Tag: ek Politics

More “Accountability”

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SEC Uses "Because I Said So" Tactic With Judge Rakoff

By Matt Levine, Dealbreaker

07 Nov 2011 at 4:39 PM

The quick background: Citi decided to make a big prop bet against some mortgages, so it structured a synthetic CDO with the exposures it wanted to short and sold it to some dopes, keeping virtually all of the short side of the trade on its books. This was a good idea and Citi made $160mm, but it worked out less well for the dopes. The SEC sued Citi for not telling the dopes certain things, like that it had picked the mortgages involved because of their exceptional badness, and they signed up a $285 million settlement.

(T)hese are very silly words. “Scienter-based violations of the securities laws” just means that GS, unlike Citi, was charged with intentionally stuffing dopes with bad CDOs. True! The SEC charged GS with doing that intentionally, and it only charged Citi with doing the same thing “negligently,” i.e., something a little bit north of “accidentally.” But, like, the SEC just decided to charge it that way – and they don’t explain why. It is sort of unimaginable that anyone could accidentally create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn’t aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon. Like, you have to pay attention in order to do that. You have to pick the loans, and write stuff down, and tell people about the thing, and convince them to buy the thing. The SEC gamely tries to explain how this could in fact all be due to negligence, but it doesn’t really matter – the point is that GS and Citi did pretty much the same thing, so if it’s negligence for Citi it’s negligence for GS. The only explanation of why Citi gets off easier than GS is “because we chose to let Citi get off easier than GS.”

The real explanation is probably much closer to the one Citi’s lawyers hit upon: that Citi is the all-time league table leader in losing tons of money on CDOs. To a lot of people, Goldman really does look like the evil genius who went heavily net short the housing market and made a ton of money. Citi are just some goofballs who lost a ton of money on a ton of CDOs, and half-accidentally made some money on one CDO. That pattern does sort of make Goldman look like they had a diabolical plan to screw everyone, while Citi’s screwing a few people looks, well, negligent.

It’s just that this is a very bad legal theory. Shorting the housing market to your customers when you have no inside information about particular mortgages, but just did better analysis than them of the macro data, is … it’s kind of unpleasant behavior, maybe, but it’s probably not fraud. Being generally long mortgages but short one particular trade because you’ve secretly cherry-picked it to be the single worst CDO you can conceive of with your somewhat limited imagination, that’s – I mean, that’s stupid, but it’s also a lot closer to actual fraud.

Citigroup, SEC Defend $285 Million CDO Settlement as Fair

By Bob Van Voris and Thom Weidlich, Business Week

November 08, 2011, 12:38 AM EST

Rakoff, who in 2009 rejected a $33 million settlement between the agency and Bank of America Corp., asked Citigroup and the SEC to address nine questions about the proposed settlement. The questions included, “Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?”

The SEC argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed settlements in which the defendant doesn’t admit liability. If Citigroup had admitted fault in the settlement, that could be used against it by private investors suing the bank, the SEC said.

In its own filing today, Citigroup also said the settlement was fair and asked the judge to consider the impact on its shareholders of “any outcome other than a negotiated ‘no admit, no deny’ settlement.”

Promises Made, and Remade, by Firms in S.E.C. Fraud Cases

By EDWARD WYATT, The New York Times

Published: November 7, 2011

To an outsider, the vow may seem unusual. Citigroup, after all, was merely promising not to do something that the law already forbids. But that is the way the commission usually does business. It also was not the first time the firm was making that promise.

Citigroup’s main brokerage subsidiary, its predecessors or its parent company agreed not to violate the very same antifraud statute in July 2010. And in May 2006. Also as far as back as March 2005 and April 2000.

Citigroup has a lot of company in this regard on Wall Street. According to a New York Times analysis, nearly all of the biggest financial companies – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America among them – have settled fraud cases by promising that they would never again violate an antifraud law, only to have the S.E.C. conclude they did it again a few years later.

A Times analysis of enforcement actions during the past 15 years found at least 51 cases in which the S.E.C. concluded that Wall Street firms had broken anti-fraud laws they had agreed never to breach. The 51 cases spanned 19 different firms.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations and has led several inquiries into Wall Street, said the S.E.C.’s method of settling fraud cases, is “a symbol of weak enforcement. It doesn’t do much in the way of deterrence, and it doesn’t do much in the way of punishment, I don’t think.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, said, “You can look at the record and see that it clearly suggests this is not deterring repeat offenses. You have to at least raise the question if other alternatives might be more effective.”

But prior violations are plentiful. For example, Bank of America’s securities unit has agreed four times since 2005 not to violate a major antifraud statute, and another four times not to violate a separate law. Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America acquired in 2008, has separately agreed not to violate the same two statutes seven times since 1999.

Of the 19 companies that the Times found by the S.E.C. to be repeat offenders over the last 15 years, 16 declined to comment. They read like a Wall Street who’s who: American International Group, Ameriprise, Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Columbia Management, Deutsche Asset Management, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Putnam Investments, Raymond James, RBC Dain Rauscher, UBS and Wells Fargo/Wachovia.

In 2005, Bank of America was one of several companies singled out for allowing professional traders to buy or sell a mutual fund at the previous day’s closing price, when it was clear the next day that the overall market or particular stocks were going to move either up or down sharply, guaranteeing a big short-term gain or avoiding a significant loss.

In its settlement, Bank of America neither admitted nor denied the conduct, but agreed to pay a $125 million fine and to put $250 million into a fund to repay investors. The company also agreed never to violate the major antifraud statutes.

Two years later, in 2007, Bank of America was accused by the S.E.C. of fraud by using its supposedly independent research analysts to bolster its investment banking activities from 1999 to 2001. In the settlement, Bank of America without admitting or denying its guilt, paid a $16 million fine and promised, once again, not to violate the law.

