November 30, 2008
Protectionism literally means protecting ourselves.
The term is mostly used in the context of economics, where protectionism refers to policies or doctrines which "protect" businesses and "living wages" within a country by restricting or regulating trade between foreign nations.
The idea of protectionism is that when a competing country gains a trade advantage by paying its workers too little or having poor or no worker safety protections, or by allowing pollution of the environment, then we apply a tariff to their goods, so their goods cost the same here as our own goods, and that advantage does not undermine our own wages or safety or pollution standards.
Under conservative ideology, of course, protecting ourselves is a bad thing. Some people make a lot of money for themselves by undermining our wage, safety and pollution standards. So they tell us that protecting ourselves is wrong. The result is that conservative trade agreements that we have now that apply downward pressure on all the wages in the world.
Imagine if the workers in China or Mexico, etc. made enough money to buy the things we make here! That would be the use of our tariffs to apply an upwards pressure on other countries.
November 29, 2008
When people, companies and municipalities reach a point where they have borrowed so much that they can't pay back the loans I really don't think the solution is to make more money available to lend. But that is what all of these bailouts are aiming to accomplish.
They say credit has "dried up" and banks "won't lend." Can you blame a bank for not wanting to lend money to someone who has no savings, huge credit card bills, and might lose their job at any moment? Can you blame a bank for not lending to a company whose customers have stopped buying and can't pay them what they already owe?
It's just more of the same old top-down thinking: that if you just give more and more money to the few at the top things will get better.
At what point does the obvious become obvious? When people are tapped out, they are t.a.p.p.e.d. o.u.t. That's it. No more blood can be squeezed from that stone. You can't make a person work longer hours when they are already working two jobs. You've already taken away pensions and health care and vacations and overtime, you can't take away even more.
November 28, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Markos, in a post today about the state of progressive infrastructure compared to the right's, Building machines,
[. . .] But that battle is no longer one-sided. Their machine may be bigger, but we have something. And that's all we ever needed -- a hint of a partisan progressive media machine, fed by research and investigative reporting from the likes of ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo, to begin delivering our message in the face of their vast media machine, as well as ineffective CW[conventional wisdom]-meisters like Maureen Dowd, Mark Halperin, and David Broder.Look what we have been able to get done in this country with only the smallest, minimally-funded hint at an infrastructure of organizations and media outlets working to counter the right that has been built up since we started this fight. We fought back against the conservative machine and got the Democrats to start fighting back themselves. We took the Presidency, increased our numbers in the House and maybe, just maybe took enough senate seats to stop the filibusters.
Now, imagine what we could do if we actually started funding serious progressive infrastructure organizations and building an ecosystem in which our writers and advocates could actually make a living, sell enough books to start receiving advances, get paid reasonably to write articles, receive speaking fees from organizations and some of the things right-wing advocates take for granted... Imagine tens of thousands of young activists being trained every year. Imagine progressive non-profits having the budgets to pay people more than minimum wage and provide benefits and get things done. Sheesh.
Imagine what we could get done in California if we put together solid organizations that could reach out to all of the public and explain the benefits of progressive values and policies. I mean progressive policies like good, well-funded public schools and low-cost universities, a health care system that works for the people, help with child care, a transportation infrastructure that gets people where they want to go in a timely manner, energy alternatives that cost less and do not pollute and employment rules that bring us reasonable wages and benefits in good jobs that also give us time to have fulfillment in our lives. These are all possibilities, in fact these are all things that we were within reach of obtaining in California not too long ago. These are things thaqt we can dream about again.
Barack Obama was able to raise millions of dollars in small donations, and this has helped the country to start to restore democracy. We can do this in California, by sending $10 or $100 or more to help organizations like Speak Out California and others, and doing this as often as you can.
It is time for us to begin to renew the California Dream.
Click through to Speak Out California
The insurance company AIG has so far taken about $129 billion from you and me to bail them out. They promised not to give out bonuses to the top seven execs. Of course, the Bush people only made the top seven execs promise not to take bonuses.
So instead of bonuses: AIG Gives ‘Retention’ Pay After Scrapping Bonuses.
Also, "cash awards."
But no bonuses. They promised not to do that.
November 27, 2008
We cooked this year. Dinner was at 2. At 9:19pm my wife suddenly remembered the rolls that had been warming in the oven.
Really, really go read this.
Have a read: A DIFFERENT KIND OF AUTO BAILOUT.
We need a bottom-up, not a trickle-down bailout.
"In a preview of his weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of Thanksgiving, nearly one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln called for the last Thursday in November to be set aside to acknowledge our blessings. For more information, visit http://change.gov."
November 26, 2008
I just came from a briefing by leading economists who explained what is about to happen to the country because there are so few advertisements and donations coming in to the blogs. You would not believe the hush that came over the room as they described the effects on working people as they get laid off, thrown out of their houses, their cars and clothes taken from them, they are denied food except for oatmeal and small bugs, and their children are taken from them to work in government mines.
It is imperative that the Congress come up with a bailout plan, and it must happen within 48 hours, or the very worst will happen -- and it will be the Democrats' fault!
The blogs require an immediate infusion of $300 billion dollars, and it must happen right away, or things beyond your imagination (and mine, apparently) will happen to all of us. We absolutely must avoid this. Immediately, within 48 hours at the very latest, this money must be allocated and provided.
Update - about 5 minutes after posting this I came across this post by Sirota.
I keep hearing on the TV that "people on the left" are upset with Obama for putting former Clinton admin people (experienced people) into positions in his administration. Of course not one of them ever names names of those "people on the left." I haven't heard ANYONE say that. That is just stupid.
Shut up! Go divide the Republicans and leave the rest of us alone. Go criticize some CEOs or something. Sheesh!
In Worried About Thanksgiving Fights with Right-Wing Family Members? Sara Robinson explains the top ten right-wing myths and how to answer them.
So far it looks like you and I have coughed up about $7 trillion dollars to bail out Wall Street and the big banks. The executives and their bonuses and the shareholders all thank you, suckers. Of course, you and I had NO SAY in this at all!
