Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Carter’

The new normal: links Nov. 2, 2016

November 2, 2016

A Tale of Three Foundations: Carter’s, Clinton’s and Trump’s by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Forget the FBI cache: the Podesta emails show how America is run by Thomas Frank for The Guardian.

Too Smug to Jail: ‘The Economist’ issues a myopic defense of the white-collar criminal by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99 by David Swanson for Counterpunch.

The passing scene – August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015

Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to the Mahablog.

The phony unprincipled war on Planned Parenthood by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star (via the Baltimore Sun)

The American infant mortality rate is the highest among developed nations.  The infants of rich Americans have as good a chance of survival as children anywhere in the world, but in the United States, like in countries such as Austria and Finland, the survival rate of children of poor, uneducated parents is much less.

Also, the United States has the same maternal mortality rate as Hungary and Iran.  People who are pro-life and pro-choice ought to agree that something should be done about this.

President Jimmy Carter’s amazing last wish by Sarah Kliff and Dylan Matthews for Vice news.

The Carter Center has nearly eradicated a horrible disease called Guinea worm, which was prevalent in Africa, by promoting common-sense public health measures.  President Carter’s last wish, expressed in his press conference on his brain cancer, is to follow through to eradicate the Guinea worm entirely.

Finland considers basic income to reform welfare system by Maija Unkuri for BBC News.

Finland is experimenting with a pilot project to guarantee everyone a basic minimum income regardless of whether they are employed or not.  It will be very interesting to see how this works out.


The passing scene – August 14, 2015

August 14, 2015

Will Trans Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal? by Adam Beshudi for POLITICO.

The latest word is that Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators have agreed to exclude the tobacco industry from provisions giving corporations the right to sue governments before private tribunals.  Tobacco companies have successfully sued countries under other trade agreements over restrictions on cigarette sales and advertising.  This is a deal-killer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and others from tobacco-growing states.

Torturing Chelsea Manning in Prison by Stephen Lendman for Counterpunch.

The imprisoned whistle-blower is being repeatedly put in indefinite solitary confinement.  His offenses include using a tube of toothpaste past its expiration date.

The 10 Trump Rules by Barry Lefsetz for The Big Picture.

Donald Trump understands how American politics has changed, and the other candidates don’t.


The rise of Reagan: ‘They yearned to believe’

July 31, 2014

Rick Perlstein, author of books about Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, has a new book entitled The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

invisiblebridgeThe title is taken from a remark by Nikita Khrushchev to Richard Nixon, “If the people believe there’s an imaginary river out there, you don’t tell them there’s no river there. You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river.”

In the 1970s, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandals, the CIA scandals and the Arab oil embargo confronted Americans with the fact that we are neither all-powerful nor totally righteous, but in fact are not all that different from other nations.

Ronald Reagan’s political genius was in the fact that he was able to convince Americans that we are all-powerful, not matter what happens to us, and we are totally righteous, no matter what we do.

The Reagan illusion continues to this day and neither Republican nor Democratic leaders dare question it.

Perlstein gave a good interview about his book to David Dayen for Salon.  Here are some excerpts from the interview.


Business, not public, driving nation rightward

September 15, 2011

 The political realignment of the Reagan years was a realignment of business interests and not of voter sentiment.  So argued Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, in their 1986 book, Right Turn: the Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics, a book as enlightening now as it was when it was published 25 years ago, because the situation they describe has not changed.

Public opinion polls in the 1980s showed that a majority of voters favored Social Security and Medicare, gave full employment a higher priority than balanced budgets or lower taxes, believed workers have a right to join labor unions, and had no enthusiasm for getting bogged down in foreign wars—as they still do.

How, then, did Ferguson and Rogers explain Ronald Reagan’s landslide victories in 1980 and 1984?  They said this was a reflection of the unpopularity of the Democrats than allegiance to the Republicans.  Jimmy Carter was rejected because he was unable to deal with stagflation and rising oil prices, and because he supported the tight-money program of Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker, which brought inflation under control by measure Volcker knew would casue a recession.  Walter Mondale was rejected because his only substantive campaign promise was to raise taxes.