But two years later, in 2009, the S.E.C. again accused Bank of America of defrauding investors, saying that in 2007-8, the bank sold $4.5 billion of highly risky auction-rate securities by promising buyers that they were as safe as money market funds. They weren’t, and this time Bank of America agreed to be “permanently enjoined” from violating the same section of the law it had previously agreed not to break.

In fact, the company had already violated that promise, according to the S.E.C when it was accused last year of rigging bids in the municipal securities market from 1998 through 2002. To settle the charges, Bank of America paid no penalty, but refunded investors $25 million in profits plus $11 million in interest. And, the bank promised again never to violate the same law.

Keystone XL Followup

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

(h/t Blue Texan)

Van Jones AWOL at Tarsands Action Once Again, But Calls for Mass Civil Unrest if Obama Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Monday November 7, 2011 10:10 am

Van Jones was conspicuously absent when we were getting arrested at the White House that day in September (Overheard in the paddy wagon: “Where’s Van Jones? You think he would want to be here.”) He couldn’t come yesterday either, but he sent along a rather unequivocal condemnation of President Obama for even considering approval of the Keystone XL pipeline,  calling for people to respond with mass civil disobedience if he does.

That affirmation is good to hear.  There shouldn’t have been anything to keep him from lifting a pen and signing onto the October 4 letter from environmental leaders protesting the questionable relationship between Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials with Trans Canada and the process that they are using to determine approval of the pipeline. But 12,500 people is a lot more than 65, and it’s hard for a leading environmentalist to retain any street cred within the community and remain silent on this.

Regardless of whatever political calculus is happening behind the scenes, I was impressed by the unequivocal tone of the Jones’ email.  It can’t sit well with the White House, because the President is clearly looking for a way to approve the pipeline. Calling for mass civil unrest if Obama does so will not only inflame Jones’s rabid right-wing critics (of which he has many), but it may be something he actually has to follow through on.

After Obama threw him under the bus, Van could have done many things.  He chose to join the Center for American Progress, the think-tank whose job it is to slap the “good liberal seal of approval” on decidedly non-progressive things the White House wants to do, like perpetuating the War in Afghanistan.  (CAP recently told Politico that environmentalists will be satisfied if Obama simply punts on the piepline until after the election, because “people who are concerned about this will feel he has been listening to them.”)

And he also recently launched his Rebuild the Dream organization, which clearly hopes to be on the receiving end of the massive Democratic 2012 election money gravy train.  Maybe it just wasn’t flowing fast enough, and this was a warning shot.  But now Van has put himself on the line, and even if Obama does punt, the Keystone XL pipeline will nonetheless continue to be a front-burner election issue with the young people Obama must turn out in 2012 – people with whom Jones has quite a bit of influence.

I just don’t think we live in a world where the oil companies don’t ultimately get their way, and some route for the pipeline isn’t approved. I look forward to participating in civil disobedience with Van Jones to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, regardless of who is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when it happens.

A Big Fat Lie

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I’ve written often about Keystone XL and I’ve talked very little about it’s environmental impact.

Not because I don’t care, but because of the lies and corruption.

Frankly it’s all a big fat lie, the biggest since Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction; time and past time to give these liars the boot.

All of them.

Drill baby, drill.

The fact is that Barack Obama and his Third Way Neo-liberal Administration embrace Big Oil/Coal/Gas/Nuclear and the Climate Death Of Our Entire Planet just as deeply as Sarah Palin Republicans.

The Party Line – November 4, 2011: Self-Styled Clean Energy President Embraces Future That’s Dirty, Dangerous, and Expensive

By: Gregg Levine, Firedog Lake

Friday November 4, 2011 10:59 am

Back in 2008, Obama the candidate seemed to understand the threat posed by global warming, and he spoke often of moving away from carbon-heavy fuel sources like tar sands. Now, a good part of what is considered the president’s “base,” it seems, understands that the transcontinental pipeline is not only a danger to farmlands and aquifers, but also a betrayal of a campaign promise.

Moving beyond the observation that this is the same “We suck less” positioning that performed so poorly for Democrats in 2010, there are indeed many questions raised by Obama’s apparent take on our energy future.

LaBolt’s claim, “The president has done more to wean us off of foreign oil and transition the nation to a clean energy economy than any other,” first begs the obvious fact-check: Alberta is not in the US, and tar sands crude is no one’s idea of clean energy. But it is not a big leap to read this statement as something more inclusive, something meant to refer to all of the Obama administration’s moves in the energy sector. Indeed, with references to clean energy, climate change and China, the Obama campaign is probably hoping for some to hear a commitment to solar power, while others might understand it as an embrace of nuclear fission.

Intent notwithstanding, administration moves have underscored the latter-a White House enraptured with nuclear power-just as events continue to lay bare the lie that US nuclear power generation could fit anywhere into a tale of clean, domestic energy advocacy.

(C)ertification with no funding, or funding with no certification-to the US federal government, it doesn’t matter. And it spells out two points in bold type: The Obama administration stands squarely behind nuclear power. . . and the marketplace does not. Without help from what the campaign would have voters believe is the all-time greatest champion of clean, green, domestic energy, new nuclear reactors would not be built in the United States.

Eleven-and-one-half-billion dollars-and that only takes TEPCO through March 2013. Who here thinks the crisis will be over by then? It almost makes Obama’s $8.33 billion loan guarantee to Southern look like a bargain.


Except that the loan guarantee is just for construction of a yet unapproved reactor design-should Southern, or whatever entity might eventually operate Plant Vogtle, experience an accident, that would likely be a whole other ball of bailout.

But what could possibly go wrong? Well, as repeatedly documented in this column, a lot. Beyond the level-7 sinkhole that is Fukushima, in the US, 2011 alone has seen manmade accidents and natural disasters that have scrammed and/or damaged more than a half-dozen reactors. And with each event, a process of shutdown, repair, inspection, authorization and startup costs time and money that does nothing to provide America with clean, safe, renewable, affordable energy.

