THIS BLOG HAS BEEN A BIT DORMANT LATELY, NO EXCUSES, BUT WE WANTED TO START A SECTION PROVIDING FOOD FOR THOUGHT– ORIGINAL, STRIKING QUOTES FROM PROGRESSIVE TYPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR THE LAST FEW CENTURIES.
We’ll start with is one from C.S. Lewis (1863-1929), the Anglo-Irish folklorist, Oxford scholar, and fantasy novelist famous for THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS and much else. Attribution goes to the Inspiring Quote” from the website The Thoughtful Mind, March 30, 2014. To them goes all of the credit
for this gem, but to us comes the opportunity to deconstruct it for future discussion– so very relevant to our times
And we have added below Lewis, same source, April 3, 2014, a gem from Friedrich N., who needs no introduction. Is there a connection?
THE AMERICAN PROSPECT on Janet Yellen
This Feb. 2014 edition of one of our leading progressive journals features an in-depth profile of Fed. Bank chief Janet Yellen, one smart cookie—wonder how she got installed without Republican flack. The appointment is notable because Yellen is a true progressive, or at least relatively so compared with her predecessors. One of the gutsiest Obama selections to date. A fine intellect who does not easily ruffle feathers. As FED chief for at least 4 years, she will have plenty of opportunity to do just that.
As you may read for a while in the link here, http://prospect.org/magazine or google AMERICAN PROSPECT , Yellen is in principle free of some of the TARP and Bernanke-Summers-Geithner baggage Other Obama mop-up operators of the past four years (the latter two of these having departed the administration. There is potential in Yellen’s shaking up some of the paradigm of the Bank. As a labor economist and recently deputy head of the bank she is known to focus on unemployment as much as money supply and probably will be as potentially formidable antagonist or at least skeptic of Wall Street activities as any individual at the top level of the government, including the president. She of course will be freer than he is, it seems, to influence those features of “The Street” that rankle many on the left AND, ironically, in the Tea Party movement at the same time. More on her as event develop. This blog must move on to other business and is not equipped to discuss her as eloquently as the Robert Kuttner article which begins on page 40 of “The Prospect.”
CVS deciding to stop selling tobacco products: Is this an example of the hypothesis that capitalistic interests and progressivism will be coming together more and more in the future?
I’m recommending Charles Blow’s NYTimes column on the Republican party becoming the bastion for insecure men who see their traditional privileged social position under threat from
a. progressive trends—trends promoting equality of people of all genders, colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientations—as well as from
b. an economy no longer providing men with a secure “head of the household” income.
Indeed, without the secure income, the traditional privileged male position is all that is left to support such male self-esteem–all the more reason to feel threatened by progressive equality trends.
Of course, there are alternatives for psychological support. Instead of modeling one’s psychology on Archie Bunker or Ralph Kramden, one could take Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or Pete Seeger as a model.
And maybe this is a way for progressives to reach out to insecure male—promote “masculine” images of progressive/liberal men. Maybe a new TV series or blockbuster movie about such guys?
Here’s the link to the Charles Blow article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/opinion/the-masculine-mistake.html?ref=charlesmblow.
Time to get serious about supporting progressive candidates for the 2014 Congressional elections. I’ve been reading lots of pessimistic predictions (for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/us/politics/2014-elections-likely-to-keep-capitals-split.html), but there is time to turn things around.
For myself, I have to reinvigorate the website, Obamaandacongress.org. We have to use all of our media outlets to promote a more reasonable Congress for Obama—and the rest of us. And don’t forget more traditional campaigning—like knocking on doors.
BLOG POST FROM THOMAS FRANK’S
take-no-prisoners book THE WRECKING CREW a previously reviewed send up of the deliberate and sometimes methodical Reagan/Bush/ Republican Conservative dismantling of government, government programs to aid the less fortunate, to protect the environment, the consumer, safety regulations—the list is long, he makes the following memorable comment:
The chief consequence of the conservative’s unrelenting faith in the badness of government is…. bad government. [let’s repeat: The chief consequence of the conservative’s unrelenting faith in the badness of government is…. bad government. And Frank goes on to say:] ..The one follows the other not as a casual happenstance, but as a rule…
Frank goes on to discuss the Bush (II) administrations propensity for hiring anti- or much limited government tops, not always of the greatest talent for key posts. Then he notes:
It is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy and today (2007) we behold its fulfillment all around us, in the prodigies money-burning bungling enacted by an anti-government president working with an anti-government Congress. (Frank, p. 141)
He points to the the second Bush administrations deliberate staffing of agencies like FEMA (Brown, Katrina) and other with apparatchiks more interested in administration priorities than the mission of their organizations. But this was just the culmination of a long history of “defunding the left,” privatization, extracting regulatory agency teeth, etc.
