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Chernynkaya On October - 11 - 2011

Dear readers, it’s so great to be back home on the Planet! Please bear with me if you’ve seen most of these items—they were new to me. I hope to stop playing catch-up by the end of the week. You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET

Spending cuts lead to layoffs, which lead to higher unemployment. For the right, it’s a feature, not a bug

Steve Benen:

Following up on this morning’s job numbers, it’s worth reemphasizing a point the right generally prefers to ignore: spending cuts are making unemployment worse. Dealing with the jobs crisis is hard enough, and conservative policies are akin to throwing an anvil at a drowning economy.

In September, the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs overall, but the private sector added 137,000 jobs. The total was dragged down by the loss of 34,000 jobs. There’s no great mystery here — as government at every level cuts spending, this necessary leads to public-sector layoffs, affecting, among others, teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

For Republican policymakers, this is a feature, not a bug. In the GOP worldview, the economy will improve when hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers lose their jobs. That may sound ridiculous — and it is — but it’s also a central tenet to the Republican employment policy. Remember what House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this year, told that his budget plan would force hundreds of thousands of government employees into unemployment? “So be it.”

Also, this isn’t a new problem. Alan Pyke posted this chart today, showing “the steady contraction of the public sector and the expansion of the private economy since the Recovery Act actually began to reach the economy in early summer 2009.”


In case it’s hard to read, the blue line shows private-sector growth, while the red line shows public-sector deterioration.

When spending cuts force these public-sector workers from their jobs, it not only hurts them and their families; the effects are felt throughout the economy. These laid-off employees are forced to scale back dramatically, which means they’re spending and investing far less, taking money out of the economy when the economy needs more capital, not less.

The result, obviously, is a brutal drag. Adding insult to injury, it’s a drag that’s easy to avoid. Layoffs at the state and local level were mitigated in 2009 by the Recovery Act, which saved thousands of jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated, and helping keep the economy from getting worse. Those funds have since been exhausted, and the public sector is back to making severe layoffs. David Leonhardt recently described as “an unforced economic error” — with all of the problems we can’t control, this is one problem we know exactly how to prevent. The notion that government would actively and deliberately make unemployment worse seems genuinely insane, and yet, that’s what’s happening thanks to GOP fiscal policies.

What’s necessary right now is some political will. President Obama’s American Jobs Act includes resources to keep public-sector workers on the job. Congressional Republicans have said this is out of the question because, well, I really don’t know why. They haven’t said. Something about “government = bad” or some similarly useless phrase that demonstrates a child-like understanding of public policy.

But the fact remains that it would be fairly easy to make the jobs landscape better. The expense wouldn’t even be that great. The only thing standing in the way is a major political party that’s convinced unemployment will get better after they fire a lot of teachers and cops.

 

 

BUSINESS

11 Facts You Need To Know About The Nation’s Biggest Banks

ThinkProgress:

[…] – Bank profits are highest since before the recession…: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were “the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007.” JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.

– …even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

– Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually downf rom before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.

– Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation’s biggest banks — including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — are now bigger than they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.

– The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.

– The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.

– The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country’s GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.

– The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives — the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation’s biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG — is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

– Banks cost households nearly $20 trillion in wealth: Almost $20 trillion in wealth was destroyed by the Great Recession, and total family wealth is still down “$12.8 trillion (in 2011 dollars) from June 2007 — its last peak.”

– Big banks don’t lend to small businesses: The New Rules Project notes that the country’s 20 biggest banks “devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business.”

– Big banks paid 5,000 bonuses of at least $1 million in 2008: According to the New York Attorney General’s office, “nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008.”

MORE>>>

Bob Cesca’s Worst Persons

There’s supporting the troops. And then there’s kicking the troops in the balls.

This would certainly fall in the latter category.

According to a whistleblower lawsuit, some of the nation’s biggest banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase, “defrauded veterans and taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars by disguising illegal fees in veterans’ home refinancing loans.” Under VA rules, mortgage lenders are not allowed to charge attorney’s fees, so the banks allegedly instructed mortgage brokers “not to show attorney’s fees on their estimates, but to add them to the title examination fee.” The plaintiffs in the case claim that 90 percent of refinanced loans to veterans included the illegal fee.

Despicable.

What was Herman Cain saying about not blaming the banks?

 

ECONOMY

NYT: Recession Officially Over, U.S. Incomes Kept Falling

In a grim sign of the enduring nature of the economic slump, household income declined more in the two years after the recessionended than it did during the recession itself, new research has found.

Between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to $49,909,according to a study by two former Census Bureau officials. During the recession — from December 2007 to June 2009 — household income fell 3.2 percent.

MORE>>>

Panic of the Plutocrats

PAUL KRUGMAN

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in factbeen nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.

Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.

And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.

Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

 

 

The Depression: If Only Things Were That Good

David Leonhardt, NYT:

UNDERNEATH the misery of the Great Depression, the United States economy was quietly making enormous strides during the 1930s. Television and nylon stockings were invented. Refrigerators and washing machines turned into mass-market products. Railroads became faster and roads smoother and wider. As the economic historianAlexander J. Field has said, the 1930s constituted “the most technologically progressive decade of the century.”

Economists often distinguish between cyclical trends and secular trends — which is to say, between short-term fluctuations and long-term changes in the basic structure of the economy. No decade points to the difference quite like the 1930s: cyclically, the worst decade of the 20th century, and yet, secularly, one of the best.

It would clearly be nice if we could take some comfort from this bit of history. If anything, though, the lesson of the 1930s may be the opposite one. The most worrisome aspect about our current slump is that it combines obvious short-term problems — from the financial crisis — with less obvious long-term problems. Those long-term problems include a decade-long slowdown in new-business formation, the stagnation of educational gains and the rapid growth of industries with mixed blessings, including finance and health care.

Together, these problems raise the possibility that the United States is not merely suffering through a normal, if severe, downturn. Instead, it may have entered a phase in which high unemployment is the norm.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that job growth was mediocre in September and that unemployment remained at 9.1 percent. In a recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, forecasters said the rate was not likely to fall below 7 percent until at least 2015. After that, they predicted, it would rarely fall below 6 percent, even in good times.

Not so long ago, 6 percent was considered a disappointingly high unemployment rate. From 1995 to 2007, the jobless rate exceeded 6 percent for only a single five-month period in 2003 — and it never topped 7 percent. […]

The closest thing to a unified explanation for these problems is a mirror image of what made the 1930s so important. Then, the United States was vastly increasing its productive capacity, as Mr. Field argued in his recent book, “A Great Leap Forward.” Partly because the Depression was eliminating inefficiencies but mostly because of the emergence of new technologies, the economy was adding muscle and shedding fat. Those changes, combined with the vast industrialization for World War II, made possible the postwar boom.

In recent years, on the other hand, the economy has not done an especially good job of building its productive capacity. Yes, innovations like the iPad and Twitter have altered daily life. And, yes, companies have figured out how to produce just as many goods and services with fewer workers. But the country has not developed any major new industries that employ large and growing numbers of workers.

