of it — proposals to expand midnight basketball leagues as a way of keeping kids off the streets and out of gangs. Watch for Republicans to settle on a handful of objectionable items and create the impression that the entire enterprise is suspect. Doing so will give Republicans cover to vote against more wildly popular projects.”
Bailing Out The Bailout
WSJ peeks at Obama team deliberations on how to reform the financial bailout: “Among the plans being discussed are injecting more capital into banks, creating a market for illiquid assets clogging the books of financial institutions and helping borrowers who are having trouble making their mortgage payments … One key distinction will be in the approach to helping homeowners facing foreclosure. Mr. Paulson and the White House have resisted calls to embark on a government rescue of homeowners.”
Salon.com’s Mike Madden looks at where the first $350B of the bailout has gone: “A lot of it is, apparently, just sitting in the bank … The feds were essentially taking out the trash — buying shares in various banks that had gotten themselves into trouble by issuing crappy mortgages using complicated formulas, assuming the cost of many of the mortgage-backed securities that were weighing down the balance sheets … The feds were pumping money into these banks so they would feel free to make more loans — better, simpler, sounder loans. … But the banks did not start making new loans. They seemed to sit on their federal windfalls. And the Bush administration kept handing out more.”
More Main Street, Less Wall Street
CAF’s David Sirota joined Rachel Maddow on MSNBC to discuss what Obama can do instead: “…he can use as much money that hasn’t been spent already for a real Main Street economic stimulus … what money that continues to be invested in banks, he can put more strings on … for instance, the money that is invested in banks needs to be lended off of, the capital needs to be lended off of at a greater rate.”

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Streetsblog worries states will over-emphasize highways, calls for channeling aid to cities instead of states: “it’s the cities that build the bike paths, it’s the cities that build the transit systems, it’s the cities that run the bus lines, it’s the cities that run the rail stations.”
Not that states don’t need aid. Stateline: “Home-delivered meals, transportation and job training are among the services increasingly requested by low-income seniors as they struggle to cope with shrunken pensions, job shortages and rising food costs. But a national survey of state services this month shows that despite an 85 percent spike in demand, revenue shortfalls are forcing states to lay off social services staff and slash administrative costs to forestall program cuts expected next year.”
W. Post looks at the broadband component of Main Street recovery: “Within the well-funded world of telecom lobbying, even fierce opponents are in rare agreement that Obama’s plans to expand networks would boost the economy with jobs digging trenches for fiber lines and designing complex networks. But the interest groups differ on how that ambition should be executed…
“….the Telecommunications Industry Association … asked for tax breaks to build broadband infrastructure and $25 billion in grants to companies that build networks in hard-to-reach areas … [Free Press] insists the service should be affordable and seeks subsidies for low-income families with school-age children so they can buy laptop computers and deduct the cost of home Internet access. ‘The worst-case scenario would be to write a billion-dollar check in tax breaks and funnel money directly to prop up a stock price,’ said Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press.”
On Fox News, Sirota stresses the importance of increased taxation on the wealthy to help states. Seeing The Forest looks at the impact of anti-tax plans in California: “California Republicans finally, finally submitted what they claim is a plan to attack the budget deficits, detailing specifics of the cuts they are demanding. The plan they submitted only cuts the deficit in half, thereby admitting (but not admitting) the urgent need to raise taxes to cover the other half of the deficit. The Republican plan guts public schools, community colleges, Medi-Cal, transit, mental health and many other programs. And yet it still leaves half of the deficit in place.”
Annals of Stupid Poll Questions
ABC/W. Post poll shows 65% support for “new federal spending of up to 700 billion dollars on construction projects and other programs to try to stimulate the economy.” But ABC’s pollster notes, “support weakens considerably — to about an even split — if it’ll add to the federal budget deficit.”
That’s an uninformative question, since the whole idea is to increase the deficit in the short-run with investments that will pay off in the long-run.
Salazar Reaction
Grist’s Kate Sheppard goes deeper into expected Interior pick Ken Salazar’s enviro record, finds mixed record: “staunchest opponent of the Bush administration’s plans to rush forward with oil-shale development in Western states … [supported] compromise plan [that[ merged tax incentives and funding for renewables with some offshore drilling … called for more efficient use of water and more research into the effects of climate change on water supply … voted against an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill that would have required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider the long- and short-term effects of climate change…”
Sheppard concludes: “Other environmental organizations and interest groups have yet to weigh in. Overall, the jury’s still out on what to expect from Salazar.”
Daniel’s News & Views (via Ambinder) rounds up what enviro criticism there is against Salazar.
Vilsack Reactions
La Vida Locavore’s Jill Richardson reacts negatively: “The general reaction I’m hearing is not a very happy one, but also ‘he’s not the worst pick.’ … Iowans who I’ve spoken to tell me about their disappointment in Vilsack’s vote (as a state senator) to take away local control on hog factory farms in Iowa. During his time as governor ‘Vilsack oversaw the largest proliferation of hog confinements in the states history.’ These new hog CAFOs put tens of thousands of independent family hog farmers out of business in the state. The end result of this was a “decimation of rural Iowa” and serious degradation of the state’s drinking water. Iowans also remember the rides on Monsanto’s corporate jet that Vilsack … enjoyed during his time in office. He repayed Monsanto by … promising to do everything he could to get a seed bill to pass. This bill took away county power to regulate GMOs within county borders.”
