In the Belly of the Beast: 6/27/11: it takes a Democrat to destroy the New Deal (Social Security) or Medicare or “Welfare as we know it”

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)

“POLITICS”

RACISM, SEXISM, CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY

      
THE ULTRA-RIGHT

      
ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER

      

Headlines for June 28, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

“POLITICS”

Chris Hayes: The Republicans are waiting for Obama to pull the trigger on the social safety net

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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I’m going to start writing about the Debt Ceiling issue; it’s smelling more and more like Cave Week 2 and we’re going to have to work hard to keep the administration’s hands off Social Security & Medicare. In the context of the Ryan plan, Krugman calls this “Obama’s defining moment.”

I doubt that they, Repubs & Dems, will try the Ryan plan now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they weakened the underpinnings of both programs as much as they can get away with. Remember this?

Sure Paul, give me a call too while you’re at it. As I read that exchange, those two are new best buds and they’re lining up against us.

Now comes Maddow, and a fine segment on Republican plans to crash the debt ceiling talks. After a long intro (which I trimmed off; the whole segment is here), she ask how should we understand what Republicans are up to?

She has two answers. The “kind way” is as “shameless craven unprincipled partisan hackery.” (Shades of Amy Winehouse.) The “less nice way”? They are trying to “guarantee bad economic outcomes” on purpose and with full knowledge of what they’re doing.

Then she asks, if the latter, why? The only answer she offers is the obvious — beating Obama in 2012. (If you’re really being cynical though, you have only to look to the Shock Doctrine and the billionaires who benefit whenever it’s applied.)

All this to set up Chris Hayes, who gets it almost exactly right, in my opinion. As he says, now that they (Grover Norquist’s Movement Conservatives) have starved the beast and gotten everyone in a deficit panic, “the welfare state is in their sights.”

A fascinating analysis until the very end. Watch:

This segment makes me very optimistic about the new Chris Hayes show that’s under development. Excellent analysis by Chris, and for my money, just cynical enough — mostly.

My only addition is that it’s not just the Republicans that have the welfare state in their sights, and Chris implies as much. They’re need Obama to pull the trigger, since they can’t do it themselves. (“Like Nixon to China“, right? I wrote that over a year ago.)

Will he do it? Will Obama pull the trigger? I disagree with Hayes in his reading of Obama’s goals and motives. Rewatch that Clinton–Paul Ryan exchange again. This looks like the cross-party elites when they think they’re unwatched, and they’ve joined hands.

Obama’s been signalling for a long time that he wants to damage the safety net. Cave Week 1 — a Barack Obama special, mind you — was surrendering on the Bush tax cuts, thanks to which the government has no money. Cave Week 2, I think, is being “forced” to fill that revenue hole with middle-class money and benefits, plus a few war dollars / tax loopholes for cover.

If I’m right, winning will take a lot of work. To succeed, we’ll have to play chicken with Obama — by threatening the one thing he wants more than neo-Reagan cred, and that’s 2012. Team Where else you gonna go? thinks you’ll back down.

Honey I shrunk my negotiating position in the deficit talks

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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Cross posted from Matt Browner Hamlin’s blog “Hold Fast”:

Back when the austerity (I mean, fiscal responsibility) debate was starting, it was pointed out that the United Kingdom went with a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. The result has been disastrous for the UK economy and painful to working people there.

When President Obama kicked off his push, he proposed a 3:1 cuts to revenue plan:

Balance Between Spending Cuts and Tax Reform: The President’s framework would seek a balanced approach to bringing down our deficit, with three dollars of spending cuts and interest savings for every one dollar from tax reform that contributes to deficit reduction. This is consistent with the bipartisan Fiscal Commission’s approach.

Amazingly with the GOP walking away from talks, we now find out that a devastating 5:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases was not good enough for them. Ezra Klein reports:

A bit more information has trickled out over the last few days detailing the exact state of the budget negotiations when they collapsed. Both sides, as they often said, were shooting for about $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. They’d already agreed on around $1 trillion in spending cuts and were making good progress on the rest of it. But Democrats insisted that $400 billion — so, 17 percent — of the package be tax increases. And that’s when Republicans walked.

