Daily Archive: 11/20/2013

Nov 20 2013

Charge Banks for Not Spending the Money

Now here’s an interesting idea put forth by none other than President Barack Obama’s former chief economic adviser Larry Summers to get the large banks to invest the money in the economy, charge the banks for not spending. At a recent International Monetary Fund conference, Summers proposed that the Federal Reserve should charge banks a negative interest rate for stashing cash, much like the European Central Bank is considering, as a way to ward off another recession or sinking further into a full blown economic depression. Supposedly, this would force the banks to put the money to work in the economy. Some economic writers consider this an act of desperation but as Marl Gongloff at Huffington Post explains the times are already getting desperate

Slashing rates well below zero to make it painful not to spend money is the desperate approach to avoiding an economic depression recently endorsed by Larry Summers, President Obama’s former top economic advisor and one-time pick to run the Federal Reserve. With economic growth likely to be weak for the next infinity, the job market stubbornly awful and inflation disappearing, central bankers around the world have been toying with the idea for a while. Every day it gets closer to being a reality.  [..]

. . . St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told Bloomberg TV he thought the Fed should consider making U.S. banks pay money to park cash, too. He’s been saying this for more than a year, but the idea is slowly gaining more credence.

That is because, even though the Fed has had a ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) in place for nearly five years now, that has not been enough to get the economy up to full speed. [..]

But even that might not be enough: Some economists think interest rates should be much, much lower than zero: Maybe negative four percent, before adjusting for inflation. Summers recently warned that the U.S. and other big economies could be in a near-permanent state of malaise — like Japan since the 1990s — because interest rates are still too high even at zero. Many liberal economists, including Paul Krugman, think sharply negative interest rates could be the only way to deal with this.

Larry Summers at IMF Economic Forum, Nov. 8

There may be some loud noise emanating from the banks and Wall Street but since congress is stuck on the austerity train wreck, this could be a way for the Federal Reserve to kick start some stimulus. With Summers behind it, it just might be the last desperate solution.  

Nov 20 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Oklahoma is schooling the nation on early education

In the richest country in the world, the poorest among us are children. [..]

What gets lost in the hype about K-12 education reform, and the unhealthy obsession with things like standardized tests and charter schools, are a child’s crucial early years. Research from Stanford University (pdf) shows that the gap in language proficiency between low-income and high-income children starts as early as 18 months and compounds over time as poorer children enter kindergarten less prepared than their wealthier peers and find it hard to catch up.

To stand idle in the face of these facts is to allow millions of children to fall behind in school before they even start. We can do better – and Oklahoma can show us how.

Heidi Moore: Reality check: Obamacare is not to blame for Walmart’s sluggish sales

Corporations love using Obamacare as a scapegoat for poor performance, even though the numbers don’t support that at all

The thing is, this search for a financial scapegoat is a pattern, the kind of fantasist imagining best dreamed up while the corporate jet – of which Walmart has 19 – sits idle on the tarmac.

Walmart, once a Wall Street darling, has spent all year exuding excuses for its disappointing financial performance in the same way that an isotope of uranium emits radiation. In January, Walmart’s bete noire was the payroll tax. In June, it was government uncertainty. In the fall, it was cuts to food stamps. This week, it’s Obamacare.

Two things Walmart has reliably avoided mentioning: that rivals like Costco and Family Dollar have been doing pretty well all year, which undermines all the conspiracy theories, and that Walmart has been struggling with its own divisive labor issues. One of those labor issues – its infamously low pay – has led some Walmart stories to start a food drive, asking workers to donate food to their own colleagues.

Zoë Carpenter: CEOs With Massive Retirement Fortunes Push Social Security Cuts

With budget negotiations on the horizon, a buzz is building around Social Security, from Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats calling for an expansion of benefits to The Washington Post arguing that seniors must be sacrificed for the good of the “poor young.”

