Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Election 2016: Hillary Clinton’s head start

April 20, 2015

This chart, despite its headline, is good news for Hillary Clinton.

silver-feature-hrcpop-new

True, she is a controversial character.  About 48 percent of those polled look on her favorably and 45 percent unfavorably.   But she has a better favorability rating than any of the plausible Republican candidates, especially Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie.

She also is a superstar.  Almost as many people recognize her name as recognize the name of the sitting President of the United States.  No Republican candidate is anywhere near as well known as she is.

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Paul Krugman makes a case for the Democrats

April 14, 2015

Paul Krugman, whom I respect, thinks that Americans will have a real choice in 2016 between the Republicans, who represent the wealthy, and the Democrats, who represent the public interest.

I think he’s right about the Republicans, but I’m not so sure about the Democrats.  Here’s what he wrote:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other.

The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act.

Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.

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How Rahm Emanuel won

April 10, 2015

How was it that Rahm Emanuel was re-elected mayor of Chicago when he did so many unpopular things?   Such as:

  • Awarding no-bid contracts to big campaign donors.
  • Closing and privatizing public schools, almost exclusively in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
  • Shortening red light camera intervals to bring in more revenue in traffic fines.
  • Stonewalling on police abuses, up to and including torture.
  • Politically allying with Gov. Bruce Baumer, whose aim is to make Illinois a right-to-work state.

cyrusinner+001aEmanuel was so close to Chicago’s financial elite he is nicknamed “Mayor One Percent.”  So how did he win re-election, with the support of Chicago’s black wards and poorest voters?

I read two good articles this morning about the Chicago election, one on Naked Capitalism and the other on the Black Agenda Report.  This post is based on those articles.

Emanuel’s victory was not just because of his money advantage and his support by the press.   This was a given, and could have been overcome.

It was because black politicians, from President Obama on down, threw their support to Emanuel, and because his opponent Chuy Garcia, the Cook County commissioner, didn’t really attack the corrupt established system in a meaningful way.

Garcia could have made a strong effort to register voters in black neighborhoods, and aggressively campaign against gentrification, austerity and police abuses, but he didn’t.   His only jobs program was to hire 1,000 more police.

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Why the alliance of Netanyahu and the GOP?

March 16, 2015

The overwhelming majority of Jewish people in the United States vote for the Democratic Party, but it is the Republicans who are the strongest supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  And vice versa.  Why is this?

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and Sen. Tom Cotton

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and GOP Sen. Tom Cotton

I think that Republican hawks see Netanyahu’s Israel as a model of the kind of aggressive, militarist nation that they would like to see the United States become.

American Jewish voters mostly support Democrats because, based on their historical memory as an oppressed people, they favor civil rights, labor rights and humanitarian causes.   These are values rejected by the dominant faction of the Republican Party and by the Likud party in Israel.

I think that another reason is that Republicans appeal to the apocalyptic Christian minority that believes that the establishment of Israel is the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy about the End Times.  Jewish people in the USA find these Christians scary, recalling their history of persecution, but they are exactly parallel to the apocalyptic Jewish minority in Israel.

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The silence of the religious liberals

March 8, 2015

Public opinion polls show there are as many Americans who call themselves religious liberals as who call themselves religious conservatives.

Yet religion has come to be identified with conservatism, and liberalism has come to be identified with atheism and recularism.

Paul Rasor

Paul Rasor

Paul Rasor in his book, RECLAIMING PROPHETIC WITNESS: Liberal Religion in the Public Square (2012), blames the timidity of religious liberals.

We religious liberals don’t always preach what we practice, and this is especially true of us Unitarian Universalists, the quintessential religious liberals.

Rasor, who is a professor of religion and a UU himself, said religious liberals are shy about expressing our religious values in public.  When we take a stand on a public issue, our rhetoric is no different from any progressive or civil rights group.  We argue on practical, legal and ethical grounds, but not on religious grounds—unlike our counterparts on the religious right.

Why is this?

