Trade Deficit – One Root Of Many Problems

You buy things till your wallet is empty. So you raid the savings account to buy more stuff. Then you get a loan, and buy more stuff. Another loan, another, you keep buying stuff… Finally you’re selling off the tools you had used to make a living. That’s where the country is now because of the huge imbalance in our trade relationships. We buy more from them than they buy from us and we have let this go on and on and on. This is the deficit we should be worried about.

The Root

Pick a national problem, and the odds are that our trade imbalance is aggravating it. Our trade deficits literally suck money out of the country. When looking up the numbers I had to double check, our annual trade deficits are so huge. In the chart below that first line under the dates represents $100 billion. Look at what happened in the late 90s, when we opened the China flodgates. (Click to enlarge):

In the 70’s the trade balance dipped below zero because of oil, and the country responded with conservation and the beginning of the search for alternatives — until Reagan. To make matters worse, Reagan preached “free trade” — as in use cheap foreign labor to break American unions. (But Reagan also enforced rules against “dumping” and other trade violations.) The real break in our balance of trade clearly begins around the time that NAFTA and the World Trade Organization went into effect, and then went absolutely nuts after China was brought in. Between 2001 and 2009 we lost 1/3 of all of our manufacturing jobs, more than 50,000 factories, and entire industries. We drained trillions of dollars out of our economy.

Causes

Energy. The trade imbalance started with OPEC and the oil price shocks in 1970s, and oil imports since then. This is a huge problem but the beneficiaries of this trade imbalance fight to keep things the way they are. (By the way, next time you hear someone of FOX running down our country’s green energy efforts, knocking the Chevy Volt or denying climate change, think abougt this: Fox’s second-largest shareholder is a billionaire Saudi oil prince. Also, FYI, Koch brothers == oil.)
“Asymmetries.” One-sided trade relationships are now draining money from our country at a dramatic rate. We are much more open to imports than many of our “trading partners” are. We buy from them, they don’t buy from us — and we just let this continue year after year.
“Strong” dollar policies, combined with currency manipulation by others. A strong dollar is great for Wall Street, but is terrible for manufacturers and producers. When the dollar is “strong” it means that goods made here cost more than goods made elsewhere. The dollar went way up in the early 1980s because of the borrowing following the Reagan tax cuts for the rich and the trade deficit went up along with it. Dollars had to be purchased to buy our bonds, creating a “demand” for them, which increased their “price,” contributing significantly to the then-record U.S. trade deficits. Meanwhile, we let countries like China manipulate their currencies to make them “weak,” which means goods made there cost must less in world markets.
Trade cheating. Many countries violate trade rules (like manipulating currency), which brings them a competitive advantage in world markets. We don’t call them on it for various reasons, largely because powerful interest groups benefit from the cheating. When goods from elsewhere cost less than they should it undermines our own manufacturers and producers, but the lower prices enrich distributors, retailers, and others.

The Trap

Here is the trap of our one-sided trade agreements: these “free-trade” agreements increase exports. The reason this is a trap and a problem is that they increase imports more. So, on the one hand the agreements create and enrich interest groups that push for continuation and expansion of the agreements, while on the other hand they increase trade deficits, which drain our economy.
Example: We opened up trade with China. China lets their imports grow, so we have some appearance of increasing sales to China, but they keep barriers while manipulating currency and subsidizing their companies, and their exports to us grow faster than their imports from us, which increases the imbalance. They can steadily reduce their import barriers and let their currency rise slowly, giving the appearance of moving toward open trade and providing what appear to be incentives to keep the relationship going, but by also increasing their exports they continue to drain us.

The Answer: Balance

We must balance our country’s trade. Of course, to do that we must understand ourselves as a country again. Our competitors certainly do.

