In the Belly of the Beast: 4/27/11: Ezra Klein: Obama is “a moderate Republican of the early 1990s”

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“POLITICS”
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

THE ECONOMY

The Wageless Recovery

Robert Reich


THE ULTRA-RIGHT


ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER



Headlines for April 27, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
“POLITICS”

Ezra Klein: Obama is “a moderate Republican of the early 1990s”

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Ezra Klein has an interesting (and well structured) piece about all the things that President Obama isn’t (Muslim, socialist, birthless), and the one thing he is — a Republican. Mr. Klein (my emphasis throughout):

A reality-television star who can’t persuade anyone that his hair is real is alleging that the president of the United States was born in Kenya.

Perhaps this is just the logical endpoint of two years spent arguing over what Barack Obama is — or isn’t. Muslim. Socialist. Marxist. Anti-colonialist. Racial healer. We’ve obsessed over every answer except the right one: President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s. And the Republican Party he’s facing has abandoned many of its best ideas in its effort to oppose him.

Klein rests his case on three initiatives:

If you put aside the emergency measures required by the financial crisis, three major policy ideas have dominated American politics in recent years: a plan that uses an individual mandate and tax subsidies to achieve near-universal health care; a cap-and-trade plan that attempts to raise the prices of environmental pollutants to better account for their costs; and bringing tax rates up from their Bush-era lows as part of a bid to reduce the deficit. In each case, the position that Obama and the Democrats have staked out is the very position that moderate Republicans have staked out before.

The piece then details each of those three policy ideas, and closes by defending the sentence I italicized in his main paragraph above. A classic Writing 101 three-example essay with coda, and professionally done. High marks.

Just three quick points (a sort of codetta of my own): First, the “Obama is a Republican” meme is getting mainstreamed. Great news. Time to call it right, in the same way that Krugman is starting to call it right — out loud.

Second, Klein seems to be bending over to praise Republicans; either that, or he’s an admirer himself, and sincerely so. We need to acknowledge that about Klein. (In that sense, this is a “state of the Klein” piece as much as a “state of the Obama” article.)

But either way, that italicized sentence is seriously quibblable. Is the privatized health insurance mandate really such a great idea? (Notice that Klein equates “good idea” with “successful idea.”) Do we really want to hand over health care to an unregulated industry, independent of how low it reduces percentage of uninsured?

And if I may be so bold, I don’t think it’s a given that radical Republicanism, 2010-style, is just anti-Obamaism, as Klein asserts. Republicans have been moving the goalposts into the next county for most of our lives.

It’s what they do. They’re not going to stop until it’s 1880 again, an era in which those nasty immigrants were, at the very least, appropriately hued. The next Democratic president could be to the left of Chairman Mao, and those Republican goalposts would still be to the right of the Atlantic seaboard.

Krugman: The goal of the Beltway deficit hawks is “to tear up our current social contract”

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Not that the headline statement is new to progressives (in some cases, we’ve known it for a long while). But it’s an awareness that’s gaining some traction. So let’s call this a “state of the Krugman” post; the Professor is nowsaying this out loud as well, and that’s not small beans. Along the way, he links to an interesting graph.

Krugman starts by asking the key question: If the deficit is so big and scary, why aren’t the deficit hawks raisingtaxes, instead of lowering them as the Ryan plan would do?

Then he takes a professorial side trip. He notes here, as he has done elsewhere, that the U.S. is one of thelowest-tax nations in the first world. And then he presents the only Beltway plan that seriously addresses the deficit — the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan:

[T]he only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.

True, it increases revenue partly by imposing substantially higher taxes on the wealthy, which is popular everywhere except inside the Beltway. But it also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. … All of this, combined with spending cuts mostly focused on defense, is projected to yield a balanced budget by 2021. And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid.

Great to see the Progressive Plan getting some mainstream attention for a change. You’d think it was the ugly stepchild in a Grimm Brothers fable. Then Krugman gets to his main point. The reason you’re not hearing about that plan is simple — deficit reduction isn’t really the Beltway goal (my emphasis):

The [reason the Progressive Plan isn’t getting real attention] is the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks. To the extent that they care about the deficit at all, it takes second place to their desire to do precisely what the People’s Budget avoids doing, namely, tear up our current social contract, turning the clock back 80 years under the guise of necessity.

