Daily Archive: 09/18/2013

Sep 18 2013

Urgent Soul Crushing Breaking News

The Crunchy Center

Sheer Accumulation of Breathless Wrongness

How large is this building?  What about that one?

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Sep 18 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For

The progressive Democrats of the Senate got Larry Summers to withdraw from consideration for chair of the Federal Reserve over the weekend. So now they’re yellin’ for Yellen. Well, folks Janet Yellen the current vice chair of the Federal Reserve is just the distaff version of Larry minus the misogyny.

Huffington Post‘s senior political economy reporter Zach Carter gives a rundown of Ms. Yellen’s policy history before and during her tenure as chair of Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration. During that time she backed the repeal of the landmark Glass-Steagall bank reform, supported the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement and pressured the government to develop a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security. Yes, dears, that last one would be an earlier version of the Chained CPI.

But in the 1990s, Yellen and Summers both served in the Clinton administration, and pursued many of the same policies. Yellen began serving as Chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1997, and publicly endorsed repealing Glass-Steagall’s separation between traditional bank lending and riskier securities trading during her Senate confirmation hearing. Yellen referred to deregulating banking as a way to “modernize” the financial system, and indicated that breaking down Glass-Steagall could be the beginning of a process allowing banks to merge with other commercial and industrial firms. [..]

At the same event, Yellen endorsed establishing a new statistical metric that would allow the federal government to reduce Social Security payments over time, by revising the consumer price index, or CPI, the government’s standard measurement for inflation. [..]

Before Yellen joined the Clinton administration, she was a respected economist at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1993, she joined dozens of other academics in signing a letter to Clinton advocating for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The letter was signed by prominent conservative economists including Milton Friedman, but also by many economists who are now considered progressive, including Paul Krugman and former Obama adviser Christina Romer. Krugman has since expressed disappointment with some of the trade pact’s effects.

(all emphasis mine)

The full transcript of Ms. Yellen’s Feb. 5, 1997 conformation hearing can be read here (pdf).

To be fair on the Glass-Steagall repeal, Ezra Klein weighed in at his Washington Post Wonkblog:

Another point here is that Glass-Steagall really wasn’t behind the crisis. Wonkblog’s Glass-Steagall explainer has much more detail on this, but perhaps the simplest way to make the point is to quote Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the lead sponsor behind the bill to restore Glass-Steagall. When Andrew Ross Sorkin asked her whether the law would’ve prevented the financial crisis or JP Morgan’s subsequent losses, she said, “the answer is probably ‘No’ to both.” There are good reasons to bring back Glass-Steagall, but they’re separate from the events of 2007 and 2008.

Which is only to say that supporting the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1997 doesn’t say that much about somebody’s opinions on regulating Wall Street today. And, in general, we don’t know very much about Janet Yellen’s views on the subject. As I’ve argued before, the support for her on this dimension (as opposed to on the monetary policy dimension) really comes from an anybody-but-Summers impulse.

Carter also noted in his article that Ms. Yellen is more consumer friendly. During her tenure as president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve from June 14, 2004 until 2010, she identified the housing bubble and urged stronger regulation to limit its damage.

This still leaves a lot of questions about whether she would support the chained CPI, that is very unpopular among seniors and the public in general, or support regulation to rein in the TBTF banks. As lambert at Corrente puts it:

“Be careful what you wish for; you might get it” was made for situations like this.

So let’s not confuse a solid base hit with a game-winning grand slam, OK?

Sep 18 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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Bryce Covert; Larry Summers Is Out, but the Boys’ Club Is as In as Ever

The thing is, increasing diversity isn’t easy, and it’s not just because the pipeline of talented women pushing for the top sometimes runs dry. It’s because men have dominated the upper echelons of society, be it policymaking or otherwise, for centuries, and therefore bringing in more women means reaching outside the close at hand, the people you already know, those who you might already be friends with.

Obama has a boys’ club problem. Larry Summers was reportedly playing golf with the president while the debate raged about who would get the pick. We can be sure that Yellen didn’t get such access-of the sixteen people who most frequently play golf with the president, not a single one is a woman. Every journalist has given off-the-record access to is a man. And then there’s the famous photo of a nearly all-male group of senior advisers briefing the president, except for the leg of Valerie Jarrett. In some ways it’s understandable that most of the people who surround the president are men. Many of the already powerful and successful in this country are. But a commitment to diversity has to be proactive, going beyond the boundaries of the in club to find those who haven’t been invited yet.

Rebecca Manski: Wall Street’s Long, Occupied History

Today marks the beginning of the third year since Occupy Wall Street activists got off the Internet and began their real-world occupation at Zuccotti Park. Inspired by the home of the Egyptian revolution at Tahrir Square – tahrir means “Liberty” in Arabic – the new occupiers restored the park’s original name, Liberty Plaza. (Some also called it “Liberty Square.”) In the two months of the occupation, many thousands of people came from far and wide to converge on that magnetic, contested space.

