Saturday, March 7, 2009

Really Bad News--National Unemployment Rate Continues to Soar


This is horrible news of course and it indicates both just how bad things really are and how bad they are surely going to get. The official Government figure of 8.1% means in reality that the actual national unemployment rate is much closer to an economic Depression level of 16% (a much more realistic figure which includes the millions of people who have in fact stopped looking for nonexistent work but haven't been counted because they are no longer on the statistical roll of those still officially looking for employment). Unless and until we all seriously begin to politically demand as citizens that corporate America, Wall Street, the media, the courts, and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government address our primary social needs nothing fundamental will change. However, if we organize, educate, and mobilize people on a local, state, and national level, actively support the President's new budget and general economic program (while simultaneously holding him and his administration fully accountable and responsible in the process as we also continue to demand even more comprehensively progressive programs and legislation from Congress), then we will have made the kind of major grassroots intervention that is necessary for real change to happen in this country.

Needless to say our actual political and ideological independence and integrity is created and sustained by an ongoing committment that critically goes far beyond the given status quo in our political, economic, and cultural institutions. But words alone won't do it and passively or cynically watching the arrogant, wealthy elites in government, media, corporate, and the financial sector play their usual corrupt games won't cut it either. There's very serious work to be done by all of us...


Continuing Job Losses May Signal Broad Economic Shift
March 6, 2009
New York Times

Another 651,000 jobs disappeared from the American economy in February, the government reported Friday, as the unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent — its highest level since 1983.

More than 4.4 million Americans have lost their jobs since the recession started in December 2007.

The latest grim scorecard of contraction in the American workplace largely destroyed what hopes remained for an economic recovery in the first half of this year, and added to a growing sense that 2009 is probably a lost cause.

Most economists now assume that the American fortunes will not improve before near the end of the year, as the Obama administration’s $787 billion emergency spending program begins to wash through the economy.

“The current pace of decline is breathtaking,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. “We are now falling at a near record rate in the postwar period and there’s been no change in the violent downward trajectory.”

Indeed, the monthly snapshot of the national employment picture worsened an already abysmal picture as the government revised upward the number of jobs lost in December and January. The economy has now lost at least 650,000 jobs for three consecutive months, the worst decline in percentage terms over that length of time since 1975.

Since the recession began, the economy has eliminated roughly 4.4 million jobs, and more than half of those positions — some 2.6 million — disappeared in the last four months.

The acceleration has convinced some economists that, far from an ordinary downturn after which jobs will return, the contraction under way reflects a fundamental restructuring of the American economy. In crucial industries — particularly manufacturing, financial services and retail — many companies have opted to abandon whole areas of business.

“These jobs aren’t coming back,” said John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia in Charlotte. “A lot of production either isn’t going to happen at all, or it’s going to happen somewhere other than the United States. There are going to be fewer stores, fewer factories, fewer financial services operations. Firms are making strategic decisions that they don’t want to be in their businesses.”

For American policy makers, such a reality poses fundamental challenges to the traditional response to hard times. For decades, the government has reacted to economic downturns by handing out temporary unemployment insurance checks, relying upon the resumption of economic growth to deliver needed jobs. This time, argues Mr. Silvia, the government needs to put a much greater emphasis on retraining workers for careers in other industries.

In the auto industry, for example annual American car sales have dropped from some 17 million a year a few years ago to 9 million now. Even if sales increase to 10 or 12 million, that still leaves a lot of unneeded factories.

“That’s a lot of workers that are not coming back,” Mr. Silvia said. “That’s a lot of steel, a lot of rubber, a lot of suppliers that are not coming back. It’s really challenging to us as a society.”

President Obama responded to the figures by declaring that “this country has never responded to a crisis by sitting on the sidelines and hoping for the best” and asserting that government has a huge role to play in bringing out the best in the American people.

“I know that throughout our history we have met every great challenge with bold action and big ideas,” he told police academy graduates in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. “That’s what’s fueled a shared and lasting prosperity.”

Mr. Obama cited the unemployment figures as further evidence that those who opposed “the very notion that government has a role in ending the cycle of job loss at the heart of this recession” are on the wrong side of history. (The president’s stimulus package was approved by the House with no support from minority Republicans, whose leader, Representative John A. Boehner, is from Ohio.)

In February, another 168,000 manufacturing jobs were eliminated, bringing losses over the last year to 1.2 million. In Michigan, where the troubles of the auto industry have been particularly traumatic, the unemployment rate is at 10.6 percent, the highest of any state.

“The people who do what I do in the Detroit area are a dime a dozen,” said Kim Allgeyer, 46, a machine toolmaker in Westland, Mich., who was laid off in January from a company that makes manufacturing assembly lines for the Detroit automakers. Since then, he has failed to find another full-time job, subsisting on day labor and one weeklong stint for contractors. He is thinking of moving to Louisiana or Mississippi to seek work as a shipbuilder.

“Who’s going to put me to work?” he asked. “Where’s the work at? It’s just a great big black hole.”

Much the same can be said for financial services, which gave up another 44,000 jobs in February. During the housing boom, banks hired tens of thousands of well-compensated traders, analysts and marketers to sell mortgage-backed securities and other exotic flavors of investments. That industry is unlikely to return to anything close to its former shape.

Retailers are shuttering stores as the era of easy money fueled by rising house prices and abundant credit gives way to a new period in which millions of households are being forced to confine their spending to their paychecks, limiting their trips to the mall. The economy lost 39,500 retail jobs in February, and has eliminated more than 500,000 in the last year.

The United States has been neglecting job training programs for decades, argues Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project in New York. In current dollars, the nation devoted the equivalent of $20 billion a year on job training in 1979, while spending only $6 billion last year.

The stimulus spending bill includes $4.5 billion in additional monies for job training. But under current programs, many of those eligible for training are given vouchers that cover only a semester or two at community colleges, while careers in growth industries like biotechnology and health care typically require two-year degree programs.

“We have to seriously look at fundamentally rebuilding the economy,” Mr. Stettner said. “You’ve got to use this moment to retrain for jobs.”

Friday’s report reinforced the degree to which the economy is being assailed at once by panic in the financial system, falling household spending power and plunging real estate prices, with growing numbers of companies resorting to wholesale layoffs after months of merely declining to hire.

“There’s been no place to hide,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh. “Everybody in every industry has lost jobs or is feeling insecure about whether they’re going to keep their jobs or how their company’s going to do."

