For Jobs Obama Must Bypass Congress

Here is a fact about bipartisanship and civility in Washington: the Republicans in Congress will obstruct anything President Obama proposes to create jobs and help the economy, period. A bad economy helps them in the coming elections, and that is that. Deal with it. If you want to see results on jobs and economic growth you are going to have to get around a Republican House of Representatives intent on blocking jobs and growth. The President can and should “go big” and make dramatic proposals to Congress for job-creation. Doing so will draw contrasts so the public has a clear choice in the coming elections. Fortunately there are things the President can do right now, without the approval of Congress, that will have a big impact on job-creation now and in the future.
China Currency
China doesn’t buy from us nearly as much as it sells to us and this has cost us dearly. China manipulates its currency to give Chinese-manufactured goods a competitive advantage in world markets. In effect this subsidizes their products so they have a cost advantage of as much as 30-40% coming out the gate, even before other competitive factors come into play. This has created huge imbalances not just with us but across the world.
The biggest thing the President could do right now is declare China to be a currency manipulator. Doing so enables the administration to impose sanctions, including tariffs, that would remove any cost advantage China gains from their manipulation. This would have an effect on reversing the loss of American jobs, factories and industries to Chinese imports, and would be supported by the public.
The President should officially declare China to be the currency manipulator that it is, and impose tariffs as a remedy. That takes care of China’s advantage in US markets, and encourages other countries to take action, too.
With a level playing field our manufacturers can compete in world markets. Our government can take steps to help bring about such a level playing field, or to help our own companies against countries that do not play fair. This would tell companies that it is safe to manufacture here again, and our government will back them up.
But, But ,But…
There is concern about angering China when “we owe them so much money.” It is important to remember why we “owe them” money. We owe them money because we thought we had a trade deal with them. By definition a trade deal involves actual trade, which involves buying and selling. We bought from them and they were supposed to use the dollars we spent there to buy things from us. But they didn’t. The huge amount we “owe them” by definition means they didn’t live up to their part of the bargain. We should insist that they use those treasury notes they have accumulated to purchase US-made goods.
Other Actions That Don’t Require Congress
Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing wrote in The Hill last month that there are things the President can do without needing Congress’ approval:

There is plenty that President Obama could do on his own right now:
• Expedite small business loans through the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department to help firms expand, retool and hire.
• Convene a multilateral meeting to address global imbalances and in particular Chinese mercantilism. If China doesn’t agree to participate, designate it a currency manipulator. (China ships fully one-third of its exports to the U.S. and finances less than 10 percent of our public debt, so we have more leverage than some might suggest.)
• On the heels of the landmark agreement with automakers on fuel economy standards, secure an additional agreement from all foreign and domestic car companies to increase their levels of domestic content by at least 10 percent over the next three years.
• Direct the Department of Defense to leverage existing procurement to contractors that commit to increasing their domestic content of our military equipment, technology and supplies.
• Approve additional applications for renewable and traditional energy projects, contingent on the use of American materials in construction.
• Kick any CEO off of federal advisory boards or jobs councils who has: (1) not created net new American jobs over the past five years, or (2) is expanding the company’s foreign workforce at a faster rate than its domestic workforce. Replace them with CEOs who are committed to investing in America. Shame is a good motivator.

National Industrial Policy
Even long-term things like promising the development of a national industrial policy could have an immediate effect on jobs here and now. If companies know that the US government is going to stand behind them if they manufacture here, and enforce trade agreements, and aggressively push for balanced trade where our trading partners don’t just sell to us but also buy from us, they’ll put the US back into their manufacturing plans. If they know that the government understands and intends to assist key industries with tax policies, education and training policies, energy policies, infrastructure modernization,key research and development initiatives, and the other components of national strategy — which is what other governments do — they will know they are no longer going out to international markets alone, up against national systems.
By making it clear that our government is going to stand up for American manufacturers — and their employees — and won’t pull the rug out from under them again, companies will have a reason to change their strategies and start bringing these jobs back home.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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So You Want To Talk About Jobs?