Since the earliest days of nuclear power, that siren song has gone something like this: clean, safe, and too cheap to meter. Obviously, 2011 has proven none of that rings true, but when an administration believes it can greenwash away the political fallout from a tar sands pipeline, is it such a stretch to see them ignoring the financial and radioactive fallout of nuclear power in their attempt to package Obama as the cleanest, greenest energy president ever?

Fears of Fission Rise at Stricken Japanese Plant

By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New Yory Times

Published: November 2, 2011

TOKYO – Nuclear workers at the crippled Fukushima power plant raced to inject boric acid into the plant’s No. 2 reactor early Wednesday after telltale radioactive elements were detected there, and the plant’s owner admitted for the first time that fuel deep inside three stricken reactors was probably continuing to experience bursts of fission.

“Re-criticality would produce more harmful radioactive material, and because the reactors are damaged, there would be a danger of a leak,” said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, whose prescient warnings about nuclear safety have won him respect in Japan.

Mr. Koide holds that the nuclear fuel at the three reactors probably melted through containments and into the ground, raising the possibility of contaminated groundwater. If much of the fuel was indeed in the ground early in the crisis, the “feed and bleed” strategy initially taken by Tokyo Electric – pumping cooling water into the reactors, producing hundreds of tons of radioactive runoff – would have done little to help.

Some experts had not expected even bursts of re-criticality to occur, because it was unlikely that the fuel would melt in just the right way – and that another ingredient, water, would be present in just the right amounts – to allow for any nuclear reaction. If episodes of fission at Fukushima were confirmed, Mr. Koide said, “our entire understanding of nuclear safety would be turned on its head.”

But ek you say, that only happens in 3rd world countries like Japan.

Faker of nuclear reactor records gets probation

BILL POOVEY, Associated Press

Updated 05:21 a.m., Friday, November 4, 2011

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – An electrician charged with falsifying inspection records at an unfinished nuclear reactor in Tennessee was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation and community service after he apologized for causing any nuclear fears.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and Tennessee Valley Authority officials said at a March news conference after Correll’s arrest that the falsified records posed no harm to the public. The news came amid publicity about the nuclear disaster in Japan.

Prosecutors said he lied about measuring the diameter of cables designed to provide electric power to operate equipment, including safety systems, in the reactor containment structure at the plant in Spring City between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

And it’s such an important part of our future energy supply, not controlled by all those angry brown people.

Exclusive: IEA draft: Nuclear to fall as power demand (declines)

By Henning Gloystein, Reuters

Fri Nov 4, 2011 2:58pm EDT

“The share of nuclear power in total generation drops from 13 percent today to just 7 percent in 2035, with implications for energy security, fuel-mix diversity, spending on energy imports and energy-related CO2 emissions.”

The report said “the prospects for nuclear power are now much more uncertain than before the Fukushima nuclear accident” and that it had “greatly increased the uncertainty about the future role of nuclear power in meeting the world’s energy needs.”

The IEA report said the drop in nuclear generation caused a rise in oil- and gas-fired power generation equivalent to about 0.2 percent of global oil supplies and 0.4 percent of natural gas supplies.

“Our natural gas price assumptions have been revised downwards because of improved prospects for the commercial production of unconventional gas resources,” the IEA said.

Financial analysts shared the IEA’s view that new unconventional gas resources would cause gas prices to fall.

“The recent acceleration of discoveries and evaluation of large existing reserves of unconventional gas in countries like China is changing the cost outlook,” said Emmanuel Fages, an analyst at Societe Generale.

But he added, “The real question is at what price this gas will be marketed, as contractual frameworks lead to a high price for producers on international markets.”

Most gas is supplied via oil-indexed, long-term contracts, and the strength of oil prices is preventing gas prices from dropping despite rising resources.

“In this respect coal remains a cheaper alternative and might actually surprise by keeping a much larger share of generation than what was expected some years ago,” Fages said.

T. Boone Pickens and his fracking brigade?  Also a lie.

Here Comes the Sun

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: November 6, 2011

Fracking – injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels – is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.

Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs – that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.

Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”

So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

The good news is that, just like Occupy Wall Street, the message that our Air, Water, and Climate is being sold out by Barack Obama, his corrupt Adminstration, our D.C. “Representatives”, and the Versailles Village of Simpering Sychophantic Beltway Bootlicking Media that enables their Big Lies, is starting to gain some attention.

TransCanada Pipeline’s Opponents Urge Obama to Buck ‘Oil Power’

By Katarzyna Klimasinska, Bloomberg News

November 07, 2011, 10:05 AM EST

Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) — Environmentalists opposed to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline encircled the White House, urging President Barack Obama to reject the project even if it means overruling his own State Department.

“It will be the real test of his character, you know: Is he going to stand with people’s power, or oil power?” Bill McKibben, organizer of the demonstration, said in an interview after the rally in Washington yesterday whose sponsors said it drew as many as 12,000 people.

Activists at W.H. to protest pipeline


11/6/11 6:48 PM EST

Organizers estimated 12,000 people surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in three rings to protest TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Chants of “Yes we can! Stop the pipeline!” were audible across Lafayette Park.

Obama 2008 T-shirts and buttons were common, worn alongside “No XL” gear, designed to drive home the point that these organizers are the president’s key constituency.

“What I think this is doing is showing Obama that the environment is not the path of least resistance,” Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said.

How much of the message the president received is unclear: Obama was out golfing most of Sunday, arriving back at the White House at 4:30 p.m.

Decisions over the last six months, including September’s choice to pull back on pending EPA ozone standards, “proved to the environmental community that President Obama really can’t be trusted on environmental issues,” Pica said. “And without active political pressures, his instincts are to make the wrong decision.”