So $7 trillion comes to about $23,000 per person - including infants. This means that the average family of four coughed up almost $100K to bail out Wall Street and the banks and the executive bonuses and shareholders. This was the Republican approach to fixing the problem.
They say it's all about making money available for people to borrow. This assumes that people have any credit left. I mean, if you make $5,000 a month and your payments add up to $5,000 a month, maybe you aren't going to want to borrow any more. And maybe a lender with sense won't let you. Lending to people who can't afford to pay the money back is what caused the mess! Loading everyone up with even more debt is not the solution.
Why not make people more able to afford to buy things, and not have to borrow to get by? We could have put $7 trillion into health care, roads, bridges, schools and other things that would have created millions of jobs and provided raises to or lowered costs for regular people! I wonder what THAT would have done for the Christmas shopping season, and all the rest of the Christmas shopping seasons from now on?
But we not only didn't have any say in how the money was used, the money is all gone.
Meanwhile go read The Bail-Out Will Not Work at angry Bear to understand why giving all the rest of our money to the people who created the mess will not work.
November 25, 2008
Go visit YOUR incoming interactive government at Change.gov: The Obama-Biden Transition Team | Join the Discussion: Healthcare
Auto workers make $28 an hour on average. No auto assembly-line worker makes $70 an hour, even if the media repeats that figure over and over. The $70 figure includes the "labor costs" of health care and pensions for retired and injured workers and the cost of management for that worker/hour, as if it was added to the number of labor hours that goes into a car today.
Yes, GM and the others have a high cost to cover the benefits to their workers. That was the point of our laws that set up corporations -- to benefit US. Japanese and German and other car companies have many of these costs paid by the government. They did it with taxes and had the government provide the benefits, we tried to do it throught the corporations themselves, and our model hasn't worked.
The point is that we need health care reform and decent pensions for all Americans, through We, the People -- the government. It certainly doesn't mean that we should just get rid of the last major manufacturers we have. Sheesh.
The Housing Bubble bursts on a speculator:
One of the funniest things I have seen in quite a while!
I agree with this: Paul Abrams: Simon Rosenberg is the Perfect Choice for DNC Chair.
November 24, 2008
In the discussions of the bailouts progressives have talked about protecting the taxpayers through compensation limits, equity positions instead of just handing over funds, etc. But I don't think we have asked for what I think could be one of the most effective ideas for restoring and protecting democracy -- and thereby preventing disasters like the one we are experiencing.
Let's start demanding that companies receiving bailout funds stop lobbying and stop the other things they do to influence public opinion and policy decisions! This includes funding right-wing "think tanks," PR firms, etc.
My own preference would be to ban *all* use of corporate funds for any purposes of influencing public opinion or government policy. I am of the opinion that corporate money should be used to run the corporation, period. Lobbying, etc. does not benefit the interests of the corporations -- because corporations do not have interests. They are supposed to just operate within the rules WE set. What we are seeing is corporate resources wrongly being used for the personal interests of executives and a few wealthy shareholders, not to promote the broader interests of all the shareholders, the long-term well-being of the company, and our society. I believe that We, the People should be making the laws, telling corporations how they can operate, not the other way around. We are the boss of them.
So demanding that companies receiving bailout funds must cease all lobbying is a way to introduce this idea that the people should be in control of decision-making in general. It is an Overton Window tactic to start getting the public talking about the idea that corporations should be out of our politics, leaving the decision-making to We, the People.
Do you remember the pre-election Republican hissy-fit about the threat of "voter fraud?" it got to the point where John McCain said during one of the debates,
"ACORN ... is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."Just in Ohio Republicans tried to purge more than 650,000 registered voters from the registration rolls to prevent "voter fraud." This was just in Ohio! Other massive-scale efforts were tried in Colorado, Georgia, Florida and other states.
So ... what was the result of all that hysteria about "voter fraud"? How many voter fraud cases turned up? Let's look at Ohio again.
Despite widespread concerns about voter fraud before the Nov. 4 election, Hamilton County elections officials declared today there were only two problem votes out of more than 400,000 votes cast.TWO problem votes, one of them called to say he had made a mistake.
. . . The two situations causing the concern are:
-- A man voted absentee in Hamilton County, then called the board later to withdraw his ballot because he actually lives in Connecticut.
-- An inmate voted twice from jail.
That was the sum total of this massive effort to "destroy the fabric of Democracy."
They just lie. It's what they do.
Why are We, the People allowing big corporations to use OUR broadcast frequencies to spread anti-democracy propaganda with no ability to respond with different viewpoints?
When is the last time you saw a representative of labor on TV talking about why people should join unions?
WE own the radio and television frequencies. WE license the use of these to private companies, and then they use them to push policies that harm us, without allowing anyone to come on and tell the other side.
It used to be different. Before Ronald Reagan came in and changed these (and so many other) rules to favor big corporations over the public's interests broadcasters were not allowed to use our airwaves for propaganda, and were not allowed to overcommercialize their programming. Reagan overturned decades of precedent, and when Congress responded by overwhelmingly passing a law to restore control by democracy Reagan vetoed it. Since then Republicans have vetoed or filibustered every attempt to restore democracy's control over our own resources.
Why do we allow big corporations to use OUR resources against us, for the benefit of a wealthy few? It is either democracy or corporate rule. Choose one.
November 22, 2008
There is an old saying: If something is unsustainable it can't be sustained. Our economy is starting, just starting to show us what happens when you continue unsustainable practices to their conclusion.
The day will come when instead of habitually saying, "How can I make money off of this" as things happen, they will say, "Is this really sustainable?" Unfortunately we are only at the very beginning of the kind of pain that is going to teach us as a society that this is the correct way to evaluate what appear to be opportunities.
Let me explain:
We have learned that it is a good idea to store explosives in special bunkers with thick, concrete walls. Think about how we learned that it is important to require this.
We have learned about clean, safe drinking water. Think about how we learned that this is a good practice. We have learned to build sewer systems instead of dumping bedpans into the street. Yes, we used to do that and now we don't. Think about how we learned not to. Along the same lines we have largely learned to wash our hands after we go to the bathroom and before we eat. Think about how we learned that this is a good practice.