Before leaving on vacation President Obama said he is going to talk about creating jobs in September. The latest word is he will give this speech next week. Campaign for America’s Future has put together some ideas for creating jobs. See our series Big Ideas To Get America Working:

The task is not simply to give the economy a stimulus, as if we were giving a charge to a dead car battery. We need to rebuild the engine and modernize the wiring, creating a new strategy for America in the global economy. We asked our writers and contributors to lay out the “big ideas” and framing you can use to push a jobs-first agenda to the forefront of the national debate.

Here is where we are: People need jobs and jobs fix deficits. We have to get people back to work and the American people deserve good-paying jobs, not just any new job at half the old wages. Lots and lots of regular people are not working or have settled for jobs that don’t offer enough hours or just don’t pay enough or provide benefits. And here’s a fact: people who are working are paying taxes, are not collecting unemployment and are less likely to be collecting food stamps, so putting people to work lowers deficits.
Of course people want their President to be reasonable and bipartisan and compromise to get things done, but more than that they want results. Mr.President, if you can’t get results any other way people want you to move the obstructers out of the way. Republicans in the Congress are blocking every effort to boost the economy and create new jobs – especially good-paying jobs. Many think they are doing this to sabotage Democratic chances in the coming elections.
Go Big
So, Mr. President, you have to take this to the public. Go big. Draw contrasts. Give the public a clear choice. You don’t have to propose something that Republicans will pass — because no matter what you propose, they won’t. Instead you have to bring forward proposals that will clearly put lots of Americans to work, so the public can decide what they want to do.
Above all, it is time to be reality-based in the approach. The country is sick of spin and propaganda and putting the best face on things. Reality and good policy are the best politics. Here are some “reality-based” ideas to help get this going.

  • Reality: Millions of Americans are out of work or are working in low-paying jobs and outside of the DC area it is not getting better.
  • Reality: Getting people back to work lowers deficits because they are paying taxes and require fewer government services.
  • Reality: Tariffs on goods made by exploited workers in exploited environments = jobs and good wages here. Our trade agreements have created huge trade deficits that are draining our economy. “Free trade” is a myth that has been used to drive wages down here, not to create trade partners who buy as much from us as they sell to us.
  • Reality: Other countries have national industrial/economic strategies. This means we increasingly send our companies out alone to compete with national systems and they won’t win that fight no matter how big they are.
  • Reality: Other countries use national domestic-content procurement policies, and we need a “Buy American” procurement policy.
  • Reality: For decades all income gains have gone to the top. This is distorting everything in our society and democracy.
  • Reality: Tax cuts for the rich cause deficits. They also incentivize predatory business models by rewarding get-rich-quick schemes over good, long-term, sustainable business strategies.
  • Reality: Climate change is real and it is serious and we have to address it. And addressing climate change means millions of green jobs will be created.

The same old same-old debt and bubble economy won’t work and got us into this mess. Last week in The Jobs Question, Robert Borosage described the problem:

Twenty-five million Americans are in need of full time work. One in four teenagers not in college can’t find a job. Wages aren’t keeping up with prices. Our trade deficit is rising, as more and more good jobs get shipped abroad. It’s projected that a staggering 48 percent of homes with mortgages could be underwater – worth less than the mortgage – by the end of the year.
Moreover, there is no recovery to an old, healthy economy. The old economy didn’t work for most Americans even when it was growing. The cancer was spreading before it metastasized in the financial panic. In the so-called Bush recovery years before the collapse, the few captured all the rewards of growth. The average income of the bottom 90% dropped. That economy was built on debt and bubbles. We were hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs and borrowing $2 billion a day from abroad. And we were in complete denial about global warming and the catastrophic climate changes that have already begun. We can’t recover to that old economy – and we wouldn’t want to.

