Excellent piece from Massocio at FDL, who quotes several recent examples of corruption (although not the wage fixing case by Silicon Valley icons like George Lucas and Steve Jobs). Here is the conclusion:
The concept “market” may be perfectly efficient and wonderful in every respect, but the practical application of the term in the real world is pretty much like every other human activity: plenty of effort by participants to game the system for their personal benefit and screw everyone else.
It’s bizarre that so many people cling to the myth of market marvelousness despite massive evidence of market corruption and inefficiency. People seem to think that each example of corruption or inefficiency is a bad apple who should be punished. But, of course, we don’t do that any more. The people behind these examples are being sued, not indicted. Their corporations may or may not pay up, but no one is going to jail, and no one is being punished. Every single one of the responsible people will walk away with a pocket full of dirty money, and their reputations, if they care about them, will be restored after the obligatory time away from the media spotlight.
Beyond that, how could anyone think that any human activity wouldn’t be subject to lying, cheating and stealing, including the sacred market?
Families shopping for health insurance through the new federal marketplace are running into trouble getting everyone covered when children are eligible for Medicaid but their parents are not.
Children who qualify for Medicaid, the safety-net program for the poor and disabled, can’t be included on subsidized family plans purchased through the federal marketplace, a fact that is taking many parents by surprise and leaving some kids stuck without coverage.
A California man says he was given false assurances that his children could be covered by the same plan he picked for his wife and himself, and a Florida father says his daughter is going without coverage while he waits for answers.
And in New Hampshire, some parents who've enrolled in private plans for themselves alone are finding out later that their children aren’t eligible for Medicaid after all, leaving their kids with no options.
‘‘The children are getting stuck in this spot where we've enrolled the parent, but we can’t bring the children back on the family plan,’’ Maria Proulx, senior legal counsel for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, told a state advisory board panel this month.
Well, when you've got an insanely complicated system of buckets that you're throwing people into, it's inevitable that some people are going to fall between buckets, which is what's happening here -- and wouldn't happen in a Canadian-style single payer system.* Read below the fold...
The New Populism, if it exists, and isn't just a creation of Washington villagers wanting to give an attractive name to the new feint of the Administration toward the progressive base of the Democratic Party, can be a turning point for America's domestic economy, but only if it can avoid certain tropes, shibboleths, and myths that people associated with it, such as Bernie Sanders, and various other supposedly “left” members of the Democratic Party in Congress seem to delight in reinforcing. Again, Robert Borosage's little piece on “The New Populism” provides more examples of such tropes:
Much of this debate has been framed around the faltering recovery, as the Congress perversely punted on the opportunity to rebuild America when we could borrow money for virtually nothing, with construction workers idle and eager to work. But in the end, this is a question of making the public investments we need, and paying for it by ending the tax dodges and tax breaks that enable the rich and the multinationals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget shows what is possible, while still bringing our long-term debt under control.
Well, Congress did that, and the Treasury certainly could have borrowed “money for virtually nothing,” and spent it on infrastructure and the public commons while creating many millions of new jobs and cutting greatly into our massive unemployment problem. However, why should Borosage and others writing about the new populism assume that such deficit spending has to be accompanied by borrowing money? Read below the fold...
As I predicted, and documented, the assault on tax exemption for church property has begun:
Ernie Chambers' bill to end property tax exemption for religious groups gets a hearing Read below the fold...