Zuccotti Park was first called “Liberty Plaza” for good reason. It’s situated in a neighborhood that has been the site of struggles for liberation ever since European colonists first arrived. Occupy added one more chapter to an area already steeped in a history of resistance.

Zoƫ Carpenter: Poverty Rate and Income Stagnate as Conservatives Attack the Safety Net

Exactly five years since the onset of the financial crisis, income data released this morning by the Census Bureau indicates that the spike in poverty triggered by the recession has become the status quo. Middle-class incomes are stagnant, too.  

The numbers come as House Republicans move to kick as many as 4 million Americans off food stamps by cutting $40 billion from the program. In their budget proposals, conservatives are also proposing to maintain the deep sequestration reductions that have cut tens of thousands of young children out of Head Start, as well as childcare assistance, Meals On Wheels for seniors, unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.

Roxanne Gay: Reading the Stakes in Syria

The world is a fragile and often incomprehensible place. Syria has been embroiled in a civil conflict since March 2011. According to United Nations estimates, more than 60,000 are dead. There are 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought safety in neighboring countries. The Assad regime offers no indication it will cede power and the rebel opposition may not provide a viable alternative if they defeat Assad.

The Syrian conflict is complicated by so much circumstance. World leaders don’t want a repeat of the Iraq war but they also don’t want to sit idly by, bearing silent and impotent witness so that another genocide on the scale of what happened in Bosnia occurs. Syria is, unfortunately, not so much a country in the minds of many. It is a political problem or opportunity and most of the proposed solutions to the Syria problem serve the interests of everyone but the Syrian people.

Ana Marie Cox: All the news that Syria made unfit to print

When one story dominates the news cycle for days on end, it’s not just tedious; we’re also less well-informed on crucial issues

In the past few weeks, the western world has received a crash course about Syria, its sectarian conflicts, and the world’s skittish alignment around those issues. Last week, the Pew Center for People and the Press found that 68% of those polled were following news about Syria either “very closely” or “fairly closely”. (Perhaps we will get better at finding it on a map!”) [..]

And, of course, the newfound interest in this years-old cataclysm has meant that loud but flawed coverage of Syria pushed out of the spotlight other, compelling, and just as important stories. This is perhaps a glass-teat-half-empty point of view. Lord knows, it’s better that people know more about humanitarian crises than less. But it’s also important to know what’s slipped through the cracks, as Americans have been staring into the abyss.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: GOP madness on display

Five years after the onset of the worst financial collapse in our history, we still have not recovered. President Obama used the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse to remind Americans of the “perfect storm” he inherited, and of the steps he took to save the economy from free fall, rescue the auto industry and save the financial system. [..]

Obama used this backdrop to set the terms of the coming debate on the budget. The Republican right is once more gearing up to hold America hostage, threatening to shut down the government or default on our debts to get its way.

The House and Senate Republican leaders want more deep cuts in spending that will cost jobs, and cut investments vital to our future in everything from education to R&D. For the tea-party right led by Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, that’s not sufficient. Backed by deep-pocket outside groups like the Club for Growth, they are calling for shutting down the government unless Obamacare is defunded.

Sep 18 2013

On This Day In History September 18

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.

September 18 is the 261st day of the year (262nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 104 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

Sep 18 2013

A Plea From a Trauma Surgeon: Put My Trauma Center Out of Business

In the aftermath of another mass shooting that took the lives of 12 people and the gunman in the heart of the nation’s capital at the Washington Naval Yard, Washington Hospital Center Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowsi, a trauma surgeon spoke to the press. After reporting on the status of the victims who were being treated at her hospital, Dr. Orlowsi made a powerful plea for gun control.

You know what, we see a lot of trauma. And you know, sometimes it’s just, you know – accidents that occur that we get to help people with, because they’re accidents. And then you see what I call senseless trauma. And there is – there’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.

   I – I have to say, I may see this everyday, I may, you know, be the Chief Medical Officer of a very large trauma center. But there’s something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries. There is something wrong. and the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get rid of it.

   I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this. We are – we do it well. Very experienced surgeons. But, quite frankly, I would rather they were doing their surgery on other things. And you know, it’s a great city. It’s a great country. And we have to work together to get rid of this. Because we just cannot have, you know, one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed.

   We’ve got to figure this out. We’ve got to be able to help each other. We’re dealing right now with three innocent people. But my prayers and my thoughts go out to those people who have died as a result of today. And, you know, their families and what they’re going to have to go through. So I have to say, you know, it’s a challenge to all of us. Let’s get rid of this. This is not America. This is not Washington D.C. This is not good. So we have got to work to get rid of this.