Some economists suggested the substantial increase in layoffs reflected the anxiety that has gripped the financial system since last fall when major Wall Street institutions failed, notably the giant investment bank Lehman Brothers. Borrowing costs have spiked for American companies, making even healthy businesses reluctant to expand and hire. Perhaps even more decisive, the collapse last fall has left many companies spooked.

“There was a huge increase in uncertainty and a huge hit to confidence which caused a large rethinking among businesses,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of United States economics research. “That caused a big downshift in employment.”

In similar crises, like the stock market crash of 1987 and the near collapse of the enormous hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, dysfunction continued to grip markets for about six months, Mr. Harris said, suggesting that this episode may be nearing its end.

But history also shows that when fear lifts, the economy returns not to normalcy but to wherever it was when the crisis began, Mr. Harris said. That means that even if order is restored to the financial system, the economy will still be staring at a recession.

And order cannot be restored, many economists say, until the Obama administration creates and executes a credible plan to remove the bad loans choking the balance sheets of financial institutions.

“The 800-pound gorilla is whether we face up to the bad loans in the financial system,” said Alan Levenson, chief economist at the trading firm T. Rowe Price in Baltimore.

David Stout contributed reporting.

Fighting for Labor in the Obama Administration

In Obama, Labor Finds the Support It Expected
Published: March 1, 2009
New York Times

John J. Sweeney, the nation’s top union official, often complains that he was invited just once to the White House during George W. Bush’s eight years in office — and even that was at the Vatican’s behest during a visit by Pope Benedict.

If an index is needed for how much closer organized labor is to President Obama than to his predecessor, it might be the number of times Mr. Sweeney, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s president, has visited the White House since Inauguration Day — at least once a week for receptions, bill signings and a meeting on fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Obama has delighted labor by issuing four pro-labor executive orders that reversed Bush policies. He has also appointed a union-friendly chairwoman to the National Labor Relations Board and named a labor secretary whose parents were both union members.

But those changes worry corporate America, especially as Mr. Obama has signaled he will push for legislation that would expand labor’s thinned ranks by making it far easier to unionize workers. Labor leaders expect Vice President Joseph Biden to spell out the administration’s battle plans for the bill on Thursday, when he is scheduled to speak at the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s winter meeting in Miami Beach.

Any doubts that union leaders might have had about Mr. Obama dissolved several weeks ago when, in announcing a new Task Force on the Middle Class, he said: “I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it’s part of the solution. You cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement.”

Mr. Sweeney and many other labor leaders were thrilled. “It’s like night and day having a president who believes in helping working people build power,” Mr. Sweeney said. “I look upon Obama as the most pro-union president since John Kennedy, and I have even compared him to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

But Republicans and business leaders are not so happy. They complain that Mr. Obama is simply paying back labor for all the money and volunteers that unions invested in his victory.

“This last election the labor bosses spent $400 million to $500 million getting the other side elected, and they just didn’t do that for their good health,” John Boehner, the House Republican leader, said at a conference in Washington last Thursday. “They’ve been making investments in the other side so they can control the policy-making side.”

Randel Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also voiced concern. “The jury is still out on the degree to which the Obama administration will be controlled by organized labor,” he said. “Whether he will triangulate organized labor like Clinton or become their handmaiden, we’re not sure.”

Nate Tamarin, an associate White House political director who is in charge of outreach to labor, said Mr. Obama’s pro-worker policies reflected what he promised during his campaign.

“Everything he has done is consistent with what he thinks is right for American working people and is consistent with what he viewed throughout his career as the important place unions have in building the American middle class,” Mr. Tamarin said.

Union leaders are certainly pleased with Mr. Obama’s $787 billion recovery package, as well as his plans for universal health coverage and increasing taxes on the rich.

The president of the Communications Workers of America praised the $7.2 billion earmarked in the recovery package to expand broadband service. The steelworkers’ president hailed Buy America provisions. And the president of the American Federation of Teachers lauded billions set aside for spending on education.

Unions also applaud the four executive orders, including one that makes it more likely that construction projects receiving federal dollars will be unionized. Unions also played a role in persuading the president to delay revamping Social Security and possibly making benefits less generous.

Most of all, they are looking to President Obama to help unions reverse their decades-long slide in power and membership. With 16 million members, unions represent just 7.6 percent of private-sector workers today, down from more than 25 percent in the early 1980s.

Labor is pinning its biggest hopes on the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that unions hope will add millions of new members by giving workers the right to union recognition as soon as a majority of employees at a workplace sign pro-union cards. The bill would take away management’s ability to insist on a secret ballot election.

Business leaders have warned of Armageddon in their fight to kill the bill, which Democratic leaders say will come up for a vote in May, June or July. Union leaders voice confidence that they will muster the 60 Senate votes needed to overcome a filibuster, while Republicans expect to defeat the bill in the Senate.

Republican and business strategists say they are focusing on lobbying several Democratic senators, especially Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, to help deny the 60 Senate votes needed for passage.

Mr. Johnson, of the Chamber of Commerce, denounced the bill, saying, “The idea of radically changing employment law when companies are trying to dig themselves out of a hole is ludicrous.”

But Mr. Obama disagreed, telling regional newspaper reporters last month: “I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective-bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment. If you’ve got workers who have decent pay and benefits, they’re also customers for business.” If there is one area where labor remains uneasy with Mr. Obama, it is trade policy.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said he was worried that the trade representative, Ron Kirk, and commerce secretary-designate, Gary Locke, were too much in favor of free trade and would not do enough to preserve America’s manufacturing jobs.

“We cannot work our way out of this economic mess unless we refocus on making things in America,” Mr. Gerard said.

Defeating the Right: The Upcoming Political Fight Over the New National Budget


Let the games begin!...Needless to say we should all give President Obama our full support in the fierce political battle looming with the Republicans, the corporations, and the banks. After all if we as citizens don't fight them tooth and nail only we will be the losers...


March 2, 2009
White House Poised for Budget Fight
New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration this weekend pursued a vigorous offensive to sell its economic program, counterattacking strongly against Republicans who call the new budget plan “mind-boggling” in its numbers and ambition.

In his weekly radio talk on Saturday, President Barack Obama had called for the passage of a plan that would invest heavily in expanded health care, cleaner energy and education, but do so partly through taxes affecting the wealthy and polluters. He predicted fierce opposition from the insurance industry, oil and gas companies, student lenders and banks, saying: “I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I.”