[Nice linky goodness from alert reader Ellen F on the commons. --lambert]
[Stickying this, too. I want to nail the whole project, the whole architecture, so I (and I hope others!) can start posting on individual planks or points before we get too far into the campaign season. --lambert]
[Stickying this because the concrete material benefits in the 12 Planks are comparatively easy. But what kind of political world do we need to build, how do we "do politics," to make those benefits concrete? The 12 Steps get all the glory, but the 12 Traditions are just as important, because they structure the group dynamics that enable group members to take the steps. In the same way, the policies in the planks "have to be paid for," but the sterile tax debate of the political class gets in the way; since MMT teaches (correctly) that taxes don't fund spending (though there are plenty of other reasons to soak the rich, besides fun, I mean) MMT is an importent, er, thingummy. So this part of the 12-Plank architecture needs a lot of help from Correntians, many of whom have thought deeply about these issues, and especiallly governance issues. --lambert]
In draft 2 of the 12-plank platform* I wrote:
I'm also conceiving of the 12-Plank Platform -- it's nearly done, right? -- as one leg of a triad, again modeled on AA's 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, and 12 Concepts of Service.** The Platform focuses on policy, but it doesn't cover implementation at all; we need a place for voting systems, MMT to nuke the Austerians, and stuff like land taxes (if that's a good idea), so we'll need the 12 Implementation Thingummies. We also have nothing on values whatever; we need a place for "No more strategic hate management" and "No more bullshit, yes, seriously, we don't have any more time for nonsense!" and "What about the commons?" And so the third leg of the triad would be 12 Things To Help Us Avoid Breaking Bad.
So here we have "X-point structural thingummies," and obviously I'm pleading for little help on the headline, with "thingummies." Also, exactly as I moved "Net Neutrality" here, because it cuts across our ability to get any policy passed, maybe "10. More co-operatives, fewer corporations" should move here, to be replaced with some other policy plank offering more obvious concrete material benefits. Here's what I've been able to come up with, in buckets. Read below the fold...
Yeah, because as we all know a Senator has so much more power than a President when it comes to the NSA. Read below the fold...
Let's look again at the new populism through the lens provided by Robert Borosage in his recent attempt to tell us what it is about. He says:
The apostles of the new inequality have unrelenting sought to starve the public sector. President Reagan opened the offensive against domestic investments. Perhaps the hinge moment was in the final years of the Clinton administration when the budget went into surplus, and Clinton, the finest public educator of his time, pushed for paying down the national debt rather than making the case for public investment. He left the field open for George W. Bush to give the projected surpluses away in tax cuts skewed to the top end.
The hinge moment wasn't then. It was when he decided, either early in his first term, or even before he took office, to rely on deficit reduction coupled with low interest rates from Alan Greenspan, on the advice of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, rather than on deficit spending on human capital investments as advocated by Robert Eisner and Robert Reich. Rubin's victory in the internal debates within the Administration was well-known at the time (1993), and set the deficit reduction course that played along with the Fed's bubbles to create the private sector debt-fueled “goldilocks” prosperity, and surpluses of his second term. By the time Clinton faced the choice Borosage refers to, the die had already been cast. It was very unlikely that Clinton would turn away from further Government austerity policy, and turn instead toward investments in infrastructure, public facilities and “human capital.”
But this is a side point, the real focus of this passage is the notion that the Clinton surpluses were good because they created an opportunity for public investment by using those surpluses. The trouble with this, is that it is a point purely about politics and communications which neglects the economic fact that the surpluses of the Clinton's term, as well as his deficit reduction policies, were bad for the US because they reduced or eliminated private sector surpluses causing a growth in private sector debt in Clinton's “goldilocks” economy. Read below the fold...
Peter Rouse and Mark Patterson, former top Obama administration aides, join Perkins Coie
Peter M. Rouse, the former White House official who was President Obama’s longest-serving top aide, has landed [ha] in the private sector.
Next month, Rouse and Mark A. Patterson, who was chief of staff to the last two Treasury secretaries, will join Perkins Coie LLP, where the two will set up what the law firm is describing as a new public and strategic affairs practice.
They used to call that "influence peddling." Read below the fold...
OK, state allocates rental streams (and doesn't deliver real services in the real economy; that's so 20th century FDR-style oldthink). But does the state reserve any services for itself? And, if not, are there problems? Well, seemingly not*, and yes there are problems. Here's what happens when you don't treat security screening as a core function, and outsource it to rentiers:
Lawmakers said Thursday that new details emerging from the Justice Department’s civil case against a leading company that conducts security background checks for the federal government may speed legislation designed to clean up the once-burgeoning contracting business.