This is bat shit insane. I hope someone on the Democratic side is pointing it out…

So basically, the Republicans keep saying “no” and the White House keeps offering them more and more cuts to programs, and fewer and fewer tax increases, while the Republicans simply keep saying “no.”

Heck of a negotiation. The White House is simply negotiating with itself at this point. Lowering its bid, lower and lower, while the GOP does nothing. Guaranteeing that any final deal that is reached starts at a point so low that we’re screwed no matter what the details.

Now, I’m sure the White House thinks it’s going to win the battle by showing the American people how earnest the President has been in these talks, while the Republicans have been intransigent.  Yeah, fat chance.  That is all a matter of spin.  And the White House folks, and Dems generally, don’t spin very well.  They need to hire someone who does, and empower them to win, rather than tying their hands in a never-ending desire to be nice to people who want to destroy you.

Obama won’t let middle class “carry the whole burden” on budget

Hopefully this is the case but there’s not a lot of history to suggest it’s going to work out this way. Obama signed off on the radical GOP tax cuts for the richest Americans who have profited enormously from this recession and he hardly has a strong history of standing up to the Republicans. Huffington Post:

Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday the Obama administration wouldn’t let middle class Americans “carry the whole burden” to break a deadlock over the national debt limit, warning that the Republican approach would only benefit the wealthy.

Addressing Ohio Democrats, Biden said there had been great progress in talks with Republican lawmakers on a deficit-reduction plan agreement. But he insisted that his party wouldn’t agree to cuts that would undermine the elderly and middle-class workers.

“We’re not going to let the middle class carry the whole burden. We will sacrifice. But they must be in on the deal,” Biden said in a speech at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner.

Krugman: If Obama concedes to Republican blackmail now, it’s “the end of the presidency”

In a short post, Paul Krugman gets it just right.

First he details the fat-cat benefits the debt-ceiling discussions are stalled on — for example, business’s ability to undervalue inventory to lower taxes, the hedge fund loophole that hands them a 15% nominal tax rate (beforedeductions and other loopholes kick in), tax treatment of private jets, and so on.

Then he says:

Think about it. There’s a significant chance that failing to raise the debt limit could provoke a renewed financial crisis — and Republicans would rather take that chance than allow a reduction in tax breaks on corporate jets.

What this says to me is that Obama cannot, must not, concede here. If he does … he’s setting himself up for endless blackmail. A line … should have been drawn last fall; but to concede now would effectively mean the end of the presidency.

I assume he means Obama’s presidency (I would concur). Because the presidency is always safe in Republican hands. When they have the power, they actually use it.

Update: Joan McCarter says there are “already cuts to Medicare on the table“. Cripes.

GOP once again rules out any tax increases to reduce deficit. Then why are we even talking about program cuts at all?

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

There is a serious danger of negotiating with ourselves here.

Republicans on Friday ruled out any tax increases as part of an agreement to narrow stubborn budget deficits and raise the U.S. debt limit. The federal deficit now stands at $1.4 trillion, among the highest levels relative to the economy since World War Two.

It’s bad enough that Democrats have already agreed that the budget needs to be cut, rather than push for another stimulus, but with the GOP still refusing to even talk about tax increases, why are we even discussing which programs might be cut, be it Social Security, Medicare or anything else?  Because the GOP might push the country into default?  Come on.  Everyone knows that would be a disaster, and the GOP knows it too.

If the White House really thinks the Republicans are risking a world depression the likes of which no one has ever seen, then they need to keep saying that again and again and again until it sinks in, just like the GOP did with its death panels, Obama is a socialist Muslim, and every other crazy meme they’ve managed to sink into the public consciousness – except we’re telling the truth.

Repetition is the only thing that works.  Democrats, however, often think that if they say something once, it’s been said, and they can move on.    

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

NY Passes Historic Marriage Equality Bill; Is It a Sign the GOP Aims to Leverage Gay Support in 2012?