On Sunday, top White House advisers amplified on those comments, defending the breadth of the $3.6 trillion budget plan and sharply rejecting Republican arguments that it would cost, not create, jobs, and send energy costs up.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said he was confident the budget would be passed by April, though he accused Republicans of “scare tactics” in trying to arouse public opposition. Mr. Emanuel, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that it was time for the country to move away from “a culture of rising deficits and more and more consumer spending,” and toward one that invests and saves.

Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, said it was wrong to suggest, as Republicans have, that the administration would be raising taxes at a time of deep recession, because those measures would take effect only in 2011, when the administration presumes the economy will be growing. “We face big problems and we’ve got to tackle them,” he said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

At the same time, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Orszag indicated that the president would not pick a fight over the estimated 9,000 “earmarks,” or special provisions inserted by individual lawmakers, in the omnibus spending bill passed last week.

Mr. Obama had frequently voiced his distaste for such costly provisions.

But Mr. Orszag indicated that the president would sign the legislation, needed to keep this year’s governmental programs running for the next several months. “This is last year’s business,” he said. “We just need to move on.”

A major legislative fight over the budget is certain. Republicans expressed shock at the size and radical change implied by some White House proposals, even if some conservatives appeared to quietly relish the issue as a rallying point useful as they try to begin their political recovery.

“I think it’s terrifying in the policy implications as well as mind-boggling in the numbers,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona and a Finance Committee member, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You’re directly punishing job creation with this kind of huge tax policy.”

Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, called the $3.6 trillion budget proposal “breathtaking.”

“What surprises me most about this budget is that they would bring it out in the middle of a recession,” said Mr. Ryan, who serves on both the Budget and Ways and Means Committees. The proposed fee for manufacturers who pollute would amount to an energy tax on all Americans, he said on Fox.

But Senators Kyl and Ryan said it would be difficult for Republicans to block the budget.

“I hope that we can, but that means that all of us will have to be together on this,” Kyl said. “We have to be absolutely united.”

This would be especially true if the majority Democrats employed a parliamentary maneuver that would require only 51 votes in the Senate for passage of budget legislation, not the usual 60.

Democrats control 58 seats in that chamber. Republicans’ best hope is that some conservative Democrats — uneasy over cuts in agricultural subsidies, or a drop in the amount the wealthy can deduct for charitable contributions — might join them.

“You can’t stop this in the House,” Mr. Ryan said. “If you can get a few Democrats to turn then I think you can slow this thing down.”

Mr. Emanuel said on Sunday that the Obama administration wanted to “continue to reach out” to Republicans, even though only three congressional Republicans supported the White House stimulus plan. But when asked on “Face the Nation” who now speaks for the Republican Party, he offered a view that might surprise many mainstream Republicans.

“It was Rush Limbaugh,” he said, referring to the conservative talk-show host who has said he hopes that Mr. Obama fails as president. “He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. And he has been upfront about what he views.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Bringing Real Cultural Democracy to the 'White House'


Now here's a 'First Couple' who truly understand and appreciate the real purpose and value of cultural Democracy! The 'White House' is taking on far more color(s) every single day with the casually hip Obamas on the case...Finally, after more than two centuries of monochromatic cultural conformity in the People's House-- enforced and standardized by the doctrine of white supremacy-- the actual dynamic multiracial, multinational character of the United States is being openly acknowledged and celebrated...Long may this refreshing trend continue...and I'm sure it will...


Behind the Open Door, an Exercise in Politics
Published: March 1, 2009

President Obama welcomed 150 guests for a concert tribute to Stevie Wonder last week in the East Room of the White House.

WASHINGTON — With his short dreadlocks and crisp new suit, Shea Pierre, 16 and an aspiring pianist from outside New Orleans, looked nervous as he walked into the White House last week. Inside, the East Room had been transformed into a concert hall with colored lighting and a seat for Mr. Pierre right behind the president of the United States.

The White House can be inaccessible, but there's an intense effort under way to open the doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to a variety of people.

For the next 60 minutes, Mr. Pierre and 150 music lovers — industry executives, students and educators along with cabinet members and senators — rocked to the sounds of a star-studded Stevie Wonder tribute, featuring Mr. Wonder himself, who belted out “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” the Obama campaign theme song.

The televised concert was part of an effort by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, to throw open the doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Students, teachers, chefs, community leaders, labor organizers, mayors, governors, sports celebrities, musical icons — all have been guests of the Obamas since they moved in six weeks ago.

The burst of entertaining is giving the new White House a far livelier feel than during the twilight of the Bush administration, when more people were demonstrating outside than boogieing inside. But Mr. Obama’s open-door policy is not just fun and frivolity; it is an exercise in presidential image-making to advance his political agenda, while also carefully nurturing an identity for a first family that embodies racial history, youth and a stylistic shift in leadership.

“I think they get it, when it comes to understanding the importance of the White House, that there are no boundaries in utilizing the people’s house to enhance projects that are important to you,” said Sig Rogich, a Republican media consultant who advised Ronald Reagan. “I think it’s smart.”

When the nation’s mayors held their annual conference in Washington, Mr. Obama — aware of their critical role in spending stimulus money — invited them all in, a break with President George W. Bush’s practice of having a few in at a time. “I appreciated that,” said Mayor Pat McCrory of Charlotte, N.C., a Republican, who described Mr. Bush’s interactions with mayors as “fairly tense.”

Some, like Mayor Elaine Walker of Bowling Green, Ky., a Democrat, had never been to the White House before; afterward, Ms. Walker gushed about rubbing elbows with cabinet secretaries in the Blue Room.

“I just got my copy of Vanity Fair magazine,” she said, “and all of their pictures are there.”

When the governors were in town, the Obamas invited Earth, Wind and Fire to perform and installed a dance floor. It was a party with a purpose, said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama.

“It was very important to us that they all come, those who supported the recovery bill and those who didn’t,” Ms. Jarrett said. “And I think, ‘Mission accomplished.’ ”

All presidents invite elected officials, as well as ordinary people, to the White House; Mr. Bush played host to tee ball games on the South Lawn and once held his own televised White House concert, a tribute to the Marine Band. But the Obamas are using the Executive Mansion — “the world’s greatest stage,” Mr. Rogich called it — and their choice of guests to spotlight the racial and generational change they represent.