I suspect he’s known this for some time, just as we all have, and some sense of collegiality has prevented him from saying so out loud. No more. These tea leaves (Krugman’s bluntness) suggests that the rhetoric resisting the “hawks” has entered a new, more truthful phase. Good.

By the way, that faux-hawkery (shades of Amy Winehouse) is a bi-partisan thing.

Oh, and that graph I promised? Krugman links to this article by David Leonhardt, which details the path that taxes have taken over the last fifty years, with a focus on the top .01%, the very high earners. You need at least $8.6 million per year to get into that group. Here’s the graph:


Compare the drop in the tax rates of the top two groups (the top 1% and .01%) against the drop in the rates of all other groups. Note that is is all taxes, not just income taxes. Even under Clinton, folks, that top rate just kept falling after the initial bump up.

This is the story of our generation in a bitter nutshell. Needless to say, we won’t get that money back by asking nicely.

Update: Sixth Wisconsin GOP recall petition ready to go

A quick Wisconsin update — looks like the sixth GOP senate recall petition is ready to be submitted. That’s six of eight (a Borg designation).

If you can, please contribute to this effort by clicking the link below.

Confronting the coded racism of Donald Trump

If there were any doubts about the racial animus driving Donald Trump’s attacks on Barack Obama, the billionaire reality show star exposed himself with his latest conspiracy. On Monday night, Trump questioned how Obama could possible have been admitted to Ivy League schools, since Trump “heard” Obama was a “terrible student.” Trump told the A.P. that he was investigating the issue, whatever that means, just as he claims to have dispatched investigators to Hawaii in order to find the President’s famous birth certificate.
“How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump said. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”

By charging that Obama was not admitted based on merit, Trump is suggesting that Obama was admitted because he is black.

Launching an investigation into Obama’s birthplace in 2011 is not really objective journalism – it’s an overreaction to conspiracy theories masquerading as fact-checking.

In G.O.P. politics, attacking racial minorities as the underachieving beneficiaries of affirmative action is a very old move. Sen. Jesse Helms produced the most notorious example, an ad against his black opponent, Harvey Grant, which blasted affirmative action for taking jobs from deserving white people and giving them to minorities. Even that dark salvo, however, was putatively linked to jobs and active policy debates. Trump is not so smooth. He is blatantly attacking Obama’s teenage qualifications for college — a topic so obscure, it was a non-issue in Obama’s exhaustive, two-year-long presidential campaign. Coupled with the rage of the Birthers, Trump’s adopted conspiracy crowd, the mogul looks more like he is auditioning for a talk radio gig than the presidency.


Paul Ryan’s budget will get a vote in the Senate

Some hardball in the Senate. The GOPers like to talk tough on the budget. Harry Reid is going to let them go on-the-record with a vote on Paul Ryan’s budget.

From Sam Stein:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on Wednesday that he would host a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget as a means of forcing moderate GOP senators to weigh in on the legislation’s controversial proposals. He did not provide a specific date for when that vote will take place.

“There will be an opportunity in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget to see if Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as the House did,” Reid said on a conference call with reporters. “Without going into the Ryan budget we will see how much the Republicans like it here in the Senate.”


Obama attending a few $35,800 per person fund raisers with Wall Street tonight

And people wonder why the financial reform was so watered down. It also helps explain how the people who caused the recession are doing better than ever. The CEO’s of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are both due to be there. CNBC:

Tonight he is hitting the town hard—and hitting up Wall Street hard as well. He is in New York for a bunch of fund raisers that begin at the home of former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. About 60 people are expected to attend, including many prominent Wall Street figures. Each has ponied up $35,800 for the privilege.

Afterwards, Obama will head to a second dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.

This one will have about 340 people, according to the Wall Street Journal. Each of them will also be expected to contribute $35,800 to Democratic campaign coffers.


CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Daniel Ellsberg: Bradley Manning Charges Should Be Dismissed After Obama Declares Accused Army Whistleblower “Broke the Law”

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EllsbergbuttonWe speak to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about President Obama’s comments last week on accused U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning. Speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama openly declared that Manning—who has been accused of leaking classified military documents, but has yet to stand trial—has broken the law. Obama was also asked to compare the actions of Manning to Ellsberg, who leaked the most important secret documents about the Vietnam War. Obama said the cases are not similar because “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified the same way.” In fact, the material disclosed in the Pentagon Papers was designated Top Secret, the highest secrecy designation under law, whereas the material allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks was marked “secret” or “classified,” among the lowest-level secrecy designations. [includes rush transcript]

Court Rules Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Sentence is Unconstitutional, Grants New Sentencing Hearing

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MumiabuttonThe case of Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn Tuesday when the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared his death sentence unconstitutional. It is the second time the court has agreed with a lower court judge who set aside Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after finding jurors were given confusing instructions that encouraged them to choose death rather than a life sentence. Now Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and journalist, could get a new sentencing hearing in court. We speak with his co-counsel, Judith Ritter, and Linn Washington, an award-winning journalist who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case for almost three decades. [includes rush transcript]

Wash Post: Gays are mean

And the Washington Post would like them to stop it. From Joe over at AMERICAblog Gay:

In DC, the insiders, who Digby aptly named the Villagers, know Paul Clement. He’s one of them. So, we should all stop being mean to him. In their eyes, he’s a man of integrity who is doing the right thing. The Post’s openly gay Jonathan Capehart wrote a post on how we should all “respect Clement” for “willingness to hold principle high above pressure.”

Yes, Paul Clement is so noble. Defending DOMA is really such an upstanding cause. It’s only a law that treats gay Americans as second-class citizens. It’s only a law that prevents full equality for same-sex couples. But, among the elite in DC, that’s not what’s at stake. No, the gays have been mean to one of their own. We’ve violated the hierarchy.

There’s much of Joe’s column over there.

THE ECONOMY

The Wageless Recovery

Robert Reich
This week’s biggest economic show occurs tomorrow (Wednesday) when Fed chair Ben Bernanke steps in front of the cameras for the Fed’s first-ever news conference. The question on everyone’s mind: Will the Fed signal it’s now more worried about inflation than recession?

Much of Wall Street thinks inflation is now the biggest threat to the US economy. As has been the case in the past, the Street is dead wrong. The biggest threat is falling into another recession.

The most significant economic news from the first quarter of 2011 is the decline in real wages. That’s unusual in a recovery, to say the least. But it’s easily explained this time around. In order to keep the jobs they have, millions of Americans are accepting shrinking paychecks. If they’ve been fired, the only way they can land a new job is to accept even smaller ones.

The wage squeeze is putting most households in a double bind. Before the recession, they’d been able to pay the bills because they had two paychecks. Now, they’re likely to have one-and-a half, or just one, and it’s shrinking.

Add to this the continuing decline in the value of the biggest asset most people own – their homes – and what do you get? Consumers who won’t and can’t buy enough to keep the economy going. That spells recession.

Why doesn’t Wall Street get it? For one thing, because lenders always worry more about inflation than borrowers – and, in general, the wealthier members of a society tend to lend their money to people who are poorer than they are.

But Wall Street’s inflation fears are also being stoked by several specifics.

First are price upswings in food and energy. The Street doesn’t seem to understand that when most peoples’ wages are dropping, additional dollars they spend on groceries and at the gas pump means fewer dollars they have left to spend in the rest of the economy. Rather than cause inflation, this is likely to lead to more job losses.

The Street is also worried that the Fed’s easy money policies are pushing the dollar down and thereby fueling inflation – as everything we buy abroad becomes more expensive. But if wages are stuck in the mud and everything we buy abroad costs more, Americans have even fewer dollars to spend. This also spells recession, not inflation.