Barack Obama’s re-election may just hinge on your believing his big fat lies again, at least for a while.

Obama Banks on Disappointed Environmentalists

By Kate Andersen Brower, Bloomberg News

Nov 7, 2011 12:00 AM ET

From alternative fuels to clean air, President Barack Obama’s record is a disappointment to environmentalists, who helped get him elected and now are threatening to sit out his re-election bid in 2012.

“He’s been held hostage by Congress, but at some point I feel that the important thing is to stand up for what you believe in, and he’s not doing that,” said Rhoden Streeter, 67, who attended a White House demonstration yesterday against a proposed crude oil pipeline that would cut through six states.

Obama’s re-election campaign’s response: Where can they go?

“When Americans compare the president’s record promoting clean energy and America’s energy security to those of the leading Republican candidates,” Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, said in an e-mail statement, “there will be no question about who will continue our progress.”

A lot of college students view climate change as obviously happening and getting worse, and they see a government that can’t respond to it because of wealthy interests and big corporations and tons of lobbying,” said Stacy VanDeveer, a professor who specializes in environmental politics at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham.

Courtney Hight, 32, was among those young voters when she became one of the first volunteers to join Obama’s campaign in New Hampshire in April 2007.

“I gave my entire life in 2008, so he will not see that energy if he approves the pipeline,” said Hight, who worked at Obama’s White House Council on Environmental Quality.

During the last presidential cycle, she said she spent 19 months knocking on doors and making phone calls in New Hampshire and helped develop ways to get young voters to the polls as the Youth Vote Director for Florida.

In 2008, the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, a non-profit environmental group with 1.4 million members, mobilized 5,599 volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls for Obama, logging a collective 16,125 campaign shifts.

If Obama approves the pipeline “it will be increasingly difficult for our members to stand behind the president,” said Michael Brune, the club’s executive director.

Wendy Abrams, who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, said rallying her friends around the president will be tough.

“I probably won’t raise money like I did before because all my friends are going to bark back at me,” she said. “It’s hard to defend his record.”

So he’s going to keep right on lying until after the election.

Barack Obama’s Keystone pipeline dilemma: Why not punt?


11/5/11 10:38 AM EST

The problem: Obama runs the risk of disappointing either labor unions or environmental groups that went to bat for him in 2008, and he can’t really afford to have any of his previous supporters sit on the sidelines next year.

“It’s a hell of a dilemma,” said one environmentalist who believes Obama will delay a decision for a while. “Clearly it would be in his benefit not to have this as a hot potato in his reelect.”

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Co. and now head of the Texas-based Citizens for Affordable Energy, predicts that Obama will wait until after the election to make a call on the pipeline that would run from Alberta oil sands to Texas refineries.

“It is much easier to avoid a decision than to make a decision,” Hofmeister said. “And as long as he has not made a decision, he can hold out the hope that he will one day make a decision in their favor.”

Obama won 66 percent of the under-30 voter in 2008, the biggest disparity between young voters and other age groups in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972, according to the Pew Research Center for People & the Press.

“If young people are watching and care deeply about these issues and they’re disappointed, that will affect the campaign’s ability to get those young people as involved and enthused as they were four years ago,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune told reporters recently that Obama’s decision on the pipeline would “have a very big impact” on how the nation’s largest environmental group funnels resources toward congressional races rather than the race for the White House.

Meanwhile, TransCanada is warning that failure of the Obama administration to greenlight the project soon might force the company to withdraw the project and look at other alternatives to route it through Canada and send the oil to other places like China.

Hofmeister thinks this is an empty threat because an alternative crossing all the way over to British Columbia, for example, would face the wrath of Canadian environmental and native groups.

“TransCanada, the industry, have zero leverage on this topic,” he said.

Keystone pipeline decision could be delayed until after election

By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau, The L.A. Times

November 6, 2011, 8:55 p.m.

The Obama administration is considering a move that could delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by requiring sponsors to reduce the project’s environmental risks before it can be approved, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

The step might put off a decision until after the 2012 election and be a way for the White House to at least temporarily avoid antagonizing either the unions that support the pipeline or the environmental activists who oppose it as President Obama gears up for his campaign.

Requiring that a new route be found to avoid the most sensitive areas, or that further steps be taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions, could help the administration out of a jam. Assessing the environmental effects of a new route, for instance, could take months.

Further delays could make the pipeline financially unfeasible for TransCanada and the companies that plan to ship crude through it. The oil industry has argued that if Keystone XL does not get a permit, TransCanada and its clients would develop the oil sands anyway and ship the crude west in a pipeline to the Pacific Coast. But environmentalists contend that there is far too much local resistance in Canada for that to occur.

“My guess is, if there is a delay, it could very well kill the pipeline of its own weight,” said John H. Adams, founding director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, at Sunday’s rally.


And that is indeed the good news, that delay and prevarication could kill Keystone economically, whether Barack likes it or not.

Keystone Pipeline debate heats up

By Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post

Published: November 5

A delay could increase the costs and uncertainty associated with the $7 billion project.

TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said Friday that the three-year review process has already imposed costs on his company, including $1.9 billion on pipe and other equipment stored in warehouses.

“The carrying costs on those are material, and we continue to incur those costs,” he said, adding that further delays beyond the end of the year could force U.S. refineries that have signed contracts with TransCanada to look at alternatives, either other sources of supply or other transport means.

A key question for the administration is how many jobs the Keystone XL project would create. TransCanada’s initial estimate of 20,000 – which it said includes 13,000 direct construction jobs and 7,000 jobs among supply manufacturers – has been widely quoted by lawmakers and presidential candidates.

Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future. The Brixton Group, a firm working with opponents of the project, has argued that many of the indirect supply jobs would be outside the United States because about $1.7 billion worth of steel will be purchased from a Russian-owned mill in Canada.

A TransCanada statement Sept. 30 said the project would be “stimulating over 14,400 person years of employment” in Oklahoma alone. It cited a study by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant to TransCanada, saying the pipeline would create “250,000 permanent jobs for U.S. workers.”

But Perryman was including a vast number of jobs far removed from the industry. Using that technique in a report on the impact of wind farms, Perryman counted jobs for dancers, choreographers and speech therapists.

“Any credible input-output model is going to include all induced effects and … some money will be spent on the arts,” Perryman said in an e-mail. “In the construction phase, this number would be minimal, given the temporary nature of the project. However, the permanent effects from lower oil prices would be somewhat larger.”

Meanwhile, the Cornell Global Labor Institute issued a study suggesting that any jobs stemming from the pipeline’s construction could be outweighed by environmental damage it caused, along with a possible rise in Midwest gasoline prices because a new pipeline would divert that region’s current oversupply of oil to the Gulf Coast.

Who are the Galts?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Oligarchy, American Style

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: November 3, 2011

The (congressional) budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.

If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent – the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.

#CWS: Co-optupy Wall Street

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Good News?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It appears that time is on the side of environmentalist groups opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.

What is happening is that penalty clauses in TransCanada contracts are kicking in and refineries and other groups are withdrawing to seek other suppliers.

TransCanada predicts losses of up to $1 Million a day, however the Obama administration has already signaled that any final decision will be put off to next year at the earliest.

On Tuesday, TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling said another extended delay in the regulatory process would lead oil shippers and refiners to abandon support for the project, rendering it uneconomic to build.

We can certainly hope so.

dday at Firedog Lake has some more positive coverage from this morning-

The other day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to offload the decision on whether to go forward with the Keystone XL pipeline on the State Department. But President Obama himself was asked about the pipeline in a local news interview last night, and he took full responsibility for making the decision. In doing so, he related a full understanding of the public health risks, though he limited that to the immediate risks of a pipeline spill, rather than the extraction and burning of tar sands oil in general.

This is definitely encouraging, though as I said, it looks at the problem from a NIMBY standpoint rather than the main idea that burning tar sands oil is, as Bill McKibben put it over the weekend, the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. Climate scientist James Hansen has said that if the pipeline goes through, the climate will basically never be stabilized. That’s the larger problem, though obviously the risk to the Ogalalla aquifer is a factor as well. Keep in mind that Obama actually won the single electoral vote in the Omaha area in Nebraska, and probably wants to win it again.

Bill McKibben’s White House protest of Keystone XL is scheduled for Sunday, November 6th.

The Best and the Brightest

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What you have to remember about them is that they’re not very good and they’re not very smart but they do have an overweening arrogance and sense of entitlement that makes them think that they’re better than you.

And they’re very, very afraid that some day some one will point out how stupid and wrong they are which is why they hate democracy so much.

Revenge of the Sovereign Nation

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph

November 1st, 2011

The Greek referendum – if it is not overtaken by a collapse of the government first – has left officials in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels speechless with rage. The ingratitude of them.

Every major claim by the inspectors at the outset of the Memorandum has turned out to be untrue. The facts are so far from the truth that it is hard to believe they ever thought it could work. The Greeks were made to suffer IMF austerity without the usual IMF cure. This was done for one purpose only, to buy time for banks and other Club Med states to beef up their defences.

It was not an unreasonable strategy (though a BIG LIE), and might not have failed entirely if the global economy recovered briskly this year and if the ECB had behaved with an ounce of common sense. Instead the ECB choose to tighten.

When the history books are written, I think scholarship will be very harsh on the handful of men running EMU monetary policy over the last three to four years. They are not as bad as the Chicago Fed of 1930 to 1932, but not much better.

Certain architects of EMU calculated that the single currency would itself become the catalyst for a quantum leap in integration that could not be achieved otherwise.

They were warned by the European Commission’s own economists and by the Bundesbank that the undertaking was unworkable without fiscal union, and probably catastrophic if extended to Southern Europe. Yet the ideological view was that any trauma would be a “beneficial crisis”, to be exploited to advance the Project.

This was the Monnet Method of fait accompli and facts on the ground. These great manipulators of Europe’s destiny may yet succeed, but so far the crisis is not been remotely beneficial.

And as my old friend Gideon Rachman at the FT writes this morning: the Greek vote is “a hammer blow aimed at the most sensitive spot of the whole European construction – its lacks of popular support and legitimacy.”

Austerity Faces Test as Greeks Question Their Ties to Euro

By STEVEN ERLANGER, The New York Times

Published: November 1, 2011

“This is clearly the return of politics,” said Jean Pisani-Ferry, director of Bruegel, an economic research institution in Brussels. “The management of all this by the Europeans has been fairly technocratic. But now we see the gamble of a politician, which creates uncertainty again, but in a different form. But it was bound to come at some point.”

Mr. Papandreou’s decision to press for a popular referendum on the bailout was the inevitable result of Greece’s loss of sovereignty to Brussels and the International Monetary Fund, said Jean-Paul Fitoussi, professor of economics at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France were acting as if they were the real government of Greece, he said.

“It’s as if the Europeans – or Merkel and Sarkozy alone – believed that they were in control of the people of Greece,” Mr. Fitoussi said. “But this is a democracy. In Greece, and even in Italy, you cannot expect to rule without the support and consent of the people. And you can’t impose an austerity program for a decade on a country, and even choose for them the austerity measures that country must implement.”

Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy are clearly irritated with Greece, but so far they insist that the restructuring deal agreed upon Thursday in Brussels remains, as Mr. Sarkozy said Tuesday, “the only possible path to resolve the Greek debt problem.”