Gay_marriage_buttonLate Friday night, New York became the sixth and largest state to approve same-sex marriage. After complicated behind-the-scenes negotiations, four Republican senators joined all but one Democrat to pass the bill in a close vote in the State Senate. The State Assembly, with a Democratic majority, had approved it earlier in the month. Two days after the passage of the measure, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for New York City’s annual gay pride parade on Sunday. To discuss the issue, we speak with Democratic New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, a marriage equality bill leader and the first openly gay man elected to the New York State Assembly. We are also joined by Ann Northrop, co-host of “Gay USA,” and by longtime LGBT activist and writer, Kenyon Farrow. Farrow has written about the conservative strategy behind the GOP’s support for marriage equality, which includes pulling gay donors away from the Democratic Party going into the 2012 presidential election. [includes rush transcript]

Wisconsin: Supreme Court Justice Ann Bradley confirms reports that David Prosser choked her in anger

Goal ThermometerWisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Bradley has issued a statement confirming reports that fellow Justice David Prosser (he of the “suddenly found” 7000 votes) did indeed choke her in anger in her office before witnesses.

Her press release states (via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” she said. “Those are the facts and you can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin.

“Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases,” she said.

“I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”

I’m interested in who the “appropriate authorities” are above. If a civilian attacks a justice, that sounds like criminal assault. Does that rule apply to colleagues?

For background, look to two items. First, the source of the argument is the Court’s upholding of Gov. Scott (“Reporting for duty, Mr. Koch“) Walker’s union busting law:

Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, quoting anonymous sources, reported Saturday that the argument occurred before the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill eliminating most of public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

The argument allegedly took place in front of several members of the court. … A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision that included a blistering dissent, ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she declared the polarizing union law void.

The fight over passage of Walker’s collective bargaining bill came in the weeks leading up to a hotly contested state Supreme Court election, which conservative incumbent Prosser eventually won after challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg conceded defeat in late May. Supporters of Walker largely backed Prosser in hopes he would uphold the union rights bill in a legal challenge.

Prosser is a man on a mission. If the incident occurred in front of other justices, expect a party-line split in the he said–she said vote count. I don’t mean “he said–she said” in the dismissive sense; in this case, one side will actually be right, and the other side … lying through its teeth.

The second bit of context is David Prosser himself, his apparent anger at women, especially non-conservative ones, and his temper. This is the guy who yelled at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson earlier this year, “You’re a total bitch” and threatened “I will destroy you […] and it won’t be a ground war.”

If you click through, note that Justice Bradley is the person who called out Prosser for his temper and language. Choking is an eerily telling way to punish someone for speaking.

This will play out, and I’ll stay with it. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is 4-3, with Movement Conservatives in the majority and voting like a bloc. The names to keep in mind are David Prosser, Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman. The “total bitch” incident occurred while the Court was discussing ethic issues involving Gableman. As I wrote at the time:

Prosser, Roggensack and Ziegler all believe that justices don’t have to recuse themselves in cases involving their campaign contributors. Ziegler has additional ethics issues, having previously presided over “cases involving a bank where her husband served on the board of directors.” Ziegler is also a Club for Growth and Wisc. Manufacturers & Commerce darling — and big-money recipient.

And make no mistake, Money has staked its claim on the Wisconsin Court, and seems to be getting its money’s worth — so far at least.

(I still think criminal investigation is where we should be operating in dealing with guys like Prosser and Clarence Thomas. Alleged assault is still assault, and given all that Thomas has been forced to reveal, imagine what he hasn’t.)

Our “give to the Wisconsin Recall” link is above. Please help; as always, thanks.

GAO: Sexual assault investigations not a high priority for DOD; the illegal use of stamps, however…

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

CBS News:

Sexual assault investigations and related training for investigators are not a high priority for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, according to a recent government report.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found the DOD IG’s office has not developed a policy and sufficiently overseen sexual assault investigations conducted by the various DOD criminal investigation organizations. The report also accuses the office of not providing adequate training for sexual assault investigators. The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office is responsible for reviewing sexual assault investigations to see if they were conducted properly. In 2009, 3,230 sexual assault investigations were reported.

Service Women’s Action Network:

By Greg Jacob
Former Marine Infantry Captain and Policy Director, Service Women’s Action Network.

