(Cross-posted with permission of the author from New Economic Perspectives)
Here’s a summary of the plan Bernie Sanders has set out, along with my comments (in italics).
1.) We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. $1 trillion investment to create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive.
Agreed, but let’s not settle for a mere 13 million jobs. We need twice that. And, of course, the “price tag” is irrelevant—so long as we create useful jobs that pay living wages, we can “always afford” to pay for them. By creating jobs we are not just investing in infrastructure, but we are also investing in our people, enhancing their participation in our society and providing them with the means to support their families. We can always afford that. Read more about A TWELVE STEP PROGRAM TO RESTORE PROSPERITY: THE BERNIE SANDERS PLAN
President Obama's remarks to the Business Roundtable on Trade raise alarm bells for us all, and suggest that he is still pushing his pro- 1% agenda for all it is worth. Perhaps it would be better if Congress just treated him as a lame duck from here on in. Here are a number of statements from his talk and answers to questions, and my comments on them. Read more about A Credibility Problem?
Mychal Denzel Smith in "No Indictment for Darren Wilson, No Justice for Black Lives":
Protesters in Ferguson should not be calm, as they have been admonished by everyone from the president on down. Michael Brown doesn’t need calm. Black boys and girls who grow up in America need their lives to be respected. They need justice.
----------------- Read more about ‘Right to Remain Alive’ in USA No Longer a Given
Today I received an e-mail from the Friends of (the very popular with progressives) Senator Bernie Sanders. In it the Senator says:
I'm joining with the members of Progressives United to send a clear message to President Obama that we will stand with him when he vetoes Republican legislation that attacks the well-being of the struggling middle class.
Join me and members of Progressives United to urge the president to VETO any Republican legislation that attacks working families.
According to Erik Sherman in “Restaurant's Decadent Thanksgiving Feast: $35,000 for 4” The Old Homestead Restaurant on Manhattan’s lower west side offered for Thanksgiving a $35,000 celebration for four people ($8,750 a person). The offer extended was to accommodate 3 groups of four.
By Tuesday two of the three celebration packages had been snapped up. One of the buyers was reported to be from a financial institution in NYC and another an out-of-towner. Read more about If You Cook It ($35,000 T-day Dinner) the 1%ers Will Come!
Carl Gibson, a writer blogging at Reader Supported News, provides an "Open Letter to the Democrats" giving his view of why they lost the Congressional Elections of 2014. He endorses the President's view that people didn't show up to vote because their choice of politicians didn't motivate them. And to this view he adds that the Democrats did not get his generation's support because they didn't “. . . get populist.” And he goes on to say:
2014’s low voter turnout was historic. Voter turnout actually hasn’t been this low since the 1940s. As Mother Jones pointed out, voter turnout for people under 30 was dismal. In this election, people like me only made up 12 percent of those who voted, while people aged 60 and older made up almost 40 percent of total voters. In 2012, when President Obama was re-elected and Congressional Democrats made gains in the House and Senate, millennials made up almost one-fifth of all voters, and voters 60 and older made up just 25 percent of the electorate, bringing us a little closer to a tie. It isn’t hard to see the difference – this year, Republicans steamrolled you, Democrats, because most of us stayed home and let our Fox-watching uncles and grandparents decide on who was going to represent everyone else.
So how do older people pick who runs Congress? Like every other voting bloc, they pick the ones who run on issues most important to them. And as Vox reported, data consistently shows that younger people want their tax dollars spent on education and job creation. Older voters want their money spent on Social Security and war. The Republicans who swept the U.S. Senate ran largely on fear campaigns over ISIS, promising to be more hawkish than their opponents in an eagerness to pour money and troops into Iraq and Syria to snuff out America’s newest boogeyman.
Contrast the unified Republican message with the profound silence from you Democrats on addressing the trillion-dollar student debt crisis, rampant inequality and underemployment, and your collective fear of openly embracing economic populism, and you cook up what we saw on Tuesday night. Older people showed up, highly motivated to elect war hawks. Younger people mostly stayed home, disillusioned with the only alternative on the ballot who didn’t even talk about the issues affecting our lives every day.
In her recent post-election piece “It's Time to Work on America's Agenda” Elizabeth Warren points out that the changes in Washington and in various States aren't changing the fact that
The stock market and gross domestic product keep going up, while families are getting squeezed hard by an economy that isn’t working for them.