Finally, the Street worries that if Democrats and Republicans fail to agree to a plan to cut the budget deficit, the credit-worthiness of the United States as a whole will be in jeopardy – causing interest rates to rocket and inflation to explode. Standard & Poors, the erstwhile credit-rating agency, has already sounded the alarm.

The Street has it backwards. Over the long term, the deficit does have to be tackled. But not now. When job growth remains tepid, when wages are dropping, and when the value of most households’ major asset is declining, government has to step in to maintain overall demand.

This is the worst possible time to cut public spending or reduce the money supply.

The biggest irony is that the Street is doing wonderfully well right now, in contrast to most Americans. Corporate profits for the first quarter of the year are way up. That’s largely because corporate payrolls are down.

Payrolls are down because big companies have been shifting much of their work abroad where business is booming. The Commerce Department recently reported that over the last decade American multinationals (essentially all large American corporations) eliminated 2.9 million American jobs while adding 2.4 million abroad.

What the Commerce Department didn’t say is the pace is picking up. In 2000, 30 percent of GE’s business was overseas and 46 percent of its employees; now 60 percent of its business is outside the U.S., as are 54 percent of its employees. Over the past five years, Oracle added twice as many workers overseas as in the US; 63 percent of its employees now work abroad.

Corporations are simultaneously finding ways to cut the pay of their remaining U.S. workers – not just threatening job losses if they don’t agree to the cuts, but also automating the work or sending it to non-union states. (The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, an unremittingly reliable barometer of Street thought, argued earlier this week that such states offer workers the freedom to choose whether to join a union – in reality, the freedom to lose even more bargaining power and be forced to accept even lower wages.)

America’s jobless recovery is becoming a wageless recovery. That puts the odds of another recession greater than the risk of inflation. Wall Street and its representatives in Washington don’t understand – or don’t want to.

UK, Not OK

by By PAUL KRUGMAN
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Contractionary policies promote contraction.

US banks warn Obama on debt

They never know when to say when, do they? What part of “you arrogant jerks are responsible for this economic crisis” are they missing? Of course there’s a government financial problem today. The government had a spending problem before from overseas military adventures as well as obscene tax cuts for the bankers but there’s no question the problem became considerably worse due to the financial crisis caused by the banks. As in the same banks who are now berating Obama about the debt problem.

Unfortunately it’s hard to sympathize much with Obama being roughed up (again) by the bankers. He raked in campaign money from them and then failed to do much about changing the dynamics of that dysfunctional industry. He hoped to split the baby in half by talking tough from time to time to win over voters but then going easy on the bankers. In the end, he upset everyone. What genius inside the White House team thought up that strategy?

Financial Times:

A group of the largest US banks and fund managers stepped up the pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to reach a deal to increase the country’s debt limit, saying that even a short default could be devastating for the financial markets and economy.

The warning over the debt limit is the strongest yet to come from Wall Street, highlighting growing nervousness among investors about the US political system’s ability to forge a consensus on fiscal policy.

The most pressing budgetary issue confronting Congress and the Obama administration is the need to raise the US debt ceiling, which stands at $14,300 billion.

Interesting, because the real “nervousness” in the real world is about the banks and how much more they can squeeze from the public. The “consensus” is that they shafted the public and are now making more money than ever. The debt problem, while a concern, is much less of a concern than the banks.

THE ULTRA-RIGHT

Prop. 8 lawyers want decision overturned because Judge Walker has a boyfriend

The lawyers for California’s Prop. 8, who lost in federal court last summer when Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the measure was found unconstitutional, have waged an ongoing effort to thwart the rights of same-sex couples. In the real world, we know the American people are increasingly supportive of marriage equality — and opponents are in the minority. The trendline is moving in the right direction.

As the American people have become more supportive, the homophobes have become increasingly desperate. Now, they’ve crossed over to absurdity.

Yesterday, the pro-Prop. 8 side’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, filed a motion to overturn last summer’s ruling because, get this, Judge Walker has a boyfriend. It’s not that Judge Walker’s boyfriend is an advocate or was working on the case or was somehow involved in the case. No. Their motion is based on the simple fact that Judge Walker is in a same-sex relationship.