The GAO report this week entitled “Military Justice: Oversight and Better Collaboration Needed for Sexual Assault Investigations and Adjudications” is a scathing analysis of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General (IG) and its lack of attention to the issue of rape and sexual assault in the military. The report states that the DoD IG’s Office was told to develop policy and oversee sexual assault investigations in June 2006. According to the report, however, “The [IG Office] has not performed these responsibilities, primarily because it believes it has other, higher priorities.”

A controversial statement indeed, considering that the Secretary of Defense has declared on numerous occasions that eliminating sexual is “now a command priority.” The IG is one of those commands, and reports directly to the Secretary.

The mission of the DoD IG is to “Promote integrity, accountability, and improvement of Department of Defense personnel, programs and operations, to support the Department’s mission and serve the public interest,” and to “serve as a benchmark for organizational excellence for the rest of the government.”

Oversight of rape investigations and preventing rape and sexual assault of military personnel clearly falls under the agency’s purview, and with the additional guidance from the Defense Secretary and the Congressional mandate from 2006, sexual assault oversight should be a clear priority. Instead, this benchmark for excellence has chosen to prioritize its valuable time and critical resources to investigating other things.

According to the 2010 DoD IG’s semi-annual report to Congress, here are some highlights of the IG’s recent work:

· An IG investigation determined that Allergan promoted Botox for off-label indications that were not medically accepted and therefore not covered by federal health care programs.

· A DOD senior official accepted sporting event tickets and parking from a prohibited source, presented coin awards to contractor employees, and used official time and government resources to coordinate and attend the event.

· A general officer misused government resources to support his private Christmas party in violation of the Joint Ethics Regulation.

· A general used official postage for unofficial purposes, and failed to use the government Travel Charge Card for official travel as required by law.

Botox, Christmas parties and stamps. These issues indeed fall under the purview of the agency. However, I would challenge Gordon Heddel, the DOD’s Inspector General to present this list to any of the over 19,000 servicemembers who the DoD estimates were sexually assaulted last year, and see if they consider these “higher priorities” than providing oversight of military sexual assault investigations.

Oversight of investigations and adjudications of sexual assaults is critical in helping to curb the epidemic of military sexual violence. Right now prosecution rates for sex crimes in the military are abysmal. According to numbers from the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), in 2010 only 3,158 out of 19,000+ sexual assaults were reported to authorities, and less than 21 percent of the reported cases actually went to trial. Once in a courtroom, 53 percent, or 281 cases resulted in a conviction.

Ensuring cases of sexual assault are properly handled and prosecuted increases the likelihood of perpetrators facing justice. And justice—Botox and Christmas parties notwithstanding—should be the IG’s highest priority.

Greg Jacob
Policy Director
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

TSA denies they forced elderly traveler to remove diaper

They really are a bunch of idiots over there. OK, sure, they did give the elderly, dying woman the choice of not removing the adult diaper but that also meant not flying. Did they ask Bill Clinton for that ridiculous fine line of truth or did they come up with it on their own?

The woman’s daughter, Jean Weber, told CNN on Monday that the TSA agents acted professionally and never ordered the removal of her mother’s diaper. However, Weber said the agents made it clear that her mother could not board the plane unless they were able to inspect the diaper.

According to Weber, it was her idea to remove the diaper so it could be inspected and they could make their flight.

“They were doing their job according to the instructions of the TSA and their policies,” Weber said, later adding that the options offered them were to remove the diaper or “she was not going to get on the plane.”

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Brave New Book

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

Political Scientist Argues the U.S. is a Police State

The United States is a police state.

Not in danger of becoming one.

Is.

And it’s too late to restore democracy.

That’s the stark message of Andrew Kolin’s brave, lucid and important book “State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush.”

Kolin comes out swinging like Joe Frazier. Illusions and delusions about America as a democracy, much less one that is benevolent, don’t stand a chance.

The U.S., Kolin says, shares all the major attributes of a Third World police state: a constant state of emergency in which security always trumps civil liberties; sidestepping of laws by the government; excessive secrecy; the use of preventative detention and holding enemies of the state without filing formal charges; the manufacturing of reasons to go to war.