So it was that Mr. Obama, during the concert on Wednesday, credited Mr. Wonder with writing “the soundtrack of my youth” and confessed to the world that “Michelle might not have dated me” had he not been a Stevie Wonder fan. Mrs. Obama, for her part, revealed that she and the president chose one of Mr. Wonder’s songs, “You and I,” for their wedding — a tidbit that brought forth “awws” from the East Room audience.

Senior White House officials say the Obamas want to bring together people whose paths might not ordinarily cross. The White House social secretary, Desirée Rogers, said an overarching question was: “How do we Obama-tize this event?”

That has meant shaking up some traditional events. The upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration will very intentionally include people who are not of Irish descent, Ms. Jarrett said. Ms. Rogers said she was already thinking about the annual Easter egg roll and what it might “look like under this lens.”

The Obamas are also trying to capitalize on the fascination with the workings of the White House by putting the residence staff on display. Mrs. Obama changed the usual press preview for the governors’ dinner by inviting culinary students to tour the kitchen and meet the executive chef — a move that drew plaudits from Karen Hughes, who was in charge of shaping Mr. Bush’s image during his first term.

“After I saw that,” Ms. Hughes said, “I thought, ‘There are all kinds of things like that you could do.’ ”

For Black History Month, Mrs. Obama invited schoolchildren in for a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock, an African-American a cappella ensemble. She asked retired Rear Adm. Stephen W. Rochon, the first black person to hold the job of chief White House usher, to speak.

“It was quite a surprise,” he said. “Usually we are behind the scenes.”

The Obamas’ celebrity is, of course, a huge advantage. An invitation to the Obama White House is one of the hottest tickets in town, and the intense news media attention to every aspect of the first family’s life provides new opportunities to send explicitly political messages but also more subtle social and cultural cues that aides to the president hope will enhance his reputation for inclusiveness.

For those receiving invitations, it can be quite a shock. So it was for Kyle Wedberg, interim president of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, who was floored when the social secretary’s office invited him to the Stevie Wonder concert. He asked if he could bring a student, which is how Mr. Pierre wound up attending.

Mr. Wedberg used his time to press Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, about “the need to get some public school artists of note and promise into the White House.”

For Mr. Pierre, the son of a cosmetologist and a carpenter who spent the night of Mr. Obama’s election singing Negro spirituals in church, it was “thrilling being within arm’s length of the man.” In a stroke of what Ms. Rogers might call “Obama-tizing,” the young pianist was seated during the concert next to another president, the one who runs the Berklee College of Music, a school Mr. Pierre dreams of attending.

The Ecstacy and the Agony


My man Frank Rich delivers the goods again. Not since the late, great David Halberstam, (author of "The Best and the Brightest", "The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era", and "The Powers That Be" among his 22 published books) has there been a better "mainstream" political journalist in this country than Rich...


The Ecstasy and the Agony
February 28, 2009
New York Times

BARACK OBAMA must savor the moment while he can. It may never get better than this.

As he stood before Congress on Tuesday night, the new president was armed with new job approval percentages in the 60s. After his speech, the numbers hit the stratosphere: CBS News found that support for his economic plans spiked from 63 percent to 80. Had more viewers hung on for the Republican response from Bobby Jindal, the unintentionally farcical governor of Louisiana, Obama might have aced a near-perfect score.

His address was riveting because it delivered on the vision he had promised a battered populace during the campaign: Government must step in boldly when free markets run amok and when national crises fester unaddressed for decades. For all the echoes of F.D.R.’s first fireside chat, he also evoked his own memorably adult speech on race. Once again he walked us through a lucid step-by-step mini-lecture on “how we arrived” at an impasse that’s threatening America’s ability to move forward.

Obama’s race speech may have saved his campaign. His first Congressional address won’t rescue the economy. But it brings him to a significant early crossroads in his presidency — one full of perils as well as great opportunities. To get the full political picture, look beyond Obama’s popularity in last week’s polls to the two groups of Americans whose approval numbers are in the toilet. There is good news for Obama in these findings, but there’s also a stark indication of the unchecked populist rage that could still overrun his ambitious plans.

The first group in national disfavor is the G.O.P. In the latest New York Times/CBS News survey, 63 percent said that Congressional Republicans opposed the stimulus package mostly for political reasons; only 17 percent felt that the Republicans should stick with their own policies rather than cooperate with Obama and the Democrats. The second group of national villains is corporate recipients of taxpayer money: only 39 percent approve of a further bailout for banks, and only 22 percent want more money going to Detroit’s Big Three.

The good news for Obama is that he needn’t worry about the Republicans. They’re committing suicide. The morning-after conservative rationalization of Jindal’s flop was that his adenoidal delivery, not his words, did him in, and that media coaching could banish his resemblance to Kenneth the Page of “30 Rock.” That’s denial. For Jindal no less than Obama, form followed content.

The Louisiana governor, alternately smug and jejune, articulated precisely the ideology — those G.O.P. “policies” in the Times/CBS poll — that Americans reject: the conviction that government is useless and has no role in an emergency. Given that the most mismanaged federal operation in modern memory was inflicted by a Republican White House on Jindal’s own state, you’d think he’d change the subject altogether.

But like all zealots, Jindal is oblivious to how nonzealots see him. Pleading “principle,” he has actually turned down some $100 million in stimulus money for Louisiana. And, as he proudly explained on “Meet the Press” last weekend, he can’t wait to be judged on “the results” of his heroic frugality.

Good luck with that. He’s rejecting aid for a state that ranks fourth in children living below the poverty line and 46th in high school graduation rates, while struggling with a projected budget shortfall of more than $1.7 billion.

If you’re baffled why the G.O.P. would thrust Jindal into prime time, the answer is desperation. Eager to update its image without changing its antediluvian (or antebellum) substance, the party is trying to lock down its white country-club blowhards. The only other nonwhite face on tap, alas, is the unguided missile Michael Steele, its new national chairman. Steele has of late been busy promising to revive his party with an “off-the-hook” hip-hop P.R. campaign, presumably with the perennially tan House leader John Boehner leading the posse.

At least the G.O.P.’s newfound racial sensitivity saved it from choosing the white Southern governor often bracketed with Jindal as a rising “star,” Mark Sanford of South Carolina. That would have been an even bigger fiasco, for Sanford is from the same state as Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the junior high school student who sat in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night and whose impassioned letter to Congress was quoted by the president.

In her plea, the teenager begged for aid to her substandard rural school. Without basic tools, she poignantly wrote, she and her peers cannot “prove to the world” that they too might succeed at becoming “lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president.”