We have set up building codes that prevent fires and collapses from earthquakes. At least in California we have. In other parts of the country they don't require buildings to be earthquake-safe. We do, they will. Think about why we do and they don't but will. Think about why we have fire codes for buildings across the country.
Are you getting my drift? These are things that people didn't know to do, but now they do know. But people seem to have to go through terrible, devastating, tragic shocks before they learn. And finally we learn, and routinize safe practices. We had been through severe economic shocks and then the Great Depression and there were some things we as a people thought we had learned. Think about how bad the depression was and the things that we set up to try to prevent it from happening again: regulations, oversight, a strengthened democracy with citizen control of public resources, strong unions to serve as a counterbalance to corporate power, high taxes on the rich and corporations so income would be more fairly redistributed and the benefits of our system shared widely -- only to gradually let most of that slip away. So the control of our country's decision-making had reverted back to the wealthy and predatory capitalism was reinstated. We, the People were harvested for every last dollar and hour of labor and when we were finally tapped out the economy had to collapse.
There is every sign that this economic collapse could be worse that any before it.
So, like I said, the day will come when people look at events and instead of saying, "How can I make money off of this" they will say, "Is this really sustainable?" But I fear that we are going to have to reach the bottom before we learn this.
Story Number One: It's an amazingly close election
The Franken-Coleman election is freakishly close. The first semi-official report showed a spread of 700 votes out of 2.9 million (less than three hundredths of a percent). One of my imaginary internet friends has calculated that flipping 2.9 million coins would come up with a heads-tails difference bigger than that 90% of the time. Un coup de des jamais n'abolira le hasard, they say, but apparently the disseminated intelligence of Minnesota has succeeded in defeating the law of averages.
And the gap has been narrowing. The first official report (before the recount) reduced the spread to a little over 200 votes, and the recount so far has reduced the spread still further. It's quite possible that when the dust settles, the difference will be fewer than 100 votes one way or the other. (My imaginary friend hasn't done the math on that one yet.)
Story Number Two: Everything's going fine so far
Except for the closeness of the election, nothing unusual has happened yet. The corrections that were made in the first few days were in the normal range. The corrections that have been made in the first half of the recount have been in the normal range. Routine honest mistakes were routinely and honestly corrected. The Coleman and Franken campaigns have filed two quite ordinary lawsuits. The Secretary of State and the various election officials have all done their jobs in a correct, routine, businesslike way.
Minnesota's election law regarding recounts is carefully written and unambiguous, Minnesota has a well-earned reputation for efficient, honest elections, and nothing has happened so far to damage that reputation.
Story Number Three: The Republicans are stinking up the place
Coleman still has to be the favorite, but the Republicans are doing whatever they can to cast a shadow in the process, so Coleman could end up representing a state whose reputation for honesty he'd just dragged through the mud. They just can't help themselves. That's the only way they work.
Not all of the Republicans are acting badly. Former U. S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger was originally slated to head the Coleman recount campaign, but he made some polite excuse and backed out. (You have to believe that he just didn't want to be involved with the sleazy operation the Coleman team was planning.) And after a little slip on national TV (which he corrected the next week) Republican Governor Pawlenty has generally affirmed the integrity of his state's recount process -- though still he might relapse, and definitely needs watching.
But Coleman is a Rovian. Even though he hasn't won yet, legally speaking, he's already declared victory three times. He's proposed that Franken waive the "unnecessary" recount. He's blamed Franken for the cost of the recount required by law. He's smeared Secretary of State Ritchie. He's smeared several local election boards. He's made a stink about the 32 votes (which were never lost and were never in the trunk of a car), and about the routine correction of a hundred-vote mistranscription, and about the next-morning report of one county's votes, and so on ad nauseum. Whenever the count has turned against him, he has immediately, without checking, insinuated the possibility of fraud. (In this he has been joined by Minnesota's labile, amnesiac Congresswoman Michele Bachmann . Michele may not bother to get her facts right, but "she knows her heart is right").
The Coleman allegations have been refuted in Minnesota, but they're still alive and well nationally. The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, MSNBC, and other outlets have succeeded in convincing millions of people that Franken is trying to steal the election. Even the New York Times has relayed erroneous Coleman charges. Some Republicans -- and many media people -- are even hinting that Minnesota is Florida all over again, with Secretary of State Ritchie as the Katherine Harris figure. (Are the Republicans really finally admitting that the 2000 election was stolen?)
It's hard to be sure what the Republicans have been trying to accomplish. The voting is finished, so public opinion is pretty much irrelevant. The recount process is spelled out in detail and not really susceptible to public pressure, and neither is the legal process. The most it seems that they can accomplish by their methods is to inflame their demented base, discredit Franken a bit, and generally poison the atmosphere, but by doing that they risk ending up even more despised than they already are. My guess is that they're acting like stinkers because that's what Republicans do. They've been playing that game for so long that they don't know how to do anything else.
(Link from Digby, who describes a stolen election in Alabama. It's my hope and expectation that Minnesota will perform better than Alabama did.)
The Election Process:
The night of the election, preliminary unofficial results are reported. Usually these results are decisive, but not this time. An automatic spot check is then done to find gross errors. (None were found.) After a week or so of adjustments and corrections, mostly at the local level, the corrected preliminary results are certified. The recount then begins, if necessary. Every ballot is recounted by hand, ballots challenged by one side out the other are separated out, and the new counts are recorded. (As of Nov. 22 we're in the middle of this part). The challenged ballots are then evaluated by the recount panel, and the final result is reported.
Legal challenges can follow, though Minnesota law makes them difficult. (That's presumably why the Franken camp is already suing about the rejected absentee ballots.) And finally, the Senate decides. Maybe they should skip to this right now, because I really doubt that the earlier phases are going to be decisive.
Supporting links below:
November 20, 2008
Why do the Republicans want the United States to get rid of the remaining manufacturing that we do here?