There is no contemporary version of the 1870s railroads, the 1920s auto industry or even the 1990s Internet sector. Total economic output over the last decade, as measured by the gross domestic product, has grown more slowly than in any 10-year period during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s.

Perhaps the most important reason, beyond the financial crisis, is the overall skill level of the work force. The United States is the only rich country in the world that has not substantially increased the share of young adults with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree over the past three decades. Some less technical measures of human capital, like the percentage of children living with two parents, have deteriorated. The country has also chosen not to welcome many scientists and entrepreneurs who would like to move here.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Millionaire tax would cover cost of Obama jobs bill

CNN:

The Democrats’ proposed tax on millionaires would raise an estimated $453 billion, more than enough to pay for President Obama’s jobs bill.

That’s the latest from the Congressional Budget Office, which on Friday released its cost and revenue estimates for the American Jobs Act of 2011.

The bill calls for $447 billion in new and extended tax cuts along with additional spending on infrastructure, jobs training and housing help among other things.

On net, the legislation would reduce deficits by $6 billion over the next decade.

The single largest measure in the package — reducing revenues by $265 billion — is an extended and expanded payroll tax cut.

Employees normally pay 6.2% on their first $106,800 of wages into Social Security, but they are now paying only 4.2%. That break is set to expire at the end of December, and Obama wants to cut the tax in half to 3.1%.

Another notable measure, costing roughly $44 billion, is an extension of emergency jobless benefits to help the long-term unemployed. Lawmakers first expanded benefits to cover 99 weeks in 2009, and have since reauthorized the expansion five times.

Other measures include tax credits for businesses that hire the long-term unemployed, and money to help local communities preserve and create jobs for teachers and first responders such as firemen.

CBO didn’t weigh in on the potential economic effects of the bill — specifically how many jobs it might create. But it did say the bill “could have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years.”

 

 

 

CBO to debt committee: Cutting now could hurt

 

 

 

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke On Occupy Wall Street: ‘I Can’t Blame Them’ 

 

 

 

Just how many households receive government benefits?

WaPo:

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Sara Murray crunches the Census data and finds that 48.5 percent of U.S. households, nearly half, now receive “some type of government benefit.” That category, she notes, includes mean-tested programs like food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare, and Medicaid, as well as retirement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

But it’s worth noting that the chart on the right, while interesting, characterizes “government benefits” in a very specific and narrow way. It doesn’t include the vast buffet of tax breaks and deductions for things like employer-provided health care or mortgage-interest payments. As Len Burman and Marvin Phaup have shown, these sorts of tax expenditures totaled $1.2 trillion last year — dwarfing food stamps, welfare, and subsidized housing combined — and reach a much broader range of Americans (many of them in higher income brackets).

And, as Burman argued when I chatted with him last month, tax expenditures are functionally equivalent to direct spending programs. Giving a person a $1,000 tax break for employer-provided health care isn’t terribly different from handing that person a $1,000 check to buy more health insurance. But politicians often prefer to conduct social policy through tax expenditures because it can be sold as a “tax cut” rather than as a spending program.

Still, the net effect, as Suzanne Mettler has argued, is that Americans have a somewhat distorted view of the size of the U.S. welfare state. Check out her chart here showing that most people who benefit from what she calls “the submerged state” insist that they have never used a government program. And this set-up makes it easy to believe that only the bottom 48.5 percent (and rising) relies on Uncle Sam. But, in principle, there’s no reason why government benefits should be split into different tiers.

IMF: Income inequality is bad for economic growth

Ezra Klein:

As the Occupy Wall Street protests swell in size and people pay closer attention to the gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, one question is why this divide even matters. One way to look at income inequality, after all, is that it’s no big deal. If a country is growing at a healthy clip and everyone is steadily getting richer, then it’s hardly an outrage that a few titans at the very top are doing freakishly well, right?

But a recent study from the International Monetary Fund suggests that this conventional view is misguided. Excessive income inequality, the authors find, can actually inflict a lot of harm on a country’s long-term economic prospects.

In the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine, the authors, Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry, summarize their recent research (see also Josh Harkinson’s piece for Mother Jones). It’s relatively common, the authors note, for countries to experience small growth spurts here and there. But sustained, long-term economic growth, of the sort that the United States and Britain enjoyed after World War II, is rare. Plenty of poorer countries — say, Brazil or Jordan or Cameroon — don’t ever seem to be able to maintain that momentum.

For sustained growth to occur, Berg and Ostry found, the most important factors are a relatively equal income distribution and trade openness. (See the chart on the right.) Having healthy, democratic political institutions matters quite a bit, too. Conversely, having a lot of foreign investment or keeping debt under control, among other factors, aren’t nearly as crucial. In the end, the most important factor is inequality: “a 10 percentile decrease in inequality… increases the expected length of a growth spell by 50 percent.”

Why would inequality be so crushing for a country’s economy? For one, the authors note that inequality tends to be associated with financial crises. When inequality runs rampant, people on the lower end tend to borrow more to keep up, which increases the risk of a major crisis. (Earlier IMF research suggested that this may have contributed to the 1929 and 2008 financial crashes in the United States.)

What’s more, inequality can foster political instability, which discourages investment. Berg and Ostry also argue that inequality makes it harder for governments to deal with external shocks — it’s politically dicey to, say, cut public spending to avoid a debt crisis when the middle class already feels like it’s falling behind.

Do these lessons apply to the United States? They might. In 2005, Ohio State University’s Mark Patridge conducted a study of economic growth in the 50 states and found that “a more vibrant middle class… increased long-run economic growth.” In Democracy earlier this year, David Madland tried to tease out the causality, arguing that societies with less inequality and a stronger middle class tend to have more trust, less corrupt governance and stronger “capitalist values” that encourage entrepreneurship.

 

 

If You Read Nothing Else Today…

Jared Bernstein:

Read Ezra Klein’s account of the great recession and the politics, process, and policy response to it.  I’m working on a longer post for later amplifying some of the key points in this deeply incisive piece of journalism.

But first, read this.  It’s the NYT editorial board’s anatomy off the Wall St. protest movement.  There’s a trenchant discussion of the motivation behind the movement, which as I stressed last week, is simply not the head-scratcher that a number of commentators want to make it.

At this point, the commentary has evolved from “OK, I guess they’ve got a point,” to “But what do they want?”

I agree with the NYT on this point:

It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself. It is also the first line of defense against a return to the Wall Street ways that plunged the nation into an economic crisis from which it has yet to emerge.

But the editorial also includes a great, tight paragraph of the policies that should flow from the movement:

There are plenty of policy goals to address the grievances of the protesters — including lasting foreclosure relief, a financial transactions tax, greater legal protection for workers’ rights, and more progressive taxation. The country needs a shift in the emphasis of public policy from protecting the banks to fostering full employment, including public spending for job creation and development of a strong, long-term strategy to increase domestic manufacturing.