Her school is in Dillon, where the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, grew up. The school’s auditorium, now condemned, was the site of Bernanke’s high school graduation. Dillon is now so destitute that Bernanke’s middle-class childhood home was just auctioned off in a foreclosure sale. Unemployment is at 14.2 percent.

Governor Sanford’s response to such hardship — his state over all has the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate — was not merely a threat to turn down federal funds but a trip to Washington to actively lobby against the stimulus bill. He accused the three Republican senators who voted for it of sabotaging “the future of our civilization.” In his mind the future of civilization has little to do with the future of students like Ty’Sheoma Bethea.

What such G.O.P. “stars” as Sanford and Jindal have in common, besides their callous neo-Hoover ideology, are their phony efforts to portray themselves as populist heroes. Their role model is W., that brush-clearing “rancher” by way of Andover, Yale and Harvard. Listening to Jindal talk Tuesday night about his immigrant father’s inability to pay for an obstetrician, you’d never guess that at the time his father was an engineer and his mother an L.S.U. doctoral candidate in nuclear physics. Sanford’s first political ad in 2002 told of how growing up on his “family’s farm” taught him “about hard work and responsibility.” That “farm,” the Charlotte Observer reported, was a historic plantation appraised at $1.5 million in the early 1980s. From that hardscrabble background, he struggled on to an internship at Goldman Sachs.

G.O.P. pseudopopulism ran riot last week as right-wing troops rallied around their latest Joe the Plumber: Rick Santelli, the ranting CNBC foe of Obama’s mortgage rescue program. Ann Coulter proposed a Santelli run for president, and Twitterers organized national “tea parties” to fuel his taxpayers’ revolt. Even with a boost from NBC, whose networks seized a promotional opening by incessantly recycling the Santelli “controversy,” the bonfire fizzled. It did so because — as last week’s polls also revealed — the mortgage bailout, with a 60-plus percent approval rating, is nearly as popular as Obama.

The Santelli revolution’s flameout was just another confirmation that hard-core Republican radicals are now the G.O.P.’s problem, not the president’s. Rahm Emanuel has it right when he says the administration must try bipartisanship, but it doesn’t have to succeed. Voters give Obama credit for trying, and he can even claim success with many Republican governors, from Schwarzenegger to Crist. Now he can move on and let his childish adversaries fight among themselves, with Rush Limbaugh as the arbitrating babysitter. (Last week he gave Jindal a thumb’s up.)

But that good news for Obama is countered by the bad. The genuine populist rage in the country — aimed at greedy C.E.O.’s, not at the busted homeowners mocked as “losers” by Santelli — cannot be ignored or finessed. Though Obama was crystal clear on Tuesday that there can be “no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis,” it was telling that he got fuzzy when he came to what he might do about it. He waited two days to drop that shoe in his budget: a potential $750 billion in banking “asset purchases” on top of the previous $700 billion bailout.

Therein lies the Catch-22 that could bring the recovery down. As Obama said, we can’t move forward without a functioning financial system. But voters of both parties will demand that their congressmen reject another costly rescue of it. Americans still don’t understand why many Wall Street malefactors remain in place or why the administration’s dithering banking policy lacks the boldness and clarity of Obama’s rhetoric.

Nor can a further bailout be easily sold by a Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, whose lax oversight of the guilty banks while at the New York Fed remains a subject of journalistic inquiry. In a damning 5,600-word article from Bloomberg last week, he is portrayed as a second banana, a timid protégé of the old boys who got us into this disaster. Everyone testifies to Geithner’s brilliance, but Jindal, a Rhodes scholar, was similarly hyped. Like the Louisiana governor, the Treasury secretary is a weak public speaker not because he lacks brains or vocal training but because his message doesn’t fly.

Among the highlights of Obama’s triumphant speech was his own populist jeremiad about the “fancy drapes” and private jets of Wall Street. But talk is not action. Two days later, as ABC News reported, the president of taxpayer-supported Bank of America took a private jet to New York to stonewall Andrew Cuomo’s inquest into $3.6 billion of suspect bonuses.

Handing more public money to the reckless banks that invented this culture and stuck us with the wreckage is the new third rail of American politics. If Obama doesn’t forge a better plan, neither his immense popularity nor even political foes as laughable as Jindal can insulate him from getting burned.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Obama, Race, and the Future of U.S. Politics

A Political essay by Bob Wing

Bob Wing is a writer and organizer in South Los Angeles, and former editor of ColorLines magazine and War Times newspaper

Barack Obama’s victory is indeed an historic breakthrough for U.S. politics. In a country that enforced a system of legalized racism until just 40 years ago, and that was founded on white supremacy, black slavery and Native genocide, the election of the first black president is cause for jubilation.

The significance of Obama’s victory is accentuated by the fact that not only is he an outstanding individual with liberal politics and a community organizer’s instincts, but he is also leading a potentially historic realignment of U.S. politics.

Such realignment could not come at a better time. Beset by a deep economic crisis, now is the time for progressive structural changes to the international and national socio-economic landscape. But such changes will be impossible without enormous political strength.

Whether President Obama can help orchestrate a turnaround of the economic crisis now facing the country, indeed the world, will be revealed in the coming years. But he has already made a major contribution to changing the pattern of U.S. politics, a pattern that was set by slavery and enabled conservative Republicans to dominate the presidency for the last forty years.

However, the development of a mass progressive movement with its own agenda will be critical to consolidating that realignment, and to winning systemic change in the year s to come.

The Color of Election 2008

The enormity of Obama’s victory has led to much hyperbole about the end of racism and the advent of a colorblind society. This notion deserves closer examination lest Obama’s victory become an obstacle, rather than an opening, to future racial progress.

Much of the press has focused on celebrating the willingness of many whites to elect a black president. But just how colorblind is the U.S. electorate?

Despite the fact that the Republicans had failed miserably, even on their own terms, and run the country virtually into the ground, whites still voted for McCain by 55 to 43. In stark contrast, blacks voted for Obama by 95 to 4, Latinos went for Obama by 66 to 32 and Asians backed Obama by 61 to 35. (1)

In 2008, the white vote was virtually identical to election 2000 and continued to exert a strong conservative pull on the electorate while the votes of peoples of color and young people of all races headed powerfully in a more progressive direction.

The color lines, in life and politics, are alive and well.

Indeed, peoples of color made the biggest shifts in their voting between 2004 and 2008. It was they who proved decisive in Obama’s victory. Left to white voters, John McCain would have won a landslide twelve-point victory.