We have more at AMERICAblog Gay. But, the best words to describe this latest effort are desperate and absurd.

Conversation with a birther, why they’re not going away

This call to the show from Winston in Alabama confirms why the birther conspiracy will never go away, a fascinating look at why crazy beliefs endure. Even after all the facts were explained to Winston, and after he appeared to agree that the facts were right, he still held doubts that President Obama was born in this country. What’s clear to me is that birthers have other reasons for which they dislike the president, even hate him — and some of those reasons are too ugly, perhaps, for them to even admit to themselves. Hence, they cling to this conspiracy even after it’s disproved.

Mike has the audio of the radio interview on his site.


ENVIRONMENT




NUCLEAR POWER

Locked-Out Uranium Processing Workers Protest Honeywell’s Use of Scab Workers at Uranium Enrichment Plant in Illinois

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HoneywellDozens of workers protested at Honeywell’s shareholder meeting on Monday, accusing the company of putting employees and the public in danger at its uranium enrichment plant in Metropolis, Illinois. Major U.S. defense contractor, Honeywell, pleaded guilty last month to illegally storing hazardous radioactive waste without a permit. The company kept highly radioactive mud in drums in the open air behind its facility near the Ohio River. Workers at the facility say they notified Honeywell of the problem on many occasions. Many are members of the United Steelworkers union and feel this particular incident led to the company’s desire to bust their union. More than 200 workers at the Metropolis plant have been out of work since last June due to stalled contract negotiations with the company on workplace safety, economic and seniority issues. We speak with labor journalist Mike Elk, who has covered this story extensively for In These Timesmagazine. [includes rush transcript]

Chernobyl Catastrophe: 25th Anniversary of World’s Worst Nuclear Accident

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ChernobylAs Japan continues to deal with its nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power facility, memorials are being held in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia today to mark the 25th anniversary of the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. On April 26, 1986, an explosion at the power plant sent a cloud of radioactive fallout into Russia, Belarus and over a large portion of Europe. Soviet officials attempted to cover up the accident, but eventually 50,000 people living in Chernobyl’s immediate surroundings had to be evacuated. A vast rural region near the plant remains uninhabitable. Until the crisis in Japan, Chernobyl was the world’s only Level 7 “major accident” nuclear disaster, the most severe designation issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency. [includes rush transcript]

Nobel Peace laureates say no to nuclear power —as industry recoups losses

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
A group of Nobel Peace laureates called in an open letter April 21 for all countries to pursue safer forms of renewable energy rather than going ahead with plans for nuclear development in light of the current disaster in Japan. “It is time to recognize that nuclear power is not a clean, safe or affordable source of energy,” said the letter written by laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, José Ramos Horta, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Túm, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai. “We firmly believe that if the world phases out its current use of nuclear power, future generations of people everywhere—and the Japanese people who have already suffered too much—will live in greater peace and security,” said the letter which has been sent to 31 heads of state whose countries are currently heavily invested in atomic power production, or are considering investing in nuclear power. (Indian Express, April 21)

Tepco staff agree to pay cuts following Fukushima nuclear disaster

It’s ever so slightly different from the original plan at Transocean, when they handed out mega-bonuses based on their “best safety record” claim. But hey, we can’t even get bankers to accept pay cuts following a global economic meltdown. Bloomberg:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers agreed to a management proposal to cut their pay by as much as 25 percent out of a sense of responsibility for the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, their union said.

“Most union members didn’t object to a pay cut, considering the situation at the company and the effect on society from the nuclear accident,” Koji Sakata, secretary- general of the Tokyo Electric Power Workers Union, said by telephone today.

The utility known as Tepco is battling radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant north of Tokyo after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out its cooling systems, causing the biggest atomic accident in 25 years. More than 50,000 households were forced to evacuate, and Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch estimates Tepco may face compensation claims of as much as 11 trillion yen ($135 billion).


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This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Bradley Manning, Civil Liberties, Corporations, Corruption, Events, Human Rights, Nuclear Power, Obama, US. Bookmark the permalink.

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