But Greece’s turmoil has the makings of a turning point. Greek elections during a deep economic slump would be likely to usher in a government that would, at a minimum, to try to renegotiate the bailout deal with European and foreign lenders, a messy process that would force Germany and other European lenders to decide how strictly to stick to their austerity formula. The uncertainty would undermine confidence in other indebted countries like Italy at a time they can ill afford it.

There is also the possibility that an election or a popular referendum would pose the question more bluntly, with Greeks essentially deciding whether they want to stick with the euro or not – if they want to put sovereignty over their own affairs ahead of membership in the common currency. That could mean the fraying, or at least the shrinking, of the euro zone.

Mr. Fitoussi believes that Greeks had no choice but to ask themselves that question. “There are only two possibilities in a democracy: the government has to resign or consult the people,” he said. “Of course, I don’t know which is the worst for Europe.”

Crats, Maybe, But Not Much Techno

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

November 2, 2011, 11:15 am

Atrios complains, rightly, about the description of the policies being followed in Europe as technocratic. His point is that

we’ve conjured up images of very sensible highly educated wonky people doing the right thing, even as they destroy the world.

But it’s more than that: these alleged technocrats have in fact systematically ignored both textbook macroeconomics and the lessons of history in favor of fantasies. The European Central Bank has placed its faith in the confidence fairy, while imagining that it can run policy in a way that has never worked in several centuries of central bank experience. Meanwhile, the European policy elite has simply wished away the clear evidence that the euro zone needs to make an adjustment that is virtually impossible unless inflation targets are raised.

The point is that I know technocrats, and these people aren’t – they’re faith healers who are making stuff up to suit their prejudices.

You can say something similar, although a bit less pointed, about the Obama administration. The line from people there, including the president, has been that it was too technocratic. But the real technocrats – people like Christy Romer and, well, me – were saying right from the beginning that the stimulus was too small, etc.; people like Geithner who opposed stronger action were basing their position on gut feelings about confidence, not number-crunching.

See also Progressive Realists.

Keystone XL Treason?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Haupt v. United States, 330 U.S. 631-

(A)lthough the overt acts relied upon to support the charge of treason-defendant’s harboring and sheltering in his home his son who was an enemy spy and saboteur, assisting him in purchasing an automobile, and in obtaining employment in a defense plant-were all acts which a father would naturally perform for a son, this fact did not necessarily relieve them of the treasonable purpose of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Speaking for the Court, Justice Jackson said: “No matter whether young Haupt’s mission was benign or traitorous, known or unknown to the defendant, these acts were aid and comfort to him. In the light of this mission and his instructions, they were more than casually useful; they were aids in steps essential to his design for treason. If proof be added that the defendant knew of his son’s instruction, preparation and plans, the purpose to aid and comfort the enemy becomes clear.”

Tar sands pipeline will comfort our enemies

By Steven M. Anderson, The Hill

10/25/11 11:21 AM ET

The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t help.  This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight.  It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.

Transcanada, the company that would own the pipeline, makes various claims about the pipeline’s supposed security benefits.   It claims the pipeline will reduce dependence on Mideast oil, that tar sands will feed a growing US demand, and that it will provide a supply cushion in times of natural or man-made disasters. None of these claims holds up. Transcanada says the project will supply roughly half of the amount of oil the US imports from the Middle East and Venezuela – but conveniently leaves out a crucial detail:  This tar sands oil will not reduce imports from those nations.

The Keystone XL is an export pipeline. Valero Energy Corporation, the pipeline’s largest customer, has explicitly told investors that it plans to focus its Port Arthur refinery on exports.  Canadian oil won’t replace imports from hostile countries because Texas refiners are serving global demand rather than domestic need.

Steven M. Anderson is a retired Army brigadier general, and senior mentor with the Army’s Battle Command Training Program.

Former Keystone pipeline lobbyist hired by Obama campaign

The L.A. Times

October 24, 2011, 5:13 pm

President Obama’s reelection campaign has hired a former lobbyist for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline as a top adviser.

The campaign said that Broderick Johnson, founder and former principal of the communications firm the Collins Johnson Group, would serve as a senior adviser for the campaign. Before founding the firm this spring, he worked for the powerhouse lobbying firm, Bryan Cave LLP, where his clients included Microsoft, Comcast and TransCanada, the company planning to build the $7-billion pipeline to carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

An Obama campaign official said that in his new role Johnson would “serve as a national surrogate for the campaign and our representative in meetings with key leaders, communities and organizations.  Broderick will be an ear to the ground for the campaign’s political and constituency operations, helping to ensure that there is constant, open communication between the campaign and our supporters around the country.”

Given his ties to Keystone XL, Johnson is bound to get an earful when meeting with some in Obama’s constituency.

The pipeline needs a permit from the State Department because it would cross a federal border. For more than a year, Keystone XL has been mired in controversy. TransCanada, the oil industry and several labor unions have said the project would create thousands of jobs in the United States and reduce the country’s dependence on oil from hostile or unstable countries. Environmentalists, including many Obama supporters, have argued that the extraction of the crude in Alberta lays waste to the land and increases greenhouse gas emissions. They caution that the proposed route would take the pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, the main source of drinking and irrigation water in the High Plains states, and they argue that the number of jobs created would be far fewer than claimed by the project’s backers.

Moreover, in the last several months, emails and other documents have raised questions about the State Department’s impartiality as it weighs Keystone’s permit application. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said late last year that her agency was “inclined” to grant the permit, although environmental reviews had not yet been completed.