See a revised (better) version of this post at Speak Out California
I want to caution about the use of the word "they" in current policy debates. How we understand a problem has huge implications for how we decide to solve those problems. This use of "they" leads to a kind of understanding in our brains that might just be short-circuiting our ability to make rational decisions.
Let me use the auto companies as an example. "They" did bad things. "They" opposed higher CAFE standards. "They" pushed SUVs because SUV sales led to higher profits in the short term. Therefore "they" deserve what they get.
But who is the "they" here? What happens to your thinking about policy solutions if you instead understand that SOME executives were able to get their hands on the resources of the company, and did things that increased their own personal fortunes, even as their actions harmed the long-term profitability of the companies? THOSE executives might have already fled with the loot they got for themselves.
See what I mean? The first use of "they," where you think of a company as a sentient being, a monolithic entity that makes decisions by itself, you are led toward one kind of solution. Let "them" fail. Let "them" deal with the consequences of "their" decisions.
But if you think about it the other way, that certain individual bad actors were allowed to make personal fortunes off of their access to company resources and their control of company decision-making (and lobbying), that leads to very, very different conclusions about how to fix the mess we and our economy are in.
November 19, 2008
Cable news channels are filled with people with not enough information trying to fill up a whole lot of time. Basically they don't have much to say. Why does anyone watch this stuff?
Everyone should read Oliver Willis every day because I said so.
You should all read Taylor Marsh every day because I said so.
We get health insurance through my wife's job. They pay hers, I have to pay for mine. MY share has been a little over $600 a month. It just jumped to $850, and she now has to pay $75. So we went from $600 to $925 a month. This is WITH employer participation. And drug co=pays are maybe another $100 per month.
Health insurance for the two of us would be about $1700 a month -- $20,400 a year -- if the company didn't pay anything. But if we didn't do this, we risk losing our house and everything else if one of us gets sick.
This is so CEOs and other executives of health insurance companies can have private jets and multiple houses.
What is YOUR health insurance story?
November 18, 2008
We are doing some post-election work at the Election Protection Wiki, which is online at http://epwiki.org
The election is over but the election problems will return unless the system is reformed. This election was not close enough for problems – unintentional and intentional – to change the results, but the next election could very well be. So it is crucial that we assist efforts to fix the election system and outlaw the deceptions and suppression tactics.
As policymakers look back at the 2008 election they will need well-researched sources of background information. The Election Protection Wiki serves as a hub where they will either find the information directly or be directed to the organization or site that has it.
Here are ways that you can help:
Do you have any or know of any good election wrap-ups/summaries that should be summarized for the EP Wiki? Please let us know, or add summaries to appropriate pages.
We want our issue article on voter suppression to be a central "go-to" for media and policymakers as they work to stamp out this undemocratic tactic. Can you take a look at it and add to it? http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Voter_suppression
Help document what ACORN encountered in each state. This is especially important because policymakers could be acting largely on information provided by ACORN's detractors. We can help provide accurate documentation of the real work ACORN does bringing new voters into the process. See http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ACORN_and_elections
And finally, we hope our article on election reform proposals will guide policymakers. Please take a look and add your own policy-reform suggestions. see http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Election_reform_proposals
Over and over we are hearing about companies that are "too big to fail." The meaning is that if they fail they take everything else with it, so we must bail them out.
Suppose that something happened to the atmosphere and air had to be manufactured. Suppose that all of our lives depended on the ongoing manufacturing of air. Would any of us, even the hardest-core Republicans, even consider allowing this function to be in the hands of a private company? Of course we would not allow this.
Isn't "too big to fail" the very definition of an important PUBLIC resource? If something is "too big to fail" because failure risks bringing down the entire economy, how did we ever allow such functions to fall into the hands of private companies in the first place?
The candy store paupers lie to the share holders
They're crossing their fingers they pay the truth makers
The balance sheet is breaking up the sky
So Im caught at the junction still waiting for medicine
The sweat of my brow keeps on feeding the engine
November 15, 2008
The small and hitherto very prosperous nation of Iceland seems likely to go bankrupt. At the moment they don't have even enough foreign exchange to import food (which they can't grow themselves), and because Icelandic banks have defaulted on British depositors, Britain has rather ludicrously declared Iceland to be a terrorist nation. The future is uncertain, but it seems sure that every Icelander will see a big decline in their standard of living, and that includes many who never really profited from the recent boom.
That's just introductory. Up until a year ago, the Icelandic miracle was one of the big success stories of globalization and financial deregulation. The rest of this post will just be links and citations, most of them obsolete and highly embarrassing..
Update: Iceland as a terrorist nation
They may not have dressed up in burkas and strapped several kilos of Semtex around their waists. But to go into the high street, persuade charities, pensioners, local authorities to deposit money and then disappear, having trousered nigh on £8bn is, even by City standards, bad. Financial terrorism, grand larceny, call it what you will.....
Deregulation brings boom time to Iceland Nov. 9 2007
The catalyst for a dramatic turn-around was the deregulation of the formerly state-controlled financial sector. The move unleashed an unprecedented credit boom and helped to create a business elite now known locally as the billionaire boys club. Flush with cash raised domestically and from international markets and headed by fresh-faced entrepreneurial chief executives, firms such as Bakkavor Group, FL Group and Baugur have used Reykjavik as an unlikely base for aggressive overseas expansion.
The Icelandic economy is transforming in a postive way since the currency crisis of the 1980’s from the old collective institutions to government now privatizing sectors and implementing free market reforms opening up this small economy. During the 1980’s, less than satisfactory political management resulted in a currency collapse for the Icelandic krona in that era.....If the government is committed to opening up foreign investment more, especially in areas like energy, Iceland’s future looks tremendously prosperous....Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson has been in power since September 2004. Free market reforms under former Prime Minister Oddsson led Iceland from 1991-2004 who spearheaded this economic transformation......During the 1990’s, the Icelandic economy strengthened as deregulation and privatization policies were implemented replacing the former slow growth protectionist and a highly regulated economy hiding behind capital controls.Newsweek: The Iceman Cometh (May 23, 2005)
Since the mid-' 90s, the country's center-right government has pushed free-market reforms--privatizing banks, ditching price controls and slashing taxes. Companies now pay just 18 percent on profits, down from 50 percent. "The same economic laws apply whether a country is small or large," says Finance Minister Geir Haarde. "We are experiencing the fruits of a very determined and consistent policy."