Two of the biggest players in the debate are largely behind the scenes: Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt, corporate lobbies that use deficit fear-mongering to sell benefit cuts. These groups are made up of CEOs of America’s largest corporations-people with retirement accounts that are more than 1,000 times as large as those of the average Social Security beneficiary. [..]

Saving more is an increasingly unworkable solution for the millions of workers whose wages and benefits are being undercut by some of the same CEOs directing them to do so. As the report lays out, many of the most effective ways to strengthen Social Security involve asking more of executives, not employees. Eliminating the cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes (currently set at $113,700) would eliminate 95 percent of the projected shortfall for seventy-five years, according to the Congressional Research Service. That’s three times the deficit reduction achieved by raising the retirement age to 70. Subjecting stock-based compensation to Social Security taxes would raise billions more.

Michelle Chen: Chinatown: the next front in the gentrification war

Chinatowns across the US are being replaced by ‘development’. For those fighting back, it’s about civil rights not just culture

There will always be a little corner of the American public imagination reserved for Chinatown. Whether the word evokes for you the stereotypical mystique of opium dens and gambling halls, or the gritty restaurants and garment factories that fueled generations of working-class immigrant families, Chinatown, as a cultural idea, seems to endure through the generations as a place of wonder, chaos, and cultural hybridity. But the real, brick-and-mortar Chinatown is vanishing rapidly, as its people, traditions and cultural life are swept away by what some call “development”. [..]

While gentrification has invaded many low-income areas in New York, its impacts are perhaps most starkly apparent in this neighborhood, which began over a century ago as a ghetto for mostly male migrant laborers, and has over the past generation morphed into one of the city’s hottest real estate markets. That transformation has come at the expense of the people and institutions who have anchored generations of Chinese American heritage. As immigrant families are expelled through mass evictions and spiking rents, in their wake comes an onslaught of white young professionals, forming a hyper-commercialized cityscape that billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed. Big property values, little character.

A recent study of three Chinatowns in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia starkly maps out gentrification’s effects in crowding out once tight-knit ethnic communities.

Ana Marie Cox: On healthcare, Obama is starting to sound like a misbehaving boyfriend

The GOP has popular opinion trending on on its side for the first time in years, and they will run this issue into the ground

Yesterday’s press conference saw Obama at his least compelling: the burdened genius mode, in which he shows clear frustration with others’ inability to follow his logic and shows little sympathy for those who don’t share his faith in his own vision.

In general, Obama’s personal reactions to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout have resembled those of misbehaving boyfriend. “I’m sorry you feel that way” instead of a real apology and “I meant it when I said it” instead of an explanation.

Along those lines, the press conference was in many ways a master class in mansplaining. His arrogance peeled off another layer of cool, and he seemed genuinely surprised that the American people could seriously accused him of intentionally misleading the country:

Catherine Deveny: Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world

It’s time to drop the slogan. It encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled, it alienates fathers and discourages other significant relationships between children and adults

Being a mother is not the most important job in the world. There, I said it. Nor is it the toughest job, despite what the 92% of people polled in Parents Magazine reckon.

For any woman who uses that line, consider this: if this is meant to exalt motherhood, then why is the line always used to sell toilet cleaner? And if being a mother is that important, why aren’t all the highly paid men with stellar careers not devoting their lives to raising children? After all, I never hear “being a father is the most important job in the world”.

The deification of mothers not only delegitimises the relationship fathers, neighbours, friends, grandparents, teachers and carers have with children, it also diminishes the immense worth and value of these relationships. How do gay dads feel about this line, I wonder? Or the single dads, stepdads or granddads? No matter how devoted and hard working you are, fellas, you’ll always be second best.

   

Nov 20 2013

So you think this is not happening…

and hasn’t been happening right along?  Just a few “professional leftist” malcontents?

Bad policy is bad politics and “but the other guys are worse” only goes so far.

Obama hits new low with Dems

By Amie Parnes, The Hill

November 20, 2013, 06:00 am

President Obama’s relationship with congressional Democrats has worsened to an unprecedented low, Democratic aides say.