We’re A Country. Deal With It.
Here’s the important thing to understand, even if you think the idea of “countries” is out of date, and don’t think of the United States as a country is important anymore: Others see themselves as countries and they organize their countries to win as countries. And you don’t live in those countries. They see us – this geographic region we live in — as a country, even if we do not, and they plan their efforts accordingly. They attack us as a country and you happen to live in the geographic region called a country that they are attacking. So as they seize the jobs and factories and industries from our country all of us who happen to live within the geographic borders that we refuse to call a country lose out economically, whether we believe we are part of this country or not. This means we have to respond as a country regardless of whether our ideology says we shouldn’t. We are under economic attack as a country, so national government still matters as the only force capable of organizing a national response.

Our government must say that the amount coming in must match the amount going out. Period.
(Note, The Causes of the U.S. Trade Deficit, Robert A. Blecker, Ph.D., August 19, 1999 is a good read.)
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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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Republican Committee Report Exposes Shocking Union/Environmentalist Conspiracy

Oil-backed Republicans are doing everything they can to turn the public against … alternatives to oil. Today a Republican Congressional committee held a hearing, named the hearing “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs,” and released a “report” with the same name. The report calls the push for green-energy jobs “a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology.” Here’s the thing: the report itself actually is “a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology.” Heh.
The Report
The Republican House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has release a 33-page report, How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs. This “report” is a stunning document that reads like an oil-company promotional piece raised to he level of Glenn-Beckian, conspiratorial hysteria. From the Executive Summary,

The Obama Administration’s green energy campaign has been pursued while it simultaneously implemented a regulatory agenda that is choking American businesses and restricting access to abundant domestic natural resources which have traditionally provided cheap energy that supports economic growth.
… By sacrificing domestic carbon-based resources upon the altar of an ill-fated “green energy” experiment, the President has put U.S. economic security in jeopardy and wasted billions in taxpayer money at a time when our fiscal health is in peril.

One “finding” of the report is that green jobs might help people who are members of labor unions, and that “payment of union-level wages” might be mandated! Along with this, a press release promoting the report warns:

It also points out that the guise of “green jobs” has become a rallying cry for a political coalition comprised of environmentalists and union leadership to consolidate an ideologically-based agenda, and notes that many federal green jobs programs have strings attached that require union workers, union-level wages and other mandates.

Shocking, Americans might want a clean environment and good pay. We must warn our constituents about this terrible possibility before communists take over!
Key Findings
Among the report’s “key findings:”

  • Labeling an occupation as a green job does not mean it has any special economic worth;
  • The guise of “green jobs” has become a political rallying cry aimed to unite environmentalists and union leaders in a deliberate effort to consolidate an ideologicallybased agenda;
  • Labor unions are profiting from the many so-called “green” programs because there are often “strings attached” that require hiring union workers, the payment of union-level wages and other mandates;
  • The metric of a “green job” is nothing more than a propaganda tool designed to provide legitimacy to a pre-determined outcome that benefits a political ideology rather than the economy or the environment…

The Conspiracy
The report lays out in detail a grand, Glenn-Beckian conspiracy theory, claiming that environmentalists and labor unions are working together to promote a grand, “green jobs” conspiracy. The section titled, PART I: OBAMA’S GREEN AGENDA DECONSTRUCTED lays out this conspiracy,

…union leaders support “green jobs” because much of the subsidized work is designated to be awarded to unionized workers. For their part, environmentalists benefit from having a broader base of support for policies that seek to “green” the economy. The outcome is a political alliance with incredible power.
The genesis of promoting so-called “green jobs” can be traced to a group known as the Apollo Alliance, which has been the center of gravity for the green jobs movement since 2001. … Accordingly, the Apollo Alliance and other coalition efforts like the Blue-Green Alliance bring together two major components of the Democratic political base – environmentalists and labor unions. …
Labor Unions are Profiting under the Pretense of Green Energy
While the green jobs movement clearly advances the interests of environmental special interest groups in the green jobs movement, the interests of labor unions may not be as readily apparent. However, a careful look at statutes passed in the Democrat controlled 110th and 111th Congresses reveal that unions stand to benefit from many of the so-called green programs because these programs have “strings attached … that require paying union-level wages, hampering lower cost, nonunion firms from competing for the jobs produced by the grants.” The left-wing magazine, The American Prospect, noted in September of 2007 that Leo Gerard, the President of the United Steelworkers, has played a major role in the development of the Apollo Alliance and its political influence…

The report goes on to make the case that one goal of this conspiracy is to promote American steel, and require other parts of this effort to be American-made, which would benefit members of the Steelworkers union.

