Boehner Trade Plan: Go Back To Disaster

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) gave a speech yesterday describing his party’s positions on jobs & the economy going into the fall election. Summary: Our economic policies destroyed the country’s economy and millions of lives, but it made a few of my buddies really REALLY rich, so let’s do more of it.
I write about the specifics of Boehner’s call to return to disastrous trade policies below, but first I just have to say a few words about his economic ideas in general and how utterly wrong they are. In the speech Boehner said we have an “economy stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending.” But according to FOX News’ Wall Street Journal, yesterday the CBO reported that “the impact of the stimulus program estimated … the plan lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points.” In addition, the Washington Post reported, “The CBO said the act also increased the nation’s gross domestic product by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent in the second quarter, indicating that the stimulus may have been the primary source of growth in the U.S. economy.”
Boehner also said that “each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector.” This is the old “taxes take money out of the economy” argument, which is intended to trick people into thinking that the money just disappears instead of being used to pay for the schools, courts, agencies and infrastructure that enable businesses to thrive and drive the country’s prosperity. If you think that President Eisenhower’s spending on the Interstate Highway System “took money out of the economy” you really need to see someone about your problems and not take them out of the rest of us.
Taking direct shots at democracy, Boehner complained about “big government” — namely We, the People making decisions instead of a few wealthy corporate owners making decisions for us — and said, “As Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, recently said, “You’d really be amazed at how much government you’d never miss.” Boehner really has a problem with this whole “We, the People” thing.
Boehner on Trade
Boehner wants to go back to the trade policies that brought us massive job losses and trade deficits. In the speech he called for “passing free-trade agreements” with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. He doesn’t mention what is IN these agreements, only calls for passing them. These trade agreements were negotiated by the Bush administration. Here are charts showing the Bush administration’s record:

Manufacturing_job_decline_China_0.jpg


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This is bad enough, but these “free trade” agreements create a worldwide race to the bottom, allowing companies to bypass the protections that democracies fought to provide for their citizens, pitting exploited, low-wage workers against citizens in democracies, forcing wages and standards ever lower.
These “free trade” agreements need to be reviewed and reformed, so they protect wages, the environment., worker’s rights and small businesses around the world. We have a chance to lift each other up instead of push each other down. In February I wrote about Whirlpool closing a refrigerator plant in Evansville, moving the jobs to Mexico where workers are paid $70 a week. The problem is that Mexican Workers Paid $70/Week Can’t Buy Refrigerators! If they were paid decent wages, we could sell things we make to them, while they sell things they make to us. But if we follow Boehner’s trade ideas everyone just gets poorer and eventually the economy stops.
Oh, wait, we DID follow Boehner’s trade plans, and everyone DID get poorer, and the economy DID stop! But a few of his buddies got really REALLY rich. So he wants to do more of that.
This speech by Boehner is just more calling for a return to the policies of the past: we’ve been seeing the trade deficit soaring in the last few months, as the economy tries to go back to old economy. China is 96% of our trade deficit. Boehner sayting lets go back to the path we followed when we were borrowing $2 billion a day, it took away 2.8% growth in 1st quarter, sapping the recovery. This notion that Boehner calling for continuing course shows a perverse blindness to changes country has to make.
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Congress: Act Now To Preempt The Catfood Commission

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The President has appointed a commission to study ways to reduce the deficit, but the only thing anyone is hearing from this commission (they meet in secret) is that they are going after Social Security instead. For this reason it has become known as the “Catfood Commission” instead of the “Deficit Commission” because any reductions in benefits will force so many older Americans to eat catfood instead of more expensive human food.
Congress should preempt the commission from targeting Social Security by making it clear that they will not accept cuts or an increase in the retirement age.
Social Security cannot legally borrow, so it is not possible for it to add to the deficit at all. In fact it is entirely self-funded and has a huge surplus. But Presidents Reagan and the Bushes borrowed from Social Security to give those huge tax cuts to the rich, and the money is coming due. This is the reason Social Security is the focus of the commission instead of the things that actually caused the deficits and debt. They are trying to find ways to avoid having to pay that money back to Social Security. Congress should tell the commission to look at the real causes of the deficits and debt and not at Social Security which does not contribute to deficits and debt.
Every one of us knows that the deficits come from the tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases of recent decades. Those tax cuts were the direct cause of the deficit and debt problem. The military increases are a second cause of the problem. Social Security was never a cause of the problem — it isn’t allowed to borrow and instead ran a huge surplus. The clear way to fix the problem is to restore tax rates to pre-deficit levels and cut the military budget to pre-Cold War levels.
Representative Raul Grijalva, Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says that Congress should preempt the catfood commission by making it clear that they will not accept cuts in Social Security. In fact the program actually needs to be expanded. In a call today, Grijalva said, (from notes)