These two must-reads are related.  As I’ll stress later today (I hope—lots of kids soccer in the offing!), we need to solve the inherent limits of the policy process that Klein describes if we’re going to get to the solutions in the NYT piece.

 

EDUCATION

NYT: G.O.P. Candidates Take an Anti-Federal Stance

Representative Michele Bachmann promises to “turn out the lights” at the federal Education Department. Gov. Rick Perry calls it unconstitutional. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, would allow it to live but only as a drastically shrunken agency that mainly gathers statistics.

Even Mitt Romney, who in 2008 ran for president defending No Child Left Behind, the federal law that vastly expanded Washington’s role in public schools, now says, “We need to get the federal government out of education.”

For a generation, there has been loose bipartisan agreement in Washington that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation’s 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards.

But the field of Republican presidential candidates has promised to unwind this legacy, arguing that education responsibilities should devolve to states and local districts, which will do a better job than Washington.

It can seem like an eon has passed since George W. Bush aspired to be the “education president.” Mr. Bush’s prized No Child Left Behind law used billions of dollars of federal aid to compel schools to raise student achievement on standardized tests.

President Obama’s own signature education initiative, Race to the Top, similarly used federal money to leverage change that many Republicans had long endorsed — charter schools and teacher evaluations that tied effectiveness in the classroom to tenure.

But now, the quest to sharply shrink government that all the Republican candidates embrace, driven by the fervor of the Tea Party, has brought a sweeping anti-federal government stance to the fore on education, as in many other areas.

The question is whether states and local districts, without Washington’s various carrots and sticks, will continue to raise academic standards and give equal opportunity to traditionally ignored student populations.

“People want government money, they want higher standards, they want greater accountability,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, who was an education official in the Reagan administration. “None of those things in most places comes from local control.”

[…]

“If you’re a conservative Republican like I consider myself,” said Mr. Luna, who is also president-elect of the Council of Chief State School Officers, “there has to be accountability for how those dollars are spent. We can’t send them to schools or states with no accountability.”

The change in Republican perspective is most noticeable with Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry, who earlier in their political careers supported No Child Left Behind. That 2002 law required states to show yearly progress in the number of students who were proficient in English and math, although it allowed states to measure proficiency in their own ways. Mr. Perry participated in a news conference heralding federal officials’ approval of the Texas plan for putting the law in place, providing $400 million for the state.

But today he complains of “unfunded mandates” in federal education laws that require Texas, he says, to spend more to meet the rules than it receives in federal dollars. He was one of four governors who refused to compete in Race to the Top, a grant contest that he called “a federal takeover of public schools.”

Margaret Spellings, the education secretary in the latter years of the Bush administration, said that before No Child Left Behind, when federal laws had few strings attached, many states showed little progress raising student achievement, especially for poor and minority students. “We tried that for 40 years,” she said. “The results were far from stellar.”

For his part, Mr. Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, which has long had the nation’s top public schools, at first resisted the education law, but he came to embrace it. More recently, he has praised Mr. Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, for promoting “school choice” and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.

But Mr. Romney is clearly feeling the hot breath of Tea Party anti-federalism. In a debate last month, when Mr. Perry accused him of being a Race to the Top fan, Mr. Romney responded, “I don’t support any particular program that he’s describing.” In fact, Mr. Romney had praised Race to the Top the day before.

Closing the Education Department has long been a talking point of some Republicans, though it was ignored in practice. As a presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan campaigned to close it in 1980, the year it was created. But he found no Congressional takers and, as president, ended up expanding its budget and ambitions.

It is unclear whether the current field of candidates favors not just shrinking a Washington bureaucracy, but also eliminating the department’s entire $68 billion budget. Most funds support broadly popular programs: classroom enrichment for poor students, local aid for students with disabilities and Pell grants for low-income college students, often the first in their families to go to college.

Presumably not many of the Republican candidates want to zero out all this money. One who appears to is Mrs. Bachmann, who promises “the mother of all repeal bills” to undo education laws dating from the Great Society.

“Over a three-year period,” she explained in August at a rally in South Carolina, “I’d take the money we send to schools and write to superintendents, ‘No more requirements you have to deal with, but over three years you won’t have any money.’ ”

For now, conservative crowds are applauding.

But that argument risks rattling independent and suburban voters in the general election, when Mr. Obama is sure to champion a strong federal role in lifting student achievement and ensuring fairness.

“You can imagine,” said Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, “the Republican candidate is saying, ‘Not only do I want to end the Education Department as a bureaucratic monster, but I want to defund programs for needy kids or special-needs kids,’ or ‘I want to let states spend those dollars on other kids.’ That’s a very difficult debate for the Republican candidate.”

ENERGY

GE calls for shut-down tests on reactors worldwide

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has warned operators of boiling water reactors (BWR) worldwide – including 35 in the US – that the plants could fail to shut automatically during an earthquake, potentially risking the safety of the power plant.

In an event notification posted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week, GE Hitachi told nuclear operators to conduct tests to determine what conditions would prevent the reactors from shutting safely during an earth quake.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is a venture between General Electric Co and Hitachi Limited.

GE Hitachi spokesman Michael Tetuan said most nuclear plants could fix the problem by replacing fuel channels, if needed. A typical boiling water reactor has between 400 and 800 such channels.

The affected plants are of the same GE design as Japan’s Fukushima reactors which were crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March.

GE said the probability of a reactor not shutting properly is very low. Because of the limited circumstances under which a unit might not shut automatically, NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the issue “is not an immediate safety issue.”

He said GE’s notice is information the agency wants nuclear vendors to raise so that companies can respond.

Affected by the potential glitch are type 2-5 BWRs designed by General Electric and built between the late 1960s and the early 1990s.

In the US, 12 of those nuclear units are owned by Exelon Corp EXC.N ; five by Entergy Corp; and three by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Other affected plants are owned by Constellation Energy Group CEG.N , Progress Energy, Southern Co, NextEra Energy, DTE Energy, Public Service Enterprise Group, PPL Inc, Xcel Energy, Energy Northwest and the Nebraska Public Power District.

GE Hitachi identified the problem in July 2010 and reported to the NRC last September, months before an earthquake-spawned tsunami crippled GE reactors in Japan.

US reactors included are Nine Mile Point Units 1 and 2; Fermi 2; Columbia; FitzPatrick; Pilgrim; Vermont Yankee; Grand Gulf; River Bend; Clinton; Oyster Creek; Dresden 2 and 3; LaSalle 1 and 2; Limerick 1 and 2; Peach Bottom 2 and 3; Quad Cities 1 and 2; Perry; Duane Arnold; Cooper; Monticello; Brunswick 1 and 2; Hope Creek; Hatch 1 and 2; and Browns Ferry 1, 2 and 3.

“We’ve proactively identified a very unique set of conditions in which a plant rarely operates where this is a concern,” Tetuan said. “With the guidance provided to our customers, they will be able to monitor potentially affected fuel channels and avoid a safety concern.”