If voter sentiment did not change, what caused the Reagan revolution?  Ferguson and Rogers said business interests realigned as a result of rising oil prices and increased international economic competition in the 1970s.

One consequence was a conflict of interest between the oil industry and manufacturing industry, leading to a majority of oil men shifting their allegiance from the Democratic to the Republican party.  Another was a slowing of U.S. economic growth, resulting in a hardening of corporate attitudes toward taxes, labor unions, environmental and health regulation.  In an era when U.S. economic supremacy was unquestioned, these costs could be passed on to consumers; in an era of intensified global competition, this was not possible.  The result of the Reagan revolution and the pro-corporate movement that followed was that the corporate elite received almost all the benefits of what economic growth there was.

Ferguson and Rogers dismiss the idea that the Reagan administration reflected a change in economic philosophy.  If you examine the Reagan policies in detail, they wrote, they consist of payoffs to constituencies, not implementation of a philosophy.  The Star Wars defense plan was a payoff to the aerospace and computer-electionics industries.

The Democrats were unable to challenge this because their party was (as it still is) beholden to Wall Street.  Bankers and financiers fear inflation above all else, because it reduces the value of their assets, and so favor balanced budgets and spending restraint.  This is why Carter supported Volcker and Mondale advocated a tax increase to balance the federal budget, and why Clinton and Obama gave priority to fiscal probity, and why Democrats have a better overall record than Republicans as budget balancers.


Carter and Reagan on energy

February 22, 2011

Energy policy represented one of President Ronald Reagan’s best accomplishments and worst legacies.

Ronald Reagan

Under his administration, an unworkable price control and gasoline allocation system was abolished, and oil prices were left to the working of the free market.  The free market worked the way it was supposed to work.  Prices went up, demand went down, producers looked for new sources of oil, and the price went down and stayed down (in inflation-adjusted terms) for the next 20 or 25 years.

President Jimmy Carter inherited gasoline price controls from the Nixon administration, and began a long-range phaseout.  During the oil price shock of 1979, however, he clamped down on prices and instead imposed a gasoline allocation system based on previous use.  This didn’t work.  Restrictions on availability of gasoline changed the patterns of use.  Too much gasoline was allocated to tourist destinations, for example, and too little elsewhere.  There actually were gasoline riots.

Reagan’s insight was that a market system of supply and demand works better than central planning would.  Unfortunately he carried that insight to a counterproductive extreme – that once you unleash the free market to increase production, energy policy can safely be ignored.

The Carter administration was the first to make a serious effort for energy conservation and energy independence (sometimes acting under authority of laws enacted during the Ford and Nixon administrations).  Fuel efficiency standards for automobiles were increased.  Incentives were provided for insulating buildings.  An ambitious research program on solar and other alternative energy sources was launched.  Large industrial companies such as Kodak and Xerox voluntarily launched their own energy conservation programs parallel to what the government was doing.

We benefit from the accomplishments of the Carter era to this day.  We would benefit even more if governmental policy had continued on the same trajectory.  But Ronald Reagan planted the meme that conservation is unmanly, alternative energy is a fad and the supply of oil will take care of itself.  That’s a meme we’re going to have to get rid of.

Reagan, Carter and the Great Inflation

February 21, 2011

I grew up in the 1940s and came of age in the 1950s.  My economic behavior and attitudes were shaped by my parents’ memories of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

My guess is that the behavior and attitudes of most Americans younger than 50s is the Great Inflation of the 1970s, when the Consumer Price Index rose more than 10 percent almost every year, peaking out at 15 percent in 1980.

Inflation turned all the rules of rational behavior upside down.  People who saved their money saw the value of their savings dwindle down to nearly nothing (the stock market was virtually flat during that decade) while those who borrowed money and spent it were the prudent ones.