They are letting it be known that House and Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated, bitter and angry with the White House over ObamaCare’s botched rollout, and that the president’s mea culpa in a news conference last week failed to soothe any ill will.

Sources who attended a meeting of House chiefs of staff on Monday say the room was seething with anger over the immense damage being done to the Democratic Party and talk was of scrapping rollout events for the Affordable Care Act.



“Is he even more unpopular than George W. Bush? I think that’s already happened,” said one Democratic chief of staff.



But as the healthcare problems continue to persist, lawmakers in swing districts aren’t sure that’s the best idea, especially because, according to one Democrat, “systemically you have what is a long-term problem.”

“It wouldn’t be helpful,” the Senate aide said. “Maybe he can help raise some money for Democrats, but that’s the extent of it.”

Democrats say the biggest favor Obama can do for them at the moment is to focus on untangling the web and trying to smooth out the glitches on healthcare.

“The only way he can really make it up to us is by fixing this s–t,” one Democratic House aide said.

Electoral victory my ass.

The Obamacare albatross for congressional Democrats

By Sean Sullivan, Washington Post

November 19 at 10:55 am

Nearly four in 10 voters (39 percent) say they would be more likely to oppose a candidate for Congress who supports the law. Just under a quarter (23 percent) say they would be more likely to support a candidate who backs the law, according to the survey. Thirty-six percent of voters say a candidate’s position on Obamacare would not make a difference in their vote.

The support/oppose gap is much wider than it’s ever been in Post-ABC polling, including four months before the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans made historic gains. In that July 2010 poll, voters split, with 39 percent saying they would be more likely to support a candidate who backed health-care reform and 37 percent saying they were more likely to oppose. In July 2012, the support/oppose split was an even 28 percent among voters.

Obama Job Approval Drops To Lowest Point Ever, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Health Care Act Won’t Improve Health Care, Voters Say

Quinnipiac University

November 12, 2013

American voters disapprove 54 – 39 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, his lowest approval rating in any Quinnipiac University national poll since he became president, as even women disapprove 51 – 40 percent, according to a national poll released today.

Today’s results compare to a slight 49 – 45 percent disapproval October 1. President Obama’s lowest score before today was a 55 – 41 percent disapproval in an October 6, 2011 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Today, disapproval is 58 – 37 percent among men, 91 – 6 percent among Republicans and 63 – 30 percent among independent voters. Democrats approve 79 – 14 percent. White voters disapprove 62 – 32 percent while black voters approve 75 – 15 percent and Hispanic voters disapprove by a slim 47 – 41 percent margin.

Voters in every income and age group disapprove of the job Obama is doing, with the biggest disapproval, 59 – 36 percent, among voters over 65 years old.

For the first time today, American voters say 52 – 44 percent that Obama is not honest and trustworthy. His previous lowest marks on honesty were May 30, when 49 percent of voters said he was honest and 47 percent said he wasn’t.

This is what Neo-Liberal policies get you, you “third way” centrists.  You are in the center of nothing except Beltway Bubbledom Village Courtier opinion bought and paid for by by your corporate masters.

Nov 20 2013

On This Day In History November 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 20 is the 324th day of the year (325th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 41 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1945, Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

Origin

British War Cabinet documents, released on 2 January 2006, have shown that as early as December 1944, the Cabinet had discussed their policy for the punishment of the leading Nazis if captured. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had then advocated a policy of summary execution in some circumstances, with the use of an Act of Attainder to circumvent legal obstacles, being dissuaded from this only by talks with US leaders later in the war. In late 1943, during the Tripartite Dinner Meeting at the Tehran Conference, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, proposed executing 50,000-100,000 German staff officers. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, joked that perhaps 49,000 would do. Churchill denounced the idea of “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country.” However, he also stated that war criminals must pay for their crimes and that in accordance with the Moscow Document which he himself had written, they should be tried at the places where the crimes were committed. Churchill was vigorously opposed to executions “for political purposes.” According to the minutes of a Roosevelt-Stalin meeting during the Yalta Conference, on February 4, 1945, at the Livadia Palace, President Roosevelt “said that he had been very much struck by the extent of German destruction in the Crimea and therefore he was more bloodthirsty in regard to the Germans than he had been a year ago, and he hoped that Marshal Stalin would again propose a toast to the execution of 50,000 officers of the German Army.