Tetuan said the company also notified operators of BWRs located elsewhere.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) website lists 53 BWRs outside the US, including 29 operating in Taiwan, Sweden, the Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Germany and Finland.

The seven operating Japanese BWRs include Fukushima Daiichi 5 and 6 which were shut when the March earthquake hit.

GE Hitachi told the NRC the problem does not affect BWR/6 or ABWR – advanced boiling water reactor plants.

ENVIRONMENT

Nobody Even Wants Keystone’s Tar Sands Oil

The People’s View:

Or at least, the EU doesn’t.

Oil from controversial and environmentally destructive tar sands is likely to be all but banned from Europe after a decision on Tuesday. The move also casts doubt on the future of other controversial energy sources such as shale gas.

In a victory for Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate change commissioner, the commission has decided to back a new directive on fuel quality. This will set minimum environmental standards for a range of fuels, including tar sands, coal converted to liquid and oil from shale rock. Hedegaard said: “With this measure, we are sending a clear signal to fossil fuels suppliers. As fossil fuels will be a reality in the foreseeable future, it’s important to give them the right value.” …The proposals have now been sent to EU member states who will meet in four to six weeks to vote on the proposal. It will then go to the European parliament for final approval. …The commission has proposed that tar sands be ascribed a greenhouse gas value of 107 grams per megajoule of fuel – this compares with 87.5 grams per megajoule for ordinary crude oil, on average. Producers will also have to cut the carbon footprint of their fuels by 6% in the next decade.

Koch Bros Co. Declared ‘Substantial Interest’ in Keystone XL Pipeline | Common Dreams

 

 

 

 

How That Food You Throw Out Is Linked To Global Warming

NPR:

[…] That project got him thinking about other emissions associated with food, and wasted food in particular, Venkat tells The Salt. So he gathered USDA’s estimates of food loss from retail and consumers for 2009. And when he fed it into his software he found that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, or about 1.5 percent of all emissions.

So how does that break down for a family or an individual? The average family is responsible for about 1,800 pounds of emissions from food waste, while an individual contributes about 440 pounds a year, Venkat found. A typical car, meanwhile, emits about 9,000 pounds a year. The emissions from food waste don’t include food eaten in restaurants or the energy used in cooking or packaging wasted food, however.

[…] But all this food that goes to rot isn’t evenly distributed across the grocery store. For example, we waste about 35 percent of the chicken, fish and fruit we produce, while we only waste about 15 percent of the nuts and legumes on the market, according to USDA.

And some foods also have a much bigger impact on the climate than others. “If you compare beef to tomatoes, beef has a much higher footprint,” says Venkat. “So if you’re going to reduce waste, you need to prioritize.”

And by the time the food has reached you, the consumer, a lot of those emissions are already on their way to the atmosphere. Venkat says that nearly 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from producing and processing food.

But not only does food waste make a sizable contribution to global warming – it’s also a lot of money. Venkat calculated that if household food waste could be cut in half, a family of four could save $600 a year. And since there are no regulations that force companies or individuals to reduce their emissions yet, the opportunity to save money is probably the best incentive to reduce food waste there is, says Venkat.

But most people will always have some food waste no matter how hard they try to avoid it, and so the next best thing to do iscompost it. That, at least, will keep it out of a landfill, where huge piles of decomposing material generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

 

 

 

HEALTH CARE

Sebelius: GOP wants to roll back women’s health

Forbes via AP:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told abortion rights supporters at a Chicago fundraiser Wednesday that Republicans want to roll back women’s health gains 50 years.

In a strongly worded speech, Sebelius said Republicans are not only working to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, but also want to take away benefits in Medicare, cut back Medicaid and eliminate health services provided by Planned Parenthood.

“In other words, they don’t just want to go after the last 18 months, they want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America,” Sebelius said.

“We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war,” Sebelius said at a NARAL Pro-Choice America luncheon attended by about 300 people, who gave some of their loudest applause at her mention of the Obama administration’s support for requiring insurance plans to cover birth control without copays.

Sebelius said women have suffered discrimination by insurance companies that considered “Viagra an essential medication and birth control a lifestyle choice.”

IMMIGRATION

California allows college aid to illegal immigrants

California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill giving illegal immigrant college students access to state-funded financial aid, the second half of two-part legislation known as the “Dream Act.”

The controversial measure, which passed the Democrat-controlled legislature on a party-line vote in September, represents a victory for immigrant-rights activists ahead of the 2012 presidential election. California is the nation’s most populous state.

Only two other states, Texas and New Mexico, allow illegal immigrants to qualify for state financial aid for college, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a written statement issued by his office.

“The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us,” he said.

Brown in July fulfilled a campaign promise by signing into law a companion bill to allow illegal immigrants to receive privately-funded college scholarships. Together the two bills have been dubbed the “California Dream Act.”

A federal Dream Act that would have created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military failed in Senate last year.

Opponents of the California Dream Act have argued that public funds should not be used to help illegal immigrants, especially as California faces deep budget woes that have prompted cuts in education and higher tuitions at the state’s public colleges and universities.

“Citizens are having a hard enough time getting the classes they need now,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Hesperia Republican, wrote in a September 9 letter to Brown urging him to veto the legislation.

“(California already offers) students in the country illegally in-state tuition; legally documented students from the next state over can only dream of such a benefit,” Donnelly said.

California is one of about a dozen states that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, based on attendance and graduation from a state high school.

Under the new law, written by Senator Gil Cedillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, those same illegal immigrants would be eligible for aid from the University of California, California State university system and the state’s 112 community colleges.

MEDIA

Obama to media: Stop pretending the GOP has a real jobs plan

Greg Sargent:

[…]  In response, [Obama] essentially called on the media to take a stand on whether the GOP is really offering any real jobs plan of its own:

What I’ve tried to do is say, Here are the best ideas I’ve heard. Not just from partisans, but from independent economists. These are the ideas most likely to create jobsnow an strengthen the economy — right now. And that’s what the American peole are looking for.

And the response from Republicans has been, “No.” Although they haven’t given any good reason why they’re opposed to putting construction workers back on the job or teachers back in the classroom. If you ask them, well okay, if you’re not for that, what are you for?

The answer we’re getting right now is, “we’re going to roll back all these Obama regulations.” So their big economic plan to put people back to work right now is to roll back financial protections and allow banks to charge hidden fees on credit cards again? Or weaken consumer watchdogs?

Or, alternatively, they’ve said, we’ll roll back regulations that make sure we have clean air and clean water. Eliminate the EPA. Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy that is weakening, with all these forces coming in to play?

Here’s a good question. Here’s a little homework assignment for folks. Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is, if they’re opposed to the American Jobs Act. And have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that assessed our jobs plan. These indepenent economists say we can grow the economy by as much as 2 percent and as many as 1.9 million workers wold be back on the job. I think it would be interesting to have them do a similar assessment. Same people. Have those economists evaluate what over the next two years the Republican jobs plan would do. I’d be interested in the answer.