Having stabilized the economy with monetary and fiscal restraint, the Oddsson government started privatizing. It began with small companies, later turning to large fish-processing plants, factories and financial companies. All the commercial banks are now in private hands. Altogether, the sales brought in $1 billion, not a bad haul for a country of 280,000. Only one large company remains, Icelandic Telephone, but it will soon be put on the sales block.Mont Pelerin Society conference in Iceland, 2005: The MPS are freemarket cheerleaders. Not much info at the link itself, but I wish I had access to this archive from their conference.
Hannes H. Gissurarson has recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal European edition, on the Icelandic economic miracle. Newsweek has also published an article about the Icelandic economic miracle, interviewing Finance Minister Geir H. Haarde.
The Virtues of a Free Market System (05-25-2008): I included this piece because the passage below is so freaky.(Update: I now see that "The Virtues of the Free Market System" is from a company which ghosts undergrad papers. I should have left it out but it's just too funny. The humor may have been intentional on the part of the ghostwriter. It's so damn hard to tell when those folks are serious.)
Free market economic systems are the best way for a country to create wealth and get out of poverty. If we look at the top ten countries based on the UN Human Development Index, we find that highly deregulated countries are in the top ten, namely; 1. Norway 2. Iceland 3. Australia 4. Luxembourg 5. Canada 6. Sweden 7. Switzerland 8. Ireland 9. Belgium 10. United States. As you will note from the above there is no country in the top ten that is socialist in any shape or form.
Unfortunately, Britain's Blairite authoritarians didn't spend enough time taming the market. That country has been badly wounded by the credit crisis, as have other nations that moved too enthusiastically into free-market deregulation including Ireland and Iceland. Nations that were slower to deregulate, like Canada, have fared better. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right when he says that. What's ironic is that if he and other aficionados of the unfettered free-market had been in charge earlier, Canada's financial system might well be in more trouble than it is.
Milton Friedmanism and the Meltdown in Iceland: just for fun I'll finish up with this:
What is somewhat incredible is the apparent lack of remorse or self-reflection and doubt being expressed by the ideologues who put these policies in place and caused this economic and financial meltdown. Amazingly, many neo-cons continue to argue that this was caused by regulations that were too strong, or by a confluence of unlikely events, including a rise in “leftist attitudes“.
November 14, 2008
The auto companies -- are they just getting what they deserve?
Where we use "they" in discussions like this I actually see something else happening, and I think it is something worth pointing out in our thinking about companies. We should be clearer in our wording and thinking about which "they" we mean. It makes a difference in the conclusions we reach. The individual executives who make these decisions can have different interests from the companies they work for. They are often overly rewarded for quarterly and yearly results regardless of long term results and make decisions accordingly.
So when we talk about what companies should do, and we say or think things like "if they had done so and so this wouldn't have happened" we're missing that the executives making the decisions might have done just fine for themselves while damaging the longer-term interests of the company. We often express that "they" got what they deserved when the company later faces the consequences of such decisions. In fact the particular executives may have made millions and all be working (looting) at some other company at that point while Bob in Accounting or Mary in Sales takes the hit.
The auto companies didn't lobby against CAFE, executives at those companies took advantage of their access to corporate resources to lobby. Who knows where they are now -- we shouldn't punish the companies and communities in which they exist because of a misinterpretation of which "they" is responsible for the bad decisions.
Someone asked me, "If we bail out the auto companies how do we make sure they don't just go off and build gas hogs, and give all the profits to their executives again?"
The answer to this is the answer that should have been part of the Wall Street bailout: You benefit from the Public, so the Public had better start benefiting from you. You get the money and you start building cars that are lined up with the public interest. You serve the public, not harvest the public. You limit executive compensation and spread the wealth around. You pay taxes when you do well. You don't try to influence the political process in any way because We, the People tell you what to do, not the other way around. Etc.
(Question: why aren't these the explicit rules for doing business in the U.S. anyway - bailout or not?)
November 13, 2008
"If you love America you throw money in its hole."
If you are a patriot you will throw money down the money hole.
Keep an eye on this, it could be serious: The Jakarta Post - 17 in hospital with suspected bird flu,
A South Sulawesi hospital was overwhelmed as it admitted in two days 17 patients believed to have bird flu, an official said Thursday.
. . . Kurnia said the hospital had conducted urgent tests for the first seven patients, with the results indicating the presence of the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Try this: Every time you read the word "government" substitute the appropriate variation of the term "We, the People" or "democracy" and then see how you feel about what is being written. Use the same substitution for the term "the state."
This is especially fun when reading anything written by a conservative or a right winger.
Ronald Reagan's famous phrase, "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem" takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it? He was saying that "democracy is the problem" -- and here we are 25 years later seemingly living under corporate rule instead of democracy. How has that turned out?
When conservatives complain about government or "the state" they are complaining about control of decision-making by the people rather than by a few. Never forget that.
November 12, 2008
On The NewsHour today Alice Rivlin said that we need to free up the credit markets so people can buy cars. She said there are "credit-worthy" people waiting to buy cars and trucks who can't because they can't get loans.
Then, on the NBC News tonite the reporter said, "Without access to credit, shoppers are tightening their purse-strings."
This is just wrong, and these are people who move in in important policy and reporting circles who should know what is going on! It tells me that rest of the people in these circles also don't get it.
The credit crunch is not the consumer spending slowdown. Big companies are having trouble getting credit. But if you go to a car dealer tomorrow to buy a car, and have an income and good credit, they will bow down and kiss your feet. If you can't find a loan (if you have an income and good credit you CAN find a loan) the manager will loan you the money out of his or her own pocket. It is PREPOSTEROUS to suggest that people with incomes and good credit can't get loans, and that this is why people are not shopping up a storm!