Another reason why Gerard and the United Steelworkers, in particular, are drawn to this coalition is the amount of steel required to manufacturer green energy products, such as wind turbines. To the extent that manufacturers use American steel, the assumption is that the government subsidies and regulations would benefit their membership as well. As Gerard has stated, arguing for steel protections, “If we are not going to do solar panels and fluorescent bulbs and wind turbines here, the next generation of R and D will not be here.”

Oil Good, Green Bad: Promoting Oil Companies
Another section of the report, Fossil Fuel Use Has Been a Major Driver of American Prosperity, explains the benefits to America of promoting oil companies and getting rid of any green jobs effort to promote alternatives to fossil fuel use. You can almost hear the patriotic music welling up as you read this section.

The positive relationship between access to affordable energy sources and economic growth is undeniable; fossil fuels have been the backbone of American prosperity.
… The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) credits carbon-based energy with spawning “one of the most profound social transformations in history.” Fossil fuels currently meet more than 80% of U.S. energy demand, with petroleum satisfying half of that demand.
The expanded use of fossil fuels throughout history has facilitated the development of some of our nation’s most productive industries. …
Oil is credited with “the rise and development of capitalism and modern business” itself. Today, coal, oil and natural gas form the backbone that supports the American economy. [emphasis added]

Misstatements Of Fact
The report also contains what can politely be called “misstatements of fact.” The report talks about “a private investor—one who happened to be a prominent Obama fundraiser.” This is just flat-out false, In my post, Five Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Solyndra I pointed out the way this lie is used to create an appearance of impropriety:

5. The biggest investor in Solyndra was an Obama donor.
Conservatives (and now picked up by corporate “mainstream” outlets) make the accusation that there was corruption in the process by which Solyndra received its loan because a major Obama donor named George Kaiser is a major investor in Solyndra. The charge is that Solyndra only received the loan guarantee as a result of campaign contributions by people “connected to” Solyndra. The problem with this is that George Kaiser was not an investor in Solyndra. According to Tulsa World,

In an emailed statement to the Tulsa World, a representative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation said the organization made the investment through Argonaut.
“George Kaiser is not an investor in Solyndra and did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. government regarding the loan,” the statement said. “GKFF invests in a globally diversified portfolio across many different asset classes.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a philanthropic organization, which means Kaiser (or anyone else) could not personally profit from a successful investment by the foundation.

Please take the time to skim through this astonishing report. A copy of the Committee report is available by clicking here.
At Politico Darren Sameulsohn explains what Republicans are up to, in President Obama’s green losing streak writing, “Now, with Solyndra’s collapse, Republicans are promising to make the green jobs concept politically toxic for years to come.”
This Mark Fiore animation sums it up.
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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Social Security: Policy By Fairy Tale

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Lots of kids believe in Santa Claus. This is because people repeat the fable to kids over and over, telling them that Santa Claus will deliver presents to them if they’re good. And then there’s the Boogeyman, the “amorphous embodiment of terror.” In some regions stories of the Boogeyman are repeated and repeated, and to keep the Boogeyman away little children do what they are told.
A popular Boogeyman is “Social Security is going broke.” This fable originated from a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage Foundation. The document laid out a long-term strategic plan to dismantle Social Security. Part of the idea was to manufacture public beliefs like those we hear repeated (and repeated and repeated) today, “Social Security is going broke” and “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”
Meanwhile a popular Santa Claus myth tells the pubic that energy independence can be achieved at low cost if only we would open up more land (and sea) to oil drilling.
Enter Rick Berg, candidate for Congress in North Dakota. Berg is proposing to scare away the Boogeyman by bringing in Santa Claus to fight the good fight. News story, Berg proposes Social Security fix,