MyDD’s Natasha Chart gives a mixed review: “organic consumer activists … oppose Vilsack on the grounds that he’s good buddies with the Monsanto corporation … Their long campaign to end seed-saving as practiced for millenia is about as greedy, shortsighted and wrongheaded a course of action as I can imagine. Their thuggish enforcement policies and ridiculous disregard for public welfare are legend … But there’s a stance I consider very important for which Vilsack is to be rightly commended … [he] supports the right of animal growers to fair access to the courts, open markets with a level playing field for small farmers, and the enforcement of fair and transparent business practices in the livestock industry.”
Beyond Green is optimistic:“this may all be about climate change (a subject which Vilsack is passionate about) … When the time comes for the agriculture sector to submit to limits on carbon emissions (and despite his ill-considered support for both flavors of ethanol), Tom Vilsack has the credibility and the commitment to deliver on them.”
NYT notes on ethanol: “Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Vilsack are regarded as staunch advocates of ethanol and other bio-fuels as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil … [But, he] was the co-chairman of a task force last year on climate change for the Council on Foreign Relations, which recommended phasing out subsidies for mature biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, as well as reducing tariffs on imported biofuels like Brazilian sugar ethanol.”
Annals of Made-Up Problems
USA Today headline: “Obama faces a crush of demands from interest groups.”
USA Today article: “The government can do more than one big thing at a time, says Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, a coalition of unions and progressive groups.’There’s no reason that Congress can only do health care, only do climate change.'”
While the Auto Industry Waits, Distress Spreads
Bloomberg: “Chrysler LLC’s credit arm said it may temporarily halt the loans used by dealers to buy vehicles as the retailers pull money from an account that helps finance their borrowing. Losing access to the lending would be a blow to Chrysler dealers struggling with a 28 percent plunge in 2008 U.S. sales. Lender Chrysler Financial wants to tap the $700 billion bank-bailout fund to boost cash, as does Chrysler, the third-biggest U.S. automaker.”
USA Today: “As the Bush administration prepares to throw a life ring to Detroit automakers, industry parts suppliers fear they will be left to drown … With all automakers — domestic and foreign — slashing production to match falling sales, however, suppliers’ 2009 revenue will shrink regardless. Their health, too, is vital to the industry, with as many as 300 suppliers contributing parts to a single vehicle. But the impact on the supplier base is already being felt…”
W. Post’s Harold Meyerson notes the historic economic importance of the UAW to our economy: “In a narrow sense, what the Republicans are proposing would gut the benefits of roughly a million retirees. In a broad sense, they want to destroy the institution that did more than any other to raise American living standards, and they want to do it by using the power of government to lower American living standards — in the middle of the most severe recession since the 1930s. The auto workers deserve better, and so does the nation they did so much to build.”
Climate Progress sees some hope: “Chrysler to electrify entire product line! … Wow. If this is really true, if Chrysler will spell this out in the spring for the government as part of a full bailout plan, then the company certainly should be given a chance to put this strategy into place.”
WSJ vs. WSJ on Madoff & SEC
WSJ columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr.: “Where was the SEC? Such is the plaint lofted in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Huh? When has the Securities and Exchange Commission ever found a fraud except by reading about it in the newspapers? Anyway, who said the agency was supposed to prevent investors from losing money or relieve them of having to perform due diligence?”
WSJ news reporters: “The Securities and Exchange Commission will examine the relationship between a former official at the agency and a niece of financier Bernard L. Madoff, after the SEC’s chief admitted ‘apparent multiple failures’ to oversee the firm at the center of an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. In an extraordinary admission that the SEC was aware of numerous red flags raised about Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, but failed to take them seriously enough, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox ordered a review of the agency’s oversight of the New York securities-trading and investment-management firm. The review will include whether relationships between SEC officials and Mr. Madoff or his family members had any impact on the agency’s oversight.”
W. Post’s Steven Pearlstein advises: “Accounting firms and rating agencies are too easily compromised by the fact that they are chosen and paid by the management of the companies whose books they are auditing and securities they are rating. There are simply too many built-in conflicts of interest. The solution is equally obvious: turn these firms into something akin to a regulated public utility.”
Unidentified Insurance Lobbyists To Pose As Grassroots Health Care Activists
NYT: “When supporters of President-elect Barack Obama hold house parties to discuss ways of fixing the health care system over the next two weeks, they may find some unexpected guests. The health insurance industry is encouraging its employees and satisfied customers to attend … Those who attend are not required to disclose their employers or affiliations.”
Dem Announces Opposition To Stronger Unions
Marc Ambinder: “That’s…. 57 votes in favor of cloture now. In-cycle [up for re-election] Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas formally opposes the Employee Free Choice Act. She says it’s ‘not necessary’ right now. ”
Meanwhile, Crooks and Liars reports: “Lou Dobbs lets right-wing front group smear SEIU so he can link Obama to Blagojevich … Dobbs willingly used the Center for Union Facts — which is another word for “smear” — to make these farcical claims. CNN should be ashamed of itself … It’s bad enough that Dobbs doesn’t even know what Employee Free Choice Act is, but to then use a wingnut front group to attack it means either a couple of things … He is lying to his audience or he is completely ignorant of the entire story.”

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