Category Archives: politics

Soothing Summers

Lawrence Summers wrote this last week in the Los Angeles Times.  Title and subtitle are:

Calming an anxious middle class

The incoming Congress will need to pursue policies that promote more economic fairness without hindering globalization.”

Speaking of the growing disillusionment of the middle class with their dwindling economic prospects and the new Congress’ cognizance of that displeasure, Summers warns corporate managers to beware of a populist backlash. He says:

“These economic and political trends should be of great concern to the business community as well as to policymakers in Washington. They will continue to lead to any number of populist proposals that cut against the grain of the market system, such as limiting free-trade agreements, restricting outsourcing or blocking the ability of successful companies to expand.

But the track record of populist economic policies has been dismal — they rarely achieve their objectives but incur huge collateral costs. Policymakers forget at their peril that globalization has enabled the U.S. economy to enjoy the very favorable combination of low unemployment and low inflation, and that without open markets, product prices would be rising much faster than they are, making living standards even worse for middle-class families.”

I’m no economist, but that last line, “making living standards even worse for middle-class families” sounds like a damning indictment of a professedly good economy.

If the “grain of the market system” is such that the great majority of citizens are suffering for it, then why wouldn’t  Congress want to do some targeted surgery, specifically, “limiting free-trade agreements, (and) restricting outsourcing”? Are they not derelict if they do not act?
I have no idea why he thinks economic populists want to block the expansion of successful companies. That’s just bizarrely paranoid.  And demonizing as well.

If, according to Summers, “populists” are the middle class who want a reinvigorated manufacturing sector, and who recognize that some market protections may be necessary to achieve that, then are the corporate barons who oppose them “elitests”?


Greening Middle

Bettina Boxall writes in the Los Angeles Times:

If ever there was a Congress in which Republicans were positioned to remake the nation’s environmental laws, it was the 109th. But by the time the session ended last week, the GOP’s environmental agenda had been largely thwarted…

“It was the best chance for Republican-shaped initiatives for as long we can remember,” said Daniel Kemmis, senior fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana…

That they went home empty-handed, Kemmis and others say, is testament to a changing, greening West; the pitfalls of overreaching; and an emerging alliance between environmentalists and a traditional GOP base, hunters and anglers…

“The so-called hook-and-bullet constituency has become more concerned about protecting public lands, protecting open space in general. I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said…

Wilderness Society Executive Vice President Don Barry, an Interior Department official under the Clinton administration, said the GOP had its own boldness to blame for the string of defeats…

He cited the Bush administration’s proposal to auction national forest parcels. The idea inflamed sportsmen groups concerned about losing access to public land and was eventually disowned by even conservative Republican senators in the West…

Later in the article, Richard M. Frank, executive director of the California Center for Environmental Law & Policy at UC Berkeley, says that in over-reaching, the Republicans proved, “it is the middle on which either end of the political spectrum has to focus in actually getting any legislation of this type done.”

I think the middle is moving, becoming more green. The middle has accepted that global warming is real, and something must be done about it. As with sportsmen, ranchers today are more likely to join than fight environmentalists in their efforts to keep open space open, to keep access to public lands open to the ordinary citizen, and to oppose irresponsible exploitation by mining, lumber and energy companies. People of all political stripes are dismayed at falling water tables, annual summer holocausts of forest and range fires, forests decimated by drought and disease, the increasing frquency of catastrophic weather, and the apparent unconcern to all this of Congress and this administration.

ICE is Swift-boated

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem that the national broadcast media is treating the Swift Meatpacking Co. with incredible delicacy?? With kid gloves? Over the last couple of days much has been said about the difficulty of screening out illegals with fake i.d’s when doing hiring checks, but Swift hired at least 1282 illegals, and tipped off possibly thousands of others to the coming ICE raid. One thousand two hundred and eighty-two separate instances of breaking the law, and this slaughterhouse gets sympathy from big media??? Flagrant obstruction of a law enforcement action, and they deserve our charitable understanding of their sensitive predicament?

Swift is a corporation and has all the presumptive rights of any other citizen of this country, including a presumption of innocence. But imagine if a single mother of three, say, has been audited by the I.R.S. and determined to have committed 1282 separate instances of tax fraud. Would the media treat her with the deference they are showing Swift? Will the media accord the accused Swift workers, many of whom are the sole support of their families, as much deference as they have the company that profited by their labor?

Maybe I am making too much of this. But let me put it graphically, and let an asterisk represent each of the 1282 workers arrested at Swift:

************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ ************************************************************************************ *******

Each asterisk is a working adult, most likely the primary or sole support of a family. Should Swift be ordered to pay reparations to the families each deported worker leaves behind? Or should taxpayers be on the hook for the social services these families will now need?

Barack Obama and hope

Senator Barack Obama, in New Hampshire this week to test his mettle on the hustings, spoke of Americans’ desire for hope. He believes that was the message sent on election day.

Senator Obama has undoubtedly looked at all the polls, all the after-election analyses — and he was amazingly prescient on the perils and outcomes of the Iraq invasion — so he is probably right on the “desire for hope” thing as well.

But I think America needs a Big Idea candidate, a leader who compels by force of reason and inspiration the avid collaboration of citizen with government. A latter day John Kennedy with Peace Corps caliber proposals, a new mission-to-the-moon appeal to the nation’s imagination. A leader who offers more than hope, who calls for participation, even sacrifice, to achieve goals that are fast becoming imperatives.

Goals such as: Universal Health Care; a radically different relationship with energy; a humble recognition that there are no technological substitutions for ecosystem services; trade and finance controls that acknowledge that economies and markets exist to serve the needs of people and society — and that people are not mere servants of the economy, nor are they market commodities.

I’m hoping for more than hope, aren’t you?