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The warmongering record of Hillary Clinton

March 4, 2015

The frustrating thing about the right-wing Republican critics of Hillary Clinton is they criticize her for all the wrong things.   I think I’m as strongly opposed to Clinton as they are, and they put me in the position of defending her.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In the U.S. intervention in Libya, she is criticized for failing to arrange protection for the U.S. ambassador from the terrorist attack on Benghazi, a legitimate issue, and for mis-characterizing the attack as a spontaneous reaction instead of a planned terrorist attack, an insignificant issue.

But neither of these things matter as much as the total disaster she brought down on the people of Libya.

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me a link to an article in Counterpunch that sums up what’s wrong with Clinton very well.

First Libya:

The results of “Operation Unified Protector” … … include the persecution of black Africans and Tuaregs, the collapse of any semblance of central government, the division of the country between hundreds of warring militias, the destabilization of neighboring Mali producing French imperialist intervention, the emergence of Benghazi as an al-Qaeda stronghold, and the proliferation of looted arms among rebel groups.

Now the whole Clinton record:

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Scott Walker’s Southern economic strategy

February 25, 2015

right-to-work-2Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is pushing through a right-to-work law, which gives workers protected by union contracts the right not to pay union dues.

It is part of an economic strategy copied from Southern states such as Alabama—to attract branch plants of industries headquartered elsewhere by means of low taxes, low wages and no labor unions.

The price of the strategy is low educational levels, low public services and deteriorating infrastructure—all the things that make a state attractive to entrepreneurial, high-tech and high-wage enteprise.

I think the Walker strategy is a bad one because Wisconsin can’t out-impoverish states like Mississippi, and the USA as a whole can’t out-impoverish nations like Bangladesh.  Even if we could, would we want to?

What we Americans as a nation need to think about is how to add value, and how to distribute the benefits among the working people who create value.

Scott Walker has been a highly successful politician, and looks to be a strong presidential candidate, by distracting attention away from these questions.   Instead he encourages people who are floundering economically to focus their resentment on their neighbors who still have union jobs and good wages, and away from the tiny economic elite who benefit from the low wage, high unemployment economy.

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Obama on why he’s a such a polarizing President

February 12, 2015

While President Obama is right about polarization and excessive partisanship, we also have too much bipartisanship around the wrong things—protecting Wall Street, perpetual war and secret government.

Why were Democrats AWOL on minimum wage?

January 26, 2015

President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union message proposed tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

A blogger named Jamison Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who had a majority in the Senate, did not introduce any legislation in 2014 to accomplish that.

minimum_wage_onpagePresident Obama in his 2014 State of the Union message proposed an increase in the minimum wage.

Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who still had a majority in the Senate, introduced a bill in April to raise the minimum wage and, when it failed, they did not try again.

The Republicans who controlled the House of Representatives meanwhile passed bill after bill to repeal Obamacare.

Pundits ridiculed them for this, but in the 2014 elections, the Obamacare mess was a much bigger issue for voters than minimum wage.  Some states that passed referendums to increase the minimum wage still voted Republican.

This is a failure of the whole Washington leadership of the Democratic Party.

What good are politicians who won’t fight for the public good even when it’s popular?

LINK

After the State of the Union by Jamison Foser.  Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

What’s the matter with us liberal Democrats?

January 14, 2015

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterWhy did President Obama never crack down on the Wall Street banks that caused the financial crisis?

Why did Eric Holder’s Justice Department never prosecute financial fraud?  Why were the failed banks bailed out rather than put into receivership and reorganized, as was done after the savings and loan crisis?  Why didn’t the President hire regulators who were willing to do their jobs?

And why don’t we liberal Democrats care?

All these things, as Thomas Frank has pointed out with his usual eloquence, were (1) fully within the President’s power, (2) good policy and (3) hugely popular.  Instead the President invests his political capital in anti-worker initiatives such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The liberal Washington press corps says it is politically impossible for President Obama to do the things that his constituents elected him to do.  Frank debunked their arguments one by one, and pointed out that, if the pundits are right, then American politics is an exercise in futility and nothing will ever change for the better.