Summary: The old way didn’t work and led to disaster. Don’t try to bring that back, thinking it will be better this time. We need a new vision, and new strategies.
So let’s get down to business. Here are the ideas presented in our Big Ideas To Get America Working series:
Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Fix The Housing Crisis by Liz Ryan Murray.
Today’s Big Idea to Get America Working: Hire the Young to Build Their Own Future by Richard (RJ) Eskow.
Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Revive American Manufacturing by Dave Johnson.
Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Make Work Pay by Anne Thompson.
Today’s Big Idea To Get America Working: Invest In Public Education by Jeff Bryant.
Big Ideas To Get America Working: Rebuild Our Infrastructure by Dave Johnson.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse. Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Bush-Obama Spending Chart

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Deficits

Bush-Obama Deficit Chart

Notes, this chart includes Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs

Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

In this chart, the RED lines on the left side — the ones that keep doing DOWN — show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines — the ones that just go UP — show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone “knows.” Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is “going broke”, government spending “takes money out of the economy.”

Why This Matters

These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama — tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want — when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Mr President, Don’t Cut Them Slack When They Threaten Us And Our Economy

Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry, threatening Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, over his efforts to boost the economy:

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in history is almost treasonous in my opinion.”

Perry believes that efforts to help the economy are “politics” because helping the economy helps President Obama in the coming election. Perry’s comments brought into the open the Republican mindset about the economy: They want it to tank – and are working to tank it – because they believe a poor economy will help them in the coming election. They see helping the economy as “politics” that help Obama.

Continue reading

Golden Oldie: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

Feb. 2010: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

When you sell the farm, the farm’s gone.

Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite — and we’re only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years – to be blamed on Obama. The “free marketers” gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

And with the country on the very edge of defaulting on the Reagan/Bush debt, Senate Republicans are FILIBUSTERING the very debt-ceiling deal they were for just a few weeks ago…

There is much more at that old post, go read.

The Politics of 2012 and Maybe 2016

Will Sarah Palin, Congressman Paul Ryan or Newt go under the bus? This is quite a polemic for our Republican brethren that have always made hay on their brilliant use of language while we Dems contemplated our sleepy intellectualism. Perhaps finally in the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the President’s irrefutable victories, and the Arab spring — maybe the forces have finally aligned for the Democrats together with social media to counter balance the megaphone of the Right wing propaganda.
Given that language and propaganda are not working, who will be the first to be thrown under the bus for the greater good of the Republican Party? Will it be Sarah our old pal from the McCain campaign that has built a $25M industry around her 2008 candidacy to the chagrin of the Party elders? Or will it be the “real” Palin appropriately coined as such by the supporters of Michelle Bachman on national television? Or have the women folk run their course in Republican Land? And if so has the time come to “man-up” with a few good, old white conservative male Governors from Conservativeville – like Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman? Or better yet will it be Newt who inappropriately danced on the head of Congressman Paul Ryan and his budget plan — only to refute it later? Sadly, for the Republicans all of this is off putting for guys like Mitt, or even Governor Chris Christie that appeal to the moderates of both parties.
Admittedly, any candidate, male or female, needs the proverbial brass cajoles, or other such accoutrements to challenge this sitting President after the take down of Osama bin Laden. This factoid together with Obama’s recent tough stance on the Middle East clearly levels the playing field. The scare tactics of the past cannot work at this rodeo particularly when bundled with the wholesale lunacy of the Republican leadership on the debt ceiling, Medicare and the budget. Vice President Biden in an LA Times piece summarizes well when referring to the Osama take-down as a “defining moment” for the Obama presidency. Certainly, this together with the broken Republican message machine is having an impact. Terms like “Mediscare” are not getting the same kind of traction as “ObamaCare” did just last year, or the coinage of the term “entitlement” used to pollute a whole generations’ thinking on Medicare and Social Security. Of course, Newt and his merry gang of language shapers keep trying to spin, but it is not sticking. Maybe in Newt’s case, folks have had enough of those that behave badly, pander family values, but live on the edge of exorbitant wealth. For him it appears that there is just no way to explain away things like the Tiffany’s account to the Middle Class. Further is there now cause to wonder if the day has come for Sarah, sweet Sarah, who walks the walk on reality television, but lives shall we say in Palin vernacular, high off the hog.
Indeed, the President and the Party are on the right side of the budget, Medicare, Social Security, national security, jobs and climate change. But can he and the Dems maintain this momentum when the banks, remember those pesky money men, continue to behave poorly. The reality is that folks are as fed up with these fat cats as they are with the empty threats of Right wing rhetoric and the bad behavior of men of a certain age and power whether they represent Hollywood, government or international politics.
Note to the Democratic Party: clean up the banks, the bankers and all of the bad behavior of their ilk and 2012 is a shoe-in, and maybe even 2016. Let’s think like Republicans and chart the waters for the next eight years.