Drilling for oil underneath western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other federal lands nationwide could be a way to ensure Social Security funding for the long haul, Republican U.S. House challenger Rick Berg said.
During a meeting with The Forum’s editorial board Wednesday, Berg discussed his ideas for how to make the Social Security system viable for future generations. He said one option is drilling for oil and other mineral resources on federal government land.

Oh yeah, there is one more thing that is repeated over and over. The other day I wrote, “The way a lobbyist argues for or against anything today is to say it will create or cost jobs.” And right on queue, here’s Berg:

Berg told the editorial board his proposal was just one way the government could add more money into the Social Security system.
“It needs to be solvent, and I’m supporting putting more money in that — mineral money in there — and getting people working again,” he said.

Yes, that’s the ticket. Santa Claus fights the Boogeyman, and delivers jobs. All we have to do is open up national parks to oil drilling.
Social Security isn’t broke, doesn’t need fixing, and the last thing we need is more drilling. We need a Renewable Energy Standard and we need to set a price on carbon to trigger the new green technology revolution, get us off of oil and coal and create millions of jobs.
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Obama: We’ve Been Outflanked, Cap & Trade Dead

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The headline of my local paper today is Obama: Act on clean energy. (But a different headline online – do they do that just to mess up bloggers?)
In the speech the President paid homage to President Carter’s efforts to change America’s energy policies, saying,

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

Outflanked
Then the President said we have been outflanked on the coming green manufacturing revolution by countries like China,

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

Cap And Trade Dead
In the Huffington Post today, Teryn Norris, Director of Americans for Energy Leadership writes that the President also signaled the death of cap and trade legislation,

Instead of using last night’s prime-time opportunity to push cap and trade … President Obama pressed the reset button on energy and climate policy, saying he was “happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.” He made no mention of setting a price on carbon or establishing an emissions cap and trade system.

Others are trying to get things done on this front. Norris discusses the emerging Innovation Consensus,

The energy innovation consensus currently includes dozens of Nobel Laureates, Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, National Commission on Energy Policy, Third Way, Association of American Universities, Clean Air Task Force, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Google, and Americans for Energy Leadership, among others. The latest group to join is the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), made up of several of the nation’s top business leaders: Bill Gates, Jeff Immelt, John Doerr, Chad Holliday, Norm Augustine, Ursula Burns, and Tim Solso. Last week, these leaders released a new report, “A Business Plan for America’s Energy Future,” calling for major new federal investment in clean energy technology RD&D — at least $16 billion annually, more than triple the current level (see our news roundup).

Here is the problem. Action on energy requires direct government action and rejection of deficit hysteria to do it. But every single initiative of the Obama Presidency has been blocked by powerful interests, playing on the use of the filibuster on almost every major bill in the Senate. Health care reform was severely weakened by the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies. Financial reform has been severely weakened by the financial lobbies. Jobs measures and further stimulus have been blocked by a strategic lobbying campaign to make people think the Bush-created deficit must be cut first. Now cap and trade may have been killed by the oil and gas lobbies.
We are in a direct confrontation between the big corporations and We, the People over who will run things and control the resources of the United States, and We, the People are losing. There is time to turn it around, but only if we recognize this battle for what it is.
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A Political Party Working For Oil Companies — For Money