“Long term we should be promoting preservation, strengthening Social Security now instead of playing hide-the-ball to see what commission does. It is ironic that all we hear from the commission is Social Security, but nothing about taxation of upper 2 percent, and other things are off the books like the wars, and the trillions of deficit spending they caused. Nothing should be off the table. Defense spending and taxation have to be part of it, we have to close corporate loopholes, address corporate taxation, royalty relief for use of public lands. At what point do we repeal tax cuts?”
“It took a long time to build this debt. We should conquer the deficit over 10 years or so. There are ways to do that. But Social Security is one important issue that should be taken off the table, it does not add to debt. It should not be a factor.”
Members of Congress should state NOW they will not support cuts in Social Security, and pre-empt what the commission might say, state their opinions now. They wold be wise to represent constituents on this. There is no risk attached to doing that.

Members of Congress are asked to take a pledge to protect Social Security. The pledge reads:

Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to it. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. If you pay in, then you earn the right to benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependent children when you retire, experience a severe disability, or die.

Click here to see who has taken the pledge, and please call your member of Congress and Senators and ask them to take the pledge.
Also, please visit Strengthen Social Security where you can sign up for information, and to follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

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Depression Analogy

Is it possible that we are in a period like the Hoover period, when the government didn’t do anything about unemployment and other concerns of the public, instead following the prescriptions of Wall Street as things got worse and worse?
It seems that our policymakers live a life that is too far removed from what the public is feeling to understand how bad things are. Washington DC is a bubble of relative prosperity.

DC Elites Pushing Korea Trade Pact

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The way a lobbyist argues for or against anything today is to say it will create or cost jobs.
Prohibiting lawsuits against giant corporations that harm people creates jobs. Making oil drilling safer costs jobs. Tax cuts for the rich creates jobs. Just getting rid of government will create jobs.
So, of course, we hear now that passing the South Korea trade pact will create jobs. From the Washington Post today.

…administration officials estimate the deal could mean more than $10 billion annually in increased U.S. exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs.

Maybe, and maybe not. South Korea currently has high tariffs and other restrictions on American goods, so a trade pact that gets rid of these tariffs would increase American exports, creating American jobs. As the story says,

[South Korea] remains in some ways a closed shop with extensive tariffs, a paltry share of its large auto market devoted to imports, and a notorious set of non-tariff barriers that has prompted companies such as Peoria-based Caterpillar to complain that their products are routinely excluded for minor regulatory problems.

But …

Skeptics of the proposed agreement include some major corporate interests such as Ford Motor Co., which argues that the pact isn’t aggressive enough in trying to open the South Korean market. Ford officials, for instance, noted that imports now represent less than 5 percent of South Korea’s auto market.
Unions, environmental advocacy groups and other organizations, meanwhile, are urging Obama to keep his campaign promises and stiffen the terms for South Korean access to the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, Pork Magazine writes,

The latest supporter is South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo, who has assumed the unusual role of a foreign official promoting U.S. jobs. “This is an opportunity to stimulate the U.S. economy at no cost to U.S. taxpayers,” he says.

The Koreans are telling us how good this pact will be for us? That is a warning sign. Their job is to take care of (certain interests in) Korea. Our government’s job should be to take care of our interests – meaning ours – We, the People – not the interests of a few wealthy executives and major owners of a few big, multinational corporations.
There are jobs and then there are jobs. There are good jobs that raise living standards and enable people to buy things others make, and there are low-paying jobs that companies use to extort concessions from workers and communities that create a worldwide race to the bottom. And there are trade deals and then there are trade deals. There are trade deals that help working people on both sides of a trade boundary. And there are trade deals that allow companies to ship jobs overseas and evade the protections our democracy has fought so hard to build.
This trade deal was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. This (along with the South Korean ambassador pushing this treaty as good for America) is a warning flag if every there was one. The Center for Economic and Policy Research writes,

The trade agenda of the United States had been about reducing barriers to trade in manufactured goods with the purpose of putting non-college educated workers in direct competition with much lower paid workers in other countries. The predicted and actual result of this policy is to reduce the pay of non-college educated workers, thereby increasing inequality in the United States. This is a policy of one-sided protectionism. It has nothing to do with “free trade.”