African Americans voted for Obama by an astonishing 95 to 4, a fourteen-point swing for the Democrats compared to 2004. (2) Many a pundit has d ismissed this result as a knee-jerk racial solid arity vote for Obama. How soon they forget that the majority of black voters favored Hillary Clinton for the many months leading up to the Iowa primary.

Much of the mainstream media declared that Latinos were too racist to vote for Obama. They pointed to the large Latino primary vote for Clinton as “proof.”

Latinos resoundingly put the lie to these cynics by voting for Obama by 66 to 32, a huge sixteen-point swing to the Democrats compared to 2004. Even a 58 percent majority of Cubans in Florida, traditionally solidly Republican, went for Obama.

Latinas led the way toward Obama, casting 68 percent of their votes for him and only 30 percent for McCain. Latino voters under 30 went for Obama by 76 to 24, perhaps indicating the direction of future Latino voting patterns.

Asians swung Democratic by fourteen points over 2004, voting for Obama 61 to 35. The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. In 1992, Bill Clinton received only 31 percent of the Asian vote. Since then Asians have steadily moved Democratic, reaching a highpoint this year.

So much for the pundits who believed that Latinos and Asians would never unite behind black leadership. These results amount to a massive progressive motion by peoples of color.

Meanwhile the white vote swung toward Obama and the Democrats by five points compared to 2004. White voters under 30 were the only age group among whites to favor Oba ma. They voted for him by 54 to 44. All=2 0other whites voted for McCain by about 57 to 41.

The most anemic swing was made by white women, who voted for McCain by 53 to 46, moving a mere four points toward the Democrats, This was particularly disappointing in light of their ten point swing to Bush from 2000 to 2004, a change that accounted for Bush’s victory in that year.

White men favored McCain by a bigger margin, 57 to 41, but this represented a sizable nine-point swing to the Democrats compared to 2004 when they voted for Bush overwhelmingly, 62 to 37.

Overall, Obama carried the white vote in only 18 states, mostly in the Northeast and the West Coast.

The Changing Color of the Electorate

From a long-range point of view, the change in the racial composition of the electorate as a whole is perhaps even more important than the recent shifts towards the Democrats. In 1976 whites constituted 90 percent of the vote; in 2000 they still accounted for 81 percent. This year the white share of the vote fell to 74 percent, quite a dramatic change in a short time.

Just as surprising, the main group increasing its share of the electorate is not Latinos, but African Americans. Blacks constituted thirty percent of all new voters in 2004, and an even greater mobilization this year brought them to 13 percent of the overall vote, a thirty percent increase over 2000.

The sheer numbers of Latino and Asian voters have risen significan tly over the same period, but their percen tage share of the overall vote is virtually unchanged since 2000: nine percent for Latinos and two percent for Asians. (3)

Surprisingly, the percentage of the electorate that is under thirty years of age, regardless of color, also remained stable, at 17-18 percent. However, these voters increased their Democratic vote by 12 points compared to 2004, voting for Obama by 66 to 32. Young voters were also the main corps of Obama field organizers and their energy gave the campaign much of its movement-like quality.

Historic Realignment?

The true maverick in the 2008 campaign was not McCain who pursued the same old reactionary Republican Southern Strategy, but Obama whose bold strategy of fighting for the South and the Southwest, indeed all fifty states, ran counter to all previous electoral “common sense.”

His success was both astonishing and history making. He won the southwestern states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and the former Confederate slave states of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, as well as former slave states Maryland and Delaware. The Latino vote was decisive for Obama in Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado.

In all, nine states switched from red to blue from 2004 to 2008: Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa. Obama lost Missouri by the narrowest of margins.

The historic nature of these victories is brought into sharp relief by the ac companying maps.

The first is=2 0the map of slave versus free states and territories just prior to the Civil War. The other is the electoral map of the 2004 election. Depressingly, they are almost identical: the former slave areas are almost universally Republican and the former free areas, with a couple of exceptions, are Democratic.

Almost 150 years after the abolition of slavery, the political patterns wrought by the “peculiar institution” still shape U.S. politics. Barack Obama’s campaign may mark the beginning of the end of this historic pattern, with tremendous implications for the future of U.S. politics. The main window into this change is the Electoral College.

Electoral College: a Pillar of Racism

It is not so surprising that slavery set the pattern of U.S. politics if one knows that the Electoral College itself was a product of slavery.

The Founding Fathers, led by slaveholders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, invented the Electoral College out of thin air to serve their interests.

They codified the notorious idea that slaves were non-humans, and thus deserving of no constitutional or human rights. The one exception to this rule was the stipulation that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person, solely for the purpose of determining how many congressional representatives each state would be allotted. The three-fifths rule vastly increased the slave power in the House of Representatives20and therefore the Congress.

Th e Electoral College, in which each state receives a number of Electors equal to their congressional delegation, was invented as the institutional means to transfer that same pro-slavery congressional allocation to determining the presidency. Slaveholders held the presidency for 50 of the 72 years before Abraham Lincoln, who was elected in 1860, became the first U.S. president to oppose the expansion of slavery. The South, used to wielding political power through the selective enumeration of slaves, promptly seceded.

Since the end of slavery the Electoral College has remained a racist and conservative instrument. It has given the Republicans a running head start to win the presidency ever since reactionary Southerners switched en masse from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in protest of the 1960s civil rights legislation.

As then-Republican strategist Kevin Phillips put it in 1970, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are.”

Based on that switch, the Republicans adopted the notorious Southern Strategy that has enabled them to dominate the presidency for the last forty years. The Republicans learned to skillfully fashion a winning combination of the solidly Republican white southern voters with conservative and moderate whites in the Midwest and Southwest, through barely coded racist appeals.

The Southern Strategy has been (20) the glue with which the Republican Party20has united powerful corporate capitalists to conservative white workers, farmers, gun aficionados, small business owners and suburban homeowners.

Negating the Southern Black Vote

The racial bias embedded in the Electoral College system is the structural basis of the Republican’s Southern Strategy. The winner-take-all Electoral College system ensures, even requires, that about half of all voters of color be marginalized or totally ignored. (4)

About 53 percent of all blacks live in the southern states, and in 2000 and 2004 they voted about 90 percent Democratic. However, in those elections white Republicans out-voted them in every Southern state and every border state except Maryland.