The consumer spending problem is that consumers are "tapped out." Incomes have stagnated for decades, consumers have used up their savings and then resorted to second mortgages and credit cards.
Decades of predatory capitalism have sucked the average working person dry. That is the consumer spending problem. That policymakers and reporters don't know that tells a sad story about how this has come to pass.
Limit executive pay and use the money to hire more people for fewer hours, pay them more, give them health insurance and let people start unions if you want to see consumer spending recover. That's not rocket science.
Brokers Believe Worst Is Over and Recommend Buying of Real BargainsOh, and here in the SF Bay Area I'm told that it is time to "snap up" real estate. It's at a "bottom" now, and you can actually buy a 3br, 2ba "fixer upper" for "only" about $650,000.
Wall Street in looking over the wreckage of the week, has come generally to the opinion that high grade investment issues can be bought now, without fear of a drastic decline. There is some difference of opinion as to whether not the correction must go further, but everyone realizes that the worst is over, and that there are bargains for those who are willing to buy conservatively and live through the immediate irregularity.
-- New York Herald Tribune, October 27, 1929
Snap it up.
I've been thinking about something and haven't had time to write about it. The first stimulus package did nothing to help the economy, but it did put off the crash from happening for about 3 months. I mean, the worst of the crash is really just starting, just after the election.
What I am getting at is the stimulus package, sending us all $600 checks, was one more time the Dems in the Congress fell for something that was designed only to help the Republicans in the election. It didn't help and Obama won, but that was their plan.
And now the economy is starting to really crash. The bailout which obviously wasn't going to work didn't work -- and it used up all the money. I am starting to hear talk of the U.S. credit rating being lowered, with some expectation of default in the future.
Things are going to get really, really bad next year. So we need to make sure the public understands blame.
Here's how. The Congress needs to push through something popular, clearly designed to help the economy, that the Republicans filibuster, or Bush vetoes, before the end of the year. How about a whopping increase in the minimum wage? The bailout of the auto companies might be the issue. Maybe the new stimulus package, clearly aimed at creating jobs -- good UNION jobs. They would fight that.
The point is, make it clear who is for and who is against the people. This is how the Republicans have been doing it for some time.
AND, after Obama gets into office, we can even pass it.
Thanks for the bucks, suckers!
I think this is one of the better explanations of the Wall Street crash: The End of Wall Street's Boom. Go read.
I've been wondering why the Republicans are opposing any bailout of auto companies even as they add American Express to the list of companies getting taxpayer bailouts.
I think they are planning on using the financial crisis as an opportunity to get rid of unions. They are saying that the auto companies will have to get rid of "excessive labor costs" and "legacy costs" before they "deserve" a bailout. "Excessive labor costs" in this use means paying union members a decent wage, and legacy costs means paying the promised health care and pensions of retired auto workers.
P.S. This is why they are insisting the auto companies go into bankruptcy, when they didn't insist on this of financial firms that they bailed out.
Millions of people who wanted to vote either couldn’t vote, were kept from voting, were tricked out of voting, were tricked into voting the wrong way or voted but their votes were just not counted. There was voter suppression, voter roll purging, voter caging, intimidation, deception, misinformation and other efforts to keep citizens from voting for who they wanted to represent them in our government. On top of these efforts to there were also systemic problems that kept people from voting or kept their votes from counting.
I learned about these horrors while working on the Election Protection Wiki project, a non-partisan collaboration of citizens, journalists and researchers on the larger SourceWatch wiki. The EP WIki is a one-stop-shop for exposing voter suppression, voting machine problems, common election-worker screwups and other threats to election integrity.
Now that the voting is (mostly) done, we're working to document the problems with the election in order to stop this from happening next time. Here's what we've documented thus far, but if you see anything we've missed, please come over and add it in. I'm happy to help:
Suppression -- In several states there was systematic purging of voters from the registration rolls. Any excuse was used to remove voters, including something as simple as a misspelled street name or even the use of 'Bob' for 'Robert'. A Brennan Center for Justice study of voter purging estimated the number of voters purged before the 2008 election to be in the "millions."
Lines and delays -- One way to keep people from voting is to create conditions that cause long lines to form. Extremely long lines with waiting times of several hours for early voting and on election day were reported in different areas. Eventually people give up and go to work or home. Placing too few voting machines in precincts that tend to vote a certain way is one example of this tactic. In some areas lines were so long that people waited four, five, six and in some cases as many as eight hours to vote. We have no way of knowing how many people were kept from voting by these lines.
Some of the lines were a byproduct of the voter-roll purges. People arrive at polling places where they have voted in election after election, only to be told they are not registered. So they complain and demand provisional ballots, which can take a long time to complete. Lines grow ever longer as each of these voters is accommodated.
Intimidation -- Flyers warning that people with parking tickets will be arrested appeared in different areas. Students were warned that they could be arrested for voting where they go to school. Police were stationed at precincts with lots of Latino voters. Partisans were challenging voters in some areas.
Systemic problems – voting machines malfunction, scanners get clogged with ink, absentee ballots are not mailed, and other systemic problems kept an unknown number of people from voting or their votes from counting.
Just not counting votes -- collecting provisional ballots and then not counting them.
Tricks -- One big emerging story involved text messages sent to Democrats in several states, advising them they should avoid the lines and vote Wednesday. This happened in Missouri, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Virginia and several other states. Similarly voters in several states reported receiving robo-calls with a similar message. This was clearly an organized effort to keep people from voting.
In Florida Democratic voters were called and told they could avoid lines by voting by phone, given a number to call, and after "voting" were told they didn't have to go to the polls. This was also clearly an organized operation.
And these were only the scams that we heard about.
Beyond deliberate suppression and deception there were many other problems. How many people were denied or tricked out of their right to vote? How many never received absentee ballots? How many showed up only to be told they are not registered? How many voted using provisional ballots, without knowing if they will ever be counted? How many believed that they could avoid lines by waiting a day? There is really no way to know. But we can work to make sure these things pen again.