What the President offers working people are placebos.  He has proposed giving free tuition community college students who meet certain criteria.

I think this would be nice, but community college is already reasonably affordable.  The problem of student debt originates elsewhere.  And sending more people to college does not in itself generate more well-paying jobs.  In itself, it just means higher-educated servers at Starbucks.

I criticize President Obama a lot, but I think the deeper problem is that so many liberal Democrats are willing to go along with the Washington consensus he represents.  Thankfully, this is starting to change.

∞∞∞

It’s not just Fox News: how liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street by Thomas Frank for Salon.   Well worth reading in its entirety.

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Americans are sick to death of both parties

December 23, 2014

Americans are increasingly disillusioned with both Democrats and Republicans.  That’s why only 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots this year—a drop of 22 percentage points from 2012.

The national turnout was the lowest in 70 years in spite of the fact that more money was spent in the campaign than in any off-year election in American history.

fatcatPolitical scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson said Americans have good reason for their disillusionment.

They explained in an article on Alternet how neither Democrats nor Republicans can represent the interests of working Americans because they are financed a tiny elite of wealth, and Americans are starting to catch on to this.

The Democrats rely instead on appeals to cultural liberalism, the grievances of women and minorities and memories of the New Deal.  The Republicans rely on appeals to cultural conservatism and prejudice, a big turnout of upper-income voters and hindrances to voting by lower-income voters.

But neither party has a convincing program for dealing with globalization, financialization, de-industrialization and the erosion of good jobs.

Average Americans may not understand the subtleties of economic policy, but they understand what is happening to them.  As John Dewey once wrote, you don’t have to be a shoemaker to know your shoes are a bad fit.

Burnham and Ferguson didn’t speculate as to what will happen if this goes on indefinitely.  My own opinion is that the USA will experience an upheaval worse than the labor violence of the 1890s and 1930s.

The militarization of American police and NSA surveillance of ordinary Americans then will be used by government in league with corporations to protect the social order from the masses.

Radical change would not necessarily be change for the better.  If there is a public uprising, it is likely to be led by someone like Huey Long or Joe McCarthy as by a great statesman.  But I don’t see how things can go on as they are.

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Here are key paragraphs of Burnham’s and Ferguson’s article.

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Jeb Bush returns to politics after getting richer

December 18, 2014

Since stepping down as Governor of Florida in 2007, Jeb Bush has been working hard at getting richer.

His financial activities and ties make him a good candidate from the point of view of Wall Street, but may be a drawback from the standpoint of the general public.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush

Before he became Governor of Florida in 1999, he was a successful real estate developer.  After eight years in office, he felt poor because his net worth had dwindled from $2 million to $1.3 million.

To rebuild his fortune, he joined corporate boards, advised corporate clients and, like Hillary Clinton, gave speeches at corporate events for lucrative fees.

Business Week reported that he started a holding company, Britton Hill Holdings, which has launched three investment funds, BH Global Aviation ($61 million), which is incorporated in Wales and supported largely by overseas investors; BH Logistics ($26 million), which is backed by a Chinese conglomerate; and a fund for investing in shale gas ($40 million).  No doubt the Bush name gave him credibility with foreign investors.

Jeb Bush is no Mitt Romney.  He hangs out with mere millionaires instead of billionaires.  He is an entrepreneur, not a takeover specialist.  He doesn’t have a record of aquiring existing companies and laying people off.

On the other hand he is part of the same world as Romney and Clinton.  He was an adviser to Lehman Brothers on the verge of its collapse, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, to rescue Lehman.  He was an adviser to Barclay’s bank (a position he resigned today), which was involved in interest rate rigging and other scandals.

He was on the board of two corporations that went bankrupt and the CEO of one of them was indicted for fraud.

With all of this, based on information from the articles linked below, I don’t see that he did anything illegal or unethical.  The Republicans could do worse.