I see some smirks in the audience, because you know that it’s not going to be real robust. The question is, Will Congress do something? If Congress does something, then I can’t run against a “do nothing” Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it’s not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town. Because they are frustrated. And they know we need to do something big and something bold.

This was greeted by some comments on Twitter about how “professor” Obama is assigning the media “homework.” But it was actually a revealing moment that’s worth dwelling on. Obama didn’t quite say it directly, but he was basically calling on the news media to take a real stand on a core question: Are Republicans really making a legitimate contribution to the debate over what to do about the economy? And he even called out reporters who, he said, already know the answer to that question. In so doing, Obama revealed palpable frustration with the state of our discourse, in particular the constant accusation that he is being “political” in pushing jobs proposals, simply because Republicans won’t pass them. His answer, translated, was: Can we all stop pretending that eliminating the EPA constitutes a jobs plan?

It remains to be seen whether this kind of continued pressure on Congress will reverse Obama’s political fortunes, barring any easing of unemployment. As I’ve noted repeatedly, it’s likely that Obama will continue to pay the heaviest poltical price for the economy, even if Republicans and some Senate Dems are blocking Obama jobs proposals that have broad public support. Indeed, at another point during the presser, he essentially acknowledged this to be the case, suggesting that “cynicism” about his and the rest of the government’s failure to fix the jobs crisis would persist as long as Congress fails to act.

But that aside, the challenge he presented to the media was certainly an interesting and relevant one.

 

 

 

Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it

(CNN) — Like the spokesmen for Arab dictators feigning bewilderment over protesters’ demands, mainstream television news reporters finally training their attention on the growing Occupy Wall Street protest movement seem determined to cast it as the random, silly blather of an ungrateful and lazy generation of weirdos. They couldn’t be more wrong and, as time will tell, may eventually be forced to accept the inevitability of their own obsolescence.

Consider how CNN anchor Erin Burnett, covered the goings on at Zuccotti Park downtown, where the protesters are encamped, in a segment called “Seriously?!” “What are they protesting?” she asked, “nobody seems to know.” Like Jay Leno testing random mall patrons on American History, the main objective seemed to be to prove that the protesters didn’t, for example, know that the U.S. government has been reimbursed for the bank bailouts. It was condescending and reductionist.

More predictably perhaps, a Fox News reporter appears flummoxed in this outtake from “On the Record,” in which the respondent refuses to explain how he wants the protests to “end.” Transcending the shallow partisan politics of the moment, the protester explains “As far as seeing it end, I wouldn’t like to see it end. I would like to see the conversation continue.”

To be fair, the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the Occupy Wall Street protests as incoherent is because the press and the public are themselves. It is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped.

MORE>>>

POLITICS

Democrats calling for Congress to investigate the Koch brothers’ dealings with Iran in new petition ad

 

Politico: Karl Rove vs. the Koch brothers

Karl Rove’s team and the Koch brothers’ operatives quietly coordinated millions of dollars in political spending in 2010, but that alliance, which has flown largely under the radar, is showing signs of fraying.

And with each network planning to dwarf its 2010 effort, Republicans worry that the emerging rivalry between the two deepest-pocketed camps in the conservative movement could undercut their party’s chances of taking the Senate and White House in 2012.

The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million — potentially much more — to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million.

The fault lines revealed themselves this summer, when the camps split on the highest-profile conservative movement issue of the day: The biggest groups in the Rove-Gillespie network supported House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to increase the debt ceiling and the Koch brothers’ primary political group, Americans for Prosperity, pressured conservatives to oppose it.

They also have spent big on seemingly competing infrastructure. The networks recently launched similar initiatives to woo Hispanic voters. And their allies are spending millions to build dueling voter files to help their respective camps get out the vote. The Republican National Committee recently partnered with associates of Rove and Gillespie on a privately run database, which could give them an advantage over the Koch-backed data project.

“With a broad-based conservative movement — or any political movement — it’s obvious that there’s often going to be competition, rivalries, egos involved,” said Art Pope, a Koch intimate who chairs an arm of Americans for Prosperity and has advocated for the Kochs’ voter database, which is called Themis.

“But overall, that competition results in a better work product and better results than a single authoritarian decision that there should be only one product — whether it’s a voter database or whatever — that everyone must use,” said Pope.

Behind the competition are ideological and stylistic differences that have bred suspicion between some in each camp.

Some Koch allies blame what they contend is the Rove team’s win-at-all-costs mentality for the decay of fiscal conservatism under former President George W. Bush. And they roll their eyes at Rove’s high media profile. In turn, some in the Bush-Rove axis accuse the Kochs of clinging to free-market zealotry, even if it backfires on Republicans. Others in Rove’s orbit believe the Kochs are too focused on control and not enough on coordination.

The two camps put their differences aside in the run-up to last year’s midterm elections, which conservatives felt had uniquely high stakes. But it’s not clear if that will last, said a Republican strategist familiar with the Koch’s 2010 coordination efforts.

“The 2010 political environment made for some very strange bedfellows,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity to discuss the notoriously press-shy Kochs. “You’ve got Rove and those guys who are driven by electing Republicans for Republicans’ sake and then you’ve got the Kochs who have this giant corporate empire and say it’s all about the free market.”

In the months preceding the 2010 elections, operatives working with groups that received millions of dollars in Koch-linked funding participated in twice-a-month coordinating meetings convened by Rove that drew an array of conservative groups looking to boost Republicans. Koch-backed groups included Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Limited Government and the 60 Plus Association. […]

The Crossroads groups — for which Rove provides advice and fundraising help but technically plays no formal role — initially focused on backing Republicans and attacking Democrats in competitive Senate races.

A strategist who participated in some of the meetings said: “We were tracking about 120 House races, and the Koch organization, 60 Plus, Americans for Prosperity, American Action Network all took some, and Crossroads came in and invested heavily at the end.”

“It was very coordinated,” the participant said. “There wasn’t one race in which there were multiple groups airing ads at the same time.”

Sean Noble, a Koch operative who worked with a number of groups, was among the active participants in the meetings, according to sources with knowledge of the meetings. The meetings were supplemented with more frequent conference calls in the weeks before Election Day.

But not everyone in Koch land was keen on the unprecedented coordination, as Americans for Prosperity’s President Tim Phillips attended only a couple of the meetings, telling POLITICO he bowed out because he believed they were too partisan for his group.

“We’re very much about the issues and not trying to help anybody win the majority or anything like that,” Phillips said. “It’s just not what we do. There are times when we absolutely go after Republicans who are doing stupid things.”

Phillips said it is unlikely that his group will participate in regular meetings to coordinate on 2012 strategy, either. But he added, “We talk, and there are moments where we absolutely work together and cooperate, but it’s on a project-by-project basis and on an issue-by-issue basis.”