Today (2014) we no longer have an anti government President, but, perhaps not unrelated, an even More anti-government Congress, especially in the House.
Today (2014) we no longer have an anti government President, but, perhaps not unrelated, an even More anti-government Congress, especially in the House.
What often gets lost in the public dialogue and media coverage of “Obama-care” is, well, the Truth. Facts. Empirical knowledge. Real Information. Take for example a study (based on Kaiser Foundation and other studies, of the Real Savings and impact on health insurance policy holders presented by Jonathan Cohn in THE NEW REPUBLIC. Read the full article at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114302/kaiser-study-obamacare-tax-credits-worth-thousands-lots-people .
The Big Savings Obamacare Critics Miss
Obamacare critics keep insisting that Obamacare is a bad deal for most people buying insurance on their own. And a big reason is that they don’t think much of the subsidies.
To review: Obamacare provides offers tax credits to offset the cost of insurance. If your income is less than four times the poverty line, and if you’re buying through one of the new insurance exchanges, then the tax credit will operate like a discount. The less money you have, the bigger the discount. Nowadays, most Obamacare critics acknowledge that the subsidies exist. But they tend to dismiss them as trivial. “Some low-income people will get subsidies,” Rich Lowry of the National Review wrote on Monday. “But that doesn’t change the essential facts.”
Kaiser Family Foundation
The authors start by figuring out what the initial, upfront cost of insurance will be for people buying coverage on the exchanges. Based on Congressional Budget Office projections, the average across all households—that is, individuals and families, of all ages—works out to $8,250 a year. That’s not a bad price for comprehensive coverage: It’s in the same ballpark as policies that employers provide employees. Still, it’s more than some families buying coverage on their own might pay today, because they have skimpy policies or benefit from preferential pricing for the healthy that Obamacare prohibits. That’s why conservatives insist people won’t want to sign up for Obamacare’s insurance options.
But, again, those are the initial premiums. According to the Kaiser study, the subsidies on average will reduce premiums by $2,672, or about a third of the price. The averages mask a lot of variation, with more affluent people getting less assistance and less affluent people getting more assistance. People with incomes of more than four times the poverty line, or about $94,000 for a family of four, get no discount at all. That’s one reason why some people really will pay more for their insurance next year.
Still, the number of people receiving discounts is a lot larger than even many analysts seem to realize. It turns out that about half the people who buy their own insurance today will be eligible for subsidies. For them, the subsidies will be worth an average of $5,548 per household, effectively discounting the price by two-thirds. The study defines the “typical” plan as the second cheapest silver option. (Silver plans cover about 70 percent of the average person’s expenses.) Keep in mind that people who choose less expensive options, like those that cover fewer expenses, will pay even less for their coverage.
“It makes sense to look at what people will pay for health insurance after taking tax credits into account, just like we do for things like 401(k) plans, child care, or educational expenses,” Levitt told me. “The law provides a surprising amount of financial relief for people who are buying their own insurance today, not to mention the uninsured, who tend to have lower incomes.” Len Nichols, a health economist at GeorgeMasonUniversity, agrees. “In many ways, what the ACA is about is extending premium tax breaks to those without good employer offers today, and doing so through a sliding scale that provides the most help to those who need it most.”
Of course, Lowry and other critics downplaying the subsidies aren’t just making a statistical argument. They’re also making a philosophical claim—that subsidies simply hide the cost of insurance, by transferring it to taxpayers, rather than reduce it. But that’s a separate question, to discuss at another time.
For now, we should at least agree on the arithmetic, which the Kaiser Foundation study lays out nicely. A large portion of people who buy individual coverage through Obamacare are going to be eligible for subsidies. And those subsidies are going to be worth, on average, thousands of dollars per person.
Obamacare: Healthcare Reform Facts
1. No lifetime limit on coverage for 105 million Americans.
*2. Up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurers.
*3. 6.6 million young adults up to age 26 have taken advantage of the law to obtain health insurance through their parents’ plan.