TransCanada has hired a phalanx of former Democratic operatives since 2009 to lobby for Keystone XL, including Paul Elliott, the former deputy chairman for Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. Recently released emails show that the diplomat working on energy issues at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa had an unusually warm and collaborative relationship with Elliott. Another top State Department official worked with the Canadians to hone their message about the environmental impacts of developing oil sands. The outside contractor for the State Department’s environmental impact statement also counted TransCanada among its clients. The document was harshly criticized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nebraska Legislature plans special session on Keystone XL project

The L.A.Times

October 24, 2011, 6:10 pm

The action throws a potentially significant new stumbling block into a Canadian company’s hope of winning approval before the end of the year for the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would move diluted bitumen — often heavy in sulfur, nickel and lead — from Alberta to the Texas coast.

“The key decision for current pipeline discussions is the permitting decision that will be made by the Obama administration, which is why I have urged President Obama and Secretary of State [Hilary] Clinton to deny the permit,” the governor, a Republican, said in a statement Monday.

“However, I believe Nebraskans are expecting our best efforts to determine if alternatives exist. Therefore, I will be calling a special session of the Nebraska Legislature to have a thoughtful and thorough public discussion about alternative solutions that could impact the route of the pipeline in a legal and constitutional manner.”

St. Paul’s Dean Folds

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A brief summary-

#OWS protests have spread internationally and one such location is London, in particular the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral in what is called ‘The City’ near the London Stock Exchange.

Last week the Dean of St. Paul’s, the Rt. Rev. Graeme Knowles, announced that the Church would sue protestors to seek their removal.  This was rapidly followed by the resignations of 2 prominent subordinates- Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor, and part time chaplain, Rev. Fraser Dyer.

The struggle for St Paul’s

The anti-capitalist protest outside the gates of St Paul’s has sparked a moral battle inside the cathedral.

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious and Media Affairs Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph

7:00AM GMT 30 Oct 2011

The split tearing apart the nation’s church was not just damaging its reputation, but leaving its staff exhausted.

Martin Fletcher, the clerk of the works, who had given the initial advice for the cathedral to close, had been rushed to hospital in an ambulance after collapsing from stress. He is still on sick leave.

One figure who is understood to have taken a particularly dim view of Canon Fraser’s outbursts is the cathedral’s registrar, Nicholas Cottam, a retired Major-General.

He has, so far, managed to keep a low profile, but he is described as “the power behind the throne”, and central to convincing the dean to support evicting the protesters.

Having served as a Commanding Officer in Northern Ireland in the early Nineties, he is said to have acted as an enforcer who didn’t like the clergy stepping out of line.

The Dean and his former Canon Chancellor only live a few houses apart, but they have been pulled in different directions, with Dean Knowles being leant on by senior political and ecclesiastical figures, in addition to his registrar.

Senior figures at the City of London Corporation had decided that the protesters must be evicted, and backing from the cathedral Chapter was the last touch needed to give it moral authority.

As the fallout from the Chapter’s poor handling of the row has descended into an embarrassing debacle, it has cast the Church in an unflattering light.

The canons have been accused of selling out to the wishes of politicians rather than carrying out their gospel duties to care for the poor and downtrodden.

Others are incredulous that a great symbol of London has been closed for the first time since the Blitz because of health and safety concerns posed by the camp.

The Rt. Rev. Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, said that it was not just the public who were bemused by the closure.

“Cathedral deans I’ve spoken to are mystified as to why they would do it,” he said. “It’s made them look like idiots. Anyone who looks at the camp can see that it is complete nonsense to claim that it was done for health and safety.”

The health and safety report published on Monday listed “rope/guy-lines” and rodents among potential dangers posed by the presence of the camp.

Sources close to the Dean say that he was baffled as soon as he saw how weak the evidence was, and moved to have the building reopened as quickly as possible.

The cathedral charges £14.50 for entry and, with its restaurant and gift shop also shut, is estimated to have lost more than £100,000 in the week it was closed.

Today, the Dean has resigned.

Rowan Williams warns of ‘urgent issues’ raised by protests as third St Paul’s clergyman resigns

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has warned that “urgent” issues raised by the protesters at St Paul’s Cathedral must be properly addressed as the Dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, resigned.

By Victoria Ward, The Telegraph

2:55PM GMT 31 Oct 2011

Speaking publicly about the crisis for the first time, Dr. Williams added: “The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St Paul’s remain very much on the table and we need – as a Church and as society as a whole – to work to make sure that they are properly addressed.”

Dean Knowles said today: “It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my position as Dean of St. Paul’s was becoming untenable.

“In order to give the opportunity for a fresh approach to the complex and vital questions facing St. Paul’s, I have thought it best to stand down as dean, to allow new leadership to be exercised. I do this with great sadness, but I now believe that I am no longer the right person to lead the Chapter of this great cathedral.”

Yesterday, he addressed protesters at the camp, insisting that he was keen to listen and to answer their questions.

However, he looked distinctly uncomfortable on the podium and was heckled as he failed to answer why legal action had been sought.

He admitted that he found it “quite difficult” that the protesters assumed he did not share their views simply because he used different methods of expressing them. Just hours later, he advised the cathedral Chapter of his decision to step down.

Good.  He should be uncomfortable, the pompous hypocrite.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is technically the ‘second in command’ of The Church of England since it’s titular head is the British Sovereign.

What’s the matter with democracy?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The same as it’s always been.  The landed gentry, the aristocrats, the capitalists and 1 tenth of 1 percenters are worried that the unwashed rabble, the sans culottes, the rest of us are going to take away their ill-gotten gains through the sheer power of numbers.

As well they might.

Markets Slide After Surprise Referendum Is Set by Greece


Published: November 1, 2011

The proposed ballot will put Greek austerity measures – and potentially membership in the euro zone – to a popular vote for the first time, risking Mr. Papandreou’s political future and threatening even greater turmoil both among the countries that share the single currency and further afield.