Indeed, last week Phillips’s group found itself in concert with American Crossroads, which debuted a $50,000 television advertising campaign assailing President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, while Americans for Prosperity kicked off a ground-organizing effort partly focused on attacking the proposal.

Phillips acknowledged his group, which does not endorse candidates, may occasionally work at cross purposes with more overtly GOP-aligned efforts but said: “That doesn’t mean that we have a battle going on with any group when that happens. It just means for that period of time, maybe our priorities aren’t aligned. And so, would that be a rivalry? No, of course not.”

Rove, Gillespie and Noble did not respond to questions about the relationship between their respective networks, but Brian Walsh, president of American Action Network, said the occasional policy differences aren’t taken personally.

“Many of the principals who are involved have known each other for years, and even when they disagree on particular issues, there is a professional respect, where one institution fully understands the position of another institution,” he said, though he declined to speculate on the extent to which the groups would coordinate their 2012 efforts.

There have been some signs suggesting how they might divide up the 2012 labor. For instance, during presentations in late June in Vail, Colo., at the latest installment of the twice-a-year gatherings of major donors sponsored by the Koch brothers’ privately owned oil, chemical and consumer products company, Koch operatives signaled they “are going to focus a great deal on the presidential race,” according to someone who attended the meeting.

The meeting drew nearly 300 people, who pledged to contribute more than $70 million into a pool that includes the brothers’ own money that Koch political advisers distribute at their discretion to political and policy groups featured at their conferences, with more cash typically going to groups with the tightest ties, like Americans for Prosperity.

After their January donor summit in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the brothers were aiming, POLITICO reported, to raise and distribute $88 million from the pool ahead of the 2012 elections, but the attendee said the plans presented in Vail called for a budget exceeding $200 million.


The 2012 plans and budgeting were “presented with great clarity at the meeting in Vail, and I think people were impressed,” said the attendee, who characterized the relationship between the Koch groups and the Rove groups as somewhere between rivalry and teamwork.

“It’s a little bit of both,” said the attendee. “The Kochs feel — and, frankly, rightfully so in some ways — that they have a more sophisticated approach to this stuff, more well developed and better financed.”

The brothers, who until recently had kept a relatively low profile and focused their giving on sleepy libertarian policy groups to which they still give, have become more aggressively political in their giving since Obama’s election, attracting more donors and money to their summits.

They’ve also attracted more scrutiny from Democrats, who targeted the Kochs (and Rove, too) as poster children for using secret corporate money to distort the Democratic process and the media. In the wake of a recent Bloomberg Markets Magazine exposé revealing a Koch Industries subsidiary did business with Iran, Democrats tried to turn the brothers’ influence against Republicans,criticizing those who have benefited from the Kochs’ largesse.

There’s no indication the brothers will dial back their political activity as a result, and, in fact, in recent months they have aggressively expanded their political footprint in ways that seem to place them in competition with more establishment GOP-aligned groups.

That’s most apparent in dueling efforts to build databases of likely conservative voters for targeting throughout the campaign and on Election Day. Rather than combine forces, the two camps are building separate, multimillion-dollar files.

Earlier this year, operatives from both camps had conversations with the Republican National Committee about accessing its mega database of voter information, which is both a powerful organizing tool and a valuable asset used as collateral to secure bank loans and lines of credit.

“This is about getting a hold of the most valuable asset that the RNC has,” said former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who asserted Rove’s allies have for years wanted to “get their hands on this list so bad they can taste it.”

In late August, the party signed a contract to outsource its list management to a new group called Data Trust run by Rove allies Anne Hathaway and Mike Duncan — a former RNC chairman who sits on the board of the Crossroads groups.

Supporters of the plan say it will create better targeting data for both the RNC and approved outside groups, and they minimize concerns expressed by some RNC members about losing control of the party’s list. Sources say that, even though Data Trust is independent, theRNC’s contract with the group, which was written with help from prominent GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg, gives the party veto power over who can use the list, meaning the party could block anti-establishment tea party groups or others seeking to use it to criticize GOP incumbents, as Americans for Prosperity says it does on occasion.

But, even without control of the RNC list, Koch operatives have privately boasted of the superiority of their Themis database, which was seeded with an initial $2.5 million investment orchestrated by the brothers.

Regardless of which is the better database, Themis is already being deployed by conservative groups, putting it ahead of the pace of Data Trust, which sources say is in its formative stages.

Interestingly, fundraising for Data Trust was assisted by Matt Schlapp, the former head of the Kochs’ Washington operation, who — along with Duncan — referred questions about the group to Hathaway, who, like Ginsberg, didn’t respond to inquiries.

The two sides have also mounted seemingly competing initiatives to target Latino voters. The Libre Initiative, a recently formed Hispanic-voter targeting effort, was funded by one of the Kochs’ foundations, according to a video on its website. Also launching recently was the American Action Network’s Hispanic Leadership Network and the Gillespie-led Republican State Leadership Committee’s $3 millionThe Future Majority Project, which is intended to attract more Hispanic candidates to run for office.

Around the time of Future Majority’s launch, , which also got $1.2 million from American Crossroads last year and is run by Gillespie, who sat on an election analysis panel at the January 2010 Koch donor meeting with Noble and AfP director Pope.

Dan Garza, the GOP operative running the Libre Initiative, said he hasn’t spoken with the other groups but didn’t see them as competitors.

Like it or not, the Republican strategist familiar with the Kochs’ 2010 coordination efforts said there is a burgeoning competition between the Kochs and the Rove-Gillespie camp. And the strategist predicted that 2012 electoral prospects — more than divergent styles or visions of conservatism — will determine whether the camps work together or at cross purposes in 2012.

“What they did in 2010 was unique, but they started reverting to their old behavior in 2011,” the operative said, predicting “If they think the House, Senate and White House are all in play in 2012, then the stars will align again and they will come back to the table to coordinate again.”

 

 

 

This is a few weeks old. But in case you missed it—or even if you didn’t—it’s worth watching.

President Obama Speaks At The Congressional Black Caucus – 9-24-2011 Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

 

 

 

Recall of Scott Walker to start on November 15

 

 

 

 

Obama aide Axelrod acknowledges hurdles to president’s reelection

“We don’t have the wind at our backs this election,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama and a strategist for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, speaking to around 200 people at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces. This is going to be a titanic struggle.”

 

 

 

Congressional Democrats embrace Occupy Wall Street

[…] And even Democrats who’ve praised the movement admit they’re still uncertain if the outpouring of economic angst will make a bigger impact, at least through the conventional channels of politics and policy. “The tea party was actually successful in turning their discontent into electoral victories….So if you compare it to that, then how do you organize and mobilize the sentiments that’s out there into effective electoral action,” Welch said. “A lot of folks that are participating might not even see electoral action as the way to go.”