If Republicans nominate Jeb Bush for President, and Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, it would be the best of both worlds for Wall Street.

I wouldn’t vote for him myself.  He represents the upper 1 percent, and the country needs somebody who speaks for the 99 percent.

∞∞∞

Jeb Bush Has a Mitt Romney Problem by Joshua Green for Bloomberg Politics.

Jeb Bush: The Forrest Gump of Financial Improprieties? by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism.

Jeb Bush Was Only a Millionaire When He Left Office, But He Wanted to Be Rich by Philip Bump for The Atlantic Wire.

Jeb Bush’s wealth-building strategy could be problematic in 2016 White House bid by Phil Ammann for SaintPetersBlog.

Wall Street Republicans’ dark secret: Hillary Clinton in 2016 by Ben White and Maggie Haberman for Politico. Wall Street prefers Jeb Bush, but wouldn’t mind Hillary Clinton.

Tea Partiers Are Right: Jeb Bush Is a RINO by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

 

Can Democrats win back white working men?

December 12, 2014

From Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party was the party of white working men, with all the good and bad things that phrase implies.

Now a majority of white Americans vote Republican and the Republicans are especially strong among blue-collar white working men with high school educations—people who in FDR’s time would have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.

which-side-are-you-onI think there is a very obvious way that the Democrats (or, for that matter, the Republicans) could win the votes of the majority of white working people, and it is the same way they could win the votes of the majority of black, brown, yellow and red working people.

It is to put the United States on the path to a full employment, high wage economy.   I admit I do not have a blueprint on how to accomplish this, but there are a number of obvious things that would be both popular and beneficial to the vast majority.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans favor (1) a higher minimum wage, (2) prosecution of financial fraud, (3) breakup of “too big to fail” banks and (4) higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires and lower taxes on middle class and working people.

Polls also show a majority of Americans are opposed to (1) NATA-style trade pacts and (2) chipping away at Social Security and Medicare.   In all these cases, the American people are wiser than the decision-makers in Washington.

I think the AFL-CIO has some good ideas.  But I don’t think the problem is lack of good ideas, or even the inability to convince the public of good ideas.

The problem is that certain financial institutions and corporations are so entrenched in the federal government, in lobbying and in the political parties’ nominating process that they have the power to block good ideas.

∞∞∞

Hillary Clinton Presidency Could Have the Same Problems as Obama’s by Norm Scheiber for The New Republic.

Can We Talk?  Here’s Why the White Working Class Hates Democrats by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Have Democrats Failed the White Working Class? by Thomas Edsall for the New York Times.

Our real white male problem: Why Fox News beats Bruce Springsteen and liberal moralizing every time by Jim Sleeper for Salon.

Which side are they on?

December 9, 2014

The Republican Party leadership is explicitly anti-union because they recognize that unions are a key support for the Democratic Party and a key opponent of the right-wing corporate agenda.

It would seem logical to think that President Obama and the Democratic leaders would defend organized labor, one of the pillars of their party, but they don’t.

RTW_protestAs Thomas Edsall pointed out in his New York Times column, the Democratic leadership has been not only indifferent to labor’s goals, but sometimes actively hostile.

Republicans such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie have persuaded the public that low wages, job insecurity and lack of benefits are normal, and that a policeman who gets a pension enjoys an unfair privilege at the public expense.

Democratic leaders do little or nothing to counteract this.

The problem is not that Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or the other Democratic leaders are naive or weak, or that the Republicans are obstructionist (they are, but that’s not the problem).

The problem is that the goals of the Democratic leaders are different from what they say and from what their core supporters want.

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How Goldman Sachs befriends Hillary Clinton

December 4, 2014

hilary-goldman-sachs-1000Infographic from The Nation.

A good rule of thumb is never to vote for a candidate who takes money from Goldman Sachs.

For reasons why, click on The Great American Bubble Machine, The People vs. Goldman Sachs and The Vampire Squid Strikes Again by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.


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