“The expansion of state power over the course of U.S. history came at the expense of democracy,” Kolin begins. “As state power grew, there developed a disconnect between the theory and practice of democracy in the United States. Ever-greater state power meant it became more and more absolute. This resulted in a government that directed its energies and resources toward silencing those who dared question the state’s authority.”

Some will find Kolin’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger deadpan delivery disconcerting or depressing. I think it refreshingly honest. Notice his use of the past tense to describe this country?

The U.S. is over. It’s always been over.

Creeping authoritarianism, Kolin says, began “not long after the end of the Revolutionary War, starting with the conquest of North America and by the start of the twentieth century, continuing with the expansionism outside of North America.”

That’s halfway down the first page.

A hundred pages in, you’ll either be stuffing rags into Molotov cocktails or slitting your wrists. You’ll definitely check the expiration date on your passport.

I was surprised to learn that Kolin is a political science professor at Hilbert College in upstate New York. His methodical walk through U.S. history and the struggle between increased state repression and popular democratic movements, a tug-and-pull in which government and its big business allies won the important battles, feels like a tight legal brief.

As Kolin argues, the fix was in from the start.

“The framers [of the U.S. Constitution] needed to establish a government that could promote and protect property, regulate the economy, create an elaborate infrastructure, and acquire native Indian lands, adhering to the policy of North American expansion, while allowing the democratic surge from below to be both expressed and contained,” Kolin writes.

Obviously, the legal status of most Americans has improved since 1789. For example, “the Abolitionists prove that political movements can disrupt repressive state policies and advance democracy.” However: “The success of the Abolitionists suggests that the government can accommodate reformism, provided its core interests [namely, to enlarge state power] remain unaffected.”

Anyone who has read Zinn or Chomsky will be familiar with the long litany of criminality and ultraviolence which expose the claim of exceptionalism as a ridiculous hoax. These are all here: the Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, the Red Scare, dirty deals with dictators. Where the book becomes indispensable is its last third, focusing on the Clinton, Bush and early Obama administrations. This, the author argues beyond any sane ability to disagree, is when Americans citizens lost our basic freedoms and civil liberties once and for all. Habeas corpus, an 800-year-old right held by the citizens of all Western nations, gone without so much as a broken window. A president-king who orders the execution of American citizens without a trial—nay, without evidence of wrongdoing, with barely a harshly-worded newspaper editorial to complain.

For Kolin the USA-Patriot Act, passed in haste by a cowed and cowardly Congress that hadn’t had time to read it after 9/11, marks the final end of formal democracy in the United States. If nothing else, sneak into a bookstore (if you still have one in your town) and read pages 142 to 152.

Here you will find the most thorough and clear dissection of this horrible law in print. Describing Title I, for example, Kolin explains: “Due process is not mentioned in the part that grants the president the authority to freeze assets at the start of, or even prior to an investigation [into terrorism], instead of after it is completed. All property seized can be disposed of according to the president’s wishes. There is no legal requirement to have a court order prior to a seizure, creating the possibility that mistakes may be made and, in most cases, won’t be corrected.”

Unfair confiscation may seem like a minor concern for an innocent man or woman arrested, tortured or assassinated on the order of a president. For conservatives who believe property rights are sacrosanct, however, the symbolism is unmistakable: a government that can steal your stuff with impunity is the enemy of the people.

I can imagine one logical objection to Kolin’s thesis. The government may have the right to oppress. But it is not impelled to do so. So long as government officials are well-intentioned men and women, stout of heart and full of integrity, they will refrain from abusing the rights they claim against us.

However, recent history proves that our government is not run by such individuals. And even if it were—a purely theoretical supposition—who would want to live in a nation where the difference between democracy and dictatorship relies on the whims of a coterie of elites?

Though “a glimmer of hope seemed to appear after President Obama took office,” Kolin shows how the Democratic president “merely modified police state practices.” Furthermore, the transitional nature of the brutal authoritarian tactics enacted by Bush into the next presidency indicates that they are not anomalous but structural. “The Obama Administration’s position that amnesty should be granted to those who tortured [under Bush] as well as those who authored the torture memos, itself violates national and international law; it also ensures that such policies will likely be repeated.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said: “We don’t want to criminalize policy differences.” Kolin replies: “Since when is support for a police state a policy difference?”