As a result, every single southern Electoral College vote was awarded to Bush. While whites voted 54-42 for Bush nationally in 2000, southern whites gave him over 70 percent of their votes in both 2000 and 2004. They thus completely erased the massive Southern black vote for the Democrats in that region.

The Electoral College result was the same as if blacks, and other Democrats, in the South had not voted at all.

Similarly negated were the votes of millions of Native American and Latino voters who live in overwhelmingly white Republican states like Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, the Dakotas, Montana and Texas. Further, the peoples of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam, territories ruled by the U.S., get no Elector al College votes at all. The tyranny o f the white, conservative majority prevailed.

Compounding the reactionary and pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College, the system gives as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.

For example, Wyoming has a little more than 240,000 voters and has three Electoral College votes: one for every 80,000 or so voters. By comparison large population states like California have about one Electoral College vote for every 220,000 voters.

Thus, the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person, one vote, drastically undermines the impact of the black vote and gives the Republicans a major advantage in presidential contests. Its abolition should be a key part of the progressive agenda.

Final Thoughts

Although the political dynamics of each of the nine states that turned from red to blue in 2008 need to be examined closely in their own right, it is likely that a minimum of three or four will move decisively into the Democratic column. A number of others that swung Democratic in 2008 have moved from being solidly red states to battleground states.

The solid Republican South and Southwest may be a thing of the past. In the wake of Obama’s hard-won victories, the Democrats have no excuse for essentially conceding these regions, as they have done for decades.

This will qualitatively shift the Electoral College math. Since 1968 the Electoral College has clearly favored the Republicans and the Democrats had to pull off an upset to win. Indeed, Bill Clinton won only because of the third party candidacy of Ross Perot. In the future, it may be that the Electoral College math will favor the Democrats, and that the Republicans can only win by staging an upset.

Just as important, for the first time in U.S. history the two political parties clearly represent the two broad wings of U.S. politics. At the national level, the southern reactionaries no longer hold the Democratic Party hostage.

This augurs well for the possibility that an Obama presidency may be able to gather the political strength to undertake a major restructuring of the economy in favor of working people and peoples of color in general, and to reorganize our foreign policy in a positive direction.

However, there is still a major political element missing from the political equation: a powerful independent peoples’ movement. In the 1930s the union movement, and especially the newly formed, radical CIO, was key to the New Deal. In the 1960s the civil rights movement was the driving force of the War on Poverty.

Herein lies the principal task of progressives in the coming period: to forge powerful independent, mass movements and organizations that can help shape the Obama coalition in a positive way. Our relative success or failure at this task may determine the future o f the U.S. and the world every bit20as much as President Obama himself.


1. Unless otherwise noted all voting figures are drawn from the National Exit Polls for 2000, 2004 and 2008, as reported by CNN.

2. I calculate the “swing” or “change” in the vote in the traditional but rather confusing manner as the change in the vote differential. For example, in 2004 blacks voted Democratic by 88 to 11, a 77 point differential. In 2008, they voted Democratic by 95 to 4, a 91 point differential. The vote differential thus changed from 77 points to 91 points, so I report a 14-point “swing” or “change.”

3. No national exit poll numbers are available about Arab or Native American voters for any year.

4. Only Nebraska and Maine allocate their electoral votes more or less proportionate to the vote rather than on a statewide winner-take-all basis.

The Ideological Dimensions of Political Economy and the Present U.S. Crisis


What this article and others like it predictably neglects to mention--and it is a very serious omission indeed--is that economics are NEVER separate from politics and ideology. In this specific context this means that the national budget that Obama is proposing (like that of any President) is fundamentally an ideological and practical statement about precisely what economic and social PRIORITIES are going to dictate the course of the national political economy--Depression or no Depression. In other words: This is a matter of what specific political forces prevail in the emerging ideological dogfight over whose economic and social interests are generally perceived as most important (i.e. protected and defended)--corporations or workers, Wall Street or consumers, citizens or economic and political elites. So just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt was compelled by objective circumstances in the U.S. to address the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression in 1932-33 with many of the most radically progressive and innovative political reforms in American governmental history, it is imperative to remember that, despite his own ruling class elite status, in terms of public policy with his 'New Deal' agenda HE CONSCIOUSLY CHOSE TO GO TO THE LEFT because the bottomline reality is that he could have far more easily chosen to go in the exact opposite political and economic direction towards the far right. The New Deal happened because millions of American citizens represented by hundreds of organizations actively demanded it. As just one example of citizens failing to adequately demand such an alternative the Weimar Republic in Germany (a society that had a much longer and far more intellectually sophisticated tradition of social democratic and radical leftist political activity than the United States) collapsed and in its place German society and its political and economic elites consciously chose the rightwing fascist alternative of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. There were also similar responses throughout Europe and Asia which were determined by how the people in those societies were organized and mobilized and-- most importantly-- by whom...

All of which means that what Obama's administration is also being compelled to deal with in the present crisis is also the result of mass based political pressure (never forget that 68 million people voted for the President in November!). Needless to say we must all continue to demand LOUDLY that not only the progressive side of Obama's agenda prevails over all others--especially the Republican right--but that Obama go much further in the same eaxct direction with regard to every single aspect of that agenda---both foreign and domestic...


February 28, 2009
Sharper Downturn Clouds Obama Spending Plans
New York Times

The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come.

A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent — already abysmal — the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.

The fortunes of the American economy have grown so alarming and the pace of the decline so swift that economists are now straining to describe where events are headed, dusting off a word that has not been invoked since the 1940s: depression.

Economists are not making comparisons with the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the unemployment rate reached 25 percent. Current conditions are not even as poor as during the twin recessions of the 1980s, when unemployment exceeded 10 percent, though many experts assert this downturn is on track to be significantly worse.

Rather, economists are using the word depression — a subjective term with no academic definition — to describe a condition of broad and extreme economic distress that remains stubbornly in place for much longer than a typical downturn.

This is more than a matter of semantics. As the government determines its spending plans, readying another infusion of cash for troubled banks while contemplating an additional bailout for the auto industry, the magnitude of those needs will hinge on the extent of the damage.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s, now places the odds of “a mild depression” at 25 percent, up from 15 percent three months ago. In that view, the unemployment rate would reach 10.5 percent by the end of 2011 — up from 7.6 percent at the end of January — average home prices would fall 20 percent on top of the 27 percent they have plunged already, and losses in the financial system would more than triple, to $3.7 trillion.

Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics, sees a 20 percent chance of “a depressionlike possibility,” up from 15 percent a week ago.

“In the housing market, the financial system and the stock market, we’re already there,” Mr. Sinai said. “It is a depression.”

Yet, in drawing up the budget, the White House assumed the economy would expand by a robust 3.2 percent in 2010, with growth accelerating to 4 percent over the next three years.

“It’s a hope, a wing and a prayer,” Mr. Sinai said. “It’s a return to a sanguine view of the economy that is simply not justified.”

If, as is widely anticipated, the economy grows more slowly than the White House assumes, revenue will be lower, forcing the government to cut spending, raise taxes or run larger deficits.

Economists also criticized as unrealistically hopeful the assumptions by the Federal Reserve as it began so-called stress tests to gauge the health of the nation’s largest banks. In testimony, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said that the nation’s unemployment rate would most likely reach 8.8 percent next year.

“That forecast just doesn’t seem realistic,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, “and I don’t think it helps the Fed’s credibility to make these sorts of forecasts right now.”

As federal regulators estimate potential losses at banks, the harshest assumptions they are testing entails the unemployment rate topping out at 10.3 percent — the highest level since 1983, but hardly the worst case.

By Mr. Baker’s reckoning, the unemployment rate may exceed 12 percent — the highest level since tracking began in 1948.

“We continue to see across-the-board numbers coming in worse than we expected,” Mr. Baker said.

By Mr. Zandi’s estimation, in the most likely case, the unemployment rate will reach 9.3 percent next year. The distress in the financial system, the job market and real estate have become inextricably intertwined.

As troubled banks remain hesitant to lend, even healthy companies are laying off workers. As more Americans lose jobs, they are cutting spending, depriving businesses of revenue, and falling behind on house, car and credit card payments, multiplying losses in the financial system. As more homes land in foreclosure and would-be buyers fail to secure mortgages, housing prices fall further, adding to the losses of the banks — a downward spiral.

Many economists expect that the labor data to be released next Friday will show that as many as 700,000 jobs disappeared in February, lifting the unemployment rate near 8 percent and pushing total job losses to more than four million since the recession began in December 2007.

Given the brutal forces at play, some experts question the administration’s decision to publicize the bank stress tests, as opposed to conducting them quietly.

“It invited the interpretation that this was the beginning of triage for the banks, that we were going to start lining them up and shooting them,” said Alan S. Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and a professor at Princeton. “There are some things in the bank supervisor role that you just keep secret.”

Others argue that the tests could sow needed assurance. “The stress test could create transparency,” said Alan D. Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore.

As the gruesome data accumulates, this much is already clear: Transparency is not for the squeamish.

Mr. Levenson noted that the weakening economy was destroying demand for goods and services even faster than the $787 billion stimulus program could replace it.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company


Very Important information...Spread the word...


Obama's Progressive New Budget
From: "Daniel Mintz, Political Action"

Want to see what change looks like? Real change?

Well, here it is. Last week, President Obama unveiled his budget—his blueprint for America—and it's ambitious, amazing, and unapologetically progressive. As Paul Krugman said, it will set America on a "fundamentally new course."1

President Obama called his budget "a threat to the status quo," and trust me, the status quo noticed. Oil companies, big banks and insurance companies are already mobilizing to stop it.2

Unfortunately, most folks don't realize how far-reaching and progressive the plan is—that's where we all come in.

Here are 10 really incredible things about Obama's plan. Check them out and then send them on to your friends and family so that millions of people will have the information they need to fight to make this vision a reality.

10 things you should know about Obama's plan (but probably don't)

The plan:

Makes a $634 billion down payment on fixing health care that will go a long way toward paying for a more efficient, more affordable health care system that covers every single American.3

Reduces taxes for 95% of working Americans. And if your family makes less than $250,000, your taxes won't go up one dime.4

Invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology, creating millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced.5

Brings our troops home from Iraq on a firm timetable, finally bringing the war to a close—and freeing up almost ten billion dollars a month for domestic priorities.6

Reverses growing income inequality. The plan lets the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire and focuses on strengthening the middle class.7

Closes multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for big oil companies. 8

Increases grants to help families pay for college—the largest increase ever.9

Halves the deficit by 2013. President Obama inherited a legacy of huge deficits and an economy in shambles, but his plan brings the deficit under control as soon as the economy begins to recover.10

Dramatically increases funding for the SEC and the CFTC—the agencies that police Wall Street.11

Tells it straight. For years, budgets have used accounting tricks to hide the real costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, and too many other programs. Obama's budget gets rid of the smokescreens and lays out what America's priorities are, what they cost, and how we're going to pay for them.12
This is the change we voted for. President Obama has done his part, now we need to do ours.
Can you pass this on to your personal network and then click here to let us know how many people you told, so we can track our impact together:

Thanks for all you do.

–Daniel, Tanya, Peter, Justin and the rest of the team

P.S. Turns out there are way more than 10 amazing things in Obama's budget and we couldn't resist sharing just a few more.

Stops unnecessary government subsidies to big banks, health insurance companies and big agribusinesses.13,14,15

Expands access to early childhood education and improves schools by investing in programs that make sure every child has a qualified, strong teacher.16

Negotiates for better prescription drug prices using Medicaid's tremendous bargaining power.17

Expands access to family planning for low-income women.18

Caps the pollution that causes global warming, and makes polluters pay to support clean energy innovation.19
1. "Climate of Change," The New York Times, February 27, 2009

2. "Obama Calls His Budget Sweeping, Needed Change," The New York Times, February 28, 2009

3. "Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

4. "Obama Expects Fight Over $3.55 Trillion Budget Plan," Bloomberg News, February 28, 2009

5. "Energy Budget Is Sunlight After Eight Years of Darkness," Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009

6. "The Economic Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan," The New York Times, March 1, 2009

7. "Tax Cuts," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

8. "Energy Budget Is Sunlight After Eight Years of Darkness," Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009

9. "Student Loans," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

10. "Obama unveils budget blueprint," CNN, February 26, 2009

11. "Obama budget would boost SEC, CFTC, FBI," Reuters, February 26, 2009

12. "Obama's budget," Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2009

13. "Student Loans," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

14. "Health Insurance Stocks Dive on Medicare Advantage Cuts," The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2009

15. "Agriculture," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

16. "Investing Wisely in Our Children," Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009

17. "Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

18. "Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

19. "Setting 'Green' Goals," The New York Times, February 26, 2009

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