Eric Cantor weighed in today at Quora on the balanced budget Amendment. This is what he said:
Once created, government programs build constituencies of special interests determined to keep the money flowing, whether or not the particular program is effective. There have been many times when the House has placed wasteful and duplicative programs on the chopping block, only to see pressure from the spending lobby win the day in the Senate.
Near-term spending cuts are necessary to alter the course, but they will not be enough without long-term changes. Likewise, promises of cuts 10 years from now mean little without a way to enforce them. The only way to truly guarantee delivery from future elected officials is for the Constitution to demand it.
To that end, the House has scheduled a vote on a balanced budget amendment that would require supermajorities in both chambers to run a deficit, raise the debt ceiling, raise taxes and spend more than 18% of the GDP. With the balanced budget movement gaining momentum, members of the spending lobby want to argue that Congress and the President already have the ability to control spending. Ability and discipline are not the same. If Washington actually had the discipline to live within its means over the long-term, every American citizen would not owe $46,000 toward the national debt.
In my view, the importance of these upcoming votes cannot be overstated. The adoption of a Balanced Budget Amendment would make reckless borrowing a thing of the past, and will ensure that our children enjoy futures full of opportunity.
Democrats and Republicans should join together to do the right thing, pass this amendment, and make a real difference for the future of our country.
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) and its allied army of associated deficit hawks want the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the General Accountability Office (GAO), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do fiscal gap accounting and generational accounting on an annual basis and, upon request by Congress, to use these accounting methods to evaluate major proposed changes in fiscal legislation. Generational Accounting is an invalid long-range projection method that doesn't take into account inflation, the projected value of the Government's capability to issue fiat currency and reserves in the amounts needed to fulfill Congressional appropriations, and re-pay its debts, the projected non-Government assets corresponding to government liabilities, the likely economic impacts of Government spending, surpluses, and deficits, the impact of accumulating errors on projections, and the biases inherent in pessimistic AND contradictory assumptions. It is a green eye shade method that ignores both economic and political reality.
If you want America to end deficit terrorism and austerity, and to have the fiscal policy space it needs to begin to restore the American Dream, then you need to defeat proposed policies or legislation which puts building blocks in place to bias fiscal policy towards austerity and the economic decline it will surely produce for ourselves, our children, and for their children. Proposed policies and legislation of this kind must be defeated for the following seven reasons. Read more about Beware of Policies and Legislation Based on the Generational Accounting Scam
Some time ago, in the pages of USA Today, Duncan Black, better known to some as Atrios voiced the immediate need for increased Social Security benefits of 20% or more even if it means raising taxes on high incomes, or removing the payroll tax cap on salaries.
Black is right about the need for increased benefits; but legislating that increase doesn't require increasing taxes. In fact, Congress should both increase benefits and remove the payroll tax entirely.
But how is that possible without greatly increasing “the national debt”? The answer to that one is easy. Don't tax or borrow to pay for it. Just mint a single one oz. platinum coin at the beginning of each fiscal year with a face value large enough to cover expected the cost of SS payments. Doing it that way will both take care of retirement needs and also provide a huge shot in the arm for employment, since the increase in Social Security benefit payments and the ending of the payroll tax won’t be offset by tax increases elsewhere that will depress aggregate demand. Read more about Yes We Can Pay for Increasing Social Security Benefits
The MMT Uptake Problem
Proponents of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach to macroeconomics have had many successes since the approach was first synthesized in coherent form by Warren Mosler. There have been successful predictions of economic conditions: much work showing that the historical record accords with the MMT point of view, rather than the views of other approaches and paradigms, and also many instances where representatives of other approaches to economics have suddenly begun to use economic views first put forward by MMT economists.
So, it's surely true that MMT has been making progress in its quest to become the dominant economic paradigm guiding macroeconomic and fiscal policy in nations. But for some of us writing about issues relating to MMT progress seems painfully slow. A big part of the reason for slow progress is the difficulty of getting MMT views into the mass media consistently, which is seen as a necessary step in getting them popular currency. Read more about The Re-invent Democracy Platform and MMT
Before the “no” vote on Scotland's independence, The New York Times, carried a post by Neil Irwin in the Upshot making the point that the then upcoming vote “shows a global crisis of the elites.” He argues that the independence drive reflects “. . . a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades.” He also thinks that this applies to the Eurozone and the United States to varying degrees, and is “. . . a defining feature of our time.”
Irwin then updated his first post last night, expanding it and recognizing the victory of the “no” votes in the referendum. His new post did not add anything essential to his “global crisis of the elites” diagnosis, so the references and quotations below come solely from his pre-vote post. But the points made apply equally well to his update.