Republicans are insisting that our government give oil companies leases to drill off our shores. We are witnessing an unprecedented joint, coordinated campaign, involving oil companies and a political party, to trick the public into
1) supporting giving billions of dollars (more) worth of government leases to oil companies, for their profit, even while these companies are sitting on other millions of acres of leases and not using them and
2) supporting a political party with the same advertising message. This is what is called an “integrated” marketing campaign — combining TV, radio, astroturf, industry-front “think tanks,” “earned” news media, paid speakers and the unusual addition of a political campaign.
This at a time when the planet’s climate is threatened by the CO2 going into the air from the coal and oil we are already burning.
With this coordinated campaign we see oil company advertisements on TV, hear them on the radio, read reports of “studies” from these industry front-group “think tanks,” read op-ed pieces written by industry-paid “experts,” and then to top it off elected officials and candidates reinforce the message (while the industry message reinforces their candidacy).
It is this addition of the political campaign in coordination with a paid industry campaign that is especially dangerous.
This is elected officials and candidates working in conjunction with an industry to sell a product in exchange for political contributions and coordinated advertisements that support the message of the political party. The product is government oil leases to oil companies. The oil companies advertise about our country’s need to drill offshore, which reinforces the political campaign of the Republican Party. This is not direct candidate advertisement so it is sort of legal, but any way you look at it it is big corporations spending tens or possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in obvious coordination with the political campaign, in a stealth manner that disguises that it is campaign advertising, while pretending it is an issue of national importance.
The other day I wrote a post, Republican / Oil Company Joint Campaign On Drilling,

I’m watching CNN and there is a report about the Republicans in Washington pulling a big stunt about drilling for oil. When the report ends, there is a commercial from the oil industry about why the country needs to drill for more oil.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. This is a political party involving itself in a corporate product marketing campaign, for money, which the corporations are involving themselves in the political campaign, for favors. This “drill now” campaign is funded by oil companies, is about giving them even more special government favors, and is about keeping the corporate political party in power.

This drilling campaign’s level integration of a political party with corporate money may be unprecedented. We need new kinds of controls over the ability of corporations to influence our politics.

Drilling – See The Big Picture, Please

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All of a sudden you can’t get away from stories about the need to drill for oil in Alaska and off our coasts.
So what is going on? Why are there so MANY stories in the news, op-eds, blogs, columnists, letters to the editor and on the radio saying that drilling will solve the problem? Rational, informed people understand that it would take almost a decade before any new production showed up, that we are already at refinery limits and that we could have alternatives and conservation in place much faster with a much bigger impact. Why this huge push for drilling today?
People who look at this as a policy issue and try to respond with facts and logic are missing what is happening here, and misunderstanding how the corporate/conservative machine operates: SOMEone makes a bunch of MONEY if we open up drilling. And that SOMEone is paying to push a bill through Congress. It’s just that simple. That’s how the right’s machine works today. It is entirely pay-for-play. I suspect that we are seeing a standard conservative multi-front coordinated PR push in support of an upcoming legislative agenda. This is how the corporate right organizes a campaign.
According to Google News there are 2102 news articles this morning under the heading, “Bush asks Congress to clear way for offshore oil drilling.” Example, The Kansas City Star, Bush to Congress: Embrace energy exploration now,

With gasoline topping $4 a gallon, President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, saying the United States needs to increase its energy production. …
“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a statement in the Rose Garden. With the presidential election just months away, Bush made a pointed attack on Democrats, accusing them of obstructing his energy proposals and blaming them for high gasoline costs

There are another 1000 or so under various other headings. This is just today.
People who watch the corporate right’s machine have seen this bubbling up for a while. A couple of weeks ago there was a weird story circulating in theright-wing press about China drilling for oil off Florida. George Will got it into the Washington Post. Fox: China, Others Drilling for Oil Off Florida. Even Vice President Cheney repeated it. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true: Cheney Acknowledges He Lied About China Drilling ‘60 Miles Off The Coast Of Florida’
At the same time, column after column has been appeared in the corporate right’s outlets like but not limited to Townhall.com. (See a recent Townhall sampling here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and note this one: here. These and more just in the last few days and just at this site – which is one of so many.)
Also there are dozens and dozens of stories in other places most of us don’t see. Please follow the link and read this one, it just follows the script so closely: Family Security Matters: A World Afloat on an Ocean of Oil,