Paul Volcker

President Nixon stopped inflation temporarily by imposing wage and price controls, but this did not get at the root of the problem.  President Gerald Ford tried an ineffective voluntary program called WIN – Whip Inflation Now.  President Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker at chair of the Federal Reserve Board, and Volcker acted to stop inflation in the only way he knew how – by choking off the growth of the U.S. money supply.  Volcker’s action choked off the availability of credit.  Many small businesses, which depend on credit, went broke.

A recession began in which unemployment went into double digits. President Carter supported Volcker.  He did not try to reverse the Federal Reserve’s policies, nor did he distance himself, even though this cost him whatever chance he may have had to be re-elected.  President Reagan did the same, even though the recession put his re-election at risk.

On this question both Carter and Reagan were patriots who did what they thought was necessary for the public good even when it was to their political disadvantage.

The recession came to an end, and the CPI has been low ever since.  This was a good achievement, but as in other Reagan administration policies, it generated bad memes.  One meme is that you can act in the interests of bankers against workers and small-business owners and not pay a political price.  Another is that fighting inflation, even when inflation is as low as it is now, is the overriding goal to which economic growth, employment and everything else must be subordinated.  Legislation is now pending before the House of Representatives to change the charter of the Federal Reserve from the dual mission of promoting low inflation and economic growth to low inflation only.

Click on Stagflation wiki for the Wikipedia article on 1970s inflation and how economists explain it.Click on The Inflation of the 1970s for a 1995 presentation by Brad DeLong, an economist of the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. DeLong thought one possible cause of the Great Inflation was simply that decision-makers were slow to give priority to inflation-fighting. Another was the failure of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to raise taxes to pay for the Vietnam war. A third explanation is the oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979 combined with similar less-publicized price shocks for other commodities.Political writer Kevin P. Phillips pointed out in 2008 that the formula for calculating the Consumer Price Index was changed under the administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. All the changes made the rate of inflation seem lower. This diminishes Reagan's achievement, but he was no worse than many of his predecessors and successors, and nobody who remembers that era doubts the important victory over inflation.Click on Numbers racket for Phillips' 2008 article in Harpers about manipulation of economic statistics.

The above charts on changing methods of calculating inflation are based on information from a consulting economist named John Willliams.  Click on Shadow Government Statistics for his web site.

Click on Carter, Reagan and the Misery Index for more about the Great Inflation.

Click on The Reagan Years for a menu of links to statistical information compiled by Steve Kangas on the Reagan era’s economic policies.  [Added 2/25/11]

Soul brothers: Carter, Clinton, Obama

September 15, 2010

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were white men who were Governors of Southern states.  President Barack Obama is a black man who was a Senator from a Midwestern state.  Yet in their politics and policies, they are more alike than they are different.

All three ran for office as outsiders.  They had little or no experience on the national scene, but they turned that liability into an asset.  They said they would break with politics as usual in Washington, and bring about a new era.  Once in office, they claimed to transcend partisanship, and to have got beyond traditional liberal vs. conservative thinking.

In fact, none of them represented a break with the past.  They filled their Cabinets from the ranks of the Washington establishment.  They weren’t exactly failures.  They all had certain accomplishments.  But neither Carter nor Clinton was a transformative President in the way that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, and I expect the same will be true of Obama.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have been outstanding in their intellectual mastery of the details of policy and government – much more so than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.  But Reagan and Bush knew something more important.  They knew their own minds.  They had guiding philosophies which informed their judgments and the judgments of their superiors.

Carter and Clinton were pragmatists, as is Obama. They rejected “ideology.”  Their aim, like Obama’s, was to support whatever produced the best results.  But in practice, they seemed to flounder.  In contrast to the Reagan and Bush administrations, their administrations lacked direction.  Pragmatism was un-pragmatic.  It didn’t work.

Reagan and Bush met the “elevator speech” test; you could state their principles to somebody on an elevator before the person got off at the next floor.  Their basic principle was that government was evil and its activities should be minimized, except in regard to national security and preserving order, in which case its powers should be absolute.  I don’t agree with this philosophy, but it is understandable.  I could not give an elevator speech explaining Carter’s philosophy, nor Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.