If you’ve somehow managed to ignore Obama’s record over the last few years, and you’re still thinking of voting for him next November, this book will change your mind.

Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

THE ECONOMY

Krugman & Wells: The Banker Busts started in the 1970s and keep getting bigger

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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Paul Krugman and Robin Wells have an excellent long piece in the current New York Review of Books on the history of “banker busts” from the Nixon era through today.

The piece is wrapped around a review of the book Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick. The authors like the book (with reservations; see the review). But it gives them a chance to reflect on 2008 as one in a series of increasingly severe crises, all banker-caused, and each one taxpayer-bailed.

It starts with a walk through forgotten memories (my emphasis throughout):

Suppose we describe the following situation: major US financial institutions have badly overreached. They created and sold new financial instruments without understanding the risk. They poured money into dubious loans in pursuit of short-term profits, dismissing clear warnings that the borrowers might not be able to repay those loans. When things went bad, they turned to the government for help, relying on emergency aid and federal guarantees—thereby putting large amounts of taxpayer money at risk—in order to get by. And then, once the crisis was past, they went right back to denouncing big government, and resumed the very practices that created the crisis.

What year are we talking about?

We could, of course, be talking about 2008–2009, when Citigroup, Bank of America, and other institutions teetered on the brink of collapse, and were saved only by huge infusions of taxpayer cash. … But we could also be talking about 1991, when the consequences of vast, loan-financed overbuilding of commercial real estate in the 1980s came home to roost, helping to cause the collapse of the junk-bond market and putting many banks—Citibank, in particular—at risk. Only the fact that bank deposits were federally insured averted a major crisis. Or we could be talking about 1982–1983, when reckless lending to Latin America ended in a severe debt crisis that put major banks such as, well, Citibank at risk, and only huge official lending to Mexico, Brazil, and other debtors held an even deeper crisis at bay. Or we could be talking about the near crisis caused by the bankruptcy of Penn Central in 1970, which put its lead banker, First National City—later renamed Citibank—on the edge; only emergency lending from the Federal Reserve averted disaster.

First National City; Citibank; Citigroup. I think there’s a theme here.

The article contains much to like, and as always with Krugman & Wells, it’s well-written and accessible. I’ll point out two of its treats, but do read it for more.

One is the analysis of Reagan’s rise as enabled, at least in part, by the government’s inability to deal with externally-induced financial shocks of the 1970s:

[T]he surging inflation of the 1970s had its roots not in some general problem of “big government” but in largely temporary events—the oil price shock and disappointing crop yields—whose effects were magnified throughout the economy by wage-price indexation.

This allowed Reagan, with his “enormous capacity for doublethink and convenient untruths” to join with Milton Friedman (who comes in for his own share of criticism) in painting government as the “principal obstacle to [Americans’] personal fulfillment” (I believe this quote is Madrick’s).

The second treat, and surprise, is what Krugman & Wells consider Ground Zero in the battle of the banks against New Deal regulation:

The transformation of American banking initiated by [Walter] Wriston [First National City/Citibank head from the 1960s through the 1980s] arguably began as early as 1961, when First National City began offering negotiable certificates of deposit—CDs that could be cashed in early, and therefore served as an alternative to regular bank deposits, while sidestepping legal limits on interest rates. First National City’s innovation—and the decision of regulators to let it stand—marked the first major crack in the system of bank regulation created in the 1930s, and hence arguably the first step on the road to the crisis of 2008.

There’s also an excellent discussion of the Citibank-Travelers merger, which was plainly illegal at the time (Travelers owned Salomon Smith Barney, an investment bank, and Citi is a commercial bank) and the role of Sandy Weill in getting the deal (1) completed, and (2) retroactively blessed by the Feds. Done and done.

I’ll let you read the authors’ disagreement with Madrick near the article’s end. I’m more interested in Krugman’s closing in on Frank Rich’s understanding, that we’re watching a coup by the wealthy against everyone else. Krugman & Wells call it the “metastasized” role of money in politics.

