Brilliant!

Alex Pareene offers up some great strategic advise for Democrats in DC:

If Democrats want to get the big pundits on their side, they should pull a Boehner and just name whatever it is they’re trying to pass “The Simpson Plan.” That should be the name they use when they reintroduce card-check. And cap-and-trade. Planned Parenthood should rename itself “The Simpson-Bowles Planned Parenthood” and then no one will ever again try to defund it, I promise.

The funniest part of this is that Pareene thinks Democrats would introduce legislation to provide any sort of increase in power for America’s workers.

Warren Buffett rides again

I’ve been quite skeptical of the value of Warren Buffett as a key advocate for Democrats around tax policy and social spending (see: here, here, and here). While Buffett is supportive of the not-bad idea that rich Americans should pay higher taxes, he’s been either vague or advocated small increases – while coupling his tax positions to advocacy for cutting spending, including for the social safety net.

On Sunday, to much fanfare, Buffett penned an op-ed arguing for a minimum tax for the wealthy. But his suggestion is fairly small bore: “I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that.” I’m in favor of it as it’s an improvement over the current tax structure, but this is hardly a proposal that merits rampant celebration from the left.

If you have any doubt that this is nothing more than a proposal which would provide the patina of progressive taxation with an eye towards reducing inequality in the US, look no further than Buffett’s comments today, in which he says that of all the people in America, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon would be President Obama’s best choice for a new Treasury Secretary.

Given we are still suffering from the damage inflicted on the economy by Wall Street banks, including Dimon’s JPMC, in the inflation and bursting of the housing bubble, the idea that Dimon would be a good pick for Treasury Secretary is just bonkers.

I’m glad there are people like Buffett who have the courage to say that they are wealthy enough to afford higher taxes. But just because he throws out a tiny morsel clinging to an old, dried-out bone doesn’t mean he’s someone to be elevated a spokesperson for the left in these debates.

 

Facts you probably didn’t know

I didn’t know this one, from David Dayen:

Of course, nobody is questioning why we’re holding to this artificial deficit reduction construct at all. As Jed Graham explains, over the last three years, the US has reduced the federal budget deficit more rapidly than at any time since World War II. This is an artifact of a relatively stronger economy leading to the reduction of spending on automatic stabilizers like unemployment and food stamps, as well as stimulus programs running out. But fiscal policy at the federal level has taken away from growth since mid-2010, and it’s poised to drag much, much more with implementation of these austerity measures. With borrowing costs so low, there’s no logical reason for this except to please elites, who really want lower tax rates and a smaller safety net and think that fearmongering on the deficit could provide a gateway to that goal. [Emphasis added]

Taibbi on Obama & TBTF

Matt Taibbi responds to President Obama’s criticism of Rolling Stone’s coverage of his accomplishments, or lack there of, in passing effective financial reform. Specifically Taibbi goes after Obama for not addressing the problem of Too Big To Fail banks in an adequate way. He concludes:

The sum total of all of this is that Obama didn’t really do anything to alleviate the dangers of Too-Big-To-Fail. If anything, we now live in a world that is more concentrated and dangerous than it was before 2008. TBTF companies like Chase and Wells Fargo and Bank of America are even bigger and less-able-to-fail-ier than they were when he took office. This is why Obama’s answer to our interview question is so disappointing. If I’m understanding the president correctly, he basically says he doesn’t think Glass-Steagall should be re-instated, and beyond that, he just thinks Wall Street needs to self-regulate better.

That’s a pretty depressing take, at a time when even Sandy Weill – the bellicose Wall Street braggart who willed the now-infamous Citigroup merger into being and was a driving force behind Glass-Steagall – thinks that Too-Big-To-Fail companies should be broken up. The only hope we really have to fix many of these problems is to do just that, and we will need the chief executive’s help there. But President Obama apparently still isn’t willing to take that step, which is really too bad.

Dean Baker on Social Security

Dean Baker’s piece in The Guardian on the politics and economics of Social Security is must-read.

The story here is a simple one: while social security may enjoy overwhelming support across the political spectrum, it does not poll nearly as well among the wealthy people – who finance political campaigns and own major news outlets. The predominant philosophy among this group is that a dollar in a workers’ pocket is a dollar that could be in a rich person’s pocket – and these people see social security putting lots of dollars in the pockets of people who are not rich.

For this reason, a candidate who comes out for protecting social security can expect to see a hit to their campaign contributions. They also can anticipate being beaten up in both the opinion and news sections of major media outlets. While, in principle, these are supposed to be kept strictly separate, the owners and/or top management of most news outlets feel no qualms about removing this separation when it comes to social security – and using news space to attack those who defend social security.

This is the fundamental economics of social security that explains why it has not figured more prominently in the presidential race. If President Obama were to rise in defense of the program, he could count on losing the financial backing of many supporters. He would also get beaten up by the Washington Post and other major news outlets for challenging their agenda.

Earlier in the piece Baker notes that in the first debate President Obama said that he and Mitt Romney have essentially the same position on Social Security. Baker notes that Romney’s position is to have major cuts to Social Security, so this isn’t an admission which amounts to taking the issue off the table, but in fact means there is dangerous consensus to cut Social Security.

Baker’s arguments, quoted above, imply that were it not for the wealth of anti-Social Security donors to political campaigns, President Obama would hold a different position on Social Security. I’m not sure that evidence of this exists. All we know from the President is that he and Romney are in essential agreement when it comes to Social Security. We do not know if this is a craven position driven by the need for re-election cash or if it’s a deeply held belief that coincidentally aligns with his rich donors.