At least there is a place where the media, policymakers and citizens can find a collection of election problem reports and policy suggestions to help guide the reform process: the Election Protection Wiki.
If we fix these problems and stop these suppression efforts we will bring millions of new voters into our democracy. If we do not we will see all the long lines, registration problems, machine malfunctions and untrustworthiness, voter suppression schemes and tricks that we see during every election all over again, losing millions of votes.
Democracy is about all of the people having an equal voice in deciding how our country will be managed. So all of us owe it to the rest of us to help perfect this. After each election we should look at the problems that occurred and take steps to prevent them from happening again.
November 11, 2008
I can't think about Veterans Day without thinking about Max Cleland. Max lost three limbs in Vietnam, worked in the Carter administration helping other veterans, and became a senator from Georgia. After 9/11 a Republican named Saxby Chambliss, who got out of Vietnam saying he had a bad knee, campaigned against Cleland saying he was unpatriotic. He ran ads linking Cleland to bin Laden.
Well now Republican Chambliss is in a runoff against another democrat, Jim Martin. If Martin wins it could bring the Democrats to the magic 60 seats that lets them pass bills over Republican obstruction.
James Boyce has more: James Boyce: Saxby Chambliss Seeks Deferment From Runoff -- Cites "Bum Knee".
Go help Martin defeat Chambliss. Do it for Max.
November 10, 2008
OK whitey, now it can be revealed. Your life is about to get really horrible.
For a friend: Is there a way to set AOL Webmail as the default mail program used by the web browser, the way you can do for GMail and Yahoo Mail?
I don't mean the AOL program, I mean AOL webmail.
November 9, 2008
In case you missed this, because of the election news. I apologize in advance for making it bold type, but I am really pissed off and want to be sure everyone sees this.
... nine banks about to be getting a total equity capital injection of $125 billion, courtesy of Phase I of The Bailout Plan, had reserved $108 billion during the first nine months of 2008 in order to pay for compensation and bonuses...CALL your Congressperson's office and demand to know why the taxpayer bailout money is being used for bonuses.
The country's top investment bank (which since Sept. 21 calls itself a bank holding company), Goldman Sachs, set aside $11.4 billion during the first nine months of this year -- slightly more than the firm's $10 billion U.S. government gift -- to cover bonus payments for its 443 senior partners, who are set to make about $5 million each, and other employees.
The most important problem to address, in my opinion, is the way a few people have been able to use corporate resources to influence people and policies. These people don't use these resources to promote the betterment of society, or even of the companies whose resources they control. They use these resources to promote policies and ideas that are for their personal benefit.
Corporate resources should be used to run the company. And companies should operate under the rules WE set for them, for our benefit. It is time to make this the law. It is time "to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government."
Fixing this problem will allow the system to operate the way it is intended again, which will allow us, We, the people, to start addressing the rest of the problems.
When the corporate media and Republicans say Obama should "govern from the center" of a "center-right" nation, what they mean is that Obama should govern for the white, the rich, and the owners of corporations. They're saying he should follow all the policies that got us into the mess we are in.
November 8, 2008
No one "owns" the air. No one gets to "profit" from air -- we don't have to "pay" anyone to be able to breath air.
Why is oil different?
Thinking through this question open up some very interesting ideas about our economy and who benefits and why.
In Alaska the oil companies pay the people of the state for the oil. No one pays state taxes AND everyone in the state gets a big check every year. AND the oil companies put aside money into a fund that guarantees the people of Alaska will continue to get those checks forever, even after the oil runs out. This is because the people of Alaska understood that the oil belonged to them.
So what about the rest of the oil in the country, and the world? Why don't the people of the US and the world benefit from their ownership of that oil? Why do a few people who own and manage oil companies get the profits for themselves and grow ever richer, while the rest of us lose our jobs and pensions and health care and houses?
Why do we get taxed to provide these companies that benefit a few people with military protection? Why do we get taxed to build the roads that enable them to move their products to make this money, and then have to pay them for our oil so we can drive cars on those roads? Why do we pay taxes to provide the legal infrastructure of courts and laws that enables them to grow richer, while we all grow poorer from it? Why do we get taxed to provide an education system that invents machines that take our jobs, and that only trains us to be employees that can just be tossed aside?
I'm using oil here as just one example of underlying economic assumptions. Inheritance is another underlying economic assumption. Why does someone "inherit" the right to be rich?
Who is our economy FOR, anyway?
There are a lot of questions here that will need to be re-thought if we are going to get out of the economic mess that the few who benefit from the current corporate and economic structure have gotten us into.
November 7, 2008
White House visitor
One sunny day in 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.
He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine looked at the man and said, 'Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'
The old man said, 'Okay' and walked away.
The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine again told the man, 'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'
The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.
The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, 'Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?'
The old man looked at the Marine and said,
'Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.'
The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, 'See you tomorrow.'
It can now be revealed that Oprah's "Mystery Man" -- or "Hanky Man" at CNN -- is Seeing the Forest blogger Sam Perry. He will be on the Oprah show today.
A recent post by Sam from the Democratic Convention: From Denver - two concerns
November 6, 2008
Go explore and click around at Change.gov.
It even has a blog.
You can even go see what nominees, appointees and members of the transition team are given as resources to study.
November 5, 2008
Imagine the first 100 days. Go tell the new administration what YOU want them to focus on: White House 2 - Where YOU set the nation's priorities
OK, the Republicans are out of the picture. It will take parts of the country a while to come to terms with that. Especially the media, always behind the curve. Our TV screens and newspaper columns might still feature older, well-to-do, white conservatives but We, the People have taken back control.
One gift the conservatives gave us with their election tactics was a clear mandate for socialism. They spent weeks telling the country that an Obama victory was a victory for socialism. And We, the People came out and voted and provided a clear landslide mandate to "spread the wealth around."
NOW we start the fight to create a country and an an economy that works for US, for We, the People.
Things that are for the people: Health care. Vacations. Child care. Mass transit. Unions. Pensions. Environmental protections and clean energy. Education. Nutrition. Housing. Income security.
What needs to change? Wow, where to start.