The most fundamental fact about oil worldwide is that there is lots of it. . . For sheer insanity, however, consider a nation that has an estimated 31 billion barrels of oil offshore of its coasts and 117 billion barrels of oil under land owned or managed by the government . . . In just one area, a desolate place designated a wildlife refuge, there’s an estimated 7.7 billion barrels untapped. . . . Most of the areas where oil is known to exist have been ruled off-limits to any exploration or extraction by the government.
In the areas where it is accessible, drilling for it is hugely encumbered and often denied by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
. . . the price of a gallon of gasoline or heating oil, is making everyone miserable thanks in great part to environmental legislation . . . just to make matters worse, the government requires that every gallon of gasoline include the additive, ethanol, which reduces its mileage and increases its cost.

Newt Gingrich is, of course, all over the “drill now” story: Our Declaration of Energy Independence:

While Washington elites can’t or won’t act, the American people see the first step to a practical, common sense way out of this crisis: Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.

(By the way, I think Newt is vying to be the Republican nominee this year. Not kidding – I don’t think it will be McCain.)
And, of course, the other side of the story also hits the airwaves – the warm, cuddly oil companies: CBS Praises Oil Company for $50 Million in College Aid,

For once, “CBS Evening News” gave viewers a break from seeing oil companies demonized.
At a time when gas has topped $4 a gallon and the media are looking for someone to blame for “pain at the pump,” “Evening News” took a different approach and showed how one oil company is reinvesting its profits – not in politically correct alternative sources of energy, but back into the community.

So is this really a corporate/right PR campaign? For those of us who track this sort of thing here is the big clue. On Drudge today there is a link to a fresh, new Gore smear from the “Tennessee Center for Policy Research” with the long headline: Energy Guzzled by Al Gore’s Home in Past Year Could Power 232 U.S. Homes for a Month – Gore’s personal electricity consumption up 10%, despite “energy-efficient” home renovations ,

In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
“A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home,” said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption.”
In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.

I haven’t had time to turn on the radio, but I think I can safely bet that Rush and the rest of the radio crowd are on this, and have been plugging it for weeks. (Oh, and I’ll bet they’re planting stuff in online forums, especially sports forums. They use forums a lot for word-of-mouth generation.)
So see the big picture – see the forest – and learn from it.

Choices on Taking and Giving Back

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.
In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.

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Kicking An 82 Year Old Man: The Right Attacks Jimmy Carter. Again.

[Co-written with James Boyce, originally at Huffington Post]
Jimmy Carter is not remembered as a great President. Most folks might even consider him a failure, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. But why exactly do we hold one of the two Democratic Presidents of the last 38 years in such low esteem?
Isn’t this the man that held the country together in the years after Watergate? Didn’t he bring decency and honesty back to The White House?
Yes.
Isn’t it a great American success story for a man to come from such humble beginnings, serve in defense of his country and then ascend to the highest office?
Yes.
Isn’t it remarkable that back in 1979 he declared “The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.” Isn’t that leadership and vision?
Yes. But it was legacy destroying as well. Our memories of Jimmy Carter are memories laced with the poison of a right wing smear campaign because when Jimmy Carter encouraged us to face the facts of the energy crisis, he faced off against the Oil Companies and as the decades passed, it has become sadly clear that the nuclear physicist Naval Officer peanut farmer came out the worse for it. He was portrayed as naive and as a simpleton. He was routinely mocked. A good man’s legacy was taken down.