A growing number of labor unions and other powerful liberal institutions have declared themselves allies of Occupy Wall Street, which could link the movement to a more concrete policy agency and direct some of its energy to fueling change within the system. But even if that happens, Welch notes, the present-day Congress still stands in the way of producing real change, and the electoral tide may have to turn for the deadlock to be broken. “It’s not just Wall Street, it’s Congress,” the Vermont Democrat said. As such, there’s no certainty that even large-scale grassroots support for a Democratic jobs bill, for instance, would make any substantive difference — at least in the near term.

Finally, even supporters note that rising Democratic enthusiasm for Occupy Wall Street could end up backfiring if Washington leaders are seen as openly trying to co-opt the demonstrations, rather than simply cheering them on. “I know that some politicians are going down there, but frankly, I think the people that are there are the leaders,” Welch concluded. “The last thing they need is some politicians getting in the middle of it.”

 

 

 

No, the Tea Party Has Never Cared About Wall Street

Mother Jones:

Will Bunch is exactly right about this:

One of the biggest myths about the Tea Party is that a driving force in its creation was anger over bank and Wall Street bailouts. It’s true that some rank-and-file joiners did feel that way at first, but they were quickly co-opted by the movement leaders — including radio talkers and groups funded by the Koch Brothers — into worshipping the rich instead.

The tea partiers really do hate TARP, and they hate the auto bailout, and they hate the Fed and its money debasing ways. But the tea party’s leaders have always been careful to give those things plenty of lip service while channeling all the movement’s real energy into the issues that its big-dollar funders have always cared about most: lowering taxes on the wealthy, reducing regulations on corporations, and cutting spending on the poor.

After all, tea partiers could have poured their energy into protesting the AIG bailout. They could have poured their energy into insisting that Dodd-Frank be tightened up. They could have poured their energy into demands that the Fed be reformed and made more transparent.

But those were never more than side issues. The real issues for the tea partiers have always been healthcare reform, tax cuts, deficit fever, and EPA bashing. And in the most obvious tell of all, they were activelyopposed to Dodd-Frank, a bizarre stand for an allegedly anti-bailout movement. The tea party, in the end, simply isn’t anything new. It’s the same old right-wing fluorescence we see every couple of decades or so, with all the same hobbyhorses. The media really should have figured that out by now.

 

 

POLLS

Almost Twice As Many People Have Heard of Occupy Wall Street As Rick Perry

Wonkette:

Americans are so bored with the assortment of bargain bin feces-flingers running for the GOP nomination that — several thousand blathering news cycles and millions of dollars in campaign spending later – only 28% of people can even identify the existence of best-known Republican candidate-clown Rick Perry, because he is terrible and nobody cares about his plans to invade Mexico and dismantle Social Security. A new poll shows that after less than a month of protests and “not millions of dollars,” 23% moreAmericans have heard of the Wall Street protests than can remember Rick Perry’s name. Plain old popular recognition is not the be-all-end-all of the protests, but still, HAHA:

An ORC International Caravan Poll released Monday indicates that 51% of Americans say they’ve heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement, with 49% saying they haven’t heard about the demonstrations, which started in New York City 24 days ago and have spread to cities across the country.

According to the survey, 27% say they agree with the movement’s overall position on the financial system and social change, with 19% saying disagree with Occupy Wall Street on those issues. Fifty-four percent of those questioned have no firm opinion about Occupy Wall Street – consistent with the 49% who say they have not heard of the movement at all.

[CNN]

 

From the Pew Poll:

At this stage in the 2000 and 1996 Republican campaigns, far more named George W. Bush (54%) and Bob Dole (51%) than can recall the name of any of the current Republican candidates.

While Perry and Romney are running nearly even in mentions, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is running third with 15%. Herman Cain is mentioned by 9%, Ron Paul by 7% and Newt Gingrich by 6%. The other candidates are mentioned by 3% or fewer.

 

From the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Barack Obama has jumped to a 15-point lead over the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle job creation, a sign the beleaguered president’s $450 billion jobs package has hit its mark in public opinion. Fifty-two percent support the plan – and most say it just might work.

Overall approval of the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, has dropped to its lowest in polls dating back to the mid-1970s. And of the eight in 10 Americans who are dissatisfied with the way the country’s political system is working, more blame the Republicans in Washington than the president.

Before proposing the American Jobs Act, Obama and Republicans were trusted equally on job creation—an even split of 40% each. Now the numbers are 49%-34%, so not only has Obama gained, but Republicans have lost.

In addition to majority support for his jobs plan (52% to 36%), the poll showed nearly three-fifths of Americans think Obama’s jobs plan will create jobs (58% to 39%).

These numbers aren’t exactly a shock; after all, Obama has been pushing congressional Republicans to take action on job creation … and congressional Republicans have refused to budge. So this is the kind of shift that you’d expect to see given the dynamic of how things are playing out, and you can bet your last dollar that Obama will continue to make his case for a jobs bill.

The political implications for Obama himself are obvious, but these kinds of numbers can increase the chances of actually getting something done on the jobs bill. For starters, the fact that the public is responding to Obama’s leadership should give wavering congressional Democrats the confidence they need to stay united behind the jobs bill. And as for Republicans, the one thing they hate more than President Obama is the idea of losing their own jobs in Congress. And these numbers are a wakeup call to them: if they don’t get on board, they are going to pay a price.

Barack Obama has jumped to a 15-point lead over the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle job creation, a sign the beleaguered president’s $450 billion jobs package has hit its mark in public opinion. Fifty-two percent support the plan – and most say it just might work.

Overall approval of the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, has dropped to its lowest in polls dating back to the mid-1970s. And of the eight in 10 Americans who are dissatisfied with the way the country’s political system is working, more blame the Republicans in Washington than the president.

SCIENCE

Turning a 2 liter soda-bottle into a “lightbulb”

UNIONS

AFL-CIO President Trumka sends list of killed Colombian labor leaders to Obama

The Hill:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to President Obama on Monday expressing his labor federation’s opposition to the pending free-trade deal with Colombia.

Included with the letter was a list of names of the 22 union leaders who have been killed in Colombia, 15 of those after the United States agreed to a labor action plan with the South American country in April to improve its labor rights record, according to the AFL-CIO. Labor has long vehemently opposed a trade deal with Colombia because of its record of violence against union activists.

“Simply put, Colombia should not be rewarded with a trade agreement until it develops a proven track record of ensuring that workers can exercise the fundamental rights of free association and collective bargaining; preventing violence against union leaders and other social justice advocates; and bringing to justice those who perpetrated such crimes,” Trumka wrote in his letter to Obama.

The labor leader also cited an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute that approval of the Colombia trade deal will lead to 55,000 jobs being lost.

WEDGE ISSUES

The hate groups behind the Voter Values Summit

SPLC:

[…] But whose values will they be promoting?

Look at the groups behind the Summit – the Family Research Council (FRC)  and the American Family Association (AFA).

Both spread lies designed to demonize the LGBT community.

The FRC claims that gay rights advocates want to “recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.” If it had its way, gay sex would be outlawed.

The AFA says that gay people orchestrated the Holocaust and were responsible for the killing of six million Jews.