*4. Free coverage for comprehensive preventive services for millions of women starting in August.
*5. 86 million Americans, including 32 million seniors in Medicare, have already received free preventive services.
*6. 5.3 million seniors have already saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs.
*7. Since the health care law was enacted in March 2010, 4.2 million private sector jobs have been created – many of them in the health care industry.
*8. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit has already been used by 360,000 small businesses to help insure 2 million workers.
*9. $1.1 billion in rebates from health insurance companies this summer will benefit nearly 13 million Americans.
*10. The health care law reduces the deficit by $124 billion over the next 10 years and over $1 trillion over the following decade.
Question: ARE THESE VALID CLAIMS FOR THE AFFRODABLE CARE ACT?
1. Will the progressive movement, well organized–especially on the web– be able to translate its messages and goals into electing actual Progressives?
2. How serious and lasting will the fragmentation in the Republican/Conservative camp be?
3. Assuming Sec. Clinton is the candidate to beat and that the election is hers to lose in 2016– there are no comparable Republicans, what will happen if she does not Run?
4. How do we explain the gap between the demographic trends toward progressive voters and the lock the Republicans seem to have on the House and to some extent the Senate?
5. As is common with 6th year second term presidents, interpretations of Obama on the progressive scale seem to vary widely. What can be said of him other than he was far more progressive than the alternatives and that he seems to have compromised broadly without much in return? He may know something we do not.
OBAMA AND MONTY PYTHON: WHAT HAS HE EVER DONE FOR US?
The 1979 movie “Life of Brian” featured the Pythons as “Jewish occupy-ees” in the catacombs grouchily debating the merits of Roman rule. The refrain “what have the Romans ever done for us” (soon to be echoed in “what has Obama and his pragmatic progressives done for us?”) is answered by tentative Jewish malcontents under Roman rule in Jerusalem venturing (in very British non Hebrew English): “the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, baths, safety to walk the streets, order, Peace”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9foi342LXQE .
The humor is there of course and the “rebel leader” (John Cleese) poses the kinds of arch questions, in a sense that Obama faces from left center and right—especially right! With the healthcare website woes, NSA controversies, and neat year end perceptions of weakness and “Annus Terribilis” the president and his sputtering “change you can believe in” may be being written off as in a what’s he done for us lately second term slump.
It pays to remember some of the following accomplishments—the list is partial—of the past few years. In fact rather than re-invent the wheel, let me list 50 accomplishments cited by Daily Kos blogger “JoelGP” , and then zero in on the most easily defensible ones. Of the list below I have highlighted the most impressive accomplishments in red. A few comments on the most prominent Red Items:
A. Healthcare/ affordable care: whatever the flaws, poison pill conservative amendments to harm the law or capitulate to special interests, whatever the compromises, the law still greatly expands coverage for the formerly uninsurable, for 26 year olds, for many of the 50 million uninsured.
- The Stimulus: The book The New New Dealby Michael Grunwald highlights the potent boost to the economy through infrastructure programs and research initiatives of the 2009 $800 billion stimulus package. Critics have charged that the money was too much, too little (Krugman), contained money benefit special interests (don’t they all!), some waste. But Grunwald stresses that without the stimulus, the economic recovery would have been weaker and many excellent projects untried. As usual, the president gets little credit (except in books like Grunwald’s) for monumental benefits, but the record is there.
- Elimination of Osama bin Ladn- No comment, speaks for itself, many ways to interpret.
- Turned around U.S. Auto industry—there is little dispute about the fact of this, just that there were limits and flaws to the impact it had; its reality and boost for Detroit may have helped in the 2012 election,
- America’s image abroad, has fluctuated with Obama’s Cairo speech, where abroad you are talking about (certainly Africa and for a good while Europe saw large gains), but the overall improvement in American esteem is rarely and weakly disputed, and made easier by the wasteland of American Image left by the Bush administration.