As I wrote last month: This is a test and an opportunity. Does the accord show a path to a new way of relating to trade that will help us and our partners? This Korean trade deal should be revised into a model for how we change our trade relations with countries like Korea and China. We can trade in ways that benefit both sides, not just one side.
I’ll be following this debate as it continues.
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Five Things People “Know”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The things that people “know” are very different from the “reality-based” things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.
I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to “regular” people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent “regular” people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people “know.” The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.
Some of the things that people “know” that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:
1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending “take money away” from and generally harm the economy.
2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama’s massive spending increase (Democrats “tax and spend”) is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.
3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.
4) “Entitlements” are welfare and are destroying people’s independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don’t turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.
5) Social Security is going broke and won’t be there for younger people.
Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people’s lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I’m not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.
So many of us — by “us” I mean people likely to be reading this — spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with “reality-based” information. But “regular” people do not follow the news closely, and the “news” they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out.
Why The Right Controls The Narrative
It’s simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)
Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right’s propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it — and then they repeat it.
But there is also the corporate-owned “mainstream” media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right’s narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim “ground-zero mosque” frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.
(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)
Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right’s frames and narratives.)
A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn’t have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.
I plan to write more about this.
I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people “know” and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.

And, while I’m showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can’t get it out of my head since writing “Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness” above…)

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Today’s Housing Bubble Post

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This is pretty important, because, as we know, when a huge housing bubble bursts it takes an economy down with it. China’s Coming Property Bust

So everyone recognizes that a correction must come soon, right? Not exactly. “I don’t see any bubbles,” 44-year-old Zhang Xin told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post ( SCHPY.PK – news – people ). “The next few months will be a fantastic time to buy.”
Really? There were, a few months ago, 64.5 million urban flats that showed no electricity usage for six consecutive months. That’s one in four city apartments, enough housing for some 200 million people. The value of vacant apartments held by speculators is about 15% of gross domestic product. Beijing’s bank stress tests assume a 60% fall in property prices. In fact, official statistics show that property price increases slowed in July.

64.5 million empty urban flats now, but,

And there is more bad news for the residential market. Property developers, who are already building 20 million flats, have company. Local governments are constructing another 20-30 million, and other government agencies and companies are also building housing for employees.

Real trouble ahead, if China doesn’t manage this properly.

Now We Know What Public Wants – Get Candidates On The Record

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Tomorrow is the 75th birthday of Social Security. It is the most successful government program, demonstrating that government of the people, by the people and for the people works. For this reason a new poll shows that politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation. Let’s get candidates on the record with a pledge to honor and protect this valuable program.
Yesterday in Social Security – A Divide Between DC And The Rest Of Us, I wrote about a new poll that shows that the public understands something that the DC elite don’t seem to get: The public gets it that the way to fix the deficit is to ask the rich to start paying taxes again, invest in infrastructure which provides jobs and enables businesses to prosper — and don’t touch Social Security benefits. (Click here for more on the poll.)
The clear message of the poll: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
So now it is time to get our politicians on the record. Campaign for America’s Future is asking candidates running for Congress to make this pledge: Hands off Social Security: No increase in the retirement age, no privatization, no Social Security cuts. Sign the petition to your member of Congress. And you can find out your member of Congress stands on Social Security. Use ourfuture.org/handsoffsocialsecurity to find out. And bookmark this page so you can come back and watch the list grow.
You can help us hold Congress accountable: Ask candidates to make the pledge and email promise@ourfuture.org with the answer.
And again: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
Here are some useful websites for engaging in this fight to save Social Security:
Click here for more on the poll.
Click here to see which members of Congress have signed the “Hands Off Social Security!” pledge
Click here to sign the petition: Hands Off Social Security!
Click here to visit Strengthen Social Security … don’t cut it.
One more time: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
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Republican Unreality

I wrote earlier that Republicans are complaining that Obama is not cleaning up the terrible mess they made fast enough, so people should vote for them.
Now Newt Gingrich writes that “many firms are having trouble filling job openings.”
He actually writes that we should not provide unemployment checks to people because,

So there are actually many jobs out there that need to be filled. Yet, in the worst recession since the Great Depression, many employers can’t make hires.

This is an example of someone who spends so much time with millionaires and DC elites that he is unable to even begin to understand the country. I mean, who dies he think agrees with this stuff, except other wealthy Republicans?