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Capitalism 3.0 – A New Way To Think About What We Own

I’ve just finished a very interesting book, Capitalism 3.0, A Guide To Reclaiming The Commons, by Peter Barnes. The book talks about ways we can restructure our laws and rules of ownership to cover who should pay for polluting and other harmful things — costs that our current system ignores and even encourages. The change is based on our realizing that we all own certain things in common.
Here’s a quick way to understand the ideas in this book:
Suppose you live next door to a sawmill operation. The owner makes lots of money, but aa waste product, sawdust, is building up on his lot. This big pile of sawdust is getting bigger and bigger, and it’s getting to the point that he’s going to have to shut down his profitable operation if he can’t find some place to dump some sawdust. So one day he comes to you and asks if he can dump some sawdust in your back yard. You answer, “If you give me $25,000 a year, each year you can dump 5 truckloads, but no more, in my yard.” You are $25,000 richer, you limited the sawdust to a level you could tolerate, and the sawmill can continue to operate and make money.
This happened because you “own” that property and have the “right” to refuse to let others make money by dumping their waste in it – or to negotiate for some of the resulting profits. This sounds so basic – but there is a reason I put quotes around the words “own” and “right.” The concepts of ownership and rights only exist because they are granted to us by law, and laws are nothing more than creations of government. It didn’t used to be that way, that regular people could “own” things and have “property rights,” but people thought it would be a good idea, and made it happen. And in America it is set up that we can do things like that because, guess what, WE’re the government. (It says that in our Constitution.) More on this later.

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Oil Prices Climbing – How Surprised Are You?

Crude futures top $59 as U.S. oil-product supplies drop,

Crude-oil futures climbed above $59 a barrel Wednesday, ready to break a three-session losing streak after a U.S. government report showed that distillate supplies have dropped nearly 17 million barrels in six weeks and gasoline inventories are down more than 15 million in five weeks.

Heh.

Centrists, Leftists, Etc.

There is a lot of talk about “the center” and “centrists.” Lots of people say the blogs are on the left.
To put this in perspective, when and where is the last time you heard anyone talk about nationalizing the oil companies? That would be a “leftist” proposal.
After all, the oil companies do not “own” the oil any more than anyone can own the air or the water. They are extracting OUR resource, under license from US to operate, and as corporations are granted limited liability by US. In exchange, they are supposed to be serving the public interest. A discussion about whether they are serving the public interest might involve questions about how much they are setting aside to cover the costs of putting carbon into the air, or to pay for research into transitioning away from fossil fuels a they start to run out, how much they pay their employees, and other ways that WE might benefit from allowing them to extract OUR resource. So obviously, they are not serving the public interest.
A broader discussion would ask whether we need to reform the corporate system into something that really does serve the public interest…
The fact is, “leftist” arguments are not even part of our national discussion. Without that perspective in the discussion, it can’t really be said that there even is a “center,” can there? And without ALL sides contributing to the marketplace of ideas, how can society arrive at solutions that incorporate the best ideas from all the different perspectives?
(Cross-posted at the Commonweal Institute Blog.)

Corruption – A $6 Million Gift To Oil Company

In years past this alone would have been a major story and the corruption involved would not be tolerated. But this year it’s just one more thing – a relatively small thing. We all know what is behing it – payments from lobbyists. The people involved will be leaving the government soon to “work” at the oil companies for unusually high pay. Gov’t drops demand for Chevron royalty,

The department’s Minerals Management Service had maintained that Chevron owed an additional $6 million for gas it took under federal leases in the Gulf between 1996 and 2002 and sold to Dynegy Inc., a company Chevron partially owns.
Essentially, the government argued that Chevron undervalued the gas it sold to Dynegy. Chevron paid royalties based on a price that didn’t represent fair market value, the government auditors said.
But last summer, the government quietly rescinded its demand for the additional royalties. That decision was reported Tuesday by the New York Times, based on documents the newspaper obtained through a freedom of information request.

The story comes on the same day as a larger story about the Republican Congress getting rid of the only agency conducting ANY oversight of Iraq spending. This is just two stories about corruption today. There will be two more tomorrow and the day after…