US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., suggested a plan for the total denazification of Germany; this was known as the Morgenthau Plan. The plan advocated the forced de-industrialisation of Germany. Roosevelt initially supported this plan, and managed to convince Churchill to support it in a less drastic form. Later, details were leaked to the public, generating widespread protest. Roosevelt, aware of strong public disapproval, abandoned the plan, but did not adopt an alternate position on the matter. The demise of the Morgenthau Plan created the need for an alternative method of dealing with the Nazi leadership. The plan for the “Trial of European War Criminals” was drafted by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and the War Department. Following Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, the new president, Harry S. Truman, gave strong approval for a judicial process. After a series of negotiations between Britain, the US, Soviet Union and France, details of the trial were worked out. The trials were set to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Nov 20 2013

While you are distracted by the ACA

In Afghanistan: ‘Security Deal’ Means US Occupation Forever

Sarah Lazare, staff writer Common Dreams

Published on Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Days before the so-called bi-lateral security agreement heads to an Afghan council of elders and political leaders for a final decision, the U.S. is attempting to force through a stipulation that would allow U.S. troops to continue raiding Afghan homes, in addition to measures giving U.S. troops and contractors immunity from Afghan law and extending U.S. military presence far beyond Obama’s 2014 pullout date.



The U.S. is pushing for the right to enter Afghan homes over the apparent objection of Afghan negotiators. “We believe it is not only the violation of the Afghan sovereignty, but also of the basic rights of the Afghan people,” said President Hamid Karzai’s spokesperson Aimal Faizi on Monday, referencing the U.S. demand to be allowed to enter Afghan homes.

This latest sticking point comes after attempts on the part of U.S. negotiators to ram through immunity for U.S. troops and independent contractors from Afghan law. According to (t)he Washington Post, the U.S. appears to have succeeded in including this immunity in an accord reached Saturday.



The Washington Post reports that a draft text of the agreement does not specify how many U.S. troops will be allowed to remain in Afghanistan, giving the U.S. unilateral power to determine this number. Furthermore, the document does not prohibit the U.S. from using Afghan territory to launch drone strikes against nearby Pakistan.

Leaked Draft Points To Endless War In Afghanistan

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Tuesday November 19, 2013 10:42 am

Despite constant public promises by President Obama and his administration that US forces were leaving Afghanistan in 2014 a draft of a US-Afghan security deal details plans for endless war in Afghanistan. Support for the war in Afghanistan is non-existent among the American public which rightly sees it as a waste of blood and treasure. The only ones benefiting at this point are opium dealers in Kabul and war profiteers in Washington.



This draft stands in stark contrast to public commitments Obama made to the American people wherein he declared “as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”



15,000 American troops indefinitely? That is the Afghans taking “full responsibility?” And how much will that cost since President Obama keeps searching for a Grand Bargain to cut even more spending on the backs of seniors and the poor. Currently the Afghanistan War is costing $1.7 billion a week – it’s the age of austerity for everything but pointless wars.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Obama Administration’s lack of imagination is only surpassed by its dishonesty. A war that is pointless even by American imperial standards will seemingly go on forever until strong enough opposition can be mustered here at home to stop this senseless killing and profligate spending.

The loya jirga which must ratify this agreement starts meeting on Thursday.  Hamid Karzai has indicated he will lobby in favor of immunity for US Troops and CIA and DOD Mercenaries but is unalterably opposed to allowing random home invasions.