This week, the Justice Department filed a new complaint in a whistleblowers’ lawsuit it joined in October against USIS, a company that conducts background checks for nearly half of potential U.S. government hires.
The filing accuses the Falls Church, Va., firm of taking shortcuts [same euphemism was used for robosigning] in about 40 percent of the cases it handled — at least 665,000 in total — and, in the process, qualifying for nearly $12 million in performance bonuses from the federal government. Yet USIS officials told the government that all the necessary reviews had been done.
“Flushed everything like a dead goldfish,” one USIS manager wrote in one of several e-mails cited in the court filing about how cases were being sped along to meet revenue targets.
“Beginning in at least March 2008 and continuing through at least September 2012, USIS management devised and executed a scheme to deliberately circumvent contractually required quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase the company’s revenues and profits,” the Justice Department said in a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alabama.
Accounting control fraud, so naturally, a civil suit (can't jail executives after all (even if these guys aren't banksters)). Read below the fold...
Nicole Sandler: I find this fascinating, yet it is very – wonky is not the word, but it’s so in the weeds. I know, Marcy Wheeler, you’re so good at reading through this stuff, but to the average person – and I’d say I’m not even the average person, I’m probably more informed than most, I know I’m intelligent, but a lot of this stuff, I mean, you know, my eyes sort of roll back in my head and ...
I'm still playing podcast catch-up. After Obama's speech last Friday and Marcy's review on The Scott Horton Show (my prior transcript), Marcy did The Nicole Sandler Show on Monday. Way wonky, but kinda wonderful too, or wonderlandful, if you follow:
Marcy Wheeler: And so they’re trying to kind of develop this Panopticon within U.S. networks. And that’s the solution they want to come up with to defend our networks, rather than, by the way, increasing encryption and security and everything like that. And the reason they don’t want to do that is because it makes their spying harder. So it’s this circular issue, and I think it’s a dangerous circular issue because basically the NSA is making us less safe with what it’s doing with encryption, and then having made us less safe, it’s insisting that it needs to be able to police U.S. networks in a more intrusive fashion because it’s made us less safe.
Got that? Or, cutting to the chase:
Marcy Wheeler: We're not done learning... President Obama tried to end it, tried to close down discussion on Friday; we’re not done yet.
Nicole Sandler: No. I don’t think discussion will be closed as long as they, you know, can’t silence people like you... Information really is power, isn’t it?
Marcy Wheeler: Yep, it is.
ObamaCare Clusterfuck: White House adviser on health care, steps down to spend more time with his family
Chris Jennings, the White House’s coordinator of health reform, has resigned six months after he was recruited to try to iron out the implementation of major aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Jennings said in an interview Thursday that he decided to leave after he landed in the hospital last month with a health scare after working the long, intense hours typical of senior White House aides.
“It helped change perspective, and so did some other sad family events, and it really focused me on the priority of health and family,” he said. “After a lot of contemplation, I decided this was the best thing for me.”
Six months? That was fast. Read below the fold...
This online interview with Snowden is full of awesome, by which I mean it's reasoned and sane. I think this is the heart of the matter:
@ferenstein what’s the worst and most realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it outweighs national security? #AskSnowden
The worst and happening-right-now harm of bulk collection — which again, is a euphemism for mass surveillance — is two-fold.
The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.
The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create “permanent records” of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does.
The power these records represent can’t be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in “databases of ruin,” where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board.
Fundamentally, a society in which the pervasive monitoring of the sum of civil activity becomes routine is turning from the traditions of liberty toward what is an inherently illiberal infrastructure of preemptive investigation, a sort of quantified state where the least of actions are measured for propriety. I don’t seek to pass judgment in favor or against such a state in the short time I have here, only to declare that it is not the one we inherited, and should we as a society embrace it, it should be the result of public decision rather than closed conference.
But Obama! Read below the fold...