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It’s A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy — rule by the super-rich and big corporations — with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.
Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way — that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

How About A Summit With The Unemployed?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
We had bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street but letdowns and layoffs for Main Street. We had a deficit commission but no jobs commission. We have tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the rest of We, the People. And this week the President is having a “summit” with the heads of giant corporations. So how about holding a summit with the unemployed?
President Obama is holding a “summit” with 20 or so CEOs Wednesday, “to ease strained relations with business.” NY Times: Obama to Meet With Executives,

President Obama will host a roundtable with about 20 corporate chiefs on Wednesday, according to the White House, part of an attempt to ease strained relations with business.
… With the mood for the meeting already lightened by his recent announcements of a trade deal with South Korea and a compromise on tax cuts with Congressional Republicans, Mr. Obama and the executives will discuss an overhaul of the tax system…

See if you can guess what sort of “overhaul of the tax system” suggestions are likely to come out of a “summit” with top CEOs. Hint: a recent “summit” with Republican leaders resulted in a plan for extending tax cuts for the rich and cutting the inheritance tax.
Record Profits
The Washington news types talk about “strained relations” between business leaders and President Obama. The business news reports I’ve been reading don’t reflect a “strain” at all. A recent NY Times story: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter,

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

Record corporate profits. Wow. Just wow. And for the rest of us?
High Unemployment, Very High Long-Term Unemployment
But wait, something else is at high levels as well. This year’s headlines:
January: Number of long-term unemployed hits highest rate since 1948
June: Long-Term Unemployment at Highest Recorded Rate
September: Long-term unemployment reaches crisis level
December: Long-term unemployed are left without assistance
Susie Madrak , over at Crooks and Liars, has a few things to say about this summit in her post, Obama To Hold CEO Summit Wednesday; Execs To Present Their Very Reasonable Demands For Ransom

Basically, they want to run untaxed, unregulated businesses with few (if any) legal obligations to the people who still work for them. Oh, and they want “austerity” for the working classes…
… Now perhaps the president can convene a one-day summit of the unemployed and the working poor to ask them what they think, for a change.

Yes, perhaps the President can convene a summit with the unemployed.
Playing The Ref
In November I wrote about this idea that President Obama is “anti-business,”

Here is what has been going on. In a classic “playing the ref” move, the Chamber of Commerce has been pitching the idea that the Obama administration is “anti-business” because they don’t give the big, monopolist, multi-national corporations everything they want. “Playing the ref” is a sports term, the idea being that if you complain enough about the calls a referee makes the referee will feel the need to give your team a few breaks in order to appear to be making fair calls.
So the Chamber, by complaining that Obama is “anti-business,” is really trying to get Obama to be even more pro-business. (The same strategy is at work when you hear complaints about the “liberal media.” After so may years of this accusation by right-wingers, newsroom editors are terrified of appearing to be left-leaning, resulting in so many right-leaning news stories.)

This summit to “ease strained relations” with business leaders is in response to a classic “playing the ref” move. While sitting on the highest profits ever they complain that the President is :anti-business” and get what they want. It’s too bad the unemployed — with the highest rates of long-term unemployment ever — are not represented in Washington by swarms of well-paid lobbyists, or by campaign contributions, or by “independent expenditure” smear-ad campaigns, or by astroturf (providing a corporate-purchased appearance of “grassroots” support) organizations. That seems to work. Being one of the regular old-fashioned “We, the People” doesn’t seem to buy much influence on our government and its leaders any more.
So how about holding a summit with the unemployed, and taking their suggestions? This might “ease strained relations” between the unemployed and the country’s leaders and their policies.
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