Friday, January 28, 2011

Marketplace® Microcosm



I tried a new trick this morning. While I was freezing my feet, waiting on today’s photo, I thought I’d catch up on my backlog of podcasts. I managed to listen to three from Marketplace while waiting for the sun to rise.

The thought hit me that Marketplace does a really good job of covering the important issues of the day (in 30 minutes no less) -- if you already have a context in which to judge the segment. Let me give you some examples.

Obama wants to snip discretionary spending

”President Obama proposes budget cuts of $400 billion over a decade. Senator Rand Paul proposes cuts of half a trillion in a year.”

There are a host of issues to understand here. But without any context, you only hear this:

”But between the two -- $40 billion a year for a decade, and $500 billion right now -- surely there's a middle ground.”

In other words, surely we can compromise. But it isn’t a compromise. Frankly, it’s a surrender on President Obama’s part. First, you must understand Overton’s Window. Senator Paul’s proposal is so far out there that it is politically impossible. Even the show segment states that. But the proposal pushes what is contemplated so far to the right, that meeting “in the middle” is now much further right that where the “middle” used to be.

If President Obama were to use the same tactic, he would need to ask for the 90% tax rate on the rich that we used to have in order to obtain the increase that he really wanted -- from 35% to 39%. But in order to make that “contemplated” -- like Senator Paul’s $500 billion budget cut -- President Obama would need a “vast, left-wing conspiracy” that had been “selling” the idea via think tanks, talk radio and political advertising (i.e. propaganda) for three decades.

In my humble opinion, President Obama should -- right at this moment -- be pushing for large-scale Federal hiring. And at the top of his list should be accountants, tax collectors and restaffing the regulatory agencies that (supposedly) failed. (They didn’t “fail”. They were silenced, starved and compromised.) Instead, he has bowed to political reality and talks of freezing the Federal budget. With the coming Local/State budget crisis, I believe it is a huge mistake.

What Local/State budget crisis? Once again, Marketplace has the story.

The panic lurking in the municipal bond market

”Nassau County on Long Island, just east of New York City, is in a little bit of a jam. It can't seem to handle its own finances, despite being one of the richest places in the country. A state oversight board took control of Nassau County's books today, just the latest in a long list of troubles for state and local government finances.”

Did you get that? “One of the richest places” “can’t...handle its own finances”? You watch, the Republicans are going to blame it on those county-employee-union bums. But the truth is that a Tea Partier got elected and cut taxes without cutting spending.

Now pay close attention here:

”So generally, munis have been safe. But this year, there's this talk of bankruptcy. It's not coming from the states, God knows, because they don't want anyone thinking they can go bankrupt. But Congress is thinking about putting these precautions into effect so that states could have a better negotiating position when they want to cut pensions or other state services.”

Potential bankruptcy as a negotiating position. In other words, union busting. States can’t go bankrupt. And as the above says, “It's not coming from the states”. As I already told you, it’s coming from Newt Gingrich. Piece it together. Gingrich and the Party of the Rich are willing to panic the bond market in order to defeat unions politically. Less money for working people. More money (less taxes) for rich people. More power for the people that control the corporations.

And if you think that “What is good for GM is good for America”, you need to listen to Robert Reich -- conveniently available on Marketplace.

”This is one reason corporate profits are soaring and the Dow is flirting with 12,000, as if we never had a Great Recession. But American workers continue to struggle. There's no trickle down. It's all trickle out to investments and investors around the world.”

Don Brown
January 28, 2011

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