To summarize his argument, for decades now, the elites in major modern, industrial nations have committed leadership blunders and created great discontent among the citizens of their nations, to the point where their polices have contributed to damaging their economies seriously, and the rise of popular resistance embodied in extremist parties and independence movements. Elites have had vast power, but have not lived up to their responsibilities to serve the people of their nations. Discontent with their actions and results is so high that many are questioning the legitimacy of the very governing institutions that claim to serve them, and are exhibiting a greater and greater willingness to do something about these institutions and the policies that they and the elites are generating. Scotland is but one example of that, and his implication is that more examples are in the offing.
It's significant, some might say even remarkable, that Irwin's article appeared in The New York Times, since it is a flat out criticism of elite leadership over a number of decades and a warning to elites to improve their performance or deal with the consequences. But I think it still misses the most important question. That question is whether there is a global crisis of elites or a global crisis of democracies? I'm afraid I think that the crisis of elite leadership is only a symptom of the underlying cause of a broader global crisis of democracy. Read more about A Bottom-Up Solution to the Global Democracy Crisis
Unlike some I still have a thin shred of hope in the power of the ballot because I don't think people are stupid as a whole, just slow to learn and easily influenced.
We've had 40 years at least to prove that neo-liberal, trickle-down, perfect market economics do not work. They have demonstrated failure in tangible ways that show up at your dinner table every day as you CCPI substitute pet food for people food and wear out your cheap off shored rags in weeks and not years. Your quality of life is declining and it's harder to disguise.
This is not the inevitable increase of entropy, it's the result of management decisions made by our government to enrich our elites at the expense of everyone else.
Fortunately conditions like this do not persist. Whenever there are too many of us and not enough of them there is a revolution. The propaganda becomes repetitive and unbelievable, the cognitive dissonance too much to overcome.
You are not alone. Millions of people see the same things you do, think the same things you think. Including the elites, that's why they are worried and are investing so heavily in more propaganda and more coercive tools for the suppression of mass sentiment. Submit to the charms of illusion or the iron boot of oppression, it matters not as long as you submit.
But ultimately they are dependent on your voluntary submission. They make the calculation that they can distract you with bright and shiny objects or so disillusion you that apathy seems rebellion.
My cynicism is dark and deep, but not that deep. Nope, I'm actually an optimistic sort of guy- not that it does any good.
I think that politicians, who remain at least nominally subject to a process of public approval, and pundits/media news people, who are more directly and immediately dependent on their audience, are open to influence from the populace and ignore it at their peril.
Ways to show that are by showing up at the polls and voting Third Party, changing your registration to a Third Party, or by voting for Third Party candidates like Teachout and Wu in major party primaries. If nothing else you can make Chuck Todd's head explode which is always fun.
I approach this incrementally and pragmatically. If we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, it is still evil. If the current conditions persist more radical solutions than mine will gain urgency.
If I seem like a centrist, I AM! My beliefs are rooted in the core of New Deal Democracy and Keynesian Economics. It is Andrew Cuomo and his corrupt crony capitalism and double dealing 'bi-partisanship' that prop up the corpse of the New York Republican Party as a Boogieman too scary to dare deserting a Democratic Party that has abandoned every principle and promise.
I am not afraid.
I'd prefer that it not come to pitchforks and torches because I'm more comfortable not being poked and fire has a disturbing tendency to spread beyond your magical circle of intent, but you use the tools you have and if you doubt their efficacy in a modern environment I invite a closer study of recent developments where overwhelming power has not produced the desired results. Humans are a recalcitrant and obstinate lot.
Should you live and vote in New York as a registered Democrat I invite you today to take positive action and indicate your disapproval of Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.
Vote for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.
It is really the very least you can do. Read more about Turnout for Teachout and Wu
I'm interrupting my series on Government Real Fiscal Responsibility to being you this special post, on something Chris Hayes said relating to Real Fiscal Responsibility. Back in February of 2014, he tweeted:
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) March 1, 2014
Recently, that tweet along with an image has been making the rounds on Facebook as an Alternet photo. The sound bite in the tweet looks great, after the manner of a logical truism.
But, logically, it doesn't follow, because one can easily say that as long as the Government implicit in the statement isn't a currency issuer, but a currency user who must acquire its funds by taxing or borrowing alone, that Government can involuntarily run out of funds. And it is conceivable that funds might be raised to fund a war, while that same Government might not have the funds available to take care of the people who fought for the nation, without defaulting on its obligations. Read more about Real Fiscal Responsibility: What Chris Hayes Said