China rolls out high speed train as US sells off infrastructure

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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The Republicans have done an impressive job of blocking modernization of the US infrastructure system. They are the party of “no” after all. The rest of the world is not sitting still and they are investing. Five years after giving away the highway toll roads to foreign investors, GOP hero Mitch Daniels is somehow popular among his crowd for the short term cash hit. Drivers are now being blistered with outrageous toll increases and for the next seventy years, Indiana will get nothing. Brilliant. Unfortunately there are too many stories like this from around the US.

Before Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the Indiana Toll Road to private investors in 2006, professional trucker Randy Nace would occasionally use the tollway even though it carried a $14 toll. Several toll increases later, with truckers set to pay $35.20 starting Friday, July 1, residents like Nace are reminded of why they fought so hard against the privatization deal.

“I still think it was the wrong thing to do,” Nace said from his truck on Monday. He says he’s managed to survive cost increases and the economic downturn in part by avoiding the Indiana Toll Road.

Five years ago this week, on June 29, 2006, Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the tollway to Cintra of Spain and Macquarie of Australia in exchange for $3.85 billion in cash. To date, it’s still the largest privatization deal involving a U.S. roadway and certainly one of the most controversial.

Isn’t it time we shut down the wasted money funnel from Iraq and Afghanistan and start rebuilding US infrastructure?

$20 billion per year to provide A/C for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

Somehow many can think of quite a few ways $20 billion could be spent back home. We really need to unload those unnecessary wars and start focusing a lot more on the problems in the US. NPR:

The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.

That’s more than NASA’s budget. It’s more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It’s what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.

“When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we’re talking over $20 billion,” Steven Anderson tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin. Anderson is a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. David Patreaus’ chief logistician in Iraq.

THE ULTRA-RIGHT

“A Perfect Product of the Religious Right”: Deconstructing Michele Bachmann’s GOP Presidential Bid

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

Bacchman_buttonThe rising star of the Tea Party movement, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has launched her bid for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination. On the eve of her announcement, Bachmann was tied with Mitt Romney in the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll, the first survey of voters who plan to attend the Republican caucuses. The former tax lawyer identifies as a conservative Christian and is a fierce opponent of abortion and gay marriage. Bachmann also supports teaching intelligent design in public schools, and she’s claimed that global warming is a hoax. She has largely built her campaign around accusing Obama of favoring government intervention, pushing the U.S. toward socialism, and having “anti-American views,” and is a particularly fierce critic of Obama’s healthcare overhaul. While Bachmann is known for advocating a limited government, she has recently come under scrutiny for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in agricultural subsidies for her family farm in Wisconsin. We are joined by journalist Karl Bremer, who has covered Michele Bachmann’s political career for the last decade from Stillwater, Minnesota, which is where the Bachmanns currently reside. We also speak with journalist Michelle Goldberg, author of the book “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.” [includes rush transcript]

     
ENVIRONMENT



    
NUCLEAR POWER

As Obama Quietly Pushes for a Nuclear Weapons Renaissance, Wildfire Threatens Los Alamos Nuclear Lab

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

Losalamos_buttonIn New Mexico, an out-of-control wildfire that began Sunday has already burned nearly 80 square miles and is a mile or less from Los Alamos National Laboratory, home to a nuclear weapons plutonium facility. Pieces of ash from the fire have dropped onto the laboratory grounds, sparking “spot” fires. A senior investigator with the Project on Government Oversight said a fire at the facility would be a “disaster” that could result in large and lethal releases of radiation. Officials insist explosive materials on the laboratory’s grounds are safely stored in underground bunkers made of concrete and steel. But the group, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, told the Associated Press that the fire appeared to be about 3.5 miles from a dump site where as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground. The group said the drums were awaiting transport to a low-level radiation dump site in southern New Mexico. We speak with Greg Mello, the director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a citizen-led nuclear disarmament group based in New Mexico. “Los Alamos Lab is becoming the center of plutonium manufacture for the country,” Mello says, even though “it’s a place with a lot of natural hazards, not just fire, but also earthquakes.” [includes rush transcript]

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