Both groups promote the dangerous and discredited practice of “reparative therapy” – the idea that gay men and lesbians can be “cured” of their sexual orientation.

Lies have consequences. They create a climate of hate and violence against the LGBT community.

Just whose values are these?

If public figures continue to lend their names to groups like the FRC and the AFA, things won’t get better – they’ll get much worse.

Tell the public figures you know to stop associating with groups that promote bigotry.

Show your values by adding your name to the Stand Strong Against Hate map.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

Great LONG read: Is protest in America at a turning point?

Now antiwar, anti-corporate, anti-big bank protests have started up in Washington and on Wall Street, and they are spreading elsewhere. Two main questions: Will they grow to be a serious force in America, and how long will the mainstream media give them the silent treatment?

Occupy Wall Street protesters plan ‘Millionaires March’ to Rupert Murdoch’s, tycoons’ NYC homes
New York Daily News:

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are planning to get in the face of some of New York’s richest tycoons on Tuesday.

A “Millionaires March” will visit the homes – or, more realistically, the gleaming marble lobbies – of five of the city’s wealthiest residents.

On the target list: NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, conservative billionaire David Koch, financier Howard Milstein and hedge fund mogul John Paulson.

Between 400 and 800 marchers plan to go to their homes to present them with oversize checks to dramatize how much less they will pay when New York State’s 2% tax on millionaires expires at the end of the year.

“Ninety nine percent of the residents of New York are going to suffer from this tax giveaway so the 1% who already live in absolute luxury can put more money in their pockets,” said Doug Forand, one of the march organizers.

“This is fiscally, economically and morally wrong.”

The march kicks off at 12:30 p.m. at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and heads to the Upper East Side.
MORE>>>

Danny Glover Electrifies Occupy L.A.

 

 

[I love L.A.] Los Angeles lawmakers cheer on protesters outside City Hall

 

 

 

We are the 99%

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

Brought to you by the people who occupy wall street. Why will YOU occupy?

 

MORE>>>

 

 

One of my favorite OWS signs. Just basically says it all:


 

 

 

Please sign WH petition to expand Medicaid funding for community based care for seniors & those with disabilities.

 

 

 

Investigate ClarenceThomas ethics violations 


 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“On Rosh Hashanah it is written,

And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.

How many shall pass away and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die; who shall attain the measure of man’s days and who shall not attain it; who shall perish by fire and who by water; who by sword, and who by beast; who by hunger and who by thirst; who by earthquake and who by plague; who by strangling and who by stoning; who shall have rest and who shall go wandering; who shall be tranquil and who shall be disturbed; who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted; who shall become poor and who shall wax rich; who shall be brought low, and who shall be exalted.

but repentance and prayer and acts of kindness can avert the decree.” ~~High Holiday liturgy

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

12 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. kesmarn says:

    Welcome back, Cher! Suddenly work has pushed itself into my time as never before, so I haven’t been able to be on the Planet as much as I’d like. (But then, I know that you know that story.)

    I’m hoping a little breathing space opens up for both of us soon.

  2. PatsyT says:

    Hi Cher… Great to see you…. Hope you are well.
    We will have to catch up soon.
    I am off to this …
    Wish us luck!
    http://sanclemente.patch.com/articles/independent-nuclear-experts-to-speak-at-fukushima-forum-tuesday

  3. ADONAI says:

    My favorite story from today:

    Obama’s War On Weed: White House Launches Crackdown On Medical Marijuana

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/war-on-weed-obama-marijuana_n_1005483.html

    Go get’em Mr.President! Damn sickly grandmas who need THC to develop the will to eat and live. We’ll show’em!

  4. Hey cher, good to see you back in action again! I love the bit about outlawing gay sex. These morons never think things through. Let’s see, arrest a gay man for having gay sex, then put him in a prison where he will have more gay sex than ever before!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Thanks KT! This is such a stupid issue and it gives me some measure of comfort to realize that most people know it’s a stupid issue.

  5. SueInCa says:

    Hey Cher
    Good to see that Daily Planet again on the sidebar. Welcome back you have definitely been missed.

  6. AdLib says:

    Welcome back, Cher!!! You were greatly missed!!! And wonderful to have a new edition of The Daily Planet!

    Of course, the issue of financial inequity is at the core of the OWS protest and the public’s problems but out of all the issues you cover in this DP, I think the most telling and upsetting is that the earnings of Americans have gone down substantially faster since the recession is said to officially end.

    For me, that portends a bleak future no matter what happens with the economy, it cements the perception of some that the corporate domination of the American Economy, their diverting of money from the public into their own pockets, has been accelerated during this time of crisis.

    Corporations reaping record profits while people losing record amounts of income, that is the real world we live in today and the prospects of high unemployment and job insecurity is a necessary component of sustaining this dynamic.

    Corporations are not going to increase employment or wages willingly, they have things right where they want them. Declining income for the masses and skyrocketing profits for them.

    Why would they or their wealthy shareholders want that dynamic to change?

    The only way out of this is for OWS to keep growing and become a force for change. Only the government can change this economic oppression, chiefly through regulation and taxes…the very things the Repubs seek to disarm from the government.

    If this movement succeeds and its goals are achieved, there can be constructive change in our nation. Otherwise, I don’t see any other eventuality if this system continues as it is, the public will be increasingly oppressed, have so little to lose and will grow disillusioned with trying to change things through the system, that they will take action in other ways.

    I know some of the Baggers and Repubs want America in chaos and havoc, in such times government is weakened and corporations can hit the gas on plutocracy and oppression. But there is a lack of vision in this scenario as to what happens when 70% of the economy, consumer spending, is disrupted.

    And a lack of understanding of what desperate people do in desperate times.

    We don’t want to get anywhere near such a situation so we really do need to do all we can to support the growth and spread of the OWS movement and join in as a majority in the country that demands a righting of the severe wrongs in this nation.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hey AdLib! So great to be back! I’ve missed my time here and hope that things get back to normal for me and the family.

      Yes, that story about declining income is the big story, and the articles about the subsequent issues of income inequality. I know there has been a lively thread about OWS and it’s finally come to that. I’m thrilled. I hope that this anger--inarticulate and unfocused as it may seem--grows and grows. (I personally have no problem with the lack of articulate demands at this point. They are not even necessary. Everyone knows in their gut what the “demands are.) It will take years of these protests, YEARS,to get things turned around and I can only pray that the public sustains itself and doesn’t degenerate into apathy again.

      I was talking to my son and telling him how many years it took--how many protests--to achieve Civil rights and the end to the Vietnam war. “Power concedes nothing without a demand” is still true. Maybe truer than ever here in America 2011.

      And I totally get it: The sign I put up today says it all for me “Shit is fucked up and bullshit” is my new motto. I just hope these people vote, but I have the feeling many won’t. It almost feels as if the response from even our friends in DC is too little, too tame, too tempered compared to what’s going on--as it necessarily must be.


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