- Federal student loans have surely been improved
- Unconscionable veterans treatment / programs have indeed been improved if not optimized
1. Passed Health Care Reform
2. Passed the Stimulus
3. Passed Wall Street Reform.
4. Ended the War in Iraq
5. Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan
6. Eliminated Osama bin laden
7. Turned Around U.S. Auto Industry
8. Recapitalized Banks
9. Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
10. Toppled Moammar Gaddafi
11. Told Mubarak to Go
12. Reversed Bush Torture Policies
13. Improved America’s Image Abroad
14. Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Spending
15. Created Race to the Top.
16. Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards
17. Coordinated International Response to Financial Crisis
18. Passed Mini Stimuli
19. Began Asia “Pivot”
20. Increased Support for Veterans
21. Tightened Sanctions on Iran
22. Created Conditions to Begin Closing Dirtiest Power Plants
23. Passed Credit Card Reforms
24. Eliminated Catch-22 in Pay Equality Laws
25. Protected Two Liberal Seats on the U.S. Supreme Court
26. Improved Food Safety System.
27. Achieved New START Treaty
28. Expanded National Service: Signed Serve America Act in 2009
29. Expanded Wilderness and Watershed Protection.
30. Gave the FDA Power to Regulate Tobacco.
31. Pushed Federal Agencies to Be Green Leaders
32. Passed Fair Sentencing Act
33. Trimmed and Reoriented Missile Defense
34. Began Post-Post-9/11 Military Builddown.
35. Let Space Shuttle Die and Killed Planned Moon Mission
36. Invested Heavily in Renewable Technology.
37. Crafting Next-Generation School Tests.
38. Cracked Down on Bad For-Profit Colleges.
39. Improved School Nutrition.
40. Expanded Hate Crimes Protections.
41. Avoided Scandal.
42. Brokered Agreement for Speedy Compensation to Victims of Gulf Oil Spill.
43. Created Recovery.gov.
44. Pushed Broadband Coverage.
45. Expanded Health Coverage for Children
46. Recognized the Dangers of Carbon Dioxide
47. Expanded Stem Cell Research.
48. Provided Payment to Wronged Minority Farmers.
49. Helped South Sudan Declare Independence.
50. Killed the F-22
Originally published DAILY KOS, JUNE 29, 2013
- Hayes is an editor at The Nation magazine and has a program on MSNBC
Here is a highly reviewed book, well written and punchy, and focused less on partisan politics than in the rot and gridlock in the political system and dysfunction in the economic system—one of increasing inequality and, also, dysfunction.
We will review all of the books we have alerted you too in greater depth, but for now let’s settle for bullet points that will take you to the book—an important one—and link it to Our Book’s projected themes.
**He starts out by pointing out that the system has failed by allowing median household incomes to Fall by 7% between 1999 and 2010. This is just the tip of a statistical iceberg that highlights the grinding of the middle class by a 1 or 10% of earners who have done far better than the 90% below them.
**He states that there is an existential failure of nearly “every pillar” of society: presumably government—including Congress the executive and bureaucracy and the courts, business, the press, educational institutions, medical ones, etc.
** He points out that the Iraq war killed 4500 American soldiers and 100,000 + Iraqis (almost certainly a too-low estimate), and cost $800,000,000 (no the figure is closer to 2 trillion when accounting for a broader range of expenses) and tops it off by observing the abject failure of response of all levels of government to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
** He cites egregious failures within the business community/”Private Sector” that go beyond the general inequalities: Enron, WorldCom, the big three auto companies, Lehman brothers, the credit default swaps, Bernard Madoff etc.
- He notes that the jump-starting of the auto industry under the bail-out, by the Obama administration in 2009, was “stunningly successful” but was perceived in a way that showed modest gains, hiding the fact that thing would have been far worse without these interventions
This is all in the Introductory Chapter 1. Chapter Two deals with Meritocracy and shows how a promising concept has been tainted by a wealth driven higher education system that increasingly favors more prosperous students, thus perpetuating the elites, among other effects. More on this fascinating book later: it serves to reinforce our argument that income inequality, which increasingly after the past 40 years, has wrought multiple ill-effects within the U.S. socio-economic system—and its politics.
AFTER A BRIEF HIATUS http://progressivefutureusa.com IS HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE 3 AREAS WHCIH WILL BE COVERED IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. ONE IS A BOOKS ALERT FOR C. HAYES’S TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES (2012). ANOTHER IS A RFEVIEW OF SOME RECENT POINTS MADE BY PAUL KRUGMAN IN THE NY TIMES AND HOW THESE RELATE TO OUR RESERACH PROJECT. AND A THIRD IS A ROUND UP OF SOME RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NEWS CYCLE THAT AFFECT PROGRESSIVES AND WHY SHORT TERM UPS AND DOWNS ARE LESS IMPORTANT TO OUR PROJECT THAN THE “BIG PICTURE.” FLS