Our fight starts with getting corporate power under control and working for us again. That is job one. Corporations exist because We, the People make the laws and the roads and everything else that allows corporations to exist and make money. And we do the work. Why do we do this? For OUR benefit -- Why ELSE would we? Did we set up this system so that a very few can use its resources to get all of the benefits of everything we all do? As this blog's motto has been for several years: Who is our economy FOR, anyway?
We need to get the influence of corporate money our of our politics and out of our lives. Corporate resources should not be used by executives to have influence on our politics. That is not what corporate resources are supposed to be for. We, the People are supposed to tell corporations how to behave, not the other way around.
We need to keep corporate influence away from how we think about politics as well! In a democracy it is up to We, the People to tell companies what they do, not the other way around. Beyond that, we also need controls on advertising to keep them from influencing our humanity -- what we think we need and want and how we think we should live our lives, just to sell products that harm us and the planet.
So job one is prohibiting the use of corporate resources to influence our politics, our thinking and our humanity
November 4, 2008
Go ahead. You can say it out loud now. "President-elect Obama."
John McCain and the Republicans and the entire conservative machine told the country that Barack Obama is a socialist and the most liberal member of the Senate, and the country responded by voting the guy into office in a landslide.
So we have a huge popular mandate for socialism and extreme liberalism.
Maybe I can go get a job now.
For the heck of it I turned on FOX News. They've got a guy dressed up in a Black panther costume standing out in front of a polling place in Philadelphia. It's hilarious.
And they're running with this over and over, and they have commentators on talking about it, and this is their big Election-Day national news story. NATIONAL!
They get a guy to dress up in a Black Panther costume and they can run with that ALL DAY???
The fear is just palpable. The terror.
I'm already duct-taping all my windows.
Update - Oh my God, they've got this headlined at Drudge! They get a guy dressed up in a Black Panther costume, a few days after Halloween, and they try to make this a national news hissy fit! I'm afraid to check the right-wing blogs.
Update - Yep, no fewer than 30 right-wing outlets are headlining this NATIONAL story, that a guy dressed up in a Black Panther costume is standing in front of a polling place somewhere. (I only referenced some of them here.)
Update - Of course, Limbaugh ran with it, a guy dressed up in a Black panther costume, for his millions of fans...
SERIOUSLY stuck in the 60's!
Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) to report issues at the polls.
November 3, 2008
Since Bush took office, all of our money has been transferred upward and outward, into the hands of a few.
When Bush took office, people had savings. Now they have debts. When Bush took office people had assets. Now we're "underwater." When Bush took office we had a very large federal budget surplus. Now we have a massive, massive deficit that looks like it could reach a trillion dollars! And the national debt has reached ten trillion dollars.
But not only has the money been transferred, control over our decisions has been transferred as well. The public, through our government, is no longer able to make our own decisions. Instead these powers have been handed over to a very few ultra-wealthy people hidden behind the mask of the legal structure called the corporation. The control of the country's resources and destiny has passed to the few and we need to take it back.
November 2, 2008
I like this so much I'm posting it again.
We’re saying what we’re saying, do what you’re going to do with it
A slur or a slaying, we’ve got nothing to do with it
You can phone in contrition, Hollywood Listerine
Wash you mouth with detergent, your hands will never get that clean
‘Cause when they call out the hounds there’s no calling them back
Without blood on their mouths or a corpse on their backs
And I can hear all the howls for miles around
But it still takes a caller to call out the hounds
Derringers, Berettas, old movie Tommy guns
To finish up a vendetta that you’re going to leave undone
No court would convict you, I’ll hold you responsible
For an uptick in tension or worse, something far more demonstrable
‘Cause when they call out the hounds there’s no calling them back
Without blood on their mouths or a corpse on their backs
And I can hear all the howls for miles around
But it still takes a caller to call out the hounds
‘Cause when they call out the hounds there’s no calling them back
So duck your head out of bounds and brace for attack
Long after it’s over, the odor will still stick around
In a faint ugly echo from when you called out the hounds
You haven't been hearing from me as much because I'm still working on the Election Protection Wiki, and I recommend that you drop by and take a look. There is a LOT of information there, and great resources for people on election day. And feel free to add information.
The EP Wiki serves as an internet hub that helps media, activists, advocates and the public get the information they need in a hurry on election day. It helps get people to national and state organizations they need to find, contact information for state government officials and state-based election organizations, or just to have the information in the wiki itself. And it helps the media find those contacts as well as learn about warnings and forecasts of problems as they occur.
After the election will serve to document problems for the media and policy makers.
Stop by at http://epwiki.org, look around, help out, tell others.
Reports that Obama volunteers in Pennsylvania are getting robo-calls telling them that their shifts are canceled.
Did you hear the one where Florida Democrats are getting calls saying they can vote by phone to avoid the long lines? They are given a number to call, they "vote" at that number and are thanked and told they don't have to go to the polls. That one is in the Election Protection Wiki.
The Seeing the Forest Rule (click and scroll down for examples): when Republicans accuse it is a cover story for something THEY are doing.
The highest-ranking Republican in the House is accusing the Republican-led U.S. Justice Department of playing politics when it comes to investigating voting-fraud allegations and monitoring balloting in Ohio.So here we are in the which year of a special prosecutor investigating the politicization of the Justice Department by the Republicans, where they were using the department as an arm of the Republican Party. And Boehner is accusing the department of being "infiltrated" by Obama supporters. Wow.
. . . Boehner said today that the agency has been infiltrated by supporters of Democrat Barack Obama.
OK, this is the HOUSE MINORITY LEADER, one of the top positions in our government.
The country is facing serious problems that we have to solve. In fact we are facing this BECAUSE of people like this. We need to replace these people with competent people who are ready to approach the problems we face.
November 1, 2008
Some call it heavenly in its brilliance.
Others, mean and rueful of the Western dream.
I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft.
We have constructed pyramids in honor of our escaping.
This is the land where the Pharaoh died.
A 12-year-old boy was shot to death through a front door while trick-or-treating with his family, shocking residents of a South Carolina neighborhood where most people know each other well.