His announcement sent tremors through Europe’s see-sawing markets on Tuesday, with bank stocks taking a particular hammering because of their exposure to Greek debt. At midday, the German DAX index was down by 5.3 per cent while the French CAC 40 had slipped by roughly 4.2 per cent. In Britain, which is not a member of the euro zone but trades heavily with continental Europe, the FTSE 100 index was down by around 3.2 percent.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is expected to speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone during the day on Tuesday to discuss the referendum, which took both leaders by surprise, Agence-France Presse reported. The French president was said to be “dismayed,” according to Le Monde, citing an unnamed confidant of Mr. Sarkozy.

Some analysts said the referendum was an invitation for instability. “When the debate is very passionate and things are tense, holding a referendum could be risky,” said Alexis Papahelas, the editor of the center-right daily Kathimerini.

If the referendum fails, he said, “we have a very big chance that the country would go into a disorderly default.”

A spokesman for the center-right New Democracy Party, Yiannis Michelakis, said a referendum was dangerous. Mr. Papandreou, he said, “has tossed Greece’s future in Europe in the air like a coin.”

“A nation is truly corrupt when, after having by degrees lost its character and liberty, it slides from democracy into aristocracy or monarchy; this is the death of the political body by decrepitude.”

Amoral Economics 101

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

More Thoughts On Weaponized Keynesianism

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

October 29, 2011, 2:20 pm

Economics, as I say often, is not a morality play. As far as creating aggregate demand is concerned, spending is spending – public spending is as good as but also no better than private spending, spending on bombs is as good as spending on public parks. As I pointed out not long ago, a perceived threat of alien invasion, by getting us to spend on anti-invasion measures, would quickly restore full employment, even though the spending would be on totally useless object.

It’s also worth noting that one of the main sources of evidence that fiscal expansion really does stimulate the economy comes from tracking the effects of changes in defense spending. That’s true of Depression-era studies like Almunia et al, and also of several of the studies described in the Romer and Romer lecture on fiscal policy. Why the focus on defense? Two reasons, actually. One is that in practice defense spending is what moves: the fact is that large-scale stimulus programs consisting of domestic spending basically don’t happen, while wars and arms races do.

And the evidence clearly shows that weaponized Keynesianism works – which means that Keynesianism in general works.

(T)here’s the general fear on the part of conservatives that if you admit that the government can do anything useful other than fighting wars, you open the door to do-gooding in general; that explains why conservatives have always seen Keynesianism as a dangerous leftist doctrine even though that makes no sense in terms of the theory’s actual content. On top of that there’s the Kalecki point that admitting that the government can create jobs undermines demands that policies be framed to cater to all-important business confidence.

That said, there’s also the Keynes/coalmines point: there’s a strong tendency to take any spending that looks like a business proposition – building bridges or tunnels, supporting solar energy or mass transit – and demanding that it appear to be a sound investment in terms of its financial return. This makes most such spending look bad, since almost by definition a depressed economy is one in which businesses aren’t seeing good reasons to invest. Defense gets exempted because nobody expects bombs to be a good business proposition.

The moral here should be that spending to promote employment in a depressed economy should not be viewed as something that has to generate a good financial return; in effect, most of the resources being used are in reality free.

You may discuss more productive uses of government investment below, though you should be prepared for the argument that other activities which reduce the surplus population (plagues, famines, eating babies, etc.) also produce beneficial economic results.

Progressive Realists

A Third Way Manifesto for the 1%

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette


by Jay Ackroyd, Eschaton

at 19:48 Friday, October 28, 2011

The president, and the Democrat’s Senate leadership, reject movement liberalism. The ideology they follow is grounded in the impact of globalization on world capital and labor markets. They believe the US has to reduce labor costs to be competitive as capital flows freely around an interconnected world-that it is unrealistic, “neo-populist” to think the middle class can be preserved. But they also recognize that the middle class is not gonna be happy with these necessary, painful policies:

THE NEW RULES ECONOMY: A Policy Framework for the 21st Century (pdf)

The Third Way Middle Class Project

A Third Way Report by Anne Kim, Adam Solomon, Bernard L. Schwartz, Jim Kessler, and Stephen Rose

February 2007

We urge a different approach, which we call “progressive realism.” Realism means recognizing and understanding the economy’s new rules while accepting the limits of government’s power to stop the forces of change. But as progressives, we also believe that government policies-if modernized and adapted to the rules of the 21st century-can create the optimal conditions for increasing economic growth, expanding middle-class prosperity and protecting those who fall behind.
As progressive realists, we do not doubt that change is disruptive and, for many people, painful. Globalization has made many jobs obsolete, and both companies and individuals have been hurt by its impact. As the neopopulists note, all is not well with the middle class. But we also see the current era of change as one of tremendous opportunity and potential for the middle class.

This belief that New Deal liberalism is obsolete is combined with a belief that good policy-making is inconsistent with democratic institutions-that you need to rely on policy experts operating in good faith in the best interests of the country, without elbows being joggled by cranky neo-populists or nutty movement conservtives. And those experts, who can be found at the highest reaches of successful corporations should be brought into government, because they understand how this new global economy works. These leaders need to be brought into partnership with the US government, and hard-headed, realistic policy crafted, so that the US can continue to be the dominant world power.

Note that a central theme here is that it is above partisanship-that the experts, left alone, will best do their work. When you use that frame, then the health care negotiation makes sense. These negotiations took place not with politicians, but with the large service providers, because those stakeholders are the real experts and will keep us out of distracting, distorting partisanship. It makes sense that we turn to the money center banks as the mechanism for minimizing the contraction-they’re the pros who have risen, through merit and diligence, to their positions.

It’s not about Obama per se. It’s about a political philosophy, an ideology that rejects core Democratic values about the government’s role in protecting the citizenry from powerful private interests. It’s not twelve dimensional chess. It’s not cowardice or “caving” or bad messaging, or that the Democrats don’t know how to negotiate.

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